Chapter 3:


Galaktika Gamble: Stolen Light

A knock echoed from the door. My mother let go of her tight grip around us, ready to answer it. My father got to the door first though. After discussing the situation briefly with the officers at the door, one of them walked over to Neil and kneeled in front of him to get down to his eye level.

Officer Langston: Are you okay?

Neil sat quietly. Though he wasn't crying as hard, it was obvious he wasn't okay. He stared at his hands, not giving a reply.

Langston: Can you tell me what happened? What did you see?

Neil's eyes became wide as he started to cry harder again. He hid his face in his hands as he started screaming. Langston stood up as an older officer walked over to him. They discussed something quietly that I wasn't able to hear. After a few moments, he talked with my mom again.

Langston: We already have some officers at the address you've given us. Even though the boy doesn't appear to be injured, I believe we should take him to the hospital to double-check.

Jessica: I understand. Would it be alright if I follow you there?

Langston: Of course, that would be preferred actually. He needs someone to be here for him.

Jessica: Thank you.

My mother sniffled and wiped away a few tears while grabbing her car keys. She turned to me and spoke with a shaky voice. She tried so hard to sound enthusiastic to keep me from worrying, but it was pretty obvious her world was falling apart internally.

Jessica: We'll be back soon, okay? I know it's been a rough night, but do you think you can stay here with daddy and wait here for me? If you want you can stay up and watch tv or play games, okay? Maybe you could even eat some late-night snacks?

Ivan: Okay..

I looked at my father. Though I've always had a hard time telling what he's thinking, at that moment I felt a strong sense of security from him. He lightly nodded at me and gave my mother a hug.

Mikhail: I'll keep an eye on him. Do what you need to do and call me when everything is figured out.

Jessica: Thank you.

My mom placed a small kiss on my dad's cheek as the officer tried to get Neil's attention again. Though Neil didn't reply to the officer vocally, he held onto the officer’s hand when he reached out to him.

Langston: We're going to see what we can do to help you out, alright? We'll make sure everything is alright. You can trust me, I promise.

The officer carefully led Neil to the front door, making sure to walk at whatever pace Neil was willing to walk. Once they reached the door, Neil fell to his knees and started crying some more.

Langston: Would you like me to carry you?

Though Neil didn't reply, the officer gently picked him up and carried him out to the car. Neil didn't seem to complain about being carried like he usually would have. All he did was cry.

Ivan: Mom, is Neil going to be okay?

My mom turned to look at me from the door. She looked a bit sad, but tried her best to smile.

Jessica: He may not be okay right now..but I'm sure we can all get through this together. We need to be here for him and for each other, okay?

Ivan: Okay..

I stared at my mother as she walked to her car. Just as she unlocked the door on the driver's side, my father shut the front door. I stood there quietly for a moment, thinking about everything that had happened that evening.

Mikhail: Ivan.

Ivan: Yes, dad?

My father handed me a controller to the game console we had at the time. He popped in a racing game and sat on the couch.

Mikhail: Come sit next to me, we can play some games.

A moment like this was very rare. My father wasn't the type to play games with me. In fact, he wasn't the type to do much with me at all. He usually preferred to watch tv once he got home from work. It meant a lot that he was willing to play a game with me, but I couldn't play it. I knew he was trying to distract me from the pain I was experiencing, but it didn't help. I sat next to him, wondering what he was thinking.

Ivan: Dad?

Mikhail: Yes?

Ivan: What happens when a person dies? Where do they go? Do they go to heaven?

Mikhail: Some people believe that their soul goes to heaven. Others believe they are born again into a new life through reincarnation. There’s many other beliefs as well, but no one can be certain with what happens to a soul or if a soul exists since all we see is the physical body.

Ivan: So it's a mystery..?

Mikhail: Yeah.

I looked at the game controller in my hand as I thought about it.

Ivan: Can I believe that she never died?

