Indefinite Sentence

Glew’s client suspected Roger Oswell of swindling a few choice items from his office. Glew tailed the sixty-something Roger to the park. I rode along out of curiosity. We followed Roger along through the walkways of the park, occasionally glancing at the large lake behind it all. Roger pointed out the birds and other wildlife to his grandson who appeared to be around five years old. Roger patted the boy on the head and then pulled out his camera. He tried to take a picture but it didn’t work out for him. When he fidgeted with the thing, a figured dressed in a yellow jacket snatched the grandson up in his arms and hurried away in the direction of the lake.

I trailed after Mr. Yellow and the boy, followed by Glew. A group of teenagers walked our way. I peered around them but I couldn’t see Mr. Yellow. I worked my way through the group. One girl said, “Look where you’re going, jerk.”

Sure. Some creep sneaks a kid right by you and you don’t notice that but I’m the one who doesn’t look where he’s…never mind.

I peered around the walkway which rose up five feet above the ground in some places. I could go left or right but this guy got that kid gone in a hurry. I peered through the boards of the walkway but I couldn’t see any yellow. So I took a left. Glew caught up to me, asking, “How did we lose him so fast?”

“Go back up the other way. Let me know on the cell.”

He said, “You got it” and sprinted away. I followed the walkway to a dead end. After a long look around, I listened. Mr. Yellow couldn’t have simply vanished.

“Hey, there.”

I turned. Roger walked toward me with the camera in his hand. “Mister, you seen a little boy out here?”

I opened my mouth. Then I saw it.

The tiniest sliver of yellow caught my eye through the trees. Mr. Yellow had removed his jacket in such a hurry that he popped up above the edge of the canoe he’d taken from the lake’s bank. I jumped off the walkway and ran toward the bank. Roger called out after me, “Hey there! Stop!”

I made it to the bank. One empty canoe bobbed in the water by the dock. That same group of teenagers stood over it with the girl who deemed me to be a jerk easing her foot down toward it. I jumped into the water and swam with all I had toward the canoe. When I reached it, the teenagers remained on the dock. I grabbed the edge of the dock and pulled myself up high enough and climbed into the canoe. The girl pointed at me. “What is it with this guy?” She turned. “Holy crap!”

Glew had dove in as well. I paddled over toward him. He climbed aboard. Roger yelled to us from the bank. “Hey there! Hold it right there!”

We paddled away with Mr. Yellow’s canoe lost among a group of five other canoes. Glew said, “Aw, man. Like a needle in a…”

“Lake,” I said. “Like a needle in a lake.”

A man with a back as wide as a refrigerator paddled one of the canoes. A woman with a silver ponytail steered the other. Similar-sized men paddled the others. Each one wore a cap and sunglasses along with a white T-shirt beneath a life jacket. I said, “One of them will trail away.”

Glew said, “We hope. Damn.”

I looked back behind us. Roger waded into the water. I shook my head. “What is it with this guy?”

We turned back to the three canoe paddlers up ahead. They formed a line, separated by ten feet each, almost in synchronization. I couldn’t see any differences in them. The one to the right paddled away, turning at a sharp angle. I slipped back into the water and pointed to it. “Follow them, Glew.”

Glew gave me a thumbs up sign. I swam toward the other two. The one on the left stopped in the water while the other kept going. So I swam up to the stopped one and took a look. A middle-aged man with a long goatee stared at me with his mouth open. He waved. “You forget your canoe?” Then he fell into a roaring laugh. So I swam hard toward the other canoe. The paddler sped on like he knew he was being chased. I pushed my arms until my muscles burned. Then Roger called out, “There!”

I turned back to Roger who swam along, every bit of sixty-plus. With each stroke, he pointed toward the forested hill ahead. “Up in there! He’s there on the bank!”

I wiped my eyes. The kidnapper dragged the boy along with the hand, pulling that cap off his head with the fake silver ponytail attached and shaking the water out of it. Damn, the guy couldn’t have weighed more than a hundred pounds.

I used broad strokes on my way to the bank. Then I bolted up through the trees. I stopped and looked both ways. Then I looked ahead of me. I stood, waiting and taking it all in. Still, no signs of the kidnapper or the boy. Where could they have gone?

Glew ran over to me. “Dead end?”

I opened my mouth when Roger clapped me on the shoulder with a wet hand. I turned back to him. The old guy huffed but to make it across that lake at his age meant something. I nodded. “They’re close.” I looked at Glew. “You go right and up.” I turned to Roger. “You go straight up. I’ll take the other way.”

Roger said, “You got it.”

Roger took large strides up the hill but he tripped and grabbed hold of a tree. I steadied him. “Maybe you should stay here. Keep an eye out.”

Roger shook his head while water and sweat cascaded down his red cheeks. “No, sir. We find the boy. Nothing else matters.”

I smiled and made my own way up the hill, pausing to listen every few steps. I passed through the army of towering oaks. What was this kidnapper’s plan? Obviously he thought this one out. It was not a spur of the moment type of job. He had a plan. I pulled myself up by the trunk of an oak. The hill dropped off into a gully. I yelled out, “Hey, Rog…I mean, hey sir! What’s the boy’s name?”

Roger yelled, “Eli!”

I yelled the boy’s name across the gully. Then I walked down to my left until the gully dropped off, steadily calling the boy’s name out. When I reached flat ground, I waited. “Eli?”

