A Vow of Silence
When a boy is found at the bottom of a well slowly filling with water, the race is on to rescue the other victims, all in unidentifiable locations. The only problem is that the boy, the only witness, has been voluntarily mute since he was a child. An outcast, but highly brilliant, he dodges every attempt to ask about the man who kidnapped him. His family life, as well as that of the other known victims, comes into question as the agents begin to doubt whether or not this unsub actually exists.
Chapter Three: a study in perspectives
Basil Lewin was a strange child. There was no other way to describe him. He spoke with the voice of a child, but his tone did not match his predicament or age. Whatever he had to tell the agents he conveyed in straightforward, honest sentences with smiles and frowns in all of the appropriate places. They didn't doubt his sincerity, but constantly waited and watched for his facade to slip.
His mother, too, never uttered any unnecessary words. Her terse, clipped tone answered their questions about her husband's murder, providing no information that they didn't request. This was hardly due to her unwillingness to give them what they needed for the investigation, but as Hotch suspected, it was probably part of her reserved personality. Perhaps her husband's death and infidelity still weighed heavily on her mind, despite her outward appearance.
"What were the other kids who were with you like? Did they tell you their names?" Prentiss asked. They had already been told that there were four other victims in addition to Basil. If they drove him around town, he said, he might be able to distinguish where they had been deposited. His inability to speak and compliant nature made him easy to keep captive. Thus, he had been the last stop before their unsub drove off.
Of course, Basil Lewin didn't talk to them in the literal sense. His mother translated his odd mixture of sign language and common sense hand movements, and to their surprise it was relatively easy to understand him. When he saw fit, he lip synced, and when his words weren't enough he drew carefully constructed diagrams on a notebook in crayons. The two agents could almost hear his voice, as if it was reaching them from a far off place, but of course no sound came out of his mouth.
I don't see my silence as a disability, he had informed them with a slight downward twitch of his lips. A small smile dawned on his face afterwards. Using only sign language to speak just isolates me from the rest of you. I'm a normal person, you see? There isn't anything special about me.
The boy thought for a moment, writing down three given names on the paper in dark blue. The colorful pack of crayons was on the tray where patients usually took their meals, and he had found the crayons in a drawer as the agents entered the room.
I never got the last girl's name. She is mute, like me, and doesn't know English. So we couldn't talk to her and she couldn't talk to us. She had dark wavy hair and light eyes, hazel like this crayon, Basil indicated, holding up a golden brown. She wasn't quiet, though. She fought the man with all she had and bit him once. But she wasn't mute like me; she could make noise.
At the agents' puzzled look, his mother interjected, "Basil can't scream, even if he's hurt. He can't make any sound when he cries, either. I've seen it before. No matter how hard he tries, no matter how much pain he's in, not a sound comes from him." She wrapped an arm around her son for a moment and promptly released him. "The doctors can't explain it. His vocal chords aren't damaged, but he's like this."
Well, that's just me, but this girl could scream. It was a hoarse kind of scream, like she doesn't use it much, and it was kind of low, but she did fight more than anyone else. She was the third one he found. I was the last. He had to keep her tied up, like some of the others. He also dropped her off first. It was in a place with a lot of trees surrounding it, but had a lot of open space as well. There was no one around and the buildings were old.
"The buildings...you could see them? What were they like?" Hotch asked. The boy blinked a few times and titled his head to the side, staring at a far corner.
It's hard to remember. Everything was so hazy and I was dizzy, so it was difficult to concentrate. It was all in the evening. The buildings…no one lived in them for a long time. There were big fields of tall grass. We were in a white truck like the ones that carry building equipment.
Hotch and Prentiss shared a glance. Basil had not been bound and gagged as he said some of the others were, but the unsub still took no chances and drugged him. If so, the drugs he gave Basil must have had enough time to leave his system, since the doctors here had already done all the standard tests, which came back negative. Of course, date rape drugs or chloroform on a cloth would produce the desired effect.
"Do you remember the man doing anything to you that made you sleepy or dizzy afterwards?" Prentiss asked the boy without prompting him. Even if he was a reliable source, it was still against protocol to lead the witness on, especially children.
Nothing in particular, he shrugged. When the agents didn't ask anything more, he figured he could move on with the story. Next was a boy. He came after the girl. It was hard for anyone to talk to him, because he was so hysterical, even when I arrived. He wouldn't stop crying and blabbering. He said his name was Jack, but he was always crying or really quiet, and I didn't hear his last name. He had red-brown hair, rust colored like this.
Basil held up another crayon and carefully replaced it in the beaten container. I can't remember where he put Jack. It was a quiet place, though. He fought a lot and the man got really frustrated. He gagged so that he wouldn't scream and attract attention.
The one who came right before me was called Harper. He was nice and the only one that would talk. It didn't even take him long to figure out how to speak with me. He's my age. He would argue with the man, but he didn't fight so much. He had a lot of nice things to say. He was dropped off after Jack. The man told me, "Your little friend was very well behaved", so I guess he did alright.
