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All Our Tomorrows Chapter 1

Catherine Warriorson sat at her desk, resting a weary head on the hand she had propped up on the polished surface, her eyes haunted and bloodshot from crying into exhaustion. Of course, anyone mentioning the stoic woman had been crying would have warranted a severe blast of ice from those chips of blue called eyes.
 
Turning over the locket that held photographs of her family in her fingers, Catherine gave a heavy sigh, in a feverish hope of a miracle to the present circumstances, as she contemplated what to do next.
 
There were no fresh leads or significant news from the police regarding Lisa’s kidnapping. The police captain who had been here the day before was sympathetic, but clearly not able to shed any light on the situation. Then, there had been that woman with him! She seemed confident, informed and wanting to get on with the investigation rather than talking about it. Jace had been with her, the woman holding Jace’s trembling hand through the ordeal. Now, once again, she was on her own… yes, her own.
 
Catherine’s sombre thoughts went to a dark place in the recesses of her mind. A place she had not returned to for close on thirty years…
 
“Catherine, you and your brother will be going to live with Aunt Constantia after the funeral,” Stewart Devonshire spoke to his daughter in a clipped cultured voice, words devoid of emotion. He hadn’t any left to give, not even to his children.
 
Catherine stared at her father with red-rimmed eyes, holding tightly to her younger brother’s hand. Her father was dressed all in black except for the pristine white shirt that looked out of place with the black suit and tie. “I won’t, Papa! Why can’t Lukas and I stay with you?”
 
Her impassioned plea went unnoticed by her father, who was gazing blankly out of the window of the study in their London home.
 
“You cannot, Catherine, and that’s the end of it!” Stewart stated decisively. He didn’t see the cascade of tears that poured down her cheeks at his cold harsh dismissal.
 
“I will not live with Aunt Constantia. We don’t know her, Papa. She hates us!” Catherine replied melodramatically. Why was her father abandoning them to their aunt? They had seldom seen her, not even during their mother’s short illness.
 
Stewart turned on his heels at the comment, walking over to the gangly child and looking at her squarely. His eyes held hers as he shook his peppered grey hair at her statement. Both parent and child vied for supremacy and Stewart Devonshire was the first to look away.
 
“Your aunt will be your legal guardian in my absence, Catherine. You will do as she says and in the future, you will talk about, and to her with the utmost respect! Do I make myself clear?” His voice rose slightly as he looked once again towards the window.
 
Catherine knew her father had closed the conversation and she didn’t want him to be upset anymore. He would change his mind and come back for them. She was sure of it! He wouldn’t leave them without love. He couldn’t do that. He needed them as they needed him. They were family!
 
“I understand, Papa,” Catherine replied solemnly, feeling a tug on her hand as she looked at her younger brother.
 
“What’s the matter, Lukas?” Her voice took on a soft, gentle nuance as she gazed into the liquid brown eyes of her brother. He had the look of their mother, making it even easier to always be there for him, however poignant his expressions may seem to them at the moment. Papa just has to see that too!
 
“Cat, it will be alright. Don’t cry,” The five-year-old replied, smiling at her to reassure her the only way he could.
 
Catherine returned her brother’s smile weakly, pulled him into a hug, and released him as her father spoke again.
 
“It is time to say goodbye to Mama. Come, the car is here,” Stewart remarked in monotone, striding towards the door to leave the house. Then, he turned suddenly, as if a voice inside his head had reminded him that he had responsibilities outside his own pain. He held out his hands for each of his children to take. Together they walked silently towards the car. It was the last time they would ever be together as a family….
 
Catherine felt the moisture behind her eyes as she recalled the events as if they were yesterday. She knew that no matter what, that wasn’t going to happen here! No, by god! Her daughter was coming home. No matter the cost. She would find Lisa and bring her home and they would be a whole family again! That was her drive, her goal and that was what was going to happen.
 
A knock on the door pulled her out of her dark thoughts.
 
* * *
 
Serena Dusterly looked down at the button for the doorbell and reconsidered her options for possibly the hundredth time. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to help find the child. She did. She wanted that so much it was tearing at her soul. She had fucked up once and it had cost her the job she loved and the credibility of her colleagues. How was she going to convince the control freak, Catherine Warriorson, that she was capable of finding the person behind the abduction? Pacing outside the door, it opened and she stopped and looked into the face of a woman who stared at her in intense query.
 
“May I help you?” Stephanie Merchant asked politely, unable to help the nervous note in her voice.
 
