Note: Thanks to Slshadow for beta reading! You're the best!
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He was angry. No, he was more than angry –he was downright enraged. He didn’t think he’d ever been so angry in his life –and this included the time he’d been pissed off at Cruger for giving the red morpher to Jack. No one was allowed to terrorize the people he cared about, not if he had anything to say about it.
In front of
him, Syd sniffed loudly. In telling him all her fears, all her worries, and her
distress over the phone calls, she had been reduced to tears. Sky let out a
sigh, the images of him pounding Jake’s face in oblivion disappeared and he
felt his anger melt away into concern. Now was not the time to be angry,
“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” His voice was soft as he rubbed her back soothingly.
Syd held onto him tighter. “I didn’t think there was anything to worry about at first. But then, the phone kept ringing and ringing –it wouldn’t stop.”
A thought suddenly struck him. “This was why you came running into my room last night, wasn’t it?”
Still frightened, she could only nod.
“And you’re sure it’s Jake?”
Syd nodded once more, raising her eyes to meet Sky’s gaze. “I don’t have any proof, but yeah.”
Seeing that the fear was still in her eyes, Sky rubbed her arm in an attempt to comfort her. “Don’t worry,” he promised, “I won’t let anything happen to you, not while I’m around.”
Syd gave another sniff, and then smiled softly. Gently, she laid her head on his shoulder. “I always feel safe when I’m with you,” she said quietly, “did you know that? Even before we became rangers, Bridge and I had no doubts that you’d always be there to back us up. It made fighting monsters easier for me because I knew you would be fighting alongside me. I wasn’t scared of anything with you around.”
Sky tightened his embrace. To hear her words strengthened his resolve and desire to protect her. And he would protect her as best he could –or die trying.
The couple stood there for a few moments enjoying their embrace when the phone rang. Immediately, Syd froze and could only stare at the ringing telephone. Sky frowned and reached to pick up the receiver. “Hello?”
A moment later the frowned was off his face and he nodded as he listened to the voice on the other end. “Yes, I’ll tell her. Thank you.” Sky hung up the phone and turned to the pink ranger. “That was the phone company. They were calling to let you know that they’ve changed your phone number as you requested.”
Syd looked relieved. “Thank goodness!”
“Come on,” Sky reached out and grabbed her hand, “Let’s go find the others and forget what just happened.”
Syd followed and moments later they were in the Recreation Room where Z sat, watching Bridge and Jack play video games.
The yellow ranger looked up as they walked in and just stared at Syd. The pink ranger shifted self-consciously. “What?” she asked.
Z shook her head. “Nothing. It’s just weird to see you not wearing something pink for once.”
Syd looked down at her outfit. In all the commotion, she had forgotten that she had been trying on the clothes Sky had bought for her. She grinned. “What do you think?”
“I think you look good.”
“She better look good,” Jack called from his spot on the floor. Never taking his eyes off the screen, he continued, “Bridge and I suffered for over two hours in that store waiting for Sky to pick everything out.”
Bridge glanced up at the couple. “You look good in blue Syd,” the green ranger complimented, “hey, maybe you should force Sky to wear pink!”
Sky mock glared as the others laughed.
Across town, Jake Hemmington stood above the tray of chemicals in his darkroom, watching as the image on the photographic paper slowly took form. Watching the process, he anticipated the ghosts and shadows darkening, becoming real. Becoming Sydney. He stared at her image, noticing for the millionth time, her beauty.
As always, he returned to the photography, the single constant in his life. Staring at the beauty of reflected light and shadows on the images brought a sense of purpose, reminding him that he controlled his own destiny.
Studying the photographs in front of him, he again took note of the similarities between Sydney and Susan. Same hair. Same eyes. Same air of innocence. From the moment he had seen Sydney’s picture, he thought they could’ve been sisters.
Jake shook his head, feeling the memory of Susan pull at him.
