Chapter Ten: Sadie's Gambit
"So, what exactly is the plan?"
Nancy gazed out of the window of Luca's car, pursing her lips as she assessed the situation. "How do you know that this is where she is, Luca? Seems a bit of a stab in the dark to me."
"Well, I...I saw her get into a car like this one." Luca indicated the grey-green car that was parked in the front driveway of the house across the street. "And Emily told me herself what the first three digits of the license plate number were. Seems like as good a place as any to start, to be honest. Got any better ideas?"
"I really wish I did." Nancy admitted. "Finding the house is one thing...what now? Should we call the police here? What if we're wrong?"
"And what if the woman hurts the baby?" Sadie put in from the back seat. "We don't know why she took him, or what her motives are. She could even be working for someone...the last thing we want is for Mike to be hurt."
"Well, he's not doing too good where he is now. Presuming, of course, that that is where he is." Nancy sighed. "Anyone got any bright ideas? Or failing that, any ideas at all?"
Luca turned to glance at the split level home once more, biting his lip as he considered.
"Emily said she was very careful in the way she took Michael." He remembered. "I don't think she wants him hurt."
"If you ask me, she's a nutcase." Nancy said bluntly. "Only a complete madwoman would run off with another woman's baby!"
"Maybe not." Sadie pursed her lips, considering.
"Excuse me?" Nancy turned to stare at her. "What do you mean, Sadie? That there's some justification for this?"
"No...not exactly." Sadie responed slowly. "But did you ever stop and think that maybe this woman is just so desperate for a baby of her own, she blurred the lines in her own mind between reality and fiction? Maybe she believes Michael is her baby. You read about it all the time in the news. Perhaps her baby died. Mike is a cute baby - very endearing. Maybe she just saw him someplace and decided that she wanted him."
"And you don't think that that's deranged?" Nancy sounded incredulous. Sadie shrugged.
"I think it's sad." She said softly. "Luca, what do you think?"
"I think you might be on to something." Luca admitted, mindful of what his sister had said. "But the question remains the same - how are we going to get to Michael?"
"Well, there's only one thing for it." Sadie shrugged. "Someone is going to have to go inside."
"I beg your pardon? Sadie, are you totally insane?" Nancy demanded. "Listen, you said it yourself. What if she's dangerous, or working for someone? If any of us try and wrestle the baby from her..."
"No, I didn't mean like that." Sadie shook her head. "Look, in my mind, there is nothing in this world more important than a mother baby bond, right? Sirena loves Michael, but if I'm right about this woman, I'm sure she loves him too. I don't think that she will hurt the kid - not unless she feels threatened."
"So what do you propose we do?" Luca looked interested.
Sadie considered for a second, then she pushed open the car door, slipping out of the vehicle and walking slowly down the street, eying the house carefully from all angles.
"What are you doing?" Nancy hissed. "She'll see you?"
"I think I have an idea." Sadie mused. "How good are you guys at acting?"
"Acting?" Luca's eyebrows shot up. Sadie nodded.
"This is what I think we should do." She murmured, explaining her plan in quick, hushed tones. "Now, if you give me ten minutes or so alone with her...I'll play the attentive saleswoman, keen to sell her the latest baby products. Once I'm inside, you wait on here, and then you do as I suggested...while she's distracted, I'll get Michael out the back."
"And what makes you think that she'll believe you?" Nancy raised an eyebrow. Sadie smiled ruefully.
"Let's just say, I have dramatic potential." She said vaguely. "Trust me, will you?"
"But what if you can't get out? You can't be sure that the house has a back way out, and what if it's alarmed or something?" Luca asked.
"I already checked for that. The house is there for the taking." Sadie said flippantly. Then she blushed. "I mean...well, I can get over the back fence, no problems. If they're all like the end house at the back, then I'm sure I can manage."
"Hmm. Okay. I guess it's the best we got." Nancy sighed. "Are you sure you feel safe doing this?"
"I'm sure." Sadie nodded her head.
