"Are you sure that we really should do this?"
Sylva gazed up at the shiny black nameplate on Jetta's office door,
biting her lip. "I remember how my Mom freaked out when I decided it'd
be fun to take a little vacation trip to LA without parental permission.
This is a thousand times worse. Who knows what Aaron will get himself into?"
"That's why we have to do it." Topaz said quietly. "Jetta's his Mom.
She has the right to know what he - and Nancy, for that matter - are up
"Topaz is right." Sadie nodded. She hesitated, then raised her hand,
knocking three times on the door. "Better she knows."
A familiar voice called the girls in and, in silence, they assembled
themselves before her desk, eying her confused expression with sombre ones
of their own.
"Well?" She demanded, when the silence threatened to become oppressive.
"Spit it out! Do I take it you 'ave news of Copper?"
"Not exactly." Cynthia pursed her lips. "Perhaps something to go on,
but nothing very much. Last night the FBI made a trace on a phonecall to
the Starlight Mansion. Copper managed to make contact, but the line was cut
off. Still, they managed to locate what part of America she was in. Sadly,
however, by the time they got there, he had taken her and flown."
"I see." Jetta looked grim. "Is that what you came to tell me? That
they're still at large?"
Her gaze ran over the group, then, "And why ain't Nancy with you? Don't
tell me she can shut out even this to start writin'? I thought she was
"She is." Sadie faltered.
"She and Aaron went to Vegas." Sylva blurted out.
"They did what?" Jetta's eyes opened wide, first with disbelief and
then with anger. "What do you mean, they went to Vegas? Just like that?"
"Kind of." Topaz admitted. "Copper managed to confirm to Sadie that
that was where they were heading...and Aaron...well...decided to go try
and get her back. Nancy went with him to keep him out of trouble."
Jetta cursed, then,
"And none of you thought to stop them?" She exclaimed. "Did not one
of you think 'ow bloody stupid an' dangerous that might be?"
"We did. We did try." Sylva protested. "But Aaron wouldn't listen. He
said that you'd gone after Nancy when she'd been abducted, and that you'd
understand why he had to go after Copper. We didn't want him to go, but
he just...well...did. Nancy wouldn't have gone, only she wanted to keep
an eye on him. She said she'd get in touch when they got to Vegas."
"And has she?"
"Not yet." Cynthia shook her head. "I do not know what time they might
have caught a flight out of Los Angeles, in all truth. They left late last
night - that is all we know."
"And you thought you should trot along and tell me, is that it?" Jetta
"Something like that." Topaz admitted. "We did try and dissuade him,
Jetta. Honestly we did. But he loves Copper. I guess...I guess he'd just
had enough of not knowing."
Jetta narrowed her eyes thoughtfully, and for a moment there was silence.
"So what 'ave you done about it, aside from runnin' over 'ere like scared
mice to tell me what's goin' on?" She asked at length.
"What do you mean?" Sadie frowned. "What can we do?"
"Do the FBI know that Aaron's taken it upon 'imself to get wound up
in their investigation, despite their warnings to the contrary?"
"No." Sadie blushed. "I was thinking about calling Alex this morning
to tell him, but it seemed like another complication in an already complicated
"The lives of my son and daughter are not complications." Jetta's tones
were icy. "Tell 'im. Get 'im to 'ave the Nevada branch round 'em up and
ship 'em 'ome. If they 'ave to arrest them, then tell 'em to do it. Aaron's
too much 'is father in that he does stupid things before 'e thinks about
it! Las Vegas is a mad city an' it ain't all fun an' games. Not to mention
the fact that this guy who's taken Copper is a madman an' I've seen me fill
of them in me life before!"
"I'll go do it now." Sadie reached into her pocket for her phone, heading
towards the office door and disappearing into the corridor before Jetta
could call her back. The executive eyed the three remaining unfortunates
with a cold glare. Then,
"Tell me when Nancy calls." She said finally. "And tell 'er to bring
'er stupid brother 'ome, will you?"
She sighed. "At least maybe she'll kick sense into 'im. She often 'as
before. Thank God they ain't both impulsive idiots!"