They had rented a house in Bermuda for their honeymoon, not far from all the large resorts and the finest sights. It was quiet and romantic, with ceiling fans and white wicker furniture and a porch that faced the ocean. There was a private beach where they could spend hours in the sun alone, just the two of them.
Oh, how he’d been looking forward to that! He’d taken dozens of photographs of her during the first few days. He loved her skin; it was so soft and silky to touch and by the third day, her skin had darkened to bronze, and in her white summer dress, she was dazzling. That night, he’d wanted nothing more than to take Susan in his arms and slowly peel the dress from her body and make love to her in their room with candles glowing all around.
But she had wanted to go dancing at the resort.
‘No,’ he’d said, ‘let’s stay here, it’s our honeymoon.’
‘Please,’ she’d said, ‘for me. Will you do this for me?’
So they went. It was loud and filled with drunks, and Susan was loud and kept drinking. Her words began to slur and later she swayed as she made her way to the rest room. She bumped into a young man and nearly spilled his drink. The young man touched her arm and laughed. Susan laughed with him.
Jake seethed as he watched it happen. It angered and embarrassed him. But he would forgive her, he told himself. She was young and immature. He would forgive her, because he was her husband and he loved her. But she would have to promise her not to do it again. But that evening, when they were back at the house, he’d tried to talk to her and she wouldn’t listen.
‘I was just having fun,’ she’d said as she dismissed his concern. ‘You could’ve tried to have fun too.’
‘How could I, with my new wife flirting with strangers?’
‘I wasn’t flirting.’
‘I saw you.’
‘Stop acting crazy!’
‘What did you say to me? What did you say?’
‘Ow! Let me go… you’re hurting me! Stop it!’
‘What did you say?’
‘Ow… please… Ow! Honey, stop!’
‘What did you say?’
In the end, she disappointed him, Jake thought. And Sydney disappointed him too. Sydney cared for him, he knew that. But why couldn’t she realize that too?
Jake left the darkroom and made his way to the bedroom. On the bed, next to all the clutter of the cameras and lenses, he reached for his cell phone. His home phone, he knew, would leave a traceable record, but he had to hear her voice tonight, even if it was only the one word “Hello.” When he heard her voice, he could see the two of them together, living their glamorous future.
He dialed the number, and then closed his eyes in anticipation. But instead of Sydney’s familiar voice, there was a recording from the phone company. He ended the call and dialed again, more carefully this time, but got the same recorded message.
Jake stared at the phone. ‘Oh Sydney,’ he wondered, ‘Why? WHY?”
For Sydney, the days began to acquire a new rhythm. After the excitement and chaos of the past month, the next week of Sydney’s life was startlingly quiet. She didn’t see Jake anywhere during the week or the following weekend. Her days had become uneventful (with the exception of Gruumm attacking at odd times) and she kept her fingers crossed that it would stay that way.
And it seemed as if it would. Her phone was evidence to the fact that unlisted, it was an effective way to stop unwanted calls and it was a relief to not hear the phone ringing nonstop every two minutes. Syd was not the only one who was relieved; it seemed that the yellow ranger was happy about the situation herself. Having the phone ring constantly was annoying.
Only five people- Sky, Z, Jack, Bridge and her father- knew the number, and since she spent all day with the rangers, that left her father to be the only person in the world that would have a reason for calling her. But after being informed of the situation and hearing how the calls had rattled Sydney, Adrian Drew was apparently giving her a break, not wanting to be responsible for putting his daughter on edge all the time.
Slowly, the pink ranger began to let her guard down. But that didn’t stop her from seeking Jake out every time she stepped outside the Academy. And so, of course, were the rangers and Commander Cruger and Kat. When she was driving, she would sometimes turn suddenly onto a different road and stop, staring in the rearview mirror to see of anyone was following her. She’d scanned parking lots and always kept an eye out for suspicious movement whenever she was on duty patrolling the city. She kept pepper spray in her pocket and a supply of small iron metals in case she needed to use her special powers.
