There wasn’t anything particularly special about the guy; he was actually rather ordinary looking but something made me uneasy. He just stood near the entrance, silently watching.
It was the usual Wednesday morning story time in the children’s room of the Lansing Library. Parents running errands could drop off their kids knowing they’d be safe and well-cared-for. The children listened intently as I read “The Adventures of Frog and Toad“.
I couldn’t shake the uncomfortable vibe I was getting from that guy. I caught the eye of my assistant, Grace, and with a slight tilt of my head I motioned toward the man. She glanced over and casually made her way across the room.
With cautious confidence Grace walked up to him and in a quiet but stern tone said “You’ve got thirty seconds to explain to me what you’re doing here”.
The man seemed rattled by Grace’s demand and stumbled over an apology. “I’m terribly sorry! I didn’t mean to alarm anyone. I’m here to pick up my son.”
“Oh, really? Who’s your son?” Grace asked.
The man replied “Nathan … Nathan Fletcher. I’m Jacob Fletcher. My wife Emily isn’t feeling well. She asked me to come fetch him. She’s pregnant, you know.”
“Yes, Emily. Of course! Such a lovely woman” Grace said. “Sorry to hear she’s ill. She seemed fine when she dropped Nathan off.”
“Yes, she was” Jacob agreed. “It’s the morning sickness; it really knocks her for a loop sometimes. Emily said she would notify library security that I’d be picking Nathan up.”
Before Grace had a chance to call the security desk to verify Mr. Fletcher’s story, Nathan spotted his father; the boy was overjoyed to see his dad and happily raced to greet him.
“Daddy! Daddy! I’m so glad to see you. Is Mommy here?” Jacob gave Nathan a big hug and scooped him up in his arms.
“Hi, buddy! Mommy’s resting. She asked me to come get you.”
“Yay! Can we get some ice cream? We can bring some to Mommy, too” Nathan asked, bubbling with excitement.
“Sure!” Jacob replied laughing. “C’mon! We better get going.”
Grace looked questioningly at me and I nodded in approval, smiling at the happy duo of father and son.
The two left, hand in hand, Nathan gleefully skipping along beside his dad. All was right in the library once again.
Later that night as I watched TV, the show was interrupted by a news bulletin:
“A police alert has been issued for the whereabouts of five-year-old Nathan Fletcher and his father, Jacob. The two were last seen leaving Longford’s Ice Cream on Lansing Street around 12:30 this afternoon. The body of Emily Fletcher, Jacob’s wife and the mother of Nathan, was found in the family’s home this evening by her sister. She had been brutally stabbed to death. Mrs. Fletcher was six months pregnant. At this time police believe Jacob Fletcher is the only suspect in the murder of his wife, unborn child and the abduction of his son.”
I sat in abject horror staring at the TV screen; in the upper right corner was the face of the man from the library.
How could I have made such an unforgivable error in judgement? Oh my God! That poor woman! My heart froze when I thought of Nathan.
If only I’d followed my instincts.