Alex was now on-site. From the moment he had heard that Joy had been abducted, Alex’s thinking had become a racing jumble. He had to get himself together before he faced his family, before he faced Alissa. He had to think clearly in order to locate Joy.
“Sir, all exits and entrances are still being monitored. We’re interviewing all visitors at the venue. Just as we thought, the missing child was a diversion. He was found unharmed locked inside a utility closet. He was grabbed from behind and didn’t see the person who abducted him. The “perp” bound and gagged the worker on duty in the animal care unit on-site. He took his uniform and thus had free range at the venue. The area is being searched. We’ve brought in the local P.D. to help with the search. Also sir, your family has arrived to pick up the children. “
Cara couldn’t stop crying, and Aidan was scared. Shawn was angry with himself for not protecting Joy. He was pacing back and forth full of guilt. Dale and Alissa came into the room and Aidan ran to Dale. Dale picked him up and held him as he went over to Cara. Alissa walked over to the police officer and demanded to see Alex. The officer forwarded her request, and Alex agreed to see her. He took her into a private room.
Alex didn’t have an answer for her. Their plan had gone wrong. The “perp” had gotten away, taking Joy with him. Alissa looked into his eyes, and she saw the pain and anguish there. He had lost his confidence and looked defeated. That scared her even more! She turned away from him to compose herself. Then she looked at him again trying to find the right words to say.
“Alex, this is what you do for a living! You know how to find our daughter. Get yourself together and do your job now! If you let this man hurt her–!” Alissa trailed off. She didn’t want to think about that.
Alissa returned to Dale and the children. There was nothing else that she could do except to hope that Alex would find her baby. She comforted Cara, and told her and Shawn not to blame themselves. They hadn’t done anything wrong. Alex promised to let them know when he had anything to share.
“Are you ready to do your job, or do I need to take over?”
“Let’s get back to work. Get the team together and we’ll set up here in the manager’s office.”
“What’s your name?”
Joy didn’t say anything. She just looked at him with her bright innocent eyes. As he looked at her, he realized that she was no longer afraid. Usually at this point in the other abductions, the child was pleading or crying to be returned to their mother or father. However, Joy just looked at him with an interested expression.
“I bet you miss your Daddy, and he’s missing you too! He and his team aren’t as great as they think they are.” He smirked.
“You call your Daddy, Alex?”
“Alex is my bio-father. I haven’t known him very long. I don’t know him that well yet. I guess he might be missing me.”
That surprised, Roger. “Why don’t you know him?”
“He was working out of the country for most of my life. He came back when I got sick to help me. After he moved back into the country, my Mom and Dad told me that Alex is my bio-father.”
“You were sick?”
“Yeah, I had leukemia. No one else in the family was a match for my marrow. Alex found out that he was a match and came back to give me some of his marrow. Now I’m well again, and he says he wants to get to know me better. I said that I would try, but like I told you, I don’t know him very well yet.”
As Roger looked at Joy, a funny feeling came over him. He was seeing his own son sitting there. His son before his body was ravaged by infection, before the doctors had mutilated him! It was something about her personality, the expression in her eyes, that was like his son’s. He pressed his hands against his head and turned away.
“Do you have a headache? I can get you some aspirin. Is there some in the bathroom?”
“No, I’m alright.”
He asked himself, “Why did she care! She was supposed to be afraid and begging him to let her go! This wasn’t how it was supposed to work!”
“Do you have any kids?”
“I had a son.”
“How old was he?”
“He was close to your age.”
“What happened to him?”
At first, Roger stood there looking blankly at Joy. Although his eyes appeared focused on her, he was seeing his son seated there. Then he started talking. It had been years since he’d spoken to anyone about it.
“My son broke his leg in a fall from his treehouse in the backyard. This was the second bone that he had broken that year. He’d broken his arm in a fall off of his bicycle previously. For some reason, his doctor decided that my wife and I were responsible for his broken bones. He called the authorities, who on his word, took our son from us. They termed us abusive parents and we were not permitted to see him.”
While in the hospital, he developed an infection from what they called “flesh eating bacteria.” I sneaked into the hospital to see him. My son was extremely thin and weak, but the worst part is that they had amputated his right foot. As weak as he was, he was still very brave and happy to see me. He died a few days after that. The authorities said that the sepsis had spread throughout his body. If they had just let us take care of him at home, if they hadn’t taken him from us, then he would not have remained in that hospital to sicken and die alone. He would not have caught that infection. My wife was heartbroken.”
“Where is your wife?”
“She walked into the ocean and drowned herself.”
“Did you take me because you want a little girl?”
He didn’t answer.
George walked into the office. Alex glanced at him. “I know you’re angry because I didn’t inform the local P.D. about our operation. We thought it best to keep a low profile in order to draw the “perp. Yes, it may have been a mistake, but now we have to go on from here.”
George sighed. Alex was an ass sometimes, but he was right. They could argue later. Now they needed to find Joy.
“I’m sorry that I couldn’t tell you what I was doing.”
Dale and Shawn joined the search for Joy. Dale was furious with Alex and didn’t trust himself to see him right now. So he stayed away from him.
“Yes. She’s even better looking in person than she is on television. I saw them together and he’s clearly still in love with her.”
“What about her?”
“Well Agent Stallworth is definitely easy on the eyes, and so far he’s good to work with. Despite all that’s going on he gave me time to call my son to say goodnight. His Daddy was just putting him to bed.”
“Yeah, he is a good boss. Let’s help him find Joy.”
“He liked boats and baseball and bikes. He loved having sleepovers with his friends in his treehouse. After he died, I couldn’t bear to look at it. I cut it down.”