Mikhail: That's denial. Denial is a normal part of grieving, so I understand. It will sink in eventually though..and when it does, I want you to know that you can talk to your mother and I. Your mother is better at comforting than I am, but I'll still try my best.

Ivan: Okay..

Mikhail: Would you like to play a game now?

Ivan: I want to go to stomach hurts and I have school tomorrow.

Mikhail: You won't be going to school tomorrow. You probably won't be going for a little while until things calm down.

Ivan: Oh..well, I think I still want to go to bed.

Mikhail: Alright. Let me know if you need anything.

I placed the game controller on the couch and went to my room. Sitting on my bed, I saw Sally's stuffed rabbit waiting for me where I had left it. I crawled into bed and hid under the blanket, hugging the rabbit as close to me as possible. I started to cry, thinking both about everything good and bad that had happened that day. One moment my crush was giving me a kiss on the cheek, and the next moment her brother tells me she's dead. It was a lot of emotions to handle at once, especially for the age I was at that time. I cried myself to sleep that night, telling myself that none of it was real and that I would wake up from the horrible dream. The horrible dream never ended though. It got worse...and still continues to do so.

Just the way my father told me it would be, we didn't return to school right away. After the news went out about Sally's death and Kyna's disappearance, the school called my mother and offered to let us take our end of the year exams early after their usual class hours so we would have time to grieve without stressing about returning to class. Knowing how children around the age of 8 can be, it was probably the best for us. Children can be full of questions and I know I wouldn't have been able to handle my classmates asking me anything that soon after her death. Without having to return to school right away, it would give us time to make ourselves mentally prepared. Unlike all the other kids enjoying their summer break though, we were still stuck in our constant loop of pain and hope, wondering if anything would ever get better. Officer Langston would visit every so often to talk to Neil, but it usually turned out the same way. It was like this for months, all the way to the last week of our summer break.

Neil: Go away.

Langston: I know this isn't easy on you..but I promise you can trust me. Would you feel more comfortable if Ivan stayed here with you?

Neil: I don't know..maybe.

Langston: Ivan, would you be willing to stay in here with us?

Ivan: I can do that.

Langston: Thank you. Neil, if you can remember, please tell me what happened that night. Any information you share with us can be helpful.

Neil: I told you, I don't know. I can't remember.

Langston: Do you remember running to this house afterward? Do you remember Ivan answering the door?

Neil: Yeah..Kinda.

Langston: Let's try to work back from there....You told them that you saw Sally dead, yes?

Neil nodded his head, but refused to answer vocally. Langston looked at me.

Langston: Do you remember what time it was when Neil showed up?

Ivan: I don't know...It was after we ate dinner. He seemed afraid, like he was being chased.

Langston: Chased? Neil, was the killer chasing you?

Neil sat quietly, staring at his hands. He did everything he could to avoid eye contact with the officer.

Langston: If you can remember it..Do you think you can tell us what they looked like?

Neil: All I remember is the color red.

Langston: Red..alright. That helps a lot, see? We already have a clue!

Langston smiled at Neil, trying to encourage him to talk more. Neil didn't seem as enthusiastic though.

Langston: By chance...Can you remember if their appearance looked abnormal?

Neil: Abnormal..?

Langston: Yes. Did they look..strange compared to most people? Any specific things that stood out about them?

Neil: I don't know..I can't remember...

Langston: Hmmm...alright.

The officer started writing in a small notebook. Without looking up from his notes, he asked me if he could talk to my mom.

Ivan: I don't think she will mind..

I stood up from my seat and walked to my mom's room. I shook her shoulder gently to wake her up from her nap.

Ivan: Hey mom, Officer Langston is here and he wanted to talk to you.

Jessica: Alright, I'll be there in a minute.

