Castle Roland

Who Is He

by Eric Aune


Chapter 1

Posted: N/A

Who Is HeChris watched the ball fly high overhead after it left the bat. He turned and ran toward the fence, looking over his shoulder as he ran. The ball continued to fly. Chris turned back around and put on a burst of speed. He looked over his shoulder again and raised his glove. The ball got nearer, he stretched and the ball hit the tip of his glove and fell to the right.

"Dang it." Chris said as he changed direction and ran to where the ball had landed. He scooped it up and turned to the infield to throw the ball to the infielder. His friend Travis, who was playing shortstop, caught the throw and turned to throw the ball to third base. The third baseman swung his glove down to make the tag, but he was too late and the runner was safe.

"Dang it." Chris said again as hit his glove against his leg.

"TWO DOWN! TWO DOWN!" Chris' friend Travis said as he held up two fingers and turned to the rest of the team waving his arm. He smiled as he caught Chris' eye and Chris couldn't help but smile back.

Chris got back down into position with his hands on his knees. His eyes watched as the pitcher threw the ball toward the plate. After a couple of pitches, there was once again the sound of a bat hitting the ball.

This time the ball was hit to Travis at short. He fielded it easily and threw to first base and got the runner out. That ended the inning and the game. Chris threw his glove in the air and ran in and put his arms around his best friend Travis. They were soon joined by their friend Bryce who had been pitching. The boys hugged each other in congratulations for winning the game. Their coach lined them up and they walked toward the other team, slapping palms or bumping fists as the two teams passed each other. When they finished Coach Higgins gathered the boys together on the field outside the dugout. The families of the boys on the team waited on the other side of the fence.

The coach was happy as he talked to them, "Good game guys. Remember we have a game on Wednesday against the Cardinals. Practice is here on Monday afternoon. Don't forget that if you aren't at practice, you don't play, unless you have a good excuse. So unless you have something going on with your family, I expect everyone to be here. See you all on Monday."

"Bye Coach," the boys said as they waved goodbye. Coach Higgins high fived each of the boys as they left with their parents.

Chris' three year old brother Tyler and five year old sister Jessie ran toward him and grabbed onto him. He hugged them back and although Jessie let go, he had to peel Tyler off his leg so that he could walk. He took his brother's hand and walked him over to his parents, Heather and Michael Hale. Near them stood Travis and Bryce's parents, Richard and Meredith Grayson and Ben and Alicia Sanders respectively. Bryce's younger sister Robin was there as well. The families congratulated the boys on their win.

Chris turned to his mother and said with a wheedling tone in his voice "Mo-om can I go over to Bryce's for a little while before I go home?"

Heather smiled at him as she answered "Sure Chris. Just be sure to be home for dinner."

"Okay Mom." Chris said as he hugged his mom in thanks

Travis turned to his mom and gave her a hopeful smile and a cocked eyebrow, "Can I go too?"

Meredith looked at her son and smiled "I guess that will be okay, Travis. You and Chris can walk home together afterwards."

"Thanks Mom. We'll see you later." Travis said as he gave her a hug goodbye.

The boys followed the Sanders' to their minivan and everyone piled into the back. Once they got to Bryce's house, the boys went to Bryce's room to play on his Playstation 2 for a little while until it was time for Chris and Travis to walk the few short blocks home. They said goodbye to Bryce and started the walk home. They talked about the upcoming games for their summer baseball league team the A's. When they were about a block from their street, they were interrupted by a man's voice when he said to them "Hi boys."

Chris and Travis stopped and looked towards the man. He was dressed in a polo shirt and blue jeans and had turned toward them from an open car door and smiled. He looked like a tall man especially to a pair of nine year olds. His dark hair was cut very short and he had brown eyes. In his hands he had a small stack of papers. He walked over to them smiling the whole time.

"Do you guys live in this neighborhood?" he asked.

"Ye…yes sir we do." They answered nervously.

The man smiled when he heard that "Good, can I give you one of these papers?"

He held one of the papers that he had in his hand out to them. Travis reached out and took it as the man neared them. He and Chris looked at it. On it was a picture of a dog and the words 'LOST' across the top in bold letters. At the bottom was a phone number. They looked back up at the man.

