This story is by Susan Olson and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
By Susan K. Olson
Finally, Friday had arrived and the day was passing quickly. Robert and Clair were diligently trying to finish their work so they could go on their long overdue vacation. A vacation that has been on their schedules for over 8 months. Going to Europe for two weeks with their daughter, Haley, was just what the doctor ordered.
Robert, the States Attorney for San Diego County, had just finished a two-week trial; a case where a kidnapping had gone bad. A case that even winning didn’t feel very successful.
Clair, a highly-respected Pediatrician, works in a group practice. It seemed her patients were getting younger, more ill and complicated. Her days have developed into chronically ill children, comanaging cases with oncology. There wasn’t a balance anymore and she was developing burn out.
Haley, now 14, is a freshman at St Augustine High School. She has never traveled internationally, so is very excited for their upcoming trip.
As Robert was driving home, the sun was setting across the bay. Brilliant orange and yellow colors reflected off the water. Clair was finishing rounds and handing off her patients to a colleague; knowing that she may not see some of them again. As she was passing St Anne’s Catholic Church, she was compelled to stop. To go in and reflect on her life, and to light a candle for those children in her care. She proceeded home to prepare dinner for her and Robert. Haley had gone to a friend’s house after school to work on a project that would be due when they returned from their trip. She was due home around 9:00 PM.
As they sat down to a glass of crisp white wine, chicken alfredo and fresh tossed salad, they were finalizing their travel plans and watching the local news. The doorbell rang, and as Robert went to the door, there was breaking news. John Wilson, a 37-year-old man that had been incarcerated for theft and kidnapping, had not returned from his work release. He was not considered armed or dangerous.
Just as Robert opened the door, there was a man. Without a word, he forced his way into their home gun in hand. Quickly, he shut and locked the door behind him and pulled the blind to the window facing the street. Hearing the TV in the distance, he directed Robert to go into the kitchen. There was Clair finishing her dinner. As she turned, a shocked look came over her face. “John?” she said. “How did you know my name?” said John. Now Robert had a stunned look. “It was just on the news” Clair said. “I am not here to hurt anyone; I just want all your cash, valuables and a vehicle” John said.
He saw their cell phones laying on the china hutch and smashed them with the rolling pin he found in the top drawer. He pulled the phone cord out of the wall, all the while at gun point.
It was half past 7:00 and Clair’s mom, Emma, would be calling around 8:00 PM. Emma was a frail 85-year-old woman, a little demented. She remains independent in a small home about fifty miles away. Clair and her siblings compromised with their mom that she should call Clair every night around 8:00 to check in. She knew to call Clair at home first, and if there was no answer, to call her cell phone. In the last 3 years, there was never a time that Clair didn’t answer.
John demanded that Robert empty his pockets and put his wallet on the table, and Clair to dump the contents of her purse on the table as well. As he rifled through the contents, collecting all the cash and anything of value, Clair looked at Robert, then looked up to the clock. Robert was concerned that Haley may come home early and startle John, and things may go awry.
John tied them to the banister while he went through the house to collect more valuables. He did stumble across the .45caliber pistol that Robert kept in the nightstand. It was a Smith & Wesson revolver with a 6-cylinder chamber, always loaded. John took the pistol and tucked it into his belt under his shirt and continued to look for more valuables.
As he passed through the entry way, he went to the kitchen to get the keys off the table that were in Clair’s purse. By now, the time was nearing 8:00. He left Robert tied to the banister by his hands and feet, and he untied Clair’s feet. Keeping her hands bound behind her, he was heading for the garage. Robert yelled, “Leave her here, take me instead.” John replied, “I’m taking her, as she took someone from me.”
By now, Emma had tried the house phone, and got a busy signal. She tried twice, then called Clair’s cell phone. When she didn’t get an answer, she left a message. Usually, if she had to leave a message, Clair would call back within a few minutes.
The time was nearing 8:30, and Emma was concerned that Clair had not returned her call. She called her son Mark. He was a police officer in the local precinct. She explained her concern that Clair wasn’t answering either phone. Knowing Clair, Mark thought that was a little strange as well. He assured her that he would check it out and let her know. Clair lived about 10 miles from Mark.
As he hung up the phone, he too tried calling Clair on the house phone. When it rang a fast-busy signal, he knew something was wrong. He grabbed his service pistol from the hall closet and headed out the door to Clair’s house. On his way, he tried her cell phone 3 or 4 times without an answer.
