Flash Fiction by April Thomas
Agony tore at her heart as her eyes searched the playground wildly. She diligently searched for the clothing her four-year-old daughter wore, especially the red balloon tied on her small wrist. "Please, please, please," she murmured to herself. Her heart was pleading for God to help her find her little girl. The sun was getting ready to set, and she knew she was running out of time. She screamed out her name again. "Chloe!" She sobbed deep in her heart; she knew she would not hear her daughter calling back. She immediately searched out a stranger passing by.
"Sir, excuse me. Have you seen a little girl, she has two long braids tied with pink ribbons. She's wearing a pink and white dress, and she has a red balloon tied to her wrist...sir, please!"
Her eyes are bewildered by the stranger's rudeness, but hope returns as she sees a lady with a child passing by her. "Ma'am!" She calls out waving at the young mother and child, but a man calls out to her. She turns to see a man with long dark hair tied back in a ponytail. He wore casual clothes, and she could tell that he was Native American, like her. She ran to him as he began to speak to her.
"Are you missing a little girl?" He inquired as he looked her over. She was disheveled and seemed confused.
"Yes," she answered, stopping before him. "She has t-two long braids, and-"
"Where did you last see her?" He questioned quickly.
"I was sitting right there on the bench, watching her play on the playground. I must have dozed off or something because when I woke up, she was gone." She answered.
"Are you in any pain?" He asked as he observed a bruise above her left eye.
"No, I'm not in any pain. I just need to find my little girl." She answered, not concerned about herself.
"I will do my best to help you," he returned.
"How can you help me?"
"My name is Nathaniel Eaglefeather; I'm a detective."
"Yes, please, thank you. My name is Alice, by the way."
"Alice, what a sweet name." Nathaniel offered her a handshake. Alice took his hand and shook it, feeling that finally, her prayers answered. "Okay Alice let's trace your steps, how did you come to the park, did you two walk or did you drive here?"
"We walked, I live a few blocks from here. My husband and I had a horrible argument, and I needed to cool off, so I took Chloe for a walk. I wasn't feeling so good, but I didn't want to go back home, so I decided to let her play at the park while I rested for a bit on that bench."
"Did you notice anything strange on the way to the park, anyone you may not have normally recognized in the neighborhood, possibly driving around?" Nathaniel asked.
Alice thought for a while as images from the day strolled through her mind. Her memory felt fragmented, but she did remember a man driving a dark blue van with no back windows. "There was a man, but he didn't stop or look in our direction," Alice answered.
"Yes, no back windows." Alice finished, her blood now running cold.
"Please stay right here, I am going to make a quick call," Nathaniel said, stepping away.
Alice nodded as she turned her back to gaze at the children playing on the playground. "How could this of happened," she whispered to herself.
"Ma'am, can you take a ride with me?" Nathaniel asked.
"Do you know where my daughter is?"
"I might if you would just come with me, we don't have much time," Nathaniel insisted.
"Yes, should I call my husband?" Alice questioned. "I tried to call my husband, but he keeps hanging up on me. I think he's still angry."
"No worries, let's just get going before it gets too dark."
"Wait, Sir, I am sorry. Can I see a badge, proof that you are, who you say you are?" Alice requested.
"You are very wise to ask for ID," Nathaniel replied while pulling out his badge.
"Thank you," she nervously smiled. She took a good look at the badge and nodded in approval. "Let's go."
"So tell me, Alice, if you don't mind. What did you and your husband argue about?"
"Oh, men...he thinks I'm stupid that I don't know about all the women he screws behind my back. I'm just sick of it. I gave so much of myself for him, and he doesn't value me, and I'm done."
"What made you think that he was cheating?"
"He suddenly started working late and having extra business trips that would last longer than just a weekend. Then I saw the text messages while he was in the shower, and I overheard him talking with a woman on the phone. I would do anything for him to talk to me like that again. He would give them money and pay their bills. He doesn't know that I know all of this. That's why he disregards me, calling me crazy." She took a deep breath, realizing that it took a weight off of her to say. "But I could care less if staying with him meant having my daughter in my arms again, I would do it in a heartbeat."
"My heart goes out to you," he returned. "I can tell that women, like you, are not appreciated in today's world. He will regret losing you, I am certain of it."
Alice sobbed once more at Nathaniel's words. "I wish that were true."