The man said with a hopeful look "If you guys see this dog, could you call or have your parents call the number on the bottom and let me know. We were in the park over there a couple of days ago and we lost him. So my son asked if I would put these posters around the neighborhood. When I saw you guys, I thought that if you knew the neighborhood, you could maybe be on the lookout for him. My family would really appreciate it."

Chris smiled as he looked up at the man "Sure mister. We'll keep an eye out for him."

"Great, thanks boys. See ya." The man said as he held out his hand.

Both boys shook hands with him and watched as the man walked back to his car and bent in through the window as he reached for something. When he stood up he had a staple gun in his hand. He smiled at the boys and waved as he walked past them over to a telephone pole and proceeded to staple the paper to the pole. The boys turned around and headed home. They talked about the missing dog and tried to remember if they had seen the dog anywhere recently. Travis bumped fists with Chris when they got in front of his house. Chris walked next door to his house and went in.

"I'm home!" Chris called out as he came in the house. "Dinner will be ready in a little bit honey. Go wash up." His mom yelled back.

"Okay." Chris said as he went upstairs to the bathroom and washed his hands. When he looked in the mirror he smiled at the black haired and blue eyed boy that looked back at him. He dried his hands and went to the dining room table. His brother and sister were in their booster seats on either side of his mom. His dad sat at the other end of the table and greeted him as Chris took his normal seat next to his brother Tyler. Tyler smiled at him.

"Hi Cwiss," Tyler said around a mouthful of bread.

"Hey little bro." Chris said as he ruffled his hair eliciting some giggles from the little boy. He turned to his plate and after his father said grace, they started filling up their plates. Chris helped his mom put a plate together for Tyler. During dinner his dad talked about the game that he had played today and about baseball in general. They talked about how the Angels and Dodgers were doing this year and the chance that maybe there will finally be a freeway world series this year, if both teams could keep it going, something that most Southern Californians wished for every year. It hadn't happened yet, but hey…it could happen.

After dinner, Chris went to his room and started playing Gran Turismo 3 on his Playstation 2. He was really getting into it, his whole upper body turning with the controller like he was driving a car. His tongue stuck out of the side of his mouth as he concentrated on the screen. A sudden voice startled him and caused him to drop the controller.

"Hey." Chris looked toward the door and saw Travis standing there leaning against the door jamb with his arms crossed, smiling. On the TV screen, Chris' car went careening into another car and then into a wall, spinning out and coming to a halt.

"Dork, see what you made me do." Chris complained.

Travis laughed at him and came into the room, and sat on the bed next to Chris when he answered back "Why do you want to waste your time racing against those computer cars when you can race someone good?"

Chris pushed him and said "When someone good comes in, let me know and I'll race 'em."

Travis elbowed him as he picked up the other controller. They smiled at each other as they started making their choices for the next race. For the next hour they played several races against each other before they got tired of playing and sat back on the bed to watch TV. When the movie ended the boys got up and Chris walked Travis to the front door. The boys bumped fists at the door and made plans to get together the next day and go ride their bikes.

Chris stepped up to the plate and took a couple of good swings before setting himself in the batter's box. The pitcher wound up and Chris watched as the ball left the pitcher's hand and time seemed to slow down as the ball floated toward him. He lifted the bat and watched as the ball flew closer. He swung the bat and as he connected…

"WAKE UP BRO!" yelled Travis and Chris' eyes shot open as he was bounced off the edge of his bed by Travis jumping up onto it next to him. Chris hit the floor and landed on his butt in a tangle of sheets.

"OWW!" Chris yelled accusingly at Travis.

Travis was contrite as he said "Chris, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. Are you okay?"

Chris looked up at Travis who was kneeling on his bed looking down at him with worry on his face. Chris scowled at him and tried to untangle the sheets so he could get up. Once he was untangled, he stood up wearing only his briefs as he rubbed his butt, still scowling at Travis.

Travis looked apologetically at Chris and then looked down at the ground with his hands clasped in front of him in his lap. Chris looked at him for a few moments. Travis looked so pitiful that Chris could not stay angry and he sat down next to Travis and put his arm on his shoulders.

Travis looked sideways at Chris and gave him a tentative smile as he apologized "Sorry, I didn't know you'd fly out of the bed like that."

"Dork. That hurt." Chris complained. Travis gave a little smile as he said "You want me to kiss it and make it better?'

"Yeah, kiss my butt," Chris laughed.

