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Into the Night
Ever heard of superheroes that are “mild-mannered” by day, yet completely different by night? Well, that’s a spot-on description of my town. During the day, it’s completely normal; joggers jogging, bikers on their bicycles, elderly men or women going for a leisurely afternoon stroll. The sun is shining; birds are chirping- almost perfect.
By nighttime, it’s completely different- dim streetlights lighting the dark and empty streets, not a single soul taking a breath outside of their large almost-mansion type houses. Nobody is allowed out there, but nobody really knows why.
My name is Elizabeth Knowles, but people call me Liz. I’m thirteen years old, I have a single mom, her name is Amy Knowles, and I live in this town, the town of Oak Springs, New Hampshire.
Oak Springs is a considerably large town, about half the size of a major city. There are many kids who live in the area, and many schools here, too.
When I was in the fourth grade, I was deemed “the popular girl.” My mother always encouraged me to make as many friends as I could, so that’s what I did. I was friends with so many people, I almost forgot about some of them. My tenth birthday was coming up, so I wanted to make sure everyone could be included, without having to spend too much money. I decided to have a sleepover.
The hardest part wasn’t arranging the invites or getting a hold of everyone. It was asking my mom.
She’s- how do I say it- sort of okay with this type of thing. If I ask her, “Hey, can I have a friend over,” she’ll be extremely reluctant at first, but then she says “Okay, as long as they are polite.”
Of course, this will be much, much harder.
So, I walk in to the kitchen, and this is what I see: a woman in her early forties looking like she was crying her eyes out while singing along to Maroon 5 on her iPod with full joy. I refrained from laughing, as this was truly hilarious, but I must focus.
“Hey, Mom. What’s up?” I said as I sat down on our barstool.
“Oh, nothing much, just chopping some veggies,” she said, her tears still flowing down her face as fast as that Roarin’ Rapids ride at our local amusement park.
Mustering my full confidence, with full speed, I asked to my mother, “Can I have a sleepover tomorrow night?”
Once her tears dried up, my mother’s face started to become pale, and her hands started to shake briskly. Her eyes were weary, full of fear and distress.
“Is everything okay?” I said, starting to get a little bit worried myself.
She said, obviously faking, “Yeah, everything- everything’s good,” as her voice was cracking at every word she said. These were real tears, tears of terror and anxiety.
“Look, I don’t care about my stupid sleepover,” I said as calmly as I could, “I just want to know what’s going on.”
My mother cried a little, then calmed down.
“You see, you’re a little too young for this, but let’s just say we’re not allowed at night.”
We never brought it up for months. Then, a whole year flew by, then two, and then three. Finally, my thirteenth birthday rolled along, and my mother brought the topic up.
“Happy birthday, Liz! I love you so much; but there’s something important I have to tell you.”
Uh-oh, that doesn’t sound very pleasant, I thought in my head, I hope everything’s all right.
Her loving grin turned into a fearful grimace as she gave me a tight hug.
As she let go, she looked me in the eye and said, “Let’s get this straight; we all know my life story- I grew up here, got married to your father,” she said, being very straightforward.
“But he died right after I was born,” I said, interrupting my mother, “Right?”
She looked at me, her eyes full of wariness, and said, “Well, that’s the thing. This- this is extremely hard to tell you, that your father, well, he’s not dead.”
Usually, when I am shocked, stunned, or surprised (and in this case, I am all three), I have a tendency to blurt out whatever is going on in my mind.
My first reaction was, “Wait, what? He’s alive?” I felt giddy.
My second reaction was, “How could you have kept this from me all these years?” Anger rushed through my body, and I felt my face getting hot. My eyes were welling up with tears. I bolted straight to my room, and slammed the door shut. I cried until I had nothing more to give. I screamed until I went hoarse.
Once I finished throwing my tantrum, I tried to calm myself down. I walked outside, then I went straight up to my mother and asked, “How could you? How could you have never told me? Just- just- how could you?”
She told me, as if she knew I was going to act this way, “Look, I know you have all these emotions running around inside you- devastation, anger, shock, but there’s more.”
I was truly scared now. “What is it?”
My mother said, as calmly as possible, “You know that thing I told you about three years ago, the whole ‘nighttime is not safe thing.’ Well, that’s because of your dad.”
I, literally crying as I spoke, said, “Just- please, please stop calling it that.”
“What is ‘it’?” she said.
“You know, ‘him’.” I said, with utter disgust.
My mother looked at me with exasperation, and told me the story.
“Your father and I, we were both madly in love. We got married, and the following year, I gave birth to you. We were both twenty-nine at the time. I remember the first time he held you, that was the happiest point in our marriage. We brought you home, and we were living in a small apartment back then. The first few months went pretty well. You were so cute with your little face, your little ears, eyes, fair skin…”
“Mom. STAY ON TRACK.” I said, getting a little annoyed.
