Mistaken Identity

This little scene was inspired by a prompt from Tomi Adeyemi’s site.  This is a bit more serious than most of the stories that I write and post here.

**

There was a commotion outside the building and Detective Hale paused to see what it was.  He could see a tall, slender blond woman running for the doors.  Whatever she wanted, it was clear that it was urgent.  The desk sergeant might like the presence of one of the detectives behind her when she dealt with it.  A moment later, the blond woman had reached the steps.  She crashed through the doors of the police station and slammed her hands against the steel counter.  “Give me back my daughter!”

Detective Hale frowned at the woman for a moment, struggling to understand what she was talking about.  There was only one little girl at the police station just then and she was in the other room with her adoptive father.  Her birth parents were, by all accounts, both deceased.  “Excuse me, ma’am,” he said, his voice soft.  When the woman turned to him, he shook his head.  “What are you talking about?”

“I saw her,” the woman said, shaking her head.  She pointed towards the door, but Detective Hale was certain she was pointing beyond the front doors, perhaps all the way to her house.  Her next words confirmed that supposition.  “I saw her on the news,” she said.  “They took her back from someone who kidnapped her!  I recognized her in an instant!  I know that’s my little Amy!”

Detective Hale heaved a sigh.  He knew, now, who the woman was speaking about.  She’d seen the news broadcast that showed them bringing Frieda out of the place where she’d been held and, sick with worry over her own child, had confused one girl for the other.  “Ma’am,” he said, his tone gentle.  “Why don’t you come with me?”

He’d intended to sit her down and get information out of her.  Who was she?  When had her daughter disappeared?  It was obvious the woman needed closure and that she was desperate to have her child back.  He could understand that, possibly better than anyone else in the building, except for Henry Shepherd.

However, just as he was starting to guide the woman over to his desk, Henry came out of the room where he’d been listening to Frieda give her statement.  The little girl was at his side, holding tightly to his hand.  The distraught woman who had just arrived at the station spotted them and veered over towards them before Detective Hale could catch her.

“Amy,” she cried dropping to a crouching position in front of Frieda.

Frieda’s eyes widened and she burst into tears, ducking her face into Henry’s side and speaking in the same language she’d been using when they’d first brought her out of that place.  “Easy, easy,” Henry said, folding his arms around her.  He looked up at the woman and Detective Hale tensed at the angry expression on his face.  However, the anger was gone in a heartbeat when he met the woman’s eyes.

Instead, he reached out and set a hand on the woman’s shoulder.  “I’m sorry,” he said, his voice faint, “this little girl is Frieda – Frieda Sophia Engel.  She’s my daughter.”

The woman blinked at him for a moment and then looked down at Frieda.  She reached out a hand and gently smoothed the girl’s hair.  “Let me look at you,” she said, her voice cracking.

Frieda sniffled loudly and pushed away from Henry to turn to the woman.  Their eyes met and the woman began sobbing.  Frieda frowned at her for a moment and then looked up at Henry.  “Teva, why’s she crying?  Who’s Amy?”

“Amy’s her little girl,” Henry said, his voice soft.  He crouched down and looked into Frieda’s face.  Pushing back the blond locks, he said, “She thought you were Amy, Frieda.  Now, she’s very sad, because she realizes that she was wrong.”

“Amy has blond hair too?”

The woman nodded.  “But her eyes are – are hazel and yours…” she sniffled loudly and rubbed at her eyes.  “Your eyes are brown.  I can see that now.”  She released a shaky breath.  “Amy vanished from my yard one day.  That was… three years ago.  She’d be exactly your age now.  I just… I hoped…” she trailed off.

Detective Hale set a hand on the woman’s shoulder and started to lead her away.  However, Frieda caught her hand.  “I saw her,” she breathed.  For a moment, everyone froze.  Then Frieda nodded.  “The man who kidnapped me… he had other little girls too – all of them blond, like me.  I saw Amy.  He – he gave her to someone.”  She looked up at Henry with wide eyes.  “Maybe he’ll tell the police who it was he gave her to?”

“Maybe,” Henry said, giving her a tight smile.  He lifted her up onto his hip and added, “If they ask the right way, maybe he’ll tell them how to find the other little girls.”  He nodded at the woman and then met Detective Hale’s astonished gaze.  “Good luck with that,” he said.

“Thanks,” Detective Hale said.  He looked at the woman – whose name he still didn’t know.  “Can you come with me, ma’am?  I’ve got some questions I need you to answer, so we can get to work finding your daughter.”

“She saw her,” the woman breathed as she followed Detective Hale back towards his office.  It was a fragment of hope.  For the moment, it was all she needed.

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