Detective Roslin motioned for the cameras to shut off. They had already broadcasted too much to the world. He grabbed the arm of the cop nearest him and walked briskly towards the pond. If his information was correct, they should find a body there.
Chief Rambler took his taser out of his pants pocket, hiding it behind his back while shining a flashlight into the murky water. "No one," he concluded, standing upright again. "She's not here. Are you sure anyone didn't already take the body?"
"I'm sure, MacMillan would have contacted us," Roslin replied.
"All right then," Rambler said. "Let's do a complete search of the grounds. Remember—we're trying to catch a dangerous and possibly armed murderer on the loose."
Esther smiled, looking at Max as they walked along together. Max was shuffling slowly, but Esther couldn't care less. She had a daughter now.
"Don't worry about your Mommy and Daddy," she said, laying a comforting hand on Max's shoulder. "They're in hell now. They're gone. It's you and me, Max. Call me mommy."
Max shook her head.
"Look. We can be happy together! You'll be my daughter! I'll buy you everything your mommy bought you. We'll visit Jessica's grave every single day." Esther's eyes glinted. Max swallowed a lump in her throat and bit her tongue. Esther was lying. Esther hated Jessica, and they hadn't even met. Jessica was the reason Esther was here, though. It was all so confusing.
Esther grabbed Max's hand and shoved her into a dripping alley as a police car came keening by. She had just enough time to hear what the radio sputtered out before it drove away. "Yeah, we're looking for Esther Coleman, or Leena Klammer. She killed her adoptive parents and kidnapped her adoptive sister, Max."
Esther gasped, but quickly recovered. She and Max wouldn't be safe in the open. Their pictures would be on the news, online, on billboards. Max, however, stared determinedly at the empty diner across the street, willing someone to walk out and see her kidnapper standing in the alley.
Esther's mind whirled as she thought about what to do. "Come on, Maxie," she said sweetly, taking Max's hand. "Let's go." Max wistfully turned away from the diner. If she didn't obey Esther, she wouldn't live to see another day.
Esther led Max down the alley until they reached a dark window. "Wait here and don't make a sound," she instructed. Max couldn't help but squeal as Esther pulled a long blade out of the inside of her coat. Esther stood up on her tiptoes so that she could see through the glass, and punched it clean through with her bare fist. Max crouched down on the ground and covered her ears. Even so, she could still vividly imagine the gruesome events taking place inside as Esther, the pint-sized murderer, claimed another life.
Detective Roslin wiped his hand across his face, fatigue sweeping through him. He'd gotten seventeen calls that morning, the morning after Esther (a.k.a. Leena) had disappeared with her little sister in tow. Those seventeen people had all been sure they had seen Esther, whether it was in the bathroom at the local grocery store or in the window of an SUV stopped at a crosswalk. Heck, Mrs. Lacoyte, the woman who owned the diner across from those ratty apartment buildings, had even claimed that she'd seen the girl! Roslin shook his head. Maybe he was getting too old for this.
Just at that moment, Chief Rambler entered the police office clutching papers. "We have some information from the insane asylum Leena Klammer escaped from. The one in Estonia," he said, handing the papers to Roslin.
"Oh, Saarne," Roslin said. "It's about time." He flicked through the papers, glancing at them. "But will this help us find her?"
"Max, wake up," Esther said, shaking Max roughly. "I said, wake up!" Max opened her eyes and screamed.
"Quiet!" Esther whispered harshly. They were in some woman's apartment. The woman was gone now, Esther had made sure of that, and it was as good a place as any to stay until they got out of town.
Max scuttled backwards on her hands until she was hidden from Esther's view. Esther rose to her feet and looked around the apartment. A few pictures, some furniture, a…cat.
"Damn," Esther whispered, springing up. The animal was cowered in the corner. She couldn't believe it hadn't made any noise throughout the night.
Max had seen the cat at the same time as Esther had. Forgetting everything, she ran towards it, arms outstretched. The cat streaked under the sofa. Esther grabbed her long knife from inside her coat and laid it on the table. It was still plastered with the woman's dried blood.
Max squeezed under the couch and pulled the animal out from under it. As soon as she started petting it, it went limp in her arms. Esther snarled in disgust and held up her knife, but Max shook her head and snatched the cat away. Esther went to stab it again, but Max started whimpering. Esther groaned. Max crying would increase their chances of being found. There was only one thing to do. Keep the cat. Keep Max happy, or as happy as she could be in these circumstances. Esther dropped the knife to the floor and walked away. The animal was so traumatized, it wouldn't live much longer anyway.
The rest of the day, Esther made sure no one tried to enter the apartment. Max, however, did the opposite. She threw long (and hopefully loud) tantrums, hid under the couch for hours at a time, clutching her cat, and refused to eat anything Esther found in the woman's refrigerator.
Esther wanted to scream at Max, to shake her and shake her and shake her, but she would never do that to her daughter. She wouldn't be a horrible mother like Kate. Kate had deserved to die.
