The Little Pipsqueak
© 2012-2013 Matthew Templar
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
This story is copyrighted by Matthew Templar, all rights reserved. Distribution, including but not limited to: posting on internet sites, newsgroups, or message boards, or in book form (either as a whole or part of a compilation), or on CD, DVD or any other electronic media, is expressly prohibited without the author's written consent.
"Well, that's it," said Ray outside of the house where Elliot used to live with his parents.
It was a simple, well cared for Cape Cod style house with a separate garage accessible by way of a covered pass-through between the two structures that led to the backyard. The dwelling was set up on a retaining wall at the sidewalk to make the ground level. Jeffy was reminded how obsessed Elliot's parents were about the littlest details, explaining the yard and shrubs that were precisely manicured.
It made Jeffy shudder when he remembered what Elliot was being subjected to when he left that day.
"Let's go around back. Take your bike so the neighbors won't suspect anything. And be quiet."
They pushed their bikes up the driveway and made their way through the pass-through between the garage and the side of the house. When they got to the back of the house they propped their bikes against the back of the garage, out of sight from the street.
"Now all we have to do is find a window or something that's unlocked. Let's split up," advised Jeffy, pointing to the steps of a covered back porch.
Jeffy moved off to the left and looked at the windows that were almost out of his reach. He saw the dining room windows, then what looked like a smaller room, like a den or something.
He started to go around to the other side of the house but decided instead to see how Ray was making out at the back porch. He paused and turned right, smacking into Ray!
"Ouch! Hey, I thought you were goin' that way," said Jeffy pointing in the other direction.
"Yeah, well, this is creepy enough with the two of us. It's even creepier by myself. No way I'm leavin' sight of you."
"Okay, just don't get in my way."
Ray was suddenly overcome with a total lack of respect for their situation and Jeffy's bossy attitude. He raised his hands over his head, then slowly lowered them as he bowed to Jeffy.
"Yes, your royal ass . . . Hey! Looky there."
He was pointing to the basement window directly in front of them. It was open a few inches, hinged at the bottom and, upon their closer inspection, held by a small chain at the top of the window.
"Great. We'll need something to cut that chain," said Jeffy moving toward the garage, where he hoped Elliot's father kept his tools.
"Naw, it's small enough. It'll give way with a little help. Watch this."
Ray sat down on the ground and scooted closer to the window. He put his foot on the top of the wooden window frame, backed it out a bit then slammed his foot forward. Unfortunately, it went right through the window pane, shattering the glass and making a crashing sound inside the basement.
"Good going, hair ball," exclaimed Jeffy as he looked around to see if anyone noticed enough to come looking. "At least no one will know anyone tried to break in."
"Ah, who cares," said Ray, and then hit the window frame with enough force to break the chain, knock the window open and off its hinges, crashing even louder onto the floor below.
"Good grief, Carlton. You are bound and determined to get us caught, aren't you?"
"Yeah, so someone calls the police? Isn't that who we want here anyway?"
"Yes, but I'd still rather not spend any more time in jail. I can tell you, it's not a fun place."
Again he shuddered even harder when those memories came back to him.
"Hey, that's right. You're a convict, or were. Wow! What was that like, Daniel?"
The boy was wiggling his way through the window and finally dropped a few feet to a workbench.
"Come on down. Turn around though or you might fall on your ass. So, you gonna tell me what it was like, convict? You get thrown into a dungeon and beat up like in all the movies? He, he, he! Huh? Tell me, tell me."
Ray was a dancer, evidently. He'd hop from one foot to the other like he had to pee and was probably just making fun of his new friend.
'What a pest!' thought Jeffy as he dropped to the workbench. He turned toward Ray who was dancing beneath him on the floor of the basement, looking up at Jeffy.
Jeffy jumped down from the bench so he was nose-to-nose with the pest.
"The answer to your question is . . . Yes. Yes, I did get thrown into a dungeon, Ray."
He grabbed the boy by his shirt front and pushed him until his back was against a post supporting the floor above. The serious, strained look on his face meant business. It was a look that told a person that they would not want to piss off the wearer any more than possible.
"Want me to show you what it felt like?"
The look of terror on the other boy's face said otherwise. His shaking head made it clear to Jeffy but it didn't deter him one iota.
"I wouldn't want you to miss out on all the fun I had in there. Let's see, I was drugged until I was so hyper they'd beat me quiet, then give me more uppers. Um, oh, arms tied behind me, but that's pretty classic, huh?"