Sensing that they were no longer welcome, Cynthia ushered her two friends
out of the office, gently closing the door behind them. Once alone, Jetta
sank down in her chair, resting her head in her hands.
"Bloody stupid boy!" She muttered. "What in 'ell are you playin' at!"
She bit her lip.
"And yet I know your damn father would've done the same." She acknowledged.
"If it 'ad been me in that kind of trouble. But still..."
She closed her eyes, composing herself, then reaching for the phone.
Her hands trembling, she dialled her home number, putting the receiver impatiently
to her ear as she waited for her husband to pick up. It was some rings
before she heard his familiar tones, and she scowled, annoyed.
"You took your bleedin' time!" She snapped.
"Jetta?" Justin sounded startled. "What's up? I thought you had a meeting
"It finished ten minutes ago. I'm in me office." Jetta paused, then,
"Listen, Justin. I jus' 'ad a sorry bunch of stupid kids in 'ere. Guess
what our goddamn son 'as gone an' done now."
"Aaron?" Justin paused, then, "What? Has something happened?"
"Yes, dammit!" Jetta's voice shook and she swallowed hard, getting back
in control of her emotions. "He's taken off to Las Vegas to look for Copper.
Apparently Nancy's gone with 'im to keep 'im out of trouble, but..."
"He's done what? Does he know what the hell he's playing with?"
"Probably not." Jetta sighed. "I've got the kids to tell the Feds and
'opefully they'll ship 'im 'ome. But just in case they don't, Justin...I'm
tied up 'ere all day an' can't get out of it, worse luck. But..."
"I'm with you." Justin assured her. "I'll go bring them back, Jetta.
Don't worry. Nothing will happen to them if I can help it."
"Well, don't get into any 'eroics of your own." Jetta warned. "Jus'
drag 'em home, all right? Let the police 'andle finding Copper. It's their
"I promise." Justin responded gently. "I'll get onto it right away,
and call you as soon as I can."
"Make sure you do." Jetta instructed. She sighed. "Cos God knows how
I'll focus on anythin' till the three of you are safe an' sound back 'ome!"
* * *
* * * *
* * *
"I still think you're being silly, you know."
Nancy adjusted her jacket, stifling a yawn as she trailed her brother
out of the arrivals gate at Las Vegas's main airport. "There's probably
not a whole lot you can do that the police here aren't already primed to
"I don't care. It's better than sitting home doing nothing." Aaron said
grimly. "You didn't have to come. All you've done is moan anyhow."
"Because I was trying to talk you out of coming, for all the good it
did me." Nancy sighed. "Listen. What are you planning to do, huh? Search
the city? What?"
"I'm going to the police and I'm going to find out what they know."
Aaron told her.
"They won't tell you anything." Nancy snorted. "What do you think they
are, PR men? Their business ain't ours. If that's all, we might as well
trot back in there and get a flight home right now."
"They'll tell me all right." Aaron's mouth set in a familiar obstinate
frown, and Nancy rolled her eyes.
"Oh, for heaven's sake." She muttered. "All right, already. That's where
we'll go. But give me ten seconds to call home, will you? At least then
they'll know we got here safely."
"You can talk on the move." Aaron shook his head impatiently. "We gotta
grab a taxi."
"Well, you do that while I dial." Nancy returned. "Okay? Sheesh! Get
a grip! I know you love her, and I know you're worried about her - so am
I, if you want the truth. But acting like a crazed maniac is not going to
get you anywhere, except maybe the county jail!"
Aaron grimaced at her.
"I know that." He said quietly. "And I'm sorry if that's how it looks
to you, Nance. But I can't explain it to you, not properly. Even being
here, futile as it seems, is less hopeless than stopping in LA, waiting
for some news to trickle through. I can't help being afraid he'll hurt
her - or that he already has done. At least this way I feel like I'm doing
Nancy's expression softened, and she slipped an arm through her brother's.
"Guess I see that." She admitted. "Look, Aaron, I know as well as anyone
- perhaps better - how close you and Copper are. She's my best friend, you're
my brother - as far as I'm concerned there couldn't be a more perfect match.
I want to help her too. But it does noone any good if we get killed trying,
you have to realise that. Mom would have kittens and Dad not far behind!
