“Your daughter speaks 4 languages. How do we know? Surprise! She’s with us.”
This was the first message that was slipped from under the door this morning when Tim and I were having breakfast. We suddenly got frenzied and made a million calls to find the whereabouts of our only daughter, Aleysa.
How could that be possible? Aleysa was supposed to be away. She had left for college four months back and had promised to return at semester end.
Tim and I immediately got into action and called 911, after we made sure that the letter was not a hoax. By afternoon, we got another letter describing the condition of our daughter. “She is fine presently. May not remain though.”
Sergeant Vicky was behind the investigation and had put into motion a force to comb for clues. The Brooklyn Avenue, where Aleysa lived with her roommates, was put into scrutiny by four additional police officers of the response team. An extensive interview with her roommates led them to a dead end as well. Surprisingly, they had no idea about her since they were all in separate courses and none of their schedules coincided.
To us, this whole situation was perplexing. Who would even want to kidnap our daughter? Sure Tim had a blooming Internet company in Stamford and I was a popular real-estate agent, but we really had no enemies who would want to harm us. Sergeant Vicky found none too. Yet, her investigative team did their best to uncover any clues that led to her absence either from her apartment or any possible place that was linked to her. Though her apartment was only about an hour away from our home, Aleysa refused to visit on weekends since she kept busy with her major in Visual and Performing Arts. Additionally, she had joined theatre at Stella Adler and used to either have workshops or performances during the weekends.
We were just beginning to get settled with her routine when we received this message. The police department announced a Silver alert and we began looking for leads as well. Since there was no source, reason or ransom attached to those letters, there was not much, to begin with. However, Sergeant Vicky suggested that it did not appear like the work of a professional and therefore chances were that the solution would be imminent sooner than expected.
“Any unusual thing that she might have mentioned?” Sgt Vicky asked me.
“I spoke to her this weekend and everything seemed normal. She had her theatre workshop and she said that she’d be busy till late in the night. Her boyfriend was supposed to visit her perhaps, this weekend…” I continued.
“… her boyfriend?” Sgt. Vicky inquired. “Who is that? Where does he live? Can we get him here?”
“Sure. I called him this morning to find out about Aleysa but I could not get through to his phone. Let me make another attempt,” with this, I tried calling Ashton but I was unable to get through yet again.
A trace of his phone along with Aleysa’s was announced immediately. Looking at the speed and efficiency of the police department, it seemed like our pursuit might end quickly.
“How about a $100,000?” the next letter was flabbergasting. With as much security in and around our home, how did the letter even reach us! Sgt Vicky sent a troop to lead track there as well. A lead from the local post sent positive hopes. A crew was based at their office to follow through.
It was getting dark and my heart was sinking already. With zero clues on our missing daughter, we could either wait for another letter or perhaps a call. A quick IMEI & GPS set up was established in our home. Cell interceptors and multiple police officers dotted inside and outside the house. Suddenly my cellphone rang. Sgt Vicky nodded for me to take the call. It was from Ashton.
“Hello Ash, I have been trying to call you…”
“…yes, I saw multiple calls from you. I was in Danbury and returned right now. I got worried about Aleysa. I’m coming over right away.”
“Oh-okay,” there was not much for me to speak about because he hung up quickly.
I turned to Tim and Sgt. Vicky, “It was Ashton. He’s coming over.”
Sgt. Vicky nodded once and returned to his gadget to track the call. “It is coming from New York,” she announced. Tim and I looked at each other, open-mouthed.
“But he just said, he’s coming over. He has to be around here, somewhere.” I was completely bowled over. “Why would he lie about something as simple as this?”
“That’s what we need to know,” Sgt Vicky got up to make a few calls. Exhaustion was taking me over, though a shut eye was far from possible at the moment. I wondered what was Aleysa going through. “Oh, Aleysa!” I cried aloud as I sought comfort in Tim’s embrace, who was also trying to hold himself together through this turmoil.
Soon, information from Nassau County confirmed the whereabouts of Ashton in Herricks where he was found in an abandoned warehouse, heavily drugged. Sgt. Vicky’s investigators were quick in tracing the call, but the phone was nowhere to be found. Ashton was sent in recovery quickly and his parents approached ProMedica almost immediately.