Upon pulling up to the curb, he could see that the front shades were drawn, and the door was ajar. There was a dim light noted from the hallway. As he approached the house with his pistol drawn, he could hear crying. As he opened the door, he saw Haley standing in the entryway. As she tried to explain what happened, Robert came down from upstairs. He reported that the perpetrator had taken his revolver from the nightstand.
Robert further explained that they were eating dinner when the doorbell rang. As he went to answer the door, Clair heard on the news that a John Wilson did not return from his work release today. He was on the loose, but was not considered armed or dangerous. Haley was at a friend’s house, but fortunately came home early.
John took Clair hostage, making a comment,”she took someone from me.” He left about 10 minutes before they called the police.
Mark had a puzzled look, he kept saying “John Wilson, John Wilson.” Then, like a light went off, he said, “John Wilson, I thought that sounded familiar. I was involved in his case 8 years ago, he abducted a teenage girl from the shopping mall. If my memory serves me right, we had him pinned down in an abandoned house for several hours. Fortunately, he was captured and no one was hurt.”
Mark proceeded, “We have several advantages here. He did not get a very big head start, there are only three roads to get out of the area, they have the description of the vehicle and the license plate.”
He called into the police department to update them on his findings, to put out a APB on John Wilson; that he was armed, and considered dangerous. He asked that they put up road blocks that lead to the freeway. If he stuck to one of these three roads, the freeway was approximately a 20-minute drive. He also asked for air support. They called ahead to the law enforcement agencies in every town within a 50-mile radius to be on alert for John Wilson.
Now Mark had to call his mother back. He knew she would be worried and would not rest until Clair was safe. Before calling his mom, he called home and talked to his wife, Beth. He explained the situation, and asked that she go sit with his mother until this is resolved. Beth left immediately.
“Mom, I came to Clair’s house and there was an intruder,” Mark said. He stole some money and jewelry. He took Clair as a hostage. I know of this person, and he has not been known to be dangerous. He was incarcerated for theft and kidnapping in the past. He has no record of hurting anyone. When she heard the news, she started to cry. Mark reassured her that they will return her safely, and that Beth was coming to sit with her.
Meanwhile, John had already gotten to the freeway and was several miles up the road. He knew of a trail about 20 miles away that was passable with a high-profile vehicle. The fact that Clair drove a Jeep Grand Cherokee was perfect for his off-road escape. They were nearing a rest area, and Clair demanded they stop so she could use the facilities. There was only a semi in the parking lot, so John felt it safe to stop. He untied Clair and escorted her to the door of the restroom at gunpoint. He waited outside to escort her back to the Jeep.
While in the restroom, fortunately, there was a lady in the other stall. Clair spoke softly to her and explained what was going on. That she needed to contact the police and let them know of her location. That she should stay in the bathroom until they drive away. She told her that there was a dirt path up the road about 20 miles he plans to turn onto. The lady agreed and would follow her instructions.
John escorted her back to the car, and was back on the road. He did not see any activity in the parking lot and felt that they were in the free and clear. The lady called into the local police immediately, as requested, and there happen to be an undercover officer in the area.
There was a small mini mart right before the turn off. John pulled in to gas up and get some food and drinks to last them several days. He tied Clair up in the Jeep, took the keys, and locked the door. As he was inside gathering the supplies, the undercover officer pulled up. He could see Clair in the Jeep. She appeared to be unharmed. He called for backup and proceeded into the store.
There was no one else in the store. He browsed through the camping equipment and the grocery section. He could see the checkout counter and the Jeep through the window. John seemed a little suspicious and headed for the door. When he left the store, Tom, the undercover officer pulled his weapon and was in pursuit. Just as John got out in the parking lot, he shot toward Clair in the Jeep.
Surrounded by police officers, he was wounded and captured. When being frisked, they found the pistol, knife, and a picture of Clair with a small child.
Tom went to the Jeep to free Clair and assess her for any injuries. When Clair saw the picture, she remembered the child, and the illness she succumbed to.
Mark called Robert, Haley, and Emma to let them know that Clair was okay.
She arrived at home around midnight, a bit shaken but unscathed. They proceeded to get their house in order and to finish packing, as their flight left at 10:00 AM, and they were not going to let anything stop them from their trip.