Not as it seems
"Maggie darling, you got any results on the search?"
"Of course Frank, as promised. I searched in the age range 10 to 12, and found one missing Darren from the United States and one from Canada. I excluded all children that are missing for longer than a year. Here you go."
Frank took a look at the results. Unfortunately the pictures that were included didn't match the boy they had.
"Thanks Mag. Were there any kids missing for longer than a year?"
"Yes, there were two more kids from the U.S., none from Canada. You want those files also? You look like you didn't find what you wanted to find."
"Yeah, we have to make sure that we don't miss anything!"
"Okay baby, come back in 15 minutes."
Frank and Maggie talked to each other as if they were a couple, but it was only friendly talk between an old horse and stubborn donkey, so to say. Maggie would do anything for Frank and Frank would do anything for her, that is to say anything but working with computers.
Fifteen minutes later Frank looked at the small files of the other two missing kids from the US that was named Darren.
"Is that possible?" Frank asked himself looking at a younger boy's picture "Oh my God. Maggie you're a genius! You really found him...what would I've done without you...love you."
"That's good to know." She said with a smug smile on her face, and then looked at Frank before continuing. "Now what? You're still not done right?"
"Can you get me the full case report on THIS kid, Darren Anderson? Wow, I don't believe it, this really is our boy and he's been missing for....oh, two years now."
"I'll send it to your computer." Maggie answered.
"No....me and the computer....that's not a good idea - please print it out. Then call the LAPD, the department that investigated this case. They need to send us all the information they have on file. If there is a problem, call me."
"Okay Frank, calm down!"
"Yeah later, oh, and check for Barbara and Dylan Anderson living in L.A. along with any kind of connection to Caroline and Byron Krayne or any Krayne in general. Will you please do me that favor?"
"Of course I will, if you write the shift schedule for the other guys."
"Listen sweetheart, this is really important. I don't care about the shift schedule if we have...let me check...a ten year old boy here who's been missing for two years now. Wow, I thought he looked more like he was eleven instead of ten."
"So, where is the boy now?"
"He's with Peter at the moment."
"Peter Bennet, the social worker from PCS."
"Ah yeah, I remember him - smart guy, good looking, sweet bubble butt and (sighing) married."
"Are we talking about the same guy here?"
"I don't know - let me get this ready for you, so I can fix that schedule later on. I didn't sleep very long last night and of course it's your fault, so you owe me!"
"Definitely, thanks my dear."
Frank searched in his pockets for the cell phone and speed dialed Peter's number.
"Hi Frank?" Peter answered the phone.
"The boy's name is Darren Anderson."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes Peter, I got a picture here. It's from 2009, but it's definitely him. He's ten now and missing for two years."
"Two years? That explains some things. What else do you know?"
"He's from L.A., born on the 4th of July 2001, and disappeared on his way to school on July the 16th, 2009, when he was only eight years old."
"So the Krayne's, or whatever their name was, were definitely not his parents, but probably the kidnappers."
"Many things are possible, I'm waiting for the full report on this case and hope that the LAPD is going to work with us. I'll call you as soon as I know more."
"Okay Frank, thanks. I have to think about it before I can talk to Michael...I mean Darren."
"Right, talk to you later, bye!"
"Hey Matty!" Ethan greeted his best friend during a break at school.
"What are you doing?"
"Nothing." Matthew, who seemed sad, looked down at the ground.
"Didn't want to hang out with them."
"Okay, whatever. Listen Matt, it wasn't right that I sent you away yesterday. It was my fault, but I had to watch after Michael and wanted to show him around. You didn't know that he's shy about strangers, and doesn't talk and all that."
"Yeah, how should I've known?"
"You couldn't, but you've got to admit that you did act like a spiky jerk, man."
"I'm sorry. Can we forget about it?"
Matthew hesitated and looked around the schoolyard.
"Sure, I don't have that many friends and I miss hanging out with you. It can be boring you know, to be home alone."
"What about the others? I mean, you have tons of friends."
"No, I don't. Well, at least no one like you."
"What do you mean?"
"Nothing, it's just.....I don't know."
"Oh come on, spit it out!"
"Noone of my other so called friends have a PS3." Matthew teased with a huge smile on his face and started to run away.
"OH COME HERE YOU LITTLE DORK!" Ethan shouted and chased his best friend around the playground.
Minutes later yesterday was forgotten and they were best friends again. Of course Ethan got Matthew - he had always been faster than him and pinned him down on the ground just as the school bell rang.
Explaining that Michael would probably stay for several more days, but that they would spend as much time together as possible was satisfying enough for Matty.