As if Aleysa’s absence was not overwhelming enough, now we had to have Ashton in trouble too. Sgt. Vicky was trying to join the dots, which as of now were seemingly full of knots. But she was determined not to take it as a dead end. The investigators initiated a trail from that warehouse to figure out who owned it and why was it abandoned. This led them back to Brooklyn. It was learnt that a couple had once lived in Herricks and the warehouse belonged to them. They had a furniture store that shut shop many years ago and they moved to Brooklyn leaving everything else behind. With no way, presently, to corroborate their claims, the investigators decided to keep an eye on them, all the while trying to figure out the link between Ashton’s presence in Herricks and Aleysa’s absence from Brooklyn.
In the meantime, Aleysa’s computer scripts were deciphered and it was learnt that she had developed interaction with someone by the name of Rudd, lately. Last few months, there had been interactions on Aleysa’s Facebook that led to confirm that she was possibly having an affair with him. The investigators again steamed into action to uncover that Rudd was pursuing a Graduate Degree from the New York Film Academy and possibly that was the common thread between him and Aleysa. Surprisingly, his whereabouts were unknown too. Tim’s heart was sinking with each revelation that Sgt. Vicky was bringing forth. I, on the other hand, was unable to put the puzzle in place and simply prayed that my daughter is safe.
Another few hours were spent in tracking Rudd when suddenly a letter was discovered in my car. A message stating that involving the police is dangerous for Aleysa’s life made us shudder. How did the letter really come here? Especially when there’s police all around the place. Who would have dared to drop it there? This was getting murkier. Sgt. Vicky was feeling challenged by now. She was not one to give up on her pursuit so quickly and identified that the offender was close by. She understood the reason for the felon to use letters as a mode of communication because it was difficult for anyone to trace it back to its origin. One of the major banes of technology, I reckoned. Now that everything was electronically managed and interpreted, the hand-written word still held its aberrance. The culprit was not so novice after all! Aleysa had been missing for the last 32 hrs.
“She could be right here,” Sgt. Vicky was told by her officer a few hours later.
“Here? What do you mean?”
“We traced her phone back to Stamford.”
“Possible that her phone is with her captor or the person who is delivering these letters.”
“Possible, of course… the lead went from Brooklyn to Herricks and now to Stamford. So it could be moving with the captor.”
“Did you get the exact location?”
“Yup! Mill River Park. We fished it from the stream but it is of no further use.” The officer reported with as much detachment as he could muster for the ‘case’.
“What about Ashton’s phone?” Sgt. Vicky asked concerned. “…and any news of Rudd?”
“No trace yet.” The officer concluded and made his exit.
Soon we got a call from ProMedica that Ashton had given his statement to the local investigator there. Sgt. Vicky apprised us that Ashton indeed had gone to Brooklyn to meet Aleysa but before he could get to her, he met a man who claimed to be Aleysa’s boyfriend and that got them into a scuffle. The next moment he realized that he found himself in an unknown location in a half-conscious state. He tried to call someone but could not recall if he even got to his phone. After that, he only gained consciousness in the hospital.
“This is not helpful,” Tim’s subtle frustration was evident in his tone of voice. “Was the other man, Rudd?”
“We can’t say that. But assuming that it was indeed Rudd then we need to find him ASAP.” Sgt. Vicky responded with certainty.
Just then her wireless crackled and she got a message that an unidentified person was being chased through the city who had checked into a local hotel by the name of Rudd Steel. His recent movement within the city was traced to our house recently and that made him a suspect. As if the whole place suddenly sprung into life, the sudden revelation gave us hope that Aleysa would be recovered soon now.
Within minutes, Rudd was taken into custody at Terryville. He confessed to kidnapping Aleysa. But where was Aleysa? Ashton’s phone was found with him. He informed the police that he had indeed placed both Aleysa and Ashton in an abandoned warehouse in Herricks, that belonged to his parents. Also, that he had plans to get away with the ransom and then declare the whereabouts of Aleysa himself. But his next revelation was the most startling, Aleysa was kept in the basement of our house!
The police immediately got into action and searched the basement to find Aleysa, drugged and unconscious. She was immediately rushed to the hospital, where she spent about 5 days to recover. We were happy that she had returned safely to continue her recovery at home. Rudd was charged in Class A felony and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. Ashton visited a few days later to meet Aleysa. Sgt. Vicky was mighty pleased with her team’s quick thinking and action. Tim and I returned to our work, thankful that all of our lives were finding normalcy.
It was decided that Aleysa shall return to New York to continue her course soon after her birthday. She was asleep when a bouquet arrived on her birthday, so I received it on her behalf. A beautiful peach lily bouquet now sat on the kitchen counter for Aleysa to rejoice to when my eyes fell on something popping out from the folds. It was a letter stating, “this is not the end.”
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