Monday, 12:32 PM

The morning was abnormally bright and cheerful. Many people were out and about, soaking up as much sun as they could. With days like this, it would be impossible for women on lunch break to stay inside or men like CEO's to have meetings in their offices.

Tristan Halsk and Apple Owner, Justin Carp, were taking a walk outside, hoping to take advantage of San Francisco's weather. Carp was finely dressed in a crisp black suit and gold tie etched with swirling shades of faded blue. It showed off his sleek silver mustache and his intense blue eyes. For a man of sixty-one, he was looking like fifty again.

Halsk, on the other hand, was on the other side of the spectrum. He had midnight black hair and aloof green eyes that roamed everywhere. His stature was straight and perfect, his pale hands clenched. He saw everything around him, not missing a thing. Halsk even saw a hint of a gold pocket watch within the confines of Carp's suit jacket, and wondered why he didn't have it proudly showing.

Carp, however, seemed to barely notice anything. "How is my daughter?" His firm voice cut into Halsk's thoughts cleverly, just as Halsk finished examining Carp's suit, which had a handkerchief in one breast pocket, and a silver pin on the left lapel.

"Never thought I'd say this, but she is struggling. It's spread to her liver now." Halsk found his voice foaling at the mention of his wife.

"Hmm…" He detected grief in the older gentleman's musing. "I feel like this is my fault."

"Nothing can really stop this disease," Halsk reassured, "and it's best we don't dwell on it."

"Right you are, Tristan. I called you over so I could talk to you about something else. As you know, Madeline is my only daughter and I got started on her late."

"We're both thirty-four," Halsk's eyebrows knit together, his eyes studying the owner's face.

"Well, I'm old, and I don't want to worry my heart too much, so I'm resigning." The two men stopped by a tall marble statue accenting an expensive marble fountain. The statue wasn't impressing to Halsk, however, considering it was an iPod.

"When you're at the top? You own the iPod company, Justin." Halsk shook his head in disappointment. He honestly thought Justin Carp could hang on longer than that. He practically owned the place, and could pay for any such health problems; which made Halsk wonder why Carp wouldn't give in to their hospital needs for Madeline.

"Now, now, hear me out first." Carp put a hand on Halsk's shoulder. "You've been an amazing son-in-law. My wife loves you and my daughter didn't marry you for nothing. What I'm saying is, I want to give this business to you. You're a great cop, but you're a better businessman."

Halsk wasn't about to decline; he needed more money, and being a detective could just be a pastime. The offer, however, was intimidating and huge. "I…I'll…" He stopped for a minute, watching a couple of men in suits walk by. One stared right at Halsk. He got barely a glance, but the man had a shiny dome for a head, dark, greedy eyes, and a black goatee. The group of men hurried off towards the parking lots, their postures curious and odd.

"Tristan?" Carp's voice sliced through his reverie.

"I'll take it. Thank you for considering me," Halsk responded immediately.

"It's nothing really, you're family. And I think a young, experienced lad like yourself is a smart decision for the future of this company, and for me. I'll be sending in my retirement forms in a week."

Carp and Halsk exchanged a heavy gaze. "I'll see you tomorrow at the family party then," Halsk grinned, extending his hand. The two of them shook hands firmly before departing; Halsk to his Ford truck, and Carp back to the offices.

Thursday, 7:17 PM

Halsk sat, glaring down at the file in front of him. He should have been home two hours ago, but something about this case bugged him. The name was typed in bold letters across the page; taunting him, torturing him.

Justin Carp

Halsk knew this was no accident. It was felony, but in what way, he didn't know yet. Kidnapping or murder could have happened, considering the report claimed the body was still not found. Carp wasn't one for suicide, and besides, the body would have turned up soon, had there been a suicide report. Halsk didn't know what happened. Chief Dawson, head of the Police Department, said this case was subjected to personal dealings with him, so it was best he didn't participate. Halsk was going to anyway.

When his wife found out Wednesday morning, she wasn't just horrified, but alert and talkative, asking question after question about her missing father. She was just like him.


The voice had him looking up curiously. Only a few cops and detectives were hanging back, but this one was different. It was his partner, Laura Barker. She had been his partner for three years now, and he knew her better than any of his drinking buddies. She was gaunt and plain, but her wardrobe mad up for it. She brought out a professionalism and personality no one else could claim. She was fun to be around, always bringing people's moods up. Not this time.

"Come with me," she let out a stressed breath. Her posture was stiff and demanding.

"What is it, Laura?"

"We got a warrant to search his office, and his home," Laura explained as they walked downstairs. "Chief doesn't like you in on this, but he doesn't have a choice when you're our head detective.