As he said it he forced Ray's arms behind him bringing his face so close their noses actually touched.
"But of course that left my stomach and chest wide open for them to do what they pleased, didn't it? Like beat the hell outta me somemore," he said, grabbing the boy's shirt with both hands and ripping it open exposing his t-shirt underneath it.
Ray was motionless, for once speechless and with eyes big enough that he could have ridden his bike threw. His mouth hung open. All at once, expecting his stomach to receive the next lesson given to him by Jeffy, he closed his eyes and sucked in his breath, waiting for the impact.
Instead, Jeffy raised the boy's t-shirt a few inches and flicked his bellybutton, then calmly walked away and started looking around the dark laundry room they were in.
"I'd appreciate it if you didn't bring it up again, Ray, to anyone for that matter. It wasn't as nice as your movie set. I want to forget about it. Sorry about your shirt."
Ray stood motionless for another minute trying his hardest not to wet himself before he realized he was alone in the room. He shook his head and quickly made for the door that Jeffy had just gone through.
When they got to the house, the man backed into the driveway. He got out and made for the hose which was coiled up in the pass-through and connected to the spigot. He turned it on and unreeled the hose as he walked back to the SUV.
"It isn't so bad. There's some damage in back. I guess I hit the car to hard."
"Just hurry up will you? We don't need nosey neighbors seeing blood flowing into the sewer."
"Yes, dear, I'm doing the best I can. Oh, will you go in and make us something? I'm starving. There's that chicken I brought home last night. You barely touched it."
"We haven't got time. Just finish, please," she said disgustedly.
"Then I insist. I'm not leaving until I've eaten. This will take me a few more minutes. Microwave a plateful if you don't want any. Hell, I'll even take it with me."
"Oh my good Lord. Stop your swearing," she said as she dramatically opened the car door and dropped to the ground, then made her way to the side door of the house.
"You hear something?" asked Ray, who had been following close behind Jeffy, but looking over his shoulder.
When Jeffy stopped to listen too, Ray ran into him, not watching where he was going.
"UMPH! You're hearing things. Let's find the stairs up. Maybe they have something up there that'll tell us where Elliot's been taken."
"Oh, sure. Like a cruise brochure or something? I don't think kidnappings work like that, Daniel. Hey, did you just hear a door open?"
"Don't start hallucinatin' on me, Carlton. We've made it almost the whole way around this blasted basement. There has to be a . . . ah, this door is right about the right place for some stairs," he said with his hand on the doorknob.
AJ held out his hand, propped on its elbow, for me to hold. It was something we had been doing of late, while we waited seemingly endless hours. His eyes were closed as they often were. His soft brown hair was matted, damp where his bangs fell over his moist forehead, making him look just a little more severe than he usually appeared to me. Only his move to touch me gave me reassurance that there was still a possibility, still time for something miraculous to happen. In that way, it worked at giving me the hope that I had been lacking for so long.
"I'm right here, sweetie. I love you so much."
His voice had grown weaker and didn't serve to help me through my worry. I'd never been with anyone in this situation and would never, ever want anyone to go through it.
He squeezed my hand gently, weakly as he said, "Do something." It was the pleading voice of one scared little boy.
The pain in my heart was sharp and deep. My feelings of incompetence returned with a vengeance. My hope dashed on the rocky shore of reality to expose my mind to what may well happen. I had nothing for him. I was helpless.
I struggled to even be selfish enough to look at him, his beautiful countenance, now drawn and gray. I glanced and looked away. The single tear running down his cheek was like a valve that sent my tears flowing as freely as any broken dam. I struggled to not make a sound, hoping he wouldn't know.
Then his hand lost its grip of mine and I gasped until I heard his breathing change. It was heavier, but the kind that told me he was finally asleep, just asleep, restful sleep I hoped. It was something that was happening more and more.
While he slept that time, Dr. Strauss came in to talk to me. He tried to explain, in terms I could understand, what was happening to my son.
"First of all, the two very extensive scans we performed on him showed absolutely nothing."
I must have been holding my breath until Dr. Strauss said the word 'nothing.' I exhaled slowly, the sense of relief was overwhelming, at least for a few seconds.
"Well, don't get too excited just yet. We all agree that his body is reacting as though his immune system is going wild at times. It's happening more often. It would seem as though it was attacking the parts of his body that it should be protecting. Now, normally we'd diagnose Lupus as the condition he was experiencing. If that were so, we could probably treat it quite effectively. The problem is, his immune system isn't really doing damage, it's only that his body thinks it is being attacked. I know that sounds like a contradiction, but if his brain says something isn't working, then it will shut down.