Before they went to their classroom, Ethan got close to his friend with a naughty grin on his face and whispered "The boob magazine isn't finished yet!"
Peter was uncertain whether to talk to Michael about his real name or not. He didn't know what the boy had experienced throughout the past two years, and what this could trigger inside of his little, vulnerable soul.
While his thoughts raced all around his next course of action, the silent boy painted some pictures with water colors. He looked so peaceful and focused while the brush slowly moved around on the large piece of white paper.
Secretly, Peter knew that he would be opening Pandora's Box when he told him what he knew. So it was definitely a good idea to be sure about it and wait, at least until Frank had the full report on this case.
Peter's cell phone rang and broke his concentration.
"Hi Peter. How are things going?"
"Pretty weird at the moment. We know what the boy's real name is."
"Yeah, how do you know that?"
"That's the reason for my call. I got a phone call from the Child Care Alliance of L.A.. A man asked me, if we found a ten year old boy whose name is Darren Anderson."
"Okay; and what did you tell them?"
"I told him that we indeed found a boy that age here, but that his name is Michael Krayne."
"Did you get a name from the caller?"
"No, I didn't get a chance to ask."
"Did you give them my name?"
"Yes, they asked where the boy is and who they need to talk to in this case. Wasn't that alright?"
"I'm not sure. What else?"
"Nothing, that's the weirdest part - he just hung up after that. I wanted to let you know about it."
"I don't know why, but I have a bad feeling about this. Can you give me the number of the CCALA, please?"
"Wait a moment.....its 555 162 5432."
"Okay, thanks Carol, I'll talk to you later. Oh, and in case anyone else calls, give them my number! Also no further disclosure of information, please!"
"Will do, sorry if I made a mistake."
"It's okay Carol, thanks for the call. Talk to you later!"
Another mystery attached to this already confusing story. Why would L.A. call the PCS, and how would they know about a boy that was found on Vancouver Island. There couldn't have been any official records completed this fast, other than the custody warrant for the boy.
Peter wanted to inform Frank about it, but first he dialed the number of the CCALA, which is short for Child Care Alliance of Los Angeles. After several questions and check backs later, it turned out that Peter's concerns were correct; no one had been calling from there.
It was time to talk to Frank, who in the meantime had read the full report.
It was 3:37pm when the door bell rang in the Bennet's house. Ethan was already home from school, and after an enjoyable lunch together, now played with Darren upstairs. Peter opened the front door and looked at two leather badges which two men were holding in front of themselves.
"Peter Bennet?" A black suited man asked with a straight voice.
"My name is Agent Jones from Interpol and this is Officer Wilson from the local RCMP. We need to talk to you, Sir!"
"Sir, can we come in?"
"Can I see your badges again, please?" Peter asked to have a closer look at them.
After he was convinced that they were real, all three sat down in the kitchen. Darren was upstairs with Ethan playing PS3.
"Coffee?" Peter asked.
"No, thanks Sir."
One of the men explained what Interpol, the International Police, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police was all about when they worked jointly on a case. Not many people ever heard of them working together, but when they did operate jointly it was for a good reason and usually for a trans-boundary crime.
"Sir, is the boy here?"
"Darren Anderson." Agent Jones searched in his pockets for a surprisingly current picture of the missing boy and showed it to Peter.
"Where did you get this?"
"That doesn't matter Sir. Where is he?"
"Why do you want to know that? I mean, can you please drop that Agent attitude for a moment and talk to me like a normal person? We are on the same side!"
"Are we? Mr. Bennet, I can't tell you all the details, but for now we have to make sure that the boy is safe. Darren Anderson is a tremendously important witness and we need to take him into protective custody. Here's the warrant, Sir."
"Witness? For what?"
"I can't tell you, Sir. Not before we have him."
"Well, then we have a little problem here, cos I have full physical custody of Darren and he's not going anywhere. With all due respect, he experienced an emotional and psychological shock, and can easily fall into a psychotic breakdown if he was just ripped out of his present situation by some Agents. You'll have to talk to Judge Brill about that."
"Would you please read the warrant, Sir!"
Peter took a look at it, shook his head, and went looking for the custody warrant he had for Darren showing it to Agent Jones.
"We'll check that Mr. Bennet, but we have to take him with us now, otherwise we won't be able to protect him or you."
"Protect us? From what?"
"I'll explain that, when we have the boy. Officer Wilson, we have concurrent warrants here, can you please take care of that? I guess we need a federal court decision here!"
"That's not easy, we need an official request from Interpol."
"Negative, we already have general commitment. Check it with Ottawa!" Agent Jones said and meant the Canadian Interpol headquarter, which was located there.
