About 10:30 that night, Henry and his dad left for Allen’s Hill. His dad was going to drive him to the foot of the trail and then wait for him. Henry wanted to ride his bike there, but his parents thought that was too dangerous at night. My parents and I waited at the Hendersons’, keeping Henry’s mom company.
We waited…and waited…and waited. All kinds of questions raced through my mind. Would Henry be safe? Would he get Robbie? Would the police capture the kidnapper? Would the kidnapper know the police were there?
Finally, at nearly midnight, the car returned. A subdued Henry and his dad came into the house. I was so relieved to see Henry, I burst out with my questions.
Henry, looking exhausted, sat down at the table…just sat for several minutes before he began to talk.
“Well, I started up the trail a few minutes before 11:00, using my flashlight to find my way. When I got about a third of the way up, a hand grabbed my mouth from behind, and a voice said, ‘Gimme the box.’ I had not heard him at all. I gave him the box, and he said, ‘Now go to the top and tell your cop friends that I was too smart for them.’ He gave me a shove up the path. I guess he disappeared but I never heard him.
“When I got to the top, there was nobody there. I looked around and called, and then headed back down. All the way up and back I thought, ‘He knows the cops were there. Is he gonna kill Robbie?’ I guess I was crying most of the way.
“When I got back to the car, I told Dad what had happened. We heard a loud BANG as we were leaving, but we kept driving and came back here.”
“What was the bang?” I asked.
Henry looked at his dad and they both shrugged.
“I don’t know”, Mr. Henderson said. “It didn’t sound like a gun. I don’t know what it was or if it had anything to do with Robbie.”
“So what do we do now?”
“I guess we just wait.”
So again we waited…and waited…and waited. Finally, Henry and I went out and sat on the front porch. We had put jackets on because the night was cool. We sat in silence. After a while we both began to shiver, but we stayed outside and kept waiting.
Finally, a car pulled around the corner and stopped in front of the house. A back door flew open, and a whirlwind with no pants on flew up the sidewalk and threw himself into Henry’s arms.
“Oh God, oh God!” Henry said over and over as he hugged Robbie so tight I thought the boy might burst.
I went into the house to tell our parents that Robbie was back. They hurried out and Robbie detached himself from Henry long enough to hug his parents and then my parents and me. Everybody was crying and laughing and talking all at once.
Officer Bryant came up the walk, beaming, and we all surrounded him, thanking him over and over. He suggested we go into the house, so we went into the living room, where Henry, Robbie and I sat on the floor. Well, actually, Robbie sat in Henry’s lap while the adults took seats on the chairs and sofa. We all looked expectantly at the officer, who was clearly enjoying the moment.
“First of all,” he began, “you should all know that, as soon as Robbie was taken, we called the FBI, and they sent three officers, two men, and a woman whom you met.”
“She was FBI?” Henry asked. “Wow!”
Officer Bryant nodded and continued. “From the enhanced photos, we were able to see some of the people at The Cave more clearly, but Brad refused to tell us who any of them were. We did, however, recognize one person in addition to the man called ‘The Boss.’ ‘The Boss’ is a known drug dealer named Sinclair who hangs around most of the time in Springfield. His friend is named Wilson. But we didn’t know where they were, only that the Springfield police hadn’t seen them in over a year. We did know, as soon as the note came, that Robbie was in immediate danger. Even if they had the camera, we were pretty certain they wouldn’t let him go because he could identify them. So we knew we didn’t have much time.”
We all looked at each other, knowing what would have happened to Robbie.
“The key was the second note, because it identified Allen’s Hill. We reasoned that at least one of them was probably hiding someplace close by where they could walk to the drop spot, return to where they were hiding, and get rid of Robbie right away.”
Robbie shuddered and his mom let out a little whimper.
“So, the officer continued, “our only chance was to grab them that night, even if they knew we were going to try that. We hoped they would think we would cover the top of the hill, which we did. But we also put three men near the trail, by sundown, hoping that the kidnappers would not be in place yet.
“There were seven of us all together. Three by the trail and four near the top. Henry showed up right on schedule. The three trail men followed a little behind him, some distance from the trail but parallel to it. They saw Sinclair grab Henry from behind. Had he tried to hurt Henry at all, they would have arrested him right there, but he didn’t. They saw Henry pass over the box and saw Sinclair say something to Henry and then shove him up the trail.”
“I had no idea they were there,” said Henry.
“Fortunately, neither did Sinclair. Anyway, from there, they followed Sinclair back to an old cabin on the side of the hill which none of us even knew existed. We have no idea how Sinclair and Wilson found it, but criminals have their own methods of communication. One of the officers held back a little and quietly radioed the rest of us, giving us the location of the hut.
“When we all got to the hut, we surrounded it, and one of the FBI agents threw a flashbang through the window.” We all looked at each other, confused. “A flashbang is sometimes called a stun grenade. It produces a blinding flash and a very loud bang. It disorients anybody near it. For a few seconds they can neither hear nor see.”
“So that’s what that was,” put in Robbie. “It was really, really scary!”
“Then we burst in and grabbed Sinclair and Wilson. One of the agents cut Robbie’s bindings and carried him out. He was shaking, not surprisingly, but once he knew he was going to be OK he began to relax.”
“Well, really I began to cry,” Robbie said.
“The reason it took us so long to bring Robbie here was that we wanted a doctor to look him over first and we wanted to do an immediate debriefing. So we took him to the hospital in Greenfield. I suppose we should have called you, but we were just thinking about Robbie and the two kidnappers at that time.
“The doctor said that, other than hungry, thirsty, and scared, Robbie is fine. While his vision is a little affected, it will be fine by morning.
“On the way here, Robbie told us his story, but I’ll let him tell you that.
“Henry, I need you to come to the station in the morning to give us a sworn statement about your part in what happened tonight. And remind me to give you the camera, although we’ll need to keep the Sim card for a while as evidence.”
Finally, he said as he rose from his chair, “I’m sorry to say that I doubt we can get either of them for the murder of Chad. We do have one of Sinclair’s fingerprints on the key to the truck, and we might get him for vehicular homicide, but we can’t prove that he intended to kill Chad unless we can get Wilson to turn on him. We can get both of them for kidnapping, though, as well as the threats they made, and, using the photos, we can get them both for distributing drugs and probably for manslaughter for the two boys who OD’d. That combination should put them away for a long time.”
As he rose to leave, everybody crowded around thanking him and shaking his hand.
When he was gone, Henry’s mom said, “Of course, we all want to hear Robbie’s story too, but I think first he needs to eat something and then get some rest. So why don’t we all meet here for brunch at 11:00 tomorrow, and we can all hear Robbie’s story.”
We all agreed and Mom, Dad and I started to leave when I heard Robbie ask, “Can I sleep with Henry tonight? I need him close to me.” Henry agreed.
I need him close to me too, I thought, but I didn’t say anything.