"I've called every specialist I can think of and several whose names they gave to me. I promise you, Tim, we are not giving up. I want you to know that physically, there is nothing wrong with your son."
I stared at Dr. Strauss, unbelieving.
"I know. It's the craziest thing. It's like I said, his body believes it's being attacked and is supporting that by starting to shut down certain functions, even certain areas. He's beginning to lose movement in his limbs. We can only hope that his heart and his lungs won't be affected for some time. We're even looking into the possibility of dialysis in case his kidneys stop functioning. In his favor, it seems to be progressing to new areas slowly.
"There are two neuro-specialists that are on their way to the hospital. They should be here tomorrow morning. We'll work on him some more to determine the best possible treatment.
"Tim, I promise you, we're doing all we can to save him."
My fear was in the tone of his voice, his face. He looked more concerned than I've ever seen him and his voice didn't convince me that he was too sure of what he was promising.
"Doctor, I know you will try everything. I want you to know that any and all expenses will be covered. Please don't hold back because of cost. Please."
"Okay, I promise, Tim. I don't think that will be a problem. In the meantime, two things need to happen. One, you need to go home and rest. AJ is sleeping and I think that may even slow down the progression of his condition. It's a good thing. The other thing is I need to do some rounds so I can make sure the other kids are well provided for so I can concentrate on our little guy tomorrow morning."
"Thank you, Doctor. I . . . I just don't know what to say . . . what to do."
"I know, Tim. Rest is what you need now."
"Well, that probably won't happen until we find Jeffy and Elliot."
"I'm sorry. I must have missed something."
"While I've been here today, Elliot was kidnapped. We think that his parents had someone in a white Audi do it so they can deal with him again. And Jeffy I think went looking for him. I do need to get out of here and try to call him. Dan, the deputy sheriff you met, is working on the case, but I need to know that at least one son is alright."
"Well then you take off and I'll have the evening nurse explain to AJ that you needed your rest too. I won't tell anyone else about the kidnapping so he doesn't hear about it. I don't think that's a wise thing right now. He needs to concentrate his strength on getting better, not worrying about his brothers."
"True. Thank you. I guess I'll be going then."
When I got out to the parking lot I pulled out my cellphone and saw all the bars lit up; a full signal. I scrolled to the contacts list and punched Jeffy's name.
"You're right. Someone came in," Jeffy whispered, his foot on the bottom step of the basement stairs.
The door at the top of the stairs was closed but they could clearly hear something happening up there.
"I think they're in the kitchen."
They could hear footsteps almost directly over them, then the sound of dishes clinking together.
"Do you think they just went to the store or something?" asked Ray.
"Sh-h-h. I don't know. I just know we're in deep trouble."
"Maybe they won't hear us and leave again."
"Yeah," agreed Jeffy. "Maybe."
Just then his cellphone rang . . . loud!
Ray didn't skip a beat.
"Well, I should really be going now! You too?" he said as he ran the way they'd just come, leaving Jeffy to look over his shoulder at the disappearing boy. Before he could turn around he felt a hand on his.
"Well, well. Who do we have here? Some little robbers come to steal us blind I suppose," said the woman calmly and in control.
Jeffy never got a chance to see who had called him. He tried to pull his hand free but she had remarkable strength and he was experiencing incredible fear. She was firmly in control and Jeffy was at his weakest as he stood there quivering.
Then, with a burst of energy he pulled out his hand and made past the woman for the steps and the front door to safety. It was a few seconds later that he remembered the distinct sound of something like a metal pan hitting a hard surface. The clang was unforgettable, but the pain in his head was even worse as he sank into unconsciousness.
"Help me with this brat! He's too heavy for me," she screamed at her husband.
"I'll be right there. Have to clean up here first. No traces you said if you remember," shouted her husband.
"Oh good grief. Will you hurry? Now we have another . . . Wait," she said, mostly to herself. "Yes, I was right. You were with Elliot that day. Ha! It's your father that took in that devil. That means you must be . . ."
She turned to look toward the top of the steps.
"Will you please hurry? It looks as though we have another candidate for our purging ritual."
"I know," grunted the husband.
She heard the SUV door close, then her husband call out,
"That's done. Be right there."
By the time they'd both dragged Jeffy out to the pass-through he was almost awake.
"I have a few more straps in the garage to tie him with. I'm getting rather good at it."
