“Mom! What’s happening?!” I shrieked. I was close to tears as Mom frantically shoved me into the hall closet, plopping my 2-year-old sister on my lap.
“It doesn’t matter now. Stay here, and don’t let Mia make a sound. Get behind the coats, and don’t come out until I get you. It doesn’t matter what you hear, or what you think is happening. Don’t come out until I get you. Am I clear?”
“Yes,” I whispered.
“Marianne! Hurry!” She looked over her shoulder, where Dad’s voice was coming from. She turned around, gave me one last - rather worried - look, then closed the door. I heard her rush downstairs to meet Dad.
“They’re coming for me. Any second they’ll be here,” Dad said, in a surprisingly calm manner. I pressed my ear to the floor to hear more.
“What do they want? Do you have something that belongs to them?” My mother’s voice, however, was not calm. She sounded like she didn’t know much about what was happening, either.
“There’s no time to explain. I have to do something first.” He quickly bolted up the steps, before Mom could object. I quickly removed my ear from the floor. I’d be dead If he knew I was listening. But he passed the closet and moved towards my room. He shuffled around, then kicked the wall for some reason. Dad stayed there for 2 seconds longer, then took off downstairs, just before there was a ferocious bang on the door.
“Nathan! Where is it?”
“What does he want? Please tell me what’s happening!” Dad didn’t answer her. I was right.
“I was right,” I told myself. “Mom doesn’t know any more than I do.”
“Jagger, you are not welcome here. Leave at once!”
“Ha! What makes you think I would listen to you?” This angry man shouted more things at my father. I hugged Mia close and squeezed my eyes shut. I didn’t open them again until Mom opened the closet door.
“Safe?! Mom, what happened? Where’s Dad?” As she looked away, I saw a tear run down her cheek.
“He’ll be back.”
Six years later
I was 8 years old at the time, now 14. Dad still isn’t back, Mia’s being a pain, and Mom is losing her glimmer.
“Meeeeeeea, knock it off!”
“I’m not doing anything!”
I rolled my eyes, but kept silent.
“Quit rolling your eyes! You know I hate it!”
She’s so picky! Out of nowhere, she kicked the wall.
“Stop, Mia!! Look!” Just above her head, a small drawer popped out of the wall. My brain immediately clicked. Dad was hiding something the night he disappeared! With a heavy heart, I peered into the drawer.
“What is it? Did you know that was there?”
I looked away from the drawer, turning to face Mia.
“You know you're ruining the moment, right?”
She closed her mouth. Inside the drawer was a small flash drive and a note. I handed the flash drive to Mia, who tossed it around in her hands, while I read the note aloud.
Inside you will find what Jagger is looking for. If I am here, keep it hidden, if I am gone, bring it forward.
“Dad wrote this...” Mia didn’t waste any time.
“Plug the flash drive into your laptop, Mabel.” I didn’t waste any time, either, and whipped around, snatched up my laptop, and gingerly slipped the flash drive in. A screen popped up.
“Oh, we need a password!” I lowered my head in disappointment. I thought back to that night, hoping I would remember a clue. I tried typing in ‘Jagger,’ but that failed, so when nothing else came to me, I laid down on my bed.
“The drawer was in our room,” Mia began with a wave of her hand. “So do you think the password is in here as well?” I paused to think for a moment.
“It sure is possible, I mean, crazier things have happened.”
“I say we search this room top to bottom. It could be anywhere.”
“But we can’t look around pointlessly. We need to look through things dad gave us-or me, really. You were only 2 at the time. He could’ve slipped a note with the password on something only I would find.”
“Where do you want to start?”
“Um, let’s look through notes he wrote me, and-”
“He wrote you notes?”
“Yeah. He hid them in random places, and I came across them while doing everyday things, like going to bed, or getting dressed, or something like that. He might have also put a note in a stuffed animal he gave me 7 or 8 years ago. I still have them in the closet.” I went to our bedroom closet and pulled out a bin containing stuffed animals. Some were ones I got for birthdays or other relatives. I set aside the ones from Dad.
“Ok, Mia. How about you look through the stuffed animals, and I’ll read through the letters.”
“Well, what do I do? Cut them open?”
“What? No! search for stitches that are sloppy, or look hand done. It should be easy. Dad was never good at sewing. That’s Mom’s forte!” About 20 minutes went by, when I called to Mia,
“Look! I think I found something in this letter!”
“Read it out loud.”
“Uhhh, ok… here,” I said, trying to find the spot through all the words. “‘When times are tough, just remember: Rhinoceroses need surveillance.’”
“Could he be any more obvious?”
“Well, Mia. He could have been in a hurry…”
“Yeah, so he would take the time to write a whole letter?” She replied, sarcastically.
“Well, hey,” I said, putting my hands on my hips. “When you turn into Dad, let me know why the password is so weird. Maybe it was just the first thing that popped into his head.”
“Yeah, yeah, just type the password into the thing.”
“I wanna’ put these away, first. I want them to be in good shape in case I never-” I stopped myself. It’s not that I didn’t know Dad probably wasn’t coming back, I just didn’t want to scare Mia. “Uh, in case I never read, or play with them again, they’ll be in good shape.” I frantically started stuffing the letters into a drawer, to distract Mia.
