By: Mia L. Hazlett

“Mommy. Mommy, where are you?” I jerk awake from my taunting nightmare. The same dream that has plagued me for the past three days keeps me from my slumber. I don’t even want to sleep anymore. I just want my baby back. I want her here in my arms. The longest I have ever been separated from my four year-old daughter is two nights in all her life. And now she has been snatched out of my…our…lives. I haven’t seen my husband sleep since we got the news. He has worked non-stop with the police and FBI. I don’t think he will rest until we’ve found her. And we will find her. We are going to bring my baby home.

“Do you like it Mommy? How do I look? Don’t forget your camera Mommy. I want to take a picture with daddy.” She poses with my husband and I take the perfect picture; the picture of her first day of school. I do everything I can not to cry in front of her. I promised myself I would make this a happy day and not cry. I give my husband the camera and I pose with my precious little baby. She is just growing up too quick. We have these same pictures from when we were bringing her home from the hospital. Now I am sending my baby off on her first day of school. My second time for letting go…daycare was a breeze compared to this.

We park our car and huddle with all of the other parents in the small school drop-off area. My little Jessie doesn’t want any help with her empty backpack. She is just so grown, well as grown as my baby can be. A woman shouts her name over the loud clamor and my little Jessica runs towards the crowd of kindergartners near her new teacher. I wait until she gives me her last little wave and finally allow the first tear to fall. My husband walks his little baby back to the car and takes me home so I can go to work.

There she is, perfect little Jessie. All dressed in uniform and ready to start school. I’ve been watching her for the past three weeks. She never strayed far from her parents, so it’s taken me a little longer than I’ve wanted. All these confused little children on the first day of school, perfect for me. The teachers are focused on the attendance of their students. The principle is outside shaking hands with the parents. So it was definitely no problem for me to play parent and sneak into the school unnoticed.

I hide out in the bathroom downstairs near Jessie’s new classroom. As all the kindergartners and first graders make their way down the hall, I come out and grab Jessie’s hand. I know I have a small window to get this done. If I get caught, I can play that I am looking to give the tiny white sweater under my arm to my make believe first grader. But if I get away with it, there is fifty thousand waiting for me. Jessie takes my hand and I tell her to come to the other classroom down the hall. But so that she can get a special gold star, she has to call me mommy. Out the back door and to the car…fifty thousand here I come.
©2008 Mia L. Hazlett

Taken II
By: Mia L. Hazlett

Does anyone ever live their days like they are their last? At some point you fall into routine. You don’t really think about what you are doing anymore…you just do. You rush around and forget about what is important, until who’s important is gone. And she is gone. My little Jessie wasn’t there when we got to school today. They had marked her absent and just assumed she didn’t come or gone to a different school. From that point on, I haven’t followed my normal routine. And I’ve been living every second trying to relive my last moments with her.

Jessie’s head wobbles on the seat as she lay unconscious. God I hope he didn’t overdose her. She drank the entire juice box with whatever Voz, The Medicine Man, had put in there. That isn’t my part in this whole play. I’m just the Body Snatcher. Kev was Stake Man and he will be The Negotiator once I get her to The Spot. I didn’t think I could do it, but I can’t get this fifty grand out of my head. Voz says when we’re done, we can all call ourselves Banker. I’m just two miles away from The Spot. Just go ahead and call me the Banker.

There’s not one person that walks this earth that can take care of my Jessie the way I can. I left the cooperate world to stay home and raise my baby. I had just taken up looking for a part-time morning job. I could drop Jessie off in the morning, pick her up in the afternoon and take her to the little ballet classes around the corner. Even though I changed my entire life for her, I just added her to a different routine.

