Searching


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1. Searching

I’m sleeping in a lonely hotel in the middle of nowhere. It’s not terribly bad though, there’s still a bed and electricity available, so everything I need is covered. I can’t afford to stay in a better hotel,  expenses need to be kept as low as possible on this search. The spent each day, the more time I have to look for her. The budget is tight after all the ransom the kidnapper demands and all the expenses on the wedding. Thankfully her family is helping with half of that, but it’s still not enough. Why of all the princesses in the world, they decide to kidnap Rose? My Rose. There are other royals who deserved it much more and families which are much richer. Why at this time? It was a week before the wedding, something the whole kingdom has been rejoicing about. Not to mention Rose’s kingdom. They all prepared for the special day when ‘Prince Nicholas and Princess Rose would marry and achieve long-lasting peace between our two nations’. My parents finally stopped bickering knowing that their son has found a girl worthy of his future crown. Everyone was happy. Who would want to ruin that?

Maybe it’s my fault, I should’ve been more observant, more alert, I should’ve kept her safe. After all she disappeared in my castle. She only came to make arrangements about the wedding. It was my territory and I should’ve watched her more closely. But that’s why I’m on the search mission now. The kidnapper calls every day for negotiations, which gives me some clues on where to look. I hope I find her before the deadline. I hope it doesn’t come to paying the ransom, but who knows what will happen. It’s not like I find kidnapped people every day. But I know one way or the other, I’ll bring Rose back home and soon this will be just a memory we wish to forget about.

I go to bed. There’s a lot to be done tomorrow, so I better go to sleep. 

 

I wake up to the sound of her voice, like every morning. I have this reoccurring dream where Rose calls my name frightened. She begs me to come save her, she says I should do it before it’s too late. I listen paralyzed. I can’t move, I can’t do anything, I can only sit there seeing her pain. She’s two meters away from me, if only I could move and touch her. Then a black hooded figure comes in and Rose begins weeping. Her last words are ‘It’s too late’, before everything goes to darkness and I wake up.

Every day I’m woken up by this, reminded of the very small possibility that I might not save her. She may be lost forever. But I’ve learned to push this feeling aside. Time is too precious to waste on being worried.

I go downstairs for a modest breakfast and coffee, which I take upstairs. While I eat, my laptop is open on the table in front of me and I’m searching for nearby places with the name ‘MDP’. Rather, places whose names could be abbreviated like that. I’ve recorded all of the negotiation calls, so this one time while re-listening I heard someone in the background remarking: ‘The famous MDP, I thought we’d never find it.’.  So I know the kidnapper is or was at some point there. I’m hoping it’s his station, or even better – the place where they keep Rose. Whatever it is, I’ll find it. I know it must be somewhere around here, my computer tracked the call to this area. With enough searching I’ll find such a place.

The maid knocks on my door, but only as a formality. She lets herself in and then greets me, a bit unwillingly.

“Hello, I didn’t expect there would be someone in here.”

“Yes, sorry, I forgot to put the ‘Do not disturb’ sign. I’m working right now.”

“I see.”, she smiles dishonestly, “Well, I need to clean the room before noon, so do you think you can work elsewhere for a while?”

“There’s still plenty of time before noon,”, I say as I look at my watch and realize it’s already half past eleven, I’ve been searching for the past four and a half hours. “Oh, sorry, I’m mistaken. I’ll go downstairs.”, I close my laptop and exit the room. Please finish soon, my room is the only place where I can get good quality internet around here.

I wait downstairs in front of the hotel entrance. It’s a lot less crowded here. Plus I can use some fresh air, not much of it has entered my lungs recently. 

I am suddenly pushed to the side by two men with huge bags. As I’m about to curse at them I see the big yellow writing on their jackets. My Daisy Palace. MDP. Quickly, I get into action. I let them walk five more meters before I begin to follow them, keeping that distance. From time to time I pretend to search something on my phone to avoid any suspicion. The men are not walking quickly, they’re actually passing with normal speed. They reach a café, where they order coffee and breakfast. The cashier seems to know them, she calls them by name and asks how’s work going. They smile, answer casually and even joke. Maybe I was wrong, maybe it’s just a coincidence they work for a company with the name MDP.

But what if I am right and later painfully regret that I didn’t follow them?

It’s the only clue I’ve had in days and I have nothing else to do while they clean my room, so I decide to continue following them.

Soon, they reach a huge building with lots of windows. Shit, there’s security at the door, I can’t follow them any further. I look around for another entrance. There isn’t one in plain sight, but I do see a window, which should be good for spying. I climb up there and soon spot the two men, who are now emptying their bags on the floor. Stacks and stacks of money fall to the ground, at the feet of a woman in a suit.

“Is that for the Evans’ girl?”, she asks, hands in her pockets. Without hesitance the two men answer:

“Yes.”

“Randall,”, she calls to another one, “take the money to the safe and then bring me the girl from cell 23.”, she turns back to them, “You’ll drive her to the destination.”, she turns around gracefully and yells more orders to somebody else.

So I was right, Rose is here. This is the right place. Maybe the name is just a way of hiding their whole activity. That is smart, everyone around thinks they work is something related to flowers, while actually they’re kidnapping people and storing the money.

Poor Rose, being locked in a cell for days. Oh, I’ll make them pay, I’ll save her from here. Somehow I’ll find a way to penetrate this building and bring her out. Before they realize it, we’ll be gone. They won’t see a dime from the ransom. I climb down quietly and begin to think of a plan to do it. This place must have a weak spot, maybe a broken window or back entrance. What if I go at night? Most or at least some of the guards will be sleeping, that can make it easier. I better check how much money I have left, I might need to buy some equipment.