"If it is the woman, she may have seen me and recognised me." Luca remembered the encounter on the beach. "Sadie, how about if I meet you round the back, and take Mike from you when you get him out? It'll make it easier for you to climb."
"Sounds like a plan to me." Sadie dimpled. "Nance, you sure you're okay with this?"
"I want to get Mike out." Nancy nodded. "So let's go for it. I just really hope it's as simple as you seem to think!"
"I really hope someone is home."
Sadie rang the doorbell, glancing nervously across at the window for signs of movement. "If Luca has the wrong house here, then we're screwed. I've no mind to get into a whole host of trouble again - I hope breaking and entering is justified if you're rescuing a baby that needs his Mum."
She rang the bell again, swallowing hard. It had been a long time since she had put some of her more shadowy habits into use, and she felt awkward and unsure, despite how confidently she had outlined her plan to the others. She glanced back wistfully at the car down the street, almost wishing she had not suggested anything at all.
"I might have been good at conning my way into people's homes when I was a kid." She muttered. "And I might have been just as good at ripping them off and escaping out the back, but dammit, did I forget that I did two stretches inside for exactly this kinda stunt? And sheesh, it wasn't like I was alone back then! I had Grey and the others covering my back. What the heck am I thinking? How can I get a one and a half year old baby safely out the back of the house without anyone realising what I'm up to?"
Inwardly she said a prayer for strength, as she heard the sound of the lock being pulled back. The door swung open, and Sadie found herself face to face with a pleasant looking, dark woman of around forty. She cast Sadie a curious, slightly guarded look, and inwardly Sadie knew that Luca had not made a mistake. She schooled her features into a bright, amiable smile, well aware that her dreamy, fair prettiness could easily belie her real intentions. It had worked for her in the past, and she sincerely hoped that it would work for her again.
"This is more important than cash for heroin." she told herself inwardly. "This is about putting back together a family."
"Hi there." She said warmly. "My name is Sadie, and I'm basically calling by today to ask if you'd be interested in a fabulous new product that's just gone on the market! I hear the sound of a healthy pair of young lungs at work," as she became aware of loud squalls from the main lounge, "And I really think that I might have just the thing for your little darling."
"What do you want, exactly?" The woman eyed Sadie carefully, as if gauging what was going on. Sadie laughed, inwardly cursing her nervousness
"Oh, forgive me, did I not make myself clear?" She asked. "How silly of me. I'm a representative of an exciting new company called...called Jenkins and Sons - we produce baby accessories and we've just put on the market our newest product. It's a very exciting development in baby technology, and we expect it to be a big hit when it comes into stores at the start of next month. To promote it we're running a...a prize draw, hence my visit today. Would you be interested in submitting your name into the contest?"
"Oh, yes. The very latest in crib designs - aimed for the baby who's just starting to become a little more grown up." Sadie nodded, inwardly telling herself to stay focused, for she felt very much as though she might start lapsing into meaningless babble at any moment. "It...uh...has all kinds of special comfort features to make baby's night time a lot more comfortable -and it has special safety guards, to stop baby wandering in the night. It's a wonder of modern science...can I interest you?"
"Well, I suppose you could come in for a moment." The woman seemed hesitant, but she pushed back the door, ushering Sadie inside. "See, I don't have very much for my son at the moment, and not much money. I...I had some bad luck, my baby was stolen from me, and it took almost all of my savings to find him and get him back."
"Oh, how terrible!" Sadie adopted a look of horrified sympathy. "Oh, then I'm so glad I stopped by your place! Once I have your details down, then I'm sure you have a great chance in our prize draw. Kids are such a handful, aren't they?"
"Oh, yes, but I love him very much." The woman led the way into the main lounge, where a tearful Michael was sitting inside a makeshift playpen, his face screwed up in discontent and a discarded biscuit lying across the floor. Sadie surmised that the child had thrown it in a fit of temper, and, eying the barren surroundings, she could well understand it. Her resolve hardening, she took a seat, demurely declining the offer of a drink.