“As I was saying, the first few months went well. As time went, by our financial structure was getting weaker and weaker. It started with small tiffs about groceries that led to arguments about bills, which ended up in a huge fight about the mortgage on our apartment. I gave as much as I could give, and so did your father. We were in a lot of stress at that time, and we talked over and looked all around the apartment for any hope on money. I scanned every room, every closet, every wallet, and every purse for any loose dollar. As I looked in our coat closet I found this one empty shoebox in the back of our top shelf. The shoebox was for loafers by Dockers, so I could tell this belonged to him. I found five thousand dollars in twenty-dollar bills in that shoebox. He hid this from me, and I was extremely angry. So I sneaked up to him, being as quiet as possible, and screamed as loud as I could into his ear.”
I listened with deep content, and I was thinking of a few questions, but there was one I had to have answered.
“Mom. Mom. MOM.” I said, while she was still talking.
“What?” she said, sounding annoyed.
“I have one thing to ask you so far. What is my dad’s name?”
“Oh. His name is Alexander. Alexander Logan. Alex for short.”
I said, “Continue.”
She continued, “Well, he got really pissed at me, and then I showed him that box with all of the money. That shut him right up,” she said with a smirk.
My mother continued, “Anyway, I asked him to fess up about the cash. He was speechless. After that, it was just silence. Then he said one thing that turned our relationship around.”
“Look, Amy. This is for my own personal use. Just because I’m your husband, it doesn’t mean I have to run everything by you.”
“I said with extreme fury, “Watch it, Alex. You are not just my husband, you are a father. We’re a family now; whatever you have matters for this whole family. That money could have paid for last month’s rent, our telephone bills, everything! Don’t you care about your own family?” He was angry, nothing was said after that. Then, he just walked out on me. I remember everything that night. The day was July 27. I even remember what he was wearing; a blue and green Nike hoodie with faded blue jeans, and gray Pumas.”
I stopped and thought for a second. “How does this and the nighttime thing relate?”
My mother sighed. I guess she needed a break from talking.
“After Alex left, many disappearances occurred in Oak Springs. At one point, it was at least three people, like, almost every week. I checked to see if Alex was okay, but he was not in touch. I called, texted, e-mailed, everything. The local police looked into it, but the only thing that the prime witnesses saw was a flash of dark green and a hint of extreme fade on a pair of jeans. He was the first on to go missing; I knew it was him, so I talked to the sheriff. He put out an alert, that, whoever was seen outside during nighttime got arrested. I was hoping that this would single out my husband, so I could see him again. He was never to be seen again. To be truthful, I am not sure if he is truly dead or alive at this point, but just yesterday I received a letter from him.”
I looked at her with my mouth gaping open, “Have you opened it yet?”
She tried not to look at me, and said, “No, I- I haven’t opened it yet. Actually, the letter was addressed to you.”
I was about to scream. “Well, give it to me!”
My mother handed me the letter. “Here, take a look.”
I carefully opened the envelope. This is what it said:
Today is your thirteenth birthday. How are you? I wish I could see you, but you may not know who I am. I am your father, and I love you so much. I want to see you, as enclosed is my address in a separate piece of paper in this envelope. Please come to visit. I have missed you so much. I have sent past letters to your mother, but you never came over. Tell her I miss her, and I am sorry for what I have done.
Your loving father
I finished reading it and the first thing I did was- you guessed it- yell at my mother.
“MOM! Get in here! NOW!”
“Yes, Liz?” she said, trying not to wince.
“Give me every letter Dad sent you, along with every envelope he sent it in.” I know the envelope thing was a tall order, but I know my mother well. Whatever handwritten letter she receives, she keeps it. Her mindset for postage is typing equals worthless, handwriting equals important. Of course, if it were important, then my mother would feel like she was forced to keep it. You probably expected me to yell at her about hiding one more thing
She brought every letter in a small manila file folder. Each letter was kept in pristine condition, like she opened each letter without actually exposing what was inside.
My mother opened the folder gently, as if she would drop a letter on the ground, and it would burst into flames.
I carefully opened each envelope, and took out each letter. In every envelope, there was a letter and a little slip of paper. The addresses, I thought. Before I looked at the addresses, I decided to look through each letter. Let’s just say most of the stuff was truly meant for JUST my mother, if you know what I mean.
Without actually paying attention to what was written, I laid out each small slip of paper from oldest letter (the very first letter sent to my mother), to most recent (the letter addressed to me).
I looked over at each letter and read each address. I thought my eyes were playing a trick on me for a second, and then I read them more closely. Every single address was different.
What… I thought. That can’t be right. How can a man like him afford to move almost every year?