Everyone noticed that she was acting a little paranoid, Jack even commented on it once or twice, but she didn’t care. As the old saying went, it was better to be safe than sorry.
And then there was Sky. The blue ranger hadn’t so much as let her out of his sight for more than a few minutes except when she was showering. Although having him around was great, there were moments when it became a little suffocating. Some things were better done without Sky right there. Like shaving her legs, for instance. But all in all, she was grateful to have such a caring man in her life.
Commander Cruger had stopped by a few days earlier and with Sky holding her hand, Syd told the Commander everything she knew about Jake Hemmington. The pink ranger felt a lot better when Cruger had promised to double security around the Academy. Visitors would have to report to someone of Authority before being able to set foot inside.
One sunny day, Syd found herself alone in the Recreation Room with RIC by her side. Two weeks had passed and still, there had been no sign of Jake. For a moment, Syd wondered where everyone was and then remembered that everyone had plans. Jack and Z had gone off to visit their friends from the streets. And Sky and Bridge had to report to Kat for special adjustments on their ranger suits. The pink ranger let out a sigh, she was bored. Looking out the window, she spotted the Juice Bar, a place that sold fabulous smoothies, across the street from the Academy and suddenly, she in the mood for a strawberry shake. Syd grinned and looked at the robotic dog next to her. “Hey boy, wanna come with me to get something to drink?”
RIC barked happily and she took it as a yes. Syd jumped up and headed towards the doors. “Come on boy!” Heading across the street towards the Juice Bar, Syd opened the door to the cozy shop and walked up to the counter. After ordering, she looked around at the various customers and tensed up when she noticed someone talking to RIC but heaved a sigh of relief when she recognized the person.
“Hey Sandra!” Syd greeted cheerfully as she neared the slim woman and RIC.
Sandra Connell was a Real Estate Agent and Sydney had met her often when her family had first moved to New Tech City a few years ago. Syd ran into her often over the years while working at SPD.
Sandra turned. “Sydney! How wonderful it is to see you. How are you doing?”
“I’m fine. Just had a craving for a smoothie, so I came over here.”
“It’s a nice day for it,” Sandra smiled, “or it was when we got here. But now it looks like it might start to rain in a little while.”
“We?” Syd asked.
“Yeah, my client is looking for a house somewhere in this neighborhood. Said he was tired of living alone and wanted to be near people. He seemed pretty interested in this one house, so keep your fingers crossed for me.”
It was as Sandra was speaking that RIC suddenly stood and moved to Syd’s side. The robotic dog’s eyes were flashing red and he was growling. Syd felt her heart begin to pound as she turned in the direction in which RIC was staring. Her eyes took a moment to adjust and she drew a labored breath. In the background, she could hear Sandra going on.
“Oh, here he is now,” Sandra was saying.
Before Sydney could move, before she could think to do anything other than stare, Jake was standing beside Sandra. He smiled at her, making Sandra flush a little.
“As I was saying before,” Jake spoke to the Real Estate Agent, “that house was pretty nice. I really enjoyed the view it gave from the window.”
“Oh yes,” Sandra said, “It’s a wonderful investment.” She laughed, but neither one of them was listening to Sandra now. “Oh where are my manners? I’d like you to meet a friend of mine…”
“Hello Sydney,” Jake said, “What a nice surprise.”
Syd said nothing; it was all she could do to remain standing. RIC continued to growl.
Sandra stopped in midsentence. “Oh, you two know each other?” she inquired.
“You could say that,” Jake spoke once more. “Isn’t that right Sydney?”
The pink ranger tried to steady herself. ‘You bastard,’ she thought, ‘how did you know I’d be here? How did you know?’
“Hey Syd, what’s with RIC?” Sandra asked. “Why is he acting so upset?”
Before she could answer, Jake glanced toward Sandra.
“Sandra- did you bring all the information and prices I requested? I think I should take a look at them while I’m considering that one house on the corner.”
