Amber Alert

        The train came to a stop and Molly got off with everyone else. It was the last stop. She walked with her head down trying to avoid eye contact until she bumped into a large man.
        His cigarette smashed against her sending sparks and ashes across her clothes.
        “Be careful.” She brushed them off her.
        “Watch where you’re going.” He stood in front of her blocking the way to the parking lot. The other passengers already left the station. molly shrunk down. She always avoided confrontation. She noticed his fists were clenched. Why was he so angry?
        There were no police anywhere in sight and her phone was tucked deep into her pocketbook. The train pulled away leaving her alone on the station with him. She stepped back until she stood only inches from the track.
The door to the bathroom opened and the sound of someone sobbing broke his intensity and his fists opened.
        “What took you so long?” He yelled at the girl who came out.
        “I had to go really bad. It was a long trip.” The girl wiped her eyes, but she couldn’t hide the redness left from crying.
        He grabbed the girl’s arm and led her away. Molly followed at a distance trying to understand what was going on. She saw the look in the girl’s eyes and it registered in her mind. She remembered Eva from the psych ward. She tried to kill herself. They became friends until she was released. They found Eva’s body in the nearby woods. She succeeded this time. Eva told her she was a trafficking victim and sold from one man to another, but kept it secret afraid of retaliation.
        Molly took some deep breaths and straightened her clothes noticing a few burn marks from the man’s cigarette. She walked toward her car. When she reached it, the man and girl drove by heading out of the parking lot. She followed them. If she called the police, they would say it was from her anxiety, or depression, or the hallucinations she sometimes saw. All true at times. She did call them a few times for things that turned out to be false alerts, but she was cured now or was she?
        “Shit.” They turned into the same neighborhood she lived in.
        They passed her street and she let out a sigh of relief, but started to breathe rapidly when she saw the car turn into a driveway. The girl got out followed by the man and they disappeared into the house. It must be a father and daughter in some kind of argument, but it didn’t feel right to her. She drove by the house afraid to slow down or even look toward them she turned the corner and parked the car in her own driveway.
        At her house, she saw three neighbors across the street looking at her. The three woman all nodded every time one of them said something. They reminded her of a flock of pigeons. She stumbled and fell. The woman laughed.
        “I’m not a psycho.” She yelled in their direction and ran toward the door hiding her face. Inside, she flew from window to window shutting the shades before collapsing on the couch. The tears came again. Why did they treat her like this?
        She knew it was because she spent a week in a mental institute after she tried to commit suicide. It was all because of her ex-husband David. He poisoned their minds with made up stories about her before he left, he forgot to mention he was sleeping with a girl twenty years younger than him.
        After calming down, something scraped at the back door causing her to jump up and roll off the couch onto the floor.
        She crawled to the kitchen and pulled out a knife. The scratching continued and she called the police, but they knew her by name and were in no hurry to come investigate one of her calls.
        She pulled the door open and screamed. It was only a cat.
        “Shit,” she said. “I’m really losing it.” The cat walked right in without waiting for an invitation. It strutted straight through the kitchen and ended up on the couch then it curled up like it belonged there.
        “We’ll make yourself at home.”
        She sat next to it then called the police to tell them it was a false alarm. The man laughed. “No kidding.”
        “But you can’t stay here.” She said to the cat. “I can’t take care of you.”
        At night, a party started next door to her. The cat hid with her in the dark when the sound of voices next door started to get louder as the night got longer.
Whenever she passed a window, she crawled under it like a soldier hiding from snipers.
        Music came on and someone lit a grill. Laughter drifted into her house despite the closed windows.
        After a short time, the alcohol took effect and the neighbors got louder than the music. She lifted the shade on the window closest to the house next door and with a shaking hand opened the window.
        It didn’t take long before she heard her name again. “That Molly looked like she was drunk. I saw her fall down.”
        “I think they should put her back in the mental institute.”
        “I bet you think I’m crazy too.” She said to the cat. It looked away.
        She heard a voice she recognized. It sent chills through her.. It was the man at the station.
        “Hey Drew,” someone said. The man answered. “You’re new to the neighborhood?”
        “Yes, I’m renting a house. I got a flyer about this party.”
        They always skipped her house when handing them out.
        “How about family?”
        “I live alone,” the man said. Molly stiffened.
        She dared to peek out the shade.
        The man laughed about something. She saw him drinking a beer. Her heart raced, but she also thought of the girl. Was she in danger? He said he doesn’t have a family, but she saw him with the girl. She clenched her fists and stood up.
        He looked in her direction. She ducked down and didn’t move for a long time until she thought of the girl crying at the train station.
        The girl was in danger and nobody would believe her. She decided to act. After changing her clothes into an all-black outfit, she found a knife. The party gathered strength and the music got louder.
        With most of the neighbors at the party, she slipped away from the house unnoticed by anyone except her new housemate. The cat perched on the windowsill watching her walk away. She hoped it wouldn’t be the last time she saw it.
        It took less than fifteen minutes to reach the man’s house. Inside, there was only one small light on in the living room, all the bedrooms were dark.
        Even from here she could hear the music from the party. She turned to leave, if the police caught her here, they would put away again. Locked up, molested, under twenty-four-hour surveillance until she finally played the game and lied about how good she felt about her life. The only person who she liked was a girl who said she was a trafficking victim and sold from one man to another before she finally killed herself. She was found in a town seven miles away from here.
