Billy wheeled himself into Sam and Emily's bedroom. Sam and Jake lay side by side in the bed. They were equally pale, profusely sweaty and unnaturally still. The same state they had been in since they'd been brought here from Sue's almost a week ago. Emily sat by Sam's beside, running a washcloth over his upper body. This was where she normally was found these days. Emily, Sue, Billy and Old Quil tended to share the boys' care in shifts. With the pack being two men down, they helped out as they could, but most of their time was spent patrolling.
Stopping by his son's side Billy looked over at Emily and asked, "Any change hon?"
"No, though Sue's convinced the fact that their condition hasn't worsened is a good sign." She sighed and looked over at him, "I thought you were heading home to get some rest?"
Billy reached into the cool bowl of water at Jake's side, picking up the wet cloth inside and ringing it out, "I was, at least until Charlie called."
Emily's hand stopped in mid-stroke across Sam's upper chest. Scanning Billy's face for any sign of new distress, she asked, "She's not…they haven't…."She found herself unable to finish the question.
Mercifully, Billy knew what she was asking anyway. As he began the process of washing Jake, he hurried to reassure Emily, "No, Charlie's said there's been no sign of Bella or her truck as yet. The red-head was testing the pack's defenses just last night. As far as we know, she hasn't yet figured out that Bella is gone. Not knowing where she is or if she's alright is wearing Charlie down though. For now, he seems to buy into the story that Sam and Jake were snake-bit but he's never believed Paul's tale about Bella probably just wanting a change of scenery. It didn't help when he foolishly claimed she had been throwing herself at him with that smirk on his face. Charlie may not know the supernatural secrets of Forks, but he's no fool. He knows his daughter well. Bella would never run out on her injured best friend. Charlie hasn't come out and said it, but I think he's suspicious. Once the red-head realizes Bella's not here, this will get dangerous for Charlie real quick. Right now, I'm not sure I trust Paul to allow the pack to follow Charlie if he finds a lead on Bella. The boy had anger issues before his wolf called to him. Now he's taken those issues on a power trip."
Emily wiped the tears from her cheeks, "This is all so wrong Billy. It hurts my heart to see Sam laid low like this, but I'm not blind to who he is. Sam knew protecting Bella could cost him his life. He believed she was worth it." Emily's voice hardened now, "Sam was right. Any of the pack could have been bitten in other fights. It didn't have to be when they were protecting her. But it was, and because she was there, the boys have a chance to beat the poison. Old Quil told me no pack member in tribal history has survived even a day after suffering a vampire bite. Bella was the only one to know what to do and this is the thanks she gets. That poor girl. Do you think there is any chance she's found the Cullen's?"
"I never thought the day would come that I would say this but, I can only pray she has Emily. From what Embry and Quil have told me, she took a heck of a beating in the attack. I'm not sure how long she can keep going alone."
Emily rinsed her cloth again and began gently washing Sam's face. Speaking soothingly to Sam now, she said, "You hear that Sam? You and Jake both need to beat this soon and wake up. You may be the only chance Bella and Charlie have left."
Pausing in his task, he looked over at Emily. Dropping his voice, he said, "Old Quil, Sue and I are having a special council meeting here tonight Emily. We'd like to you stand in for Sam. Until one of the boys awakens, there is nothing more we can do to help Bella, however Charlie has always been a good friend to this tribe. We are not going to sit by and watch him become collateral damage. We need to have a plan in place in the event Charlie gets a lead before either of the boys recovers. Not a word yet to the pack about this though."
"Count me in Billy," Emily responded with conviction.
Carlisle watched the last rays of light play over the forest behind their house as the sun began to set. Esme walked up and wrapped him in a hug from behind, resting her cheek against his back. He folded his own hands over hers.
"Will you be alright tomorrow, Esme?" He planned to utilize the dining room for the surgery, and Esme would be spending the time sitting on their bedroom balcony, close enough that Carlisle wouldn't fear for her safety, but away from the immediate temptation of Bella's blood.
"Of course dear. I've already moved my drafting table outside, the renovation plans of this historic house will leave me with plenty to keep myself occupied while you are working on Bella. A little discomfort of holding my breath won't hurt me. It's Bella I worry over."