What the hell do I do? What the hell are all these cop cars doing around The Spot? This is not part of the plan. Who tipped them off? Oh damn, not Kev. They can’t take Kev! I drive by The Spot and watch two policemen escort Kev to the car. His head is down and they have his hands behind his back in cuffs. Voz stands on the front porch and gives me some hope that they haven’t figured us out. They may have not figured us out, but they’ve unknowingly taken away The Negotiator. No Negotiator, no fifty grand.
©2009 Mia L. Hazlett

Taken III
By: Mia L. Hazlett

I drove around the block and came back around to perfectly position the car in an alley down the street from The Spot. The Lottery Ticket appeared to still be knocked out. The last thing I was gonna deal with was some screamin’ kid. I was supposed to drop her off and be done. But I didn’t think that drink concoction would last much longer

The last cop car pulled off…maybe. But that van didn’t sit right in this neighborhood. I had never seen it before. Maybe I was just being paranoid. I needed to call Voz. He went back in the house about twenty minutes ago. I knew he saw me drive by, but I needed some sort of sign from him that I could make the drop. I decided to leave Lottery in the back and make my way to the little package store. I just needed some cigarettes and a chance to give Voz a call.

Voz didn’t answer the three times I tried. I walked around the corner, cigarette hanging from my mouth, drink shoved under my pit as I struggled to get my keys to the car. I took a couple more puffs before I got back into the car. I opened my nip of vodka and settled in for the wait.

FUCK! Where the fuck was Lottery? She was gone! Na, na, na. This couldn’t be happening. I wasn’t in the store for more then like ten freakin’ minutes. She was freakin’ knocked out with the stuff. She hadn’t moved the whole damn time I drove. I started the car and decided to drive around to see if I could find her. She couldn’t have gotten that far bein’ small and drugged. She had to be be close. She fuckin’ had to be close. I slammed my hand on the steering wheel, all the while cursing The Ticket out.

I knew Voz said we couldn’t kill her until we got the money at The Drop. But what difference did it make? Now or later? These people weren’t about to get their kid back. Kev didn’t get his kid back, why should they? All I was sayin’ was I want to kill this kid. As soon as I found her, I was gonna break her little neck.

Finding her wasn’t looking good. I drove around the block lookin’ for her tiny little frame wrapped in a white sweater. Why didn’t I make her change into that outfit? She was going to stand out in her uniform in this neighborhood. Man I fucked up. I gotta find this kid. If I didn’t, both of us would catch a bullet.

After about forty-five minutes of nothing, my phone rang. Voz. Shit. “Yeah,” I answered.
“Bring it now,” he hung up.

I figured The Spot was safe if he was telling me to come. Two sets of eyes would be better than one. I pulled up to the house to pick him up, popped up the steps and was in the house within five minutes of Voz’s call.

“What are you doing? Where’s the kid? Why the hell are you parking in front of the damn house? Put the damn car in the back. Do you want to fuck this up?” Voz hammered out before I even got the door closed.
“Okay, there’s a problem. I lost the kid. I was…”
“Get out! GET THE HELL OUT!” Voz screamed.

I turned to leave, and then was jerked to the floor by my ponytail. Voz was on top of me with his glock between my eyes.
©2010 Mia L. Hazlett

Taken IV
By: Mia L. Hazlett

It had been two months since my baby was taken. There were occasional phone calls from the detectives assigned to Jessie’s case. But over all, they were starting to dwindle. It used to be three to four times a week, but now it was only return phone calls. The hardest part to adjust to was the decrease in the search intensity. The first week I functioned completely on adrenaline. It felt like the detectives lived here. Our neighbors did everything to help. The house was never empty. Even the second week, we had relatives and friends in and out. But now there was just us.

My husband held most of the details to the investigation. There was very little that I knew, except that they had not found her. Unfortunately, these past two months, as heart-wrenching as they’d been, had been a reprieve from Mark, my husband, and his brutality. Last night was the first time since we lost her that he’d hit me or should I say beat me. It was with such viciousness that I thought I wouldn’t make it through. There had been times before that I thought that, but last night he unleashed two months of pent up fury.

I touched the mirror instead of my face. My fingers lightly traced my swollen right eye. How my left eye was spared, I’m not sure. The split down my lower lip seemed to cut it right in half. There was a bruise on my left cheek, which was probably the reason for the excruciating pain that shot through my face when I tried to open my mouth. Usually he spared my face, but I guess he knew I wasn’t leaving the house to go anywhere.