"You wish," said Travis.

The two boys started pushing each other back and forth and soon they were wrestling around on the bed, until they fell off this time and Travis hit the floor with Chris on top of him.

"Ouch!" cried Travis.

"Serves you right, now we're even," said Chris.

Heather called from the kitchen "Boys, whatever you're doing in there, quit it! Chris get washed up for breakfast!"

"Okay Mom!" Chris yelled back. He got up off the floor and went to his dresser to get some jeans and a t-shirt out. He put them on and went to the bathroom to brush his teeth. Travis stayed in Chris' room until he finished and then followed him to the dining room table. Chris' mom was putting a plate down on the table as they walked in. His dad, brother and sister were already sitting down at the table. Chris tickled Tyler's neck as he sat down.

"Do want some french toast Travis. We have plenty." His mom asked.

Travis answered her "Sure Mrs. Hale. That'd be cool, thanks."

Heather smiled at him and brought another plate and set it down in front of Travis as he sat down across from Chris. He smiled his thanks and dug in. When they were finished, they rinsed the plates off and put them in the dishwasher.

"Chris, before you and Travis take off, make sure your room is straightened out and take the trash out please," his mom asked.

Chris answered her, "Okay mom. C'mon Travis, help me make the bed."

"Thanks for breakfast Mrs. Hale." Travis said.

Heather smiled and said "You're welcome Travis."

They quickly went up to the room, straightened it and made the bed. While Chris took the trash out, Travis got Chris' bike out of the garage for him. Once everything was done, Chris stopped at the kitchen table where his mom and dad were reading the paper.

Chris said to his parents, "Everything's done, we're going to Bryce's house and maybe go over to the park later and play some ball and then go swimming when it gets hotter."

"Okay honey," his mom answered him.

He kissed his mom's cheek and hugged his dad goodbye. Chris went through the garage to grab his equipment bag, closed the garage door and met Travis out front. Travis already had his baseball stuff with him. They got on their bikes and took off for Bryce's house. They spent a little time there, before heading to the park to throw the ball around and play a little bit. They found some of their friends there and got together a game of over the line. They stopped playing after a couple of hours because it was getting hot, so they headed back to Bryce's house to go swimming. When they got there, they changed into their swimming trunks that they kept at Bryce's. Before they could go swimming, Bryce's mom asked him to clean the leaves out of the pool. He did that with the other boys' help and soon they were having a great time swimming in the cool water. Bryce's younger sister Robin swam and played with them too. After swimming they went to Bryce's room to change and then play some video games. It was after four o'clock when Chris and Travis said goodbye, so that they could get home for dinner. They got on their bikes and headed home, talking freely as they slowly rode home.

"Chris, can you be a catcher for me after dinner? I want to practice my pitching." Travis asked.

"Sure, I'll come over after we eat." Chris answered with a smile.

"Cool, th…AHHHHH!" Travis yelled as he suddenly went flying over his handlebars as his bike came to a sudden stop. He landed hard on his back and got the wind knocked out of him. He lay there trying to get his breath back.

Chris went a few more feet before he stopped and dropped his bike to go to his friend. He never made it, because a large figure came out of hiding and grabbed Chris while clamping a hand over his mouth. The figure ran to a van whose side door slid open quickly and he jumped in.

Travis sat up just as another figure came out of hiding toward him. He scrambled backwards trying to get away and his hand came to rest on Chris's bat which was lying behind him. He grabbed it and as the figure neared him he brought it around and grabbed it with his other hand and with as much strength as he could, he swung it at the figure. There was a loud 'CRACK' as the bat connected with the left knee of the attacker.

"AHHHH, SON OF A BITCH!!!!!" Travis' attacker yelled as he fell back.

From inside the van someone yelled to him, "FORGET HIM, WE GOTTA GET OUT OF HERE!"

Travis' attacker got up and hobbled over to the van, practically falling in as the door shut behind him. Travis got a quick look at the guy who was in the driver seat as he looked over his shoulder through the open side door as he yelled. The van took off on squealing tires and was soon gone.

"NOOOOO, CHRIS!!!!" Travis yelled as he stood up and ran after the van for a few steps before he stopped and went back to his bike, but stopped when he saw the misshapen front wheel with what looked like a broomstick stuck through it. He turned and ran for Chris' bike and picked it up just as a neighbor who had heard the commotion outside came out to investigate. All the man saw was Travis pedaling away for all he was worth.