Serena gathered her momentary wavering confidence and smiled briefly, “Yes. Yes, I need to speak with Ms. Warriorson, if that’s possible.”
 
Stephanie continued to stare at the woman. Looking closer at her, she was sure she had been in the apartment with the police captain earlier.
 
“Is she expecting you?”
 
“No. No, she isn’t, but it’s important. Would you ask her, please? The name is Dusterly. I was here earlier with Captain Travis.” Serena heard the weak tone of her voice and knew she better get her act together if she had any hopes of convincing the woman inside she could help. Pulling out her wallet swiftly, she flashed her ID, confirming her name.
 
Stephanie gave her a thorough glance then turned her eyes back into the apartment. Her boss wasn’t going to be happy about the interruption. Earlier, when she had stepped out of her study in search of tea, she had looked irritable and pale. God only knew if the woman had slept any. It was highly unlikely, if the dark circles under her eyes were anything to go by.
 
“I will check for you. Please come inside.” Stephanie opened the door a little and allowed the woman to enter.
 
Stephanie closed and locked the door behind them before heading down the hallway and knocking on a door. Serena remembered from her previous visit that it was the study. She watched the housekeeper enter the room and close the door.
 
Catherine turned with haunted eyes to ask, with her expressive glance rather than words, what Stephanie needed.
 
Stephanie related the woman’s request and waited, watching several expressions cross her employer’s features.
 
Stroking her hand absently over her scarred left cheek, Catherine pondered the request.
 
“Did she say if there was any news?” Catherine inquired slowly and felt her gut tighten as she asked the question, but her eyes and facial expression remained calm and unemotional.
 
 “No, she didn’t, only that she would like to see you and it was important,” answered Stephanie bleakly, knowing how much that would hurt the woman before her.
 
Nodding her head, she glanced down at her desk, fingering her locket as she looked at the smiling faces of her family. It was going to be another long day without them. Her feeling of loneliness had threatened to overpower her on more than one occasion in the last few hours. Yet, the profound sense that Jace was here with her no matter the thousands of miles that separated them was so acute. It was her great comfort and strength.
 
“Send her in Stephanie. Let’s hear what she has to say,” came the reply, as she sat down at her desk with a heavy sigh, wiping away what she hoped were any traces of the ravages of her own sadness. No way was a stranger seeing her in such a condition.
 
Stephanie turned, opened the door and motioned for Ms. Dusterly forward.
 
Entering the room, Serena gulped in a deep breath and squared her shoulders in a determined effort to project a confident, in control stance.
 
Stephanie asked if they wanted any tea or coffee. Catherine declined and Serena quickly said no, when she really would have welcomed a coffee to settle her nerves.
 
Catherine quirked her left eyebrow and it tugged at the scarred tissue on her face. “Please sit, Ms. Dusterly. I’m told you have something of importance to impart.” Her entire expression was one of a predator, waiting to capture victims if they lost their way in her world.
 
Serena had seen many people in this situation, but never had she seen a distraught parent so in control and remote. Does the child actually mean anything to this woman? She knew from the initial investigation into the child’s background in Travis' notes that Lisa Simeon wasn’t the birth child of either woman calling themselves her mother. 
 
Clearing her voice, she gave the woman a small smile as she responded to the question. “Well, actually it is more asking if you would take me on as your personal advisor in this case?” She sucked in a silent breath and preceded with her explanation, “I have the background. I know what the person is doing…I even know who it is, but I can’t prove it!” Serena finished abruptly, shaken by the glacial gaze levelled on her. Even if only one eye was functioning, it was enough to scare the hell out of her at close range.
 
Catherine was stunned. What is going on here? This woman is saying she knows who kidnapped Lisa and is doing nothing about it!
 
“Pardon my ignorance in these matters, but why tell me this? Why not the police?” Catherine questioned firmly, the thread of steel in her voice giving Serena the right message.
 
“I once told the police who I was suspicious of and…” she trailed off unable to continue.
 
“And?” Catherine was in no mood for hesitancy. 
 
Serena looked up at the cold stoic expression, pushed forth all her courage and answered clearly. “I had to quit over my accusations. They didn’t believe me!” Her voice held its own steel, this time along with bitterness.
 
Catherine scraped back her chair, went over to the window, and looked out on the park below. She saw the pond and the ducks that swam by, followed by a beautiful swan with a brood of signets. Her daughter should be out there and not held somewhere alone and frightened against her will.
 
