“I remember the day you were born,” I said into the walkie-talkie, “I held you in my arms and thought you were the most beautiful baby I had ever seen. You hardly cried and at five weeks old, you slept through the night.”
My voice breaks from the pang of the memory. I release the talk button. Oh God, please protect my son! My head falls to the table as all of my panic rips through my chest. My baby has been gone for more than 12 hours. He must be so scared. My overwhelming feeling of helplessness makes it hard to breathe. I take a drink of water to clear my voice and then I continue.
“One day when you were about two, I was exhausted from chasing you around all day,” I chuckle, “I saw that you were behind the curtain looking out the back door. You loved looking out the back door. I remember taking a deep breath and relaxing for a moment. It was the first time all day that you were quiet and not getting into anything. We were getting ready to leave and I went to get you from the curtain. Your little face was smeared with something brown,” I chuckle again, “there was a little brown hand print on the glass door and a tub of chocolate frosting lying on the ground. You had been in the pantry and gotten the frosting and was enjoying a secret treat behind the curtain,” I laugh for a second, “I wish I could go back to that moment. You were so curious about the world. I should have grabbed the frosting and smeared it all over my mouth, scooped you up and gave you chocolate kisses all over your sweet little face. Instead, I got angry with you because we were going to be late.”
Bill and I gave Spenser a walkie-talkie when we decided to let him walk home alone after school; but today, he did not answer. The police were at the school when I got there. They said someone in a van picked up my baby.
I have been talking to Spenser all afternoon, only he did not talk back. I knew the battery would die eventually, but before it did, I wanted him to hear how much I love him. I recounted the moments that stuck out the most from his birth to the time he broke his leg. The recovery was difficult, but we made it through and we will make it through this. I hoped my voice would bring him comfort.
Night set in, turning the sky black. I fill my thermos with the coffee Bill just made, grab my light jacket and open the back door.
“Where are you going, Katie?” Bill asks me.
“I am going outside. I want to look at the sky and see the stars. Maybe they will provide enough light to help Spense find his way home.” We sometimes called Spenser, Spense, for short.
“Katie, I don’t think— I mean you heard what the police said. They are doing everything they can to find him, but it has been over 12 hours now…” He looks away from me, avoiding eye contact.
“No! Don’t you dare give up hope! He will come home! He has to!” I fall to the ground weeping again. Bill rushes over and pulls me into his arms.
“I am not giving up hope. I’m just scared.” I can feel his chest rise and fall as he weeps too.
I jump up and grab the walkie-talkie.
“Spenser is that you?”
“Spenser! Are you there?!”
“Arghh!!!” I scream at the top of my lungs.
Pschsst. “Mommy, I am OK and will be coming home soon.”
“Spenser! Where are you? I will come get you right now!”
“This boy is lucky to have a mom like you,” a husky male voice with a smooth southern drawl breaks the silence over the walkie-talkie and adds a sharp chill to the night air.
“I’ll be in touch in tha mornin’. Over.”
The walkie-talkie beeps twice when one of them turns off.
It felt like a million years until the sun came up the next morning. Bill and I did not sleep at all. There was no way we would allow ourselves to sleep when our little boy was out there somewhere with a psychopath. I pressed the talk button on the walkie-talkie every couple of hours, with no luck.
Bill was busy making breakfast, even though neither of us was going to eat. He had the “I am in deep thought” look on his face. Spenser gets the same look; he resembles his father a lot. They have the same deep brown almond shaped eyes and square masculine face. The only difference is the lifelines that etch Bill’s face. Spenser is still delicate with his precious youth. Bill was moving and working around the kitchen. I love this man. He is my rock, an amazing husband and father. I am glad I get to spend the rest of my life with him.
The front door opens. We did not lock it in case Spenser came home. Bill and I rush to the foyer. Spenser is still in his school uniform, smudged with dirt, but in one piece. I pull him to me and bury my face in his neck. I was not sure I would ever see him again, and I did not want to let him go. Bill waited patiently, but I know he was desperate to hold his son too.
For the next couple of days, Bill and I stay right by Spenser’s side. He seems to be untouched by whatever he experienced, and I am thankful.
“I think it is time for Spense to go back to school.” Bill said that night in bed. I was reluctant, but I agreed.
“It is supposed to be nice out tomorrow; maybe I will walk him instead of driving.”
“I think that is a good idea.”
Spenser is up early and dressed. He is excited to go back to school and play with his friends. The school is only three blocks from our house, but we take our time getting there. I let him stop and examine rocks, run after birds and pick flowers for his teacher.
At the school, I kneel in front of him and grab him in my arms. I hold him until he squirms, “Mooomm, I will be fine.” I let him go and plant a big kiss on his cheek.
“I love you Spensie Spense! To the moon and back!”
“I love you too mom, see you later.” He turns and runs into the school.
I stand there for a few minutes watching and waiting in case he comes back out, and then I head back home.
“Mr. Martin? This is Mrs. Jones from Lincoln Hall Elementary. It is a little after three and no one has come to pick Spenser up yet.”
“My wife didn’t come get him?”
“No sir, we have tried calling her but cannot reach her.”
“I will be right there.”
Bill rushed to the school. This is not like Katie. He tried to call her cell for the fourth time, but she still did not answer.
Spenser and Mrs. Jones are waiting outside the school when Bill arrives.
At home, there is no trace of Katie. He has searched the entire house. Her car is in the garage and her purse and keys are still on the counter. The breakfast dishes were in the same spot as this morning. Bill feels panic rising in his chest.
“Daddy? Here.” Spenser is holding the walkie-talkie up to his dad, and Bill takes it.
“It’s mommy.” Spenser says.
“Oh my God Katie, where are you?”
“Listen, I need to tell you that I love you so much. You are an amazing husband and father. Take good care of Spenser and make sure you tell him every day, how much I love him.” Her voice cracked up as she spoke those last few words.
“Katie, what are you talking about? Where are you?”
“I don’t want you to have any bad images in your head, but I won’t be coming home.” Katie’s voice sounded like she was trying to use bravery to cover her fear.
A brief recollection entered Bill’s mind, Spenser never brought the other walkie-talkie back with him.
“Katie, I am calling the police. I will find you.”
“Bill, it is too late. Please just do what I asked.”
“I will, Katie. I love you so much. I don’t want to lose you!” Bill cries into the machine.
The smooth southern drawl oozes out of the speaker and makes Bill’s hair stand on end, “Guess I’m tha lucky one now. Over.”