“Nice save,” she said, putting a hand on her forehead, and giving me a tired look. Too late. It was a pretty good save, though. Once everything was picked up, I typed in the password. The screen was flooded with documents labeled, ‘Proof of Jagger.’
“What’s a ‘jagger’?” Mia asked, over my shoulder. I looked up from the screen, but not at her.
“Not what. Who.” Now I looked at her. “Jagger is the name of the man who took Dad away. Dad must have collected evidence against him for crimes he committed all over the state, and Jagger found out somehow…”
“An inside man would be my best bet.”
“I think you’re right, Mia. Jagger and his crew, I’ll call it, wanted to destroy the evidence, but Jagger didn’t know where the flash drive was, and Dad refused to tell him, so they took Dad, and are probably torturing him, to try to make Dad tell them where it is, and I don’t think Dad did tell them, because the evidence is here… and that means Jagger still needs Dad, so he could still very well be alive! Mia, this is wonderful!! We might be able to get Dad back!!! You can see him for the very first time since you were 2!” At this point, I was crying tears of joy.
“Take a breath, Mabel.”
I ignored her. “I mean, if Jagger didn’t already realize that Dad won’t spill, then there’s a very good chance that he’s still alive. But it’s been 6 years… I guess it’s also possible that Jagger just upped his game of torture… But if Jagger did realize, and… then… let’s just say we’re in trouble. I’m gonna’ tell Mom, and she’s gonna’ call the police.”
I ran out of our room and found Mom, sad in the kitchen, all alone.
“...Mom?” I hesitated. I didn’t want to lift her hopes and then crash them to the ground if it was too late. If they did kill my father, it would kill her. When she heard me, she tried to put on a happy face.
“Um… Mia and I found something. Come to our room, and bring your phone.”
“What happened? Are you girls ok?”
I smiled. “We are, and someone else might be, too.”
She caught on pretty quickly.“Girls, know you miss your father, and I miss him too, but you, and I have to accept the fact that he… might not come back.” Her happy face was gone now, and I couldn’t wait to bring it back. Possibly bring it back, I corrected.
“But you didn’t even see what we have to show you! Come with us. You have your phone, right?”
“Yes, I do. What’s the big deal? And what, young lady, does this have to do with Dad?”
She’s getting mad now…… I didn’t answer her, but led her to my room instead, and told the whole story, and showed her the documents. Her mouth dropped. Then she whispered really softly,
“Nathan, all this time…..”
“Well, don’t just stand there, do something!” Mia chimed in.
“But where is he?” I scanned the documents to answer Mom’s question.
“Ooh! I got it! South of Aspen Drive! The property there has a barn. Dad could be in that barn!”
“Alright, nooow, don’t stand there, and call the cops! Let’s bring Dad home!”
“Mia,” Mom began in a tired voice. “Just because we found Jagger, doesn’t mean your father is still alive.” I hugged her.
“We know, but at least we’ll have a chance to catch Jagg-,” Mia interrupted.
“Oh, my gosh, Mom. Just call the cops!!” It was now 3:00, and as time went on, the cops arrived, and I gave them a full report, with Mom adding in a few things here and there, and they rushed to the spot where Jagger was supposedly hiding. We couldn’t go with them of course, so we stayed home.
Mom was pacing back and forth the whole time, and Mia was restless. She kept mumbling things to herself like, ‘What will I say to him?’ or ‘What should I do if he’s not alive?’ I tried to distract myself, and those around me, by turning on the T.V. I flipped through what seemed like a million channels, but found nothing good.
I turned the T.V. off and joined Mom in her pacing. However, I quickly got even more bored and decided to read a book. It had been a total of two hours when we heard a knock on the door. Mom literally leaped across the floor, and landed a foot away from the door, and opened it not one second after. I ran to the door as well, followed by Mia.
“Yes?” She asked an officer.
“Ma’am, your husband is alive, but in the hospital.” He paused as we all blew out sighs of relief. “He will remain there for about 2 weeks, to recover from wounds Jagger and his men gave him.”
“And Jagger? He’s in prison?”
“Yes, Ma’am. Along with all his men. He’ll be there for quite a while.” I saw her face relax.
“May I see my husband?”
“Yes, and I’d be happy to give you a police escort.”
“I’d like that, thank you. Kids, we’re going to the hospital.”
We arrived and headed straight to the room Dad was in, and had a family reunion for the first time in 6 years.
“Nathan!!” Mom called. It was the happiest I’d ever seen her in six years. Dad weakly sat up in the hospital bed. She ran to him, while Mia and I stood at the door to let them have a “moment.” Dad saw us, and extended his arm.
“Mia! Mabel! You’ve grown up so much… I never should have-” He stopped when we both ran to him. Mia and I talked over each other frantically, both of us trying to fill him in on all that had passed while he was gone. What felt like minutes was actually 2 hours, and before we knew it, visiting hours were over.
It has now been another year since then, and we’ve been living happily. I am sitting at the table, eating breakfast, and watching T.V. when I looked up in time to hear the news reporter say,
“Jagger Harris, a man recently put in prison for the abduction of 42-year-old Nathan Westbrook, has escaped from Coldridge Prison last night, around 11:45.” She went on, but I didn’t listen.
“Dad!” I called. “You might want to see this!”