"Tell me, what this is all about!" Peter threw in.
"I'm not allowed, Sir."
"OH, COME ON!"
"Please stay calm Mr. Bennet!"
"Sorry, but I can't stay calm, when you come here and destroy a boy's life. A boy who just learned that some places on this goddamn planet can be safe for him, and who started to communicate for the first time after the accident."
"We know about the accident."
"Of course you know, but do you know that he doesn't talk at the moment because of the shock?"
"No Sir, but..."
"Listen....Agent Jones! Can I talk to you alone?"
The Special Agent thought about it for a moment before he answered.
"Officer Wilson, please wait outside!"
With a grim look on his face the RCMP Officer reluctantly left and waited in front of the house.
"Thank you. Do you have children, Mr. Jones?"
"No Sir, unfortunately not."
"Thought so, otherwise you wouldn't just play around with people's lives. Especially not with a little terrified boy who saw two people die in a car crash, then wandered around the country for two days with blood all over his body, and who probably didn't see his parents for more than two years now."
"His parents; they were killed."
"Oh my god. How did that happen?"
"Listen Mr. Bennet. I understand your concern, and I don't like to do this, but we have to follow our orders. I'm not allowed to tell you this, but.....they were shot after they put up a media circus for their missing son. They got so much attention, that some people got scared about it and wanted them to disappear."
"Scared for what? And who were these people Darren had been with?"
"Guess they were the escort for a precious load. I don't want to put you in danger Sir, but we are talking about serious organized crime here, with different activities, one of which is world wide child and organ trafficking."
"Child and organ trafficking? You mean, kids get kidnapped because of their organs?"
"Sounds crazy, but yes. Wealthy parents pay anything for their own children. For example, if your boy would need a transplant and was about to die because no fresh organ is available in time, what would you be willing to pay if money wasn't a problem."
"Right you are. If you take the value of a child for example in comparison with drugs, a boy like Darren can be worth more than the purchase value of half a ton of cocaine. Besides that, the availability is exceptional."
Peter only shook his head about what he was hearing. The Agent on the other hand had a good heart and seemed to trust Peter more and more.
"I can't believe this. What role does Darren play in all this for you, besides the victim part?" Peter asked.
"We tried to find the last three children who were kidnapped by this organization. They were three out of more than 50 over the past eight years. Unfortunately, Darren is the only one we were able to track and who is still breathing. We never thought that he was still alive until an observation several months ago. We accidentally ran into him with our camera. Since that time we followed him, but unfortunately lost track again. We hope he can identify some important people in that organization. For eight years now we've never been able to prove anything that would be enough to stop all of this."
"How did you find out that we have him?"
"We also tracked any queries from the missing children databases."
"So it was you, who called my assistant, right?"
"Yes Sir, and it shows you how easily somebody could gain relevant information. Listen, we all want the same thing. That's to protect Darren from any further harm and to stop this god forsaken business."
"Aint that the truth?"
"It is Sir, but please, I should have never told you that. I hope you now understand the importance of Darren?"
"I do....I really understand you. But there's one thing Agent Jones. Do you really believe that the sacrifice of a young boy is the right thing to do in this case? Just to get them? I mean you...Interpol or whatever other agency involved depending on a child, is that what you are telling me?"
"I'm afraid yes, Sir."
"Did you ever think of this vulnerable, scared, and lonely soul inside of his little body? Look at the picture! He's a wonderful kid. He doesn't talk though, because of the shock. What kind of help could he be to you at the moment?"
"I guess none, but we can protect him for as long as it takes until he speaks again."
"He won't speak unless you give him the time and the right place to gather himself up again - and that's here. So what happens if you didn't find him here?"
"We would observe you, and anyone involved, until we found out where the boy is."
"Okay, and what if you found out, that the boy we have is not Darren Anderson?"
"Well, in this case we'd have nothing, but this is not gonna happen, Mr. Bennet."
The talk went on for another ten minutes before Peter understood he had no chance against them. Still, he wouldn't let them take Darren, not without a valid warrant and a discussion with Judge Brill. The other option was to fight the Agents and flee afterwards. When he thought about Ethan, he knew that was no real option.
The Agent explained it would take about an hour to get the needed warrant, which would override Judge Brill's decision for the safety of the boy. During that time, Peter would be allowed to talk to the Judge who signed the custody warrant and inform him about the situation, but warned not to discuss any detail of what he had been told.
An hour later, which was really fast in this case, another RCMP Officer arrived and handed over the needed paperwork. Normally the cooperation between different agencies and especially in international crimes can be very slow. So in this case they worked as fast as possible for the safety of a kid.
