Amber Alert

Originally submitted to NYC Midnight’s 2020 Flash Fiction contest. (Genre: Crime Caper, Location: Mini Gold Course, Object: Pair of Socks.

When a mother/daughter night out at a local mini golf course turns for the worse, how far will Mia go to protect her child?

“Mama, what’s today? I spend Thursdays with Daddy,” Hanna mumbled as she steadied her tiny club against the white ball. Mia squinted at her phone, a photo illuminating back–bouncy, dark brown curls and her daughter’s smile. It was from Hanna’s fourth birthday, when things were still okay with Cristiano.

Before he filed for custody.

            The golf course was dark, with murky green and blue panels creating an aquarium feel. It was a bit much for $12 per person but it was Wednesday night and they needed time to kill. White shadows of sharks, fish, oceanic mountains projected on top of the walls. There was no way that anyone could see them in here, Mia thought. Not like the photo on her phone. Hanna’s hair looked black, not brown. Mia swiped the photo away to reveal the text message she’d received a few minutes earlier:

AMBER ALERT

Hanna Manzanares, 5 yr old, 3.5 ft, hzl eyes, brn hair, Hispanic female

Last seen w/ Mia Manzanares, 34 yr old, 5.5 ft, 140 lbs blk hair

            She eyeballed the other families, some fathers and mothers pulling out their phones and quickly deleting the same message.  Good, she thought. They don’t care, no one ever cares, I never cared. They’d hide here until right before they got kicked out, she decided, so they could shuffle out with the stragglers and then catch a Lyft to Maria’s place for the night. Flashes of the custody order text lingered in the back of her head. It wasn’t possible that he could just leave with her, leave the state and never come back. How could the judge not see that he was a narcissist? An abuser that was going to take her baby away and let him win? The judge had ordered immediate return of the child but Mia did not show for the exchange.

            “Boo Boo, it’s not Thursday, it’s Wednesday, time with me!” Mia stood behind her little girl, straightening out her little arms then pushing them so the club clacked against the dimpled ball. They watched as it made its rounds until falling short of the hole a few yards away. “Let’s keep following it!” Hanna ran ahead, standing by the ball.

            “Mama, should I take it?” Hanna stepped back, her foot slipping into the hole they had just missed.

            “Uh oh.” Hanna pulled until her bare foot came out. The two heard a faint thud as the shoe disappeared underneath the floor. Out of the corner of Mia’s eye, two police officers stood at the front desk with hands on their holsters. A female detective scanned the room, studying families and faces the best she could. Blood drained from Mia’s face as she scooped Hanna up towards the next room. Fumbling, she pulled off the other shoe and tugged the sock off, folding it into her hand. Hanna was better off barefoot.

“My shoes!” Hanna shouted. Mia turned a corner as the detective started behind her. The woman crouched, pulling out Hanna’s sock out of the hole. The two women exchanged glances before Mia hurried away, refocusing her attention in the new room for an exit sign. Hanna kicked, insistent wails growing louder into scuffled cries.

“Shh, let’s get some ice cream at Maria’s house,” Mia cooed as she turned another corner into a long hallway. Bathrooms and what looked to be an exit.

“Ice cream!”

She started running.

“Stop,” a voice called out. Mia knew it was the woman but she couldn’t stop now. She pulled Hanna closer, the child’s face looking back. They were making eye contact, Mia thought.

“Mia, stop,” the woman called out again. “This isn’t the way to do it.” Scuffling closer to the door, Mia heard a loud thud as her phone fell out of her pocket. Shit. She turned around, the dark suited figure appearing at the other end of the long white corridor. Mia reached, dropping Hanna’s sweat-soaked sock for her phone. Hanna’s weight almost tipped them over. Cristiano wasn’t going to win. The girl began crying, clutching onto her mother’s shoulders as her naked feet kicked against Mia’s cheek.

They turned back to the exit.

“Let’s talk.”

            Mia froze. Had officers swarmed the building yet? She noticed a small closet door tucked away next to the bathroom. It was marked Employees Only. From the creaked opening, she could see another door leading outside. Hanna was squirming, snot and tears soaking up into Mia’s pink t-shirt. Mia remembered the nights she stayed up nursing. How could the judge not see this was her baby? That he was the cheater, the abuser, the absent father who only came back a year ago after he’d gone missing for 4 years?

            “I want to make a deal with you, Mia,” the woman said. “I’m a mom too, I know this is hard and maybe you think that he shouldn’t have gotten the order, right?” She could hear the woman walking faster behind her.

            “What deal? You a judge lady?” Mia blurted out. Why was she talking? She needed to run, meet Maria and get out of town before Cristiano did the same with her Hanna.

            “I’m not a judge, but I could tell the judge you were cooperative.”

            “No one’s taking my Hanna!”

            “No one wants to take your Hanna, but Hanna also has a father.”

            The doors flung open as two officers emerged. She could see Cristiano standing next to a patrol car with another officer behind them.

He wasn’t going to win.

“Daddy,” Hanna screamed as Mia turned towards the closet, ducking under an unsuspecting officer’s arm and into the employee room. She kicked the door shut, running towards the side exit. Hanna kicked her mother’s back as their bodies emptied out into the lot. Mia kept running along the side of the red brick building, stumbling as officers shouted behind her. A quiet alley emerged, inviting the two inside.

Mia could feel her daughter slipping.

Hanna was so heavy.

Heavy like her mother’s heart.

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