3. The Emperor

Zinnia was a rather tall woman, almost 190cm tall, with long curly brown hair and brown eyes. She was in her mid-forties and everyone knew how capable she was in defending herself after years training in martial arts and military duty. Though she liked to smoke a cheap mark of cigarettes.

She never had children but she had been married once and also had been in a different engagement. Neither stories, and others, worked out in the end, because to Zinnia her work was definitely more important.

Oleander was sifting through her documents when the call came. Zinnia was the Supervisory Special Agent of the FBI, she and her subordinates mostly occupied themselves with solving cases of missing people. The call had been passed to her because the caller claimed to have vital information about the location of a kidnapped person.

“Hello, Sgt. Zinnia Oleander here. With whom do I have the pleasure to speak?”

“…Track this call. If you do, you will find the location of Lily White and her two kidnappers. She is still alive.”

Zinnia frowned. She didn’t take well to prank calls, but if this turned out to be all true and she just ignored it, she wouldn’t possibly be able to forgive herself.

“Hello? Sir? Sir, are you still there?”

She tried to talk with the caller once again, but while the call itself was still there, the person who made the call seemed gone. Zinnia sighed and put the phone on her desk. She looked up and saw her squad members watching her, so she just motioned them to come to her desk.

“Frederick, track this call while it’s still connected. Samantha, search for any missing person by the name ‘Lily White.’ Marco, assist Samantha for now, then switch to Frederick. I’m going to talk to the Director about this.”

As Zinnia stood up, the others walked away and began their work. The Director’s office was some floors above them so she just took a lift. She needed to talk with the Director to ask for a possible need to dispatch some agents to break in the kidnappers’ house. Zinnia lightly knocked on the door and opened it.

“Come in.”

She heard as she entered. Richard Hollow was the current Director of the FBI, he was as gentle and kind as he was cunning and devious. He always said that that was the only method he could use to protect the people important to him; he disliked using force.

Richard was a rather lithe guy in his late thirties, he had short blonde hair and hazel eyes. His suit, but also long-sleeved casual clothes, perfectly hid the sculpted muscles he spent the majority of his life on training. The fact that he was the Director at such a young age was also an attestment to his intellect.

“What do you need this time, Olly?”

Zinnia smirked when she heard him call her by that nickname. As smart as he was, he never realized, unless he did it on purpose, that every time he was in a good mood he called people by their nicknames.

“I need to discuss about something…”

After she took a seat, Zinnia started to explain the situation to Richard. A few minutes later, someone else knocked on the door and entered after Richard give her the okay. A young woman about 35 years old came in, reminding Zinnia how she was the oldest member, even older than Richard, though not by much. She had a displeased expression, but considering the situation, it was normal.

The young woman wore blue jeans, a loose short-sleeved shirt of a darker shade of blue, bordering black, and a long-sleeved tight-fitting jacket of the same colour. Zinnia never understood her fashion sense, nor her obsession with the colour blue. She even dyed blue streaks in her short black hair and wore blue contact lenses.

The woman walked up to Zinnia and handed her some files before handing a copy to the Director. Zinnia talked first.

“Thank you, Sam. Do you know if Frederick is done?”

“No, but he said he was almost done, Ma’am.”

Zinnia just nodded and continued to read the files on the case. When she was done, she began massaging her temples, frustration and headaches were freely twirling in her mind as she comprehended the situation.

“If what the anonymous caller said is true… This girl is been captive for 8 years now, hasn’t she? … We’ll need some psychiatric or psychologist.. One or two paramedics have to be on site with us with an ambulance ready, just in case… The caller said ‘two kidnappers’… mmmh…”

Zinnia unconsciously talked out her thoughts while she stared up, toward the ceiling, and she leaned back on her chair. Richard had finished reading too, and likewise he was in deep thought. Still he listened to Zinnia’s talk and began mentally assembling a list of members for the impromptu assault squad Zinnia needed.

Zinnia stood up and started walking out of the room with Samantha, but before going she said one last thing to Richard.

“Make the squad wait near the parking lot, me and my squad will be leading as soon as Frederick is done.”

Richard nodded and Zinnia closed the door.

One of the agents found her in a soundproof room and called for the Sergeant in command, Zinnia Oleander, who brought with her a female paramedic. The Sergeant had specifically requested for a female one, as the victim could have been subject to traumas. While every agent that took part in the operation weren’t females, the males were ordered to not get too close, for the same reason.

Zinnia was the first to step through the door of the room where Lily was kept for the last 8 years. A recently used pot was somewhat near the door, on the ground. There was no furniture except for a little foldable table by the bed, with crumbles of food and a bottle of water almost empty on it. The dull gray of the walls resembled the colour of the mattress the victim was lying on. A dirty blanket that probably was once white covered her legs.

She wore a sweater, that clearly wasn’t any luckier than the blanket, apparently two or three sizes bigger than Lily’s. Her black hair were unkempt and were probably waist-long. The victim’s face and hands were seemingly okay, they didn’t present any scars or the like, but her azure eyes didn’t have any light in them.

‘That’s not a good sign…’

Zinnia bit her lip before she stepped onward, trying to approach the little girl. The victim’s face was full of confusion and fear, an understandable reaction, but one thing Zinnia didn’t understand was when Lily looked at the Sergeant’s feet for a second. When Zinnia looked down, nothing was on the ground.


Deciding that it was not the time for such things, Zinnia went back to approaching the victim. She started to talk.

“Lily, I’m Sgt. Zinnia Oleander, but you can call me Olly.”

Smiling gently, Zinnia continued.

“I’m here to bring you back home, together with your mommy and daddy.”

The girl seemed shocked for a moment, then she quickly shook her head and said

“John said he killed mom and dad! I saw a photo!”

Tears began to form in Lily’s eyes, ready to flow down her face in a matter of seconds. Zinnia silently cursed the kidnapper as she tried to reassure the poor girl.

“No Lily, John lied. As proof, your parents are coming here, escorted by some of my men.”

Zinnia tried to make a reassuring smile, but the victim still seemed to not be convinced. The Sergeant didn’t want to rush things, nor did she want to cause or trigger traumas, but she had to make sure the paramedic check the victim as soon as possible.

“Lily, do you mind if I let a friend of mine in?”

She quietly shook her head and at that, Zinnia let the paramedic that was waiting outside near the door, inside. The Sergeant walked up to Lily and started to slowly caress her head, moving her hair behind her ear in a repetitive manner to not frighten her. The victim didn’t flinch, which was a good sign, as it meant she wasn’t hit. Well, at least not on the head.

“Listen, we are very worried about you, so we are going to check your body to see if there’s anything wrong. You don’t have to worry about anything, okay? We are all girls.”

The girl nodded, but Zinnia saw how she gripped her blanket. The paramedic started to check on Lily, with the Sergeant trying her best to tranquilize her. Since it was just a simple quick check on her conditions, it didn’t take long to have results.

The victim didn’t appear malnourished, but her lack of activity was evident and she would need to enter rehab to cure her possibly atrophied muscles. The last thing was pretty evident, the girl had been hit on the stomach several times, which meant the doctors would have to make a thorough analysis of her abdomen.

Not long after, Lily’s parents entered the room.

Lily’s mother practically flung herself on her daughter, fiercely hugging her as she cried uncontrollably. Her father calmly walked up to them and hugged the two, all the while he too had cried. Lily was initially shocked by the sudden events, but as the situation registered in her mind, she slowly started to cry, firmly hugging her mother’s figure as if she was sure it would disappear at a moment’s notice.

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