The Turning Point Series and characters, property of N.R. Walker, appear courtesy of Pride Publishing. Copyright: N.R. Walker 2016. Edited by Labyrinth Bound Edits. Cover art: Reese Dante
Matthew Elliot POV
Kira and I had a day off together which, of late, had been a rarity. Claude was spending the weekend at Sal and Yumi’s. Nicholas would run us ragged all day, but he’d be in bed by seven and the evening would be ours for some one-on-one daddy time. I did have some work to get done after lunch that would take two hours, at the most, so Kira offered to take Nicholas to the park with the dogs, Oscar and Elvis.
Nicky had turned two just a few weeks before. He was a little pocket rocket, into mischief every waking minute, quick on his feet, and he completely redefined the ‘terrible twos.’ He kept us all on our toes, Claude included. But he was amazing, and he was completely and utterly adored by everyone who met him.
Not that Nicky knew any different, but he never let his deafness impede anything he did, and in fact, he learned sign language faster than me. Kira called him our sun. A twist on the word son, but he was certain our worlds now orbited around him. He was very right.
I’d never been more exhausted, never had my patience so tested, and never been more in love.
I understood it now: the very reason I was put on this earth, the reason I met Kira, the reason my life changed the day I met him. It was so everything would fall into place, that Claude and Nicky would come into our lives and call us ‘Dad.’
I swear, the day he raised his little open hand and tapped his chubby thumb to his forehead, a part of me was forever changed. Having him sign, calling me Dad, was quite possibly one of the best days of my life.
But bills still needed paying and work still needed doing. My job was more administration now than hands-on, but it was still bridging the gap between street kids and the community—and I was really making a difference. Kira was working with me more and more and spending less time doing his physical training, and our jobs were an important part of both our lives. Though, when I did bring home some paperwork that wouldn’t wait, Kira would quite often take Nicky and the dogs to the park so I could get a few hours of work done in a quiet house.
Today was no different.
It was winter, cold but at least it was dry. The park was a twenty minute stroll from home, so with Nicky buckled into his stroller, I waved them off and buried my head in paperwork.
About an hour later, the vibration of my cell phone against my thigh startled me. It was Kira’s number, and I just knew he’d be calling to see how I was doing for time or to tell me something funny Nicky had done. Either way, it made me smile. “Hey, you,” I answered.
There was no hellos or laughter, just Kira on the verge of hysterical, running his words together and barely enunciating. “Matt, I can’t find Nicky he was here a second ago and oh my god, Matt, I lost him.” He sucked back a ragged breath. “I don’t know where he is.”
I had my keys in my hand, and I was out the door, running to my car before I knew what I was doing. “Where are you?” I asked, the phone still to my ear.
“The south end,” Kira said. I could hear voices in the background but couldn’t make out any words. “Please hurry.”
“I’m on my way.”
I don’t remember the drive there. If I went through intersections, if I stopped at stop signs or even slowed down, I really couldn’t say. Tires screeched in the parking lot, but I didn’t care. I flew out of the car and ran toward Kira. He was standing, looking so lost. The two dogs sat patiently tethered to the stroller. There was a uniformed cop standing nearby, his notepad out, but Kira… His face crumpled completely when he saw me, and I raced over to him, almost tackling him as I threw my arms around him.
“I lost him,” he sobbed. “I didn’t mean to.”
I pulled back and put my hands to his face. “What happened?” I scanned the park, but couldn’t see Nicky anywhere.
“He was just here,” Kira said, scrubbing his hands over his face. “I just turned my back for a second. I had to pick up dog shit, and when I turned around, he was gone.”
I spun on my heel, looking, scanning the park again, sure he in his little blue parka and beanie would come running back any second.
The uniform appeared. “Excuse me, sir?” He was a youngish cop. I memorized his badge number. Old habit. “You’re the father of this boy?” He held out the photo from Kira’s wallet.
“One of them,” I said. “We’re his dads. Nicholas is two years old, brown hair, brown eyes. He’s completely deaf.”
“I told him already,” Kira said. “I called 911. I didn’t know what else to do. I’m so sorry.”
“My partner is canvasing the area,” the cop told me, like I didn’t know what was protocol.
“Have you called in a 920?” I asked.
The cop looked up from his notepad, directly at me. Two things were obvious: he realized I knew policing codes of the county, and he clearly hadn’t called anything in. “Fuck. Call it in, now!”
Then I heard a voice calling out, “Nicholas? Nicholas!”
I turned back to the young cop. “Your partner knows Nicky’s deaf, right? He can holler his name to the moon and he won’t hear it.”
The cop cringed, and I turned my back. Fuck. Fuck. I pulled out my cell and hit my recent calls, all the while searching and looking over the park for my son.
“Hey Elliot, wassup?”
“Mitch, Nicky’s missing. We’re at the Botanical Park on Westlake. It’s been almost half an hour.”
“We’re on our way,” was all he said, and the phone went dead in my ear.
I looked at Kira, just in time to hear the cop put the call in to dispatch. “A 920. Possible 278.”
