Working Title – Time to Split
Carlos was nervous, and not just because he was handcuffed to the chair. He looked around the small room before finally settling his gaze at the man and woman sitting across from him.
“I’m sorry, detectives,” he said. “I honestly don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Instead of yelling, this time the detectives simply looked at each other, wordlessly conferring as only long-time partners can. After a few seconds, the woman looked toward the darkened window to Carlos’ left and nodded. A moment later the door behind Carlos opened and a uniformed officer came in and laid three items in front of Carlos, slowly, deliberately. There was a large lunchbox, a photograph of a pistol, and a photocopy of a handwritten note.
As the officer left the room, the female detective leaned across the table, and looking Carlos squarely in the eye, said “Do these items give you any idea of what we’re talking about, Mr. Duvall? If not, we have a video that might help jog your memory.”
“Sal, run the video for Mr. Duvall, please.”
Carlos watched as a monitor on the wall near the doorway came to life. It played what was obviously a surveillance video taken from inside of what looked like a bank. While the quality was not the sharpest, it clearly showed him carrying the lunchbox as he approached a counter. He set the lunchbox down, took a moment to write something on a deposit ticket, and then stood stock still for several seconds before placing the note in the lunchbox and walking out of the bank. The lunchbox remained on the counter. Once the video ended, Carlos looked slowly from the lunchbox to the pictures of the pistol and the note, and then to the detectives.
“Is that your lunchbox, Mr. Duvall?”
Carlos nodded slowly.
“The pistol and the note were in the lunchbox, Mr. Duvall. What can you tell us about those items?”
Carlos looked at the pistol. He’d never seen it before. Slowly, he turned his attention to the note. It certainly looked like his handwriting, but he had no idea what it said. He leaned closer and read it carefully.
I have your daughter. Put all your large bills in the lunchbox, then hand it back to me. No alarms, or your daughter will suffer.
The room started to spin, and Carlos vaguely heard Dr. Townsend’s voice warning him as he left her office earlier in the week: “I’m urging you to consider treatment, Carlos. I’m not saying that dissociative identity disorder is inherently dangerous, but there’s no predicting what might…”
The room snapped back into focus, and Carlos looked up at the detectives. “The girl?” he asked with what looked like pain in his eyes.
“Mr. Duvall, we’d like you to tell us exactly what happened earlier this afternoon.”
Carlos looked back down at the photograph of the pistol, and then up at the detectives again. “I think I want that lawyer now. And my doctor.”
Rosie woke up again, and this time it wasn’t dark anymore. She was still alone though, and still scared. And thirsty. And hungry. And lonely. But scared most of all.
When the man put her in the room he said that somebody would be back to let her out soon, but that maybe it could take longer. And if it took longer then she could have his lunch that he took out of his lunchbox when he put the gun in it. And if it took even longer and she had to potty then there was a pail in the corner. And if it took really longer then she could use the sleeping bag and pillow.
Now it was really, really longer and still nobody came. She ate all the food and drank all the water when she was hungry yesterday. But then she did have to potty and she didn’t like it because she was almost six now and had never not pottied in a toilet, even though Momma said that she used to wear diapers like Lisa does but she doesn’t remember that. And it was not fun sleeping on the floor under the sleeping bag even though it was like a sleepover and she liked sleepovers. She was really glad that the man let her keep Polly and Molly, her two little dolls. They looked like clowns and they helped her be a tiny bit happy sometimes when she woke up and it was still dark.
She thought maybe the man would come back even though he said it would be somebody else, but nobody else was coming so maybe the man would anyway. She hoped it would be somebody else because the man scared her. She heard him yelling in the hallway after he locked her in the room, but she knew there was nobody else out there with him so he was arguing with himself. He kept changing his voice, back and forth. He had a nice voice and a mean voice and he argued with his voices. The nice voice told him to leave the door unlocked and the mean voice yelled at him, said that he was in charge now and would not listen to a pussy anymore.
So she sang all the songs she knew again, and then took Polly and Molly, and sat them on the floor in front of her like when she played school with them. She played school all morning and then it was time to pretend that they were graduating. She even gave a little speech for them.
When she was tired again she laid down with Polly and Molly to nap. She wanted her Momma to come get her but Momma was probably still working at the bank. She knew that Momma would be mad at her for going with the man, but now she didn’t care. She just wanted Momma and would forgive her for being mad. Just come Momma, she thought, I miss you.
Veronica Thomas gave up trying to sleep and slowly got off the bed. It was nearly two o’clock, and she had only slept a few fitful minutes since finally forcing herself to lay down around midnight. She looked down at Lisa, who was fast asleep in the middle of the big bed, a look of blissful peace on her sweet face. While Lisa had missed having Rosie home, at only fourteen months she was far too young to grasp the magnitude of what it meant for Rosie to be gone.
Veronica needed to pee, but just stood by the side of the bed, not wanting to leave Lisa. She knew it was irrational, but she could not bear the thought of leaving her remaining child unguarded. Then again, there was nothing rational about a madman taking Rosie away.
Her cubs. Richard had called them that when he was still alive. She had been a single mom with a three year old daughter when they started dating, and one evening he made a comment about Rosie’s slight speech impediment. Veronica had taken it as a criticism of her child, though after a full minute of backpedaling in the face of a mother’s protective fury, Richard finally managed to convince her that his intention was to support, not criticize. “And now that we settled that,” he’d laughed as he took her in his arms, “I know never, ever to get between a mama bear and her cub!”
But now Rosie was gone, and she didn’t know if she’d ever see her again. Was she OK? It’s been almost 36 hours since she was taken… Was she crying, right now this very minute, because she was alone and missed her mama? Or maybe…she didn’t want to think about it, but the question refused to go away: was she even alive?
