Sunday, January 24, 2010

Leap of Faith

For unknown reasons I've decided that I'm going to enter a short story that I wrote called "Leap of Faith" in a writing competition that they hold every year at my college. I've never done anything like this before, so I thought that I'd post the story here first as a warm up before I hand it in to the judges. I'm also hoping for a little feed back on anything that might need to be changed or clarified. Anyway, I hope that you enjoy it and that it's not too long.


I was eating dinner when the phone rang, “Hello, Vincent residence, Amy speaking.”

“Amy, thank God,” it was my brother’s mother-in-law, Candice, “He’s gone. Mark turned away for a second and he was gone…”

“What… wait, who?” I asked, trying to figure out what she was talking about… but at the same time part of me knew she was talking about Derek.

My parents had died when I was fifteen, and then two years ago my younger brother, Andy, and his wife had died in a car crash. Derek was the only family I had left.

“Mark took him to the park, and then he left for a second to talk to some friends. When he got back Derek was GONE! Somebody took him!” cried Candice as she dissolved in tears.

Great, my nephew was missing and she was having a nervous breakdown. He shouldn’t have even been out with Mark in the first place. Mark was a great kid, but he was one of the most irresponsible fifteen year olds that I had ever met. He had no place looking after a five year old. I took a deep breath, “Are you sure that somebody took him? Maybe he just wandered off, you know how Derek is.”

“No, he was kidnapped!”

“Candice, I’m sure…”

“There was a note,” she sobbed, “They want money…”

“I’ll be there in three hours,” and I hung up.

Two hours later I pulled up in front of Candice’s little house. Her driveway looked like the parking lot at the local police station.

When I knocked on the door I half expected a police officer to answer, but when it opened Mark was standing in front of me.

He looked so scared. “Amy, I didn’t mean to. I just… just for a second, and…”

I took Mark’s arm. He winced as I touched him, but he let me lead him past a group of police officers and into the living room. I set down on the couch, pulling him down next to me.

He was in tears, and I pulled him close, “it’s alright, everything is going to be alright.”

As Mark relaxed into me I shot the police officers in the hall a dirty look. They had the decency to look guilty, and one shook his head. They had all seen the bruise on Mark’s cheek as clearly as I had but there was nothing they could do about it.

There never was. I had made three complaints about Candice since I had found the first bruises on Derek’s arm, but on one ever did anything. Sure they’d sent out a social worker, but all they ever found was a clean house and a happy family full of clumsy kids.

My train of thought was interrupted when Candice burst into the room. She was hysterical and when she saw me she threw herself at me, grabbing for my arm, “Amy, thank God! They want 250,000 dollars, and I don’t have 250,000 dollars!”

I pulled back and stared at her, “What?”

“They… want… 250,000… dollars,” she repeated slowly like I was a little bit dense.

I turned to look at the police officers who had followed her into the room wondering if that was a typical fee for finding a missing child.

Apparently not since she leaned forward and handed me a folded piece of paper. I unfolded it. On it, typed in neat letters, were the words “Bring $250,000 to Mission park at 7:00PM tomorrow or we’ll kill him. No police.”

Evidently we weren’t going to be taking that piece of advice.

As I finished reading the note a man in a suit set down on the coffee table in front of me and started to speak, “Ms. Vincent, I have to be honest with you here, Mrs. Murray has called you against our advice. In our experience…”

But I didn’t get to hear what their experience was because Candice cut him off, “they said that they’d kill Derek if we didn’t give them the money!”

“Mrs. Murray, in these situations the kidnappers often don’t return the child even if they get the money,” said the detective reasonably.

“I’m not going to let you take chances with my grandson!” Candice practically screamed at the detective. “We’re giving them the money!”

As Mark recoiled from the sound of his mother’s voice I was tempted to ask where all of her compassion was when she was beating the crap out of her kids, but I bit my tongue.

“Mrs. Murray, forgive me for being blunt, but it doesn’t look like you have 250,000 dollars just lying around,” the detective shot back, and I wondered if Candice had finally met her match.

A second later her finger shot out towards me, “but she does!”

The next morning at seven I was dressed and standing in the huge basement of my little house. I had been standing there since six staring at the eight perfectly restored classic motorcycles that set in neat rows in my basement.

Every year since he was fifteen Andy had gone out and found some beat up old motorcycle. Then he’d spend all of his free time fixing it up. He, Sheryl, and Derek used to come over every Sunday for dinner, and afterwards Sheryl and I would sit upstairs and talk while Andy took Derek downstairs to work on his latest project.

After I had gotten home I had called every motorcycle shop owner in town trying to find someone, anyone, to buy the bikes. It wasn’t until I had called Stan at three in the morning that I caught a break. Stan knew a collector in Connecticut who was interested in classic American bikes. By the time he gave me the number of the man it was almost a godly hour in Connecticut. Maybe that was the reason the man agreed to buy all eight bikes sight unseen. Then again, it might have been the fact that as soon as I had finished listing the bikes the next words out of my mouth had been, “you can have them all for 250,000 dollars, but the money needs to be in my account by noon today.”