He was only a block away from home and within a minute he jumped off the bike in front of Chris' house, and burst through the door yelling "MR. HALE, HELP, COME QUICK!"

Michael Hale stood up from his chair as he saw Travis burst into the house. He quickly took in his appearance, his right arm and the side of his head was scraped up with road rash and there was blood running from cut on his forehead. His clothes were dirty and out of place.

"What the hell happened, Travis?" Michael said. Then he looked behind Travis and noticed something missing. "Oh God, where's Chris?" he said worriedly. He ran over to Travis and grabbed him by the arms. His voice rose as he said to Travis "Where's Chris, what happened!"

Travis looked at Michael for a second with some fear on his face and then he started to cry. "Mike, what's all the shouting about?" Heather said as she came into the room to see why Michael's voice had gotten louder.

She saw Travis' face and ran up behind Michael and put her hand on his shoulder. She calmly said to him "Dear, you're scaring him."

Michael realized what he was doing and let go of Travis' arms and instead put his arms around him and hugged him gently as Travis started to cry.

"Shh, oh buddy, I'm sorry I scared you. What happened honey, where's Chris." Michael said as he held him.

Travis could hardly speak as he said "He…he…wa…was gra…grabbed by…by s..someone…and throw…thrown into…a….a…va…van…and drove away." Michael was more calm when said "When, bud, where?"

Travis' voice still hitched as he said "I….I'll sh…show you." Michael pulled back from the hug and said calmly "Okay, come with me. Heather call Rich and Mere, let 'em know what's going on, I'll call the police on the way to the place."

"Okay." She answered him while picking up the phone to make the call.

She started dialing as Michael grabbed his cell from the hall table and ushered Travis out to his car. He had Travis get in the back seat behind the driver side and jumped in the front. He started the car and peeled out of the driveway. Michael followed Travis's directions and arrived at the site of the attack in less than a minute slamming on the brakes and pulling out his cell phone and calling 911. He saw a man standing next to Travis' downed bike.

"Hello 911…Yes, my son was kidnapped….I know he was kidnapped because his friend was with him….he said someone grabbed my son and threw him into a van and drove off….I don't know…wait a moment." Michael said excitedly into the phone.

He turned to the man standing there and asked him "Did you see anything, sir?"

The man stammered a little while answering "No, I, uh, heard some yelling outside here and heard tires squealing away and came outside to see what was going on and saw this boy here pedaling away on his bike."

Michael put the phone back to his ear and continued talking "No, one of the neighbors said he heard some yelling and then tires squealing, by the time he came outside the van was gone…..near the corner of Mapledale and….uh, Canehill….yeah that's right…okay I'll wait here…"

Michael looked at Travis and then added, "Wait….my son's friend was hurt, you should probably send someone to look at him and make sure he's okay…..yeah, he's a little scraped up and has a cut on his head….okay I will…..good. Thanks…..bye."

He closed the phone and looked at Travis. He went to him and had him sit down and said to him, "Travis, sit with me here for a little bit. The paramedics are on the way to make sure you're okay."

Travis sat down and Michael put his arm around his shoulders. Travis turned and leaned against him.

Michael's cell phone rang and he quickly answered it. "Hello?.....yes we're over near the corner of Mapledale and Canehill….okay, I did...they'll be here in a few minutes….okay see you guys when you get here."

He closed the phone and laid it on the ground beside him. "Ar…are my mom and dad coming?" Travis asked.

Michael answered him "Yeah bud they'll be here in a few moments."

Michael looked around the area and took in the strewn baseball equipment, the bike with the piece of broomstick stuck through the spokes and as he turned his attention back to the trembling boy beside him, he saw near his feet a baseball glove with "Chris Elkins" written in black marker. He reached out and gently picked it up and looked at the name and then pulled it to him like he was holding a teddy bear and worked hard to keep the tears at bay.

