ONE WEEK EARLY.
Karen was picking up her two sons from the elementary school with her husband by her side. She watched them with yearning eyes as they exited the front doors with the teachers right behind. The sight reminded of a school of fish flowing from the building. She missed them desperately.
This was Jonah's and Michael's first day.
Her husband, Tony, got off work early to join in the celebration.
They took the kids over the public park, and then a fast food place.
They got home later than expected.
The family went to the house. Karen had Jonah in her arms, drooling on her shoulder, and Tony had Michael. Tony managed to shut and lock the van doors and open the front door for his wife while balancing a sleeping Michael in his arm. "This should be a sport," he said smiling.
"They can get bathes in the morning," Karen said.
Okay. Sit down on the couch with Jonah while I'll put Michael's pajama's on and put him to bed. Then I will come back and get Jonah," Tony said.
"They can sleep with their clothes on for one night. Just take their shoes and socks," Karen replied.
"Will do," Tony replied in a playful tone.
When they pulled up into the driveway, they didn't know they where being watched. The man hid in the shadows across the street giving Karen particular interest.
As soon as the children's light flicked off, the man ran across the street and around the house with lightening speed.
Checking every window and door he could find, hoping that something was unlocked, when he found an unlocked window. He crouched motionless in a group of shrubs for an hour after the parents lights went out.
With an unnatural ability, he pushed up the window and went inside in one smooth motion. He swiftly navigated through the downstairs and up the steps. He remembered where the children's room was when he was outside.
The children's beds were aligned with the walls. Against the right wall was Jonah's bed. Against the left wall was Michael's bed. A walkway was created from the window to the door. The room was white and blue with dinosaur decor everywhere.
Both children were sound asleep snuggled under their purple Barney blankets.
In one fluent moment, he gently picked up Jonah without waking him, and slipped out through the downstairs window.
Karen went upstairs the next morning to give the kids a bath and saw that Jonah wasn't in his bed. She woke Michael up.
"Where's your brother?"
"I don't know."
A smile rose on Karen's face. "I bet he's playing hid-and-seek."
She went through room to room, searching underneath beds, cabinets, and closets. But she couldn't find him.
Her smile turned to panic.
She called her husband. "Jonah isn't here; do you know where he is?"
"No I don't. I was running late this morning, so I didn't have time to kiss them before I left."
Karen hung up and ran to her closest neighbor, Miss Nancy, who lived across the street. But she hadn't seen Jonah. In fact, none of the neighbors saw Jonah.
When Karen, reached her front lawn, she was emotionally spent. She collapsed to the grass and sobbed bitterly.
Michael awakened to see his mother.
"What's wrong, Mommy?"
She pulled him close and wrapped her arms around him.
Tony came home early that day to see Karen whimpering on the couch with the phone in her hand. She was calling everyone in the contact book. But nobody knew the whereabouts of the five year old, curly-blond boy named Jonah.
Karen looked at her husband with heavy, grieving eyes. The expression that was on her face told him that she hit a break wall.
"I'm guessing nobody seen Jonah," Tony said.
Karen slowly nodded affirmatively. "The police can't do anything. He has to be missing twenty-four hours."
"I don't believe this!" Tony snapped. "Nobody saw a little five year old, curly-blond boy! Now the police refuses to help us?"
Karen nodded. "We're going to have to wait till twenty-four hours. In the meantime, I'm not giving up."
That night, Michael slept with his parents, more for his protection then for his comfort.
That didn't matter. The intruder was already inside leaning on the doorframe watching the slumbering family with distant eyes.
He hovered over Karen with a deep yearning, savoring her sweet scent. He could barely control himself. He wanted to take her right then and there, but it would have stymied his plan.
Little Michael was snuggled between Tony and Karen, a slight problem, but not much.
The man got on the bed very, very gently where his weight didn't affect the mattress. He was like a fly on a scale, weightless.
With gentle and fluent hands, he had Michael in his arms and out the house without waking a single soul-not even the child.
They disappeared without a trace.
Karen woke up two in the morning to go to the bathroom when she realized that Michael wasn't no longer in their bed. She checked the kid's room, but he wasn't in their either. She went downstairs, but there was no sign of him.
She rushed to her bedroom and violently shook Tony. "Wake up!" she screamed.
"What is it? What's wrong?" Tony asked groggy.
"Michael's gone! Get up!"
Karen's eyes said that she wasn't joking.
A shiver went up his spine.
"Before you do anything drastic, let me take a look."
Karen protested. "I already checked everywhere! He isn't here!"
"Humor me, please."
She didn't listen to him. Her nerves were shot. She ran to the phone and called the police.
After twenty minutes, Tony barged into the room panic-stricken.