Halsk merely nodded and pulled out his keys. They usually took his police car because it was compact and normal compared to his truck. They both climbed in and headed to Carp's offices at the Apple Headquarters.

Thursday, 7:37 PM

Upon arriving to the parking lot, Halsk saw several police cars taking the best parking spaces, so he raced a late officer to the closest parking space.

"You're so immature," Barker muttered as she jumped out and made her way dutifully to the main buildings. Halsk followed Barker in, observing the hallways as he strolled along. He didn't notice anything out of place, but he did notice some figures walking down the hallway clear at the opposite end. It made sense that they would avoid the police officers, but something was different in their purposeful gait. He noticed they were the ones he saw at the parking lot on Monday with Carp. But the bald one with the goatee wasn't with them. Halsk moved to follow them, but Barker caught his arm.

"Those are five of Justin Carp's top CEOs. I don't want you to cause them any more grief. They're all pretty weary of their boss's disappearance, so it's best to leave them alone."

Halsk frowned, "Have they been interrogated?"

"Dawson already brought them in. Chief says there is nothing suspicious about any of them, except that we haven't been able to contact one CEO by the name of Brian Williams."

"You say you called several times?"

"No answer." Barker led him into a crowded hallway filled with cops and detectives. Chief Dawson was among the crowd, as well as Halsk's rival, Detective Lynn Johnson. Of course, if Chief couldn't have Halsk on the case, then the next best would suffice. The tall, lanky detective had a long face and deep set blue eyes. His dirty blond hair was combed back to stay out of his face. He wore a white shirt and tie with his gun showing when it didn't need to be. This was merely an investigation. It was a factor Halsk really didn't enjoy about the man.

People bumbled around uselessly while the photographer took pictures of the office. Halsk made his way to Chief Dawson, dragging Barker behind him. "Chief, what's going on?"

Dawson didn't look surprised to see Halsk, "You realize you aren't getting paid for this case, don't you?" That's when it struck him: the full predicament of his new job missing. Halsk didn't care that he wasn't being paid, but if he doesn't have Carp to pass on the fortune, his wife's medical bills would never be taken care of properly.

"I realize that, sir." Halsk nodded and turned to the office, "Find any Evidence?"

Chief shook his head, "Only a Bic pen on the middle of his very empty desk." He looked miffed.

This didn't prove to be very helpful. A pen could have accidentally been left behind anytime. "When can I go in? This is my father-in-law we're investigating. I doubt the pen is important, but save it just in case. Carp tends to forget little things often."

"Yeah, go on in. Cameron is done." Dawson waved him in and turned to listen to another cop begging for attention.

Halsk stepped into the office. It was a big oval room with windows to the north as a wall. There was a nice desk right in front of the window hat faced the door. The room was empty otherwise, save an office chair and a plush sofa-chair crookedly facing the desk. The room looked pathetic, like life had abandoned it.

Halsk roundedt he desk and discovered a box on the floor, hidden from the view of the door. "Has anyone looked in this box?" He looked up to the cops. They shook their heads.

"We barely touched the rooms for Cameron." One said.

He nodded and crouched over the box. It was taped, but looked like a pretty new box. It was dark, sandpaper brown with crisp corners and well applied lines of tape following the two top flaps. There was no writing on it except for a serial number on the corner. Halsk took out a knife and cut the tape along the line.

Barker and Dawson knelt next to Halsk as he opened it, with a very curious Detective Johnson breathing down his neck. Inside, the box contained a leather wallet, a desk name plate, several office supplies and papers, and a picture of Carp, Halsk, and their wives.

"What is this?" Dawson studied the objects and pulled out the wallet to check for ID.

"Carp was packing his office because he is resigning, and I doubt if Carp went missing on his own, he wouldn't leave his wallet behind."

"Alright, take the box to the evidence lab. We'll look into it tomorrow morning." Dawson groaned as he stood, the grey in his dark hair glinting.

Thursday, 9:22 PM

Halsk dropped his keys into the key bowl at the garage door and slipped off his shoes when he got home. He was tired, but he had brought home dinner for Madeline and prepared mentally for her grief for Carp.

He trudged into the kitchen and set the fast food on the counter, "Madeline?" he called out.

There was silence for a while, and then a soft shuffle of slippered feet across hardwood. "Tristan?" Her voice was strained and choked, a sound that made him spin around to see a messy-haired, red-eyed goddess in front of him.

"Oh Maddy, it'll be alright. We'll find Justin…" Tristan held out her favorite desert from the Wal-Mart bakery: Apple-pull-a-parts.

Instead of smiling and kissing him like she normally did, she just shook her head.