Carlisle gave her arm a gentle tug and brought her around him, wrapping Esme into his solid embrace. "I am happy with her progress Esme. The ice therapy and minimal movement are finally beginning to bring the swelling down enough in her ankle and knee joints that I am hopeful they will be ready for the braces when she awakens from the sedative. She has had a decent appetite so far today. Which is a good sign. Unfortunately I cannot allow her to eat dinner, but I will start her on IV fluids this evening. It will help to supplement some of the nutrients she is missing.
"As far as her emotional and mental wellbeing… she has been through hell Darling. But our daughter is strong, she will survive this. Bella has admitted she wants to trust us, I would say that is half the battle right there. I will get her through the surgery, and then we will all figure out where Bella's misconceptions are stemming from. It is going to take time, and maybe more than one rough conversation, but we will see her past this Esme. I will make this right."
"We Love, we will make this right." Esme punctuated her statement with a soft kiss to Carlisle's lips.
They stood there together, watching the sunset in silence for several more minutes before she spoke again. "Carlisle, what do you make of Alice? When we made the decision to call her and Jasper in after the surgery, I thought we would have heard from her. "
Carlisle tightened his embrace around Esme for a moment before responding, "I will admit that has me worried. She has been silent throughout this entire ordeal, and that is not like her. We spoke to both of them only the other day, and neither hinted at any trouble. By then Bella would have already been on the run. Bella has one thing correct – we should have known she was in trouble all this time. Alice should have seen at least some of it, if not all. I cannot imagine her staying silent in these circumstances unless for some reason our knowledge would have invited disaster for Bella."
He watched as Esme worried her lip. "I don't know what to make of it all Carlisle, but it worries me that she has yet to reach out us today."
"Would you like for me to call her now love?" He had been planning on waiting until after the surgery.
Instead of answering her verbally, Carlisle withdrew his phone from his pocket and selected the speed dial for Alice. It was answered before the end of the first ring.
"Carlisle?" came Alice's questioning voice.
Lifting an eyebrow at Esme, Carlisle selected speakerphone before responding, "Yes, you sound surprised Alice."
"For once, I am. I didn't see you decide to call."
"That is…very interesting. How are Jasper and yourself? Are you both safe and well?"
"We are fine of course. What's this all about Carlisle? Now that I am trying I can't find you or Esme at all?!" Alice's voice started to ratchet up and Jasper could be heard soothing her in the background.
"Esme and I are as well as can be expected at the moment. Alice, I wonder, are you able to see your siblings?" Carlisle's curiosity was peaked. While it was concerning that Alice could not see them at present, he did not believe there was an immediate threat.
"Emmett and Rosalie are heading out for a night of dancing, Edward is…still the same." This of course meaning that Edward was still withdrawn into himself down in Rio.
"What is going there Carlisle?" Alice questioned.
"Humor me for a moment longer, please Alice. What happens when you look for yourself and Jasper?" Carlisle continued his fact finding.
"I see us heading back to my niece's nursing home tonight, as we had planned." Alice responded after a moment's pause.
"So it is only Esme and myself that is blocked to your visions, correct Alice?" he questioned.
"And what of your other sister?"
In a depressed tone, Alice replied, "I can't"
"Bella is a blank as well?" Again Carlisle lifted his eyebrow at Esme.
"No Carlisle, or rather I'm sure if I looked I would see her"
"I don't understand Alice, can you or can you not see her when you look for her future?"
Hesitantly now, Alice admitted, "I'm not allowed to look for her."
Esme gasped quietly at hearing this news. It was she who asked, "I am sorry Alice, what do you mean you are not allowed to look for Bella?"
Sounding put out now, Alice answered, "Edward forbid me. He made me promise I wouldn't look for Bella, so he wouldn't be tempted to interfere in her life. He said it would be his gift to her, so she wouldn't spend her days wondering if this was the event that would bring him running back."
Feeling some of the elusive puzzle pieces snapping into place, Carlisle hardened his tone, "I need you to look for Bella immediately Alice."
She sighed, "I want to Carlisle, but I gave my word. I can't".