Jeffy gulped when he realized what he'd just heard but by the time he could pull himself out of his stupor to react, the bindings were already being applied. One of the wide nylon straps even went around his head, covering his mouth so he couldn't talk.
Then they dragged and half-carried him to the back of the SUV. The husband reached around and opened the hatch and they effectively threw the boy into the space. He flew in, unexpectedly, onto something soft; something that went 'UMFPH!' when he landed on it. After a little shuffling around he came face to face with . . . Ray Carlton!
'Why won't he answer me?' I asked myself. 'Wait, maybe my phone or his phone isn't working right. Damn cell phones!'
I felt like I was getting upset at the smallest things.
I raced back into the hospital and went all the way up to the children's ward where AJ was. I went to the nurse's station and asked to use the phone. Of course, I had to look in my phone for Jeffy's number, then dialed it again.
Only it wouldn't even ring that time. I was overwhelmed, sweating from the sudden exertion and looking around like I needed to find something. I was getting deeper into my own anxiety about almost nothing and it was wasting me again.
I finally just sank into a chair and cried. I'd had it and I was exhausted.
"No, there's still no vehicle. Do you have a description of what I should be looking for?" asked the police officer that pulled up to Elliot's parent's house.
"Let's see," answered the dispatcher, bringing up the information on her computer-aided dispatch screen. "Dark blue Ford SUV, two years old. I'll send the license number to your car laptop."
"Thanks but there's nothing like that here. I'm walking up the driveway. It's wet like someone washed their car, but no car. There's a pass-through that I can see. Maybe I'll be able to see something from there."
"Just remember not to go too far. I doubt we'll have trouble getting a search warrant but we don't want to blow any information you collect before then."
"Will do. I'll call you back when I get into the car. I can't really see anything out of the . . . Wait! Did we decide these kids were riding bikes?"
"Yes. That's the information we have, Officer Tucker. Why do you ask?"
"Well, I don't know if I'm happy or even more concerned but I think I'm looking at their bikes, two anyway, propped against the rear wall of the garage in the backyard."
"Uh oh. So there's no way to know the reason for them leaving their bikes there."
"Correct, and the best scenario isn't all that great. Why would they do that unless . . .?"
"Exactly. I'll call Perkins and let him know. We can't even be sure those bikes belong to the kids, can we? They could be left from when the boy lived there, right?"
"Yeah, could be, I suppose," answered the officer.
"Officer Perkins here."
"Dan, Betsy at Dispatch."
"Hi, Betsy. Do you have something for me?"
"I'm afraid I do. Tucker from PD drove up to the parent's home just now. It's the second time since the investigation started that we sent someone there. Seems someone's been there since the last look. The driveway is wet, Officer Tucker said. Well, this time he walked up to and into the pass-through between the house and garage just to see into the backyard. I warned him not to tread too far in case we found something we could use against them and it could be thrown out at trial for lack of a search warrant."
"And he saw something?" Dan asked, trying to be patient with the talkative woman.
"Yup. There's two bikes back against the garage. He said one of them looks pretty new. Do you know if the McGill boy's bike was new?"
"Yeah," sighed Dan. "It's only a week or two old. They each got one on AJ's birthday."
As far as Dan was concerned it was not good news. He was afraid for the worst, especially after they found the pastor dead in the church parking lot at the hands of the people that lived at the address where the two bikes were found.
"I think we shouldn't have any trouble with a search warrant after the murder yesterday, Betsy. Call Sheriff Norton and ask him to get one, will you, for the house, garage and vehicle when we find it. Tell him what you found, of course. Thanks. I have to make a phone call."
"Ten- four, Dan."
"As soon as you get the warrant, have that officer go back there, get the bikes and have him search them thoroughly for any markings. I'll ask Tim McGill if he marked the bikes. But there may be markings on the other. That may help us determine who the hell is with Jeffy."
"Oh, Daniel Jeffrey Connors. He lets family call him Jeffy. Everyone else calls him Daniel, after his birth dad."
"I see. Sorry, sir. I'm sure everything will work out for the best."
They each hung up and went about what they had to do, the dispatcher starting the process of the search warrant and investigation of the two bikes as evidence in the possible abduction of two more kids. Dan had to call me and tell me what they found, a call he dreaded more than anything right then.
"E-e-e-w-w," whined Ray. "I think your lips touched mine."
"Yeah, well, if I'da known you'd start off complaining again I wouldn't have taken off your gag. You're welcome, by the way."
From the front of the SUV they heard the lady.
"Hey, how'd you two . . .? No matter, just shut up or we won't need a gag to keep you both quiet."
