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“You trying to burn that machine up, Veronica?”
“Trying!” she said in response.
“I wish I had just 10% of your motivation and dedication.”
“Necessity is the mother of…” She caught her breath and said, “Never mind. Wrong cliché. I’m not inventing anything. Just trying to keep everything from falling apart makes better sense.”
“Ha! I’m 25 and don’t have half your energy.” She looked at the 40-year old woman and said, “Or half your body.”
Veronica laughed and said, “It wasn’t enough to keep my husband interested, but I’m not gonna let that stop me.”
The girl wasn’t going to say that everyone in their small town knew why he left. After her son went missing—that was the polite term most people used for what was almost certainly a kidnapping—nearly twelve years ago, she’d been inconsolable and nearly impossible to live with. She went into such a deep, dark depression no one, not even her husband, could stand being around her. Everyone also knew he’d started having an affair with a younger woman and yet Veronica seemed shocked when he finally told her he wanted out. So while her now ex-husband was getting laid regularly, Veronica hadn’t so much as been touched since her son ‘went missing.’
Then, just over two years ago, something happened. Out of nowhere, she decided to stop living her life wallowing in grief and self-pity. She stopped binge eating and started working out. Only she knew how much weight she’d gained over the years, but it had to be close to 100 pounds. She’d worked like the devil to take the weight off and two years later, she looked almost as small as she’d been before that fateful day in the mall in the city when…
They’d been out shopping and seven-year old Zack was playing under the racks of clothes in one of the many stores Veronica had been to that day. She only stepped inside the changing booth for a few seconds. He’d been right there sitting next to it, but when she came out, he was gone. She didn’t panic at first. She thought he’d just decided not to sit where she told him to and run back under rack of dresses. But when she bent down and couldn’t see him she began to worry. When she called his name and he didn’t answer, he got scared. When she screamed and he didn’t come, that’s when she’d panicked.
Mall security checked every video camera in the entire shopping center looking for any sign of the seven-year old boy with dark hair wearing a blue jacket and tennis shoes. Law enforcement showed up with 30 minutes and two detectives were assigned to the case. It was as though Zack Marshall had just vanished off the face of the earth.
After three months, the police told her they could no longer continue to search for her son. She lost it when the lead detective explained the reality of the situation from their point of view. Veronica was having none of it. Like any mother, she didn’t care about time or money or the taxpayers or anything but getting her son back. The detective apologized profusely, but the decision was final and that’s when Veronica went dark.
She and her husband knew that pretty much everyone assumed the worst—him included. Based on most abductions of this kind, the worst was the norm as the abductor typically got rid of the child after doing whatever sick, perverse thing he’d taken him or her for in the first place. But Veronica still hadn’t given up hope. Even at the seven-year mark, when someone can legally be declared, she still clung to the idea he was out there—somewhere—and alive. Even so, she fell deeper into depression and despair until The Great Awakening.
She picked up the pace and pushed herself brutally hard for the last two minutes before calling it quits.
“I’m tired just watching you, Veronica,” the girl said as she got off, dripping with perspiration.
Veronica laughed and grabbed her towel using it to dry her face. She walked over to the scale, set the towel down, and watched the arrow spin. “Yes!” she called out. She turned to the young girl behind the desk and said, “I did it! I’m back to where I was before I let food rule my life!” The scale said ‘120’ which was pretty amazing for any woman her age, but even more so for someone who’d let herself go that far.
After her shower, she took a critical look at herself in the mirror as no one else was there. She lowered her towel and turned sideways. She was very happy with what she saw. Her tummy was flat again and that hideous cellulite in her legs—the cottage cheese—was gone. He butt was tight and her boobs looked pretty damn good. She’d always had a great smile and nearly every guy in town had had a thing for her at some point before the binging started.
As she gave herself a final once-over, she thought it just might be time to consider dating again. As she thought back on how long it began, all she could do was shake her head in disbelief.
After another very productive day, she fell asleep almost as soon as her head hit the pillow. Veronica struggled to open her eyes as she heard the doorbell ataşehir escort ring. She threw off the covers, grabbed her robe, then went to answer it. She opened it and saw two men in dark suits standing on her porch. “Mrs. Marshall? My name is Special Agent Franklin and this is Special Agent Carroll with the FBI missing-persons task force. May we please come in?”
