Chapter 2

Ava and Jim arrived at the Johnson estate the next morning, ready to begin their investigation. They were greeted by a butler who led them into a large, opulent room with plush sofas and antique furniture. Seated on one of the sofas were two people – a middle-aged man with graying hair and a stern expression, and a woman who looked like she had been crying.

The man introduced himself as Edward Johnson, the CEO of Johnson Industries, and the woman as his wife, Victoria. They thanked Jim and Ava for coming and explained the situation.

"Our daughter, Rebecca, disappeared a month ago," Edward said. "We've searched everywhere, hired the best investigators, but we've found nothing. We're desperate to find her."

Ava and Jim nodded sympathetically. "We understand," Jim said. "We've been following the case and we think we might have some leads. But we need to ask you a few questions first."

They spent the next hour grilling the Johnsons about their daughter – her habits, her friends, her interests. Ava noticed that Victoria seemed genuinely distraught, while Edward seemed more concerned with protecting the family's reputation.

As they were wrapping up the interview, Jim leaned forward. "There's one more thing we need to ask," he said. "Has anyone in the family received any threats or extortion attempts?"

Edward looked taken aback. "No, of course not. Why would you ask that?"

Jim hesitated for a moment, then decided to reveal their findings. "We've found a few things in Central Park that might be related to Rebecca's disappearance," he said. "A broken branch, a discarded purse. But there's one more thing – a note."

He pulled out a small slip of paper and handed it to Edward. Ava could see the fear in Victoria's eyes as she read the note aloud.

"If you want to see your daughter alive again, follow the path to the old abandoned church in the woods. Come alone, and bring the ransom."

Ava and Jim watched as the Johnsons paled at the words. "We had no idea," Edward said, his voice shaking. "We've never received any kind of demand. What do we do now?"

Jim looked at Ava, then back at the Johnsons. "We'll go to the church," he said. "We'll go with a team, and we'll make sure Rebecca is safe. But we need your cooperation – we need to know what the ransom is, and we need to set up a trap."

Ava felt a shiver go down her spine as she realized the danger they were getting into. But she also knew that they had no choice – if they didn't act fast, Rebecca might be lost forever.

As they left the Johnson estate and headed back to their car, Ava turned to Jim. "What do we do now?"

"We start preparing," Jim said. "We need to assemble a team, gather equipment, and come up with a plan. And we need to be ready for anything – this could be a trap, or it could be the real thing. Either way, we have to be prepared