“I got you,” I tell him, picking him up. He wraps himself around me, his body shaking. “You’re safe, bud, but I need you to tell me where your sister is.” He nods into my shoulder then starts talking, his body shaking so hard that I have to sit down with him. He tells me that he and Ashlyn were playing hide-and-seek and that he knew where she was hiding because she always hides in the same place. He says he went around the side of the house, seeing someone dressed in black carrying Ashlyn away. He was going to go into the house to get me, but they were almost to the truck by the time he thought about it. Then he says when the person placed Ashlyn in the truck, he climbed into the back and laid down to hide. When the truck finally stopped, he peeked over the edge, seeing his mom carrying Ashlyn into a house. He didn’t know what to do when he heard yelling coming from the house, so he ran to try to find someone to call me. I hold him close, rocking him back-and-forth the same way I used to when he was a baby. My dad, brothers, and a couple other officers listen. It only takes him a couple of minutes to tell us what had happened, but I know that it’s a couple minutes too long. “Listen, little dude, you’re going to stay here and I’m going to go with Grandpa so that I can get your sister and we can go home,” I tell him. I stand and carry him over to my truck. Asher takes him from me, talking gently to him as I head over to my dad.
“Look, I shouldn’t even let you come with us, but I know that I won’t be able to stop you, and Ashlyn is going to need you when we get her out of there.” My jaw clenches, but I hold my tongue. Right now, he isn’t my dad, he is a cop, and I know the difference. “We’re going to head across the field the same way Jax came. When we get there, I need you to stay out of sight with Nico until I give you the go-ahead.”
“Got it,” I tell him. All of us head across the cornfield. Once we reach the other side, there is an old, rundown, two-story white house; the place looks like it’s ready to fall apart, but parked outside is Jules’s old car, along with a small pickup. My dad waves me back and tells me to stay put as he and three other officers head towards the house. I fight myself, wanting to go in and get my girl, but I know my dad will handle it. Two of the officers head around each side of the house. My dad and the other policeman walk up the front porch. My dad knocks with his gun trained on the door. He yells out it’s the police, and when the door is opened, a man with a gun holstered on his shoulder answers the door. The guy nods to my dad, they talk for a second, and the guy pulls a shiny badge out from under his shirt. They talk a second more, and my dad waves Nico and me in. When I get to the porch, the guy looks me over, introduces himself as Jim, then heads inside. The house is a mess, the living room right off the front entrance has the ceiling falling in. We walk down a narrow hall into what used to be a kitchen. That’s where I see Jules handcuffed and sitting in a chair, along with another man. “Where the f**k is my daughter?” I ask, and her eyes widen in surprise.
“I did this for us,” Jules says in a whisper, and if I had a gun right then I would have put a bullet in her.
“Whatever the f**k you did, you did it for yourself,” I growl. “Now where the f**k is she?”
“Come on, man, your daughter is in here,” Jim says. He takes me into a pantry off the kitchen. When he opens the door, he shines a flashlight into the small space, and there is my baby girl asleep on the floor. I rush over, picking her up. She is out cold, her body completely limp.
“What’s wrong with her?” I ask in a panic, lifting her higher up on my chest.
“They roofied her. I checked her over already. All of her vitals are okay; she is just asleep,” he tells me. I swear I can feel my body expand with rage.
“I’m going to f**king kill her.”
“You’re going to have to wait in line. Where she is going, they don’t take too kindly to people hurting kids, and I’m telling you that everyone in the prison will know what she did. I will make it my personal goal to let everyone she has contact with know her history.” His face is devoid of any emotion, and I don’t give a f**k what they do to her. I don’t care if that makes me an insensitive prick, but I hope she gets what’s coming to her.
“What exactly was her plan?” I ask him, looking down at the sweet face of my baby girl.
“She was going to sell her to me.”
“We have been working this case for a while. The man in the other room is part of a child trafficking network. I have been undercover for a while now. He told me he had a piece of property for me to pick up and to meet him here. I did, and when I got here, the woman and child were here with him.
“You’re f**king with me.”
“No, man. I wish I was, but this shit is a lot more common than you think, and the sad thing is that normally the kids don’t have people out looking for them,” he says, and I hear sirens off in the distance. I say a prayer for all the kids who don’t have anyone searching for them. I would be lost without my kids.
“Thank you,” I tell him, my voice gruff with emotion. He pats my shoulder before giving it a squeeze. We walk back out to the kitchen; my ex and the guy with her are still sitting at the table. I don’t even look at them. My dad is there with a couple of his officers, but I walk past them all, heading outside. Once I clear the door, I see there are three black SUVs filling the driveway. Jim, who comes outside as well, goes to talk to some of the men exiting the vehicles. I sit on the steps of the porch holding Ashlyn. I don’t know what I would have done if something had happened to her, or if I had lost her permanently. I would be devastated. I look up to see Nico holding out a phone to me, and when I put it to my ear, I know exactly who is on the line. “Baby, I got our baby girl. She’s okay,” I tell her.
“Jax?” she questions.
“He is with Asher and Trevor.” I can hear a loud thud and I know that she has fallen. Tears start to fill my eyes. I hold Ashlyn a little tighter, closing my eyes.
“Please bring them home soon,” she cries. I can hear her mom talking to her, and I know that she is comforting her, which makes this a little easier.
“I will. Love you, baby,” I tell her. An officer comes over, telling me that an ambulance is coming and that we should wait in one of the SUVs. I look through the front window of the SUV, seeing that Nico is standing with our dad on the front porch. His phone is to his ear, and I hope that he called Trevor and Asher. I need my son, but I don’t want him to see what’s going on. I watch as they escort Jules and the man out of the house and into the back of one of the vehicles. The vehicles carrying them takes off and an ambulance pulls up, along with Asher’s truck. I hop out, taking Ashlyn to the ambulance. When I get her inside, they start looking her over. All of her vitals are fine, her O2 level normal. They hook her up on fluids and get her comfortable. I get out and take Jax from Trevor, who tells me that he had fallen asleep crying.