Eventually, Veronica gave in to urge as well as instinct and picked Lisa up gently, lay her sleeping child on her shoulder, and walked down the hall to the bathroom. Every light in the apartment was on and Veronica could see her reflection in the mirror as she approached the little room. She had always been proud of her looks – flawless skin, high cheekbones, and a jawline that was somehow both strong and feminine. But tonight she almost didn’t recognize her own reflection; her eyes were puffy and red-rimmed, her hair was a dry, tangled mess, and her smooth brown cheeks were crusted with the white residue of dried tears. She turned quickly from the mirror, unable to abide looking at the reflection of a woman who’d lost her cub.
She started crying again, deep, gut wrenching sobs that woke Lisa, and when her child also started crying Veronica’s grief exploded forcefully within her. With a keening moan, she fell to the floor, and cocooning herself around Lisa, began rocking on the cool tile. “My baby,” she wailed. “My baby, my baby! Please God, please bring her back…I…I don’t…I can’t…”
Carlos closed his eyes and tried to think. He was accused of kidnapping a little girl – a crime he knew nothing about – and he was worried. The lawyer might help, and Dr. Townsend might help, but he really needed Tony.
The thought startled him – who was Tony? Carlos had no idea, but somehow the thought of Tony helping him was calming. So Carlos sat still in the quiet place behind his eyes while his mind took him to a dark and peaceful room. And he waited for Tony.
“I’m glad you came.”
“Me too. Are we alone?”
“We’re never alone, Carlos. I thought you knew that.”
“So, Eddie’s here,” Carlos grunted, tension creeping into his voice.
“Hey butt-fuck.” It was Eddie alright.
Tony sighed. “Quiet, Eddie. I want us work together for a change.”
In the dark place behind his eyes, Carlos could sense Eddie sitting across from him. Pat, Alex, and Conrad were also here, as was The Kid. They sat in a circle with Tony standing in the middle. Carlos was confused but not scared. These people were strangers – he’d never seen or heard of them in his life. Yet he knew them all: their names, their voices, even what they looked like. Even in the pitch dark.
Tony was in charge; nobody had to ask. They all knew that he could tell them to come and go, but sometimes they could do so on their own. This was the first time that he had ever called everybody at once.
“We have a problem,” Tony said. “Eddie started something but then somehow Carlos took control without permission. Eddie couldn’t finish and Carlos was taken to jail.”
“Shut up, Eddie. Carlos should not have come then, you’re right. But I don’t think it’s his fault.”
“Well, it sure ain’t my fault, if that’s what you mean.”
“No, not your fault either Eddie. I’m not sure what happened, but I suspect it has something to do with the shrink that Carlos has been seeing.”
“You’re seeing a shrink? I always knew you were a pussy.”
“No, you shut up, Tony. How much longer do you think you’re going to be the one in charge?”
“Keep it up Eddie, and I’ll dissolve you. I’ll let Pat and Conrad divvy up your shares. You want that?”
Eddie kept quiet, but even in the dark Carlos knew that he was fuming.
“OK,” Tony continued, glaring hard at Eddie. “We have a problem to solve, and if we can’t get Carlos out of jail then we’re all screwed. So here’s what we’re going to do.”
“I’m not giving up the girl.”
“Yes, Eddie. You are.”
A scream was fading between his ears as Carlos slowly opened his eyes.
“Mr. Duvall? You’re being awful quiet over there. What’s the matter, cat got your tongue?”
Carlos looked the detective squarely in the eye before speaking slowly but clearly.
“I can tell you where to find the girl.”
Rosie woke up and saw that it was light again. But she was still alone, and she was still scared. And she was thirsty and hungry and maybe even more thirsty than scared because she didn’t have anything to eat or drink yesterday. The man didn’t come back and nobody else came either.
She tried to play with Polly and Molly, but it was hard to talk and when she tried to sing she couldn’t. Her throat was so dry that it hurt even to hum. So she sat on the floor and wrapped up in the sleeping bag and watched the door. She sat for a long time and then her bottom started to hurt and her legs got tingly. So she stood up and tried to look out the window again but it was too high and she couldn’t see outside. When her legs stopped tingling she sat back down and watched the door again.
The next time her legs got tingly she got up and walked to the door. She reached for the knob but then stopped. The man told her not to try to open the door. He told her that if she tried to leave then he would do bad things to her. And if she was gone when she got back then he would do bad things to Lisa. Besides, he said, he was going to lock the door anyway so don’t bother with it.
Rosie stood with her hand almost-but-not touching the knob for a long time. She thought about how the man might hurt her. Was he waiting outside, watching? She got scared again and pulled her hand back a little. Then she thought about how hungry and thirsty she was and decided that she didn’t care if he hurt her as long as she could drink something, so she reached for the knob again. She stood at the door for a long time – fingers almost touching then pulling away when she thought of Lisa hurt. Almost-touch, back-away. Almost-touch, back-away.
Finally, she sat back down on the floor. She did not want Lisa to get hurt, but she did want to see her. And Momma. She held Polly and Molly close, but they weren’t soft and warm like Lisa and Momma were. She looked at the door. Her tummy hurt. So did her throat.
She got up and walked to the door again and this time she put her hand on the knob. She didn’t try to turn it, just squeezed it. Then thought of the man hurting Lisa and took her hand away. Then thought of her throat and touched it again. This time she tried to turn it. She got scared when it moved so she let go. And then the door opened. Just a crack, but it was open. Rosie felt like she had been in the room for a whole year, but now she could go out and find food and water. She hoped nobody would get hurt.