The ride wasn't too bad. It was a newer SUV and had good shocks. Still the room between the back seat and the back hatch was small enough that the boys were pressed tight together the whole way.
"Hey, what happened to our clothes," gasped Ray, early in the ride.
"Well, the guy cut mine off when he tied me up. I assume he did the same to you. Makes it harder to run away when you're naked. At least he left us our underwear."
"Oh, whew! Mom was right. Wear clean undies no matter what, whenever I go out. Glad I remembered."
"Ray, you are something else."
The SUV stopped only long enough for the boys to hear the man give directions to someone outside of the vehicle. It didn't dawn on the boys until later that it was the man, Mr. Smith, who had Elliot tied up in the back of his Audi. However, Jeffy distinctly heard something about an old church camp. It drove him nuts that he had no way to tell anyone else.
When Elliot's father started out again, the road he chose got increasingly worse than the last one as far as bumping them around was concerned. Nothing was worse than being jolted and bounced around in a small space unless you were also rubbing skin to skin against someone else's naked, sweaty body.
Sometimes the bouncing was so bad that it left the two boys in rather embarrassing positions. Once Jeffy was bounced around enough that his knee landed right in Ray's crotch, eliciting a groan of intense pain.
"O-o-o-oh. Thanks a lot, Daniel. That ought to put an end to any family I might have had."
"Yeah, well, first you'd have to find a girl that would want to touch you, let alone . . ."
"Hey, I do alright. Once I got to . . ."
"Shut up back there!"
Ray risked a whisper, "But she slapped me before I could . . ."
Daniel let a laugh escape and that got them another yell from the front seat.
It seemed like hours before the SUV slowed and came to a stop.
While the boys weren't anything close to comfortable, their bodies had given in to their exhaustion. Despite a cramp on occasion, they were lulled into a relative bliss, trying to recover their strength as they rode out the trip. They eventually found a way for Jeffy to almost spoon Ray so they were a little more comfortable.
The vehicle finally came to a stop and Ray and Jeffy groaned. The soreness in their bones and the bruises that covered most of their young bodies took all of their strength from them.
They heard their abductors leave the SUV and heard lots of talking, even shouting. They heard some grunting from the two men and someone else, much younger sounding would yell and grunt. Then they waited for what seemed like a long time. It was then that Jeffy realized that it was becoming very dark, very quickly. It was getting late and no one except their captors knew where they were.
It seemed like only seconds had passed when I noticed AJ's nurse standing over me, touching me lightly on the shoulder. That was when I noticed that dusk was upon us. It was getting to be night.
"Mr. McGill, you need to go home and get some rest like the doctor said. There's nothing you can do here."
God, how I knew that painful reality!
"He needs your strength. He seems to light up when you're around, you know."
Those were the most hopeful, welcome words I'd heard in ages, it seemed, though I found it hard to believe at the time. Had it really only been a few days since this all started?
"Go home and let us tend to him so you can come back refreshed and continue to support him. He needs you now more than ever. We'll call you when Dr. Strauss knows something, I promise."
As I walked away my mind was as scattered as any time before. I bumped into walls until I turned and waited at the elevators until they'd opened several times. I never really knew when I got in the truck and drove all the way to the house; never even realized I'd somehow made it home.
When I opened the front door I heard nothing. I didn't hear my little guy laugh. I didn't hear my Jeffy make some wisecrack or whine out as was his way with his humor. I didn't hear my Elliot quietly turn the pages of the book he was finishing and readjust himself in the chair by the window.
I saw no lights on. It was almost completely black inside. I practically stumbled into the hallway, then the living room.
The darkness invaded my every being, my thoughts, my hopes. I remembered the last time I felt so alone, so empty having just lost my first family. I was stricken with despair as I walked past the living room and went directly to my room. Although I hadn't eaten for hours, my stomach couldn't deal with the thought of something foreign invading its domain. I simply fell on my bed and cried.
"Um, hi, guys. Hey, Daniel, who's that guy with . . . Oh, him."
Elliot was hanging by his wrists which were stretched up to ropes attached to hooks in the cross beam in what they found out was the main meeting room for the old church camp. He was dressed in only a scarlet cloth which was wrapped around his waist and pulled up between his legs much like a loin cloth would be; it only came to mid-thigh. His feet were on the floor but you could see that he had to work at keeping balanced or he would fall, pulling heavily on his arms.