The last time I left the house was the morning we went to drop her off for school. It may be selfish, but I wasn’t ready to see other children playing in the neighborhood. I didn’t think I could take hearing the sound of “mommy” coming from a child’s mouth. I sat on the floor in her bedroom and cried myself to sleep most nights. Not to mention my dreams, they relentlessly taunt me.

Sometimes they were memories, sometimes she was running back into my arms completely untouched, but mostly they were nightmares. It was the nightmares that left me drained. There was one that I had consistently. I was at her school and following behind her in the crowded hallways. I could never seem to get close to her, but could hear her distinct little giggle. Out of nowhere, a man came and grabbed her. He was running so fast with her and my legs didn’t move. It was the sound of her screaming, “Mommy help me!”, that always woke me.

“Mommy help me.” Mommy couldn’t even help herself, I thought, as I examined the large bruise on my right side in the mirror. I knew my ribs were broken. A large inhale forced me to double over in pain and brought about a much more painful cough attack. I made my way back into bed. My four pillows offered me the only comfort I think I would find in the next couple of nights as I tried to heal my wounds. I could only pray that my darling Jessie was safe right now. As much as I missed my angel, I was grateful she was not here to listen to my cries for help.
©2011 Mia L. Hazlett

Taken V
By: Mia L. Hazlett

Voz walked around the back to the warehouse entrance. The door buzzed and he took the steps by two to the meeting room. He dropped the duffel bag on the floor and opened the metal locker. He exchanged duffel bags and sat at the beat up card table to examine the contents as Kev appeared in the doorway.

They hadn’t seen each other in almost two months after the debacle of a kidnapping. They had to meet with Mark, he was the head of all this, and had summoned this meeting. They sat at the table in silence, until they heard the ring of the backdoor bell. Kev got up and buzzed the door. He could see in the monitor there was a small figure coming in behind him.

They exchanged looks. Voz let his glock rest in his lap and Kev kept his box cutter up his sleeve. Mark walked in holding his stepdaughter’s hand. He smiled broadly, then bent and whispered into her ear. The little girl left the room and Mark circled the table.

“Gentlemen, there’s a problem. I think you know what it is. And I’m a bit annoyed, because I’m sure I paged three and I only see two. Why two, when there should be three? Anyone?” He ceased his pacing and waited for a response.

Voz spoke up, “She’s dead. I’ve checked for reports and there’s nothing. Nobody is looking for her.” The fist that caught him in his jaw reeled him backwards and sent his glock sliding across the floor under the lockers.

“Are you stupid?” Mark boomed. “Is this some kind of joke to you. Do you not get what is going on? This was supposed to be a simple kidnapping. You take her, keep her, demand a ransom, we get the money, we disappear. Do you know how much she’s worth? And now you go and kill the scapegoat?”

Voz picked himself off the floor and stood. He tasted blood when he swallowed and wiped the small trickle from the corner of his mouth. ” I found the kid. If it wasn’t for me, we wouldn’t have her back.” Voz attempted to defend himself.

“You found her after she was spotted and the sighting was reported to the cops. They tracked her back to The Spot. They found blood there and no body. They are looking for the body. Now that they have blood, they have DNA. With DNA they can identify who she was.” Mark was inches from Voz’s face.

“They aren’t going to find the body to do any DNA match. Trust me,” Kev said.

“Why should I trust either one of you? You are both fuck ups. They don’t need a body. Need I remind you she is a convict? She’s already in the system. Now they are looking for her and the kid. Tomorrow it’s back on. Do you hear me? It’s back on. There is no margin for error this time. You will be provided details tonight.”

“Daddy, can we go?” Jessie appeared in the doorway.

“Yes baby. Daddy’s coming.” Mark took his stepdaughter’s hand and left.
©2011 Mia L. Hazlett

Taken VI

By: Mia L. Hazlett

I scrubbed my body, hoping to wash Mark and his lust away. He disappeared all day yesterday. There was actually joy when I eased myself between my sheets last night. Usually he didn’t come home for days. I prayed for a reprieve. Unfortunately, he returned home horny at close to three in the morning.