The money was already in my account. All I had left to do was to get the bikes over to Stan’s where they would stay until his friend could send someone to California to pick them up.

My eyes kept drifting back to the silver 2003 Honda Cbr 600 F4i that was sitting in the center of the room. It was the only bike there that wasn’t a classic, but that hadn’t stopped it from being Andy’s favorite. He would roll over in his grave if he knew what I was going to do with it.

It was 7:00PM, and I was sitting on a bench in Mission Park holding a faded black backpack full of money and eating a hotdog. The note hadn’t said anything about a hotdog, but for some odd reason when I had seen the hotdog vender I had gone over and bought one. I hadn’t even been hungry, but for some reason I had felt the need to buy a hotdog.

I took another bite and looked around me. Everybody looked so happy, and I wondered if there were any plain clothes policemen in the crowd. There always were on the TV shows, but this wasn’t a TV show.

A man walking towards me drew my eye. He was dressed like a biker, but that wasn’t what caught my attention. What caught my attention was the fact that he was wearing a black bike helmet with the visor pulled down so that it covered his face.

As he walked past me he motioned with his hand for me to follow.

After walking for a few minutes we met up with two more helmet clad bikers.

I had been nervous from the start, but now I was terrified. They didn’t say anything, and when I looked at their faces all I saw was my face reflected in their visors.

The first man reached out to take my backpack, but I wouldn’t let it go, “where’s Derek? I won’t give you the money until I see him.”

At that the first man let go of the strap as the biker on my right reached into his pocket. He pulled out a note and handed it to me.

I opened it. If you don’t give us the money our friends will kill him.

I shoved the backpack at the man standing next to me, but as he reached for it he must have seen something over my shoulder because he looked down at me, “you called the cops.”

I panicked, “No, no, I didn’t call them I swear!”

They were turning to run, but I couldn’t just let them go. I grabbed at the closest man. My hand connected with the bag of money instead. “Please, please!”

He tried to pull the bag away, but I wouldn’t let go. For a second he struggled with me, but then he saw the police getting closer. He hesitated for a split-second. Then he backhanded me. I staggered backward landing hard on the ground.

I watched as the men sprinted down the path. The police ran past, but the men had already reached their bikes and were speeding off by the time the police had crossed the park.

Then an officer was kneeling next to me asking if I was alright, but I couldn’t answer.

It had been two weeks and we hadn’t heard anything from the kidnappers. This morning I had gotten a call asking if I could come into the city, and I had been sure that they had heard something. They hadn’t. They had wanted to tell us in person that there was a chance that the kidnappers had killed Derek after they had gotten the money, and we would probably never see him again. What all of this translated to was that they were putting the case on the back burner.

Candice had been livid. She had started screaming at the police, but I had been different.

As soon as they had told us I had gone numb, and two hours later as I was driving home it still hadn’t worn off. I hadn’t even realized just how fast I was going until my car lurched over the little asphalt bump where the road merged with the bridge across the bay. I started slowing down, and then I came to a complete stop there on the side of the bridge. For some reason I got out of my car and left it sitting on the edge of the road.

I walked over to the railing and looked out over the water. I had grown up in a little town on the edge of the water. I remembered that once a man had tried to kill himself by jumping off a bridge at low tide, but the bridge was too short and he had failed… this bridge was taller.

“Miss?” a man’s voice broker into my thoughts, “Miss, are you alight?”

I looked at him, and he looked so far away, “No.”

“Why don’t you come away from there? You don’t want to do something you’ll regret.”

“No… I don’t,” I moved away from the railing towards him.

“That’s right. Come on,” he said as he wrapped an arm around my shoulders and started to steer me away from the railing. Having his arm around me felt so strange, Andy used to put his arm around me when I was upset, but Andy was dead… and now Derek was gone.

In one motion I turned shrugging off the man’s arm. He tried to grab me as I ran towards the railing, I was faster. I didn’t slow at it loomed in front of me. I grabbed the railing in my hands and vaulted over it. As I dropped towards the water I knew with absolute clarity that I was doing the right thing.

My body ached and my lungs burned as I surfaced by the bank.

After I had crawled up onto the bank I just sat there for a minute watching the scene on the bridge. People were crowded around the railing scanning the water to see if I would surface. I had come up well outside their field of vision, and I knew that none of them had spotted me.

I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I still had a lot to do. I pushed myself up off the ground and started walking along the service road that ran along the bay.

After about a mile I finally found what I was looking for.

A little over two weeks ago I had sold all of Andy’s motorcycles… well all except one. After I had delivered the other bikes to Stan’s I had driven the Honda out here. I had carefully covered it with a tarp and hidden it in the underbrush next to the service road.

Now I pulled the camo tarp off of it and took a change of clothes out of the backpack I had stashed with the bike. Once I had changed into dry clothes I gave the bike a quick once-over before I pulled on the black and silver helmet Andy had given me.