And Copper...she was so specific to Sadie that she didn't want you hurt.
For her sake you have to remember that."
"If I knew she was okay it would be easier." Aaron admitted. He scanned
the horizon, frowning. "Do you see any taxis?"
"Not one." Nancy shook her head. "Guess we're walking."
She glanced up at the grey sky through the porch of the arrivals gate,
"I see why everyone took cabs." She said grimly. "It's tipping it down
"Well, we'll have to stick it." Aaron decided. "Come on. Let's go."
They walked through the driving wet for a while, each deep in thought.
Occasionally Nancy paused, looking for the familiar sign for the sherriff's
office, but in the mix of bad weather and glowing lights she found herself
disorientated. She shook her head in frustration.
"We don't know where we're going." She pointed out. "Maybe we should
go in someplace and ask someone?"
"We can't be far away." Aaron responded.
"Why do men never want to ask for directions?" Nancy groaned. "Aaron..."
She glanced at her companion, and her expression became grave as she registered
the look on his face.
"Oh. I see. So we're walking to the sherriff's office and we're not asking
for directions just in case on our wanderings we happen to bump into Copper
and this guy. Is that it?"
Aaron looked sheepish.
"I didn't think it would hurt to keep our eyes open while we walked around
the city." He admitted. "Guess I'm busted, huh?"
"Just a touch." Nancy gave him an impatient shove. "Come on. Looking
for her is like looking for a needle in a haystack. And Im starting to
think finding the local police is a good idea, just to get them to lock
Aaron frowned, and for a moment he didn't answer. Then he let out an
"Well, if nothing else, we found the police." He said, pointing to a
building ahead of them. "That's gotta be a start, hasn't it?"
"More than, and I'm about ready to get out of the wet." Nancy shivered.
"I doubt they'll tell us anything, but at least it might be warm and dry
inside there. Ok, let's go!"
As they pushed open the door to the precinct, Nancy was aware of an exclamation
and, turning, she saw Alex's partner, Raymond Nicholson staring at them
from across the lobby.
"I just got off the phone with Alex about you two!" he remarked, casting
a glance from one to the other. "Apparently he thought you'd come haring
into Las Vegas to try and get involved, and he wanted me to make sure you
didn't get a chance to take matters into your own hands. It's a good thing
I know the short drive down from Sacramento, isn't it?"
"Well, you don't seem to be having much luck in finding my fiancee, and
I don't want her getting hurt." Aaron fixed the agent with a defiant stare.
"I should have known someone back home would run and tell tales on me for
doing it - does nobody understand how important this woman is to me?"
"Aaron, shut your trap." Nancy ordered. She cast Raymond a grimace.
"I came to keep him out of trouble, but we really only came here to find
out what was happening. We both believe that Copper's coming here, and
Aaron wanted to be on hand when she was found."
Raymond raised an eyebrow.
"If I believed that, I wouldn't be much good at my job." he said acidly.
"I'm under instructions to bundle you back to the airport and make sure
you board a flight back to Los Angeles. We have a very delicate network
of officers and agents already set up here - we can't have lovesick boyfriends
or fiances or whatever jumping in and blowing the whole operation."
he eyed them keenly.
"Interfering in Federal business is a serious offence, you know." He added.
"I got my car outside. Better you come with me back the way you came, before
you get yourself into real trouble."
"But..." Aaron held up his hands in protest, but Raymond shook his head.
"No." He said firmly. "I'm trained - these men are all trained - to deal
with hostage situations and to deal with madmen with guns. You're neither.
It's not a successful mission if civilians get caught in the crossfire."
"Come on, Aaron. We're through here." Relief flashed into Nancy's eyes,
and she took her brother by the arm. "You heard Agent Nicholson. They got
it under control. If he brings her here they'll nab him and that'll be that."
"I don't want to go back to Los Angeles." Aaron said firmly. "Not while
she could be here and in danger!"
"And your being here could put her in more danger, did you think about
that?" Raymond countered. "Listen. Alex and I know this guy. We've nailed
him before. He's a threat to everyone - even himself - and we don't want
to excite or antagonise him more than we have to. We anticipate a quick and
troublefree arrest, once one of our surveillance patrols get a fix on his
location. We don't want any trouble. He obviously knows who you are, if
he's that fixated with Copper. Letting you loose in Las Vegas under those
circumstances is not an option."