“What makes you think that I will believe you anymore than the people you worked years with did?” Catherine asked, her back turned away, still watching the restful scene below. It brought back so many memories of her happy-go-lucky little Princess.
 
“Lisa, get back in the car now!” Jace shouted at the small girl. Her daughter had decided that teasing geese looked like a good thing to do.
 
“Oh, Jace, it’s fun! Look at all the baby ones. I want to stroke one. Can I? Can I?” Lisa requested and blinked her long eyelashes at the small blonde, who was looking over her shoulder at the gathering gaggle that had suddenly appeared. 
 
“No, Lisa, you can’t do that. The parents wouldn’t like it. Now please, get in the car.” Jace was watching the interested looking geese gather momentum as they waddled cautiously towards the child.
 
“Catherine, I can, can’t I?” Lisa turned her small eager face towards the tall woman, who was busily strapping Elena into the chair in the back of the vehicle.
 
Catherine had vaguely heard them talking, but hadn’t been taking notice. Absently she replied. “Sure. Whatever! Make it quick, we have to get back home.”
 
Catherine really wished she had been paying attention, as the next moment Jace was tapping her on the back, and she shot up so fast her head hit the edge of the car. She rubbed it gingerly and looked at her partner in surprise.
 
“How could you, Catherine?” Jace accused her. Her eyes held a reproach that made Catherine forget the pain she felt at cracking her head and she gazed apologetically at her partner.
 
“What? What have I done now?” Catherine asked and looked from her to their elder daughter, who was now happily grinning as she was touching or trying to touch one of the young fledglings.
 
“What have you done? You are so soft with our children. You would give them anything. Well, you can prise Lisa out of the predicament she’s going to be in any second now. Look at those geese!” Jace pointed in the direction of the flurry of activity as three large geese began stalking the small girl, who was oblivious to them.
 
Catherine looked in the direction of the small hand that indicated the problem and she breathed in deeply.
 
“Oh, hell!” Catherine expounded, almost under her breath.
 
“Yes, precisely,” Jace retorted and looked at the scene.
 
Then all hell did break out as Catherine rushed to aid Lisa, pulling her away from her happy task, which was going to end in tears. Following close by her side was Rio, who had left his position on the back seat to chase after his larger mistress, suspecting she might need his help.
 
Jace looked over her shoulder and checked that Elena was secure. Then she turned on the engine and manoeuvred the car towards the scene of a child being whisked up into her partner’s arms. Catherine was now running away as fast as she could from spitting and chasing geese, who looked none to happy with her. Rio, although he was barking madly at the antics of the geese, was running away from the pecking beaks as well. ‘Where was the camera when you needed it?’
 
“Jace? Jace, stop the car!” Catherine shouted. It was one thing to chastise her over the stupid comment she made, but quite another to leave her, Lisa and now Rio to fend for themselves. Geese could be quite vicious creatures.
 
Jace heard the plea, slowed down, coming to a dead stop as Catherine opened the front passenger door and threw Lisa in unceremoniously. Lisa giggled as she bounced in the seat of the vehicle.
 
Catherine was inches from having a beak peck at her as a heavy groan left her lips. Then she saw Rio, who was still chasing around the car at the impudent geese.
 
“Rio. Here boy!” She commanded and Rio came bounding around to her as she opened the door, as one frustrated and angry goose finally homed in on his target and nipped at her ankle.
 
Rio looked up at her once and jumped into the back of the Land Rover.  Catherine swore under her breath as she felt the stab of the beak on the back of her leg.  “Jace, move this tin can out of here!” Catherine bellowed and just as she did so, she felt another nip and her hand released the door handle and she turned to shoo away the offender. At that moment, Jace set off with the car gathering speed, leaving Catherine stuck in the middle of the area with angry geese, as Lisa and Rio peered at her from inside the vehicle.
 
“OH bloody great!” Catherine sucked in a breath and ran as if the devil were chasing her towards the slowly retreating car.
 
“Jace? Jace! You forgot something,” Lisa screeched and couldn’t stop laughing as she saw the efforts that Catherine was making to catch up to them.
 
“Missing? What’s missing? And think yourself lucky, young lady, that the geese didn't peck you. Isn’t that right, Catherine?” Jace asked her concentration on driving up the steep slope out of the valley where they picnicked.
 
Jace looked into the rear view mirror and her eyes shot open like a bug’s. To her startled surprise, she saw the rather exasperated and certainly heavily breathing figure of her partner, running as hard as she could after them, with at least three geese running to catch up with her. The infuriated geese didn’t look happy either.
 
