Chapter 28

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"What are you talking about?" Megan said as Hayley and I went silent in confusion.

"I was sent a recording on my phone of you screaming for help. And when we were walking in the forest we also found the same recording playing to us from a recorder stuck to a tree." I explained trying to make sense of it all. "You're sure they never recorded you?"

"Yes, of course I'm sure. I never screamed. I couldn't scream! It's kind of hard sometimes screaming with tape over your mouth!" She said sarcastically.

"Maybe it wasn't her on the recording?" Hayley suggested.

"Maybe. Although it did sound a lot like her." I said.

"Do you still have the recording on your phone? I want to listen to it." Megan asked.

I grabbed my phone out of my pocket and went into my phone inbox.

Blank.

"I don't understand. There is absolutely nothing in my inbox. None of the messages that the kidnappers sent, or any of the messages I received before this whole mess. That's strange." I tried to make sense of it all, but the more questions I tried to answer, the more unanswered questions arose.

"These kidnappers must be some sort of geniuses. No normal person could hack a phone like this. It's almost as if the messages are immediately erased as soon as you open them. I've heard of someone that has done this before. I wonder if this is in any way linked to this case I was working before we got into this mess. There was someone who hacked into this businessman's phone and left him in the middle of the desert to die. Left him there with nothing but the clothes he had on and his mobile phone which he could not use. I should have realised this earlier. I probably didn't put two and two together because I didn't think we were in that much trouble." Hayley said. Chosing her words carefully, not to scare us any more.

"Wait. How did the businessman make it out of the desert?" Megan asked.

"He didn't. They found his body three weeks after he died. Some man wandering the desert on his camel found him. Though the messages were still in his phone inbox. Week after they found the body, a mysterious call was made to the police station, saying that he got what he deserved and that life isn't always fair." Hayley explained.

"So if this is the same kidnapper, then they are obviously getting smarter by automatically deleting the messages after I open them." I said.

"Yeah guess so. They tried to trace a number from which the messages had come, but even the most professional criminal-trackers in the world could not track the person down. It was like the messages came out of thin air. We checked the background of the victim and he has not had anything special happened to him that could have triggered this kidnapper to chose him as the victim. I'm starting to feel that this kidnapping is not as random as we had hoped for it to be." Hayley said, her voice breaking on the last sentence.

"So if that is the case, then really we have no way of getting out of here alone." Megan said sadly.

"Do you know this businessman? Is he in any way linked to us?" I asked.

Hayley sighed. "Yes, we all know him." She said  regretting the words.

"Who is he, Hayley?" Megan asked.

She paused for a second, debating whether to tell us or not I presumed.

"Hayley, come on. Who was he?" I asked impatiently.

"Justin Hewett" She said, watching me closely.

For a moment it felt like I couldn't breathe. How could my best friend not tell me that she was working my ex's murder case?! Just the other day she asked me how we were going, pretending that she didn't know we broke up, and now she's telling me he's dead? Why would she do this to me?

"I thought you knew." Hayley said quietly.

"You thought I knew?! Yet you would think I would mention, "oh yeah, by the way guys, my ex was murdered", don't you think?!" I said raising my voice.

"I'm sorry, I didn't want to be the one to bring you the news." Hayley said, not looking at me.

I was furious with her. I know it would be the hardest thing ever to tell someone that someone they used to be close to has died but it's even worse to keep it from them and avoid it.

"I've been meaning to ask you about it all this time but, as you can see, it is not exactly the right place to tell someone that. And besides, you had so many other things to worry about, I didn't want to make this even harder for you." She said quietly, I knew she felt really bad about it.

"Guys calm down. Take a deep breath. Yes, Hayley was wrong not to tell you but she had a good reason." Megan said, always being the one to keep us together.

I still couldn't believe my best friend would keep this from me.

"Admit it, Tess. If I told you earlier you would have blamed yourself for this even more, and it's not your fault. As much as you want to blame yourself, we are the ones that made up our own minds to go with you to Pete's house that night. If you forced us to go, then yes, you could blame yourself. But ever since we've been friends, we've stuck together, and this time will be no different than any other time, okay?" Hayley's voice was strict and to the point.

"Thank you Hayley." I found myself saying the words without even realising that I did. I knew that she always put her friends before herself, and I admired her for that.

Though one thing bothered me more than anything, and no one could tell me that I can't blame myself for that.

Suddenly this kidnap didn't seem random at all. As much as I wanted to pretend that I didn't know who it was about, I could not deny it any longer. If my ex was the previous victim, then the strongest connection between us and him; is me. I was the reason for all of this. But why me?

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