Mystery and Crime Fiction posted December 13, 2020 Chapters:  ...13 14 -15- 16... 

This work has reached the exceptional level
The vigilante relives her horrific past.

A chapter in the book Where Are All The Children

Painful Memories

by Mistydawn

The mid-afternoon sun glares through the second-story window, adding additional heat to the sweltering room. The dated air conditioner noisily hums in the corner, trying to keep up. The sergeant and her crew are busy at their desks. The two FBI agents have a work area set up on the far side of the room. It wasn't far enough away for Toni's liking. She's worked hard to get where she is and doesn't appreciate them coming in and taking over her case.

"I knew those clues wouldn't get us anywhere," Toni says, aggravated at herself for wasting so much time on worthless leads.

"You didn't find anything; I take it?"

"I found plenty. A sober look crosses the sergeant's face. She eyes the extensive list on her screen, shakes her head, glances at Jamal, and says, "Too much, actually. The vigilant was one of a hundred and seventy-five thousand children in her age range abducted in 1989; assuming her disappearance was reported, of course."

"Coming from a village, I'd say her parents probably gave her up to help them out, pay off a debt. Agent Reynolds rolls her eyes and adds. "They might've thought they were giving her a chance at a better life. That's what the other victim's families claim anyway."

"It's sad to think that a mother would sell her kid."

The agent shakes her head. "Yet it happens every second of every day."

A solemn stillness falls over the room as the officer becomes lost in their heart-wrenching thoughts. They give the job their all, but oftentimes it's doesn't seem to be enough.

Kevin glances up from his desk."I just found a connection between the last set of perps." The team gathers around. The detective continues, "They all seem to have used this website." He clicks through the page.

Agent Reynolds pulls out her phone. "I'll send the link to my guy, see what he can do." Seeing the looks she's getting, she quickly adds. He specializes in cybercrimes."

"Our team does too."

The agent gives the officer an inquisitive look and asks, "Do you have a problem with that, detective?"

 Toni straightens up and says, " It's Sergeant. I don't have a problem; just making a statement is all. Letting you know we're not as incompetent as you think."

A shocked look crosses the agent's face. "I never said you were."

"Your actions do." She turns towards Kevin."You keep working on the site. Jamal and I will recanvass the neighborhoods see if anyone saw anything."


Zoe watches their next target walking towards his car from the safety of the van. Her teammates are positioned in the alley around back, waiting for her call. "You're going to get a hell of a surprise when you get home." She chuckles, watching him pull out of the drive. She scoops up her phone and texts All clear.

Taking a quick look around, the Vigilante and her crew slip through the gate. Thanks to their friend at the cable company, his security system is down, but there's not much you can do about the neighbors. We'll be safe once we get inside, she thinks, eyeing the privacy fence.

A dog barks in the adjacent yard. A man asks, "What's wrong, boy?" Footsteps shuffle towards them.

"Go, go," the team leader whispers, pushing the ladies on. Unlocking the sliding glass door, they slip inside.

"That was close," Sofia says.

"Too close." Mariana agrees.

The leader glances towards the yard. "The important thing is we weren't seen." She glances towards the front and adds, "We need to get this set up before he gets back."

The group knows from their surveillance that they have a little over an hour. It usually takes a fraction of that time, but the vigilante wants this one to be bigger than the others; Have more flair, pizzazz.

She plans to leave a few clues for the sergeant. Nothing too revealing, but enough to string them along. Let her know she's running the show."

They're getting everything in place when they hear a young child's muffled cries for help.

"Stop what you're doing." The leader scans the room.

"I heard it too," Sofia says.

"Shh."Their boss continues to look around. The child cries again. "Why don't we split up, see if we can find her that away." The group darts off in different directions.

The child yells again. Sofia puts her ear against the panel. "It's coming from behind this wall."

Dashing to her side, Mariana inspects the barrier. "How do we get back there?"

Sofia pushes a tapestry aside. "From over here." Using her phone as a flashlight, she steps inside. "Oh, my god." She jumps back, running into the others.

Seeing the horror in the young woman's eyes, Mariana asks. "What's wrong?"

"There are girls everywhere."

Sidestepping around her, the group looks around.

The leader's face turns ghostly-white. Her knees buckle, her body shakes. Horrid memories race through her mind. She first recalls being taken to a dungeon where she spent the better part of a month chained to its cold, concrete walls, freed only to be beaten, raped, or fed. She then remembers the numerous times she was taken back to the horrid place as a reminder of who's in charge; how the frequent trips broke her spirit. Images of the girls she tried to save suddenly come to mind. She could hear the victim's heart-wrenching cries for help as the fire engulfed the two-story home. She frantically raced around the dilapidated structure but couldn't find a way in.

Mariana dashes to her side. She throws her arm around their leader and pulls her in close. "We're here for you, boss."

Sniffling, she glances at her. She then sees Sofia and Abril by her side. She wipes a tear from her cheek, squeezes their hands, and replies, "I know."

"Please, help us." A little voice calls out.

Running over, Sofia checks her restraints. "We'll have to saw them off."

"I have a better idea." The leader pulls a hairpin from her do, bends it, as she explains, "I learned this as a child." She smiles and adds. "It's how I escaped." She maneuvers the pick around; the restraint releases.

The filthy child wraps her bony arms around the leader's leg. "Thank you, thank you so much."

She gently pats the girl's back. The child is so thin, so frail she's afraid she might hurt her. "You're welcome, hon. Now, go with her so I can help the rest."

She glances at the door and then at her. "Please hurry; he'll be coming home soon."

"I will, honey."

Mariana takes the child's hand and guides her out of the room.

Freeing the last one chained to the wall, the leader asks, "Are there any more?"

Abril glances up from a corpse. She wipes a tear away and says, "She's been gone a while." 

"Mariana, I want you and the others to take the kids back to our house. Get them cleaned up and something to eat."

"What are you going to do, boss?"

She scans the room, smiles, and says, "I'm going to give the perp a taste of his own medicine."

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