"Now Alice. I am not asking. Edward's request be damned. Look for Bella." Carlisle was through dancing around the subject. It seemed to all boil down to Bella suffering multiple vampire attacks so Edward wouldn't have to hear that she was moving on with someone new.
As much as Alice wanted to do that very thing, she wouldn't break her word without good reason, "What's going on Carlisle?"
It wasn't easy to rile Carlisle and he didn't shout at Alice– after all it wouldn't do to wake Bella. Yet with the condition his youngest daughter was currently in, he was not about to let her stonewall his fact gathering. He simply spoke firmly, but it left no doubts for Alice that whatever the situation was, it was serious, "Look for our daughter NOW Alice. This isn't a game."
She was quiet for a long moment this time. When she did respond, it was cautious, "I can't see her either, she's a blank spot, just like you and Esme."
Since Alice currently could not see Carlisle or Esme, it came as little surprise that Bella was also a blank spot. After all, she was with them. They would work on solving that puzzle after Alice and Jasper arrived. Shelving that for now, he instead asked, "When did Edward make this request of you Alice?"
"After the family left Forks."
"Edward remained behind for several days. When exactly was this Alice?"
"Two days after Bella's birthday. The family had left Forks, but Edward was still there. He hadn't made Bella aware of his decision as yet."
"And since that time you have had no visions of Bella?" This would explain why Alice had not made them aware of the threats to Bella, but Carlisle wanted confirmation.
"Some came automatically, but I allowed none of them through. You're worrying me Carlisle, what is going on?"
Knowing there were no more answers to be had from Alice tonight, Carlisle finally allowed the topic to shift, "That is what Esme and I have been asking ourselves since last night."
Jasper could be heard in the background requesting Alice activate speakerphone. A click was heard and then his voice clearly demanding, "What do you mean Carlisle? Are you and Esme in danger? Alice and I can be there in ten hours, faster if we fly."
"That is not necessary Jasper, we are in no immediate danger. Alice, what would you say if I told you I left the hospital after my shift last night, to find my human daughter huddled against the Mercedes door, well on her way to freezing to death in a snowstorm?"
There was silence on the other end. Carlisle wasn't sure if he could have managed to shock them better than with that piece of information.
Finally, it was Alice who seemed to recover first, "B..Bella? Is she alright? She didn't die, did she? Oh god, that's not why her future is blank is it?!"
Esme hurried to reassure her, "She's alive Alice. She's hurt, but she's alive."
Ever the strategist, it was Jasper who asked, "How the hell did she find you?! And why didn't she seek you inside the shelter of the building? What was she doing so far from Forks?"
"For now, suffice it to say she was pointed in our direction by someone in the tribe whom it seems was already searching for myself. As for why, Laurent and Victoria have been hunting Bella since we left Forks, in retaliation for James' death."
The growls came through the line loud and clear. Jasper began issuing orders, "Carlisle, call Emmett and Rosalie, Alice will call Edward while I book us all plane tickets…"
Though he was gratified to hear Jasper's immediate planning of defense for Bella, Carlisle cut him off, "No Jasper. The situation is more complex than you realize. First of all, Bella is injured and will be undergoing surgery here, at the house, at dawn. It would be best if you would both see to it that you hunted well and did not arrive here any sooner than tomorrow afternoon. Emmett, Rosalie and most especially Edward are to remain out of the loop until Esme and I determine otherwise. No exceptions."
"Carlisle," Alice began to question.
"No Alice. I am very serious. You do not as yet understand the repercussions of Edward's request. I suspect there is still more to the story that is hitherto untold." Gentling his voice, Carlisle went on, "To that end, I should forewarn you both; Bella's trust in our family has been destroyed. She sat injured outside my car, upwind of where she knew I would approach from, in the freezing snow for hours because she believed I would turn her away. Even now she is expecting Esme and me to weary of the situation and leave her to once again fend for herself."
Pausing to let them assimilate that information, he then continued, "Alice, you need to prepare yourself. While I do not claim to speak for Bella, I would hazard a guess Edward kept his request of you a secret from Bella as well as the family. Bella believes you must have had knowledge of the events she has suffered through. Jasper, judging from her reaction this morning, you are the only Cullen Bella seems to trusts to any degree."
"You're kidding?! I'm the only one who's tried to drain her!"