As she showed them to the living room, she thought to herself, “Oh, my God. They’ve found him. After all this time…” She steeled herself and told herself that no matter how bad this news was, she would never again fall back into the hell she’d pulled herself out of some 25 months ago.
“Please have a seat,” she said trying to remain calm. “May I get you something? Some tea perhaps?”
“No thank you,” Agent Franklin said. “Mrs. Marshall, we received a phone call this morning from FBI Headquarters in Washington DC. Our director there received a personal call from the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Canada. I don’t know how to better prepare you for his, but it’s about your son, Zachary.”
She gasped at the mention of his name and put her hand over her chest preparing to hear the words she’d been dreading for so many years. “Yes?” she said, her voice trembling with fear.
“He’s been found—alive.”
She sat there and just stared for a moment then said, “What? Did you say…alive? My Zack is…alive?”
“Yes, ma’am. He’s in Canada in a small town called Dawson in the Yukon Province near Alaska. He’s being examined by the town’s only doctor before being flown to Seattle as soon as possible, depending on his condition, of course.”
“My God,” she said quietly. “All those years I never gave up hope. Not until two years ago when I couldn’t stand wallowing in the pain any longer. That’s when I made peace with losing him. And now you’re here telling me he’s alive.” She looked up at them and said, “I want to see him. I want to go there…now.” It wasn’t that she didn’t believe them. She didn’t even consider this was some kind of horribly cruel joke. She just needed to see him with her own eyes. She needed to hold him. No matter how bad he was, no matter what had happened to him, no matter how much he’d suffered or…she shuddered as she thought about it…how much he’d been abused, she’d care for him and and do anything she had to nurture and rehabilitate her only child.
“I don’t have details, but we do know he can’t be moved for several more days. We understand it isn’t life threatening, but he’s severely dehydrated after spending days in the wilderness with no food and very little water.” She started to interrupt and he asked her to let him finish. “We’re also not 100% certain, but based on the few words your son has shared with RCMP, we believe the person Canadian authorities now think kidnapped him recently died making it possible for Zachary to escape. And ma’am? We believe his kidnapper to have been a woman.”
Veronica was so beside herself the potential significance of that remark didn’t register.”I want to see him!” she said again. “I don’t care how much it costs. I want to see my son!”
“We thought that would be the case and we’ve been authorized to transport you as far Vancouver, British Columbia, where you can wait.”
“No! I want to go to Dawson or wherever you said his is.”
“We can’t stop you from traveling, ma’am, but we can only take you as far as Vancouver. Anything beyond that will be at your expense and at your own risk. I would strongly advise you to be patient for a few more days. Please.”
“Patient? I’ve waited for TWELVE YEARS to see my son, Agent Franklin. Please don’t try and tell me to wait even more day.”
Veronica literally ran upstairs and packed two suitcases with clothes, shoes, makeup, toiletries, and whatever she could think of. Once she had them both ready, she ran to Zack’s room and grabbed a Transformer that had been his favorite toy when he lived at home and dropped it in her purse.
She locked her home and called her former husband who was in a state of shock. “Do you want me to go with you, Ronnie?” he asked her.
“No. You don’t need to do that. I’ll go alone and bring him back. I’ll call you anytime I have new information.” She paused and said, “Our son is coming home.”
Her husband wasn’t about to tell her he wouldn’t be the little boy she remembered. He was now eighteen and God only knew what he’d been through. The fact that he was alive was a sort of miracle in and of itself. For him to be anything but deeply emotionally and mentally scarred seemed impossible to even consider. But Veronica had born the brunt of this all those years even after he couldn’t take it any longer. This was her day and he wasn’t going to say anything to put a damper on it.
“Okay, Ronnie. Sounds good. And…send him my love too, okay?” was all he said as they hung up.
After a seven-hour flight to the West Coast, Veronica and Agent Franklin arrived in Vancouver, avcılar escort BC, where he checked them into a very nice four-star hotel near the FBI’s liaison office in the city. Veronica was utterly exhausted both physically and emotionally and managed to fall asleep for several hours before waking up in a cold sweat. It was 4am and even though she was still tired, she needed exercise. She jumped on a stationary bike in the hotel’s exercise room and pushed herself for an hour until the endorphins finally did their thing, clearing her head and allowing her to think more clearly.