When it was dark, Max curled up underneath the sofa, stroking her cat. Esther was standing motionless at the window. It didn't even look like she was breathing. Max was afraid to fall asleep, but she was so tired. A minute wouldn't hurt…
Max's eyes snapped open. She couldn't see, what with the apartment being so dark, but she could make her way out from under the couch just fine. She didn't know where Esther was—surely her kidnapper wouldn't fall asleep when her picture was all over town. But Esther didn't seem to be anywhere. Max scuttled along the floor, straight for the refrigerator. She was so hungry now.
But before Max could move any more, she stumbled over something. Esther's knife. Max gasped, but quickly shut her mouth. There were so many things she could do right now—find Esther and kill her, wherever she was, or break down the door with her newfound weapon. Her best bet would probably be to wait until morning to make her move—she couldn't risk hurting her new cat, which she'd decided to name Snowy.
Max slipped the blade underneath the sofa. It was ultimately the best hiding place for it, because Esther couldn't fit. Max smiled to herself and leapt back to the refrigerator. Did she mention she was starving?
Chief Rambler spoke into his walkie-talkie. "No sign of her." Pause. "Yes, we did." Pause. "All right, the last place on our list is Mrs. Lacoyte's diner." Pause. "Roslin's with me. We're on our way."
In the morning, Esther glanced at Max to make sure the girl was still asleep. Thankfully, she was. Esther closed the curtains, kept the lights off, and locked every door and window in the apartment. Still, if the police came looking for them, it wouldn't be enough. They would have to leave town tomorrow at the latest.
Esther looked for her knife where she had dropped it the day before. She longed to hold it, to feel the power it gave her. With her special blade, she could do anything.
It wasn't there.
Esther, starting to panic, looked on the floor, the counters, in between the sofa cushions. Nothing. How could it have disappeared? Who could have taken it? The only other person in the apartment with her was…Max.
Esther dropped to her knees and peeked under the sofa where Max was sleeping. Her weapon was in the little girl's arms. She pried the knife out and slid it quickly into her jacket. Max was born to make trouble.
At that second, a pounding noise sounded from not that far away. In fact, it was getting closer…"Max, up!" Esther shook the little girl awake. "We need to go. Quickly!"
Max, disoriented, opened her eyes sleepily and allowed Esther to lead her to the window. There was still the hole from where Esther had punched it and where they had climbed through. The pounding was getting louder now, and Esther could even hear some voices. She quickly broke the rest of the glass pane with her knife (Max gasped—how had she let her kidnapper ruin her opportunity to escape?) and shoved the little girl through. Esther climbed out after and pulled the curtains shut just as someone pounded on their door.
"Open up!" Detective Roslin called, knocking roughly on the door of apartment 19H. No one answered. The other residents on floor H had noticed that the woman who lived there, Mrs. Chamberlain, had been awfully quiet the past few days. Then again, she wasn't normally a chatterbox. "This is the police. Open up!"
Chief Rambler unsheathed his taser and was prepared to break down the door when the detective stopped him. "Can you hear that?" he asked. He was referring to Max's crying. She had gotten pieces of glass embedded in her palms when Esther had pushed her out the window. "It sounds like a kid. And it's coming from the east side."
Rambler and Roslin looked at each other, and dashed for their police cruisers parked on the side of the street. The crying was getting fainter now, so they would have to hurry.
Esther dragged Max along swiftly. She gave no thought to the fact that the girl was sobbing loudly. They needed to get out of there, just sooner than she had planned.
Esther cursed as she heard the keening of a police siren getting closer. Thankfully, there were plenty of places to hide around here. She stuffed Max into the shadows of a doorway as the car went by—then kept heading in the opposite direction.
Max was fully awake now, and all she could think about was Snowy. She didn't even care that she had let Esther get the knife. Snowy was gone. Snowy hadn't come with them. Suddenly, Max couldn't take it anymore. She screamed.
And screamed and screamed and screamed. Esther screamed, too. "Max, be quiet! Do you want anyone to hear us?" Esther noticed someone looking in their direction—someone that she recognized. It was the old woman who ran the diner across from the apartments! They had run right past her restaurant. And it was too late to try to hide now. The woman had dialed 9-1-1, and the cop car was coming back down the street.
When Detective Roslin and Chief Rambler had gotten a call from the diner about a sighting of the murderer and the missing girl, they had immediately turned the vehicle around. This case was getting solved today, no buts about it.
The car pulled up in front of two girls. The younger one looked confused, and the older one looked enraged. Detective Roslin stepped out of the cruiser, Rambler at his heels, to talk to Mrs. Lacoyte for a second. They had to clear a few things up before Esther was taken to prison and Max to the orphanage. Besides, there was nothing the girls could do now. It was over.
"Thank you, Patricia," Chief Rambler told the old woman. "We appreciate that you called in right away." He turned around to snap handcuffs on Esther, but there was only one problem.
Esther was gone.