He heard a car screech to a stop and looked up to see the Grayson's car pull up. Meredith Grayson ran over to her son and took him in her arms as he started crying and hugging her tightly. Richard came over and put his hand down to give Michael a hand up. Once he was standing up, Heather came to him and hugged him. At their side, Jessie and Tyler were crying because they were scared of everything that was going on. Michael and Heather bent down and picked the kids up and held them trying to comfort them. A few moments later they could hear sirens coming closer. By this time there were quite a few people standing around and watching. A couple of police cars pulled up and the officers got out of their cars. A fire paramedic truck showed up right after them and the two paramedics got out and grabbed their equipment and hurried over to Travis. While they treated Travis, the officer came over to Michael as he took out his notebook.

"Are you the one who called 911 sir?" the officer asked.

Michael answered him "Yes, my name's Michael Hale. The boy over there is my son's friend Travis. He saw someone grab my son and throw him into a van and drive off with him."

The officer nodded as he took in the scene. He turned to the other officer and called to him "Steve, can you clear the people from around here. This is a crime scene." He turned to the man who lived right there, "Sir, could I ask you to step back a bit, so that we can preserve any evidence."

"Yes, of course officer," the neighbor answered as he stepped back.

The others that had gathered around stepped back as well.

The officer continued his questions "Mr. Hale, how did you find out about this?"

"I was at home and my son's friend Travis," he pointed at Travis, "Burst through the door and told us that someone had grabbed Chris and thrown him in a van and drove off. So I had him show me where it happened and I called you guys."

The officer wrote in his notebook before continuing "Okay, anything else." Michael just shook his head and said worriedly, "No, just find him."

The officer nodded and said "I'll go talk to the boy now and see what he remembers."

Michael went with the officer and said to them "Rich, Meredith, the officer wants to talk to Travis about what he saw."

The officer said to him "Thank you, Mr. Hale."

"Of course officer anything we can do to help" Michael answered.

The paramedics were just putting Travis onto the gurney. They had put a gauze pad on his cut and were ready to take him to the hospital to be checked out. Travis was holding his mom's hand tightly.

The officer held his hand up to stop the paramedics for a moment and asked them, "May I ask him some questions before you take him?"

"Yeah, he isn't badly injured, but we need to take him to get him checked out and make sure he's okay," one of them nodded.

"Okay, thanks." The officer said in thanks.

The sheriff put a friendly smile on his face as he looked down at Travis on the gurney, "Travis, my name is Jim Davis. Do you think you can answer some questions?"

"I'll try," Travis answered

Davis patted his shoulder to reassure him "Good boy. Can you tell me what happened?" he asked.

"I don't know exactly, Chris and I were riding our bikes home, when all of a sudden my bike stopped and I flew over the handlebars and hit the ground hard. I couldn't get up right away, cuz it was hard to breathe. Chris stopped and got off his bike to come back and help me, and then some guy came from out of nowhere and grabbed him and jumped into a van with him. Another guy came at me and I tried to get away from him. As I crawled backwards I felt Chris' bat behind me and when the guy got close enough, I swung it as hard as I could and I hit him on the leg. He started yelling and cussing, then someone in the van yelled at him and he jumped into the van too and it took off that away," Travis said tearfully.

Travis pointed down the street. Jim looked in the direction Travis pointed and then wrote a few notes down before looking up at Travis again.

"Can you describe any of them?" the office asked.

"No, I was real scared and didn't see any…." Travis paused "wait."

The officer poised his pen over his notebook "What? Do you remember something?"

Travis started looking around kind of frantically and then spied what he was looking for on a telephone pole. He turned to his dad and pointed at the pole. "Dad go over there and grab that paper off the pole," he said excitedly.

Richard was puzzled but jogged over and ripped the lost dog poster off the pole and brought it back. Travis grabbed it and showed it to the officer "Here, it was this guy."

Officer Davis looked at the picture of the dog and then at Travis, puzzled as well. He turned the picture so Travis could see it. "What do you mean, this guy?" the officer asked puzzled.

"I mean, the guy who put up these posters. Me and Chris saw him yesterday and he gave us one of these, asking us to call him if we found his dog." Travis explained.

The officer was still puzzled "Saw who?" he asked still a not understanding.

"The guy who put up the poster!" Travis answered excitedly.

The officer was still puzzled and looked at the paramedics as if to ask if Travis was making sense to them "What does that have to do with this?"

Travis was getting frustrated "He was in the van that took Chris! He was driving!"

This got the officer's attention "Can you describe him?"

