Without a Trace

Veronica Muldoon gazed out the window, admiring an inky sky awash with stars. She loved nights like this, summer evenings when a full moon lay nestled in the sky's infinite folds of darkness. Nights when she sat beside her baby son's crib, and smiled at the solemn, brown eyed little boy. Veronica reflected that her son was a remarkable child, even if he was only two. He had a kind of curiosity and intelligence that was odd for a child his age, though quite pleasing to his parents. She layeda hand gently on his cheek, and stroked him, wishing that she could freeze him in time; an innocent baby boy. It was difficult to watch him grow up.

Even more disquieting, was the sinister reality that a good deal of people Veronica knew had gone missing. Simply disappeared without a trace. What was more, no newspapers seemed to pay any attention to the disturbing disappearances. It remained a quiet sort of danger, quick and stealthy like fog. Where Veronica's cousin had gone, no one new, nor did Frank (Veronica's husband) have any idea where his business partner went. The only common link between these mysterious goings away, was the fact that there never seemed to be any visible signs of struggle. And more often than not, neighbors, colleagues and family members of the departed, could never quite recall what exactly had happened. Their memories remained quite foggy—and unfortunately so, for the police were left to scratch their heads, and wonder what was going on. Of course, there were rumors...something about the “Emergency,” whatever that was. Whispers about the government failing, mutterings about an oncoming national crisis were heard, but Veronica put them soundly out of her mind, and was determined to stay level headed. She wasn't the sort of person to jump to conclusions or become hysterical. No, there must be a logical explanation.

But Frank took a darker view, and insisted that the family take proper security measures.

“It's all ridiculous,” Veronica had protested.

“ Never the less,we've got to be careful,” Frank had replied, his tone anxious.

Now, Veronica directed her gaze to the blaze of lights that was downtown Stonetown, and rubbed her temple, frowning. She desperately hoped that the “Emergency” was simply a government attempt at heightened publicity, rather than a fatal truth. She refused to let her son, Reynie, be subjected to such peril. If Veronica was good at anything, it was at being a mother. She swept her wavy brown hair over one shoulder, and kissed Reynie's forehead, ready to retire for the night. As she turned to draw the little blue curtains, a strange sight distracted her. Two dark figures were approaching the house with considerable speed and great stealth. They were broad shouldered men, men in long, shadowy overcoats. Veronica's stomach turned over, and in one quick movement, she extinguished the lamp. Slipping from the window, she crept down the hall and into the study, where Frank sat, his face obscured by a monster stack of books. “Frank,” she whispered urgently, “I have a bad feeling about these two men. Come look.” Veronica led Frank to the window, and cautiously drew the curtain aside. The men were disappearing around the back of the house. Frank went a bit pale, and he instructed Veronica to lock herself in the bedroom with Reynie, and call the police.

“And you?” Veronica interrogated. “I'm not going to stand by and let anyone hurt you.”

But Frank was vehement. Unfortunately, Veronica never made it to the bedroom. At the sound of a surreptitious clicking sound, Frank went creeping down the stairs, Veronica behind him.

Reynie, safely in his crib, heard all of this, but none of it made any sense; he was only two. But he felt suddenly quite alone, and began to whimper softly, yearning for his mother's soothing presence. He lay there, looking up at his ceiling, and listening to all that went on below. First there were voices, quiet and cunning, which rose into angry threats. Then came several crashes; Reynie's mobile trembled which each noise. And after that, there was an odd buzzing, two swishing noises, two thuds, and silence. Reynie did not cry, for he could not imagine a world without his parents in it, and so it never occurred to him to be distressed. In time, he fell asleep, an empty house all around him.

The following morning, when elderly Mrs. Wimpleton came to the house, hoping to borrow an egg or two, she found this instead: A sinisterly serene house, devoid of people save for the Muldoon's baby boy. Veronica and Frank were gone.

The police puzzled over it, the neighbors frowned and tried desperately to remember anything, anything at all, and poor Mrs. Wimpleton took Reynie to Stonetown Orphanage. And it was only Reynie, whisked from his home forever, who could smell the faint spicy-sweet cologne that lingered in the falling rain.





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