Before Peter gave in and went to get Darren, he explained how the boy got the name Michael, and that it should stay like this until he was in a safe environment and ready to take the truth.
"Hey you two, how's the fun going?" Peter asked as he entered Ethan's room.
"Hi Dad, Michael's winning." Ethan said with a bummed expression on his face.
"Good. Listen boys, I need to talk to Michael and would like for him to come downstairs, please!"
"Can I come?" Ethan asked.
"No, please give us some time - I'll explain it to you later, okay?"
Peter's son nodded while Darren stood up from the mattress and followed the grown up to the stairs. He had a sad look in his eyes and seemed to sense something bad was about to happen. Ethan, being suspicious about his father's behavior, silently followed and spied on them from the upper stairs.
What he was hearing didn't make any sense to the Peter's son; International Police, protective custody, and visiting hours. No matter what his father tried to explain downstairs, all he understood from his current position was that some unknown guy was about to take Michael with him and that his father wasn't doing anything about it.
By the looks of it, Ethan's new friend wasn't happy about any of it either.
When Special Agent Jones put one hand on the boy's shoulder, Darren turned around and started to defend himself against the unwilling encroachment; a useless attempt.
Ethan got angry at his father who seemed to let this happen without putting up a fight; he felt a strong sense of anger creeping up inside his body. His heart was pounding more and more with every second that passed, and with every step the stranger took towards the door, trying to take Darren with him.
It was only two steps until they would be gone. He had to do something. At that moment Darren turned around and looked up to Ethan with eyes full of hope, he rose up and ran downstairs to jump the black suited man.
"ETHAN!" Peter yelled.
"YOU ARE NOT TAKING HIM WITH YOU! LEAVE...HIM...ALONE!" Ethan screamed with a trembling voice as he furiously punched the unimpressed Interpol Agent on his chest and arms.
Peter grabbed his son and pulled him in, but this was no simple task.
"ETHAN, come here...it's okay...calm down! I'll explain it. Don't worry, it's for the best."
"NO DAD NOO, how can that be for the best? LOOK AT HIM, he wants to stay here! Daaad, please, Michael needs to be with us!"
No word, no gesture, nothing helped. The Agents left the house and took the frightened boy with him. Peter tried to explain to his son what this was all about. How Michael's real name was Darren, and that Interpol and the RCMP were only trying to protect him. However, he neither found the right words nor did they change anything looking at it from Ethan's perspective.
While Peter talked about the latest developments with Frank, who had arrived in the meanwhile, Ethan was lying on his bed with his head buried in his pillow. He felt sad and lonely for the loss of a friend he just got to know. Normally this wouldn't have been a big deal, but he had some very touching moments with the other boy - something he never experienced before. He already missed Michael...Darren, and it's been only a short time since the strange man took him. He of course had his long time best friend Matthew, but still, for some unexplainable reason, there was a hole in his heart which no one could fill.
"Peter, no matter what else you could have told them, they would have taken the boy with them. So stop it, please! It might be for the best. If this weird sounding story is true, the kid could put you and Ethan into serious danger."
"I know, but you should have seen him. He was begging with his eyes and Ethan was....god, he was out of control attacking this Agent. He thought I just gave him away. How can I possibly convince him, that I didn't?"
"You can't, because you did. Deal with it and move on! It's not important what Ethan thinks of you at the moment - the only important thing is, that he loves you and that you can now return to something like a normal life. Something you really should do! Spend some time with your boy, have some fun, play baseball, take him out on a short trip or something like that! As for me, I now can put this weird case behind me as well."
"Yeah, sounds good. Thanks Frank. I guess the only positive thing is that I don't have to take care of the paperwork anymore."
"Yeah, but..." Peter said with a thoughtful look on his face.
"What is it?"
"I don't know. It's Darren....I already miss him somehow."
"That's normal, I guess. It's just like a pet. You get used to it so fast and miss it when it's gone. Then, after a few days everything's back to normal again."
"How can you talk about Darren like a pet?"
"Don't get me wrong, I'm just trying to help you. You know all about this kind of feeling from other cases, don't you?" Frank said as he got up from the couch and was about to leave for his office again.
"This case was different. Anyway, what do you think about having a BBQ on Saturday night?"
"Sounds good, count me in!"
The last hours of the day slowly passed. Ethan didn't leave his room, didn't touch the sandwiches Peter had fixed for him and didn't talk. It was heartbreaking for the father to see his son like that. The only thing parents are unable to take is a cub that suffers, but in this case he had to bear with it, no matter how hard it was.