Travis thought for a moment and nodded "Sure, I think so." He gathered his thoughts as he tried to remember everything he could, before he continued "He was kinda tall and had his hair cut short, I think it was dark brown. He had brown eyes."

The officer interrupted him, "When you say short, do you mean he had it shaved down, like a little bald?"

Travis shook his head "No, it was just short."

The officer's next question was "Was he white, black…"

Travis interrupted "White."

The officer made a quick note before his next question, "Could you tell how old he was?"

Travis looked at his dad "I don't know, like my dad I guess."

The officer looked at Richard and nodded "You think about thirty five or so."

Travis agreed "Yeah, I think so and when we saw him yesterday, he had a white car, like a Toyota or something like that."

The officer jotted the information down before he looked up again, "Did you notice any of the numbers on his license plate?"

Travis shook his head as he answered "No, I wasn't paying attention, sorry."

The officer waved his apology off to let him know it was okay "How about the van, can you tell me anything about that?"

Travis thought before answering, "It was dark red or purple I think."

The officer made a note and asked "Did you see any numbers on it or anything special about it?"

Again, Travis could only shake his head "No, I'm sorry I didn't see anything like that."

The officer glanced around the scene as he framed his next question, "Can you remember if any of the people in the van touched anything here, like any of the baseball gear, the bike anything like that?"

Travis looked around too and tried to remember, but had to shake his head no, "No, I didn't see any of them do that. It happened so fast, I don't think so, sorry."

"That's okay. Is there anything else you can think of?" the officer smiled.

Travis could only shake his head no before looking at the officer with tears in his eyes "No, but you guys gotta find him, he's my best friend."

The officer closed his notebook and placed his hand on Travis shoulder, "I promise we'll do everything we can to find him. You've been a big help, thanks."

He then pulled out a card and handed it to Richard, "Sir, if he remembers anything more, please call us right away. I'm sure that thedetectives will want to speak to him as well."

Richard took the card, "Thanks officer, we'll call."

The officer nodded and shook hands with everyone. Meredith went with Travis to the hospital. They watched as Officer Davis walked over to the other officer. They talked quietly as they looked around. Their eyes focused on the misshapen front wheel of the bike and the stick that was through the spokes. Officer Davis went over to the bike and reached into his back pocket to take out a pair of gloves. He reached down and carefully extracted the piece of broomstick from the spokes and held it up carefully. Officer Matson brought a large paper bag from the back of his cruiser and Officer Davis lowered the stick into the bag. Officer Matson closed the bag once the stick was in there.

Officer Davis looked at Richard and Michael and pointed to the bike and gear on the ground, "You can take the boys' stuff with you now. I think that stick was the only thing that we need to check out. Thanks for your help."

Michael and Richard started picking the stuff up. Michael helped Richard put the bike in the trunk of Michael's car. Once everything was picked up, Richard said goodbye and left for the hospital. He and Heather got the kids in their seats and headed for home. He still had the glove in his hand when he got in and he placed it in his lap when he sat down. At home, Heather got the kids into the house, while Michael took care of the bike and the baseball gear, stowing them in the garage. Once it was put away he reached into the car and picked up the glove. He looked at it again and walked into the house with it in his hand. He stopped, walked back out and went over to Travis' house next door. He knocked on the door and Troy, the Grayson's fifteen year old son, answered the door with a worried look.

"Hi, Mr. Hale. What's going on? Where is everyone else?" Troy asked worriedly.

Michael put his hand on Troy's shoulder, "Your mom and dad went to the hospital with Travis."

Troy started to get a little agitated when he heard that, "What?! What happened to Travis?"

Michael put his arm around Troy, "Calm down Troy. Travis will be fine, he just got kinda banged up a little and they've taken him to the hospital to get checked out. C'mon, why don't you come next door and stay with us until they get back. Make sure you lock up."

Troy nodded and quickly closed and locked the door. Michael put his arm across the boy's shoulders as he guided him next door. Troy was quiet as they walked over. Michael glanced over and could see the glimmer of tears in the boy's eyes before he blinked them away. He squeezed his shoulder as they neared the door. Michael gently directed him to a seat in the living room. He placed Chris' glove on the seat of his chair.

"Would you like something to drink Troy?" he asked.

Troy nodded, "Sure, a coke?"

Michael smiled, "Be right back."

Troy nodded and sat on the couch staring blankly at the TV.

