They were lucky, really.
That's what everyone told them.
After his arrest, the police were able to connect Plummer to two other kidnappings. He was a bold criminal, grabbing children off the streets in broad daylight. Smart, too. He always took kids from other towns, then took them back to his own home.
Those other two kids hadn't been as lucky as Shawn was.
Plummer hadn't really done anything to Shawn, other than rough him up a little and scare the hell out of him.
Henry hated hearing that. Like they should somehow be grateful. He would never forget the terrified look in his son's eyes when he found him in the tree house. He felt rage every time he thought about the bruise left on his son's cheek where Plummer had slapped him to keep him quiet.
Still, it could have been so much worse.
They were all shaken, and scared. Jumpy and nervous, even during the day. All three of them had nightmares. Shawn wouldn't play in the yard, not even the back yard, for months. Not until Henry took him out there and slowly walked backwards, away from him, into the house.
"You can't be afraid forever, Shawn. Nothing is going to happen to you. I'll be watching the whole time."
He made him stay out for five minutes. The next day it was ten, then fifteen. After a while Shawn would stay out for a half hour, though Henry could see him looking over his shoulder, over and over again. He was never really not afraid anymore. None of them were.
One day Madeline came to him with the real estate section of the paper clutched in her hand. Henry was incredulous, indignant.
"We can't just run away, Maddie! Shawn has to face his fears or he'll never get over them."
"He's five, Henry. He faces them every time he goes out in the yard. Over and over again. And so do I. Every time I walk out the front door..."
When an oceanfront home opened up, she convinced him to take it. The mortgage payment was steep, but they could manage. They had planned to live by the water someday anyway; someday was just here sooner than they had planned. Henry had to admit that there was something soothing about looking out over that vast expanse of ocean each day. The rhythm of the waves, the movement of the tides, seemed to bring calm to all of them.
They all began to be less afraid.
The experience never completely went away, though gradually, the intensity of the memory faded. Henry was relived to see that, above all, Shawn hadn't lost his spirit. He was still the same friendly, energetic, bright boy he had been before, though there was a part of him forever changed by what had happened.
We were all lucky.
The words angered him, and frightened him. Yes, Shawn had been resourceful and saved himself, but not because of anything Henry had taught him. He had indeed been lucky, but luck wasn't good enough. The world was full of Charles Plummers. Next time (and God forbid there would ever be a next time, but he couldn't ignore the possibility), they would need more than luck. He wanted his son to be ready to face whatever life threw at him.
Nearly a year later, he took Shawn out for ice cream on a warm spring afternoon.
"We're going to play a game, Shawn."
Shawn brightened and wriggled in his seat; he loved games.
Henry glanced around the crowded diner, then back at his expectant son.
"I want you to close your eyes. No peeking! Now, tell me how many hats are in the room."