"Alright, so as close as you can, where was the warehouse?" Cook rolls a map of England out over the living room floor. He's got an assortment of pens and highlighters, marking various locations I've indicated.
I stare down at the map, tracing over the little star Cook printed over where my old flat was. Tracing over the line drawn to the train station, I read the street names, trying to remember anything that might be helpful. We've been at this since we woke up and I'm beginning to feel that I'm not being as helpful as Cook was hoping.
"I think we were close to water. Sometimes I could hear the boat bells."
Cook looks down at the map, "Okay. Do you remember if the men walked or drove you to the location after the train station?"
"No. I remember the trains and then he was there and then we were at the warehouse."
Sensing I'm getting worked up, Cook sets aside his tools, holding me close to his side, "It's okay. You've given me stuff I can work with. You're doing well. Annabelle, do you remember the man's name?"
"Jonathan, Jon for short. And Paul. There were others, but I don't remember hearing their names."
"That's good," Cook nods, chewing at the eraser end of a pencil. "I've got a friend living near London, we should be able to stay there for a little. I want to start out just hanging out near where you lived and where your sister worked. If these men are still operating they may have a search area."
"Cook," I bit into my lip to keep it from trembling. I'm not an idiot. Doing this is incredibly risky. I have no doubt that if push comes to shove these men are dangerous. "If they see me, they're going to know."
The man next to me nods, "I know. I've thought of that." He gets up, disappearing for a few minutes before returning. He drops a box of hair dye at my feet. "I'll help you with it later."
I stare down at the box. I've been brunette since birth. Dying my hair never really had any appeal. I guess now I don't really have a choice. It's either this or I risk getting recognized. If they see me, if Caroline is still alive, it could mean her life. We're going in pretty much blind, this is meant to cripple their vision. Picking up the box, I nod. If this means getting my sister back I'll do it.
By two in the afternoon I hardly recognize the girl staring back at me in the mirror. My once dark locks are now an ashy blonde. The contacts Cook was able to get turn my eyes a deep blue. I guess if I can barely recognize myself an unsuspecting person wouldn't at all.
"You look good," Cook wraps his arms around my waist, resting his chin on my shoulder.
"I look like a Barbie doll. Are we sure this is a good idea?"
Cook laughs, pressing his lips to my cheek, "No, but for now, it's our only option. Come on, don't you feel a little badass, like an international spy?"
"Maybe a little," I answer back with a sheepish grin. "My hair smells like bleach though."
"That's what a shower is for. What did you tell your dad?"
My parents have never really known the whole story. When I reappeared I told them she went missing. There was an investigation but, seems as no one really knew the specifics, nothing came from it. Dad became suffocating after that. My every move was watched. If I was gone for longer than an hour at a time a black car with tinted windows would appear, whisking me back home. I resented the stronghold. The relationship, barely there to start with, completely fell away. I started spending more time away from the house, sneaking away. Eventually, the security detail disappeared and I accepted the stern talking-to I got every time I resurfaced.
"I told him I had some business in London, didn't really elaborate."
"He have anything to say about that?"
I shrug, sliding out of Cook's grasp, "Don't know. I got voicemail."
Cook gives my shoulder a squeeze, offering up a sad smile, "Do you think it'll get better once she's home?"
"Some things just get broken so badly that they can't be fixed. I think my family is one of those. Dad has always cared more about his job than us. Mum will likely die before I'm ever able to bring Caroline home." I see Cook about to interrupt and quickly press a finger to his lips to stop him. "Before you go saying something silly, I'm okay with it. I came to terms with my family's dysfunction a long time ago."
I get another sad smile, "I dumped my dad in a lake and stole his boat. My mum gave my best friend a blowjob at my birthday party. Dysfunctional is okay in my book."
"I don't want to be like them."
All my life I grew up seeing dad chained to a desk, hiding behind mountains of papers and ringing phones. I watched mum spend through money as quickly as it was made, shrugging off what little affection my father did offer. Caroline and I were largely left to our own devices, raised by nannies and butlers and private school teachers. Even then I enjoyed observation more than participation. By watching the members of my family interact, I decided that what we had was the complete opposite of what I wanted.
"We won't be," Cook flips off the lights in the bathroom, ushering me back into the living room. "We'll leave tomorrow, okay?"
I know what we're going to do is dangerous. There is no doubt in my mind that we could get hurt or maybe killed. Those men in that warehouse took so much from me; years of my life, my ability to feel safe in my own skin, my grasp on reality, my sister. If I'm going to do this, I need to put the fear aside, all of it. If I don't there's a chance I'll chicken out, only failing Caroline further. I won't let that happen, never again.
"Cook, before we leave there's something I want to do."
His hand finds mine, our fingers twining together, "Anything."
I stare at him, studying him, the way his eyes dance over my face. This will be all right. Cook won't hurt me. "Have sex with me."
"An – "
"No, Cook," he's not talking his way out of this. I need this to be okay with what we're about to do. I need to know I can trust him one hundred percent, that when it comes down to it, we'll take care of each other, help each other out. "I want to do this. I need to do this. If I'm going to face those men I don't want them to have any power. I don't want to be afraid anymore. So, take me to bed and show me there's nothing to be scared of."
And he does. Cook takes my hand and lays me down and takes something terrifying and turns it beautiful.