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In the dark: In Principio

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When Tom returned to the office, the receptionist feigned not looking at him. He looked horrible. He was soaking wet, having stood in the rain for so long. Everything, from his jacket to his socks, was wet. It was uncomfortable, so he felt terrible as well as looked terrible.

The subtle stares of the receptionist made it worse.

“How did it go?” he asked.

“What do you think?” Tom rebutted. He couldn’t get into the power plant, didn’t have any leads and those crucial first forty-eight hours were mercilessly ticking away while he tried to get past the reception to change into a dry uniform and continue to work.

“Right,” the receptionist said. “You have a visitor.”

Something else Tom didn’t look forward to. Sam probably waited for his partner to return to the office. He expected a rant about having to work in a team and not going off alone.

He didn’t think someone else came to see him during working hours. After he explicitly told her she shouldn’t call him while he worked. He hadn’t even seen her until she stood up and looked at him.

He froze for a second. He’d never seen her at his work, and there was a good reason for it.

“Hi,” said Harriet Green.

Tom lead her toward his office initially. But he wasn’t bringing her to the office, because Sam would wonder why she was there. He would ask questions and something might come up – something Tom successfully hid for a couple of months.

He walked her into the supply closet. They could have an uninterrupted conversation. Nobody saw them – if they did, well, it wouldn’t be any different than Tom walking with her into the office in front of Sam Hidgens.

The look on her face suggested she was enticed, standing so close to Tom. Tom failed to notice. He was glad they were together, out of sight, and hoped the cleaner wouldn’t come to find them.

“What are you doing here?” he asked.

“I know what you’re going through,” Harriet said. She nudged closer to Tom, who didn’t react to her advances.

“You can’t show up at my workplace,” Tom said. “They’re gonna find out.”

“I wanted to be there for you,” Harriet said. She laid her hands on his shoulders. He didn’t protest it. Harriet saw it as a sign she could take it one step further. “Tom—”

She kissed him, again and again. Tom let it happen for some seconds. Just those seconds, though – too many in his eyes.

“Harriet, no,” he said softly. Then a little louder: “No.”

Harriet pulled away from him. She looked disappointed and a little surprised. Like she hadn’t expected him to tell her to stop. When they met and things got steamy, Tom had never shut her down.

“Don’t you want to?” she asked, her voice a little pouty.

Tom shook his head. “Not now. My son—”

She tried again. This time, Tom leaned away from her and softly took her arms off of his shoulders.

“Harriet,” he said. “I need to get to work.”

This stopped all of her attempts to seduce him and get him to love her or make love to her. That flirty look on her face melted away – she did not like this rejection but could put it into perspective. He was looking for his son. He was busy. She’d see him at another time.

“I’ll go,” she said and Tom nodded in relief.

“Thank you.”

“Do I see you tonight?”


Harriet left the closet before Tom. He stood there for another ten seconds before he left, too. He looked around the corridor. He couldn’t verify whether anyone had seen Harriet leave, but nobody saw him leave the closet. He continued his way through the police building.

At the office, Sam indeed waited for him and as expected, he went on a small rant. Tom nodded and listened to every word and swore he wasn’t going out on his own again. Outside working hours, however, Tom could still do whatever he wanted.

Then Tom sat behind his computer and did some actual work. He needed to do some investigation, such as the tire patterns they found near the crime scene. They had no idea whether these specific tire patterns have been added to the database yet, but Tom was looking it up anyway. 

He found a match. A picture of a white van appeared, as well as its registration number. Tom looked up who owned the van.

Geoff Harrington. Father of Deb, working at the nuclear power plant. A history of possession of drugs, a couple of DUIs, no violent crimes.

Not yet, anyway.

A seed had been planted in Tom’s head. The tires lead directly to Geoff Harrington – a man who now was Tom’s main suspect in Tim’s missing case, and possibly in Deb’s as well. 

At night, Tom went to Geoff Harrington’s home. He arrived without sirens and lights, so as not to alarm Geoff to his presence. Even then, he wasn’t sure Geoff would hear him.