"I kid you not Jasper. I passed on Isabella's apology to you that night. Her opinion has not changed. She still holds herself at fault for not taking care to avoid the papercut. In her eyes, your subsequent attack was simply a natural reaction."
Jasper's sigh was audible. He clearly continued to hold himself at fault, but he wasn't going to argue the point tonight. Speaking up he stated, "I think it best if Alice and I still head out tonight, so we are nearby in case you need us. I figure on hunting there first and then heading to the house."
"Carlisle, my promise to Edward doesn't explain why I can't see you three. In fact, Jasper and I now vanish from my vision after we hunt tomorrow."
"Yes, I did realize that Alice. It would seem you two disappear at the point you intend to join with us. I am not certain why that is the case. Perhaps we can determine a few theories when you arrive, as I think it best if we continue this discussion in Bella's presence."
After saying their goodbyes, Carlisle disconnected the call and returned the cellphone to his pocket. Pulling Esme back into his embrace he spoke, "While we now know why Alice did nothing to assist Bella, I feel as though that conversation brought more questions than answers."
Esme pointed out, "Well, at least we are a step closer to answering the question of how Bella suffered from exposure on the very day Edward left her. He wouldn't have had Alice's forewarning of the event."
"No, he would not have. I wonder though, at what point did Alice's visions of Bella go from unwatched to blocked? Is it Bella herself resulting in the current hindrance, or is it something to do with us?" Carlisle pondered.
"Clearly Bella doesn't have any idea of what Alice agreed to. I wonder why he choose not to tell Bella if it was supposed to be his gift to her?" Esme asked.
"I cannot begin to guess. I am thoroughly disappointed in Edward. I can only imagine he sought to avoid the future pain of Alice seeing events in Bella's life such as marriage and children, however he absolutely knew that I considered Bella might face non-supernatural threats in her life. I did not allow myself to override Edward's decision based on those concerns because I knew Alice was so attuned to Bella that she would see such events. His request to Alice was made with the knowledge that I would never have allowed such. In fact, had I known of his intention to do so, I would have demanded we stay. That one decision has resulted in much pain and suffering for Bella, though I know our son well enough to know what Bella has suffered will be consequence enough for Edward. When he learns of it all, he will punish himself for the rest of his existence."
They lapsed into silence after this. The sun had long since set, and though Bella was still sleeping, she would be waking soon.
Bella began stirring as the pain medicine had once again worn off. She wanted to sit up in the bed and knew she should ask for assistance, but Carlisle and Esme had already done a lot for her. Though they said otherwise, experience is an excellent teacher. She knew the easier she made things for them, the longer she would stay here recovering before she was back to her own devices. A simple scoot up in the bed should be fine for her to handle alone. After all, she wouldn't need to twist her upper body, so there was no risk she might puncture her lung.
Though the swelling had gone down in her knee and ankle, both joints protested vehemently when she slightly lifted her leg up in preparation to scoot higher on the pillow. The gasping breath that resulted had her regretting even that small movement. Her ribs were now on fire.
In an instant, Carlisle and Esme were both by her bedside. "Breathe Bella, the pain will ease in a moment." He laid a syringe and medicine bottle on the nightstand and moved to open an alcohol wipe.
"Na..Na..No," it took Bella several gasping tries but she got the word out.
Stopping in the motion of reaching for her arm, Carlisle looked up at Bella, "This is just your normal dose of pain medication Sweetheart, I promise."
Bella had by now slowed her breathing enough, that she was no longer caught in a cycle of pain from each rib movement. So her next words came out clearer, "Sit up. Awake for awhile."
"Ahh, I see. You wish to sit up and stay awake for now?" Carlisle verified.
Carlisle turned to Esme, "Dear would you mind helping Bella to sit up while I swap this medication out for its non-drowsy alternative?"
Bella was pleased by their easy capitulation. Though she was still very much exhausted, she had slept most of the day and knew she would do the same for the night.
As Carlisle left the room, Esme looked at her askance. "I thought we agreed you would ask for help with any movements Bella. I promise you honey, you're here to stay. You're not going to wear out your welcome no matter how much assistance you need from us."