When the two boys were dragged into the room and thrown into a heap at Elliot's feet they were even more aware that they were only in their underwear and it was dirty and sweaty. Their hands and feet were bound and a strap was pulled between each boy's bindings. And though the knots were pretty slipshod they left the boys almost completely immobile.
"Yeah, I'm your worst nightmare, Elliot. I . . ."
"While you do look like a bad dream, Carlton, you look just as vulnerable as I do; maybe even more. I wouldn't get too pompous in your Batman undies until you find out which one of us may survive."
"I, uh, . . . Wait! Survive?"
"El," Jeffy asked, "You okay? Have they hurt you much?"
"Hmm, well, to tell you the truth, hanging around here hasn't been the greatest, but I just got here when you did. They just took the time to get me up here before you guys came in. Hey, how did you guys get involved anyway?"
Ray was the first to answer, "Wasn't my idea. Daniel needed directions so . . ."
"Look, El, this can't be good. With all of us here as witnesses, we stand little chance of makin' it out of here in one piece. We need to figure out how to escape and escape fast or none of us will survive this."
"Survive?" asked Ray. "You keep using that word. I don't think I like the sound, especially what happens if we don't."
"Okay, big mouth, mister sure-of-himself, why don't you just close your trap for a while so Daniel and I can think? We don't want you to hurt yourself by doing something you aren't used to."
"Um, okay, thank . . . Hey!"
Jeffy had to laugh. He couldn't believe how well Elliot was handling the whole scenario, considering he was the main target. He seemed pretty cool considering the least that he knew would happen to him was an exorcism.
"Weird as they are, they're still my parents," Elliot explained, when Jeffy asked him. "I've got them figured out a bit, though I think they went a little overboard this time."
"Ya think?" added Ray.
"Any ideas how we can get loose and outta here? And do you have any idea what they want to do to you?"
"Well, the last time they were trying to do an exorcism on me to get rid of the Devil in me. This time . . ."
"Wait! You've got the Devil in you?" asked Ray.
"Ray, of course he doesn't. But his parents belong to a church that teaches them to think that anyone that's different than them is possessed."
"O-o-oh. I still don't get it. Just cuz he's a skinny nerd and a little fem? How does that put a devil in ya?"
"I'm gonna slap you, Ray. Now listen," barked Jeffy. Then he turned back to his brother.
"Elliot, I'm worried that since they took us and in broad daylight almost, that they may be a bit more overboard than they were. And where's the pastor guy that's gonna do the exorcism?"
"Yeah, I was thinking that too. Look can you two get together and untie each other before they come in here. I think they're still talking to the man that kidnapped me. We don't have much time."
"E-e-w-w, lips again?" asked Ray.
"We have the search warrant and we're going in, Deputy. Do you want to be present?"
"Yes! I'll be right there," answered Dan into the phone. "I'm at the station so it shouldn't take me more than fifteen minutes or so. Look, start in. We can't waste any time. Look for anything that might tell us where they took the boys. I assume it's at least two by now. Hopefully, they're still alive and together."
Dan went running out of the station forgetting completely to call me with any new information.
While three officers cleared the house, looking for anyone left behind, another officer looked over the two bicycles to see if they had any serial numbers or identification engraved on them. The older bike had a driver license number from their state engraved on the bottom of the main frame. He wrote it down and called it in to dispatch.
"Raymond Carlton, officer. Hmm, doesn't live too far from there."
"I was going to have you call him, but since he's so close, I think I'd better go over there. The other bike has no markings I can see. It looks rather new. Maybe the owner hasn't had time to do it yet."
"The notes on the case indicate that Dan Perkins of the county says the bike of the Connors boy is only a week or two old. That might explain it. Blue mountain bike?"
"Yup. That's the one. I'm on my way to the other boy's house."
Dan drove up to the address he had been given barely ten minutes after he'd received the call.
"Sheriff's deputy entering," he called out. The door was open but no one was standing there.
"Dan? Wayne here." Wayne was the officer that was with Dan and me when Jeffy came and shot Dan in front of my house. He and Dan were pretty tight, especially after that incident. "Come on aboard. We haven't found much of anything yet. Glass from a broken window in the basement. I think you know about the bikes already. Oh, the one thing that did cause us concern was a fry pan on the kitchen counter."
"Fry pan on the counter? You hungry or what, my man," joshed Dan as he and his friend shook hands in the doorway to the kitchen.
"Yeah, as usual, but look at this."
Wayne turned the pan over and there was clearly a blood mark on the bottom. Dan looked closer and saw several hairs stuck to the sticky red blotch.
