A Call for Help
Lesly only managed to get two hours of sleep before her phone started vibrating next to her. It jolted her into a state of half consciousness that did little to help her comprehend what was happening. She sat up, searched for the light switch next to her bed and managed to locate it after a few failed attempts. Her hand reached for her phone next so she could take a look at the caller ID. It was a number that was not registered in her contacts’ list. She picked up; her voice was raspy as she answered the call.
“Miss Collins. Thank God!” A woman spoke on the other end of the line. She seemed frantic.
“Who is this?”
“It’s Alyssa, Alyssa Martin. We met a while back. You gave me your number and told me to call you if I needed anything.”
Lesly vaguely remembered the name in her drowsy state.
“Of course. What can I do for you?” She asked as she rubbed her eyes.
“Ben, my little boy, he’s missing.”
It took Lesly a few seconds to understand what the woman said to her and to register the frantic tone she delivered the news in.
“How long has he been missing?”
“He didn’t come back from school today. I called the police. They said they’d look for him. They haven’t found him yet. I don’t know what to do. I can’t wait any longer. I was hoping you might know someone who can help me, please.” The woman cried.
“Calm down,” Lesly instructed. She was fully awake now. “He’s probably with some friends from school and forgot to notify you.”
“I’ve looked for him everywhere.”
Lesly scanned the room for a clock in confusion to see what time it was. Then she remembered that she could check the time on her phone. She took a look and found that it was almost ten in the evening. This was not good.
“Send me your address. I’ll come over right now,” Lesly instructed.
The woman hung up. Lesly checked her phone one more time and found six missed calls from the woman. Apparently, she had been trying to reach her for a while. It was possible that the boy might have gone somewhere without letting his mother know, but judging by the time and how young he was, it was highly possible that something wrong had happened. She needed to go check on Alyssa and see if she can help the young mother in any way. The only problem was that she needed a car. Hers was parked near Michaela’s building. Alec could drive her there, but she did not want to burden him. He was probably exhausted too. What she could do was ask him if he could lend her his car.
Lesly walked over to Alec’s room and found the door slightly open, the same way he had left it earlier. It was highly likely that he was working since the light was on. She gently knocked on the door, and then opened it slowly.
“Alec, something happened. I need to step out, now.”
Lesly wanted to tell him why she needed to leave this late at night, but the sight of him shirtless in front of her made her lose her train of thoughts. Apparently, he had just taken a shower and she barged in without giving him a chance to tell her whether she could come in or not. He did not seem concerned. He continued to dry his wet hair with a towel as he asked her why.
Lesly tried to avert her gaze and to keep her vision focused on the top of his head.
“A woman I know through the organization just called. She’s worried about her son. She believes he’s missing. I need to go over there and see what I can do.”
“Go get dressed then. I’ll take you there.” He instructed.
“You don’t have to. You can just lend me…”
“You’re not going alone.” He interrupted.
“It might take a while.”
“I don’t mind. Now go.”
Lesly would have continued arguing with him, but quite frankly, she wanted to get out of his room before he found out how flustered she was. She got dressed quickly and left her room. Alec was standing by the door all dressed and ready with his car keys in hand. He handed her coat to her, and told her to hold the elevator while he locked the door.
The two drove to the address Alyssa sent them. Lesly told him everything she knew. Alyssa was a single mother who took care of an eight year old boy all by herself. Much like most of the women she knew through the organization, Alyssa had a history of drug abuse and prostitution. She tried turning her life around, so she checked herself into rehab and managed to get a job as a cleaning woman afterwards. She got involved with a man and gave birth to Ben. The man abandoned her and her son and refused to acknowledge the boy.
Alec did not say much in response. He told her that they needed to talk to the mother in order to rule out kidnapping as the cause for the boy’s disappearance.
The two finally arrived at the location Alyssa sent. According to Lesly, Alyssa lived in an apartment with two other women. She and her son stayed in one of the rooms and shared a kitchen and a bathroom with the other two women. When Lesly entered Alyssa’s room, she found the young mother completely distraught. She tried to calm her down, but Alyssa would not stop crying. Lesly embraced the woman and tried to talk some sense into her.
“Alyssa, you have to calm down and tell me everything you know.”
The woman eventually sat down on the couch and began telling Lesly everything that she had done to locate her boy. She checked with the school, asked the other mothers, spoke to the police. She even searched all the spots her son frequented with her on certain occasions: the arcades, the ice-cream parlor, the video game store. No one had seen him. Lesly continued to ask the distraught mother some questions. Alec did not say much, but Lesly could see from the corner of her eye that Alec was scanning the small room. He never said a word the entire time. When he was done examining the surroundings, he stood next to her and began scrolling through his phone.
Lesly stood up when she was done asking Alyssa the questions she had for her.
“I’ll make some phone calls, Alyssa,” Lesly announced. “I’ll let you know immediately the moment I find something. Please call me if you hear anything from the police or anyone.”
The young mother did not say anything. She nodded with teary eyes as she bit on her thumb in a clear sign of distress.
Lesly looked at Alec to let him know that she was ready to leave, but he had another plan in mind. He stashed the phone in his coat pocket and began asking questions of his own.
“Any idea where the boy’s father is?”