"No, but thanks so much for asking. I'll be shot at work if I don't finish your street today!" She said cheerfully. "And is this the little angel? Oh, but he looks so much like you...what a darling! What's his name?"
As the words rolled off her tongue, she realised with a jolt how much truth there was in what she had said. The baby did bear a spooky resemblance to the woman who, seemingly unconcerned by the baby's discomfort, was now taking a seat opposite, scooping him up into her lap.
"Carl." The woman responded. "Carl Arca - and I'm Kelly. Things have been so tough since my husband died, you know - I had both my son and my daughter stolen from me, and who knows where Raesha might be now? Locked up with some madman, no doubt! But I got my Carl back. He's safe and so happy to be home with his Mommy, aren't you, little one?"
"I'm sure he is." Sadie responded gently, though inwardly her mind was whirling.
"Carl Arca is Blade's name. I'm sure of it!" She told herself, as she cast Kelly a warm smile. "What gives here? Is this Michael's grandmother I'm speaking to? Or...or just someone with issues who's read one too many magazine story?"
"Do you have children, Sadie?" Kelly fixed the new Jewel with a piercing stare, and Sadie smiled.
"I have two daughters." She lied. "They mean the world to me."
"As any kid should to their mother." Kelly looked approving. "Come now, Carl, be a good boy and say hi!"
"Mama!" Michael did not seem to want to cooperate. "Want Mama! Want Mama!"
"Mama's here, sweetie, don't be afraid." Kelly cooed gently. She sent Sadie an apologetic look.
"He's shy of strangers, I'm sorry."
"Oh, there's no need to apologise." Sadie assured her, inwardly wondering how she would ever get the child away from her companion. "My youngest is the exact same way."
She held out her hand to the small boy.
"Hello, Carl. I'm Sadie. Can we be friends?"
Michael stared at her through tearful eyes, allowing her to touch his fingers. A tiny smile touched his lips, and with a jolt Sadie remembered their brief encounter in the creche at Misfit Music.
"He knows me." She realised. "We've met once, but he knows who I am. Oh, don't give me away, Mike!"
"He seems to like you." Kelly seemed surprised. "He's not usually so friendly."
"I see a lot of babies - I expect I have a knack." Sadie thought fast. "May I hold him, just for a second? He's so sweet."
"I...I suppose so." Carefully Kelly handed her precious burden over, though her eyes never left him for one moment, and she seemed uncomfortable with the baby being anywhere but in her lap. "Not for long, though. He's very sensitive!"
"Oh, I quite understand." Sadie assured her. "He's being very tolerant, really."
Outside the house, Nancy paced up and down the front driveway, turning
to glance back at Luca for the signal to advance. Seeing his wave, she swallowed
her nerves, stalking purposefully up the front drive and rapping on the
"I hope Sadie knows what she's doing." She muttered, as she waited for the sound of footsteps from within. "Else we're in trouble. If Michael isn't in there, we have to start all over again...but even if he is in there, can Sadie really get him out? This plan is mad, and...hello?" as the door swung open once again. "My car's broken down and I haven't any change for the payphone - may I please use your phone?"
From inside the lounge, Sadie heard the sound of her friend's voice, and, saying an inward prayer, she clutched Michael more tightly in her arms.
"Well, it's now or never." She muttered, getting to her feet and pushing open the door of the living room, slipping through into the kitchen and towards the french doors. Every moment that passed, she felt sure that Kelly would be on her, and fear gave wings to her feet. Michael seemed to understand that something was afoot, for he fell perfectly silent, his big, brown eyes fixed on his rescuer as they made their frantic attempt at escape. Muttering a prayer to herself, Sadie quickly wrenched open the lock that had inadequately sealed the french doors closed, and then she was outside, hurrying towards the fence, even as she heard Kelly's angry cry. The noise seemed to upset the baby, for tears sprang into Michael's eyes, but Sadie hushed him.
"Shh." She murmured. "I know you want your Mama, Mike...and that's where we're going. I promise...this time, you're going home."