She ran. Screaming. The other parents looked at her as if she were crazy. She was. Kyle was gone.

Her head was throbbing. Her heart was convulsing in terror, hammering so loudly in her ears,

it was impossible for her to hear as other parents rushed to her, quick to realize her child had disappeared in front of their very eyes.

A man grabbed her arm, pulling her towards the bench as several women gathered around her. She pulled her arm free, feeling trapped and helpless. She couldn’t see, but she knew the other parents were searching for Kyle.

It had begun to rain softly, and she ignored the light trickling of water as it ran down her neck, soaking her slate blue cotton sweater.

Panic overrode her senses. Disbelief. Self-blame curled through her. She should never have taken her eyes off her little boy.

While most were scouring the small playground and surrounding area, the police had arrived, and a thirty-something woman approached her. “Ms. Anderson? I am Detective Lou Evans.” She held her hand out to Rachel. Rachel shook it numbly before dropping her own back into her lap. The Detective’s wide green eyes studied her own, concern and pity reflecting within their depths.

She makes out a few words the policewoman in front of her is saying. Rachel numbly watches the woman’s lips as they moved; the voice echoed as if coming from somewhere far away.

Something about Kyle; running away; did she know where his father was, and she looks down at her hands twisting his worn red woolen sweater in her lap. The roaring in her head grew louder, drowning out the droning voices around her. Where was Kyle? Oh, please, God.

CHAPTER 2

Detective Nick Stevens stood next to the worn, cluttered black metal desk and contemplated the striking redheaded woman sitting fridgly in the spare office chair.

Thick black lashes framed the wide green eyes that were filled with fear and pain. Purple faintly smudged the delicate ivory skin beneath them. Her face was contorted in guilt, strained in exhaustion. It had been five hours since Kyle Anderson had been abducted.

‘I’m Detective Nick Stevens. I’m so sorry to hear about your son.’

She looked up at him, clutching the red sweater tightly in her hands. ‘Kyle,’ she said, fresh tears spilling down her cheeks. ‘His name is Kyle.’

He couldn’t find anything yet that pointed to Rachel’s involvement in her son’s abduction. Yet. Nick picked up the enlarged photograph of the smiling five-year-old boy. An angelic face grinned up at him, deep dimples and laughing hazel eyes crowned by shoulder-length coffee-colored hair.

Until now, he had been sure Rachel Anderson had been faking her emotional breakdown; he had seen it well played before and refused to give the woman the benefit of the doubt, despite his partner’s gut feeling of innocence. Lou was pretty much right on target with her hunches, so much so that he found himself time and again relying on his partner’s instinct.

“Mrs. Anderson…” he began as she cut him off vehemently.

“Don’t call me that! Ms. Anderson or just Rachel.” She spoke bitterly, looking up into his eyes.

He stepped back, visibly surprised at her emotional outburst. It reminded him of a mother bear suddenly awakening to find a human standing at her bedside. Rachel had suddenly ripped herself from her stupor, and she was angry.

Rachel sat back as a wave of crimson rose to her neck and flashed across her expressive face. “I’m sorry. I am no longer a “Mrs.” I detest the name, but...but I can’t change it, for my son’s sake.”

Nick nodded, wondering how much she detested the man who gave it to her. She smiled crookedly, forcing herself to release her grip on Kyle’s sweater and set it on the floor by her feet. Nick could see how much self-control and sheer strength it took the woman to do such a simple act. It was as if it was her only connection to her missing son.

‘I understand you didn’t see the direction your son went after he reached the swings?’

‘It happened so quickly; he was waving at me. He wanted me to watch him swing all by himself… he was so proud…’ she said, the words faltering as her throat tightened. ‘He just wanted me to watch, and then … I only looked at the lady sitting down next to me on the bench for a second.’ She gripped the boy’s red sweater tighter in her hands, and Elden watched the color drain from her face. ‘It happened so fast. He was laughing and smiling…so proud, then he was gone. Just gone.’

She answered the rest of his questions, avoiding his steady gaze. Elden hated pushing her so hard, but it was his job, and he had no choice in the matter. ‘ Did you see anyone hanging around him?’ ‘No. We had just arrived moments before,’ she said.

‘Were there any people talking to him?’

‘No, I don’t think so.’ her voice low and wooden.

‘Okay,’ said Ray. Where on earth were they going to start?

She looked up at him now. ‘Can you find him? Who took Kyle? Will you find my baby?’ Her voice cracked and she broke into a wailing sob, and Lou felt a tightening in her solar plexus as the tightness gripped her throat.

‘We’ll do everything we can,’ she said, knowing that it could never be enough. Rachel nodded and took a deep, juddering breath.’

“Go home and try to rest, Mrs…Rachel. Lou or I will keep you personally updated. Officer Motts is awaiting to give you a ride home.” Nick waved a hand towards a slender young officer across the room as Rachel rose to her feet, pulling Kyle’s sweater with her. The door to his office opened, and he hastily stood up, turning to look at Rachel as she sucked in a deep breath. Lou entered the room with a couple following close behind. The tall, thin greying man leveled accusing grey eyes at Rachel, glittering behind the metal-framed glasses. His mouth turned down in his weathered face before turning his head towards Nick.

Rachel looked trapped as she moved towards the door. The other woman stepped purposely to block the exit, her brown eyes filling with hate. A moment later, it was gone, replaced with a concerned smile as she patted Rachel’s arm. “Poor dear. We will get through this, okay?” she whispered loudly as she moved out of the way….

******

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