“Catherine?” Jace whispered. Stopping the car, she held it in gear on the gradient, willing Catherine to get to them before the geese got to her.
 
“Yes Catherine, Jace,” Lisa answered smugly and watched with a smirk as Catherine finally caught up to them, wrenched open the door, and shot inside, sprawling over Rio and Elena, who pulled her hair immediately. The door closed behind her as Catherine told Jace in short gasps to move out again.
 
“Are you okay?” Serena Dusterly asked as she watched the expressions cross over the taller woman’s face, memories obviously.
 
Catherine pulled herself out of her reverie and looked with haunted eyes at the woman who was offering her a thread of hope, if only a slim hope. She’d take it!
 
“I was recalling something that happened a few months ago. A good memory, in a way. I still have the scars to prove it.” Catherine glanced down towards her legs, although you couldn’t see what she meant, as she was clothed in denims. Her legs had been pecked several times, requiring a tetanus inoculation and, all in all, she had come off worse that day. However, it had taught her a lesson in taking notice and not agreeing with everything Lisa said in the future. Although Jace's ministrations later that evening had been worth any discomfort she had experienced with that little adventure.
 
“You had better tell me more about yourself, Ms. Dusterly. I had assumed wrongly, it would seem that you were a member of Captain Travis’s team.” Catherine sat down in her chair and motioned for the other woman to speak up.
 
“I was a profiler for the FBI for six years until I quit a little over two years ago. People who didn’t like my views on the serial abductor forced me out. When one of the children turned up dead, I was a useful scapegoat, I guess, and I let them take me down.” Serena never looked away as she related her story. But she had flinched slightly as the blue eyes pierced hers and she saw the brief pain that flashed across them with the mention of the death of one of the children.
 
“I see. And you say that you know who the abductor is?” Catherine linked her fingers together on the desk in front of her. She could feel the wedding ring she wore, slightly warm against her flesh, giving a degree of reassurance from its simple secure message.
 
“I had my suspicions and now all I need is the chance to prove I’m right. I hope if we can do it soon, we can have your daughter back home safely to you.” 
 
Serena continued with her dialogue. The woman before her was like a stone statue. She was obviously well used to hiding her emotions in difficult situations.
 
“A chance? Yes, chances are few and far between, are they not, Ms. Dusterly, when we screw up! I take it you think that you have screwed up and cost children their freedom and perhaps their lives?” Catherine spoke quietly and watched the pain etch itself on the plain features of the woman. The shoulder length bleached blonde hair was neat and tidy, but the style could have been a little more flattering.
 
The woman was of medium proportions. Not exactly plump, but certainly a degree overweight. More importantly, the telling trait she looked for, the grey golden-flecked eyes never leaving Catherine’s face was there.
 
Her emotions riding high, Dusterly choked out, “I need someone to give me that chance. Yes, that second chance to redeem myself!” She was disturbed that this stoic woman made her feel this way, as no one had before. It was as if Catherine Warriorson was searching her soul and stripping her bare of past faults before she would decide.
 
The phone rang, allowing the emotional plea to drift in the air as Catherine swiftly retrieved the handset.
 
“Warriorson!” the harsh toned voice answered.
 
Serena had never seen someone look so immovable one minute and then the next, totally animated.
 
“Jace, how are you?” Catherine softly asked her partner. A single tear dripped from the blind eye as she heard the reply. 
 
Serena, respecting the need for privacy, stood up and moved away. Noticing the movement, Catherine glanced up and quickly spoke into the phone before speaking directly to Serena.
 
“If you wouldn’t mind, please ask Stephanie to make some tea and whatever you would like to drink. I need to take this call in private. I will seek you out when I’ve completed the call. Ask Stephanie if she wouldn’t mind making us breakfast as well. You and I have things to talk about, Ms. Dusterly, and a child to bring home safely.” Catherine returned her attention to her waiting caller and missed the look of exultation that crossed Serena Dusterly’s face.
 
“I have my second chance,” was the wavering statement as she headed for the door.
 
Catherine heard the softly spoken words and replied briefly. “Yes, you do. Someone gave me a second chance once. Now I’m returning the favour. Make it count, Dusterly. Make it count for us all!”
 
Serena opened the door and stepped back out into the hall, closing the door behind her to allow Catherine Warriorson her privacy. She couldn’t help the words that fluttered past her lips quietly.
 
“I will make it count! I will! Even if it costs me my life.”
 

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