At the word prices, Sandra’s eyes lit up. “Of course I did. It’s all in the car,” she said. “Let me go get it, I’m sure you’ll be pleased, they’re all very reasonably priced. I’ll be right back.”
A moment later, Sandra was gone and Jake turned his smile on Sydney. “You look wonderful,” he said, “I’ve missed you. How’ve you been?”
It was then that Syd realized what was really happening. She took a step backward, suddenly glad that RIC was between them.
Jake smiled and gestured an arm toward the shop window where a house was clearly insight. “It’s a great investment, isn’t it? I’m thinking that this would be a great place to settle down. A man needs a place to call home, and this way, we could be neighbors since the Academy is minutes away.”
The pink ranger paled, still not saying a word.
Jake’s smile became wider. “Would you like that, Sydney? Me, living minutes away from you? …No? Then maybe I wanted to talk to you. You changed your phone number and you won’t go anywhere alone. What else could I do?”
She backed away another step; RIC stayed in place, as if daring Jake to approach her.
“I don’t want to talk to you,” Syd finally found her voice and she snarled. “I don’t want anything to do with you. Why can’t you get that through your head?”
“Don’t you remember our dates?” Jake asked, his voice suddenly going soft. He looked almost wistful, and the whole scene suddenly struck Syd as surreal. “Our time together was special, why can’t you see and admit that?”
“We've only been on two dates! There’s nothing to admit,” she said, taking another step back, “You’re crazy.”
“Why are you acting this way?” He sounded worried, puzzled. “Sky’s not here now –it’s just us.”
Syd’s eyes darted sideways, to the entrance of the shop. It was time to get out of there. “If you make one move toward me or try to follow me, I’ll scream.”
He offered a gentle smile, as if patiently trying to explain something to a child. “There’s no reason to be scared. You know I would never hurt you. I love you.”
Syd blinked, not believing what she was hearing. He loves me? “What the hell are you talking about?” she finally said, the words coming out with more force than she anticipated.
“I love you,” he said again. “And we can start over now. We’ll go to Paris, or if you don’t want to, we can go anywhere you want. It doesn’t matter. And we’ll just chalk up this infatuation with Sky as a mistake okay? I forgive you.”
As he spoke, Syd continued back away, her eyes growing wider with every word he uttered. But it just simply wasn’t his words that scared her; it was also the look of sincerity he had on his face. Jake held out his hand, “Now come on, let’s go someplace quiet and grab a bite to eat.”
Syd inhaled sharply. “I’m not going anywhere with you.” She hissed.
“Don’t be this way, please. I’ll make you happy Susan.”
For a second, Syd wondered if she had heard Jake correctly, but she knew that she had. Jake had just called her by his wife’s name.
“You… are… completely… insane,” Syd sputtered.
This time her words stopped him.
“You shouldn’t say things like that,” Jake spoke, his voice acquiring an ugly tone. “You shouldn’t say things you don’t mean.”
From the corner of her eye, she saw Sandra coming back into the shop. Jake was still staring at Sydney when Sandra reached them. “Something wrong?” Sandra asked as she looked from one to the other.
Jake finally tore his eyes away from Syd. “No,” he said, “Not at all.”
The pink ranger barely heard him answer. “I’ve got to go,” she said suddenly, starting to back away again.
Jake smiled. “Bye Sydney. See you around.”
Syd turned and rushed out of the shop, forgetting about her drink. RIC stayed for a moment longer, making sure that Jake wouldn’t follow, before turning and following Syd. Once she was out of the shop, she started to run, and then began running even faster. Hearing a noise, she glanced behind her; there was no sign of Jake, but she continued to run. The doors of the Academy were in sight, she kept forcing her legs to keep moving, not daring to slow down till she was inside. Minutes later, she was in Sky’s arms, choking back tears. But she was too frightened, and Sky held her while she cried. After she had calmed down a bit, she tearfully told the blue ranger what had just happened.
Sky’s face had gone white. When he spoke, his voice was a whisper. “Let’s go to the Commander.”