I turned the water off and stepped from the shower. My hair dripped as I lightly toweled off my bruised body. I breathed a bit easier, but I needed to take my mind off of me and stay hopeful for my Jessie’s return. Even though our fight destroyed the lamp on my nightstand, I was able to save my night stand picture of Jessie. I slept with the picture under my pillow every night.

Obviously there was nothing I could do, but this picture was the last piece of Jessie had, less her bedroom. For some reason, Mark had taken down all of her pictures. The first week, he worked relentlessly with the police. Now it seemed like he was over her. I couldn’t understand and that led to our disagreement the other night. Although I wanted my home plastered with her face, I couldn’t endure another thrashing. I curled back under my sheets and clung to my angel’s picture.
©2011 Mia L. Hazlett

Taken VII
By: Mia L. Hazlett

Voz backed his van into the makeshift driveway. He made sure nobody had followed him. This was his spot. Neither Kev or Mark knew of his deep wooded spot. It had taken him three hours and two vehicles to get here. He needed to be sure if it came down to him becoming the scapegoat, nobody would ever be able to find him.

He didn’t care that Mark had called it “back on.” Their mission had failed. Mark had the kid. This kid was supposed to be dead by now. Once they all had received their cut, they would never see each other again, but now he nursed a bruised jaw from a plan gone wrong.

There was no reception out here for his phone, so he left it in the van as he hopped out. In the morning, he would check on the body and send it to its final resting place. The door creaked open at the push of his foot. They weren’t supposed to meet up for a few days, so he planned to camp out here with all of his groceries. The small flashlight clenched between his teeth dropped to the floor along with one of the bags.

He bent down to pick up the bag and flashlight. “Nice little hiding spot. Very nice,” Mark said. “You were going to keep this all to yourself? I thought we were friends. We are friends, aren’t we James K. Reynolds Sr.? And I’m thinking the only reason you would be called Senior is because there is a Junior somewhere out there. Hmm, with a simple guess I’m going to say, Delaware or North Carolina. Oh, that’s right, your parents are in North Carolina and your son and daughters are in Delaware. Well let me not interrupt your vacation. Take care of yourself. See you in three days. Don’t think of not coming. There are some people I know that live in Delaware and North Carolina. Oh yeah, take care of The Package.”

Voz watched Mark disappear into the darkness. He heard no sounds and saw no lights. He was waiting for the sound of a car or just something. Nothing, but blackness and silence. The Package? What did he mean? He scrambled for his flashlight and waved it around the room looking for the tiny girl. She was curled up asleep on the couch. Now he had The Package and they knew his spot.
©2013 Mia L. Hazlett

Taken VIII

Mia L. Hazlett

There were woods everywhere. Woods and no street lights. Dark and only my headlights. Trying to follow my husband was impossible. He pulled onto a slight gated dirtway. It wasn’t really a trail, nor a driveway or street. He parked and opened the gate. His taillights stopped shortly after he entered. He relocked the gate, but did not get back into his car. A small spot of light wavered in front of him from his flashlight.

I parked my car and stepped out. Crickets. Owls. Rustling leaves. A strange barking in the distance. The cacophony of the night hid my clumsy steps, as I tried to following my husband’s spot of light. I stumbled through the branches and hid behind a tree when I saw headlights coming through the trees. The lights scanned over a small cottage before the engine cut.

I didn’t see my husband any longer. The tree continued to give me cover. I’m not sure if I needed the tree, the pitch black did its own job. My eyes adjusted to the frame of a small cottage, but not much else. I heard a slight creak. It sounded like a door opening.

Footsteps. I heard running in the woods in front of me. I found another tree and hid behind it. The small spot of light returned and jumped up and down. It must have been my husband. But what was in that house? What would make my husband run? My husband ran from nothing.

Faintly I heard the sound of two vehicle engines starting. Had he found my car? Before I could turn and run for my car, I saw a speck of light in the cottage. There was someone in the house. I ran towards the light and fell. In my home, this would have been a mere thump. In this desolate place, it was a clap of thunder. The light quickly went out.
Copyright © 2014 Mia L. Hazlett

Taken IX
By: Mia L. Hazlett

What was that?  I heard a noise outside.  I opened the door expecting to see Mark, but I only heard a car in the distance.  There was a slight glimmer of the headlights through the trees, but the sound I heard before was closer.  Now I could only hear the barking of coyotes blended with the crickets and various evening critters.  There it was again.  Someone was still here watching us.