        Eva told her trafficking was going on everywhere.
        When she turned to leave, a cry came from the house caused her to stop.
        She walked around back knowing it was her only hope to get inside. All the houses in the neighborhood had back patios with cheap storm doors. The inside door was the problem.
        When she grasped the knob and turned. It didn’t budge. She took the back end of her knife and slammed it against the glass. After five tries it shattered in hundreds of pieces.
        The urge to turn back struck her over and over like a jack hammer, but the sound of sobbing drove her on.
        The kitchen looked spotless except for the crumpled containers from various fast food places. The living room looked sparse and contained barely any furniture. She edged closer to the sound of sobbing. When she finally reached the bedroom, she paused. The knife shook in her hands. Sweat began to run into her eyes and she tried to rub them forgetting she held the knife almost cutting her own face. Her hands trembled.
        She opened the door and gasped. The room contained a cage.
        “Oh my God,” she said. She backed against the door which shut behind her.
        Inside the cage, the girl was curled up in a ball.
        “No,” the girl said.
        “It’s okay,” Molly said. “I’m going to get you out of here.”
        The girl turned toward her. She was a mess, black streaks covered her face, her eyes were red, and her whole body trembled like an animal in a trap.
        “Hurry, he said they were going to clean me up and sell me soon.”
        “One man now, but there will be others when they take me somewhere else.”
        Molly tried the lock. It was just a normal school gym type lock. They must count on fear to control them. She took out her phone and dialed 911 and said the address then hung up before they could ask her questions.
        “Where’s the key?”
        “In the kitchen, I think,” the girl said.
        “I’ll be right back.”
        She ran into the kitchen, she could still hear the music, but worried that she couldn’t hear any sirens. The keys were on the table, he didn’t expect anyone to oppose him in this neighborhood. It was a perfect plan. Get friendly with the neighbors in the suburbs and stay hidden in plain sight while trafficking girls. Who would suspect him of anything?
        She ran back to the room.
        “Get up, hurry,” she said and unlocked the door. Could it be this easy?
        The girl hugged her and they turned to leave then the front door opened.
        “Shit,” she said. The girl let out a cry.
        Molly signaled her to stay behind her. She held out the knife and crept forward hoping Drew would go to the kitchen and they could slip out the front door.
        She got closer. He opened the refrigerator and pulled out something. A can lid popped.
        She pulled the girls arm and whispered. “What’s your name?”
        “Olivia, run when you get outside and look for a police car.” A siren shrilled in the distance.
        The girl ran out the door. She got ready to follow until her phone went off. An Amber Alert. It was for the girl. Drew heard it and charged in her direction. She side-stepped him, but he managed to grab her waist and they both tumbled to the ground. The knife clattered away from her reach and the heavier Drew landed on top of her.
        “Run.” She yelled to Olivia while holding onto Drew’s foot.
        He kicked her face causing a flash of pain to paralysis her, but she still held on to his foot. The siren got louder. Another kick at her hand made her let go.
Drew made it outside.
        She staggered to her feet, picked up the knife and limped to the back door. She needed to escape. All was lost.
        “Stop, freeze,” someone yelled.
        “That’s him.” A female voice said. It was Olivia.
        Molly picked up speed to get out before they found her. Somehow, they would blame her. She heard a door slam on a car and hoped it was Drew being locked up. She made it out the back door and faded into the darkness of the surrounding bushes before circumventing the neighborhood to make it home.
        When she reached her front door, the music of the party was still was going strong and they all were unaware of what happened.
        Her head pounded and blood trickled down her arms from the scratches she received during the fight. Every muscle in her body ached and she knew it would feel even worse tomorrow. The cat jumped up on the couch and rubbed against her sore body purring. It was soothing. She blacked out.
        When she woke up, it was morning and every muscle in her body screamed in pain. She took some pain pills and rubbed her eyes then felt relief at the silence around her. The only sound came from the cat meowing for food. After she fed it, she looked next door and saw the
remnants of the party, beer bottles littered the yard alongside paper plates and plastic silverware.
        A few large crows fought over an overflowing trash can.
        “I hope they all wake up with headaches.” She plopped down on the couch with the cat and turned on the news.
It wasn’t long before they ran the story. The police chief stood at a podium in front of a handful of reporters.
        “The suspect will be charged with sex trafficking and many other charges. We are also looking at his past. The suburbs provided him with a perfect hiding spot. He blended in with the neighbors.
        “Did the girl say anything?”
        “Yes. She wants to know who the lady is that helped her escape. She is begging us to find
her so she can thank her. She called her a hero.”
        “Do you know who it is?”
        “Not at this time, but we are looking into fingerprints and any other clues. We would like to know who rescued her too and how she knew the girl was there.”
        She turned it off. She would never come forward. They might put her away again.
        The cat stayed with her. It found a home.
        “I’ll call you Olivia.” The cat meowed in acknowledgement.
        She left for work and the three neighbors gathered across the street. They whispered and looked in her direction. She stopped and glared at them.
        “Have any of you ever caught a monster before?”
        None of them answered and she drove past them with a smile on her face.

About the Author

William Falo’s work has appeared in Newfound, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, Fictive Dream, Litro Magazine, and others.