“I will always be there for you. I will never leave you like your mother did. I will always have your back no matter what the circumstances are. You can always count on me.”
These were the only words that Alex could hear in his head since the time he came to police station to report for his six year old sons’ abduction. His son, Paul, suddenly went missing early today and Alex was sure that he has been abducted by his ex-wife. His ex-wife, who left him and her son two years ago for another man, all of a sudden wanted her son back now. Alex who was adamant on not allowing his wife to have any say in his son’s life since she was the one who left him in the first place, was now sure that his wife has abducted their only son because this was the only way she could have her.
“When did your child go missing?”
Alex was brought out of his trance by the voice of a female police officer, Cathie. Cathie was recently transferred to this police station almost two weeks ago and this was probably her first case, so she was very careful with her proceedings.
“Around 11:00 am. He was playing in the front yard and the moment I went inside the house for something and came back he was not there. I am sure my ex-wife is behind all this. Please inquire her immediately!!” demanded Alex in a raspy voice.
“We understand your concern sir. But we cannot file an abduction case unless twenty fours have passed. He might just be missing or be with any of his friend and come home after few hours. We advise you to…” Cathie was interrupted by a shrill scream that was directed her way.
“I order you to start the investigation now and then!!” The beholder of the voice was a curly haired lean woman who just barged inside the office. She happened to be Pauls’ mother. There was an exchange of irksome glances between the ex-couple. It was revealed that the current husband of Paul’s mother has had a few connections in the police department and Cathie was forced to start the investigation before the twenty four hours mark due to a few calls she received from some of the officers.
“All right, we will commence the investigation now. And the first suspect is you.” Cathie pointed towards Alex’s ex-wife who gave a shocked expression.
“Me? Why Me!? He was my child! What mother would abduct her own child? and that too when I had already applied for a shared custody. This is utter nonsense!” Alex’s ex-wife said breathlessly.
Cathie knew that she had a point so she decided to start the investigation based on the actual facts. For this purpose she went to Alex’s house with her investigative team and thoroughly searched the area for any loopholes. Front yard of the house was covered with the signs of ‘do not enter’ on all four of its sides. Police intensively searched the whole house and investigated all the servants but just to be met by disappointment. Every passing second increased Cathie’s concern because she did not want to fail her very first case and moreover she was also worried for the child since she did not know that in what condition the poor child would be right now.
“I am sorry Alex but we were not able to gain much through the house search.” Cathie said with a slight hint of guilt in her tone. “Can you please describe the morning’s event for me again? We might be missing out on something.”
Alex again told her about how Paul was playing in the front yard and he was sitting there watching him playing when suddenly he had to go inside for something and when he came back Paul was not there.
“Was there anybody else with you two at that time?” Cathie asked in case he was forgetting an important detail.
“No. No one else beside me and Paul. And yes, I think that there was our gardener busy watering the plants too, though the image is very vague.” Alex said, his voice laced with the fear of unknown.
“And was your gardener among the servants whom we interviewed?” asked Cathie suspiciously. The answer was negative. How could she miss such an important cue? She must have kept a check list of all the servants before investigating them. The other servants of the house told her upon asking that they had not seen him almost since the time Paul went missing. Most of the additional details that she was able to gather from the house servants about the gardener were useless except that he had lost his son last year and what she found alarming was that he was about the same age as Paul. “Can he take such a bold step as abducting his master’s son to fulfill his desire of an offspring?” Well she had to find this out.
She quickly got inside her car and moved towards the address given by the servants. Although she was sure that if the gardener had really abducted Paul, his own house would be the last place where he would be now since he could easily be exposed but she had to make sure to not to miss any link in the case.
“I do not know what is wrong with this neighborhood? Just a few days ago a boy drowned in the nearby stream and his body has not yet been recovered. And now this abduction!”
Cathie could only catch these words from the chatter of the police officers seated behind her in the police car. She just shuddered at the thought of similar thing happening to Paul.
Soon the location mentioned in the paper that Cathie held in her hand was covered with the sound of police sirens. It was a small peaceful neighborhood so many people came out of their homes to track the reason behind these sirens. Soon Cathie was able to find the gardener’s house. She barged inside the house and demanded him to come out. Unlike her expectations a middle aged man came out from inside the house. The team suddenly started investigating the person and meanwhile Cathie went to thoroughly search he whole house. The small but tidy house had pictures of the gardener’s son on almost all the walls. She opened a door and there she found the thing that would ultimately decide the gardener’s fate.
