April 26, 2015

Amber Alert

          



          Here I sat in the passenger's seat significantly less sweaty than I was twenty minutes ago. Traffic had finally broken up due to road construction and Alex's '91 Plymouth lacked functioning air conditioning leaving us to bake with the windows down. It was only 11:00 in the morning and we were informed our hotel room wouldn't be ready until 3:00. As the car accelerated, I turned the radio back up and we were right back at singing Car-eoke with the overplayed songs of the Top 100 chart. Alex began to rap a segment of the current song when our phones began to hysterically vibrate and the alert tone went off.
Janesville, WI AMBER Alert
UPDATES: LIC: P861936 (IN)
Blue Ford Focus 4 Door
          “God, that's awful,” I turned my phone screen off and placed my phone back in my lap.
          “I hope they're okay, you know? I can't imagine just having a child taken away. I can't even imagine it. You gotta be sick, you know? To take a kid. You gotta be real sick,” Alex bantered.
          We continued driving silently for a few minutes until we started to play a game where we had to spot license plates from as many different states as we could. Because we were heading to a very tourist populated town, this was both productive and interesting.
          “Look, babe, I found one from Michigan. I always wanted to go there, you know? I think it'd be real pretty,” Alex pointed out.
          “All I've seen are Illinois ones and coming from Illinois this is not a breakthrough in the game,” I disappointingly remarked.
          As time went on we were surrounded by Wisconsin and Illinois plates, with a few Michigan plates here and there. Our game was at a stand-still.
          “Look, babe, there's one from Indiana!” Alex pointed out. Startled by the name of the state, I illuminated my phone screen again.
P861936
          “Oh my god, Alex...”
          It was a blue Ford Focus.
          Alex's jaw had dropped. He stared into the back window of the car and his face
progressed into a more tense and determined expression.
          “Babe, we gotta help them. We gotta follow them. We gotta save those kids.”
          “Or...or...we could call the police,” I suggested cowardly. If the person driving the car had the
nerve to take two children, who knows what else they had the nerve to do.
          “Listen to me, okay, listen babe. We can call the police, but until they show up we have to keep
on him. We have to give the police a location...”
          I gazed hesitantly into the license plate.
          “Babe, we might be those kids only hope.”
          I heard the plea in Alex's voice and I surrendered. Keeping a reasonable distance back, we
trailed the Focus off of an exit ramp leading us to a gas station, a strip mall of fast food joints, a mechanic, a church, and a plethera of farm land. The Focus pulled up to a gas pump and Alex pulled into the pump across from him so my window peered right into the driver's side.
          An intimidating man arose from the car. He stood about 6'2 and although I wouldn't say he was very muscular, he was very stocky and could still harm two very average sized humans such as Alex and myself.
          What terrified me most was how average he looked. He could be the neighbor that greets you in the morning. The man who keeps his lawn well-kept and volunteers to help others. There was nothing special to him. No villainous disguise as in the superhero films. He was a very average man in a polo, jeans, and gym shoes.
          “What do we do now?” I asked Alex, whom was leaned over the back of my seat in an effort to see the man's backseat.
          “They're back there. Two little girls. We gotta go get 'em. But how?”
          “Hey, I've got it! Go inside and hold up the line, distract the cashier, the man, anybody. Just stall. I'll get the girls. Got it?” I asked rapidly.
          “Got it, babe, let's do it,” Alex hurried out of the car and to the door of the gas station where I saw him beat the man to the line and proceed to purchase lottery tickets. He looked confused asking as many questions as he come conjure to keep the line held up behind him. With the man's attention preoccupied, I crept out of the passenger's side and to the driver door on the man's car, slowly opening it, and clicking the unlock button.
          Proceeding to the rear driver's side door, I opened it to two little girls holding back sobs.
          “Hey, hello. Are you two okay?” They both nodded and the one further from me started to cry.               “We're going to get you back to your mommy and daddy, okay?”
          I unbuckled both of their seatbelts and they crawled out of the car. As Alex jogged to the gas pump.
          “Babe, you gotta hurry, he's comin'! He's next!”
          I grabbed both of their hands and led them into Alex's back seat, kicking his car door shut behind me. Alex ran around into his seat and I hopped into mine as we drove off down the highway with two lovely little passengers in the backseat. One was significantly older than the other, probably around 10 and 6.
          “My name's Arabella, this is my boyfriend, Alex. We're going to help you get back home, okay?"
          The older girl solumnly nodded and wiped the tears from under her eyes.
          “Everything is okay. The bad man is gone now. But, we're going to need your help. Do either of you know your address?”
          I nudged him and whispered to him to call the police.
          “Y-y-yes,” the older one stuttered between sobs. She pulled her library card out of her pocket, thankfully. I reached into the compartment in between the two front seats and pulled out napkins for them to wipe their tears while Alex explained the situation to the police.
          “Officer, hey, hello, you have to hear me out. We found the two girls from the Amber Alert...Yes...Yes a blue Focus...that's right. We saw the car and we followed him into a gas station.”
Alex continued explaining and I reached inbetween my feet for snacks we brought along for the ride, handing both of the girls fun-size bags of chips, large chocolate chip cookies, and jucie boxes.
          “They told us to meet 'em at the Beloit Police Department and the parents would meet us there.” Alex relayed.
          “That's fine, just drive.”
           In my head, I was in a panic. I wanted to be away from the man in the blue Ford Focus. Far away. The expression from his face when he got out of his car lingered in my head. The determination, the anger, and the sick distanced look. I tired to shake it out by turning the car radio up a smidge.
          After roughly a half an hour of singing Car-eoke to keep the girls entertained, Alex pulled off into the parking lot of the Beloit Police Department. I opened the back door and let both of the girls slide out, holding the younger one in my arms and bringing the older one to Alex to hold his hand.
          We rushed inside where we were greeted by two officers who asked us to take a seat while a third came out and took the girls into custody. The two officers sat down with Alex and me and asked about our story. To tell them everything that had happened and how we found these girls. We explained everything in detail, including the gas station they could check security tapes at and find the man who kidnapped them. The officers thanked us again and with only about a two hour delay, we were back on the road for a vacation weekend.
          It wasn't until we were almost through Madison where we decided to stop for food impulsively. Alex pulled over through three lanes of traffic to get off at the exit. He slowed down at the ramp and followed it around where I leaned out the car window to take a photo of the city skyline behind us. I drew myself back in the car window and began flipping through my photos, anxious to see how the skyline turned out.
I looked back again
and again
and again
and there he was.
Blue Ford Focus
License Plate P861936
          “Alex...ALEX!” I began to panic and grabbed his thigh, checking behind us.
          He noticed the direction I was watching and checked the rear view mirror.
          “We can't get off here, babe, we can't. I gotta get back on the highway.”
          Alex stopped at an immediate redlight and turned his signal on to make a left back onto the ramp that would lead to our hotel.
          “We can't go to the hotel, not now. What if he follows us?!”
          “Babe, it'll be okay. I need you to call the police and tell 'em we have the location.”

           I fumbled for my phone, hands shaking, desperate to click the emergency dial.  

(tbc...)

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