"Don't take her! That's my daughter!" The woman screamed at the top of her lungs, trying to pull a young blonde-haired girl from a tall, dark-haired man with olive skin. She had hold of the girl's arm, but didn't have the strength to get the girl back.
I'd been studying for my finals at a park, watching the scene unfold with the little girl. However, I was also in total shock, not knowing what to do.
I had to act. I couldn't sit by and watch. I finally pulled my legs out from under the picnic table where I sat, and ran for all I was worth. The man yanked the child away from her mother and took off. The child screamed and her pink dress blew in the wind as he held her at the side like a football.
I chased him, even though I was almost too far away. Just as he was ready to put her into a car, she dropped her tiny doll. I tried to get to her in time, but the man hopped into the driver's seat and left, his car tires squealing down the street. I just happened to have a pen with me, and jotted down the license plate number on the palm of my hand.
As I watched the old dark car drive off, I whipped the cell phone out of my pocket and called my handsome fiancé, Peter.
"Hey, Natalie," he said. "Where are you, sweetheart?"
I caught my breath and spoke as fast as I could. "Peter, this is an emergency. I'm at Voyageur Park and a young girl was just kidnapped. I saw the whole thing and have the license plate number of the getaway car."
"I'm ready to take it." His tone turned professional. Peter was a Green Bay Police detective with a Ph.D. in psychology.
"It wasn't a Wisconsin plate with America's Dairyland on it, but was red, white, and blue." I read the blue-inked number off my hand. "The plate was KV5644, and the car was a 4-door dark blue sedan with no identifying features on it. It looked like the make and model had been removed."
"Red, white, and blue?" he asked. "Was it a veteran's license plate?"
"I don't know." I closed my eyes to think about what it looked like. "There was some sort of license plate cover on it, so I didn't see where it was from, but there was a blue stripe that went up and down on the left side, then across the top, and a red stripe across the bottom and a small partial red stripe on the right. I think there was a letter on the stripe on the left edge too."
I sighed, looking out over the Fox River, dividing the Green Bay area of Wisconsin. I was in De Pere, on the east side, which was a small town south of Green Bay.
"That's not a vet's plate," he said. "Do you happen to know what letter was on the stripe?"
"I'm not sure because I was focused on the main letters, but I know it was there."
"Is anyone from the child's family in the area?" Peter asked.
I turned back to look at the woman. "Yes. I think it's her mother, because she was yelling to let her daughter go and trying to save her."
"I'll get there as soon as I can," Peter said. "Don't go anywhere."
"Yes, sir." I ended the call.
It was so horrible to watch someone get kidnapped. I headed toward the woman and saw some man walk past the playground where the woman was sitting. Her hands covered her face and she seemed extremely distraught. I know I would be. As I got closer, I saw my class notes blowing all over the ground, close to the picnic table where I'd been working. I ran to get what I could, following the trail of papers closer to the Fox River. Maybe I'd be able to get them all before they floated up the river.
The Fox River was one of the rivers in the world that flowed from south to north, originating south of Oshkosh and Appleton, north past all the small towns, and finally into the bay of Green Bay, which was connected to Lake Michigan.
I got closer, and my stomach sank. "Oh, no!" But it was too late. I threw down my hands filled with fistfuls of papers and watched the white papers float away. They were the only copies of my notes. I guess I'd studied enough for the test the next day, the Friday before the end of my last semester of college. After more than eight years of working part-time on my college degree, I was almost done.
The noise from the police sirens blasted through the air from a distance. I turned from the river in time to see Peter running through the grass toward me. He was very sexy, dressed in stone-colored pants and a dark blue polo shirt. His short brown hair barely moved with the wind, and his handsome light blue eyes were focused on me. I walked toward him and met him close to the picnic table where the rest of my notes were threatening to blow away.
"Are you okay?" he asked, touching my arms.
"All of my notes for my class blew away."
He ignored my current dilemma and looked around the area. "Where's the mother?"
I put all my papers into one hand and pointed toward where the woman had been sitting. "She was right there. I saw her not more than a minute ago when I was picking up my notes."
Peter looked all around the open park. I saw movement on the hiking trail about two hundred feet away, but it was shielded by trees, so I didn't know who it was.
"There." I pointed. "That could be her."
He grabbed my empty right hand and we both ran to the person, while I still held onto the notes I'd managed to rescue in my left hand.
"Ma'am!" Peter yelled as we got closer.
We were both out of breath but kept running. She picked up her pace, almost running away from us.
"Miss!" Peter screamed. "Stop! I'm a police officer."
She stopped dead in her tracks and turned toward us.
