The countryside flashed by in a blur of greens and blues. Every so often, soft buttery yellow would zoom in and out, or a stark line of ebony would zip by. The kaleidoscope of colors mesmerized Billy. His eyes lost focus, his mind wandered, and he let the spinning world spin.
The small boy’s tiny fingers picked at the loose pumpkin orange threads of his ragged old scarf while his emerald green eyes glazed over. The heat filling the inside of the battered old Ford was making the child sleepy, but he struggled to stay awake, like any six-year-old bound on an adventure. Even if he didn’t know what kind of adventure this was supposed to be.
A soft, wrinkled hand slipped on top of Billy’s fidgeting fingers, stilling the unraveling of the scarf. The warm flesh against his quieted Billy’s fears. He smiled up at the wizened old woman on the seat beside him. She didn’t smile back, so the child’s expression slipped back into sleepy blankness once again.
Watching the child with eyes untouched by age, the wrinkled old hag nodded to herself as the boy folded in on himself. She kept her hands atop his, knowing in his uncertainty he would pull the threads once more if she removed her calming touch. She couldn’t have the boy leaving traces of his presence for snoopers to find.
The woman looked to the man driving the beat up old truck. His expression was grim, teeth clenched in anger and fear. It had been his idea to take the sandy-haired little one. The man had promised the boy a ride on a spotted pony, if only the boy would climb up into the primer gray vehicle. The boy had readily agreed, especially when the lady who looked like his gramma had offered him a whole giant chocolate bar of his very own.
Feeling the crone’s gaze on his rugged face, the balding man turned to her, just enough to shake his head at her unspoken questions. He didn’t want to talk about what they’d done, what he’d forced his mother to participate in.
She’d tried to call the police, threatened it even as her enormous son had driven them to the nearby park. But when she’d seen the boy, she’d relented, giving in to her son’s pleas for help. She felt sick when she thought back on what they’d done. She knew they would have to report it, tell the police where to find the boy, confess all, from the first to the very last. But she would wait until after they put the boy to bed. At home.
The home he’d been stolen from a year earlier.