She met Agent Franklin in the small cafeteria downstairs for a cup of coffee and a bagel as he explained what more he’d learned in a brief phone call that morning.
“Zach is going to make a full recovery physically. He’s still too weak to travel, but the doctor in Dawson thinks he’ll be well enough to fly down here with two or three days. I strongly recommend…”
She stopped him and said, “I’m taking a charter flight to Dawson this morning, Agent Franklin. I’ve already made reservations. If you can’t take me to the airport, I understand. I’ll take a taxi. But one way or the other, I’m going to see my son today.”
“I understand,” he told her. “I have permission to take you to the airport and our local liaison will pick you up when you and Zack return. Again, I’m strongly advising you to wait here, but this is of course, your call.”
“You may tell your superiors I’ve been so duly advised. And you have my thanks for bringing me up here to Vancouver, but if you have children…”
“I do. A boy and a girl,” he told her. “And I’d be doing the very same thing.”
He dropped her off at the airport and watched her take off in the single-engine Cessna before phoning the liaison office in Vancouver and heading to Seattle and then back home.
“You ever been up north before, lady?” the pilot with the scruffy white beard asked through the headsets.
“No, this is my first time,” she told him wanting to say that Vancouver was as far north as she’d ever been or cared to be. Within minutes they were outside of the city and there was nothing but deep-green wilderness as far as the eye could see in any direction. They passed over a very small town and Veronica saw a couple of rivers or creeks below them, but otherwise there was no sign of civilization until the tiny town of Dawson appeared and the small plane began its descent.
“Do you have anyone meeting you?” he asked.
“Yes, someone from the police department is supposed to be there,” she yelled over the engine noise.
“You’re not in some kinda trouble are you? You seem too pretty to be a…petty criminal. Get it? Pretty/petty?”
She laughed not so much at his attempt at humor as from the missing front tooth she saw when he smiled. “No, I’m not going to jail. I’m going to see my son.”
“Oh, okay. Is he a logger or something?” the man asked as he lined up on final approach to the tiny little strip of pavement next to a very small airport building.
“It’s the ‘or something’ part,” she said not wanting to discuss it.
He helped her with her bags and carried them to the waiting Dawson Police Department vehicle where a uniformed officer was waiting. “I’ll take those, Hank,” the officer said.
“Hey, Ricky. How’s your dad doing?” the pilot asked.
“Better. Thanks for asking. How’s Carla?”
“The old ball and chain is the same, you know.”
The shook hands and the old man went inside to use the restroom before refueling and heading back south.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Marshall,” he told her as they headed out.
“Please call me Veronica,” she said.
“I can’t imagine what you’re feeling right now.”
“I can’t possibly explain it, officer. It’s all still so surreal, you know?”
It was only a four-minute drive to the small town clinic. “Well, this it. I’ll take you inside and introduce you to Doc Taylor. Here’s my number. Whenever you’re ready to go, I’ll come back and take you to the motel.”
“You don’t have to do that,” she said thanking him.
“It’s not like a whole lot happens here in Dawson.” He stopped and realized how big a deal Zack’s return was to Veronica and said, “Other that this, of course. I’m real happy for you, by the way.”
He escorted her inside and introduced him first to Linda, the woman who ran the office, who went in the back and grabbed the doctor.
An older man of at least 65 came out and said, “Mrs. Marshall. I’m Doctor Taylor. Can we talk for a bit before I take you in to see your son?”
“Um, well…sure. I mean, if that’s necessary. Is…is he okay?”
“Oh, he’s fine, relatively speaking. I just want to prepare you.”
“That sounds ominous, doctor.”
“I just want you to understand a few things. It’ll only take a few minutes. So if you’ll follow me, please?”
He took her to his office and sat her down and began to speak. “Mrs. Marshall, Zack avrupa yakası escort hasn’t said much to anyone since he was found wandering the streets alone and…” He moved closer to her and said, “But this morning he asked me something I want to share with you. Out of nowhere he said, ‘Is my new mommy dead, too?’ Now I’m not a police officer or a psychiatrist. I’m just an old country doctor. But my sense is the person who took him was a woman.”
