Andrew Mercer is on his way home from Iraq, but not on happy circumstances. His little daughter, Natalie has been kidnapped. Rushing home to comfort his wife, he is haunted by memories of his sister, who was murdered in her own room several years ago. The murderer was never found out and he wonders if the cases could be related. But why? And by whom?
Gunshots echoed through his head as his sister ran through the camp. The morning sun illuminated her smiling face and long brown hair as she sprinted towards him, arms pumping and already out of breath. Soldiers ignored her, grabbing their guns and moving toward the havoc, but he just stood there. Why was she here? Why wasn’t she in the lectures being given at her college? Why was she in Iraq? Though his mind filled with question, he stood, just waiting. Waiting to scoop her up, hold her tight, and simply enjoy her presence. He had missed her so much. Flying into his arms, he squeezed her, swinging her around as she gripped his jacket. “Andrew,” she said lovingly. “I missed you so much.”
“I missed you too, Lisa.”
But as he hugged her tightly, she faded slowly. The soldiers blurred and a strange voice in the distance woke him. “Mr. Mercer?”
Eyes fluttering open, he recognized the bus driver and slowly sat up. “Yeah?”
“We’re in Hartford, sir.”
Realizing the beautiful sight of his dead sister was only a dream, Andrew Mercer tiredly grabbed his bags, stretching his arms to stop the muscle aches. The flight from Iraq to Connecticut had been tiring and worrisome. The thought of his little missing daughter, alone and probably tied up plagued his mind. Where is she right now? Is she even alive? When the commanding officer informed him that his eight year old daughter had been kidnapped Tuesday night, his heart stopped. Panicked and thoroughly distressed, he purchased a plane ticket on Friday and was on his way home by Monday – almost a week after she had gone missing. What had happened?
Tuesday night – after nine. Tyson Gray stumbled out of the bar and clumsily crawled into his truck. Fumbling with the car keys, he headed toward the Mercer’s home. Windows open, he let the cool summer night cool his sticky skin. Slowing as the house came into view, he noticed small candles lighting every window while other lights in the house remained on. He knew everything about them. He had dated Mr. Mercer’s younger sister – Lisa – but she ended the relationship after a short month. She claimed he was too forceful – always wanting to be with her. After that, his attraction turned into a strong obsession. He recorded where she would go on certain days of the week and “accidently” run into her. However, when her college friend gained her affections and she began dating him, Tyson’s anger lashed out. Killing her did not stop his obsession, though. He continued stalking the family. He knew where they lived, what her brother, Mr. Mercer’s, occupation was, how many children he had, their daily activities, and so much more. Now, as starred at the little home, half drunk, he noticed the porch swing rocking slowly. Natalie – Mr. Mercer’s daughter. Her shoulder length brown hair matched Lisa’s and he noticed her blue eyes, illuminating the dark sky. She looked just like Lisa. In everything but age, she was Lisa. He watched her, short legs dangling over the edge of the porch swing and hugging a small teddy bear. A childish song danced about her lips. Mrs. Mercer peeked out the door, “Natalie, come inside dear. Time to go to bed.”
“Ok, Mommy. Just one more minute.”
Tyson watched as the upstairs bedroom light turned on. The mother was there. Reaching over to the glove compartment, he pulled out a small bottle filled with Chloroform along with a white cloth. Opening the truck door, he walked around the truck. The moon hid behind thick dark clouds as his lanky body walked away from the house, only to circle around. Natalie remained on the swing, changing the little bear’s shirt. Slowly standing up from his crouching position, Tyson reached across her face and pressed the Chloroform soaked cloth firmly against her mouth and nose in a very quick movement. Fear and accusation filled her eyes. Dropping her teddy bear, she gripped at his strong hands in a panic, desperately trying to push them away. She tried to suck air in through little gaps between his fingers, but her eyes slowly closed. Pulling her over the porch rail, Tyson swiftly moved to his truck, long strides covering the distance in several seconds. Tossing her into the back seat, Tyson rushed around the truck to the driver’s seat and sped away.
Andrew Mercer was almost home. The bus dropped him off ten minutes from his house. From there, he walked. What started as a normal pace turned into a slight jog. His heart beat faster as he rushed home, eager to find out what was being done to recover his daughter, to comfort his wife and son, and to be comforted in return. Bursting in the door, his wife embraced him, crying harder than he had ever seen her cry. “Where is she!” Mrs. Mercer cried, still panicked and extremely worried about their daughter. “Where is she…” Her sobs trailed off as she buried her head into his jacket.
“Don’t worry. We’ll find her,” he soothed. “We’ll find her.”
Natalie’s eyes fluttered open. It was dark…and cold. A thick rope tied her wrists together. Startled, she scooted back against the wall. It was a cellar – not her pink bedroom with the big yellow daisies. Where’s Mommy! Tears began streaming down her face as she cried silently. “Daddy! Daddy! Where are you?” she whispered, fearing her own voice in the dark silence. She wanted to scream. Hugging her knees and burying her face in them, she rocked herself. Where were they?