There went Esme with her motherly act again. Even though Bella wanted to believe she could see right through it, Esme still succeeded in making her feel like a naughty child with nothing but a few polite words and a look. Maybe it would be better for her sanity if she did get herself tossed out sooner rather than later. After all, what did it matter if she was going to end up fish bait for Victoria anyways? Then she remembered Seth's message. Sam or Jake would come. If she could just stay in the Cullen's good graces until then, she stood a chance of surviving this.
Sadly smiling, Esme gently wrapped her palm around Bella's cheek and said, "Give us time, Sweetheart. You'll see the truth for yourself."
A tear coursed down Bella's cheek as she fought the desire to believe the kindness was real.
By now, Carlisle had returned with the pain pills and passed them to Bella. Giving her a moment to swallow them and compose herself, he then queried, "How are you feeling this evening Sweetheart?"
Unsure if he was asking about her physical or emotional state, yet knowing he wouldn't be please to hear her trademark 'fine', Bella answered as best as she could, "A bit sore and stiff. Tired but at the same time not ready to sleep more."
Nodding, he responded, "That is to be expected unfortunately. Since your desire is to be awake for awhile, would you like to move to the living room and converse with us?"
Knowing she would be isolated to this bedroom for some time yet, Bella decided a chance to sit in the living room sounded nice. If they were serious about protecting her from Victoria, then she would be spending most of her time in this room to avoid Alice. Esme was right, time would tell the lies from the truth so she decided to take this small offer at face value. After all, if he didn't want the task of taking her to and from this room then Carlisle wouldn't have made the offer, right?
Shyly, she responded, "Please that would be nice."
Carlisle's heart lifted just a little. He had not missed Esme's attempts to further reassure Bella. He did not fool himself, he knew they had a long road to walk, yet perhaps they were finally making some small progress in reestablishing trust with Bella?
"Esme dear, I am sure Bella would like to freshen up some. I will leave you ladies to it and prep some ice packs." Turning back to Bella, he continued, "I cannot allow you anything other than water for the remainder of the night, but how does a hot cup of water sound? In lieu of tea?"
Blushing, for she did need to use the restroom and knew that would require Esme's help, "I'd like that, thank you."
With Esme's assistance, Bella was quick with her ablutions, and it wasn't long before she was being settled into the couch. Carlisle again tucked ice packs around her hand, knee and ankle before covering her with a blanket.
Esme handed her the cup of hot water and then the two Cullen's settled into the loveseat, Esme curling her feet under her and tucking herself under Carlisle's arm.
Bella took the time to look around the room, something she hadn't done previously. Unlike the Forks house, this home in Ithaca didn't have a large glass wall or an open design. Instead the colors were darker, yet comforting. The overall feel invited a person to settle in and enjoy the time spent in the room. Large built in book shelfs covered the back wall. They held a stereo, a surprisingly small CD collection (for the Cullen's that is), and books that appeared to range from older antiques to modern paperbacks. Two, large but cozy looking club chairs sat in front of the bookshelves. The couch and loveseat were angled in front of a stone fireplace on the side wall and above the old wood mantle a beautiful painting hung. It was a seascape done in blues and greens that tied in nicely with the browns in the furniture and wood. There was no sign of a tv or game system as she expected to see. Behind the loveseat was the front wall, which had a large picture window. She could see the snow falling in the landscape lights Esme had apparently installed outside.
Her gaze went back to the fireplace, where she saw a prearranged, but unlit, fire set. How she would have loved to curl up in front of that fireplace with a good book.
Gratified to see that Bella was feeling enough well to notice her surroundings, Carlisle took note of her gaze settling on the fireplace. Operating on a hunch, he extracted himself from Esme, walked over to the fireplace and proceeded to set it ablaze. Returning to the loveseat, he commented, "Although we do not need the warmth, Esme and I often find a fire to be relaxing on snowy evenings."
His effort was rewarded with a slight smile from Bella. The three of them sat and watched the fire burn until Bella finished with her drink. Setting her cup on the coffee table, she asked, "Carlisle, you're doing the surgery tonight, right?"
"Yes Bella. When we take you back upstairs, I will give you the heavier pain medication and let you sleep for several more hours. Unless you prefer to be awoken first, I will administer the sedative while you are already asleep and then bring you down to the dining room, which I have already prepped for the surgeries. Assuming all goes as planned, you'll wake back in the guest bedroom."
