Author’s Note: This is part two of Nadia and Elias’s story, from my story “Please Understand.” It would probably make sense if you read part one first, which is pretty short. I’m not sure if this counts as a trigger warning, but it does involve kidnapping as a major part of the plot. Thank you for being here on a story I wrote, I hope you enjoy it. Have an amazing day!
“The police department only considers a person missing if they have been gone for at least twenty-four hours. Until then, there is nothing we can do. I’m sorry, sir, it’s protocol.” his voice is uninterested as if he has had this repetitive conversation many times before.
Are we really at this point, where we have come to expect crime to suddenly snatch people from our lives? Where the very people meant to help us save them are rendered useless by pointless rules?
“Are you kidding me? There is no way she would stay out this late. Something happened, I’m sure of it. She could be in danger at this very moment.”
If you knew Nadia the way I do, you would understand.
“I am only following orders here, sir. Nothing more, nothing less,” he tells me.
“You have to do something, quickly,” I plead, then more quietly, “Before it’s too late”
“I’m sorry, sir. I cannot help you.”
He hangs up the phone, leaving me in haunting silence. It penetrates me the same way as the silence Nadia left me in when she suddenly said goodbye.
Maybe I’m being paranoid, maybe she’s fine. I tell myself this again and again, but I can never quite convince myself. If she isn’t home by tomorrow morning, I’ll be out there before the police. Searching for the girl I failed, the one I didn’t have the time to save.
I’m coming, Nadia, I promise.
The pieces come together late at night. Flashes of our conversation, piecing themselves together to form a horrifying truth. I desperately wish it’s only my imagination playing with me, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Was that your first warning? The first time you tried to alert me of the danger you were in? Tailgated, followed. If only I had understood sooner.
Is that where you are right now? Stuffed behind the darkened windows, being taken far away from everything you have ever known. Far away from anyone looking for you.
If only I had known that while I was chattering on about our plans for the night, you were scared for your life. If only I could have been there for you.
The storm is long overdue.
I always knew this was your greatest fear, seeing the way you always made sure the doors were safely locked at night. You never deserved this. Why did it have to be you?
You probably won’t be hearing from me for a while.
But I will see you again, I’ll make sure of it. I’ll search for as long as it takes. Hopefully, it’ll only take days. But then again, if it takes years, that’s how long I’ll search.
I’m not giving up on you.
The name comes back to me early in the morning as I sip my coffee staring out the window. I remember reading about her story a few years ago when it filled every newspaper in sight. Her story is one of both astounding success and catastrophic failure. A retired detective, who used to specialize in missing persons. Who found so many lost children, returning them to the eternally grateful families. Until one time she didn’t.
I’ve read the news of her failure, the time she followed a false trail. The time she misread the clues and searched in all the wrong places. By the time the child was found, it was already too late. And from what I’ve heard, she still hasn’t been able to forgive herself.
It’s the same for all of us, we are remembered for the mistakes we made, not the good we did.
I quickly retrieve my beaten-down computer from the other room and pull up a new window. My fingers slowly type her name in the search bar along with the words “Los Angeles, California” There are only three results in this area, three phone numbers with the same name attached.
I randomly pick one and dial the number. It rings only a few times before an overenthusiastic voice answers.
“Hello, you have reached Fletcher Contracting. How may I help you today?”
“I think I have the wrong number. Sorry.” I say before clumsily hanging up and trying the second number. My phone rings slowly, giving no indication as to whether or not someone on the other end will pick up. Just when I am about to end the call, moving on to the third number, an annoyed voice echoes from the device.
“My name is Elias Garner,” I reply, cautiously.
“Why are you calling? What do you want from me?” She spits the words out as if she is afraid to have them touch her tongue.
“My best friend has gone missing. She suddenly hung up on me while she was walking home last night and she hasn't come home since,” I explain, hoping she can’t hear the fear in my voice.
“I stopped helping people with these things long ago. Surely if you ever heard of me you would know that.”
“Please, at least hear me out. I might sound desperate, but I’ll beg you if I need to. If you’re the one that can help me get her back.”
A moment of silence passes as she considers my words. I bite my lip and clench my teeth together, anxiously awaiting her response.
“Please,” I whisper, pleading with her.
“Meet me at the bridge at Echo Park Lake at noon. I’ll hear you out, but I can’t make any guarantees. I swore off this job years ago for good reason,” she sounds reluctant to agree as if she could change her mind at any moment.
“Thank you,” I tell her, sincerely, hoping she will stick to her word.
I end the call with a newfound determination, Ida Fletcher has given me a chance. A chance to find Nadia.
In the middle of summer in the park, all the flowers are drooping on their stems, no longer carrying the energy to stand up straight. Even the palm trees lining the lake appear wilted and lacking their usual rich color.
A figure leans against the rails of the bridge, skipping stones across the gentle lake below her. They hop across the water, ripples radiating out from underneath them. Her long hair is braided down her back, almost extending all the way to her hips.
She nods in response, eyeing me suspiciously as I walk over to the railing to stand next to her. A squirrel perches on her shoulder, its fluffy tail twitching.
“This is Coco,” she says, following my gaze, “Believe it or not, she is actually a better companion than most humans I’ve met.”
“I’m not surprised,” I tell her simply, earning a soft laugh in return. When she makes it clear she doesn’t have plans to speak again, I open my mouth.
“I really appreciate you meeting me here. I need to find Nadia, my friend, as soon as possible and the police haven’t been much help. Wherever she is right now, I know she is waiting for me. I don’t want to keep her waiting long,” I tell her, staring at the water beneath us.
“I’m sorry to hear about your friend, but I haven’t helped find missing people for years now. Ever since that last case, The Case,” she says, her words carrying the weight of every memory behind them.
“What happened all those years ago? It was a mistake, you couldn’t have known it would end that way.”
“A mistake? Dear boy, a life was taken when I slipped up. That family trusted me to save their little boy, they trusted me with his life. I failed them. And chances are, if I agree to help you, I’ll end up failing you as well. I won’t make that mistake again,” she says, making it apparent that these thoughts have been gnawing away at her for a while now.
“It’s really not much different, whether you refuse to help or aren’t able to help. The only difference is if you at least try, try to help me find her, there’s a chance you’ll succeed. There’s a chance my best friend won’t die before her life really began.”
She breaks our eye contact and studies the lake, deep in thought. Silence seems to have become my greatest fear lately.
“I’ll try. I can’t promise anything more.” she agrees, hesitantly.
“That’s okay, I’m not asking for anything more.” I assure her, “I can’t even begin to tell you how much this means to me.”
She nods solemnly once more then tosses another stone onto the surface of the water.
My eyes take in the beautiful view of the city, wishing Nadia was here to share the sight with.
I softly whisper to anyone listening, hoping they will pass on the message until it reaches the one it is meant for.
I promise, Nadia, I won’t fail you again.