Prologue: April 30th, 2005
I shivered against the cold, leather backseat of my father's rusty Sedan and tried to focus on what my father was muttering to himself in the front seat. My brother, Jeremy, wrapped his arm around my shoulders and my fingers instinctively curled up against his side to draw out his warmth.
"Daddy, where are we?" I asked, struggling to be heard over the insistent hammer-strikes that the rain was making against the windows. My father turned around in his seat. I could barely make out the outline of his features in the dark interior of the car. He stretched his long torso over and kissed first my forehead, then my brothers.
"Whatever happens tonight, I want you two to stay hidden," he whispered, his voice frantic and fast enough to keep pace with the drum of the rain. "Promise me that you'll stay in the car and you won't get out."
I didn't know what was going on. I didn't understand what we were doing, parked on the side of a dirt road, where no one could see us. My father started to move away from us but I latched onto the front of his shirt.
"Where are you going?" I sniffed, trying to hold back the tears that threatened to spill over. He pried my fingers away from his shirt and placed them in my lap.
"I'm sorry, sweetie, but I have to go now. I love you. I love you both so much."
He kissed me and my sibling's foreheads again, then opened the car door and stepped out into the cold and dark. I leaned against Jeremy and felt him tremble. Simultaneously, as if we not only shared a birthday, but a brain, we turned around on the seat and watched out father through the thick glass of the back windshield. I wasn't able to make out clear images through the rain but I could see blurry figures and the gleam of my father's platinum hair. There were men around him—maybe five or six. I strained my eyes but the rain was too stubborn and kept my father's activities a secret.
"What do you think's going on?" My brother asked in a hush. I shook my head, unable to speak. I wanted to hear what the men were saying to my father but I couldn't hear anything besides my heartbeat.
"I'm going to see what's happening," I informed my brother. I started to open the door but he grabbed my arm and hauled me back.
"Izobel, he told us to stay here!"
I shook him off. "So stay!"
I flung the door open. Our father needed our help. I would help him, somehow. My feet slapped loudly against the drenched ground as I jumped down from the car. I was soaked within a matter of seconds and I had to squint against the heavy downpour. I crept around the side of the car and saw my father. A tall, dark haired man was yelling at him but I couldn't make out his words. I didn't like the man yelling at my father so I ran towards them, intent on wrapping my arms around my father's legs and telling the man to go away. Before I could reach my father the man grabbed his neck and twisted it, hard. As my father fell, I screamed and tried to grab his shirt but strong hands lifted me off the ground.
"Let her go!" My brother yelled, exiting the car. Another man grabbed him but my attention was ripped away from my brother when the man that had grabbed me—the one who'd killed my father—shushed me.
"Look at you," he murmured. "You're absolutely…exquisite."
I tried to kick him but my legs were too short and all I managed to kick was the air. The man opened his mouth to speak some more but, before he could, blue and red lights pierced the darkness. They were quickly followed by the wail of a police siren. The man said a word that I'd always been told not to say and dropped me. I crawled over to my father and rested my head on his chest, closing my eyes. I felt my brother against my side and became oblivious to all that was going on around me.
Later on I would be told that my father had made the call to the police before he'd left the car. Later on my brother and I would be questioned and we would have spoken to a sketch artist to draw the face of the man that murdered my father. We were pretty useless there—the most I'd seen of the man had been his stormy, gray eyes. After that, my mother, my brother and I would have been sent to a small part of West Yorkshire, England, called Hebden Bridge.
That was when we first became members of the Witness Protection Program.