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Author's note: I decided to write this piece when my Creative Writing teacher told us to create an exciting mystery. Even though it didn't quite turn out like a mystery, it is still my favorite story i have written so far.
I sat there. Staring at her through the smudged window of my crappy old rusting ice cream truck. She was a cute little girl, with blonde curls that hung down by her chin and big blue eyes that could win over anyone. Today she wore a knee length light pink jumper with matching knee high socks, black dress shoes and a white sweater to top it off. She wore a matching pink bow in her hair, holding the curls out of her face. She was a cute little thing. What was her name? Sam? Sarah? Sarah. That was it. A good name. Adorable, just like her. I started up the truck. It took a few seconds, that dang old thing. I didn’t know what we were going to do when it gave out. Oh well. I forced my thoughts back to Sarah. Should I do it today? No. Tomorrow perhaps. And that was my last thought about little Sarah for the day.
I was fidgety, waiting for Sarah to get home from school. Sitting in the chair, I looked around for something to do. There must be something in this giant house. Cooking, no. Cleaning, no. Catalina had those covered. There was truly nothing in this entire house for me to do. So I just sat, looking out the window onto the beautiful Frankfort beach. Lake Michigan was always so beautiful. Then I began to think. Why did we need such a big house? Why did Dave insist on such a big house anyways? We had so many rooms that we had no idea what to do with. Dave was such a show off. Image was everything to him. It had to be perfect. And if it wasn’t, he threw a fit. After six years of marriage I was finally beginning to realize just how annoying and controlling he was. At first I was mesmerized by his blue eyes, short brown buzz cut and cute little build. But now I could see how cruel he was. He called me perfect, but turned around and made fun of a person who was just as beautiful and called them ugly. It was atrocious and uncalled for. I wanted a divorce. Woah. Woah. Woah. Slow down. Divorce? Was I really ready for what that might mean? What would happen to poor little Sarah? She was only five. Could I really divorce him? Could I really do it? I had to. I couldn’t stand being married to him any longer. It was torture. Yes. I would do it. Soon.
I took a deep breath as I sat down in the chair of my big corporate office. Ahhh…. It felt good to be here. The top of the top. I look over at the picture of two people on my desk. Sarah, my daughter, is adorable. With those big blue eyes I can’t say no to and that bubbly personality. Then I turn my focus to the other person in the picture. The love of my life. My beautiful wife, Mary. She had gorgeous blonde curls that hung down on her chest, much like Sarah’s. Sparkling brown eyes and a wonderful smile rested on her perfectly angelic face. That’s just what she was. Angelic. Oh Mary. I love you Mary.
Then my assistant, Mr. Brown burst into the room. “Dave can you look over these papers for me please?” He shuffled through his messy folder, spreading papers all over my desk. Mr. Brown was such a disorganized man. His balding hair always a strew. The bags under his eyes seemed permanent, like he hadn’t had a full night sleep in years. His tie was always crooked, his shoes always untied, and his glasses always aslant. Don’t get me wrong, he was a nice guy, he was just…. Weird.
He looked at me puzzled, “Dave?”
I snapped back to reality, “Oh yes, sure. I can look over those for you.”
He handed me the papers and walked out. Then I began thinking. What was his first name? Tim? Jim? Something like that. What did I really know about him? I thought, I think he has a wife and maybe a son. Oh well. Who honestly cared? Not me.
I stared. Nowhere in particular, just stared. About my Eddie and how stressed he has been. About his ice cream shop. The cool spot, it was called. An elegant little place where there was always a smile for you, when you walked in the door. It was my husband’s life. My husband. Eddie. The man who used to have the carefree shining eyes that were now burnt out. The man who had the perfect braid hanging down his back to his butt, that was now frayed and damaged. He never really had time to relax. He was always worrying. About everything. I still loved him and, to me, he was still perfect. I still loved him. He was amazing. My soul mate. Forever. If I only knew.
I woke up the next morning and looked over at the woman next to me. My Olivia. If only you knew what I was going to do for you. I gently kissed her nose and those amazing green eyes fluttered open. Oh how I love you. She was sort of a plump woman, with red rosy cheeks and frizzy brown hair. But she was my world. I couldn’t imagine my life without her. What do you need in this world if you have love? Nothing. The truth? Money.
I rolled out of bed the next morning and clumsily ambled down the stairs. I got my cup of coffee from the kitchen and went to Sarah’s room.
“Sarah sweetie?” I shook her gently.