“Yes, that’s what the FBI agent told me,” Veronica replied. It finally registered with her this time. All these years everyone had assumed his abductor was a man. She’d been told that the people who take little boys are almost always men and that these men are virtually always molesters.
“I said, ‘Tell me about your new mommy, okay?’ and he told me she was the woman he’d lived with since her old mommy died. Does that make any sense to you?”
Veronica sat in stunned silence. This woman, whoever she was, had undoubtedly tried to convince Zack that his real mother was dead. She couldn’t know for sure, but tentatively at least, it made sense. Unlike a man who wanted…she couldn’t bring herself to even think of it right then…a woman would want to love and nurture and raise the child as her own, right? Why else to the trouble to abduct a child and take him to another country? At least that what she told herself wanting to believe the best.
“Um…maybe,” she said. “I can’t really say.” She looked at the doctor and asked, “May I please see him now?”
“Sure,” he told her. “I’m not even going to try and prepare you for the physical changes. I’m sure you’ve tried to picture him as a young adult, but seeing him for the first time…”
He stood up and opened the door for her and said, “He’s quite a handsome young man, I should tell you, Mrs. Marshall. Whoever had him seems to have cared for him physically quite well, at least. His height and weight are normal and he’s evidently received good dental and medical care. He’ll need a complete physical and psychological exam, but I seen no outward signs of abuse or…torture.”
He stopped at a wooden door and said, “Are you ready?”
Veronica nodded and waited for him to open it for her. She stepped inside and saw him laying in the bed with an IV in his arm. She felt the urge to cry more strongly than she ever had, but her need to strong for him won out. She stood there and just looked at him. His eyes were closed but the doctor was right. He was very handsome. Just like his father. He had thick, black hair and high cheekbones and soft, full lips and a chin dimple in the same place as his dad. He looked strong and fit and that simply didn’t make sense. She took a few steps toward the bed and stood there still staring. Her heart was pounding so hard she thought it might wake him. Her little boy. Her precious Zachary.
When he opened his eyes, he blinked several times as he stared back at her. She smiled at him and fought off the urge to throw her arms around him. “Zack?” she said sweetly.
He cocked his head and said, “Who are you?” He had a deep baritone voice and Veronica loved the sound of it.
She moved closer and said, “Zack? It’s me. Do you recognize me?”
His eyes opened wide as they welled up with tears. “Mommy?” was all he said.
Veronica began to cry, too, as she nodded her head and said, “Yes. Yes, honey, it’s me.”
“Mommy?” he called out. He tried to get up but there was an IV line in his arm.
“Don’t move, sweetheart,” she said as she leaned down and hugged for the first time in over twelve years. “Oh, my baby!” she said as she stroked his hair.
“I knew you’d find me. I knew it,” he said as he sobbed heavily.
Neither of them spoke as they held one another close and cried. Veronica finally pulled back and said, “I’ve missed you SO much, Zack!”
“I missed you too, Mommy. I thought about you every day and I knew you’d find me. I knew it.”
“Yes, I did,” she said wiping her tears with the sleeve of her sweater. She pulled up a chair and sat next to him.
“How are you, sweetheart?” she asked as she stroked his face.
“Is my new mommy dead?” he asked her.
Veronica sat up said, “Oh, sweetheart. I don’t know anything about her. I didn’t know who took you or…”
“She told me you died,” he said as he began to stop crying. “I think she’s dead, Mommy. She wouldn’t open my door for a really long time and I was so hungry and thirsty. When she finally did, she couldn’t talk. She was sweating and choking and…and then she just stopped breathing. So…so I ran away. I was so scared!”
“Shhh! We can talk about all that later. All that matters is we’re together. I love you so much, Zach,” she told him as she brushed his dark hair out of his eyes.
“You’re so pretty,” he told her as he took her hand. “I never forgot how pretty you are, Mommy.” He kissed her hand and held it close to his chest.
“Thank you, honey. I’m not as young as I was back then and I’m not as pretty, but I am still your mother and I do still love you so, so much. But you…you have become quite the handsome young man.”
Zack smiled and said, “I love you too, Mommy. And you are still beautiful.”
“I have something for you,” she told him. She reached into her purse and handed him the Transformer.
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