"Ouch. I bet that hurt. You supposing they hit one of the kids with that?"
"I'm in no place to guess anything yet. So far we haven't found anything except the bikes that may have put Daniel Jeffrey in the house or outside. We haven't confirmed the bike is his yet."
"Hmmm, let me go look at the bikes."
Dan and Wayne walked back to the backyard and over to where one bike was still leaning against the garage. The other, older bike, was turned upside down and propped up so the other officer could read the driver's license number.
"Well, it sure looks like one of the bikes Tim got the boys on AJ's birthday. In fact, it's exactly the same as Elliot's. Was the other bike, Elliot's, picked up?"
"Yeah, I'll have to find out which patrol cruiser it's in. Look around. I'll go ask the guys."
Dan walked around to the middle of the back of the house and looked down to see the open basement window. On closer inspection he saw that the broken glass cut one of them. It didn't look too bad though.
"Dan, Charley Shiffren has it in his car. He went over to speak to the owner of the bike that's back here. That is, the person whose driver's license is marked on the bike that's here. A Raymond Carlton. The guys say the guy lives down the street and around the block somewhere. He shouldn't be long."
"What do you think you're doing out so late, young man," came a loud voice from well within the house where Officer Shiffren had just knocked. "You have a key. Let yourself in."
"Mr. Raymond, this is the police. Please come to the door."
Shiffren heard the agitated voice getting closer.
"Great! Now what have you done, Ray? What am I going to do with you?"
The door flew open and Raymond Carlton, fairly ignoring the officer in the doorway looked left and right, even looked around behind the officer.
"Well, where is he? I thought you brought him home. Isn't he with you," he asked, finally acknowledging that the officer was standing there.
"Sir, that's what we want to know. Where is your son?"
"Great! Now what's he done? At least it hasn't involved you before. This must have been a doozie of a prank. Sorry, officer."
"Mr. Carlton, we think your son may be in trouble, even kidnapped. We found what I believe is his bike with your license number on it at the residence of a boy he may know, even go to school with."
"Um, wait. You think my son was kidnapped? My God, who would do that?"
In the background, they heard, "Honey, you coming up? Do I hear someone else down there?"
"Let's don't tell the wife, please. She's likely to panic."
"Sir, if you have no information as to his whereabouts, I may have to ask her too."
"Look, what if I just ask if she knows who Ray is staying with the night? If she knows, great, otherwise she'll have no more information than I will."
"Um, coming, dear."
"Well, I suppose," Officer Shiffren said to the man's back as he moved to go up the stairs. "Um, also ask if she's seen him today."
As Officer Shiffren waited for Raymond Carlton to return, he noticed that it was getting very dark. He pulled out his pad and began to update his notes on the case.
"Brenda, they have me on that new automatic hold thing like at the doctors. Haven't even talked to a live soul yet. I told you this was a bad idea. Say, why aren't you doing this and I'm getting our drinks?"
"Ernst Thompson, you just stay on that phone. This could be a help to the poor family. I'm getting the drinks because you'd spill them before they got to me and I like my Manhattan's better than yours."
'Well, she does have a point there,' he thought as the phone clicked again.
"Welcome to the county non-emergency line.'
"Yes, I'd like to report . . ."
"Your call will be answered in the order it was taken. If this concerns an emergency in progress please hang up and dial 911, otherwise, stay on the line. Thank you for your patience."
"I know! I know, but when are you going to answer me for real?"
"Did you say something in there, honey?"
"Oh, I'm just blubbering into the phone waiting," the elderly man said over his shoulder and into the kitchen.
"Non-emergency. How can I help you?"
"Are you real? Oh, well, our plan was to help you. See we got this new-fangled thing on our cellular telephone and it's called Amber Alert. Tells us when . . ."
"Um, sorry to interrupt, sir, but I have heard of it, being in the industry I'm in."
"Oh, well, of course you have then."
"So, have you seen something that you wish to report?"
"Well there you go. I don't know if it's the right car but one such as was sent to us drove past us when we left Aaron's house, that's our boy, out on Sunnyvale Road. You know the place?"
"Um, actually, I don't, sir. I don't think we have a Sunnyvale road, at least on this side of the county."
"Oh, you don't . . . Ha! Well, of course you don't, that's because my Aaron lives in the next county over, see."
"Then you'll have to help me pinpoint it so I can transfer you to the correct agency."
"Oh, well, you know. Where they put up that there new Walmart a year ago now. Damndest place it's so big. Sunnyvale takes off from Highway 40 just beyond that store half an hour or so."