I feel a piercing pain at the back of my head and the world starts to spin. I hear voices, people surrounding me, before I’m hit again and lose consciousness.

I wake up in a dark room, lit only by a small light hanging at the ceiling. I’m on my knees and two men are at my sides. The woman from earlier is looking down at me, her hands crossed.

“So, you think you can spy on us?”, I don’t answer, “You think you’re the first person to try and do it?”, she signals the man and I feel another burst of pain, “I must say I’m quite impressed. I didn’t expect prince Nickolas himself will come to save his future bride. Normally the royal family sends someone of lesser importance.”

The pain has finally lessened, so I reply:

“There’s a lot you don’t know about our family.”, she chuckles at my answer.

“I know for sure they’re not getting their son back, nor their precious princess Rose.”, no, she can’t do that. Rose has to go back, I have to save her. I promised myself to bring her back home. “Your families should’ve just agreed to pay, rather than send you here to try and mess with me.”, she signals to the men to take me away.

“Wait!”, I call out, “What if I pay you the money?”

She turns to me with a scoffing smile.

“After the stunt you pulled today, the ransom money is not enough.”

“What if I give you more?”

She glares at me unimpressed.

“How much more?”

“As much as you want.”, I shouldn’t be saying this, but there’s no other way to get Rose out of here. I bet if I don’t make the deal they’ll double the guards on Rose, maybe even kill her.

The woman stares at me with a satisfied smile.

“Give me double and we have a deal. I’ll even add you as a bonus, let the families have their little wedding.”

“Fine, double it is.”

She nods to the men and they pull me up to my knees. I’m taken through dark corridors with hundreds of cells. Some occupied, some empty. I can see some prisoners running to their doors as soon as they see us. They hope the men are coming to set them free. Others just stare out the window vacantly.

The guards open a cell and push me inside. I fall on my knees and elbows as the door shuts behind me. I’m about to ask them what’s happening when she calls my name.

“Nick!”, Rose throws herself closer and helps me get up. She wraps her arms around my shoulders, so tight I can feel her desperation.

“It’s ok.”, I console her, “We’ll be out of here soon.”

 

When the money has been transferred they let us go. I take Rose back in the hotel, the whole walk there she sobs quietly. I try to be gentle with her, after all she’s been through.

“I’ll ask if they have a spear room.”, I offer, but she pulls my hand.

“I don’t want to be alone.”, she tells me as her frightened eyes look into mine. I kiss her forehead.

“Ok then, you’ll stay in my room.”

I lead her upstairs and lock the door behind us. She goes to take a shower, while I cover the sofa with sheets.

“What are you doing?”, she asks me when she comes out. Water is dripping down from her hair onto her body. Her face has started to return to its normal look. “Can you … sleep next to me tonight?”

Surprised, I nod, as she pulls me by the hand to the bed, where I sit down. Behind me, she puts on the clothes, I brought for her before leaving, and taps me on the shoulder when she’s ready. She even gives me a faint smile.

“So,”, I ask, “what do you want to do now?”

“Can you lay next to me?”, I pull my body onto the bed and lay down. She rests her head on my chest and exhales.

“Nick, you have no idea how happy I am.”

“You are?”, by looking at her I thought she is scared or detached. I thought she wouldn’t want to see people, she would cry for days or be angry. But … she none of these things.

“Yes, I’m so happy I can barely comprehend it. I knew someday I’d get out of that place, but I never imagined you would come for me.”

“Someone had to.”

“I can’t wait to go back and put all this behind me. To feel normal again.”, you will Rose, you will. I stroke her head, as I propose:

“If you want, we can delay the wedding, you’re probably not going to be in the mood for it for a while.”

“Don’t.”, she lifts her head to look at me, “I want everything to go as if this never happened. I want to pretend this was just a bad dream.”

“As you wish.”, I agree.

“Nick,”, she stands up and I follow her.

“Yeah?”

Putting her hand on my cheek, she whispers.

“I love you.”, she leans in to give me a soft kiss. Oh, Rose, how long I’ve waited for this. I thought I’d never hear these words, I thought I’d never feel your lips against mine. The way you touch me now, the way your body is pressed into me, is like a dream. A lovely dream, which I will forever remember.

 

A week after we go back, the wedding is arranged. Everyone worth coming is invited and the whole castle smells of flowers, delicious food and excitement. The ceremony is happening outside in the garden during a lovely summer’s day. The guests are all seated in their places and the orchestra begins to play as each maid of honor walks down the aisle. My parents are here, in their front row seats, right next to Rose’s mother. Her father is leading her down the aisle with pride. He’s happy to give his daughter into such a noble family, but I can also see he’s sad his little girl is leaving home. When they reach their destination, he gives her a kiss on the forehead and hands her to Nickolas. My brother sure is a lucky man. Rose beams with happiness, oblivious to the fact that the man who saved her is not the man sitting next to her right now. The man next to her, doesn’t even love her the way I do. But, he’s the legal heir to the throne and I am just his twin brother, who no one knows about. The best kept secret in our family. All my life I’ve been hidden from everyone, learning how to keep my brother safe and happy. It was only natural they would send me to save her. Now the love of my life is getting married to someone she believes is a hero and I am watching it all from a terrace like a spy.  

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