“Yes mommy?” She yawned as her eyes fluttered open. Such a beautiful baby blue.
“Time to get up for school.”
“Okay mommy.” She threw off the covers and slid out of bed in her SpongeBob pajamas. That little thing was perfect in every way. I walked over to her closet and pulled out a sky blue jumper, a white shirt and socks with the lace around the ankle. I got her dressed and then pulled her blonde curls into pigtails, then tied matching sky blue ribbons around both.
“All ready for school girlie.” I smiled and she smirked back.
I walked her out to the bus stop, and just as the bus pulled up I kissed her forehead. My baby.
I love you, I thought.
That afternoon I sat in my ice cream truck again, the freezers running loudly in the back. Sarah’s school was a boring looking place, with neatly trimmed lawns and a dull, brown brick building. The play set out back was shiny and new, but the kids weren’t allowed to play on it during school. I guess it was just there for looks.
I heard the bell ring and watched little Sarah skip across the lawn toward the buses. After peering around to make sure there were no adults looking, I said softly, “Sarah.” She didn’t look over, so a little louder I repeated, “Sarah.” She looked my way curiously and I motioned for her to come over to me.
She pranced over and looked me in the eyes, “Yes Mister?” She said, adorably interested.
“Hello Sarah. My name is Mark.” I smiled at her.
“Hi Mark.” She smiled back at me.
Those eyes, I thought.
“Sarah, I have a question for you. Will you come for a ride with me in my ice cream truck? You can have some ice cream.”
“For free?” Her mouth turned up into a smile and her eyes sparkled.
“Oh yes for free. A pretty young lady like yourself needs some ice cream sometimes, don’t you think?”
“Oh yes sir!” Her pretty blue eyes opened very wide.
I led her around to the back of the truck and lifted her in. I climbed in and closed the door quietly. Then I reached over and grabbed my duct tape off the shelf beside me. I quickly moved my hand around to the front of her face and clamped it over her mouth. She squirmed a little, but nothing I couldn’t handle. I gently stuck a good size piece of tape over her lips.
I sat her down up against the wall of that rusty old truck. I looked at her; tears were growing in her beautiful baby blue eyes. I felt a stab of sympathy hit. Poor kid.
“Look at me darling,” I grabbed her shoulders, “I don’t want to hurt you and I want to be your friend. I don’t want to do this, but I have to. If you are a good girl, you can still get that ice cream. You understand?”
I kept hitting myself.
Why did I get in that stupid truck anyways? Why did I even want some stupid ice cream from Mark? I had everything at home. Was Mark even his real name? Of course not, why would he tell me his real name? Why did I trust him in the first place?
That one was easy; he owned the ice cream shop downtown. My parents and I went there all the time the past summer. We even had my tenth birthday party there the previous month, in August, just before school started up again.
I shivered. It was cold and I didn’t know where I was. All I knew was it was pitch black and my butt ached from sitting on the damp ground of this god forsaken room. My jeans were covered in dirt and my head hurt from the cold. My nose-length brown hair was greasy and dirty. I would’ve killed for a shower. Not literally, of course.
I thought about my warm, comfy race car bed, my pool table, and my X-box attached to that fifty two inch flat screen hanging on my wall. Right then I longed for all of that. But no. I was locked in this….basement…..cellar….whatever this was, just because I was too stupid to NOT get into that stupid truck.
I heard metal hit metal, gently, quietly and I instantly knew, the lock. I looked toward the door and waited for it to open. It slowly swung on its creaky hinges. Mark was standing in the doorway holding…a ton of supplies and the arm of a little blonde girl. He shoved the girl forward and she stumbled to the middle of the room.
The girl was looking at her feet. But in her arms she clutched something. Blankets!
I still sat, frozen where I was. If I was any colder, that might literally be true. I watched Mark drop a handful of stuff on the floor and leave. I heard the lock clink and he was gone. I pushed myself up from where I sat and walked over to where Mark dropped everything. There was a pack of juice boxes and some other food in bags. At the bottom of the stack were a few pieces of wood. I looked around to see what in the world we would use that for when I spotted a dusty old woodstove in the shadows of the corner. I got up and walked over there. After starting a fire, I sat down in front of the stove. Warmth, Finally.
I looked up and suddenly remembered the little girl standing in the middle of the room. I looked over my shoulder, “What’s your name?” I said sweetly.
The girl jumped, as if she forgot there was someone else in the room. She didn’t look up from her feet. “Sarah.” She replied sullenly as she sat down next to me, laying a blanket on the floor and then wrapping another around her shoulders.
