Hometown Love

By: Christina Tetreault

Prologue




The distinct ringtone he’d set for work calls bounced off the walls of the stairwell. Without pausing, Mack Ellsbury pulled his cell phone from his pocket. “Hello.”

“Acker called a squad briefing regarding that Amber Alert,” Special Agent Dakota Smith said in lieu of a proper greeting.

He’d gotten the message about the Amber Alert while standing in line at the deli. Rather than stick around to enjoy his late lunch, he’d had them wrap it and headed back to the office. “On my way now.” Mack pulled open the door, then headed straight for the squad area where several other agents and the squad supervisor were already gathered.

“Okay, here’s what we know. Daniela Batista, age twelve, left North Salem Middle School yesterday with a friend. She has not been seen since. However, her mother Maria Batista didn’t report her missing until this afternoon.” Duncan Acker, the squad supervisor, said to the other special agents and task force officers around him. “Evidently, she has run away before after an argument, stayed with a friend for the night and come home the next day. According to the mother, they argued Wednesday night about Daniela moving in with her father. Maria and José Batista divorced nine months ago. Mother and daughter moved to North Salem while the ex-husband stayed in Fall River.”

Mack’s gaze remained focused on the missing girl’s school picture. Of all the cases he worked, a child abduction got to him the most. To make matters worse, this one hit so close to home. He’d grown up in North Salem. His family lived there. He had friends there. Kidnappings just didn’t happen in North Salem.

“Mrs. Batista called town police and reported Daniela missing this afternoon after her daughter didn’t come home from school and all her friends claimed not to know where she is.”

“Amber Alert mentions a white sedan,” Dakota said.

Duncan nodded. “Daniela’s friend told the mom that she saw Daniela get into a white car as they walked home from school.”

“Friend give any other details?” Oliver asked.

“She said the car had four doors, but didn’t remember anything else about it. She did say the car picked Daniela up on Pleasant Street.”

Mack knew every inch of the town. Several stores, the bank, and a restaurant were located on Pleasant Street. “There’s a few store fronts on that road. Some may have security cameras that caught something.”

“Excellent. You head into town and pull any surveillance video you can,” Duncan instructed. “Dakota and Oliver, interview the girl’s friends. They may have kept something from the mother.” Duncan turned toward Bruce another agent on the squad. “Track down the father. So far local LEOS have not had any luck, and Mrs. Batista believes her ex-husband might be involved. It was an ugly divorce and custody battle.”

Duncan continued with instructions as Mack pulled out his cell phone. It was already past two o’clock. And he knew this was going to be a long day, which meant he wouldn’t be able to pick up Grace before the daycare center closed tonight. He dialed his mother.

After several rings, his mother answered. “Hi, Mack. Everything okay?”

While he spoke with his mother on a regular basis, he never called in the middle of the day unless something was up.

“Missing girl case. I expect it to be a long day. Can you pick Grace up after work for me?” He hated asking. It would take his mom a good forty-five minutes to reach Boston and at least another forty-five to get home depending on traffic. He had few options, though because he might not be calling it a day until midnight or later.

“Of course. I’ll head over as soon as my meeting with the principal ends. I didn’t plan to stay late today anyway. Grace can spend the night, and you can pick her up tomorrow.”

Thank God for his family. He didn’t know what he’d do without them. He just wished when things like this happened they didn’t have to go so far out of their way. “Thanks, Mom.” Mack ended the call with his mom, and then phoned the day care center downstairs. Once he let them know about the change in Grace’s day, he grabbed his gear and headed out.

Located on the North Shore, North Salem remained a picturesque New England town, a place that didn’t change. In fact, with only a few exceptions, it was the same as when he’d lived there.

Mack turned onto union       Street and past the church, the For Sale sign on the old Kerry house catching his attention. He’d always liked that house. Unlike the cookie-cutter homes built today, it had character. Hopefully, whoever bought the place wouldn’t make too many changes.

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