She thought over Carlisle's plan before she responded. She suspected he was giving her the option of not being awake pre surgery because he knew it would only give her the chance for nerves to set in. At least, the Carlisle she thought she had known would consider that.
"No, I don't want to be woken. I'll just get more nervous than I already am."
"Are there any questions I can answer to ease your mind Bella?"
"I don't think so. You covered everything pretty well this morning."
Anticipating the next subject to be stressful, Carlisle spoke softly, "Esme and I contacted Alice and Jasper while you slept today."
As he knew she would, Bella tensed up when he spoke their names. Seeking to reassure her, he continued, "It is up to you Bella. Esme and I spoke with them while you slept and learned something significant regarding Alice's visions of you. Though they will be in the Ithaca area soon, they will not arrive at the house until well after your surgery is complete. Esme and I can share the information we learned with you now, or it can hold until they have arrived if you prefer to hear it from Alice."
Thinking it over, Bella knew she would worry more over what the unknown was than if she learned the apparent bad news now.
"I'd like to know now please."
Nodding, for this was the answer he expected, "According to Alice, Edward sought a promise from her the day before he left Forks. Alice gave her word that she would not seek your future and would block any visions that came to her regarding you."
Not liking the way Bella curled into herself, her left hand pressing into her chest, he went to her and knelt by her side. She appeared to be in increased pain, her breathing and heart rates both accelerated. Growing concerned, he thought it might be best to cut the conversation short and take Bella up to her bed.
Laying his hand on her left knee, he sought to comfort her, "Hang in there Bella, I think it is time for the stronger medicine." Turning his head, he requested of Esme, "Dear would you grab my medical bag?"
Gasping, Bella stopped her, "No, Esme don't. It won't help. It's not my injuries. Just, I need a moment."
Carlisle was truly concerned now. If it was not her injuries, then was there something else he had missed? "What is paining you Bella, if not them?"
True to what she had told Esme, Bella's breathing did seem to stabilize some. Yet he could see her expression shutter as she looked at them both. Clearly whatever this was, Bella did not wish to trust them with the information. Gently massaging her knee, he encouraged her to share, "Bella, whatever it is, we will not judge. I can help you manage the pain and furthermore, I cannot operate without knowing if this is a potential complication."
He watched as her eyes filled with tears and she shook her head. Then she focused on the fireplace, refusing to look either of them. "It won't affect the operation, I promise. Just please finish telling me what Alice said?"
Carlisle in good conscious, could not let this go. "I am sorry Bella, I can see that you do not trust us with this information. That does not change my answer. Whether this is the result of an injury, illness or simply stress, as your doctor I must insist you share this with me."
Esme watched as Bella locked her jaw. It seemed Bella was seriously considering keeping this information to herself, even though Carlisle had warned her it would impact his ability to do the surgery. Stepping to the couch, she placed her fingers on Bella's head and began to massage her scalp.
"Bella dear, would you feel better if I gave you something to write with and left the room? Carlisle is the only one you need to tell."
What the hell, Bella thought. The cat would come out of the proverbial bag the first time she reacted like this with Jasper around anyhow. The Cullen's would get their laugh out of the stupid human either way. So she unlocked her jaw, balled her good hand into a tight fist and forced the words out, "It's His name. You said His name. That's all."
Carlisle was reminded of how she had avoided using Edward's name this morning. Carefully, he questioned, "Are you saying you feel physical pain when His name is said?"
"Yes," sighing, Bella figured in for a penny, in for a pound and elaborated, "It's as if there is a hole in my chest. It's always there. Saying, or hearing that makes it all the worse. You can't fix it, so we might as well just finish talking about Alice."
Stunned, Carlisle realized what was happening. Human Bella was feeling the physical pain of her missing mate. So much for Edward's instance that she couldn't possibly love him the way he loved her. If Bella was feeling the pull to her vampire mate then there was no chance she would move on from Edward with time. Here was another way they had let her down. By leaving they had sentenced her to a life of pain. He was reminded of the proverb 'The road to hell is paved with good intentions'.