Commander Cruger and Kat were seated at the table in the Command Centre across from Syd and Sky, their eyes on Syd as she recounted her story. The other rangers were standing around them listening with rapt attention. It hadn’t taken long for Syd to tell them everything. Though the words were important, it was the look on the pink ranger’s face that convinced everyone that the situation was more than serious. This man, Jake, sounded dangerous. Despite the outer calm she was trying to maintain, it was clear to everyone that Sydney Drew was pretty much a wreck. Even Kat Manx, who couldn’t be frightened easily, became spooked, goose bumps rose on her skin when Syd had told them how Jake had called her Susan.
“I don’t like the sound of this,” Kat spoke to Cruger once Syd had finished speaking. Sky had pulled Sydney into his embrace once more, and the other rangers gathered around them. Sydney was so shaken and Sky and the other rangers looked so worried, it was hard for everyone to focus.
“What do we do Commander?” Jack looked toward Anubis for guidance.
“First of all, let’s remain calm,” the big blue dog spoke in his usual tone.
“Let’s get all the facts,” Kat spoke up once more. She looked at the pink ranger, “Do you have any idea how he knew you were out there?”
Syd shook her head. “No.”
“But he was there before you were?”
“I guess he rode with Sandra. I don’t know how long he was there, but he definitely arrived before I got there. I saw her car by the side of the road, and I didn’t see them walking in,” Syd’s voice quivered a bit.
Sky looked almost sick. And angry. So did the other rangers.
Kat looked worried. “Why did you go out there in the first place?”
“I’m an idiot,” Syd mumbled.
“Nothing.” The pink ranger took a deep breath. “I hadn’t seen or heard from Jake in awhile, and I guess I hoped it was over. The shop was just across the street, and RIC was with me, I just assumed that nothing would happen.”
“I don’t think you should do that in the future, Cadet Drew,” Cruger spoke, concern was evident in his voice, “try not to go anywhere alone alright?”
Syd gave a humorless laugh. “I don’t think you have to worry about that anymore.”
“And what do you know about his wife, Susan Hemmington?” Anubis asked.
“Nothing at all. Jake said he was married to her for a few years and that it didn’t work out. He didn’t say any more than that. We never talked about her.”
“And again, he didn’t threaten you specifically?” The Commander asked.
“No. But he didn’t have to say anything. He’s insane.”
‘No arguments there,’ Kat thought as a shiver went down her spine. ‘Sounds pretty insane to me.’
“Alright, I know you’re worried and I know you’re scared. And believe me, I’m on your side, so don’t think I’m going to leave here and forget about this. You’re one of my rangers, and no one messes with my rangers. I’m going to look into Jake Hemmington’s past to see what I can come up with,” Anubis Cruger had never looked so serious. “I give you my word that we’re going to do everything we can to help you, Cadet Drew.”
Syd smiled softly at her Commander and nodded, looking much more reassured. “Thank you Commander.”
“Alright,” the big blue dog nodded at Sky. “Cadet Tate, please take Syd to the Recreation Room and get her something to eat. The rest of you go with them, be prepared to report back here later when we start this investigation of Jake Hemmington.”
The rangers left and Cruger turned to Kat. His eyes were serious. “I don’t like the sound of this Kat. This couldn’t have come at a worse time.”
“I agree with you Doggie,” Kat nodded, “let’s get to work.”
“Here.” Sky handed Syd a glass of water as he sat down beside her on the couch in the Recreation Room. The pink ranger accepted the glass, giving her boyfriend a grateful smile. Sitting on the bean bags in front of them, were Jack, Z and Bridge, each of them were giving her a concerned look.
“You gonna to be okay?” Jack asked.
The pink ranger shrugged her shoulders slightly. “As okay as a person can get in a situation like this.”
“Don’t worry Syd,” Bridge said, “We’re not going to let this creep keep harassing you like this.”
“Yeah, we got your back,” Z added.
Syd smiled and leaned into Sky’s embrace. “Thanks guys.”
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