The Untold Truth?
The year was 2051. The sky was painted crimson as the sun began to set on the West Coast, in a small city just outside of Los Angeles. An old man sat facing the sunset in a wheelchair on the balcony of his nursing home overlooking the ocean. Along the calm endless beach, he saw strings of small waves repeatedly running across the white sand.
The old man gazed at the horizon while sporting a smile of content. His fingers were crooked from arthritis and the top of his head was bald with a little gray hair left on the sides. He could no longer stand upright because of the weakness in his hips and knees.
The man had just celebrated his 92nd birthday a few days ago. He could feel that he had very little time left to live. On this particular evening the nurse took him out of his room and onto the balcony of the hospice, as per the man’s last wish. He said he wanted to see the sunset one last time before he took his last breath. The nurse chuckled and told him not to be silly, but she humored him anyway. He somehow knew that today was the day. He had waited for this moment for a long time. For almost five decades had he lived with a grim truth, one that he promised to keep secret. Soon, he would no longer have this heavy burden. In a short while, he would be free from all of that.
The old man saw a flash of light move across the sky as he took his last breath. He closed his eyes slowly and surrendered himself. Suddenly, his body disappeared from the wheel chair. The nurse screamed.
It was 11 o’clock at night. A man picked up the morning newspaper from the dining room table in his condominium. The date on the newspaper was September 11, 2004. This was his first chance all day to read the paper.
The man’s name was Victor Peterson. He was in his mid- 40’s, 5 foot 10, athletically built with dark brown hair and brown eyes. He was a detective who had been with the LAPD for 20 years. For the past 5 years, he was handling murder cases in the Robbery-Homicide Unit. No one could solve difficult murder cases as well as he could. He was becoming a legend in his unit.
Victor walked slowly toward his living room while glancing at the front page of the newspaper. He turned on the television to watch the 11 o’clock news. On each anniversary date of September 11th, the media would cover the horrible plane attacks that occurred in 2001 taking down the twin towers in New York City. A coordinated attack by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda had shaken the country and shocked the world. It was still a raw open wound to many Americans as it had killed over 3000 people and injured more than 6000 others. But this year was different. The main topic of every news broadcast and newspaper across the U.S. was the abduction of hundreds of children.
“Good evening. This is 11’clock news. Leading off the news tonight is the mystery of missing children throughout America. The total number of missing children in America from the beginning of September to date has now reached 263. In our city of Los Angeles, 7 children are missing and unaccounted for as of today.”
The newscaster of the local television station continued.
“The Missing Persons Unit of the LAPD is currently investigating these cases. However, they have found no clues yet as to what has happened to these children. This lack of progress is becoming an issue with the general public and questions are being raised about the effectiveness of the LAPD.”
On the screen the faces of the 7 children began to scroll slowly one by one.
“The first case in Los Angeles occurred on Tuesday, September 7th in the afternoon, less than a week ago. It was the first day of school. Initially, the police suspected it was a simple case of a runaway youth. However, as they discovered that other major cities are experiencing the same phenomena, they concluded that it could be related to organized crime. As the number of missing children climbs throughout America, the FBI now suspects that all 263 children were abducted by an organization associated with human trafficking.”
The newscaster hesitated briefly as if listening to someone then announced excitedly.
“We’ve just received this breaking news! Apparently, we have an eighth missing child in our city tonight. His name is Timothy Bryant. He is a 15 year old white male. He was last seen by his classmates around noon at his high school yesterday. Unfortunately, he never returned to his school. It has been more than 24 hours since the child’s disappearance, his family reported to the police tonight.”
He continued to broadcast the details of the eighth missing youth. Then the broadcaster concluded with,
“But who? Who would abduct these children? This is the question every parent in our country is asking now…”
Then the screen focused on a mob of protesters around the police station in downtown LA. The images were taken in the afternoon of that day. The group consisted of distressed parents, relatives and concerned citizens of the city. They were protesting and pleading with the police to bring their children back to their homes safely.
Victor turned off the television abruptly. Then he glanced back at the front page of the newspaper he had in his hand. It had the same picture of the 7 youths he had just seen on the television. Victor became more agitated and increasingly angry while he studied each face. They were all about the same age as his son James would be if he were alive. Victor began to ponder the memories of his son who had been killed many years ago.
“James would be 15 years old if he were still alive… The same age as Timothy” he mumbled to himself.
Victor crushed the newspaper violently as a tear ran down his cheek.
He went to the kitchen and took a glass out of the cupboard and then went to the dining room cabinet and reached for a bottle of whisky. He wiped his eyes with the sleeve of his shirt. Then he sat down and poured a shot of whisky into his glass. He swallowed it in one gulp, grimacing as if it was sour tasting medicine. He poured another one and then lifted the glass above his head to look at the kitchen light through it. The whisky and his tears distorted the light. Within the blurry image of the light, he thought he could see his son’s face. He stared at the glass until he could not see the image anymore as his eyes began to fill with tears. The tears then began to stream down his cheeks. He swallowed the whisky from the glass once again and banged the empty glass hard on the dining table.
With the empty glass still in his hand, he began to reminisce about other members of his family. Suddenly he felt alone. He missed his wife Rose and his daughter Christine. Most of all, he missed James, his only son. It had been very hard on Victor since James’ death in 1995. He hated to be alone, especially at night. Tonight was even harder as those pictures of the children reminded him of his own son.
Everything had changed since that horrific night. ‘Life is cruel’ he thought. ‘One moment, you’re on top of the world, thinking nothing could pull you down. The next moment, it’s all gone. Your world is shattered. You spend the rest of your life with a burning in your stomach that is never extinguished and an aching in your mind that no amount of alcohol can ever completely dull. Before that excruciating night, I had everything – a beautiful wife, wonderful children, and a fulfilling job that gave my family the comfortable life I had always wanted to provide. Yet one single moment changed all that. How foolish I was. How foolish… It’s so true. We never appreciate what we have until we lose it. We take all these wonderful people around us, especially our family members, for granted until we lose them. My family was everything. The problem was that I began to feel that they would be there forever just like the air around me. Never in my wildest dreams would I ever have thought I could lose them. It only took one moment to change all that. James was suddenly taken away from us and in that instant, I wasn’t the same man anymore. As if that wasn’t enough, eventually Rose left with Christine. That’s when I slowly started falling apart. I can’t live like this anymore! I want them back! I want my wife, my daughter, and oh James, especially you… I want my life back!’
He poured more whisky into the glass and began to weep violently.