I could feel the blood drain from my face.
“What’s a 278?” Kira asked quietly, his eyes wide.
“Child abduction,” I whispered.
Kira’s eyes welled with tears, and he shook his head. “He was just here.” His voice cracked. “I only looked away for a few seconds.”
“I know,” I said, rubbing his arm. “I know. It’ll be okay. We’ll find him.” It was a huge park. There was a kid’s playground area, huge gardens, woodlands, bike paths, a pond.
Oh, Jesus. “The pond.” I started running toward it. My heart was hammering and dread had wrapped itself around my lungs. The pond was pretty big, framed by reeds and mud. Nicky would love to feed the ducks here… The edges were only shallow, and I ran around the pond, terrified I’d see his coat submerged or his lifeless face staring back at me from under the water.
There was nothing.
Kira stood back at the stroller, his hand to his mouth, waiting…
I shook my head and signed the ASL word “nothing”. I could see him sag with relief from where I stood.
Pulling out my wallet, I started to run again. This time to the other parents, who were now starting to stand and stare at the scene unfolding in front of them. They held their kids close, gaunt faces, horrified at the possibility it could have been their kid…
“Have you seen this boy?” I asked them, shoving the photo in their faces. “His name is Nicholas. He’s wearing a navy parka and a blue beanie. He’s just turned two and he’s deaf,” I told them. “Have you seen anyone suspicious in the area?”
They all shook their heads slowly. “No.”
“I’ll go look this way,” one lady said, as she raced off to the east.
“I’ll take the bike path,” one of the dads said, heading north.
“Thank you,” I called after them, trying to keep it together. Then I continued west, showing anyone and everyone the photograph and asking if they’d please, please, dear God, seen my boy.
There was nothing.
How the hell could a little boy just disappear? How could no one have seen him? Or even noticed a child walking by themselves. Unless he was taken… Oh Jesus, no. Before I let those dark thoughts drag me under, I turned back to Kira, who still hadn’t moved, and made my way back to him.
Then two unmarked sedans screeched into the lot where I’d parked. Mitch and Ricky raced out of the first car, and Kurt and Tony weren’t too far behind them. Mitch put his hand around the back of my neck. He didn’t say anything—I guess the look on my face said everything he needed to know. Then he was in his full-on, glorious cop mode. He seemed to zero in on the uniformed officer. He flipped his badge. “Senior Detective Mitchell Seaton. Update on canvas? Witnesses? Have the exits been blocked?”
When the kid gaped and stammered, looked to me then back to Mitch, and stammered some more, Mitch just assumed charge. He turned to his team. “There are four exits, four parking lots. No one leaves. Question everyone.” Without question, without hesitation, Ricky, Kurt, and Tony took off in three separate directions.
Oh, fuck. It’d been forty minutes. He could be in someone’s car, miles away… Like Kira could read my mind, he squeezed my wrist. I put my free hand to his chest, with no apparent ability to speak.
By this time, the partner of the first cop came over, looking somewhat confused. Mitch clearly didn’t give a fuck. He just barked an order at him. “Get onto dispatch. I want street surveillance footage of the last hour.”
“Of every fucking street in the city if that’s what it takes. It’s my Godson who’s missing,” Mitch snapped. He was fuming. And intimidating. “The streets surrounding the fucking park would be a good start.” Then he turned to other cop, the young guy who was still gaping. “There’s a pond over there. How many other ponds are there?”
“I uh… I… I don’t know,” he said.
“You’ve been here for over forty minutes. How can you not know?” Mitch bit back at him, pulling out his smartphone. He tapped his screen, searching for something. He held up his screen to show him. “Google Maps. You heard of that? There’s another pond on the east side. I want them dredged.”
Mitch turned to me and Kira. His face softened as soon as he saw us. “It’s just precautionary. We’ll find him. I promise.”
Kira clutched his stomach. “I feel sick.”
I put my arms around him, burrowing his face into my neck. “We’ll find him.” I looked to Mitch. “What do you want me to do?”
Then Mitch and Kira both turned to a sound I couldn’t hear. It was on my right side, and when I followed their lines of sight, over near the trail leading into the woods, someone was waving her arms. It was the woman who’d gone looking earlier. “Hey! Over here!” she yelled. I heard her this time.
Then a smiling Kurt came out of the trees, holding Nicky. Seemingly oblivious to the heart-stopping drama he’d put us through, the little boy waved.
And I was running.
Oh my God, I’d never felt so relieved. It was adrenaline and a physical need to hold my child, to feel him safe in my arms that pushed me forward. I swear I must have done the two-hundred-yard dash in Olympic record time. I collected Kurt in my arms as well as Nicky, holding them both before Kurt pulled away with a laugh.
I spun to the direction I’d come, and Kira was half running, half stopping, as though his legs wouldn’t let him move. By the time he made it to us, he was crying, and he put his arms around the both of us. Fierce and protective and relieved. So fucking relieved.