I looked at her again. Her dress that was probably supposed to be sky blue was now tattered and faded. Her white socks were dirt covered and her black dress shoes scuffed. Her pigtails were falling out and her blonde curls were all knotted up. “That’s a pretty name. How old are you Sarah?”
Then she looked up at me slowly, cautiously; her eyes were puffy, as if she had been crying. “Five.”
“Well my name is Bruce and I’m ten.” I gave her a weary smile which she returned.
“Hi Bruce.” She laid down and fell asleep.
About 20 minutes later I looked over and she was shivering. I took the blanket from around my shoulder and draped it over her tiny, frail body.
Sleep well little Sarah, sleep well.
I smiled and lay on the concrete floor, blanket less and shivering.
My phone went off and I was jarred out of my thoughts. I pulled it out of my pocket and looked at caller I.D. Mary. I smiled and pressed talk.
“Hey honey, what’s up?”
“Dave, was Sarah supposed to stay after school today?” Her voice was shaky, nervous.
“No, I don’t believe so. Did she not come home yet?” I began to worry and my palms became sweaty. My fingers started tapping my desk absent-mindedly and my forehead became wrinkled.
Where is my little girl? I thought.
“No she hasn’t. I called the school and the bus driver says she didn’t get on the bus today but she is not on school campus. Dave, where is she?” Her voice was loud and frantic now.
“Mary, calm down. I’m sure we’ll find her.” I peered at my watch. “Honey, its five thirty. Why did you wait so long to call me? She should have gotten off the bus two hours ago. Why did you wait so long to call me?” My voice was patient and calm.
“Well,” her voice became nervous,” I sort of fell….ummm…fell asleep on the couch.”
I struggled to keep my head clear, “Well I have a big meeting in a few minutes so I have to go, please call all her friends parents maybe she ended up over there. Keep me posted.”
Still a little shaky she whispered, “Okay, I will. Bye.”
“Bye. I love you.” I murmured.
I struggled to calm myself. Sarah would be home any minute. I was sure of it. She would walk through the door and everything would be fine again. But somehow I knew in my heart it wasn’t true.
Friday night was party night. It had been that way ever since high school. Every Friday I went out with my buddy Eddie Long, my best friend since third grade, and we partied it up till we couldn’t stand anymore. The only problem with getting drunk was that sometimes Eddie got aggressive.
This Friday was different; Eddie had started drinking before I even got there but wasn’t acting aggressive at all. By the time eleven o’ clock rolled around, he could barely talk. As he stumbled up the steps I rushed in front of him to open the door. After I let him in, he plopped himself onto the couch. Then he looked at me.
“Sooooo I got these funny ting I gotsa tell ya.” He began hysterically laughing.
I grabbed his shoulders. “Eddie, what do you want to tell me?”
“Weeeeell,” he began laughing again. “Teres tis little chid end I’m usen hear ta collect reesum.” He laughed again, and then fell asleep, his head resting on his shoulder and drool dripping out of his mouth.
I chuckled. What a weird thing for him to say. Something about a kid and ransom. Oh well. He was drunk off his butt and probably had no clue what he was saying. He fell over on the couch and I laughed and walked to bed.
The next morning I was grabbing pop tarts out of the bag on the floor when Sarah woke up. At first she looked around like she had no clue where she was, like she was in a dream. Then she jumped and her eyes opened wider.
“Sarah, would you like some pop tarts for breakfast?” I asked, trying to sound cheerful.
Her eyes shined. “Oh yes please. Mommy always gives me pop tarts for breakfast.
I looked at her for a second and how happy she became at the thought of her mother. “Sarah, what are your parents like?”
She grinned. “Well Daddy is always at work, except Saturdays when we buy ice cream and go to the park next to the beach. And daddy always wears a suit and if I get up really early for school I get to pick out what color shirt he wears. He has pink ones, and green ones and blue ones and purple ones and,” she took a big breath, “A lot of other ones too.”
I smiled at her, an encouraging smile. “What about your mom Sarah?”
“Mommy is really nice. She takes care of me and gets me ready for school in the morning and gives me pop tarts and watches movies with me and plays with me and reads me bedtime stories and is the bestest player of hide and seek ever!” She was excited as she talked about her mother. You could tell she adored her “Mommy”.
She looked at me, interest in her eyes, “Bruce, are you Mark’s son?”
“Oh no! I was well…what’s the word I’m looking for…kidnapped, I guess, by him.”
She nodded, then went back to eating. After a minute or so of silence she said, “What are your parents like?”