"That's her," I whispered as we slowed down. I gasped for breath, taking my time. "Why would she run from us?"
"Don't know," Peter whispered in return.
We both approached the attractive woman while she crossed her arms and just glared at us. I studied her hair and eyes and realized they matched mine—blonde hair with blue eyes. The guy that took the girl was definitely not related to her, or related to the girl.
"Ma'am, I'm with the Green Bay Police Department." Peter stopped and took a deep breath as he pulled out his badge. "Was your daughter just kidnapped?"
"No," she said. "I don't have a daughter."
"What?" I couldn't believe it. "I just witnessed it. She was a blonde-haired little girl, wearing a pink dress. A dark-haired man grabbed her from you. You screamed for him to let her go."
"I'm sorry. You must be mistaken. I was sitting at the table, waiting for my brother to meet me. He never showed."
The police cars and their sirens stopped at the parking lot about two hundred feet away. I watched the woman in surprise, my mouth still hanging open wide in surprise. What kind of woman would deny her own daughter?
"Why would you lie about something like this?" I asked. "Your daughter's obviously in danger. Aren't you worried about her safety?"
Tears filled her eyes, but she kept the same solemn look on her face. "I have no daughter. I'm not even married."
Peter seemed as perplexed as I was. "Ma'am, can I have your name and address in case we see your brother?" He took a small notebook and pen from his pocket, and poised his hand to write.
"Her brother?" I asked, facing him. "What about her daughter?"
He turned toward me. "It's obvious she has no daughter." He gave me a slight wink and I understood. I crossed my arms and pouted, just to keep up the façade he was creating. "I just want to make sure her brother knows she was at the park."
"He called me," the woman said. "He couldn't make it, so you don't need my name and address."
She turned and we watched her walk away. There was nothing else we could do. After about a hundred yards, the woman turned, ran, and jumped into the Fox River. Peter and I took chase, following her into the cold water. We dove down more than once, but couldn't find any trace of the woman.
"Anything?" Peter asked after coming up for air.
I shook my head. "Nothing. She's not here."
Other officers watched from the river's edge.
"Pete, why are you in the river?"
I glanced over as I treaded water. Figured. It was one of my old acquaintances from the De Pere Police Department. He was one of Peter's friends, but I didn't trust the man. He'd just moved to the day shift from the night shift. It was Bill Jericho, the man who knew my whole police rap sheet by heart. I was never charged with any crimes, but I still tried to stay away from the man. Some other officers were there, too, and I saw one of them run off as soon as he saw us in the water.
"Natalie, is that you?" Bill bellowed with laughter. "What'd you do, throw Pete into the Fox?"
We both swam to the edge of the river and got out, while the gawking officers snickered at Bill's stupid comment. Even though it was springtime, we were soaked through to our bones, and the blowing wind made it feel very cold. I looked down at my clothes. Because these guys were horny toads, I crossed my arms to stay warm and to cover anything that was showing. Gooey slimy brown and green ooze clung to every inch of me. That was some filthy river.
Peter shook from the cold. "Some woman dove in there." He huddled close to me and wrapped his arm around my shoulders, pulling me close to him. He was so caring and chivalrous. Either that or he thought I was warmer than he was and could warm him up. "Natalie and I were trying to find her."
"We didn't see anybody," Bill said. "I should've guessed Natalie would send us all on a wild goose chase." He laughed and all his De Pere Police buddies chuckled around him. Some joke.
"It wasn't a wild goose chase," I argued. "And it's not funny."
I wrapped my hands around my arms while my teeth chattered. That's when it hit me. The rest of my notes were in my hands when I jumped into the water. I turned and watched as they all floated up the river toward the bay of Green Bay and eventually out to Lake Michigan. Those schools of fish that lived there would really have an education—in computer science.
"My notes. I'm not going to pass that test now." I ran toward the river but Peter pulled me back by the shoulders.
"You'll be fine," he said into my ear from behind. "You've been studying for that test for two weeks. Let it go."
I watched the current take my papers away from De Pere, and noticed something else floating about a hundred yards from the edge of the river.
"Hey, look." I pointed toward the object. "Do you think that's the woman?"
"I'm not sure." Peter stared longer and Bill moved to watch with us. A De Pere officer joined the group and handed Peter and me each a blanket.
"Thanks." I took the blanket and watched the object out in the water while wiping my wet face and hair.
Peter handed his blanket back to me and waded back into the water, diving after a few feet because it was deeper away from the edge. He swam out to the object and touched it, then turned around and started to swim back to us.
Suddenly, he went under halfway to the edge of the river. He wasn't surfacing. I'd finally found a good guy and there was no way I'd let him die in the dirty Fox River.