Where Are All The Children
: Saving LIves by Mistydawn
A heavy flow of traffic zips past the two detectives as they listen to their suspect's conversation from the safety of their unmarked car. The white stone office buildings that surround them do little to block the glare of the bright mid-afternoon sun. Even the tall leafy shade trees do little to suppress the heat.|
Wiping the sweat from his brow, Jamal flips on the air, then dries his face again.
"Thanks, Harry says, adjusting his sweat-drenched clothes. He sees a few passersby stare as they stroll by while the majority of the pedestrians scurry away.
"You're sure it was the cops doc?" Their first suspect asks.
"It was the same one who busted my brother a few years back." The phone shuffles around, the quivering voice continues. "They're closing in, Bill, and I don't know what to do."
"Ok, ok, calm down, let me think a sec." There's a long pause in the conversation, then Brian says, "You said she drove away, right?"
There's a swish on the phone like the drapes are being pulled back. A door squeaks open a few seconds later. There's a faint sound of traffic in the background. The phone shuffles around. "I don't see her."
"Her leaving is a good sign."
"How do you figure?"
"It means you're under suspicion, but they don't have enough for a warrant."
"Why are they watching me? Why? I've been so careful about everything I've done." The door slams too.
"Something must've tipped them off."
"What, Brian, what?"
"Maybe one of your neighbors called it in."
"No, not possible; I have all of them all believing I'm a saint."
"None of that matters now. You need to load up the girls and go while you still can."
"Now, in broad daylight?" He's moved five or six girls at a time, but never the entire bunch.
"You'll take a bigger risk if you wait."
"I suppose you're right. Where do you suggest I go?"
"Take the girls over to the camp. I'll call the others, have them meet you there." The call clicks when it disconnects.
With his mouth agape, Jamal turns towards Harry and says, "I think we need to tell the captain their plan, find out what he wants us to do."
Toni gazes at the historic houses one last time as she pulls away from the curb. They sure don't make them like that anymore, she thinks, admiring the framework, colorful awnings, the handcrafted molding, and fancy Victorian-styled trim.
Toni glances in her rearview mirror to see the doctor darting back inside, his cell phone in hand. I've been made. Making the first right, she scoops up her phone and dials the captain's number. She puts the call on speaker, then continues down the road. These homes are newer replicas of what she just saw. "Captain, Toni here. The doc knows he's been followed. He spotted my car outside his house."
"Hold on. I have Jamal on the other line."
Toni glances around as she waits for her boss to return. You would never guess that child trafficking would happen on this side of town, she thinks, admiring the million dollar plus homes.
Larry returns a few minutes later. "Jamal said that the doc called his partner all panicked, asking what he should do."
"What did Brian say?"
"The partner told him that he needs to pack up and go. Said he and the others would meet them at a camp."
"So, what's the plan, sir?"
"I want you to sit on the house until backup arrives. Jamal and Jarrad are going to follow Brian to the site."
Toni pulls onto a rugged dirt path and takes a quick look around. "Tell them to meet me in the alley behind the house. We'll have less of a chance of being noticed, that away."
Parking her car in an empty lot, she makes her way towards his home. She hears dogs barking a few houses down, but there isn't a soul in sight. She first notices two trampled areas in the overgrowth they call a yard. Both worn walkways lead from the house to the two small storage sheds in the middle of the lot. He's not keeping the girls in there, is he? She then recalls how the traffickers work. It could be part of his conditioning process, I suppose. She makes her way to the first building, a tall, tan, lean-to of a shed, and discovers it's locked. The second, sturdier unit is the same. Maybe I should call the captain and see if we can get the warrant to include them too.
A god-awful stench wafts through the cool breeze. The horrific smell brings back a painful memory from her rookie days.
She and her training officer pull up to the scene to find three decomposed bodies baking in the hot, midsummer sun. Flies swarm all around them. Rats are feasting on the victim's remains. It was the one, and only time she got sick on the job. Her only reprimand too.
She shakes the gruesome image from her head. Someone could still be alive. Toni pounds on the door. "Is anyone in there?"
A young voice cries out, "Please get me out of here before the man comes back."
Toni eyes the lock again. Shooting it would make too much noise. Besides, I'd have to fill out paperwork explaining why I did what I did. "I'll be right back."
"Please hurry, a weak voice replies.
She's scavenging through the overgrowth, trying to find something that'll break the lock when she hears screaming inside the house. She looks up to see the doc beating a young child with a whip. Glancing down the alley, she discovers there isn't a cruiser in sight. Toni turns towards the house again. She might be dead by the time backup arrives.
Using the large Oak trees as cover, Toni darts across the lawn, stopping just outside the door. With her gun drawn, She kicks the barrier open.
The heavy wood slams against the wall. A picture crashes against the floor.
The startled perp jumps from the noise.
Spinning towards the attacker, Toni yells, "Freeze, police."
The batterer turns towards her. Evil shoots from dark, olive eyes when he says, "We've been expecting you, detective."
Toni hears footsteps. She turns to find two more men walk into the room. Take one more step, and I'll shoot," she warns.
"Will you now," a deep voice says.
Toni hears a metallic click. She turns to find a large burly man beside her.
"Drop your weapon, or I'll shoot," Toni orders. Her hands shake as she nervously eyes each of the men.
The giant of a man glances at the others, smiles, and says, "I'd say you're outnumbered, detective, wouldn't you?" He takes a step closer.
Toni eyes the men, not sure what to do.
The front door flies open, cops storm into the room. Toni then sees more officers coming in from the back.
"Drop your weapons, do it now, a deep, gritty voice yells.
"It's about time you showed up," The sergeant says, shakily lowering her weapon.
Darting over to the battered girl, Toni discovers the child can't be more than seven or eight. "Hold on, honey; help is on the way."
The frail child glances up. With tears streaming down her bloody face, she lifts her head and weakly replies, "Thanks."
Hearing footsteps coming towards her, Toni looks up and sees two more men in handcuffs being escorted through the house.
"This is all of them, sergeant."
"Take them to the house and get forensics in here to process this place." She points to a rookie and continues, "I want you to find something that'll cut through a lock." She sees the shape the others are in and adds, "And make it quick."
Picking up her phone, she dials the captain's number. "The doc and five of his accomplices have been arrested, and the girls are being transported to the hospital... There are ten girls in the house and at least one in the shed. I have reason to believe there are a few dead bodies in there too... I will, sir." Hanging up, she turns to find the rookie beside her.
He holds up a tool. "I have the bolt cutters you asked for, sergeant."
"Good, follow me." She turns to another officer, points, and says, "Make sure she gets taken care of."
The detectives discover three terrified young girls handcuffed to the cement floor in the larger of the two buildings. Deep slash marks cover a majority of their thin, naked bodies. Toni turns towards the officer. "Get these cuffs off them and make sure the paramedics see them too."
"Copy that, sergeant."
She walks over to the second shed to find several decomposing corpses scattered across the cold, cement floor. Like the battered girl, they couldn't be more than seven or eight. Her heart sinks into her stomach. Tears swell in her eyes. Shaking her head, she says, "I'm sorry we couldn't have saved you too."
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