The Harringtons lived outside of the city. They had some hangar where all kinds of junk were stored. The last time Tom was here, some criminal hid their weapon among the rubble. DNA evidence proved Geoff had nothing to do with that case.

Maybe it hid something much more sinister now.

There was no house on the property; only a rundown caravan. The lights were out and Tom snuck into the hangar. He quickly scanned the immediate surroundings to see if anything would set off any alarm. He quickly unlocked the door. It creaked only slightly, and soon Tom stood in the hangar again.

With his flashlight, he slowly made his way through the hangar. He watched the piles of rubble and junk, watched the many different appliances and other items scattered around the hangar. Nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary.

Tom listened, looked for something that shouldn’t be there, anything that could point him to the kids.

At the back, an old cabinet that had known better times, a jar had caught his eye. Tom put on a glove and picked the jar.

It was just any general peanut butter jar. Its label had been removed. There was nothing wrong with it in itself, but it contained a lot of coins – and when he shone his flashlight, they had the same color as the coin they found around a red thread on the dead boy’s neck.

Tom put it down again, looking around more carefully. This was a clue; a clue he couldn’t turn his back to. Something that only in the right circumstances could be incriminating. It wasn’t illegal to store coins in a jar.

It made Tom more alert, however.

He spotted a mattress on the ground. A single old worn-down mattress in the middle of the room. Tom looks at it. why wasn’t it piled on one of the many piles of junk? Why was it lying on the ground, right between two piles?

Unless there was something visitors weren’t supposed to see.

Tom pulled the mattress away from its spot. It indeed hid something; a trapdoor in the floor. Tom didn’t remember seeing a trapdoor when he had been here before; then again, last time he didn’t look for hiding places, but for a murder weapon.

The trapdoor wasn’t locked. Geoff must not be expecting anyone to find this. The mattress had to have been enough to hide this secret.

It wouldn’t be a secret any longer.

Tom opened the trapdoor. It was heavy, but he lifted it without a problem. He shone in it. There was a rope, tied to something at the bottom he couldn’t see. Tom grabbed the rope and pulled. It wasn’t heavy enough to be a child, but it was something secret. Something he was hiding from everyone.

Tom already had the feeling something illegal was going on. He had no idea what that was yet.

He pulled the rope. It might be the stress, but it felt like ages before something came into view. Something – soon enough he knew what it was.

“Put that down.”

Tom looked up. Over him stood Geoff Harrington in his coat. He pointed a rifle at Tom. He trembled from head to toe and his eyes betrayed fear – fear of being found out. Fear, perhaps, to pull the trigger as well.

Tom shouldn’t take risks. But he almost pulled the thing out of the trapdoor, and he needed to know.

He decided to ignore Geoff and pulled the rope. Geoff became more nervous.

“Put that down!”

Tom just pulled up the black plastic bag. He tore the plastic away and it revealed another bag; a transparent bag with clear contents. Tom recognized it – he’d seen enough drugs in his life to know what it looked like.

He looked from the bag to Geoff. Even in the darkness, Tom saw his face paled. He knew he’d been caught. It wasn’t for the reasons Tom had thought to bust him for, though.

“What’s this?” Tom asked. He was relieved it wasn’t a head, hand, or another body part. On the other hand, the fact that he found nothing that leads him to his son or Deb saddened him.

“Deb and I used to make it together,” Geoff confessed. He saw no point in lying to an officer when he’d been caught red-handed. “A side project, when we didn’t have a lot of money.”

The Harringtons did have money problems. Tom would never have guessed Deb was involved in this, too, and even encouraged to participate.

“And that jar?”

“She’s been saving up for a motorcycle,” Geoff said. When people bring things in to be fixed, sometimes there’s some extra change in some crevice or place the owners missed – forgotten coins Deb put in the jar. The start of something big; a goal to work toward.

Geoff took a step to the officer, who stood up and could only look at the man.

“Do you have any news?” he asked, tears springing in his eyes. “Where’s my daughter?”

Tom was ashamed for thinking Geoff Harrington kidnapped the children.