“Well my dad is a cool guy. Not sporty or anything like that, but cool. He works at a big company, guess he’s pretty far up there. Like the right hand man. And my mom was a really awesome lady. She was paralyzed for the last year of her life because she had cancer pressing on her spine. But still, she was just as cheerful as always and was always understanding. It’s just me and dad now. She is my role model. I wanna be just like her.” I smiled, flashing back to the days of playing with my mother in the living room and making cookies on Sunday mornings. That now seemed like another life. Like it was a dream.
The room fell to silence again, but a few minutes later she looked at me with tear filled eyes muttered, “Bruce, why are we here and not at home, with our parents, where we belong?”
I rubbed her back and she whimpered as tears began flowing from her beautiful eyes, “I don’t know Sarah. I really don’t know. I whispered.
Sarah didn’t come home that night. The next morning I got up and asked Mary if she wanted to come with me to report it to the police.
“Oh no Dave, don’t report it.”
“Why in the world not? Our daughter is sort of missing and I would sort of like to find her.” I raised my voice. I wasn’t quite yelling, but just stern enough to get my point across.
She looked down at her hands and whispered, “Well I sort of thought it wasn’t a police matter. I mean…”
I grabbed my coat and slammed the door behind me.
Why in the world does Mary not want me to report this to the police? Then again..why did she wait so long to call and tell me? She fidgets and gets nervous whenever I try to talk to her. The last time she did that she was keeping something from me. She’s keeping something from me. Then it dawned on me. My wife is keeping something from me and my daughter is missing. I struggled to see the connection. Then it hit me, like a two by four in the head. My wife knows something. Something about my daughters disappearance. This gave me a feeling of distaste. I wasn’t positive what to do with this information.
Then I realized my thoughts had left me swerving all over the road and I was being honked at from twelve different angles. So I straightened out the car and told myself to stop thinking about it for now.
When I arrived at the Frankfort Police Department, I approached the front desk. The man standing beside it was short but he had a build, he could probably lift me with his pinky. To go along with his build, he had a buzz cut and mustache with a slight beer belly. If he was slightly older, children might mistake him for Santa Claus. I peered at his name tag, Maylor.
“Hello sir. Can I help you with anything?” He looked at me cheerfully.
“Umm yes Officer Maylor. I would like to report a missing child.”
“Okay. Let me go ask the Chief to see what we do about that. You wait right here, okay?”
The man walked away and down a narrow hallway. After what felt like an hour, he returned. The look on his face was nervous, maybe sad.
He could barely look me in the eyes, “I’m very sorry sir, but the chief says we can’t help you with that.”
“What?!” I yelled as he walked into the other room, which only made me yell louder. “Aren’t you supposed to protect us?! Cuz you sure are doin a crappy job!”
I was enraged so I left the police department before I did something I would really regret.
When he came in I instantly recognized him. The richest man within a 100 mile radius, Dave Zuckerman. When he said he wanted to report a missing child, it immediately got me thinking. Money. A child. Eddie. I realized what Eddie was actually saying that night. What Eddie had done. I knew he was capable, yet I was still surprised. My heart raced and my hands began to shake. Even though I knew exactly what was supposed to be done, I went back to talk to the chief. I just needed the walk down the hallway to calm myself. I was going to ask the chief what to do anyways, just to say I went back there for some real reason. My hand hovered over the handle and I began to twist but I stopped.
Eddie? No, it can’t be Eddie. He wouldn’t do that. Who am I kidding? Yes he would. And besides, who else? This was a small town. No one else here is capable of that, I don’t think. Eddie Long. My best friend. The guy I “know” so well. I have to protect him. He is my best friend. He would do the same for me.
At that thought I did my best to compose myself again and spun around to head back to the front.
When I reached the lobby, I looked the man in the eye and lied, the worst lie I have ever told.
Two days had passed since Sarah’s arrival. Mark had dropped off clothes books and toys, all of which the two of us had previously owned. It disgusted me to think of that man close to my father, but the only way he got that was to break in.
It was bedtime and Sarah laid tucked in by the fire in her SpongeBob pajamas as I read to her from Charlotte’s Web.
“‘Please don’t kill it!’ She sobbed. ‘It’s unfair.’ … ‘A weakling makes trouble.’ … ‘The pig can’t help being small, can it?’ “
I finished reading that page and looked at Sarah, “Do you know why she made her dad stop?”
Sarah shrugged. Her eyes were half closed.