There inside the room was gardener’s wife. She was lying sick on a bed. Just then an officer came and told Cathie that gardener had to leave early without telling anybody because he received a call from his neighbor that his wife had gone unconscious. Seeing the current state of his wife, Cathie knew that he wasn’t making this all up.
“But..” said the police officer “he is saying that he saw Paul with his mother outside the house just before he was leaving.”
The next thing Cathie knew she was there sitting again with Alex and his ex-wife in the police station.
“Yes, I missed this out because you people were already suspecting me! But I did not do anything to my son. I was just talking to him about how I could play with him again after getting the shared custody. And he seemed very happy about it!” said Paul’s mother reassuringly.
“Wrong! He would never be happy to hear this news since he hates you! Hates you for leaving him alone and for all the tears that he has cried craving for your presence! Now since he has adapted to you being absent from his life he would never want you back. Spit the truth lady!!” Alex was fuming in anger and concern.
“Yes may be he was not that happy but…” Alex’s ex-wife was interrupted by Cathie. “We have enough reasons to acquire a search warrant to investigate your property now.”
Paul’s mother opened her mouth to say something but Cathie had already left the table. She was going through the procedures of acquiring a search warrant when a police officer came running into her office and informed her that police has found a dead body in a stream adjacent to Paul’s house. Alex and his ex-wife went pale after hearing the news and Cathie set off along with them to identify the dead body.
All the way to the stream her car was filled with the painful agonizing cries of the parents. As soon as they reached there, Alex and his ex-wife ran towards the body. It was night time now but the place was as bright as day due to all the lights emitted by the torches. However, despite this light Paul’s parents could only see darkness everywhere since they were readily able to identify that this is Paul due to a chain that was tied around the deceased child’s neck. The face was too mutilated to be identified but they could never mistake the chain that Paul received on his first birthday as a gift from his parents.
“We would take the body now for DNA testing.” said Cathie dejectedly.
Alex held her hand, “Do you really think even after the confirmation that this is our so we would allow you to make his body a subject to experimentations? No! I don’t know what pain my son went through to end up like this and now I don’t want any further harm on him!! screamed Alex.
Cathie looked at his ex-wife who nodded in confirmation. She too did not want to put her son through more pain than she already had when he was alive and moreover he spent his life with his father, he had all the say in this matter after all. Cathie agreed to their wishes and handed over the dead body to the grieved parents after some official formalities.
The ex-couple held a funeral for their only child the very next day. Cathie also went there. She felt herself at loss, that was her first case and she was not able to find the child in time. May be..may be she could have avoided this fate. Her mind was preoccupied with such thoughts. She met Alex after the ceremony who told her that he would soon be leaving for foreign since he could not live in the same house and even the same country where his son once lives, was once supposed to live for a long time.
It had been a month since the case but Cathie could not get it out of her mind. That case always reminded her of her first failure. Today she was wandering again in this neighborhood where she found the dead body of a boy a month ago. After spending some considerable time she made her route back to her house but stopped her car in the parking lot of a coffee shop. It was the same shop she once visited with Alex during her investigation. The shop that was located five or six blocks away from Alex’s house was loaded with customers at this time of the day. She went inside in her police uniform and ordered the same that she did when she visited this place the last time during the investigation of her very first but a failed case.
“Hey, is she not the same police officer who visited with that tall blonde man last time, probably her boyfriend?” said one waiter to the other.
“Yeah. She is the same. It’s not that everyday a female police officer visits our shop in her uniform. But I think she came to know about that man’s child since she came alone” said the other waiter.
“What child? inquired the first one.
“His child. That man was cheating on her. He was married already and had a child. I asked him when he came to our shop with a boy of almost five to six years of age. He answered that he was with his son” said the second waiter while preparing hot chocolate for one of their customers.
“Oh and when was it?”
“Two weeks ago”.
The chatter between the waiters continued while Cathie was occupying a table by the window where she could have a clear view of the outside, drinking her coffee sip by sip, her mind wandering again around Paul and Alex.
Alex was on his flight to foreign. He rested his back on the seat while the flight attendant announced the takeoff. Half of his face was covered with a cap. Just then a pair of small arms hugged his waist
“I love you daddy. But you have to return my necklace. You know how much I loved it.”
A small smirk appeared on Alex’s face while the events of last month flashed in front of him. How a boy around Paul’s age drowned in a stream near his neighborhood and how he found his body and placed it at such a place in a stream adjacent his house where it was likely to be found during police search. Yes he had to take Paul’s necklace because that was the most effective evidence to convince his mother of his death. Now he had Paul all by himself. Alex hugged Paul back,
“I will always be there for you. I will never leave you like your mother did. I will always have your back!”