Ethan slept alone this night - he felt sick. The feeling of missing Darren was replaced by a feeling of guilt and surrender. It was the first time in his short life that Ethan had to accept something like this. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't change things.
This was the emotion his dad must have felt, as his wife died. Ethan could hardly imagine how it was, because his life had already begun without a mother. Nevertheless he had cried about his mom many times, even if he didn't know her in person.
The next morning Peter decided that Ethan had to go to school. He thought it was a good idea to distract him a little bit from missing Darren. What Peter underestimated was the complexity of the emotions inside of Ethan. It was now a mix of missing his mother, feeling guilty for letting down Darren, and mistrust for his father. Ethan was unable to tell why and how this had happened. The only thing he knew was that he felt sick, which was the reason when he came home earlier this day, why he once again buried himself in his bed.
Peter prayed that it would go away, but no matter what he did to brighten up his son's day, it didn't work; not even spending time with his best friend Matthew.
The clock read 9:23pm when Ethan opened the door to his father's bedroom. Peter was lying on his back trying to read a book, but wasn't able to focus.
"I feel sick."
"I know.....come here!" Peter said with a calm voice and raised the blanket so his boy could crawl into his bed and snuggle up. Ethan was shivering; his stomach felt upside down.
"Why did you let them take Michael?"
"Yeah, I meant Darren!"
"There was nothing I could do about it sweetheart. I fought for one hour with the guy you attacked...."
"Yeah sure, but I had no chance. You really think, I would just let them take Darren away without fighting for him?"
"No way. They would have arrested me if I tried anything. I just couldn't take that risk, and I had to protect you from any harm as a result to what I could have done."
"I know, but it's unfair."
"Yeah....can I do anything that makes you feel better?"
"You just did."
Ethan turned around and put his arms around his father pushing himself in on him. He needed to be as close as possible to the only person left in his life. For several minutes both were occupied with thoughts of Darren, and felt sorry for the little guy who had already suffered from so many things, and now, was once again all alone.
"Darren is sick too.....he is scared and all alone in a cheerless and cold room."
"Maybe, but then again maybe he's okay."
"No, he's not!"
"What makes you so sure about that?"
"I can't explain, but I can feel it...."
Peter stroked through his son's hair and sighed deeply before Ethan continued.
"It's as if he talks to me....I don't know how, and I can't answer him, but he misses us very much."
"I miss him, too."
Peter switched off the light and kissed his son's forehead, before both fell asleep. Their thoughts were of the boy they just met, but who already had a place in their heart.
Next morning Ethan woke up in his father's bed and found himself alone. Peter had left the room without him noticing it. Though the bed was warm, Ethan was disappointed at not having a little time to snuggle up to his dad's body and cuddle for a while before they would finally get up.
The clock read 7:33am as the boy, who only wore his boxer shorts, slowly crawled out of the bed and walked downstairs to search for his father in the sun flooded kitchen. Peter was sitting on one of the chairs and obviously day dreaming, because he didn't notice his boy.
Peter didn't answer and was still looking out of the window.
"Dad, are you okay?"
"Oh yeah, morning buddy, sorry I was lost in thoughts."
"Morning dad, why didn't you wake me up, we are going to be late?"
"Sorry Ethan, the telephone rang and I just forgot about it. What do you want for breakfast?
"Cereal would be cool and hot chocolate!"
"Your wish is my command, Sire." Peter said in a playful tone.
While Ethan was gobbling down a huge bowl of cereal with fresh milk, his father explained what the telephone call was all about. It was from Interpol. They have Darren in some kind of safe house to protect him, but were unable to get through to him. He made noises as if he felt sick but wouldn't let anyone come near him. It was just as Ethan said yesterday.
The Interpol Agent asked Peter for help. Of course the two Bennet's wanted to help. What confused the grown up was if it was a good idea to take Ethan with him. On the one hand, he wanted to leave him out of this, on the other hand, he seemed to have a special connection to Darren and that could be useful. Besides, Peter didn't want to leave Ethan alone, in case this might take more than a day. The Agent said, they could stay for as long as it took, and that they should bring some clothes. They were strictly forbidden from telling anyone, where they would be going.
If they decided to help, a car would pick them up at 9:00am.
Half an hour later, everything was settled. This was no question to be answered with logical considerations - they just had to go and both were sure about it. Peter's son for sure had special social skills, but had never been involved in any case before. This time it was different. And Ethan was happy about some days off school too. So the Bennet's were packing their things and looking forward to seeing Darren again. They were a little bit afraid of what all this could have done to the boy, but hoped for the best. Another mysterious day ahead, with many questions to be answered, they waited in the hallway for their transport.
The most important thing now was, that they would all be together again, no matter what.
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