“Because Fern knows that you are supposed to protect things that are smaller than you. Things that, if it weren’t for you, might not survive. She knew she had to protect that little pig, so she did.
“I’m sleepy.” She yawned.
“Nighty night Sarah.” I smiled.
“Night.” Her eyes closed and I got up to tend the fire so that it would stay warm all night.
I had fallen asleep when I heard the lock clicking. At first I thought I was dreaming, then I saw the door open in the faint light our tiny fire was giving off. Mark stumbled through the door. I just looked at him as he unsteadily crossed the room to us.
When he reached us, he lifted Sarah by her arm, till she was dangling in the air, then hit her right across the face. It took me a minute before I realized what was going on, but when I did, I jumped to my feet and removed his hand from Sarah as she crashed to the ground, crying and holding her face, and ran to the opposite corner of the room.
I looked at Mark and stepped closer, smelling the alcohol on his breath. “You’re drunk.” I don’t know why that came out so surprised; I mean a guy who kidnaps a couple of kids obviously has no morals.
He uttered a slurred word and then punched me in the ribcage. I gasped in pain. Then he planted a blow across my jawline, grinding my teeth together. I felt something hard and metallic on his finger. A ring. Who would marry such a lunatic? I collapsed to the floor. He kept punching for what felt like forever, then I heard the lock and he was gone.
“Sarah.” Moving my mouth caused raw pain.
Catching sight of me, she ran to the opposite corner of the room.
“Sarah please. I need your help.” I begged with her, it felt weird, me crumpled on the floor begging this little girl for help.
“I know.” She said matter-of-factly as she walked to me with the blue jumper she was wearing the first day. She tore off a generous chunk and handed it to me.
I was cut all over my face, gushing blood. I held the rag to my face and remembered, Sarah was hit.
“Sarah. Come here.” I said sternly, my voice cracking from the pain of talking.
She obediently came closer to me. I looked at her face, it was purple and blue ad swollen already. I reached out and touched it, my ribcage stinging with pain. She winced, but tried to act like it was nothing.
“Sarah, does that hurt?” I asked, worried.
“No.” She denied as she turned away. I knew she was lying but I didn’t object.
A few hours later, in new clothes with all the blood cleaned off my face, Sarah and I were tucked in again. Sarah’s voice sliced through the darkness, like a knife through warm vegetables. “Bruce, why did you do that? I mean protect me.”
I yawned and replied, “You’re my Wilbur,” Before drifting off to sleep once again.
A day or so had passed and I held on to the little hope I had left with all my might. Every day after work I walked around the town, asking everyone and anyone if they knew anything about where Sarah was. No one did.
I still held on to the thoughts and suspicions I had about Mary. I never told anyone or confronted her, but there were a couple times I came close to blowing up. . I did my best to ignore her, but I did live with her and I couldn’t do it all the time. I held on to my anger like it was a hundred dollar bill.
A few days passed and I began to relax, figuring that nothing else was going to come out of the missing kid thing. I was wrong.
Sitting at the front desk, eating a donut and drinking coffee with my feet up on the desk, I watched him come in. He had that typical teenage look. He was tall and skinny with semi-curly dirty blonde hair hanging down over an acne-covered face.
I let my coworker, Officer Turner take him. He took him back to a private office and sat him down. I decided that I wanted to hear what this stupid teenager had to say. Normally they came in to report a haunted house or a UFO or a crazy old lady who hit them with a broom when they probably deserved it. So I got up and stood outside the door of the room.
After Turner had collected some background information from the kid he said, “Okay Sebastian, we are going to file a report alright?”
The teenager nodded. Turner asked him what was going on.
“Well at work…I work at the ice cream shop downtown, by the beach….anyways there have been these…ummm….noises….from the storage room….Like….giggling...sort of.” He was talking super slow, not sure of himself.
Eddies shop. I thought slowly.
“Well son, are you sure it’s not mice or something?” Turner looked curious but disbelieving.”
“Well…I don’t think so…I mean…” he was still talking very slowly and hesitantly.
“Well I think we are done here.” Turner tapped the edges of the paper on the table to straighten them, and then led Sebastian out of the room. He looked at the teenager, just before he left and said “I suggest you go get your ears tested, cuz obviously you are experiencing hearing problems.” Then he turned and walked away.
I need to talk to Eddie, I decided. Soon.
“Dave, why won’t you talk to me?” Mary’s voice entered my ears as a desperate whine as I stared down at my bland dinner and struggled to ignore her.
