One Page Stories – Third Web

Not This Time

The van hadn’t gone very far; after the little boy had tumbled out and run off, it had taken nearly a full minute to get the girl back into the van, and another minute to careen out of the neighbourhood. By then, the boy’s screams had attracted more attention than the three men had wanted or anticipated, and they sped conspicuously when before they had tried to blend in with regular traffic.

Several minutes went by, and the driver of the van began to think they had gotten away; the girl was still struggling, but the other two men were holding her down – she couldn’t kick her way out again, and her mouth was still taped up. The driver started to relax.

But suddenly a police car appeared behind the van, and then another, and another. Their lights were flashing; their sirens wailed. The driver of the van panicked, flinging the van recklessly from one lane to the next, but the police cars kept pace. Soon six cars had surrounded the van and forced it to the side of the road.

The three men jumped out of the van and fled on foot, pursued by half a dozen police officers with guns drawn. The other officers cautiously approached the van, opening the back doors to find a girl tied up and wrapped in duct tape. “You’re okay!” they shouted, climbing in and kneeling down beside her. “You’re okay!” The girl looked scared and relieved at the same time; as soon as the tape was removed from her mouth, she croaked, “Where’s the little boy?”

One of the officers put a hand on her shoulder. “Jacob?” he said. “He’s how we found you. He’s okay.”

The girl slumped down and began to cry. “Thank God,” she sobbed. “Thank God.”

Two of the officers helped her down out of the van and led her to one of the squad cars. The officers left in the van began looking at piles of items collected in the corners amidst the tangle of ropes and blankets. There were articles of clothing, odds and ends of jewelry, and a few handbags. “Collect all these,” one officer said to another. “It looks like this girl and Jacob aren’t the first ones thrown into this van.”

“Look at this,” a third officer interjected, tipping up a wooden shadow box. “It’s a jersey,” she noted, angling the box so that the others could see inside it. “It’s been signed by Stan Lee.”

“There’s a receipt taped to it,” the first officer said. “It might tell us who owned that jersey.” He stepped out of the van. “Stop collecting,” he decided. “Let’s seal it up and take the whole van in for processing.”

The officer holding up the shadow box laid it gently back where she had found it. “I think Jacob and this girl are really lucky,” she commented as she climbed out of the van. “It looks like a lot of people didn’t get away.”

“Yeah,” the first officer said. He closed the doors to the van. “Yeah.” He went over to the car where the girl sat sobbing into her hands and shaking. She had saved little Jacob’s life, and could easily have lost her own. “But you’re safe,” the officer whispered to himself. He shook his head, and glanced back at the van. “You’re safe.” He wondered about the owners of all those items they had found, wondered how many of them were dead. “What the hell’s wrong with people?” he asked no one in particular, and got into the squad car.

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