“I loved my kids,” he avowed. “I swear I did. I would do anything for them.”
“But?” I prompted.
He hung his head. “But being a single parent is hard. Even with child support, the bills barely get paid. I’m running around all the time trying to keep up with two growing boys. I was exhausted.”
My back tensed. “So, what, you lost your mind? Lost control? Did you hurt them?”
“Woah, no. I would never do anything to them, even at the worst of times. All I did was vent a little. But I guess I vented to the wrong people.”
“Who did you talk to?” Alicia asked.
“I don’t know,” he confessed. “I found some forum online for frustrated parents. Just a solidarity kind of thing, and it was so nice to go back and forth with people that understood. I used to rant for pages and pages on there. Everyone was so supportive. I got addicted to it.”
“How much information about yourself did you put out?” I cut in. “Did you give names, an address, any ways of tracking you down?”
“I put Curtis and Owen’s names, but mine never came up. And they knew I lived in Baltimore, but nothing any more specific than that.”
“So what did you put on there that made you feel like this was your fault?” Alicia posed.
He swallowed and took a breath. “Just a joke. It was meant to be a joke. Curtis and Owen had been driving me especially crazy that day and I wrote a post saying, ‘Curtis and Owen for sale, ages 8 and 4, $100,000 each, must pick up, no delivery.’”
“You offered to sell your children?” I seethed.
“It wasn’t real,” he snapped. “Parents on there joke like that all the time. Most of the comments understood that it was all in fun.”
“Most of the comments?” Alicia pried.
He shook his head. “I should say all the comments. I didn’t even know anything was wrong until the boys went missing the next day.”
“Then what makes you think this joke of yours is connected at all? Could be a coincidence,” I pointed out.
He buried his face in his hands, wiping away fresh tears. “Because after the investigation started to sizzle out, and cops weren’t coming around much anymore, a bag got left on my doorstep. $200,000 in cash.”
“$100,000 for each,” Alicia mumbled solemnly.
“Where’s the cash?” I barked.
“Spent,” he admitted. “Covered my rent, especially since I was out of work so long while I was coping with all this.”
“None of this is in the original report. Why didn’t you tell us?”
“Why didn’t I tell a bunch of cops that I accidentally sold my kids? What the hell was I supposed to say?” he cried.
“At the time it really was an accident and we probably could have fixed it but now you’ve hidden it for two years and actually used the dirty money, so yeah, I would be ashamed if I were you, too.”
“And since that’s the case, why are you telling us now?” Alicia asked. “You’ve kept this secret for two years but then spill to us the second we walk in here. What’s changed?”
He shrugged. “Risa’s gone now too. And Cathy has been pressing me to confess for awhile.”
His girlfriend joined the conversation. “It’s been eating him alive.”
“It probably should have been,” I grouched. “We’re going to need to see this website and all the posts leading up to this.”
“I deleted everything,” Sawyer muttered. “After all this happened, I was trying to wipe the slate clean. I deleted every post I ever made, then got rid of my account altogether. There’s nothing left.”
“Then what about other users that you can remember.” I plucked a notepad and pen from my pocket and threw it down in front of him. “I need a list of any accounts you can remember that seemed to be engaged with your posts. Anyone that consistently liked and commented. Jot down the website too. Even if your posts are gone, I wanna see what sort of things are getting talked about on there.”
He started writing, having to constantly dab at his eyes to keep his vision clear. “I’ve already scoured the web. I couldn’t find anything to help.”
“That’s why we’re the professionals. We might see something you didn’t.”
“You realize,” Alicia chimed in, “even if something pans out and we find Curtis and Owen, there’s a good chance you won’t be getting custody of them. Not only that, but you’ll be arrested after what you’ve told us.”
“I don’t care,” he said. “I said I would do anything for them. If it gets them back, then I don’t care what happens to me.”
He finished writing and I snatched the notepad back, my anger flaring. “If that were true, you would have told us all this a long time ago. All this time that you’ve been keeping all this from us, Curtis and Owen have been out there, probably alive since someone was willing to pay so much for them. You let your sons stay gone because you were too scared to admit what you’d done. So you won’t be getting any sympathy from us. Go back in your bedroom and have fun while we work on saving the boys that you swore to protect.”
Alicia grabbed my arm as I stalked toward the front door. “Shouldn’t we go ahead and arrest him? If we leave and try to come back later, he might make a run for it.”
“My priority is finding Curtis and Owen.” I waved the notebook at her. “If he wants to make a run for it, let him. We don’t have time to mess with him right now.”
She crossed her arms. “You know it’s our duty to bring this guy in.”
“Then you can stay and deal with it. I’m gonna go after what matters.”
I stormed outside and Alicia didn’t follow. Her radio crackled behind me as she called it in. Once it occurred to me that she drove, I trudged down the street with my nose in my phone, scrolling through the outrageous contents of mychildistoomuch.com. No doubt parenthood is challenging, but some of these morons should never have procreated. Though disgraceful, nothing popped out at me as a lead. I tucked my phone away with a growl and doubled my pace.
To be continued in Bridges 4...
© 2020 by Kelsey Garber