I was doing my best to keep up that wall. If we had a conversation, it would be much less than civil. Ever since I had become conscious of the fact that Mary was hiding something. Something important.
“Dave?” She whimpered, louder.
I snapped. I couldn’t ignore her any longer. She would just keep being persistent and annoying till I answered. “What do you expect from me?” I stood, glaring at her from over our vast dining room table, way too big for three.
“Just talk to me.” She was quiet, almost whispering.
“About what? The fact that you know where our daughter is and won’t tell me? The fact that you lied to me about why you didn’t call when Sarah didn’t come home? The fact that my hope of seeing our little girl again is diminishing so quickly a cheetah couldn’t catch it? Is that what you want to talk about?” I was yelling over the table and she looked scared. At this point I didn’t blame her, because I was scared of myself.
“No.” she whispered, “I can’t believe you could even say that. I love that girl.”
“Then what exactly have you been hiding from me?” I was calming down.
“I ….. I want a divorce Dave. I want a divorce.”
I sank into the chair. Those were the coldest words I had ever heard. What began as anger turned to sadness, realization. I knew this was coming, yet I was too stupid to admit it. I had noticed her pull away.
“What happened to our perfect marriage? What happened to our perfect family?” I said slowly, as my insides felt like a boulder had just been rolled onto them.
“Perfect marriage? Perfect family? Neither of those were ever existent. Maybe through your eyes but not through anyone else’s.” I watched her grab her food and walk out of the room.
My life was a rock. I was constantly being worn by the elements around me. The disappearance of Sarah had been like a hammer hitting my rough, tough surface repeatedly. But this was like dropping me from a mountaintop, shattering me into a million pieces along the way. Each of those pieces representing one of the thoughts rushing through my head right now, thrust in all different directions.
I told him. He was crushed. He really acted like he wasn’t expecting it, but I knew he was. How could he not have been? I made it so clear.
After eating dinner by myself in one of the many empty rooms in this huge house, I decided at a time like this a woman needs some ice cream. So I grabbed my purse and set out on my journey.
After arriving at The Cool Spot, I walked in and saw Eddie Long behind the counter, such a nice man.
“Mary! How nice to see you!” he smiled.
“Nice to see you too Eddie! How have you been?” I smiled at him; the last time I had been here was over the summer.
“Pretty good. What can I get you today?”
I gave him my order and then we started chatting.
“I’m really sorry about your daughter. It’s a shame.” He looked sad.
My curiosity spiked, “How did you know about that?”
“Your husband has been searching for that little girl all over town, really seems like he’s losing it. It’s such a shame. Little Sarah is such a sweet girl. Hopefully you find her soon.” He smiled again as I handed him the money and got ready to leave.
“Well thanks Eddie.” I turned to walk out and stopped.
That’s Sarah’s laugh. I know I hear it. I shook my head. Mary you are definitely losing it. It must have been a machine from the back.
Then I regained the nerve to walk and halfway out the door I heard Eddie let out a big breath. Man, that guy was under a lot of stress.
When I got home that night, I remembered the phone conversation with Eddie. I had told him I knew and he didn’t seem surprised or worried. I warned him to be careful and he promised me he would.
After I hung up I thought, I hope he doesn’t…oh who am I kidding? Its Eddie. He wouldn’t hurt a fly.
It had been three days since Sarah’s disappearance. After I got home from making my rounds to ask about Sarah, I got a call. Caller I.D. said UNKNOWN, but I picked up anyways.
“I have your daughter.” The voice sounded dark and mysterious.
“Sarah? Where is she? Let me talk to her! Is she alright?” I felt a rush of excitement. I was frantic.
“In exactly 48 hours, drop two hundred thousand dollars off in a black trash bag in the fifth stall from the left in the men’s restroom at the Frankfort beach. When this money is collected, your daughter will be returned to you, sitting at the very end of the pier. If you fail to produce the money on time, your daughter will be at the bottom of Lake Michigan before you can count to ten.”
I got a flutter from my gut. Sarah was okay.
My head began to ache as I walked myself to my room.
There was a note on my pillow. Mary’s neat writing was scrawled across the page.
I’m really sorry this is such bad timing, I am. But it is just not gonna work out. I moved out today. All I took was my dresser and a bed from the extra bedroom. I moved into an apartment uptown. My divorce lawyer will contact you soon; I don’t want word of the divorce to get out yet, so please try to stay quiet. Please keep me posted on any progress with Sarah.
Where did I go wrong? As a husband and a father? I didn’t protect Sarah and now I have lost my wife. And with that thought I fell asleep.
