“It’s okay, sweethearts. No one is going to hurt you.” He pushed the lid all the way open, and a little girl in a pink sundress and white-and-pink-striped tights stood up. Brock guessed she was about three. “We need assistance at Harrisburg Pike near East. I can confirm two children in the trunk. They seem okay so far.” He kept his voice as calm and level as possible.
A boy, about five years old, carefully climbed out of the trunk. “Mama,” he said, pointing to the woman who had been driving the car.
Brock glared at the woman. He had trouble imagining how anyone could be so heartless and cruel as to lock two small children in the trunk of a car on one of the hottest days of the year and then go out joy riding. Not only was it a miracle that they weren’t hurt from being tossed around inside the confined space, but it was lucky they hadn’t been injured from the heat.
He escorted the children onto the grass and into the shade of a nearby tree, then knelt down so he could be more on their level and less intimidating. “I’m Brock. What are your names?”
“Abey, and this is Penny,” the little boy answered and then pointed to the car. “It was scary in there.”
Penny had her thumb in her mouth and stayed close to Abey.
“Is Penny your sister?” Brock asked, and Abey nodded. “Did you take care of her while you were in there?”
“Yes. I held her when we rolled around.”
“You were a very brave big boy.” Brock didn’t know what else to say, but Abey nodded. “Can you stay right here with Penny?” Brock asked as he heard cars approaching. He stood to watch the scene but stayed close to the children.
Two other police vehicles stopped nearby. Both Kip Rogers and Aaron Cloud got out of their vehicles. Aaron was the ranking officer and he’d probably take charge of the scene. Brock stayed where he was as Kip helped Carter handcuff both women and get them loaded into the back of separate police cars. Then Aaron made his way toward Brock and the kids.
“Did you find out why they were in the trunk?” Brock’s heart went out to both children as Aaron stepped away a few feet.
“The car belongs to the passenger, Brenda Weaver, and apparently she’d just bought the car and drove it over to show Rhonda Geraldini. Rhonda wanted to take the car for a spin, and since there was no backseat and she didn’t have a babysitter, she put the kids in the trunk and the women decided to go for a ride.”
“My God,” Brock said softly. Vinny’s sister. Sometimes it was a small, sick world.
“Her excuse was that she thought the kids would be fine and that they weren’t going very far or very fast. Oh, and that there was no backseat in the car for the kids to ride in anyway.” Aaron rolled his eyes.
Brock turned back to the kids and forced a smile. “This is Abey and Penny. Abey held and protected his sister while they were in there so that she wouldn’t get hurt. He’s a very good big brother.”
“Where did they take Mommy?” Abey picked at his sleeve, swaying from foot to foot.
“It’s all right. She shouldn’t have put you and Penny in the trunk, so the officers are going to talk with her.” He turned to Aaron, floundering.
“Carter called for some help, and his husband, Donald, is on the way.”
Brock nodded. “I’ve met his family.” That was a huge relief. Donald would know exactly what to do and how to help make sure the kids remained calm. “I’ll stay with the kids here in the shade if you want me too.”
“Perfect. We’ll handle the rest.” Aaron left them, and shortly after, Penny pulled on Abey’s sleeve.
“Penny has to go potty,” Abey said.
“Okay.” He caught Aaron’s eye and motioned to the gas station next door. Then he took each of their hands and gently led them across the grass and into the store. There was just a single bathroom, and Brock waited outside while Abey took Penny inside. He kept watch and listened for any issues. Soon the heavy door moved, and Brock helped open it. They came out, Abey holding Penny’s hand.
“Did you wash up?” Brock smiled when they both nodded, and he led them back through the store. At the register, Brock bought two boxes of animal crackers and handed one to each of them. He also got some bottles of water, then walked the kids across the parking lot to where Donald was waiting for them. “Abey and Penny, this is Mr. Donald. He’s going to be your friend and he’ll help you. I promise. He’s a very nice man.”
Abey’s lower lip quivered, and Penny stepped behind her brother. Brock suspected that all this was way more than they could handle and fear was really setting in.
“I’m going to take both of you to stay with a friend of mine. Okay?” Even Brock found Donald’s voice soothing.
Abey shook his head, turned to Penny, and put his arms around her to shield her from Donald. “No strangers. Mama says so.”
“Am I a stranger?” Brock asked, and Abey turned to look at him but didn’t move away from Penny.
“Yes,” he answered. “But you’re a nice stranger.” He turned and held his box of cookies close to him, and Penny mimicked her brother.
Brock wanted to cry right there by the side of the road. He blinked and had to turn away. Damn it, he wasn’t supposed to get emotional when he was on the job. Take whatever you see, bury it, cover it up, and make it stay there. That’s what he was supposed to do. But how in the hell was that possible when he was looking into two pairs of wide, frightened blue eyes?
“Do you want me to go with you?”
Abey thought a second, screwing up his face in a look of concentration, and then finally nodded. Abey seemed to trust Brock, at least initially.
Andrew grew up in western Michigan with a father who loved to tell stories and a mother who loved to read them. Since then he has lived throughout the country and traveled throughout the world. He has a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and works in information systems for a large corporation.
Andrew’s hobbies include collecting antiques, gardening, and leaving his dirty dishes anywhere but in the sink (particularly when writing) He considers himself blessed with an accepting family, fantastic friends, and the world’s most supportive and loving partner. Andrew currently lives in beautiful, historic Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
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