“Da...” Tom went to speak, his eyes wide open in a combination of fear and excitement, but Sebastian clamped his hand across his mouth. He raised his finger to his lips indicating that silence was essential.
As he slowly released his hand Tom could not contain himself. “Dad!”
“Shh,” Sebastian repeated.
“I knew you’d come.” Tom whispered, this time aware that if his captors heard he and his father would surely both be killed.
Sebastian leaned forward and embraced his son. The past three months had seemed an eternity. In the early days they had faith but, like a mist blown and scattered by the wind, it had slowly disappeared to be replaced by despair.
Amidst innuendo and false allegation, Sebastian and his wife were about to let go of all hope of seeing their son again when they received an email. It was a simple demand for money – money they didn’t have. But there was something else. A photograph of their son. And a sound-byte of him speaking to them. And, in the background of that message, a sound they recognised.
“You hear that!” Sebastian had cried out to his wife as he listened to Tom’s quavering voice. “You know what that is don’t you?”
Marie, his wife, had said nothing. She shrugged her shoulders. She tried to listen but the energy for even simple tasks had long since deserted her.
“Listen.” Tom implored, “Listen, you can hear...” and he played the message again. “It’s the train. Cutting through Foster’s gully. You know. That crossing just before the main highway.”
“Seb, that could be any rail crossing,” Marie countered, but Sebastian was adamant.
“Baby, I’ve stopped at that crossing on my way to the laboratory nearly every day for the past fifteen years. I know those bells. And there is only one house anywhere near that crossing.” He strode through to the cupboard to pull out his jacket and the pistol he’d bought just after Tom went missing.
“Where are you going?”
“I’m going to get Tom. Where else would I go?”
“But shouldn’t we call the police?”
Sebastian shook his head. “You call the police if you like but I’m going to get Tom.”
Marie knew he was right. The police had their theories. They said she’d killed Tom in a fit of anger and Sebastian had helped cover the crime. They had no proof. ‘Gut instinct’ the FBI Agent, Detective Trimble had said. Trouble is he’d said it too loud so that now, most the town believed him.
For three months they’d lived with townsfolk talking behind their backs about them. Conversations would come to an abrupt halt when they walked into the local grocery store and people would stare as they filled their car at the gas station. Friends had become critics, acquaintances had become adversaries. Colleagues who once held him and his work to develop the water-driven car in the highest esteem now seemed to view him as a quack and opening ridiculed his theories.
“We gotta go, Tom. Come on.” But before Tom could move a figure appeared in the doorway.
“Why, Dr Sebastian Kraus, I wish you hadn’t found this place.”
Sebastian stood unable to comprehend. “Trimble. Look. My boy. We’ve found him. You’ve come just in time. The people who kidnapped him must be here somewhere.”
Trimble turned away from Sebastian and spoke to a person Sebastian couldn’t see. “Get some rope. We’re going to have to take these two heroes for a little ride.”