A day or two had passed since Mark had come in the middle of the night and hit us. The bruise on Sarah’s face was healing, it was not swollen anymore but it was an ugly green-brown-red-purple-blue color. But she was cheerful. She said it didn’t hurt anymore and this time I believed her.
She was telling me about how, when she is older, she is going to get a pet monkey. “And its name will be George, like the TV show and I’m gonna dress it in cute overalls and buy it all sorts of hats to wear and it’s gonna be the cutest monkey you ever sawed!” she smiled sweetly.
I laughed. “Okay Sarah. But when you get him, can you have him come visit me? I want to meet him.”
“Mhhhmmmmm.” She said as she sipped her juice box.
Her eyes shined as I made a funny face and she giggled. I smiled. She was so adorable.
I showed up the next day to help Dave ask around for Sarah. When he got out of work I was leaning on his car. He came out and looked at me weird.
“What are you doing here?” he said, very hostile.
“I’m helping you look for Sarah.” I asserted.
“Uhh No you’re not.” He looked at me objectively.
I crossed my arms and gave him the death stare. “This is OUR daughter and I don’t care what happens between the two of us, we are both still going to take care of her.”
“Whatever. Get in.” he sounded like a teenage girl.
The room was dimly lit by the dying fire when I heard the lock. I automatically jumped up. Sarah awoke just as Eddie swung the door open. At the sight of him, Sarah pulled herself up into a ball, covering the bruise on her cheek with her hand.
I focused on Eddie. There was no doubt he was drunk again. “What in the world do you want now?” My anger festered at the sight of how scared he made Sarah. He shoved me, hard. My hand landed palm on the ground and my arm extended straight. I heard a crack and felt my elbow bend, the way it wasn’t supposed to. I was lying on the floor, on top of the arm I was sure was broken. I closed my eyes and screamed in pain.
I don’t know how much time passed, but I woke up. I must’ve blacked out from pain. My arm throbbed but I forced myself to look around.
“Sarah.” I whispered into the darkness. No answer.
Where is she? That was the only thought I had time for before I fell asleep again. I was exhausted.
When I awoke next I called for Sarah once again. She wasn’t there.
He will bring her back soon. She will be back soon. I struggled to comfort myself as I drifted to sleep once again.
It must have been a few days since I called Eddie when my phone began to ring at 4:30 in the morning. I looked at it. My buddy from the Betsie River State Game Refuge.
I picked up and my buddy told me that I better grab a guy and get down there quick because there was a body washed up on the bank of the river. I got chief and we headed down there.
When we arrived, my buddy drove us out to the scene. It was a little girl with blonde curly hair wearing SpongeBob pajamas with her face stuck in the mud. Her pajamas and hair were caked with blood. I pulled on my gloves and turned her over.
My suspicions were confirmed and I fought back weeping. Little Sarah Zuckerman’s face was caked with mud and she was lying here dead and I had the chance to stop the killer but I didn’t. At that moment I decided I had to tell Chief what I had done.
It was two in the afternoon. Almost two days had passed since I got that call. At nine tonight I would put the money in the stall and get my little girl back.
I was standing in line for the bank teller when my phone rang. It made me jump. I had just been thinking about Sarah. Her curls, her smile, her laugh. The only thing keeping me sane.
I had a short conversation with the police Chief and when I hung up I was extremely irritated. He wanted me to come down there and talk to him about something right now. I let out a huff and dropped out of line to make my way to my car.
When I arrived at the Frankfort Police Department they took me back to the Chief’s office. Mary was there.
“Have a seat.” The man paused. He was bald and sort of Asian looking. A skinny guy. “Mr. and Mrs. Zuckerman, Officer Maylor told me about what he did. I never said we wouldn’t help you, he made that up.” He folded his hands over the table and continued in a serious voice. “He is suspended from the job. The council will look over his file and decide what to do with him next.”
“Is that the only reason you called us down?” I inquired, curious.
“No sir. Unfortunately, I have bad news. We have reason to believe it was your daughter’s body that was discovered just inside the Betsie River State Game Refuge.”
“She….” That was the only word out of Mary’s mouth before she broke down.
The Chief went on, “But there is no way for us to be positive until you identify the body. So will you please come this way?” he sounded sympathetic.
He got up and Mary and I followed him, Mary trying to control her weeping and me trying to control my anger at whoever did this. I swore if I got my hands on him all hell would break loose.