“My brother and I have a tree house! We play in ours all the time too. Aidan plays soccer more than baseball though. Me, I love to dance. I go to dance classes, and we sometimes give performances. Would you like to come to my next one?”
Alex and his team were going back over the “perp’s” profile. They had commandeered the venue manager’s office. The “perp” had changed his appearance just as they had anticipated. They rejected the idea that he’d had inside help from workers at the circus. More than likely he’d learned the layout from researching public documents and internet records.
“There were no surveillance cameras in the animal holding and training area. The manager didn’t say it, but they were omitted intentionally to avoid having evidence for the ASPCA to use in citing them for their treatment of the animals. Therefore, the “perp” was able to do as he wanted without observation in that area.”
Alex sat back down at the computer to continue dissecting the “perp’s” profile.
“Redacted? So the hospital was hiding what really happened and replaced his health history with the other records.”
“That’s the way it appears now, Sir. The boy’s doctor died in an automobile accident shortly after the child’s death. However, some of the medical personnel who treated the boy are still working at the facility. I’ll twist their arms and jog their memories.”
Alex was looking at the information that she had already retrieved and was shocked when he saw a picture of the doctor who had treated the “perp’s” son. Alex and the doctor’s appearance were very similar. Alex could be a younger version of the doctor!
“I think I just found the reason why the “perp” fixated on my daughter.”
She presented the facts that she had uncovered to the team. They now knew that the “perp’s son had been unjustly taken from him and that his son had sickened and died in the hospital. The hospital and local authorities had attempted to cover up the incident. They also learned that the “perp’s” wife had committed suicide a year after the death of their son. They believed that was the event that had “triggered” the “perp’s” deviant behavior.
The perpetrator whom they had identified as Roger Hueston wanted revenge against the world that he believed had robbed him of everyone important in his life. He wanted other people to experience the pain that he had suffered at the loss of his son. They also suspected that he had been in some way responsible for the death of the doctor.
“Everything in this area was under observation before the “perp” took Joy, and the roads in and out were immediately shut down.”
“He left on foot! He didn’t drive away.”
“That has to be it!”
George quickly radioed Alex.
They had searched all of the residences and buildings near the circus venue. What had they missed!
“If he was on foot, then it would have taken him longer to arrive at his hideaway than it would if he had driven, and he’s not going to choose a place where a child’s screams could be easily heard.”
His anger was draining away. He was finally beginning to feel an inner peace for the first time since his son had died. He never had believed in fate, but what if somehow his son had directed him to find Joy. Maybe Roger Jr. was telling him it was time to stop seeking revenge and just let him go.
Looking at Joy now, he couldn’t help but see his son. Not the sick child in the hospital, but his happy, healthy little boy. Hurting Joy would feel like he was hurting Roger. She had Roger’s spirit, his spunk, his open heart.
“Stop right there if you don’t want anything to happen to the girl!”
“Roger, you are understandably angry about what happened to your wife and son. It was inexcusably unjust and unforgivable. However, this child, my daughter is an innocent, loving little girl. Hurting her won’t bring your son or your wife back. You know in your heart that they would not want you to harm another child. Wouldn’t they want you to get help? I’m here to help you. We can make the authorities responsible for the death of your son be held accountable for their unlawful actions. Harming Joy won’t make them pay for what they’ve done.”
Agent Miles fired and shot Roger! Joy screamed and Alex picked her up and quickly carried her out of the house. Roger Hamilton Sr. was dead and no longer a threat to anyone. He had chosen suicide by cop. Alex knew that their initial deduction that Roger subconsciously wanted to be stopped had been correct.
They were all crying and hugging her. Alex stood in the doorway. Alissa looked at him and smiled.
Alex smiled and then left the house.
Alex was staying with Leslie and George for the night before heading back home with his team the following morning. He wasn’t surprised to see Noah. Noah wanted to speak with him privately. They went into George and Leslie’s office to talk. Noah got quickly to the point.
“I don’t forgive as easily as the rest of the family. I don’t buy the crap that you thought they would be safe. You were determined to catch that guy at the risk of the children. I’ll break your neck if you ever put my daughter in danger like that again.”
Alex looked Noah. He was still on crutches but that didn’t stop him from doing what he needed to do to protect his daughter. He had quickly gained Alex’s respect.
“Noah, if I were in your place, I would have said the same thing. You have my word that I won’t ever knowingly put any of the family in danger and especially not my little great niece.” He paused and then said, “Just make this the last time that you threaten me.”
Noah didn’t blink as he said, “Oh, this will be the last time. Because if anything like this happens again I won’t give you a warning. I’ll just break your neck. One more thing. You’d better be glad that I came in here instead of Sharlee. She was out to skin you!”
Alex laughed at that. Noah left soon after. Alex had already had a confrontation with Dale. He frowned when he remembered it.
“Dale, you know me better than that!”
Dale had studied Alex’s face thoughtfully. “Do I still know you, Alex? There seem to be so many versions of you over the years. The big brother I grew up with. The man who tried to take my wife away from me. The man who faked his death. The man who came to save his daughter’s health. The man who returned to become a part of his daughter’s life.”
Alex grinned at Dale. “Let’s just say that I’m a work in progress, but I’m still your big brother, Dale. I won’t ever take a chance like this with our family again. I had the best of intentions, but the risk was too great.”
Leslie came into the room, and she hugged Alex tightly. “I know this was a tough one, Alex. I’m not going to beat you up like the others have. You know how we feel about what you did, but we still love you.”
Alex needed to hear that. He breathed out a deep sigh of relief. He was ready to go back home and start working on his next case.
I kept changing my mind about the ending of this chapter. I had planned for Joy to die, but decided against it again. All the pictures have been added now. 🙂