“Hello,” I shouted into the darkness.  “Hello,” I yelled louder.

I went back into the house and The Package was gone.  After hunting through the house, only 500 square feet, so not that much to cover.  She was nowhere.  I know I heard cars, but who stayed behind? Who was watching me? Who had taken The Package again? At this point it didn’t matter. Answers weren’t what I needed.  I needed to leave the country.  Now.

I retrieved my passport and small stash of bills.  Although I thought I would be adding 50 grand to this, my thoughts were not my current reality.  Getting to Canada was the only way out of this mess .  In three days, I would be a different person, in a different country, living a different life.

I pulled my van onto the road.  I passed the small gated path, which went to the small creek behind my cabin.  Before I could get around the bend near the cliff, I looked into the midnight trees.  There was a jumping light that hopped and then disappeared.  A flashlight? None of my business.  I needed to get out of the country.

My eyes could not adjust to the instant light.  They were in front of me and behind me.  I was no longer driving my car, but overcorrecting my swerve and slamming on my brakes.  I don’t know if the shattering glass came before or as my head whipped back.

I woke to pain.  Mark stood over me.  He held my passport and all my cash.  He shook his head side to side.  I tried to get up, but Mark punched me back down.  I was going to die.  Mark was going to kill me.  These were my last moments.  Oddly, I had always thought of death as a nameless end.  Never did it have a name.  I saw Mark load his gun as he stood on my neck.  As he aimed his gun at my head, death had a name and its name was Mark.
Copyright © 2014 Mia L. Hazlett

Taken X
By: Mia L. Hazlett

Jessie. I had my Jessie back. Mark wasn’t cheating on me, he was trying to get our Jessie back. Whoever was in the house must have tried to hurt him and that’s why he ran. When I ran to the back of the little cottage, I saw the door slowly creep open. I thought I had been found, but as my eyes focused, it was my baby. My little Jessie stumbled out the back and into my arms. We ducked low as I heard the person inside frantically hunt for her.

The engine of the van turned over and the headlights were like instant sun in this shadowless wilderness. I waited for it to disappear before I turned my tiny flashlight back on. I didn’t know how far the batteries would take us, but I needed to get to a place where I could get some bars on my cell phone. I had to call Mark and tell him I had Jessie. He would probably be angry, because that would reveal I followed him. His arrogance would hate the fact that I rescued her and he left running.

I stumbled through the woods and thought I heard the sounds of water. It was faint, but unmistakable. Jessie was barely walking so I lifted her into my arms. I wanted to get us as far away from that house as I could. The sound of the water was more audible and that was going to be my guide. My flashlight shut off.

Behind us I heard cars, but the water was closer. What was that? A crash? I wasn’t sure. I kept moving towards the water. Jessie was too heavy to continue to carry. I found a tree and sat against the base of its trunk. It wasn’t until I stopped moving that I realized how cold it was. My little Jessie was cold too.

As I sat, I formulated a plan to go back to the house. Whoever left, would never come back, knowing Mark found his hiding place. We could at least spend the night and then in the morning, I would at least be able to travel in daylight. But most of all, we wouldn’t freeze in these woods.

The outline of the house came into my view. Just beyond the house there appeared to be headlights approaching. I was wrong. The person was returning to get my Jessie. I ran and hid us deep into the trees and stopped moving when I heard the engine shut off. The headlights remained on and I heard deep voices. I wasn’t sure how many voices, but there was definitely more than one. And I knew one of them. It was Mark. He must have run to go get help. He had come back to bring our Jessie home.

I ran out of the woods the best I could holding Jessie tight to my chest. I screamed his name as I came into the clearing behind the tiny house. We were safe. Mark would take me and my baby home. I figure stood in the headlights and I ran towards it. They were blinding so I wasn’t sure who I was running towards, until he opened his arms for us. I ran into my husband’s arms. We were safe.
Copyright © 2014 Mia L. Hazlett

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