He led us to the end of the dark, narrow hallway then we turned left and opened and door to a staircase. We walked down the stairs, Mary more stumbling, not being able to see through her tears.
There was a door at the bottom that read “MEDICAL EXAMINER”. The Chief stopped in front of it and said, “I was told to warn you that she was beaten pretty badly.”
I nodded and he swung the door open, then led us to a table and pulled the white sheet back.
Her face had cuts and bruises all over it and her nose was bent sideways. But I recognized her, and I knew Mary did too. It was Sarah.
The last few years have been both a blessing and a curse. Shortly after Sarah’s death, I realized how much I really needed Dave and I went back to him and we never got that divorce. Two years after her death we were blessed with our son Sam. He turned one a few weeks ago.
I have to admit Sam is a little spoiled but we want to give him everything because we know how easily he can be taken from us in a second. We have made promises to each other and ourselves that Sam will never be in harms way.
Everyone was shocked that Eddie was the perpetrator. He seemed like such a good guy. But I guess the signs were there, no one just wanted to acknowledge them.
After I expressed my dislike of the big house, Dave sold it and bought a small cabin surrounded by beautiful woods. That is now the place we call home. We hope to have a few more children and live out our days in that cabin.
“Yes Sarah. I’m doing it. I will be with you in a bit.” I whispered to Sarah who was whispering questions in my ears.
I read the letter I have written and rewritten a million times.
I’m sorry I have to do this, but I do. Sarah says it’s great where she is. She says they play games and are always having fun. Yesterday, Sarah told me that I should join her, so I am. I feel like I owe her because of what happened. Because I failed to protect her from that horrible man. It’s entirely my fault, I should have saved her, and I should have acted. But I didn’t. Plus I miss her cute little giggle. She never giggles anymore.
I know I am only thirteen, but I know what I am doing. I just wrote this letter to tell you why and say goodbye.
I love you,
I swallowed the pills then laid down on my bed. Gently laying the letter on my chest as I closed my eyes and Sarah’s giggle flowed into my ears like the best song in the world.
I stare at the bare jail cell wall. That’s all I do every day. I’m in for life.
Every day I sit and think about Sarah and Bruce. They must have felt like this locked in that storage room for so long. Poor kids.
I think about Olivia. How I miss her. Shortly after I got in, she divorced me. She said something about me not being the guy she thought I was. I only did it for her. For us.
I think about little Sarah and what I did to her. I was so drunk. I never meant to hurt her. It’s such a shame. I’m glad I’m locked in jail. This way I can’t hurt anyone ever again.
I was fired. But I feel it was worth it. They caught Eddie before he hurt that Bruce kid too bad. He only came out with a dislocated jaw and broken elbow.
When I told Chief he was mad and said these words that echo through my head every day, “I thought you were a better cop than that Maylor.” He hasn’t talked to me again to this day.
After I got fired, I had a lot of time to think. I realized just how bad f a cop I was. I could’ve saved a girl’s life but instead I chose to protect my best friend. It was my fault that little Sarah Zuckerman died. But there was nothing I could do.
I still think about little Sarah. Sometimes I see her face, frowning at me as if I had been naughty.
The news caught me by surprise. I never suspected Eddie could do such a thing. His only excuse was that he did it for me. As soon as I heard that I decided that all at once I hated him.
At Eddie’s trial I met Jim Brown. He was sitting by himself, taking it all in. He looked lonely so I sat with him.
He told me all about himself at dinner that night. His wife had died of cancer five years ago and his son became his world. When Bruce went missing, his entire world came crashing down around him.
That night I fell in love with the courageous, caring, amazing man Jim Brown was. Two months after Eddie was sentenced, we got a divorce.
A year later, I married the actual love of my life, Jim. I love his son Bruce too, like my own. Although Jim says he hasn’t been the same since the kidnapping and everything that happened with Sarah.
After Dave Zuckerman realized that Jim was the father of Bruce, the last person who had talked to his daughter, He made a real effort to become Jim’s friend. They are best friends. Dave and Mary are like family. So is their baby Sam. I babysit him all the time.
After a few months of being best friends, Jim was promoted to a partner in Dave’s Business, now called The B&Z Luxury Hotel Chain.
For a year or so after Eddie’s trial, I had dreams about the little girl Eddie killed. Sarah. She was crying, begging me for help and I always tried but I could never get to her. I woke up crying and screaming every night. As time passed, they became more and more rare and I haven’t had one in a while.
Jim and I are expecting. I’m starting to show bad. It’s going to be little girl. I’m naming her Sarah.