Michael returned carrying a beer in one hand and a coke in the other. He handed Troy a coke. He looked at Troy and shrugged, "I needed something a little stronger than a coke."

Troy gave a weak grin. Michael raised the beer up in a salute and took a drink before he sat down. He picked the glove up and set it in his lap as they both stared at the TV. "Daddy, whewe's Cwiss?" Tyler asked.

Michael looked at Tyler who was standing next to his chair. He picked the boy up and put him in his lap facing him. "I don't know, but he'll be back soon." Michael answered him.

Tyler accepted the answer, "Okay." The boy turned around and leaned back against Michael. He picked up the glove and studied it while Michael hugged him. Troy glanced up and saw that Michael had tears in his eyes as he looked at Tyler holding Chris' glove.

"What happened Mr. Hale?" Troy asked quietly.

Michael swallowed for a second before answering, "Someone kidnapped Chris and I think they meant to take Travis too, but he hit one of them with a baseball bat and they drove off with Chris in the van."

Troy was shocked "Oh fu….shoot."

Michael nodded "I agree."

Troy shrugged "Sorry."

Michael waved it off "S'okay. I feel pretty much the same way."

They both turned back to the TV.

Heather came in a few moments later, "There you are munchkin. C'mon, it's time for bed."

Tyler looked at his mom, "Wiw Cwiss come and say night latew."

Heather bit her lip, "Yes, I'm sure he will as soon as he can. Now you be a good boy and let's get you to bed."

Tyler twisted around and gave Michael a hug and kiss as he dropped the baseball glove, "Okay Mommy. Night Daddy."

Heather picked him up and carried him to his bedroom. She came back a few minutes later and sat on the arm of the chair next to Michael. He was holding the glove in his hands and nervously turning it around. He put one arm around her waist and gave her a quick hug. The phone interrupted them.

Heather got up to answer it. "Hello……..(she nodded) that's good…..I'm glad…..Troy's over here right now…..okay, yeah we'll tell him….okay, thanks….talk to you later, bye."

She hung up the phone and turned to them, "That was your dad Troy. Travis is okay and they are on their way home. He said that you can go on home and wait for them."

Troy let loose the breath he had been holding when she answered the phone, "Thanks for letting me stay here."

She smiled as she answered him, "No problem we're all practically family anyway."

Troy gave a little smile and wave as he left.

Heather came over to Michael and put her hand out. He took it and she gave him a little pull. He stood up and hugged her, still holding the glove in his hand, "Let's go to bed and get some rest."

He nodded and they walked to their room. He put the glove down on the table on his side of the bed. They finished getting ready for bed, snuggled up to each other and they finally let everything go as they cried with worry for Chris.

Twenty miles away, the maroon van was still driving. They had been taking a careful meandering route back to their safe house. In the back George Higgs finished duct taping Chris' feet together. Chris's hands and mouth were already taped and he looked around with fearful eyes at the men.

Marcus was further in the back lying down and holding his knee. "Jesus fucking Christ. I think that little bastard broke my kneecap" he whined.

Hal glanced back at him and said, "We'll take a look at it when we get to the place. If you need a doc, we'll take you to an urgent care clinic. They'll take care of it."

Marcus agreed, "Okay, but it really hurts like hell."

Hal finally turned into the garage of a house and closed the garage door behind them. Once it was all the way down Hal got out and came around to the side to help Marcus into the house. He looked back at the other guy in the van, "George, take the kid into the bedroom and secure him."

Hal let Marcus lean on him as they walked into the house. George picked Chris up and carried him over his shoulder. He took him to a bedroom and turned on the light. He tossed Chris onto the bed in the room.

Chris looked around and in the room he could see a couple of windows that had security bars with very narrow spaces between the bars on the inside of the window instead of the outside. The security bars had heavy duty locks on them. He couldn't see out the window since they were covered up by shutters.

George went back out the door and Chris heard the door lock. He looked toward the door and saw that there appeared to be a couple of locks on it. The walls of the room had a strange puffy material on them. There was also another door in the room that was closed. He struggled against the bonds, but the tape was too strong and at nine he wasn't really that strong anyway. He was exhausted from his struggles and everything that had happened to him that day. He started crying and the tape on his mouth only allowed little whimpers to escape. He finally fell into an exhausted sleep.

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