"Oh, yes, I know, sir. Let me transfer you to that center."
"They're transferring me now, Brenda. Seems I called the wrong county or something."
"Oh, for sure, Ernst. Aaron doesn't live in our county, does he?" answered his wife while handing him his vodka tonic.
"Non-emergency, how may I help you?" came a new voice.
"Well I . . ."
"One moment, sir. Betsy, Doris here. This gentleman wants to report something concerning an Amber Alert. Can you help him?
"Sure, thing, Doris. Sir, you have information about an Amber Alert you received?"
"Why, yes. See we were over having dinner with my son and his family. Do you know Aaron Thompson? He knows quite a few people over . . ."
"Um, no, sir. Go ahead, please," Betsy said as she typed in the name she was given.
"Oh, well, he lives over there on Sunnyvale Road, past the first dairy farm. Good hour and a half drive from here, you know. Anyway, our cellular telephone rang and there was this Amber Alert message about being on the lookout for a white Audi. Now, my son knows all about cars and I asked him what it looked like. Something about these four circles on the hood."
"Yes, sir. We did send out such an alert. Do you have information on the vehicle?"
"The vehic . . . Oh, the Audi. That's just it. When we left there about . . . Brenda, that's my wife, Brenda, I'm talking to now, what time did we leave Aaron's?"
"Oh, I'd say about 7 o'clock. The grandkids were just going to bed."
"Oh, yeah. Um, we left about seven thirty, ma'am."
"But your wife just said . . ."
"Yes, but we talked in the yard and said our good-byes, you know."
"Okay, what happened next, sir?"
"Oh, well, we were just pulling out of the driveway there onto Sunnyvale Road, just past the dairy, you know. Of course, I was driving."
"This black fancy . . . What do you call it, Brenda? That's my wife, Brenda."
"An SUV, Ernst. I have said it three times now! And it was a midnight blue, not black. Have we not discussed this enough?"
"Ye-es, de-e-ar. Anyway, it was an SUV. It went right past us. I slammed on the brakes or I'da hit them for sure. And if that wasn't enough, a white Audi was close behind it. Damned if it didn't have those four shiny circles on it but they were on the grill piece not the hood."
"Which direction were they going, sir?"
"Oh, you know, they could have been going to the other dairy farm out a bit, or the old mill property just past it; all but gone now. Oh, much farther out is the land the county just bought for a new park. Bought it from some church in the city I read somewhere. They haven't touched it in years though. Yes, I've . . . Hello? Hell-o-o? Brenda, I do believe I was just hung up on. Can you beat that?"
"Out in your territory, Dan. Sunnyvale Road. Sounds like they could be headed for the dairy, the old mill or, my guess is the old campground for the church in question."
"You're kidding. They have a campground? Betsy, start calling the guys, police too if they're available. We'll meet at the gas station at the junction of Highway 40 and Sunnyvale Road as soon as they can get there. Then call me with a number of cars to expect."
"On it, Dan. Save those boys, please."
"We'll do our best. Thanks for caring."
An hour later.
"Uh, hello?" said the sleepy man, having just barely shut his eyes after a long day.
"Aaron boy? It's your dad. I just thought I should tell you that we saw that Audi car right outside your house on Sunnyvale, so Brenda, I mean your mother, made me call it in. We may well have done some good, son."
"Huh? You woke me up to tell me that you . . ."
As he complained to his dad his room was suddenly lit up with red and blue lights blinking, their reflections shining brightly into the bedroom as the law enforcement vehicles raced by the house. It seemed to last a very long time though it was only for several seconds.
"Honey, who are you talking . . . Oh my! Look at all those lights. What do you suppose . . .?"
"It's Dad, June. I think he may well have started World War Three."
Within two miles of the campground all the cars stopped and turned off their emergency lights.
Dan instructed two deputies to drive one car, lights off, to within a few hundred yards of the entrance, then walk the rest of the way.
"Ditch the car in case they come driving out," Dan told them.
When the men approached the campground they both turned off their radios in case of a transmission. With the cool of the late night air, even the click, indicating a transmission, would have carried for a long way. They made the rest of the way without their flashlights as well. The land was fairly flat but they took their time, being as cautious as they could be.
The only lights they saw were in a big lodge-like building near the middle of the campground. Outside was a dark blue SUV and a White Audi. They heard talking, but couldn't understand what was being said. Since time was of the essence, they hurried back to their cruiser to call Dan.
End of Chapter Forty-four