"I am going to reunite you with your little girl-" his cell phone rang, and he had to answer it. He quickly shoved his blue tooth earpiece in his ear and answered the call. "Detective Eaglefeather. Yes," he replied. "Damn, okay, send me the new address now," he ordered.
Alice had anxiously listened to the one side conversation. "What's wrong?"
"We may have found your daughter or a little girl who fits her description, but it's a three-hour drive to get there. Your husband has already been contacted, and he will meet you up there."
"Why won't he answer any of my calls?"
"Let's just focus on reuniting you with your daughter; everything can be figured out after," Nathaniel advised.
"I just don't understand what's happening." Alice murmured.
Nathaniel could find no words to comfort her and felt it was best to leave her alone with her thoughts. There would be a lot she would have to deal with soon enough. To Alice, three hours seemed to flow by timelessly, but to the detective, he felt every agonizing minute of the drive.
They drove to a remote part of town and parked near a worn-down old home a few police cars were there and a dark blue van. Some officers looked over in the detective's direction, but he had given them strict orders before his arrival. Nathaniel took a deep breath as he turned off the car's engine. "Is there anything else that you remember before you passed out?" He questioned.
Again blurred images flooded her mind; she did her best to get a clear vision of what took place, leading up to her daughter going missing. "I can't seem to remember anything clearly. Why are we here?"
Nathaniel stepped out of the vehicle and walked around to the passenger side. He opened the door and offered her his hand. She took it and stepped out onto the pavement. "I haven't been candid with you," he began. "My name is Nathaniel Eaglefeather, and I am a detective, but I work mainly in special cases." He said as he leads her towards the house.
"I-I don't understand, was my daughter sexually assaulted?" Alice didn't wait for a response began to shout out her daughter's name as she ran towards the house.
"Mommy!" Chloe shouted back as Nathaniel struggled to keep up with the mother. His heart seems to explode with a pang of great sadness and joy as a beautiful little girl in a pink and white dress with two long ponytails ran towards her mother. Both mother and daughter collapsed, embracing each other as tears flooded both of their faces.
"Oh, baby, where have you been? I've been searching for you everywhere."
"Alice, there is something that you need to know. Nathaniel struggled to come out with the words. However, it did not matter. Alice's eyes locked on a gurney carrying the body of a small child. She bolted towards the stretcher with Nathaniel close behind her. She reached ahead of him and yanked the white sheet back, revealing the bruised and discolored face of her little girl.
"Whoa," shouted the coroners.
"Yes, it sure is windy today," Nathaniel blurted out as he did his best to catch his breath.
Alice looked back down at her daughter, who was standing beside her. She could not breathe; she had no clue what to think; she felt like the walls were closing around her all at once.
"Alice, please... stay with me," Nathaniel pleaded. He daughter her as she fell. Placing himself on the floor and allowing her head to rest on his lap.
"Mommy, mommy, come back!" The little girl demanded.
"We have to give mommy a minute, sweetie," Nathaniel said to the little girl.
Alice's eyes fluttered open, and she grabbed her little girl and squeezed her, and tears streamed down her face. "Who did this to us?" She questioned the detective.
"Your body was found at the park. You were injected with a substance that caused you to pass out, but it killed you with your medical condition. Your little girl was taken by that man in the dark blue van. He lied about the location of where he buried your little girl. So, I was called in. I work with unusual cases involving the supernatural. I knew that I would find your spirit in the park. I needed to help you, hoping that we could have saved her in time. I'm sorry we failed." Nathaniel spoke compassionately.
"You told me that you would reunite me with my daughter, and you did, you didn't fail us," Alice said as she cried. "Who did this to us?"
"The man was hired by your husband's mistress. Your husband has nothing to do with this; he is on suicide watch as we speak."
"What do we do now?" Alice asked, looking down at her little girl.
"You and this sweet angel are going to stand up," he began getting to his feet as he helped her to hers. "Turn around, and you see that bright, beautiful light?"
Alice nodded, unable to speak.
"Leave all that pain and suffering here and take your daughter's precious hand and walk into that light. I will make sure justice is served for you and your daughter."
Alice looked back one last time and mouthed. Thank you, to Nathaniel, and then she and her daughter disappeared into the numinous light.
An officer tapped Nathaniel on the shoulder. "How did you know this was the right little girl?"
"I dreamt of a red balloon," Nathaniel answered.
Copyright © April Thomas 2020