"Bella, please look at me?" Resuming the gentle rubbing of her knee, Carlisle waited her out.
Finally, she looked him in the eye before casting her eyes down. Tears tracked down her face. Reaching up with his free hand, he nudged her chin up and spoke carefully, "Bella, do not ever be ashamed of that. You are right, there is nothing I can do medically to help that. Let's remove those splinters and get you on the road to recovery before we have a deeper discussion about what you are experiencing. Okay?"
He watched as Bella searched his eyes. She would not find the recrimination he was sure she was probing for. Eventually her tears ebbed and shoulders relaxed.
"Are you ready to hear more of what Alice and Jasper had to say?"
"Yes, I can handle it."
Squeezing her knee one last time, he and Esme resettled on the loveseat to give Bella a bit of space. She still did not seem completely at ease, as if she was waiting for whatever reaction she had originally expected to her news. Carlisle hoped that would ease with time.
"The short version is that Alice never knew of the danger you faced because she not only was not looking at your future, she blocked any vision of you that came to her. That seems to have morphed though, I had Alice attempt to look for you and all she found was blackness. The same when she looked for Esme and myself. Alice and Jasper's futures both disappear into the same blackness at the point they intend to join with us. Why that is we do not yet know."
"As for Jasper, he was stunned when I informed him that he is the only one of us you appear to trust. When he heard of Laurent and Victoria, he immediately began making plans for your protection. They did not know Bella, not one of us knew. You have my word we never would have left you to them."
Bella looked at them both, "I think I'm starting to believe that Carlisle. At least of you and Esme."
Charlie walked in his front door, closed it behind him and just stopped to listen for a moment. When he heard no unusual sounds, he locked the door behind him. Knowing the blinds would keep anyone from seeing him, he pulled his service weapon from its holster and held it at the ready. Then he preceded to clear his own home. When he was satisfied the house truly was empty, and there was no signs anyone had been there in his absence, he returned his weapon to his belt and headed to his bedroom.
There he took the time to change out of his uniform into comfortable jeans and a tee-shirt, then grabbed his off-duty gun belt and holster. He relocated his service weapon to this rig and secured it to his waist. Normally Charlie was not one to wear his weapon at home, but things had been strange since Bella had disappeared and he was no longer sure whom he could trust. That included his oldest friends. Until he knew what was going on and had found his daughter, Charlie was taking no chances.
Leaving the room, he walked down the stairs, turned the corner into the kitchen and headed straight for the refrigerator. Grabbing a cold beer, he set it on the table before turning back to the pantry. There on a shelf were some files he had hidden behind the cereal boxes. Taking them to the table, he sat down, opened the beer and thought back to earlier this week.
It had been a relatively normal day, Bella had headed to the reservation to spend time with Jake. Halfway through the day Billy called somewhat frantic. He claimed Jake and another boy had been bitten by a poisonous snake. Bella had witnessed it and once the boys were taken care of, she had left the reservation very upset. Billy wanted to make sure she had made it home alright. The boys were in bad shape, so Charlie at first brushed off the unusual note in Billy's voice as a worried father.
Charlie headed home expecting to find Bella already there. Instead, her truck was gone, her bedroom looked like someone had been grabbing things in a hurry and the money he budgeted for groceries had disappeared from the kitchen. Bella's savings had also been missing from her bedroom. Most telling of all was the little droplets of blood he found throughout the house. He'd bet anything when the match came in it would be Bella's.
When he had thought back to his conversation with Billy, Charlie's intuition told him his old friend knew something about Bella's absence. Going with his gut, he made no mention of the blood when he went down to the reservation to question Bella's friends and Billy. That was the visit that made him paranoid.
Listening to that hot-head Paul, suggest that Bella probably just wanted a change of scenery and his claims of how Bella was throwing herself at him, Charlie knew he was being lied to. Billy never once looked him in the eye. And all the other kids (who all happened to look like they were on steroids) parroted the same story. The whole group had been hiking when Jake and Sam managed to both get bit by a snake. Bella had been shaken up about it and decided to take off for home as soon as they had gotten the boys to Sue.
Sue, huh. There was another longtime friend who suddenly seemed to have an aversion to making eye contact with Charlie.