He frowned, "Where's Nicole?" His daughter should have been in bed, but sometimes she stayed up to wait for his return home.

His question made Madeline burst into tears and fell into his arms. "I called the school, I called her friends' parents, I drove around town…but she never came…home."

"What?" The sudden shock was worse than learning of Carp's disappearance.

Madeline gripped the collar of Halsk's shirt and nearly screamed, "I can't find her! She's GONE!"

"Oh my…" He trailed off, stumbling into a chair to catch his breath. He couldn't even bring himself to swear like he wanted too. "Why didn't you call the cops? Me?"

"I…I wanted to wait for you," she sobbed.

"We could have started immediately!" Halsk's heart sped up. "Where's the phone?"

She numbly pointed to the couch and he retrieved it uncertainly. He paused for a minute, staring at the phone. His little girl…she was only eight. Before he could dial Barker's phone number, the phone rang. Halsk looked at the ID, but it wasn't a number he recognized.

"Halsk residence," he answered.

"Hello Detective Halsk," The voice was deep, "It's Mr. Avery from down the street. I know I'm old, but I thought I saw cute little Nicole outside my house with a dark man. Excuse me, but I think since you're a cop, you should get your gun and—"

Halsk dropped the phone and grabbed his gun from the counter, then bolted towards the front door. "Tristan!" Madeline ran after him into the night. It was cold again, nothing like Monday's lovely weather. It didn't' matter now, because barefoot and without a jacket, Halsk ran to save his daughter's life.

When he neared the end of the street, he saw a girl getting into a car a couple hundred yards ahead. "Nicole!" he yelled, holding up his gun towards the shadowed pedophile.

"Daddy!" her familiar voice cried out through the glass of the car, "I want to go home now!" Suddenly a shot was fired in Halsk's direction. He tensed, but the garbage can next to him shuddered and fell over. He rolled and moved away from the light fo the homes and aimed his gun.


Another shot was fired, making Halsk cover his head and tense. A car engine roared to life and Halsk jumped up to see the car gaining speed. "NICOLE!" He yelled again, beginning to chase after the car as fast as his legs could carry him. But it was too late. The car was gone.

Friday, 5:41 AM

"We'll find her, Tristan." Barker put a hand on the grieving man's shoulder.

"What if we don't?" Madeline whispered from next to Halsk. He set his hand on her knee to comfort her. He didn't feel like talking. Instead he stood and walked over to the backpack that sat on the interrogation table, sagging and dirty. An officer recovered Nicole's Barbie backpack from the sidewalk, halfway to their home from the elementary school. It wasn't a long distance, but in this moment, it felt like one.

He picked it up and unzipped the small pocket zipper. He saw the pencils he had given her on Monday for school, and he saw an oddly familiar looking Bic pen. "What…?" He took it out of the pencil holder and held it up. "Where's the chief?" He suddenly asked.

"At the Apple Offices, what do you need?" Johnson asked.

"This looks like the pen we found in Carp's office." Halsk let Johnson hold it.

"Oh my God," Johnson said with recognition, "It looks like the pen in Carp's office."

"Check it, check the serial numbers and the style," Halsk almost demanded. He was feeling restless, his detective skills coming back. "There aren't Bic factories close by, is there?"

Barker looked up and frowned, "Yeah, there's one seven miles from here. Three warehouses surround it."

"We need to check it out. Where is Dawson? Someone needs to contact him." Halsk took his keys and told Madeline to stay with Barker. He would be back soon.

Friday, 6:52 AM

Halsk bought breakfast for himself, Barker, and his wife, and then told them he was going to make sure everything was fine at home, which he did, and the cops said everything was okay. Halsk knew that when checking warehouses for criminals, it was protocol to bring back up, but Halsk's theory wasn't a good one, and it was worth a shot. He drove to a warehouse to check them out, just in case his daughter or Carp would be in one of them. All that mattered to him now was getting his family, and recently it was just his family. It should be his responsibility.

He loaded his gun just before stepping out of his truck, and slowly made his way to the first warehouse entrance. There were really big metal doors, and then there was a small side door. Technically he'd be breaking and entering without a warrant, but right now, he didn't care. Dawson could clear it for him. He checked the knob. Locked. So he kicked out at the door, and it slammed inwards. Carefully she stepped through and pointed a flashlight he had retrieved from his car into the dim warehouse. Gun and flashlight out, he looked all around himself, checking a whole 360 degrees before advancing a few more steps. The warehouse had large shelves with boxes of Bic products, but no struggling humans or evil criminals.