Then I pushed the Honda up onto the road. I had worried about the condition it would be in after sitting in the woods for so long, but it roared to life on my first try.

I flicked the headlight on as I turned off the side road and onto the main road.

The bridge was lined with rescue vehicles, but I wasn’t worried as I cruised towards it. Who would even consider that the biker chick on the powerful motorcycle was the same woman who had just vaulted over the side of a bridge?

That was probably why it surprised me so much when a young police officer stepped out onto the road and motioned for me to pull over. There wasn’t a lot of traffic along the bridge and I couldn’t exactly ignore him, so I pulled up next to him.

“That is one beautiful bike,” he commented and I knew that I had nothing to worry about.

I tipped up my visor as I fought back a smile, “Yeah, and she’s fast too.”

“Where’d you get her?” he questioned as he looked me over.

“At a junk yard, I just got her all fixed up,” I replied praying he didn’t catch my lie.

He gave me a hopeful smile, “you wouldn’t be interested in selling her, would you?”

“Not a chance in hell,” I said as I flipped my visor back down.

“Didn’t think so,” said the officer as he took a step back. I gave him a quick nod, and then I was off.

By the time I had pulled into the driveway of Jason’s Arizona ranch house the next night the party had already started. I climbed off the Honda and walked over to where a group of guys were standing around drinking beers. When I asked where I could find Jason they smiled and gestured in the direction of the backyard as they moved in to get a closer look at my bike.

Shaking my head, I started around the house only to run into Jason.

“Hey.” He said softly as his hand reached out and gently traced the bruise that had finally faded from my cheek. Jason had once said his dad used to beat his mom, and I didn’t even want to think about what it had meant to him when he’d had to hit me in the park.

I put my hand over his pulling it away from my cheek. He looked down at me and smiled, changing topics, “Some of the guys were afraid that you weren’t going to show up.”

I almost laughed, “Seriously? You have my nephew and they thought that I wouldn’t show up?”

“Yeah…” he kissed me again and when he pulled back he was smiling. “Come here.”

He put his arm around my waist and led me around the corner of the house. The backyard was full of people. The adults were milling around drinking beer and talking, and a group of middle-aged men were grilling stakes on a barbeque. The kids were in the midst of a game of tag and were weaving haphazardly through the crowd trying desperately not to get caught.

As we got closer I watched as a woman pulled a skinny little brown haired boy aside. She knelt down next to him and said something to him as she pointed towards me.

His eyes followed her hand, and when he saw me Derek took off running across the yard. He ran full steam ahead into me, and I bent down and pulled him up into my arms.

He didn’t say anything. He just buried his head in my hair.

“I missed you,” I said as I held him tighter. “Did you have fun with Jason?”

That brought him back to life, “Yeah! We watched wrestling!”

Here I had been worried about emotional trauma.

Later that night I was relaxing on a lawn chair watching as the party wound down. As they left people stopped to say goodbye and to wish us good luck with our new life, but they were all careful not to wake Derek who had fallen asleep on my lap.

During a lull Jason walked over and handed me a Pepsi, “How are you holding up?”

“Great actually,” I said with a smile, and then after we had set there for a moment in silence, “Jason?”

“Yeah?” He said as he leaned back in his chair and looked up at the sky.

“I just… thank you, for everything,” I said quietly as I looked down at Derek.

“Don’t mention it,” he said, and as I shook my head he added, “Andy was a great guy and an amazing mechanic. There wasn’t one guy here who wasn’t willing to do whatever it took to help Andy’s son.”

After another pause Jason spoke up again, “So what are you going to do now?”

I said the first thing that came to my mind, “Sleep.”

He laughed, “and after that?”

I held Derek tighter as I turned to meet Jason’s eyes, “Disappear.”

Without a word he nodded. Then he got up and came to stand next to me. He bent down and easily picked Derek up off my lap. While he held him in one arm he reached down again and helped me up.

He didn’t say anything as we walked to the house. He led the way to his bedroom in silence. Then he gently laid Derek on the bed as I watched from the doorway. He took my hand and pulled me out of the doorway and into the room. He kissed me, but when I moved to deepen the kiss he pulled away from me.

He just stood there looking at me for a moment. Then he kissed me one more time before he went out to sleep on the couch.

Early the next morning I looked over at Derek, who had been sitting on Jason’s bed watching as I put his things in my backpack, “You ready to head out?”

“Yep!” He said as he offered me the stuffed penguin that Jason had given him.

“Okay,” I replied, smiling, as I unzipped his coat a little and stuck the penguin down the front so that only its head was sticking out.

Even though it was early and we had practically snuck out of the house Jason was standing in the driveway waiting for us.

It wasn’t until he took my backpack from me and stuck it in the back of his truck, next to a half full faded black backpack, that I realized that my bike wasn’t parked in the driveway anymore.

“Where the…” but I stopped as I remember that Derek was standing next to me.

While I had been trying not to swear Jason had climbed into the truck and now he leaned over and opened the passenger side door, “you ready to head out?”

This was not part of the plan.

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