I walked over to our living room, where my mother appeared to be crying (real tears), and devouring four tubs of ice cream.
“Hey, Mom. How you doing? Look, I just want to apologize. I’ve been so rude and obnoxious about this whole thing, I guess… I guess I just lost control of myself. I’m so sorry, Mom. I’m just so, so sorry.”
“Come here,” my mother said, “Apology accepted. Look, I understand. You must have so many emotions running through you right now. I guess I sort of just prepared for the worst.”
Let my master plan begin. I was determined to meet my dad, no matter what it took.
“Well, on that note, I know what I want for my birthday. Actually, I’ll tell you that later. First, can you take me somewhere?”
She sighed sarcastically. “Yes, your heiness. Since it is thy birthday, I shall be your chauffeur for the day! Of course, it’s like that every day. So, where to?”
Here it goes. “Well, my friend said she was planning something for me, but it was sort of far. Let me go get the address.” I quickly sprinted up to my room and quickly copied down the most recent address he sent to me. I also double-checked to make sure I was right.
“Let’s go.” I said.
The drive was about one hour, and we crossed states into Vermont. Once we crossed the state border, my mother started to get worried. “Don’t worry,” I said, “My friend’s parents know some really cool places in Vermont.”
Before I started my plan, I obviously did some quick research. I Googled his address and saw that my dad lives in an apartment in a small suburb of eastern Vermont.
My mother kept driving, no questions asked. I think she felt guilty, because she never second-guessed anything else so far.
We found his building. My mother and I walked up to the second floor. As I stepped on each stair, my nervousness increased a little bit more. When I approached the door, my palms were getting sweaty. I took two deep breaths and rang the doorbell.
The door opened. A man in his early forties who looked a little bit like me opened the door. He was confused, then surprised.
“I’M COMING!” he said as heavy footsteps pounded toward the door.
The first thing he saw was me. “Who are you? Are you lost?”
Then, he saw my mother. “Amy… Elizabeth?” the next thing I saw was that I was buried in a giant bear hug in between my mother and father. “I missed you two so much. It’s really late for this, but I’m sorry. I should have been more honest with you.”
We were all in tears by the time everyone let go. My mother finally said, “It’s the past. Let’s just focus on now. How’s everything going?”
I wanted to speak. “Dad?”
He said, “Elizabeth?”
I said, “Now that I know who you are, do one thing for me.”
“What is it?”
“Come back to Oak Springs with us. Please?” I begged him.
He was on the verge of tears. “Sweetie, I love you so much, but I can’t come back with you.”
I was curious. “Why?”
My mother was, apparently, equally curious. “Yeah, Alex. Why?”
He seemed nervous now. His hands were briskly shaking. Now that I think of it, they really are perfect for each other.
He nervously replied, “Look, I just can’t.”
All of a sudden, the unthinkable happened. I heard distant sirens ringing, then alarms that got louder and louder. SWAT teams came in through the wide open door and open windows. A member of the FBI said, “THIS IS THE US FBI. PUT YOUR HANDS UP WHERE I CAN SEE THEM.” This was said while handcuffs were put on his wrists.
I was freaking out. I went straight up to the FBI agent and asked, “What is going on? Why is my father in handcuffs? Give me an answer. NOW.”
The tall and freakishly muscular agent said, “Your father is Logan Smythe, one of the most wanted criminals in the country.”
I was infuriated and scared. “What the… his name is Alexander Logan, not Logan Smythe. Are you sure you have the right guy?”
He said, “Alexander Logan was one of the many aliases he used. He was arrested, but put on bail by an anonymous payer multiple times. Logan was responsible for robbing multiple banks, kidnapping almost fifty people, and murdering eighteen.”
My mother was angry and astonished. She asked the agent, “Am I allowed to give a slight torture session to him?”
Surprisingly, the agent said, “Go ahead.”
My father was tied to a chair. His legs and arms were both tied. The agent said that if there were any movement made by Logan, he would pull the trigger to his head.
Since my father was tied up, she decided to relive a few past moments. My mother started off by screaming as loud as possible into his ear for eight long minutes. Then, she slapped him twenty-seven times, punched him seventeen times, and shin-kicked him eighty-seven times. “HOW COULD YOU? YOU BETRAYED OUR FAMILY!”
But it was the last part I said that really got to him, brief, yet loud and clear, just the three words, “I hate you.”
My mother and I both left, slamming the door behind us, as we heard the words, “WAIT!” and a gunshot following right after. We never looked back.
There was never a funeral or cremation. All there was left was endless news headlines about it for the next month.
Everyone thought he was dead, and everyone knew he was dead. That was true until I received a letter from Logan Smythe, addressed to Elizabeth Knowles in Oak Springs, New Hampshire.