October 19, 2008
By Becky Mattern, Herndon, VA

The sky turned a sudden shade of grey, almost a sign of danger approaching. Nathan stood innocently at the bus stop as the clouds swirled above. Rain began to slightly drizzle and his content countenance changed into one of pure misery. Every inch of me desired to protect him but I knew he had to bear his first day of second grade alone.

I watched him grasp his bright red backpack to ready himself for the bus. When it arrived, I assured that he safely caught the bus. Nathan hurried up the bus stairs and he disappeared to school.

About an hour later I received a knock at the door. A tall blond man stood right in front of me wearing a green Flora’s Flower Shop shirt and baggy jeans.

“Hi, how are you today, madam?” he asked politely.

“I’m good. What can I do for you today?” I answered.

“I have some flowers for a Miss Jamley,” he informed me.

“I’m Miss Jamley,” I said as I reached for the bouquet.

After the flower delivery guy stepped off my front porch, I shut the door. Eagerly I ripped open the tiny letter that came with the mixture of pink, red, and white roses. As I read the short hairs on the back of my neck stood up and my hands shook crazily. Suddenly I found myself unable to stand and I collapsed to the floor.

The note said:

I have your son, Nathan. If you want him back don’t call the police and just pay me the money and no one will get hurt.

I rushed toward the phone, quickly dialing the first number to come to mind.

“Mom,” I cried.

“What’s wrong sweetie? Why are you crying?” she said with a small quiver. I could tell by the muffled sound of her worried voice that she was terrified of what I had to tell her.

“Mom, someone took him! Someone kidnapped Nathan and now they want me to pay to get him back!” I sobbed hysterically. My mother fell completely quiet.

“Okay Amber, listen to me. You need to contact the police department and tell them what’s happening.

“I can’t have the police involved or they will hurt Nathan.”
“Okay honey, I’m coming over as soon as I hang up the phone with you,” she said calmly. Then I heard the phone click and I knew she was on her way.

Within about five minutes of my conversation with my mother, I heard sirens slowly sounding louder as the police car sped toward my house. Oh my gosh, I thought, what will happen to Nathan when the kidnapper finds out the police are involved? Why did my mother call them? Just a few moments later, there was a knock at my door.

Two officers, wearing dark blue police uniforms and tired expressions, appeared in my doorway. I invited them inside and they began questioning me. I briefed them on the roses, the kidnapping, and Nathan. But before I could finish describing Nathan’s outfit, the phone rang.

“It’s okay. Go ahead and answer the phone. If it’s the kidnapper, try to keep him on the phone as long as possible, so we can trace where he is located,” the older looking officer stated. I nodded to indicate my understanding and lifted the phone to my ear.

“Hello” I asked cautiously.

“Shut up! I’m going to do all the talking. You just stay quiet and listen to me,” the guy demanded. His voice seemed husky, possibly from yelling so much. I hoped that Nathan didn’t act up and provoke him into harming him.

“Okay,” I whispered practically inaudibly. My voice had disappeared from my fear.

“I have your son and you need to bring ten thousand dollars in a duffel bag to the playground on Fifth Avenue by five o’clock. If you do this then you will get your kid back unharmed,” he shouted over several voices in the background. It sounded like he was at a club and he used a pay phone to contact me.

“Can I speak to Nathan?” I muttered quickly before he hung up the phone but he didn’t answer.

I placed the phone back onto the table and fell to the couch. I clasped my hands together and I rested my forehead on them. My mind raced with thoughts about how to collect the money in time.

“Excuse me Miss, are you free to answer some questions on the perp?” the scrawny cop asked.

“I’ll be okay, just go ahead and ask what you need to.”

“Okay we will start off by asking you if there is anyone who would possibly want to hurt you or your son.”

“I can’t think of anyone in particular. If it helps I didn’t recognize the man’s voice on the phone,” I answered.

As they continued questioning me, my mother emerged from behind a big, muscular police officer who had been guarding the front door, just in case the kidnapper tried to show up there.

She hurried toward me, with mascara streaks covering her normally rosy cheeks, which were pale from grief. I reached out for her and she pulled me into her arms. Just as I was slightly comforted, an officer announced that they had the ransom money ready for the drop off and that we had to leave soon.

I stood up and prepared myself to face the crazy man. The officer handed me a bullet proof vest and I put it on under my baggy Wal-Mart sweatshirt. After I told my mother good-bye, I grabbed the ratty old duffel bag and forced myself into the undercover police cruiser.

The ride to the playground was excruciating. Sweat beaded my forehead and my mouth had gone completely dry. I couldn’t imagine what this man had done to Nathan. When I stepped out of the car, my hands trembled and I thought I would faint from fear. But my determination to get Nathan back won over my fear and I was able to confront the kidnapper.

He held a knife in his left hand and dragged Nathan along with his right hand. The man came toward me so fast Nathan couldn’t even keep up. I threw the bag a couple feet in front of him and he pushed Nathan towards me.

Finally, Nathan was safely with me and we wouldn’t have to deal with this man, who we later found out to be named Ethan McCann, because he was sentenced to life in jail. After the police captured him and forced him to speak, he told them his motive. Apparently he was a registered sex offender and he just needed money to help with rent. This man had been searching for a child that he could get alone with and Nathan just happened to be the closest one that day.

It’s been only a year since Nathan was kidnapped and I still can’t let it go. I wait at the bus stop with him every morning and pick him up in the afternoon. Roses are the main memory trigger for that day and I still can’t receive roses, for any reason, without panicking.

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