Scene 2: The Alert

There really isn’t much out there that could have prepared Heather for this time. Her head was clear, worried, but clear. Until they declared Emily’s disappearance as an Amber Alert.

The police arrived, canvased the immediate area, and checked the school’s security footage. Heather was privileged to watch the fuzzy, poorly coloured video next to the principal (who had been in her office the entire time) and a leather-jacket-wearing detective. Barnes, who had been called in as a precautionary measure (just in case things went bad) stood with his hand on Heather’s shoulder as they watched the tape.

Their view was from behind Emily and of the street before her. There she sat, patiently waiting on the steps. There went Mr. Peters on his way home, stopping for what seemed like only a few seconds. A few minutes passed and then a black car drove by. Heather’s heart stopped. The car kept driving, though. A minute later, the same car stopped in front of the steps. No one exited the vehicle at first, but a man came up from behind Emily and seized her.

He dragged her, as she struggled, to the car where another man had opened the back door from the inside. Both men worked together to put the flailing Emily into the backseat. The footage was without audio, but everyone in the room knew Emily would have been screaming. Heather was almost grateful she couldn’t hear it. But her heart raced and her blood boiled as she watched her helpless daughter get taken.

Heather began to weep with uncontrolled sorrow. Barnes embraced her and gestured for the school’s principal to take his place.

“I need street camera footage now,” Barnes said as he left the room. “And track Emily’s phone. Hopefully, she’s still got it with her.”

“Detective Barnes,” female police officer began, “it’ll take three hours to get that footage and two to track her phone.”

Heather had forced herself to calm down and did some math. By the time they tracked her phone, Emily would be in the holds of those men for three hours.

“That’s too long!” she said as she marched out into the school hallway.

“Yeah,” Barnes said. “Let me make a phone call.” He looked at his screen for a few seconds and then tapped a number on his speed dial and held the phone to his face.

“Ward. It’s Barnes. I need a favour. Is Beck up?”

Heather couldn’t hear the man on the other end of the phone and detective Barnes had walked away from the group. As he spoke on the phone he left the school and stood where Emily was taken.

“Ma’am,” the officer began. “We’ve issued a city-wide Amber Alert for your daughter. You’ve answered all of our questions so I suggest you go someplace for rest. I can drive you to your home or a relative’s house.” She was very friendly in her tone but as Heather thought of going home or anywhere with anyone and not knowing where Emily was, she only got frustrated.

“I’m okay, thanks,” she said as she turned and walked toward the school door. As she exited, Barnes was just ending his phone call.

“I should have the footage in thirty minutes. It’s still going to be two hours before we get your daughter’s phone’s location. And even then it’ll only tell us where she is within a dozen blocks. But it won’t be nothing. Did officer Flynn offer you a ride home?”

“Yeah, I’m better here, though,” Heather said. “I can’t…”

“Hey, I get it. I won’t push you away.” Barnes wanted to tell her she needed to stay out of his way and that she wouldn’t be able to follow them on any pursuits or leads. It wasn’t the right time for that, however.

There was a lull. Everyone had been called and everyone who could look into something was looking into it. That left Heather gazing at the spot where her daughter had sat, waiting for a mother that was too late. “We’ve issued a city-wide Amber Alert for your daughter.” She heard the words echo in her head. She knew that it would be country-wide within twenty-four hours of her daughter not being. Her daughter not being found. The thought killed her. Her breaths became strained and she felt like someone was pinching her throat. Her knees began to shake and she felt dizzy. She sat down, bracing herself against the railing that accompanied the steps. It felt like she was breathing through a straw. She couldn’t focus on her thoughts or anything that was happening. Her heart pounded like a heavy stone as she couldn’t get enough air into her lungs. It took every bit of her strength to focus on breathing.

And then, like a bucket of cold water to burning embers, the panic sizzled away. Heather was left with a face full of sweat as she heard detective Barnes’ phone ring. As if out of utter need, she was able to focus. But she still didn’t breathe.

“Barnes,” he said as he put the device to his ear. He snapped his fingers at an officer. “Forty-five Westbrook Crescent? Got it. Thanks, Beck.”

Heather overheard the address. And short breaths were able to find their way into her lungs.

“I’m coming with you,” she said shakily to the detective.

“You’re going home, Ma’am. I’m sorry. I’ll come over for coffee in an hour to let you know what turns up. Deal?”

Heather knew it. There wasn’t going to be any further accommodation for her joining in on the case. She knew she had to agree.

She nodded.

“I’ve got to go, do you need a lift?” Barnes asked. “I can arrange a cruiser—”

“No, I’m fine. Just go. Get my daughter.”

Heather mustered the strength to drive herself home. But it only took two minutes before she decided to stop feeling sorry for herself and feeling helpless. She couldn’t bear to go upstairs and pass Emily’s empty room. She grabbed the baseball bat tucked away in her entry closet and marched out her door.

“Forty-five Westbrook Crescent,” she said to herself.