There were a lot of trees around there, and we went a long while in the car before the man dropped off the last boy besides me.
"Wait a second, you said that Harper…was a boy?" Prentiss said incredulously. Basil blinked and nodded.
He had short black hair and said he wore glasses, but lost them when the man took him. He couldn't see me well, but I could see him. The boy cast them a curious look, but didn't press for the answers he knew they couldn't provide. For the most part, the agents considered the possibility that Basil had only assumed Harper was male. Without his mother to translate, they wouldn't have known through his "common sense" hand signs alone. Harper would most likely have never known, either.
"Harper Adair is a girl," Hotch informed him, much to Basil's surprise. The boy thought for a moment, lifting his head and opening his mouth as if to speak, before turning away and shaking it off. He still seemed conflicted even as he continued the conversation.
The last boy looked young. He was tiny and sat in a corner or against a wall, curled up and silent most of the time. He had been there the longest and refused to talk to us, even Harper. He…she managed to get his name, but it was really hard to hear him and he didn't even want to tell us that. The man would get frustrated whenever he focused on him, but like me, he didn't fight or talk back. He liked us, I guess.
The boy's name is Skylar. He wouldn't tell us his last name. He was very quiet, but Harper and I convinced him to talk a bit. He was always whispering, "It's okay. I'm all right with this. I want to disappear. I can't hurt them anymore here." It took a long time to get him to say that much. He was skittish and didn't resist at all when the man put him in the bottom of the well.
Oh, he also had dark hair and…blue eyes, I think. He was very skinny. I couldn't tell if he was a boy or a girl at first. When Harper asked him, he freaked out and insisted that he was a boy. I thought it was strange, but we left it at that.
Hotch excused himself as Prentiss continued to question the mother and son. They had a problem on their hands. As he called Garcia and waited for her to pick up, he glanced into the hospital room through the window on the door. There were too many variables. Basil still refused to tell them anything about the man who kidnapped them and wouldn't give a reason why, either.
"Hey, Garcia, we have a problem. Look at the list of missing children again. Is there a boy named Skylar there? He might be one of the younger ones," Hotch supplied.
"Skylar, Skylar, Skylar…um, nope, sorry, no one reported him missing. Are you sure that's his name? I'll check the rest of the state, but I might end up getting too many results. Can you narrow it down?"
"According to Basil, that's the name he gave. He told us that the boy looks young and has black hair and blue eyes. That's about all," Hotch said. "Thanks, Garcia; can you call the others and confirm that Harper Adair and Clarisse Leon are definite victims? Oh, check that pool of names. It's kind of broad, but is there a boy named Jack? He has reddish-brown hair."
"Jack, oh yes, there is a Jack! Jack Sadler, one of the eleven year olds, and I'll send you his information right now," Garcia said excitedly. "He doesn't seem to have been home schooled, though."
"That's alright. Thanks Garcia," Hotch hung up the phone as he stepped into the room.
"Are you sure you can't remember anything else about the man who kidnapped you?" Prentiss asked the boy gently. He shook his head, drew his hands into his lap, and mouthed a few words. His mother leaned forward to have a good look at his face and tapped him lightly on the cheek. He seemed to withdraw even more at her prompting. "Don't worry; he can't hurt you if you're here. You won't get in trouble."
"That's not it," his mother explained. "He said he's tired and can't tell you anything else. He would like to help, but it was dark most of the time and he couldn't see the man clearly."
Prentiss was about to open her mouth when Hotch shook his head and thanked the mother and son for their cooperation. As they were leaving, Prentiss shot him a worried, skeptical glance.
"They might be lying. We don't know for sure that she's translating correctly and there's no time to call in a specialist in sign language. She is his mother, after all. Maybe she's trying to protect him and maybe he's too afraid to say anything else about the unsub."
"We'll have to trust them. There's no time. The others should be done with the profile, but we need to find those kids first. From what Basil told us, the first site is probably an abandoned farm. Call Garcia and the others as we're driving." Hotch and Prentiss walked swiftly through the hospital, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, shuffling along until they were in the car. "Tell them that we're looking for someone with a white utility van."
"Right, so what happened when you were out of the room?" Prentiss asked as they were driving off.
"I called Garcia, but she says that there's no one named Skylar on the missing children's list. Jack's full name is Jack Sadler, an eleven year old. He wasn't home schooled and was abducted sometime at night from the local mall. She's trying to find out now if Skylar is from a different state or if he was using an alias."
As Prentiss made her calls, Hotch focused on the road. His mind, however, was preoccupied by the strange words Skylar had supposedly uttered. Even more important was the pressing question of whether or not they would save these kids on time. He supposed it was a good thing that Basil had a better recollection of Clarisse Leon's dump site, seeing as she was the first victim.
What a strange case.
- So, an update. The story is progressing and we now have a bit more on each of our victims.