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The door slammed behind a tall slender girl as she stomped out of her house onto the porch. She flicked a leash off a hook by the door and let out a high pitched whistle. "Aw come here baby," Jessica said sweetly as a huge black and brown dog clambered toward her with a goofy looking happy face. While hooking the leash to his collar the girl began a one way conversation, "Gumbo I don't even know what to do with them anymore, they're driving me crazy. Man, you have the life. Let's go."
The girl's long dark hair fell in her face as she watched her bare feet cautiously tread across the gravel driveway. She was all ready for bed in a huge T-shirt and boxers barely peeking out the bottom. "Come on Gumbo stop pulling!" the girl yelled toward her dog as she landed on pointy rocks here and there. Soon the two were on the dark street in front their house in the back of a wealthy gated neighborhood. They walked along quietly, owls hooting and squirrels fighting and screeching throughout the woods that lined the streets. A full moon covered by clouds gave a dusky look to the night and almost showed the extent of the large houses through the trees.
"Sir? Excuse me? Mr. Darsey? So there was no one in the neighborhood that had a stolen gate key or that let someone in anytime today?"
As the detectives badgered me with questions all I could do was go over the list of everyone I knew in the neighborhood again and again. Finally after a while of concentrating on his questions I responded, "I'm sorry Mr. Ostrowski. There were three cars in and out today that were called in from the gate, one to my sons house, one to Mr. Landry's and one to the Gaffer's in the back" Ostrowski blabbered on, I'm sure asking about the times of entry and relations to the family, but I had shut down. The image of something, anything happening to my daughter filled my mind and terrified me. It was only hours ago I was yelling at her for...what was it? I couldn't even remember what our fight was about. That was Jessica though, always fighting for herself. This was the one thing that all my hope rested on, I knew wherever she was, she would be fighting.
Suddenly my cell phone rang and detectives gathered around me. A deep mechanic voice spoke through the phone,"Mr. Darsey...I have your daughter."
My heart sank into my stomach as I stammered for what seemed like hours for what to say,"Wh..Who are you! What do you want?!" The harsh computer voice went on,"I've heard about your recent investments, congratulations on your success. However, if you would like Jessica back I will be requiring your earnings to add to my own success."
"You disgust me. A life, for money? How much do you want?" I spat back through the phone.
"$2,000,000 by tomorrow, in my possession, before I return your daughter."
"I barely made that much in all my investments! What about $500,000?" I could not comprehend losing that much of my hard work in one moment to a criminal.
"Ohh, so I suppose you only want part of your daughter back. What parts would you like that $500,000 to pay for? I could take only an arm..."
"NO! Don't touch her! If you lay a finger on her I swear!"
"Don't flatter yourself Mr. Darsey. This task has been easy enough so far, it would be no problem to finish. Finally, if you tell anyone about this ransom I will have your daughter killed immediately, and if you tell I will know," Then dial tone resonated in my ear.
I cursed myself for threatening him. How could I possibly risk my sweet Jessie's life like that? I had to find the man that had her. He would pay for this.
Jessica and Gumbo strolled down the empty streets escaping the house and all life for just a moment. Gumbo suddenly crouched and began a low deep grumble as a figure approached in the distance. "Stop it Gumbo, be nice!" Jessica shouted the order to the dog who immediately relaxed, although still intent on the person emerging from the darkness. A screech was heard in the background and the two jumped back from the street just in time for a big black van to fly past.
"Who the..." Before Jessica could even finish her thought the van stopped short and two masked men hopped out walking briskly toward Jessica and Gumbo. Jessica screamed for the stranger in the distance to help and dropped the leash sprinting back towards home. She hopped off the street into the woods and ran up the hill to a closer house, the two men right on her heels and Gumbo running ahead. She reached the familiar house and banged on the front door screaming madly for her neighbor. No one came to her rescue and the men were merely feet from her and approaching quickly. The girl jumped up and grabbed the low overhang and pulled herself onto the roof over the porch. She ran straight to a window she remembered using once before when her dad had been looking for her. She slipped in through the moonroof in the house and dropped onto the master bathroom floor, immediately locking the window above. Jessica gasped in a deep breath just realizing for the first time she had been holding her breath since she jumped for the roof. Then, suddenly, someone grabbed her, wrapping his huge hands over her mouth and dragging her into the next room.
"J-e-s-s-i-...there really isn't someone else you could ask these questions? Or any birth certificate or license to look at? I'm not going to sit here waiting for you all to do something any longer!" I stood up and marched outside. I walked as fast as I could down one street and over two, directly to the spot where new skid tracks marked the ground. How did no one hear this? Wouldn't she have screamed? Or ran? What happened to Gumbo? They took the dog too? Why? Who had motive to take Jessica? Why would someone want to get back at me? Questions flooded my mind and began to make me dizzy. I sat down on the side of the road and held my head until I was interrupted by a shadow over my head. I looked up to see my son looking down on me. I was so proud of that boy. 27 years old, handsome and running a successful corporation.
"Hey dad how are you holding up?"
"Ah, I've been better. I just can't understand why someone would take our little Jess..."
"You know she's going to be fine dad, she's older than you think. She's a brave little girl to," my son said as he said down next to me on the road.
