While I was indulging in my second cup of coffee, the doorbell rang. I didn’t get up fast enough for Leda. She sighed, put down her brush and went to see who it was. When she opened the door, Stella rushed inside.
“Is Jessie here?”
“No,” Leda said. “What's going—”
“She's missing! I can’t find her anywhere!”
I got up from the couch and spilled a little of my coffee. I was shaken but not enough to think this was anything more serious than Jessie going off somewhere on her own. She’d done that before with me when she sneaked out in the early morning to visit the puppies in the neighborhood pet shop. I called everyone looking for her, and she casually walked in while Stella was yelling at me on the phone for being irresponsible.
“Take it easy, Stella. There's probably a logical explanation for this.”
“When I went to her room, the window was left wide open.” Stella cried. “She's gone.”
“Did you call your sister?” None of this felt real. I heard the words, but I didn't want to believe them.
“She’s not there.”
My cellphone rang. The display read: caller unknown. Things were now starting to feel very real. No one called me this early in the morning. I answered with that feeling of dread you get in your stomach.
A synthesized male-voice spoke before I had a chance to get out my greeting. “Markos Adamidis, I have your daughter. If you want her to live, you must do exactly as I tell you.”
“Who is this?” I asked.
“Don’t attempt to put me on speaker. If anyone hears our conversation, your daughter will die.”
I signaled for Leda and Stella to remain silent. “It’s just between you and me,” I said. “What do you want?”
“Telling you would take the challenge away from our game.”
“What are we playing?”
He sang his response. “Where is Jessie? Where is Jessie?”
“What do you want?”
“I want to speak to her.”
Stella put her hand over her mouth, and Leda placed her arm around her.
“You’re not in the position to make demands,” the kidnapper said. “I suggest you calm yourself before we continue our discussion. You wouldn’t want to say something you might regret. That wouldn’t be favorable to Jessie’s well-being.”
“Just tell me what you want?” I clenched the cellphone so hard that I thought I'd break it.
“Identify who I am before it’s time to pay up, and you win Jessie back. If you fail, you—”
“I’m not playing until I hear the sound of her voice.”
Stella clutched my forearm, and I could feel her trembling.
“Is he putting her on?” Stella whispered.
“Hi Daddy,” Jessie said cheerfully.
“Thank God,” Stella mouthed as I positioned the receiver near her ear.
“Are you okay, baby?” I asked.
“Did he tell you about the game, Daddy?”
“Yes. And I’m gonna make sure you win this one.”
“I can’t wait to play. It sounds like fun.” She giggled. “Catch us if you can!”
There was a few seconds of silence, and the kidnapper’s synthesized voice returned. “Those are the last words you’ll hear from your daughter until our game is over.”
Stella was about to speak. I pressed my pointer finger against my lips to silence her.
“Tell no one what I’m about to tell you. If you don’t comply, Jessie dies. If you don’t follow my instructions, Jessie dies. Do you understand?”
“You have twenty-four hours to figure out who I am. If you win, Jessie goes home with you. If you fail to identify me, you must end your own life at a location which I’ll reveal to you as the deadline nears. Those are my terms. They are nonnegotiable.”
I glanced at my watch. It was 7:30 a.m.
“If you don’t want your daughter harmed, tell no one about our arrangement. I’ll call you back with further instructions when you’re alone.” The kidnapper hung up.
“Is she all right?” Stella asked.
I clutched Stella’s arms. “I need you to stay here with my sister.”
Stella pushed me. “Where is she? Where’s my baby girl!”
“I don’t know…but I’ll find her.”
“I don’t have time to discuss this. I have to go now.”
“If you expect me to sit here and wait for your call while our daughter is missing, you’re more out of your mind than I thought you were!”
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Genre - Paranormal Mystery
Rating – PG13