12 years. Sounds like a long time, doesn't it? You would think that. I used to, too. But now, twelve years is starting to feel like yesterday.

My name is Caroline Sheperd and I am 28 years old. Twelve years ago, my life was a complete wreck. I was wild and crazy, you couldn't tell me anything and there was no stopping me. My life had no direction at all. The parties. The drinking. Never anything too crazy, but crazy enough to give my mother something to worry about. :laughs: I was into boys, one boy at a time. That's how life is at sixteen though. You are defined by the crowd you socialize with, the car you drive, the places you hang out, and who you date. It's the same for every teenager.

I look around my big empty house and I wonder. I wonder what's going to happen to us now. Now that they've taken away the only think that had ever mattered to me in the whole world. My daughter, Sam. She was twelve years old today. For twelve years, I managed to hide from my past and hide my daughter as well. Hide from myslef. And those were the best twelve years of my life. But now, this meant war.

There's a knock at the door and suddenly, I become afraid. I quell that particular emotion and force the rage to the forefront. I grab the 9mm I keep hidden in the nightstand and make my way towards the door. I crack it open, praying it will protect me. There is an attractive older man in a suit standing next to a younger black woman on my doorstep and I know instantly this isn't what I thought it was. "Special Agent Jack Malone, FBI." He introduces himself, her next. "And this is Special Agent Vivian Johnson." I force a small smile. "Come in." I tuck the gun in the plant expertly and swing the door open to usher them in properly.

"Is this her?" I nod as the woman's thoughts break me out of my thoughts. "Alright, tell us what happened." I quell a sigh. There's no need to get impatient with these people if they can really help me find my daughter. "I woke Sam up for school about six."


"Mommy, I really don't want to go to school today. I don't feel well." I smile down at my daughter. Then we'll have to get you some icky medicine won't we?" She smiled back up at me. "Why is medicine so icky if it's supposed to make you feel better?" I shrug. "So little girls like you don't play hooky from school!" I tickled her for a bit and then laid down beside her. "Is everything alright at school?" Sam wouldn't meet my eye. "Everything's fine." I was getting a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. "Is it a boy?" I kept my voice light, I had to lead up to these questions. "No, boys are gross." I laughed then. "Yes, yes they are." We shared a smile and then I gave her a look that let her know I meant business. "There was a man. Yesterday. He came to school and he was waiting for me at the bus stop." My stomach notted. "How do you know?" She looked away again. "He told me he was. He knew my name and yours, too. He said he was friends with my dad." Suddenly, my breakfast threatened to come back up the way it went down. "What did you say?" Tears welled up in her pretty green eyes. "I told him that I didn't talk to strangers and that if he knew us so well, he just needed to talk to you." I smiled at her, despite my current state. "That's my girl." She smiled then too, unsure. "Did I do okay?" I nodded and kissed her forehead. "Wonderfully."


"And then what?" Agent Malone's voice broke me out of the canyon of images of my daughter that morning and I had to clear my throat before continuing.

"I didn't make her go to school, obviously. I called the principal and she said that there was never a man at the bus stop with Sam. I was so angry. I got ready and I was going down there to talk to her face to face."

Agent Johnson was taking notes in the little notebook he had handed her, while he watched me. The human lie detector. "Did you?"

I snorted. "Of course I did. She called my kid a liar and was putting her in danger by lying. I don't handle being lied to very well."

He almost half smiled. "Neither do I."

I smiled at him, glad that he was trying to break some of the ice. "Anyway, I went upstairs to get Sam and she was gone. I looked everywhere. All of the windows in the house were closed but the one in the den was unlocked. It's on the second story so I never thought..." I trailed off and he waited patiently. "I should have been more careful. I searched the house high and low. I called the school to see if she might have gone while I was in the shower and then I called all of her friends houses, of course they were all at school too. And then I started calling the neighbors." He almost looked impressed.

"Immediate action." Agent Johnson looked at him briefly then kept writing.

"Not soon enough, obviously." He nodded and then there was a knock on the door.

"Are you expecting anyone?" I shook my head no, although the idiots who had done this would be there eventually for me if they were stupid enough to take my daughter.

"Are you alright?" I realized I hadn't stood to answer the door and I looked him dead in the eye.