"I can't understand how this would happen in our neighborhood. There is top-notch security and absolutely no way in or out except the front gate!"
"Dad, someone who is willing to kidnap someone would take any route to get what they want, and they are obviously very smart. I would check with all the neighbors and see who seems sincere, who seems to know something, maybe someone saw something."
"I will do that. There are just so few leads and one conversation with a neighbor trying not to look guilty is not much to go off of."
"I'll do as much as I can but I really think you should ask around."
My little boy stood up with a man's shadow and began to walk away. "Wait! Matt!" I called out, remembering one of my earlier questions. I stood up as son turned around and walked back. "You didn't hear anything last night? No screams? No cars? You live closest to here and I just can't imagine how she would have not made any noise." Matt cracked his knuckles and breathed in deep, looking like he was in serious thought.
"You know, I thought I heard something around 12 but nothing else came and I didn't think anything of it! I should have looked, I should have checked, even a peek outside my door..." Tears filled Matt's eyes and I embraced him.
Jessica looked around the room she had been dumped into. She banged on the large door of the room she was kept it up for about five minutes before turning around and deciding to check out the rest of the room. Jessica fumbled around the walls searching for a light switch, door or any clues about why she had been captured.
"Ouch! Ugh. What is that?" her calf had slammed into something low to the ground that toppled over. She kneeled down and felt for the object which she recognized as a trash can. She pulled out the balled papers and brought them over to the big door to read them with the small amount of light shining through the bottom crack.
They were all bills. Paper after paper became a pile up of unpaid invoices, letters from banks, and even notices of eviction. The weirder thing was that they all had her brothers name and address on them. Had she never left her brother's house? She had thought for sure that once she climbed through his roof window she would be safe? "So Matt's company has gone under..." Jessica thought as she out the papers back in the trash. "I thought he was doing so well...he always treated us to dinner...he bought dad his new car only months ago? And now he is $800,000 in debt?"
I pulled out of the bank parking lot left with about $2,000 to show for my life's earnings left in my account. All the neighbors had expressed their deepest condolences and promised to let me know if they noticed anything suspicious. A couple of families with children had even upped their own security measures. I would just comply with the man's wishes. Maybe we were just a random family? Maybe this could have happened to anyone in the neighborhood and Jessica was the only one out that night? I had no idea why this had happened and was almost out of time to make a move, I decided to give in. My phone rang in my pocket and interrupted my thoughts.
"Mr. Darsey, I noticed you decided to meet my wishes. I have contacted you in order to inform you on how to supply me with the money," the mechanical voice was again sounded in my ear.
"What do you want me to do with it?" I responded with obvious anger in my voice.
"Go to the place where I picked your daughter up. I have supplied you with a wooden box on the side of the road. Put the briefcase in the box and return home. Do not leave your home until you hear from me again on where to pick up you daughter."
"No! You better give me Jessica back first! I have no way to know she's alive!" the voice was silent and then a click and the man was gone. I dropped the suitcase where he told meand went home. I was done playing games.
Jessica was sitting in the back of the room when the door opened and a masked man with a mechanical voice walked in slowly and handed her a phone. Jessica took it still looking at the man and answered, "Hello?"
"Jess?" the voice across the phone said. The girl immediately recognized her father's voice through the phone and began to talk a mile a minute.
"Dad I'm safe! Don't worry about me! I was being chased and I was running and I...." The masked man took the phone from the girl and hung it up. He turned around to run out and Jessica stood up running after the man. "Who are you?! Stop! What are you up to?!" Jessica shouted after him. The man turned to shut the door and Jessica grabbed the handle pulling it open as hard as she could. The handle ripped off and the door banged shut. Jessica fell down and adrenaline had left her shaky. She could hear the man running up stairs and reached to look through the whole in the door. She began beating on the door and screaming again now that there was a hole to scream through.
"Hello? Who's down there?" a recognizable voice finally shouted from the upper room.
"Matt! It's me, Jessica! Come open this door!"
"Jess? What are you doing in my house? I thought you were kidnapped! I'm so glad your ok! Why would you just hide down there? We have to call dad he's been worried sick it was all so weird!"
"Hide? A man grabbed me and when I woke up I was in that room..."
Matt grabbed his phone, "Dad? Hey it's Matt! I found Jessica! The kidnapper apparently kept her in my house! I think he was trying to frame me for something but she's here! She's fine!"
I raced over to Matt's house so excited. I couldn't understand the situation but it didn't matter Jessica was safe and that was all I wanted. I ran up the porch and banged on the door, Matt and Jess both came to the door and I embraced them both until they pushed me off.
"Dad I'm fine I just have no idea what happened! Who would hide me in my own brother's house! I wonder if they knew I would run here..." said Jessica.
"I bet they were trying to frame me for something trying to destroy my business, or even dad's. Success always brings jealousy," said Matt.
"Yeah if the police had found her here there may be no way to explain that. I guess you would've had to sell your business or something! How could they have ruined my business though?" I said.
"With all that money they asked from you in the ransom? That could bring a man's whole career down!" my son answered, looking me straight in the face.
"Matt," I said coolly, finally understanding, "I never told anyone about the ransom..."