“He was down the side of the pond,” Kurt explained. “I wouldn’t have seen him, but I heard him laugh. I had to climb down to get him. No clue how he managed it.”
Kira took Nicky, holding him. He had mud from his knees to his shoes, his hands were brown, and there was bits of dried leaves on his coat.
“Nicky. You must never wander off. Okay?” I signed to him. “You scared us.”
He put his forefinger and middle finger out and made a snapping motion against his thumb.
Kira laughed, more out of relief than anything. I shook my head and translated. “He’s saying ‘duck,’” I said. “He must have followed the ducks.”
The lady who’d been so kind to look for him laughed through teary eyes. “I’m just glad you found him.”
“Thank you,” Kira said to her. “I’ll never be able to thank you enough.”
Mitch came over and bopped Nicky on the nose with his finger. “You took ten years off me, kid.” Then he called Tony and Ricky, telling them Nicky had been found safe and well.
Nicky had no clue of the fuss he’d caused. He just gave his Uncle Mitch his usual cheeky grin and fussed, wanting to get out of Kira’s arms. I got Nicky’s attention and signed, “No running off.”
Kira put him down and the little brat took off again. Though this time, he had four grown men chase him, making the still-watching people laugh. Kira scooped him up, making him laugh too, and we walked back toward the stroller where the two dogs were still dutifully waiting.
Nicky leaned, stretching out of Kira’s arms toward the pond. He made grabby hands back to the water. “No way, no how,” Kira said. “We’re going home, mister.”
Mitch waved the two original policemen off, mumbling something that sounded like incompetent assholes.
I put my hand to my heart. “Good freakin’ Lord, I almost had a heart attack.” Mitch laughed a bit and I turned to face him. “Thank you. For coming so quick.” Then I hugged Kurt. “Thank you for finding him. I’m forever in your debt, man. I swear.”
Kurt scoffed. “A cookout and beer at your place and I’ll call us even.”
They said goodbye, citing Berkman was all over their asses, and we put Nicky and the two dogs in the car and went home. Kira was quiet, even while we fed Nicky dinner and gave him a bath, and it wasn’t until Nicky was tucked up safe in bed that I knew he’d open up.
He leaned against the kitchen counter. “He’s out like a light,” I said softly, walking up to Kira. I leaned my hips against his but pulled my face back enough so we could talk. “He’s had quite an adventure.”
Kira scoffed, but it was a tortured sound. “Matt, I’ve never been so scared.”
I stayed quiet, letting him talk.
He shook his head, like he couldn’t believe something. “I’ve been beaten, kidnapped. I’ve walked into a hospital room to find you almost dead, and I’ve never, never, been as scared as what I was today.”
“Oh, babe.” I put my hands to his face.
“You were in complete control,” he said, his eyes filling with tears again. “And I froze. I couldn’t move. I froze, Matt. He was missing, and I froze.”
“It’s because you love him so much.”
“It’s because it was my fault.”
I shook my head vehemently. “No. No, it wasn’t. He runs all time. He’s quick, and Kira, babe, it happens all the time. A parent turns their back for just a second, and their kid is gone.”
“It happens to other people or on TV,” he said, a single tear rolling devastatingly down his cheek. “Matt, I thought he was gone. Like really gone. Like we’d lost him forever. I thought someone took him, and we’d never see him again. I didn’t want to call you. It meant it was real, and I didn’t want you to blame me.”
“Hey,” I whispered, our foreheads together. “Never. I’d never blame you. What happened today was an accident. He wasn’t hurt. He was completely oblivious.”
“When Mitch talked of dredging the ponds…” He shook his head and took a shaky breath. “God, Matt. It almost killed me.”
I nodded. “Me too.” I took a deep breath, and we just stood in our kitchen and held each other for a moment. “Can you believe it was all over in an hour?”
Kira snorted. “The longest fucking hour of my life.” He swallowed thickly. “Can I tell you something?”
“I think we should look into getting him a cochlear implant.”
I blinked in surprise. “Why? Just because of today?”
“Exactly because of today.”
“Babe, he’s a little boy who gets into mischief. I’m sure there’ll be other times―”
Kira shook his head. His eyes were fierce. “No, there won’t be. I’m not saying being deaf is bad,” he cringed, knowing I’d had to live with hearing loss. “I know firsthand that growing up with and living with deafness is not necessarily a bad thing. My dad does just fine, and you, well, some days I forget you only have half your hearing. You cope better than most people ever would.”
“But this is a safety issue,” he said softly. “He could be in danger, like real danger Matt, like he was today. If he just could have heard us calling him…”
This was something Kira clearly felt strongly about. “Okay, we can look into it.”
“There’s a pediatric hearing specialist in Boston,” he said. “He’s the best in country.”
“Okay,” I said, putting my hands to his face, I softly kissed his eyelids. “We can make some calls.”
He nodded and slid his arms around me. “Thank you.”
I held him as tight as I could. “Anytime.” I kissed the side of his head. “Anytime.”
Starting Point is the third and final book in the Turning Point Series. You can find Starting Point (and the other books in this series) on Amazon HERE