by Duke Stone
A trip to the mall changes a family forever.
|The engine’s hum filled the cold garage as Angela started it to let it idle while she made final preparations for the day. A smile played about her face even though she was still fatigued from the exertions of the day before. Thanksgiving was her family’s day, the day when she did everything to please them with food drink and whatever merriment could be found at the Conner household. Today, today was hers to shop, and spend, to go slightly crazy and no one could deny her that. Though it seemed as if fate itself was conspiring against her this fateful day. She had awoken with a headache and the weather outside, while not cold by many standards was blustery and chilly for a fall day in Atlanta. Then as she arose in the pre dawn hours the phone had rang and it was Bob’s partner calling to ask him to open the shop this morning. Dammit!! That meant she would have to take Casey with her. And while the youngster was a good child it was always a headache to keep up with her in Northlake mall must less on the busiest shopping day of the year. Still she had little choice it seemed for she certainly wasn’t missing out on her share of the deals. After waking her husband and letting him know that he needed to open the shop in a few hours she hurried Casey’s preparations and bundling them both in warm coats she headed for the now warm car.
“C’mon Casey! I want to get going before we end up stuck in the early morning traffic!” Casey emerged from the house carrying her doll and running to the car. The little blonde haired girl climbed into the Madza and they were gone, heading towards Angela’s grand day.
Casey’s eyes widened as she took in the enormity of the building in front of her. The mall appearing, a city in itself to her as it loomed before her. She could see the joy and almost childlike pleasure that it brought her mother by the twinkle in her eyes but to Casey it was frightening. A large strange place filled with large strange people. Casey had been here before she thought, but not often and not in a couple of years. Her father or friends had always cared for her before when her mother went out shopping but not today. Today she was alone and staring at one of the most frightening places she had seen in her life. Well, ok not alone, she was with her mother but her mother was acting totally distracted and that worried little Casey. After all her mother was known to be a bit absent minded when it came to shopping, like the time she had left her at her grandmother’s for several hours but had forgotten to pick her up afterwards. As she thought of what had happened when she was five Casey decided to cling close to her mother regardless of what might await within.
The inside of the mall bustled with the activity of shoppers swarming from store to store like a hive full of bees flitting from one cell to another. Lights and sounds called to Casey. Santa was in one corner of the mall she saw as they hurried by and the toy store beckoned from across the way still she refused to leave her mother who was acting as if she wasn’t there.
“Oh my God!” Angela screamed as she fought her way toward the perfume counter. She had grabbed Casey’s hand roughly without so much as looking down and now she fought the little girl through the throng as she worked her way toward that bottle of Obsession that was marked for 40 % off.
“Amy!!! Amy!!! Let her GO! “ A woman came running up and grabbed a hold of the girl who Angela held within her grasp. Angel looked up, shocked.
"Let go of my little girl, lady before I call security.” The woman said as she looked in to Angela’s shocked face. Angela looked down to see a little girl who she presumed was Amy but certainly wasn’t Casey. Suddenly a feeling of panic filled her and she let go of the little girl and went running into the main aisle her head twisting this way and that as she called Casey’s name over and over. Frantically she dashed to the customer service desk and had her paged as well as asking for them to call security. She felt a wave of hysteria beginning to wash over her. She knew that Bob would blame her for this. Hell she blamed herself for this but right now she just wanted her little girl back.
Casey stared into the mulling crowd as she tried to see her mother after she had grabbed the other little girl by mistake and pulled her away in tow. A small man stepped up and offered to help her find her mother.
“Don’t worry hon, I work here.” The man had said when he had seen Casey begin to pull away. “Here let’s go to the office and see if we can page her.” He held out his hand and reluctantly Casey took it. She really didn’t want to go with the man but being lost in this crowd wasn’t really an option either. And so she followed the man.
“Mister, This doesn’t look like the office. I want to go back.” Casey said pulling back. The man looked around and seeing no one else close by he pulled a Ziploc bag from his pocket and pulled out a rag soaked in chloroform. Casey struggled for a few moments then slumped drowsily into his arms.
Angela was beside herself as they waited by now Bob was with her, holding her as they waited for some word from the police who had long been called in some time before. Damn why did she let her excitement get the better of her? She sat alone in the darkness for her husband was with her body but she was alone in this hell that was crowding into her mind. She sat imagining what horrors that Casey might be suffering through at this very moment.
Casey had been gone for over a week now when Detective Wolkoski knocked on their door. Angela answered it and with one look at his face her heart fell.
“Mrs. Conner, we’ve found Casey. I’m sorry.” As she heard these words she could feel her mind slipping into the eternal darkness of insanity. Bob had tried to tell her that it wasn’t her fault but she knew deep within it was. Little Casey’s body had been found in a wooded area only a few miles from the mall. The police were still searching for her abductor. She looked down at the counter and saw the Christmas cards she had yet to mail. With an anguished sob she slung them from the counter. Their colorful faces seeming to mock her. Happy Holidays they proclaimed but Angela knew that she would never have a Happy Holiday ever again. An anguished wail tore from her lips as she pulled from her husband’s grasp and ran to the bedroom. Bob and Det. Wolkoski looked at each other for a moment in shock then raced after her. The shot filled the house as.Bob screamed. Staning in the door way he watched his wife slump forward. His world crumbling along with her still form.
Two weeks ago He was a happy husband and father and now he was childless widower. Tears flowed down his face and he turned to the Detective who stood helpless beside him. After all what could you say to a man who had just watched his world destroyed. The dream was over and for Bob Conner the nightmare had begun.