There was only one thing that had the ring of truth to it: the claims about how shaken up Bella was. Even the snake bite story was fishy. Both boys had bandaged wounds and seemed to be in bad shape. Of course, Charlie hadn't seen the actual wounds – could be they had been caused by something else. In fact, they most likely were. Unless someone had released an illegal pet into the wild or his so-called friends were protecting someone on the rez who had an illegal pet, there was no way the boys had been bit by a poisonous snake. There were none to be found on the Olympic Peninsula. A fact Charlie knew Billy was well aware of.
And another thing – even if the boys had been bit by someone's poisonous pet – Bella would have known the snake was dangerous. Every kid in Phoenix knew how to tell the difference by looking for the triangular head.
He couldn't help remembering back to when Bella had expressed concerns of a gang on the reservation. It was right after Jacob had taken ill and seemed to be brushing Bella off. Bella had said several of Jacob's friend had done the same to him, and were suddenly following that Sam guy. Soon after, Bella and Jacob had reunited and Bella explained that Sam was actually doing good things for the young boys on the reservation. Was it possible there was truth to the gang theory? Or perhaps was Sam's group helping troubled boys and one of them had turned on his friends? If that was the case, were Billy and Sue trying to protect whichever boy had attacked the others?
In the end, Charlie left the reservation with more questions than answers. And the entire drive home he felt as if he had eyes on him. He never saw another vehicle in the rearview mirror, but he'd bet anything someone had been following him. He'd had the same feeling several times since then. It was the main reason he decided to keep most of his search for his daughter's whereabouts close to his chest. Whatever he and Bella had stumbled into, he needed to know more before risking involving his deputy. Mark had a family who needed him.
Besides, Bella was eighteen and had taken off once before with no warning. That was less than a year ago. With that and her 'friends' claim that she just wanted a change of scenery, he couldn't put out an official alert until he had concrete signs of foul play. The blood alone wouldn't be enough justification, even if it came back as Bella's. She was known to hurt herself often.
No, Charlie wasn't buying that Bella had just up and taken off on a whim. With no word to her father or mother and her best friend fighting for his life. That was the move of someone who only cared for themselves and Bella was anything but. The way Charlie saw it, there were only two ways Bella left Forks: on her own and fearing for her life, or forced to by someone else. And if it was the former, why didn't she feel safe enough to seek protection from her Police Chief father?
That in and of itself was a huge clue. If Bella had run for safety, but not to Charlie, then whomever she was running from Charlie likely knew and would not suspect. And if someone had taken Bella, well, chances were the person fit into the same category. Because he'd wager his career Sue and Billy were involved up to their noses.
Yet for Charlie personally, the blood was more than enough. Despite her growing up away from him, Charlie knew his daughter well. He knew how the smell of blood made her woozy. No way would she have chosen to drive like that if she had taken off at her leisure – after all, she wouldn't have expected Charlie to be home for hours. The blood trail never went near the bathroom and it made its way out the door and to her truck's normal parking spot. Nor would Bella have left her mess for Charlie to clean up. Meaning Bella both entered and left the house bleeding and had been in a hurry to get on the road.
There was something else strange. Charlie had been told the Cullen's had moved to LA. He'd doubled checked this information with the hospital when Bella went missing. On the chance that she had grown a wild hair and decided to go looking for them, Charlie had called every medical facility in and around LA. Then he'd checked the high schools. No one had heard of Dr. Carlisle Cullen and no school had any of the Cullen children enrolled. He'd used his credentials to get the information from the private schools.
He remembered how unplanned their departure had been. One day the Cullen family was firmly ensconced in Fork's and the next they were gone. Just where had they gone to? Had LA been a lie, or had the move been so hasty that they simple changed their mind regarding location? Charlie couldn't help seeing parallels to his daughters own departure.
Grabbing the kitchen phone, Charlie pulled his lists from the file. Just because he couldn't put an alert out for his daughter and plaster her name and face all over the news, didn't mean he didn't have other methods of searching for her. Her antique, very obvious, also currently missing truck was the best starting point he had. Sliding his finger down to the next uncalled name on the list, he settled in to an evening of calling all the auto dealers and junkyards in the neighboring states.