A buzzard hissed from ten yards away. I spat and headed back up the hill. When I reached the center of the gully, I called, “Eli!”

Roger followed mine up with his own call. Glew followed suit a few calls later. Then I found the end of the gully and walked on ahead where the ground leveled out. Roger called out to the boy again.

“Papa?”

Glew bolted toward the voice up ahead. Roger did the same although he trailed a good ways behind. Roger knew his grandson’s voice. If they found the boy up ahead, the kidnapper was either with him or he’d let him go and now hid somewhere. I took a few steps. Then I stopped. I repeated this routine, inching my way along. Roger called out, “Hallelujah!!”

Glew said, “We found him!!”

I peered around, but I saw nothing out of place. I wiped my nose and stepped toward them.

Sniff.

I stopped. Ah, yes, sir. The spring brings heat and it also brings allergies. I braced myself against an oak. I must have waited five minutes, my nose running and fighting off the urge to sneeze.

Sniff.

I walked ten feet to the oak. I stepped around to the hidden side of it. It had been hollowed out. Inside there, sat the kidnapper scrunched up with fear pulsing through his blue eyes. I studied him. He smiled. I smiled back. Then I smashed him in the jaw with a right hand.

Bop!

The kidnapper went out like a bulb popping. Roger carried the boy toward me while Glew trailed behind. Roger huffed his way over and set the boy down. He pulled up his pants and pointed to the kidnapper. “This him. Huh?”

I said, “Yes, sir.”

Glew raced up and took a good look at the kidnapper. Roger slapped the kidnapper around until he stirred although he remained asleep. Roger stood and spat on the man. “You fellows watch him. I’ll get the police.”

I stopped Roger. “Actually, I think it’s best we don’t involve them.”

Roger took a step back, pulling his arm back to strike me. I held up my hands. “Listen, now. It’s best that we take this guy. We have a place for him that’s much worse than prison.”

Roger studied us over, one at a time. “Who are you fellows anyway?”

Glew said, “We’ve been following you, Roger.”

Roger stepped back, his hand on Eli. “And why have you been doing that?”

I said, “You took a few items from your workplace. You need to give them back.”

Roger looked at the ground. “Ah, hell.”

Glew crossed his arms. “That’s right.”

Roger pulled out his cell phone and tried to turn it on but nothing happened. He scratched his head and stepped over a few feet and kept his eyes on Eli. We stepped over with him, keeping our eyes on Eli as well. Roger said, “Hell, boys. Times have been tough. If I can just make my mortgage payment…”

I said, “How much?”

Roger tried to turn on the phone again.

Glew said, “How much, Roger?”

Roger shrugged. “Five hundred.”

I said, “We can help you with that.”

Roger looked at me. I cut my eyes at him and then back at Eli. He did the same. “Well, I’d appreciate that.”

I said, “Take Eli home. Give my friend here your address and we’ll bring you the cash. But come Monday, you make sure those items return to your boss’s office. We’ll put in a good word for you so you can keep your job. If he fires you anyway, just let us know. We’ll help you out.”

Roger wiped his face. “Thank you so much.”

I looked at Roger. “But don’t you ever steal from that place again.”

Roger bowed. “You have my word.” He pointed to the kidnapper. “What are you going to do to him?”

Two weeks later, I rode with Glew out to a little two acre property he’d bought a year or so back. We walked through a forest until we came to a clearing. Glew unlocked a door in the ground and opened it up. I stood back, ready for whatever the kidnapper might be planning for us. After a moment, we climbed down into the hatch of the underground bunker with our pistols drawn. We shined our flashlights on the worthless lump in the corner. He sat there, holding his knees with a collection of empty water bottles, cracker boxes, bean cans and Goober boxes strewn around him. Glew emptied the waste bucket in the corner and placed bags of bottled water, canned goods and candy bars on the floor. The kidnapper shook, shielding his eyes. “What are you going to do to me? How long do I have to stay down here?”

Glew said, “What is it with this guy?”

I said, “How long were you going to keep Eli?”

The kidnapper closed his eyes. I turned to Glew. “Do you think he’s ready?”

Glew smacked his lips. “I really don’t.”

The kidnapper looked up, his lips trembling. “Oh please. Please, let me out. I’ll never do this again. I swear to you! Never!”

I said, “Is that right? Do you pinky swear? Is that what you got Eli to do to keep quiet while you were carrying him off to God knows where?”

The kidnapper shook his head. “I didn’t mean any harm.”

Glew scoffed. “He’s not ready.”

I shook my head. “No, he’s not.”

The kidnapper yelled after us as we climbed out of the bunker. “Please! I pinky swear! My sister must be going crazy worrying about me!”

I leaned my head back in. “Yeah, that happens when you get kidnapped. Everything just stops. I mean, the world doesn’t. Just your world. Think about that. You got time.”

We closed up the hatch. Through the sun roof, we watched him stay in the same position, shaking his head.

Roger returned the stolen items to his boss. Unfortunately, his boss gave him two options- quit and finish out his two weeks or get fired. Roger chose the latter and he’d sent out his resumes. We helped him hang onto his house. I said, “What do you say we hire Roger to be a prison guard out here until he can find new work?”

Glew smiled. “Sounds good to me, stud.”

I said, “We’ll let Roger decide on the length of the sentence.”

We shared a laugh and drove away.

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