Aaron frowned, but the agent's words about Copper's safety had turned
the scale and reluctantly he turned on his heel, as the agent led the way
out into the rain, unlocking his rather muddy car and ushering the two siblings
into the back. He cast them a slight smile.
"We'll get him." He said firmly. "Done it before. Do it again. Trust me."
"We'd rather you did than we did." Nancy shot her brother a meaningful
look. "I told him it was a bad idea to come."
Raymond shot her a wry smile, then, with a word to one of the officers,
he slipped into the front seat, putting his key in the ignition. Nancy settled
herself back on the leather upholstery.
"Do you think she is here?" Her brother's voice startled her, and she
turned, surprised. Aaron's expression was strange, and for the first time
in her life Nancy realised how hard her brother was fighting to keep his
composure. She bit her lip.
"If she is, Aaron, they will find her. We have to trust them." She said
softly. Aaron sighed.
"I hate sitting back and doing nothing." He admitted, as the car pulled
out of the carpark. "It kills me knowing she's out there and I'm useless
to her. I'm supposed to protect her!"
"Noone ever said that." Nancy reproached him.
"No, but I feel it anyway." Aaron clenched his fist. "She's my fiancee
and I'm not supposed to let things like this go on. I should have known...when
we get back to Los Angeles, I'm gonna track down Phoebe Asche and I..."
"You're gonna do nothing." Nancy said bluntly. "If I have to tie you up.
It's bad enough we came here. You're gonna keep out of it. Understood?"
Before Aaron could answer, there was a crackle on the car's radio and
the sound of a muffled voice coming over the waves. Raymond reached down
to scoop up his radio, a frown touching his lips.
"Nicholson...what was that, over?"
The fuzzy message was repeated, and this time Nancy's ears picked up the
"Copper." She breathed. "Oh God, have they found Copper?"
"Shh." Raymond glared at her, his expression unreadable. He turned his
attention back to the two-way radio.
"I copy...are there any squad cars on twelfth and high street, over?"
Another stream of what seemed to be unintelligible nonsense brought an
exclamation to Raymond's lips, and he dropped the radio, pushing his foot
down on the accelerator and almost sending Nancy into the passenger seat
"I thought you lawmen knew how to drive!" She protested.
"You keep your heads down and keep quiet." He snapped. "I should have
left you at the precinct."
"I thought you were taking us back to the airport?" Aaron seemed to rouse
from his reverie at the sound of raised voices. "Where are we going?"
"That was one of my colleagues." Raymond said grimly. "We managed to pick
up a license plate number for the guy's car after an incident at a gas station
late last night. My colleague was tailing the car but he lost it. The vehicle
is headed this way - for twelfth and high street intersection. He was radioing
all cars to the location." He paused, then, "That includes me - we're the
closest car to the area and we can't risk losing the tail."
"What?" Aaron's eyes widened. "You mean...they are here? Someone's seen
"The car, certainly. Who the occupants are I couldn't tell you." Raymond's
tones were abrupt. "I don't like taking you kids with me but I don't have
much choice - there isn't time to bail you out and you're probably safer
where I can keep an eye on you. Whatever happens, keep your heads down and
if I tell you to do something, you do it. We don't know what to expect from
this guy - he might fire at us - so keep away from the windows."
He screeched across an intersection, signalling to angry drivers that
he was on federal business, and then pulling into the main high street.
As they reached the end, he let out another curse.
"I got him." He exclaimed, flicking on his siren and forcing the already
fast car into overdrive, despite the weather. "Dammit, is he crazy? That's
no speed to be going in this weather!"
"You got a tail on him?" Aaron was alert in a second, and Nancy had to
pull him back down into his seat.
"This isn't a game, Aaron. Can you just do as you're told for one minute?"
she snapped. "We don't even know if she's with him."
"No, we don't." Raymond bit his lip. "And he's going at a hell of a pace.
It's no good. I'm not gonna be able to ditch you someplace safe as we go
- we're the only car on his tail and I have to keep up with him. This could
be our only chance to get the girl back safe and sound!"