Eli and I pulled up to the school as my phone rang.
“Talk to me, Gail,” I said, climbing out the car.
Three patrol cars were already here and a K9 unit was pulling up.
“Gotta love twenty-first-century paranoid moms. Ok, so Molly had a tracker in Alex’s phone, but, she also had one of those little keyring sized tags you hook onto a kid’s bag or belt for emergencies. His phone is pinging in the school, I’m guessing still in his locker, but the tag is moving down Powell Boulevard, heading East. I pulled up traffic cams in the area, and after some pretty creative thinking, I saw Alex getting into a black pick up truck. I am following them on street cams, but Paul, if they get out of the City, I won’t be able to follow them. The cameras get too few and far apart out there, and the tracker was tossed out the window.”
“Got it. Have the car marked and get units out there. Tell them to set up a roadblock in every direction he could turn off, and to approach with great caution. He has a nine-year-old child in the car with him, and we know what he’s capable of.”
“Got it,” Gail said, and I hung up.
I slipped the phone back into my pocket and jogged over to Eli, who was now standing with the other officers and the principle.
“Eli,” I called, and pulled him to the side, “he has him. They are heading towards Mount Hood Forest. Let’s go.” I said.
“Hang on,” Eli called and ran over to the K9 unit that was getting the dogs ready. He spoke to them for a moment, and they loaded the dogs back into the car and climbed into the vehicle.
He came back to me, “If he gets to the forest, they could come in handy. We have the kids gloves Molly gave us from her car. C’mon, let's go.”
We ran to my car and headed towards Powell. The K9 unit keeping up behind us, and through the police radio in my car, we tracked the roadblocks.
I shouldn’t have pushed him like that this morning. If anything happens to this kid it will be my fault.
Gail called again, “Guys he’s on Mount Hood highway. Cameras are getting thin out there, move your asses.”
As we flew through the traffic, the sirens blaring and the lights flickering in the windshield, I thought back to the day I drove down this road with Addison. It was our second date, and I took her out here for a picnic in the forest.
He is trying to ruin every moment I had in my life where I felt happy.
This was where I fell in love with her. I didn’t tell her until a year later, but it was out here, in the company of towering Pines and Cedars, the cool mountain air, and the ant hill she sat on, that I knew she was the one I wanted to marry. She loved coming out here, to be with nature. To be free, as she called it.
Now, that memory was about to be destroyed.
How does he know all this? How could he know where I took her on that date?
Eli spoke up, “Shit, man, if he takes that kid into there, we won’t find him.” He said as we came over a hill, and the million-acre forest sprawled out in front of us.
“I know where he’s going,” I said quietly and took the next off-ramp.
As the road led us away from the forest, Eli turned to me, “Hey Paul, what are you doing? He's heading into the forest, this is taking us away from it.” He said, looking out the back window at the tall mountain covered in green trees.
As the road bent and twisted, it only took a few miles to be deep in the forest, and on a small service road. I killed the lights, and the sirens, as we slowed to avoid wrecking the car on the bumpy road.
This is why he had a pickup truck.
About two miles in, we pulled over and the K9 unit stopped next to us.
I went over to them, “This is for the dogs. Find the kid. If you see this man,” I showed them the picture Molly gave us, “Shoot to kill. Do not try to arrest him. Just kill him.” I said.
The three men with their dogs nodded and opened the bag for the dogs. A good sniff for each hound and they were off.
I grabbed Eli by the arm, “Wait. Let them find the kid. I think I know where Toni is.” I said.
We turned in the other direction and I led him through the thick forest bed, on an old obscured path, deep into the woods.
I silently signaled for him to stop, and we dropped down on our haunches.
“There is a clearing up ahead. Not very big. You go around that way, I will wait here till your in position. If you see him, shoot him.”
Eli nodded and crept through the trees towards the other side of the clearing. I sat on my leg, waiting.
I listened to anything that was out of place. Any sound that didn’t belong.
Eli’s voice came in over the earpiece, “Ok, I’m in position, let’s do this.”
I stood from my perch and saw Eli in the distance, his gun in his hand, edging closer. I pushed through the branches and bushes on the ground, and as I came out into the clearing, my heart sank to the ground, and my body turned cold.
I shut my eyes as the sound of the dogs barking grew closer and closer. I heard Eli’s thumping footsteps on the ground running into the center of the clearing, and I dropped to my knees, my gun falling out of my hand and the tears stinging my eyes.
I did this.
This is my fault.
This kid is dead because of me.