“Ronny? I called him. He said he hadn’t seen him. He was here earlier. He said he’d help me find him.”
Alec found this strange, especially since Lesly told him that the father wanted nothing to do with the boy.
“Have you heard from him yet?”
“Yes, he said he hadn’t found Ben, but he told me he was going to keep looking.”
“Those toys in the corner over there. Most of them are new. Did you buy them?”
“No, Ronny did.”
“Was he always this kind of father?” Alec asked curiously.
“No, but Ronny had been amazing with Ben lately. He said he was sorry he walked out on us when Ben was born. He was trying to make up for all the time he missed.”
Alec gave Lesly a look she did not miss the meaning behind. Then he continued asking questions.
“What does he do for a living?”
“Construction work, but he was fired two weeks ago.” The woman looked from Alec to Lesly to Alec again. “What’s going on?”
“Nothing. Don’t worry about it.” Alec answered with an unreadable expression. He looked at Lesly and tilted his head towards the door in a sign that they should leave. “Lesly”
“Hang in there,” Lesly spoke softly before she gave Alyssa’s shoulder a gentle squeeze.
She followed Alec to the car and got in. Once she was inside, she began asking him.
“You think the boy’s father has anything to do with this?”
“No, I’m certain.”
“I’ve seen it a couple of times in my line of work. I’m sure you have too. I had a friend of mine dig up some info on the guy. He’s a drug addict with a gambling problem. He’s been arrested more than once, and he’s deep in debt. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he wished to reconnect with his son shortly before the kid disappeared.”
“You don’t think…?”
Lesly could not bring herself to voice the thought, but Alec knew she understood what he was trying to say.
“All I’m saying is that pedophiles would pay a huge sum for a kid his age in Redlyn.”
“Alec, the guy might have simply wished to turn his life around after hitting rock bottom. Reconnecting with his son seems like the natural thing to do.”
“I hope for the kid’s sake that you’re right.” Alec said as he put the car in reverse and tried to get out of the space where it was parked.
Lesly took a moment to reconsider the facts. What Alec said was one possible explanation. Another would be that the kidnapper was a totally different person whose identity they have not found out yet. Either way, kidnapping a kid such as Ben was going to be not only simple to execute given his young age, but also easy to not get caught for. The kid lived in a poor neighborhood. He was taken care of by a woman with a history that could easily deem her as unfit to be a mother. No one was going to care what happened to him. People could easily blame the mother and move on with their lives.
“Where are you going now?” Lesly asked.
“Home. I spoke to a P.I. I know. He’ll call me the moment he finds something. You can check with your contacts in the organization, and I can dig into the guy’s record.”
It did not take the two long to get back to Alec’s apartment. Lesly immediately tried to get in contact with some of the employees in the organization who might be able to help. She was pacing the living room the entire time. Alec kept on quietly scrolling through some webpages on his laptop. He placed a phone call every now and then, but he did not talk much. Hours Later he silently motioned for Lesly to come and check something on his laptop. The frown on his face was not reassuring at all. Lesly came over to where he was sitting on the couch, and sat next to him. He turned the laptop slightly towards her so she could see what he wanted to show her. Then, he clicked on a tab on his browser.
Lesly immediately felt sick to her stomach. It was a live streaming of a boy who looked exactly like Ben. The boy was in a room, wandering inside it with a crying face. The room was barely furnished. It had nothing but a small metal bed and a few toys scattered around. Alec began explaining the live footage to her.
“My P.I. found this on the dark web. Whoever is live streaming this is trying to start a bidding process. The live stream began two hours ago. Four people had already started bidding. We need to act fast.”
“Is it traceable?” Lesly asked with a quiver in her voice. The scene was horrifying and heartbreaking.
“Unfortunately, no, but I know where I could get some answers. I’ve already spoken to some of my contacts. They’re on their way to Ronald’s. I’ll meet up with them there.” Alec folded his laptop and stood up. “You’re staying here.” He ordered.
“You have got to be kidding me.”
“You’ll be safe here. There are alarm systems everywhere. No one can break in.”
Did he mean that she would be safer in the building than with him or did he take her outrage at being left out to mean that she was scared to stay alone? Either way, she was deeply offended.
“That’s not what I’m concerned about right now.”
“You can’t come with me. It’s too risky.” He tried to explain without attempting to mask how exasperated he was.
“You can’t tell me what to do.”
“I just did.”
Lesly had never seen Alec like that before. He was usually calm, composed and even-tempered. During the two years she had known him, he had never talked to her like that. He had never lost his temper around her. The roles seemed to have been reversed. She had to be the diplomatic one now and try to talk some sense into him.
“Alec, I appreciate your concern over my wellbeing. I really do.” She spoke softly. “But I can’t just sit here and do nothing.”
He held the back of his neck as he tried to calm down. He took a few deep breaths. Then he spoke to her in a low controlled tone. “You could get hurt.”
“You can’t lock me here. I’m going with or without you.”
He glared at her. She glared back. He eventually threw his hands up in exasperation.
“God you’re one stubborn pain in the neck!” He muttered under his breath as he stormed out of the living room.
Lesly immediately grabbed her phone and coat and followed him. This was going to be a long night.