Tuesday Afternoon*

Tuesday AfternoonIt was the perfect spot, he thought, looking around appreciatively. Nice, quiet little park on a Tuesday afternoon. He took a seat on a bench about fifty feet from the two kids’ play areas. One was clearly meant for toddlers and the other for older kids. He settled in for a wait, although he really didn’t think it would take that long.

He was right. About fifteen minutes later he saw exactly what he was looking for. A little girl about three years old had wandered off by herself to look at a flowering shrub that grew near the swing set. She was a pretty little thing, with curly blonde hair, a red T-shirt and denim shorts. Cute red-and-white sandals too. He watched her for about five minutes. Nope – no adult. Just what he wanted.

He waited a few more minutes to be sure the little girl was alone. She was. He saw the perfect opportunity when she sat down on one of the swings.  He walked over, sat on the swing next to her and said, ‘Hi.’
She looked up and smiled at him. ‘I have new sandals,’ she said proudly, pointing to her feet.
‘They’re very pretty,’ he said.
‘But there’s dirt on them.’

He was just getting ready to answer when a woman, probably the girl’s mother, rushed up. She had the same blonde hair and fair skin. She glared at him and pulled the child off the swing and towards her.
‘Are you OK, Baby?’ she asked anxiously, looking closely at the little face and smoothing the ruffled hair.
‘I want to go on the slide,’ was the little girl’s answer.

The woman looked at him again, her eyes narrowed. ‘You leave my daughter alone, you pervert!’ she hissed. ‘I’m going to call the cops!’
‘You don’t have to,’ he answered, reaching into his pocket and pulling out his police ID. ‘I’m Officer Campbell.’
‘I don’t understand. Did something happen?’ The woman drew back, not sure any more how to react. She hugged the little girl closely to her, despite the child’s wriggling to get free.
‘No, not yet it didn’t. But it could have. I’m part of a special police detail. It’s a new program. We’re working to increase child safety in public places like this. We come to different parks and playgrounds to patrol and to educate parents. I hate to put it like this, but you just set your little one up to be snatched or worse.’

The woman’s face crumpled as she began to see the risk she’d taken. ‘But I didn’t leave the park or anything,’ she tried to explain between sniffs. ‘I just went to the car to get her jacket.’ She waved the little red jacket clutched in her hand. ‘I was only gone for a minute.’
‘A minute’s all it takes, Ma’am. You were lucky this time. Another time you might not be so lucky. You need to keep your daughter in sight all the time. You don’t know who could be in a place like this.’

‘I’m not a bad mother,’ the woman insisted, becoming more defensive as she spoke. It was clear she’d been shaken by what could have happened.
‘I’m not judging you, Ma’am. I’m just trying to keep kids like your little girl here safe.’
‘I know,’ the woman said, slightly mollified. She whisked a tear from one eye, took her daughter’s hand securely and said, ‘Don’t worry. Lesson learned.’ Then the two of them turned to walk away. He could hear the little girl saying, ‘Slide, Mama, I want the slide,’ as they left.

Campbell wasn’t perfect, but he had the fairly strong feeling that this woman really had learned her lesson. He hoped so anyway. He watched them a minute or two longer and then returned to the bench where he’d been sitting.

Lydia had been sitting for the last forty minutes on another bench, next to the toddler tunnels. They were strung together to look like train cars, and she could see a few little ones sitting in two of the cars. There was another one pretending to drive the train. She’d have preferred an infant, but there were none here today. Well, that was all right. A toddler would be fine. She got up to see what the children looked like.  Three little boys, two little girls. A little boy, she thought. A son. Yes, that was it!  A lot of people wanted sons. That dark-haired boy in the driver’s seat would be just the thing. He had a cute smile and he looked healthy. He’d do very well. The path seemed clear, too. She didn’t see any adult near him.

She patted the right front pocket of her jeans; yes, she’d remembered the candy bar. Then she looked round – yes, the coast was clear.  Nobody was watching her. That’s when she noticed the man by the swings. He was talking to that little girl in the red shirt. Was he – ?  But no, here came the mother. Looked like- wait! That was a badge he was showing her. He was a cop! Damnit!  That was all she needed – a cop! Well, at least he hadn’t seen her. Or had he? She didn’t think so but you couldn’t be sure. Best get out of here. No sense taking any risks.

She drifted slowly and easily past the slide, where that woman she’d seen waited at the bottom for her daughter to go down. Then she moved towards the trees that lined the path into the park. After all, she thought as she walked towards her car, there were plenty of other parks.

 

 

Not all terrible crimes are murders…

 

 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a Moody Blues song.

30 Comments

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30 responses to “Tuesday Afternoon*

  1. Oh that was a double whammy of a story! I was holding my breath..,

  2. Not all terrible crimes are murder. And a great twist in using a female. People often don’t see that coming!

  3. I was like cleopatralovesbooks, holding my breath waiting to see what was going to happen. The female was definitely an interesting change of how we think of child abductors. Sad to think of how often scenes like that really play out in everyday life.

    • Mason – Thanks – I’m really glad to hear you were drawn in. And it is sad – and really scary! – to think about how easy it is for such a thing to happen.

  4. Oh! Great story, Margot! And as others have said, using a female was a brilliant twist. Thanks! 😀

    • FictionFan – Thank you 🙂 – I’m really glad you enjoyed this. Sadly, there are plenty of female abductors out there, the idea being that little children will be more likely to trust them, and that they’ll be less noticeable in places like parks. The scary thing is that you never know, if I can put it that way.

  5. Very creepy, but very worthwhile knowledge.

  6. Very good story, Margot. I always thought I was overprotective as a mother, but it is hard not to be… when this can happen. Good reminder.

    • Tracy – Thanks for the kind words. I’m really glad you enjoyed the story. It is scary to think of what can happen, isn’t it? Children need to learn independence, but sometimes it’s tempting to overprotect…

  7. Suspenseful to the last. Like the twist in the middle.

  8. Sounds like a good intro to a new book Margot…

  9. Great story Margot, proper scarey… Of course it’s not only mothers who care, but you can really get the mothers among us going with a tale like this one….

    • Moira – Thank you – glad you enjoyed it. And there is something about the mother/child bond that really gets shaken up when you consider possibilities like this one.

  10. writerdsnelson

    Great story, great twist, Margot 🙂

  11. Your story kept me captivated from the get go to the end. Great suspense! It took me awhile before i trusted the cop. It was terrifying and spooky, especially with the female abductor twist at the end.

    • Carol – That’s really very kind of you – thanks 🙂 – I’m glad you felt drawn in. It’s sad to think that there are abductors out there of either sex, but the fact is, they come in both sexes…

  12. Great to see more of your writing here, Margot

  13. Col

    Great story again, Margot, very unsettling

  14. Thank you so much, Margot. Permission to share the story, PLEASE. I think more mothers need to read it, to know that the world is not as beautiful as they would like to believe it is.

    Random aside- my kids and me have agreed on a password. If the situation makes it imperative that I need to ask a stranger to pick them up sometime (I can’t think of any, but who knows), they are supposed to ask for the password- if he/ she cannot give it, I did not send him/ her.,

    • Natasha – Oh, that’s so kind of you. I’m glad you liked the story, and yes, please share it if you wish. I think it’s so very wise that you and your children have a password. That way they know how to behave, and you can feel safer too. Today’s world really isn’t as nice as we’d like to think it is, and we need to find ways to keep our children safe without stifling them. It’s such a delicate balance…

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