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Love, Abby (Day 13)

December 17

7:30 p.m.

The sweat pants Abby chose were old and baggy, but they were black, and she figured black was a good color to wear when you’re doing something illegal. She didn’t have any black shirts, so she chose a blue long sleeve t-shirt and wore Zach’s old, brown leather jacket over it. She wore her brand new running shoes that were mostly gray, and on her hands and head she wore a matching knitted cap and gloves Zach had gotten for Christmas the year before. They were black with lime green zig-zags for accents. Abby looked at herself in the mirror and groaned. She looked ridiculous.

Zach rinsed his toothbrush as he stared at her. He was clothed in all black, complete with a black balaclava rolled up above his eyes. He certainly looked like he was preparing for a night of crime. Unfortunately for him, his accomplice looked like a color-blind bimbo who couldn’t decide if she wanted to attend a biker rally or go for a jog. He opened his mouth to comment, but Abby spoke first. “Did you check the file today?”

He nodded and dropped the toothbrush into the holder. “Yeah, but there weren’t a whole lot of new documents. It’s weird, too,” he kept talking while he dried his face off with the hand towel, “you’d think that our plans would have impacted the outcome somehow, but I saw no difference.” He dropped the towel on the counter and crossed his arms, perplexed.

“Maybe it was part of the plan the whole time, we just didn’t know it?” Abby’s suggestion held more possibility than Zach wanted to admit. He nodded slowly as he pondered. It made sense.

He checked his watch. “It’s 7:30. We should get going.”

Abby took a deep breath and released it slowly. For the hundredth time today, she mentally ran through the list of reasons why she was breaking into Hughes’s house, searching for any last minute jitters. She found none. “Well then, let’s go.”

8:00 p.m.

Zach jiggled the illegal key ring idly, the sound filling the silent car. Hughes’s house sat a few driveways from where they watched. A streetlight shone directly on their driveway and illuminated the entire face of the large brick house. Hughes and his wife were pulling out of their garage just as Zach and Abby arrived. They decided follow their plan and wait until 8:00. Better to sit and do nothing for fifteen minutes than to jump the gun and discover a housekeeper inside, or better yet, come face-to-face with Hughes himself if he returned home to get something he’d forgotten. So, they waited in silence as the minutes passed.

Zach checked his watch. “8:01. Ready?”

Abby narrowed her eyes at him. “You’re very calm. Have you done this before?”

“I’m a journalist and my job is to get answers. That is my answer.” He flashed an innocent grin and Abby laughed.

“No use getting upset, I suppose. I’m stuck with you.”

“Till death do we part, baby.”

“Pretty restraining, don’t you think?”

He raised an eyebrow questioningly.

Abby sighed, “Let’s get this over with.”

They glanced around to make sure no one was visible and quietly got out of the car. They crossed the street and kept to the shadows cast by trees and bushes, sometimes crawling on all fours to sneak across a front yard. Zach led Abby through yards and over driveways until they finally got to Hughes’s house, where he turned and made his way to the back of the house.

“Front door was too visible in the street light,” he explained as they met at the back door. Abby nodded, but Zach didn’t see it in the darkness. She heard jingling as he pulled the keys from his pocket and began testing each one in the back door. The third key was a match, and after a quick turn, Zach slowly slid the glass door to the side and disappeared inside. Abby took another deep breath, released it slowly, and followed her husband inside, sliding the door closed behind her.

It was dark inside, but because of the open design of the house, they could see the light from the streetlight pouring in through the glass front door. A small lamp near the door gave off a faint glow that did not reach their position in the back of the house. Zach produced a small flashlight that illuminated their way just enough that they avoided collisions with furniture. The pair crept through the downstairs, searching behind every door in their hunt for the entrance to the basement. The only sound Abby could hear was her own heart pounding.

The room they initially entered into was the dining room. From there, they made their way into a formal sitting area, and behind glass French doors was a less formal living room. They backtracked through the dining room, then to the foyer, into an office that Abby assumed was used by Mrs. Hughes, and then into the huge kitchen. Next to the hall leading to Mrs. Hughes’s office was a closed door. Zach tried to turn the knob, but it was locked; they had found the basement. Zach pulled out the key ring and began trying the keys until the fourth one unlocked the door. He swung the door open, revealing a portal leading to absolute darkness. Pocketing the keys, Zach used his little flashlight to descend the stairs, shining it behind him after every step so as to illuminate Abby’s path down as well.

The metal handrail felt cold through Abby’s gloves. Once they reached the bottom, Zach held his hand out for Abby to hold so they would stay together while exploring the pitch-black basement.

Where the stairs ended, a hallway began. Each side had two doors, and they were all closed. Zach pulled out the key ring once again as they approached the first pair of doors. The first door they tried was locked. The seventh key unlocked the door, letting Zach peek his head and flashlight into the space. “That’s the biggest storage room I’ve ever seen,” he said, pulling is head back into the hallway. The door across the hallway was unlocked, revealing what looked like a craft room. They moved down the hallway to the second pair of doors. Zach tried the knobs- they were both locked. “Why do they have so many locks?” he sighed as he began trying the keys in the door to their left. The fifth key proved a match, and Zach pushed the door open. “Bingo.”

Hughes’s office wasn’t as big as the storage room, but the whole back wall behind a large desk was lined with black filing cabinets, each one five drawers high. “How much you want to bet each one is locked?” Zach pulled Abby into the room and began pulling on the drawer handles. None of them budged. “It’s as if the man values his privacy or something,” he said sarcastically as he tried a key in the lock. It was a match. Handing Abby the keys and a second small flashlight he had hidden in his back pocket, he yanked the top-drawer open and began rifling through its contents. Abby chose the next cabinet and, once unlocked, yanked the second drawer open.