Halsk continued on, muscles tensed, heart beating. He hated the darkness. Anything could happen in it. As he neared the back, not having seen anything, he was about to turn around, satisfied with his scouring, when he heard a long, inhuman creak. He froze, heart speeding up and he slowly turned his flashlight where he heard the noise. He cocked the gun and strained his eyes to see, but there was nothing there. Suddenly a box toppled over to the ground.

It scared him so bad; his soul could have gone to heaven and right back for a minute. When everything went still, however, nothing was wrong. The warehouse was empty of life save his own.

Halsk returned to his car, trying to calm his heart. He decided it would be better to call in backup, so he took his cell phone out and sent Barker a text message saying to meet him at the second warehouse.

Until then, he decided to drive around and start the scouring himself until Barker can get here. So he took his gun, turned the safety on, and drove around the first warehouse and towards the second. He stopped the car, turned it off, and counted to one hundred before stepping out of the car. He flipped on his flashlight again and knocked in this warehouse's door. However, the first thing he heard when it happened was a slight gasp and an "Oh my heavens!" from an older man.

Nicole and Carp.

"Nicole?" Halsk asked as he stepped in, his gun sweeping the area for any loose figures in the shadows that might attack him.

"Daddy! I'm all tied up! Help me!" She was crying, that much he could hear.

"It's okay baby, you'll be alright. Be strong, be brave." Halsk's voice was low, his eyes straining again to see anyone.

"Tristan, my boy, listen to me. He's here, he's hidin—" Carp was cut off by something loud, like solid against flesh. It sent chills up Halsk's spine, and he spun around towards the nosie with the gun poised. He cocked it, glaring.

"Freeze. Put your hands up."

The figure laughed; a very low, very deep chuckle. "I don't think so. You're the one surrounded this time. Where are the cops, Halsk? Ah, doesn't matter. As long as you're here." A man began to emerge. Suddenly Halsk thought about the missing man with a bald head and goatee. This must be him. But instead, a tall man, with a full head of mousy brown hair and thick eyebrows emerged. He had a scar running down the length of his cheek and neck, and his eyes were tight with anxiousness. "I've been waiting a long time for this moment." He had a gun, and pointed it at Halsk. "Drop your gun."

Halsk slowly put his gun to the ground and slid it away from him, then backed up a step.

"Good. Go sit down in that chair. It's reserved for you."

He moved to sit down, his eyes resting on Nicole's scared face. Her pale blond hair and red-rimmed eyes made her look like Madeline. It felt like years ago. "You realize the police are coming?"

"I'll be gone before they come, and you'll be dead." He cocked his gun and pointed it at Nicole's head. Halsk started, but the man shook his head. "Ah ah ah. I wouldn't do that if I were you. Sit still."

Nicole whimpered a little, but the man was busy explaining to Carp what he was supposed to do.

"I have the papers. All of them. You are going to sign the Apple Company over to me, or lose your precious granddaughter. It's just one little signature." He shoved the papers under Carp's nose.

He swallowed, sweat beading at his neck and forehead. "If I do…you will let Nicole go?"

"Sure, but you have to sign first."

Carp looked up at Halsk then, in a moment of pure desperation. The look in his eyes were devastated and defeated. The man looked older as well, and definitely not fed well for a few days. A man held hostage.

Carefully Carp bent his head and signed his name on the paper. The man swept over and scooped up the papers, and the Bic pen. "Excellent. I have men over at the headquarters now, robbing your banks, so feel free to cuss at me all you want, because I lied about sparing your lives."

Nicole began to cry, silently, but she was crying. Halsk could see it. He wanted to reach out to her and stop her tears, talk to her in encouraging tones, but there was nothing he could say or do. All he could do was hope Barker got here soon, with backup.

"We'll start with Carp, since he made all of this possible, he can take most of the credit." The criminal set the black gun to Carp's temple and grinned wickedly, "We'll count to three. One…two…"

"Three." A shot was heard, but it wasn't the man's. Halsk knew that voice anywhere, and it wasn't his partner's. It was his wife.

The man stumbled back, having been shot in the shoulder, just missing his head. Halsk took his chance to jump out of his chair and grab the gun that sat on a small table. He pointed it at the man and shot again, hoping to stop the man's advance by shooting his legs. He shot him somewhere in the torso, and the man collapsed, just as police flooded through the warehouse doors.

"You are under arrest, you have the right to remain silent…"

Halsk quickly got up from his position on the floor and ran to his daughter. He pulled her out of her binds and folded into her arms graciously. He couldn't believe he had almost lost his daughter. "I'm here, I'm here." She was sobbing now, probably traumatized from everything that happened.

Madeline helped her father out of his binds and hugged him tightly, and then all four of them embraced in a group hug, dirty, salty-teared, and grateful.