The drawer was packed full of thick files, each one labeled with a name. They appeared to be organized alphabetically; the drawer Abby dug through was mostly B last names, except for a couple A names in the very front. “Anderson, Molly,” Abby murmured to herself. “I don’t recognize that name. Must be a past client.” She replaced the file and ran her gloved finger along the side rail holding the file hangers. “Bailey, Starla? Baller, Lilly-Anne? Betters, Zoe? Briggs, Josephine? Buchanan, Beth? I don’t know any of you.” As she went, a frown formed, pulling her features further down with every name she read. She closed the drawer and pulled the top one open. All A’s. She shut it and moved to the next cabinet.

After unlocking it, she tossed the keys to Zach, who had moved around Abby to the fourth cabinet. Abby went through the top drawer, reading every name, and finally noticing a connection. “They’re all female!” Zach paused as he scanned the open drawer in front of him. Sure enough, every file was labeled with a woman’s name. “Well, let’s see what Mr. Hughes wants with Eva Greensburg.” He pulled the file and used the drawer as a table and opened the file.

“Anything good?” Abby didn’t look up from her drawer.

“Top page looks like a time sheet of some sort. I can’t make any sense of it.” He flipped it to the side and froze. “Oh my God.” Zach stared at a grainy picture. It appeared to have been taken from a surveillance device and blown up to an 8 by 10. It also appeared to have been taken in a woman’s restroom. The woman in the picture leaned over the counter as she applied mascara. Her shirt and slacks hung off to the side, leaving her clad only in a towel. Zach flipped the picture over to the side and found another picture of the same woman, this time she sat alone at a small table inside what looked like a Chinese restaurant. The picture was taken from the street, evidenced by the blur of a moving car on one side. The next picture was taken the same night, but was zoomed in. The next five pictures were of her eating, another seven of her shopping, and twelve of her inside what Zach assumed to be her home. But the stack of photos that followed were the most disturbing. The woman, Eva Greensburg, lay sprawled out on a bed, one arm hanging limply off the side. She wore no clothing, and she looked to be asleep. However, the photos show her in different positions, still seemingly asleep. Zach’s gut told him she was drugged. Picture after picture, pose after pose, until finally, another figure entered the frame. It was none other than Hughes, and he was devoid of clothing as well. Zach’s jaw hung open as he flipped through the pictures, each one showing Hughes sexually assaulting Eva Greensburg as she lay unconscious on the bed. He flipped the last photo over and uncovered a DVD, knowing instantly that it contained the assault. Abby had grabbed a file from her own cabinet and was quickly flipping more photos over, her face a mask of horror. Zach’s mind raced.

Stepping back, Zach pondered the files in front of him and realized that the alphabet was only partially represented in those five cabinets. Spinning around, he ran to the last door in the hallway and unlocked it. Once open, he could see filing cabinets lining every wall, leaving just enough space in the center for a small table. Abby appeared behind him and groaned. “There must be hundreds of files here. This can’t just be his doing.” She shook her head in disbelief.

“Do you remember any files Piper had you pull? Specifically ones that you couldn’t find?”

Abby rubbed her forehead as she racked her brain for the requested information. “Uhhhmmm, Katrina Monroe was one.” Zach immediately picked a cabinet and unlocked it, yanking open drawers containing M names. He found the file in the second drawer near the back and pulled it out. The file was heavy and the folder strained under the bulk of pictures. Abby and Zach flipped through the pictures, gasping in unison when Parker appeared in the picture instead of Hughes. While Zach shoved the file back into its place, Abby was pulling out a new one and ripping it open. Zach moved down a few cabinets and looked through files chosen at random, each one showing the same despicable behavior enacted not only by Hughes and Parker, but Piper also. Abby’s bosses were sexual predators.

Zach stared wide-eyed at his wife. “You didn’t find your name in there, did you?”

“No, I looked in the B’s.

“But your last name is Dresden now.” They stared at each other before turning to stare at the cabinet they knew contained the D’s. Taking a deep breath, Zach returned to the office and opened the drawers, one by one, until he spotted it. “Oh my God.” Abby’s voice had left her.

Zach pulled it out and opened it, revealing a small stack of pictures taken of Abby while in the women’s restroom at the law firm. The next two photos were of Abby, her mother, and Zach eating brunch this past Sunday. The next fifteen photos were of Abby in her own home. In one, she and Zach sat on the couch. In another, they lay in bed, the covers thrown aside, revealing their bare bodies. Still another of just Abby as she showered. “How did he get a camera in our shower?” she squeaked. Zach’s hands trembled in anger. Handling damning evidence that hundreds of women had been sexually assaulted made his blood boil. He knew none of these women had come forward, because they weren’t stupid enough to rat on the mafia’s best lawyers. And in his hand he held proof that his wife was a target for their disgusting schemes. He shoved Abby’s file back down and slammed the drawer.

Silence resumed in the office. Both Abby and Zach were too stunned to move or to speak. Instead they stood with their feet planted on the carpet and mentally replayed the images they had just seen. With every second that ticked by, they became less shocked and more livid. Zach inhaled slowly in an effort to calm himself, but it was in vain. “I think we’ve seen what we came here to see. We need to get out of here.”

Abby nodded. Together they pushed in the locks on the filing cabinets in the office and in the room across the hall. Back in the hallway, Zack relocked the doors before leading Abby back upstairs to the kitchen and, after locking the basement door, through the house and out through the sliding glass door.

As he locked the back door, Abby made her way back to the car, keeping to the shadows just like before.

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