I returned to find Neil staring at the officer from across the living room in silence. Something about it made me really uncomfortable, but I let the officer know my mother's reply. Within a few moments, she walked into the living room and they asked us to play in my room, which I had been sharing with Neil since the day his family fell apart. I tried to get Neil interested in playing with me, but instead, he seemed more interested in taking a nap. I sat on my bed quietly, looking at the bow on Sally's rabbit. The edges were a bit frayed, but other than that I could tell she took good care of it when it was in her care. Suddenly I heard my mom's voice raise. Though it was hard to hear everything through the wall, I was able to piece together most of it.

Jessica: What do you mean the DNA didn't match anyone?! That murderer could be out there and you're just going to drop it because you can't find a match?

Langston: I did my best to make sure that this case would be top priority so we could get forensic results in faster since Kyna could still be alive out there and in danger. A case like this could normally take up to a year to get results back due to all the other cases ahead of it, but I was able to get them to send in results in less than 4 months. Please try to keep that in mind and be a little grateful for it. Even though it was made top priority they couldn't find a match for the evidence that was left behind, so please understand that this is frustrating for us too. The same thing happened here years ago in 1994 with another case, so they are already feeling a bit hopeless with it since that other case has been cold for almost a decade. I never said we would drop it, but I wanted to tell you to mentally prepare yourself because this case could end up cold as well if we can't find any new evidence to work with. That's why I came here, I was looking for a better chance at solving this...hoping that Neil can tell me what happened. Unlike the other case that had no witnesses, Neil witnessed what happened and that could change everything if he could tell me what he saw. I can't get Neil to tell me much though.

Jessica: He's just a child and he's been traumatized, it could take him years to fully open up about everything he saw. Please be patient with him..I know that's a long time but if you give up on this, how can we ever catch him? And what about Kyna? She's still missing. If we give up looking, how will we find her?

Langston: Did you know Neil's father?

Jessica: ..What?

Langston: His father. Did you know him?

Jessica: No.....I didn't. Kyna didn't talk to me about him. Why? What does that have to do with this?

The room became silent. After a few moments, my mom started to speak quietly again, her voice shaky. It sounded like she asked him why again, but I'm not sure. I wanted to go out there to hear more of what was being said, but I knew I would get in trouble if I did. Not being able to hear their conversation anymore, the silence felt unbearable to me. I wanted to know everything I could. I decided to sneak out of my room. Twisting the doorknob carefully, I tried my best to make sure the door didn't make a sound as I quietly made my way into the hallway. I tiptoed a few steps outside my bedroom door.

Langston: It's important because we believe Neil's father could have a connection to the cold case I just mentio-

Jessica: I'm sorry, I'll have to stop you for a moment. Ivan!

My heart started beating fast as I walked into the living room hesitantly.

Ivan: Yes mom?

Jessica: I told you to go to your room, what are you doing in the hallway?

Ivan: Uh..well...

Jessica: Please listen to me, okay? Don't try to sneak around, I know when you're there.

Ivan: Alright..I'm sorry.

Again, the house fell silent as I walked to my room. Even though I went to my room, I tried to keep the door cracked, hoping that maybe I could still hear. I wanted to understand what was happening. Not knowing made me anxious. All I could think was "What if the killer targets me next?", "Why did they kill Sally?", and "What if they go after Neil?" I wanted to know if they would catch him.

Jessica: I know your door is cracked. Close the door.

I sighed as I did what was told. Neil rolled over in his makeshift bed and looked at me. It surprised me that he was still awake. I thought he had fallen asleep.

Neil: Whoever killed Sally is still out there. I feel useless. I can't remember what they looked like.

Ivan: Is there anything you can remember?

Neil: Yes...but it's not what they want me to remember.

Ivan: What do you remember? You can tell me if you want.

Neil: I remember hearing her scream...her eyes filled with fear and pain. I remember seeing a lot of blood. Her arm wasn't was on the floor next to the window.

I started to cry as I pictured what he saw in my mind. Even though it made me sick to my stomach to think about her the way he was describing, I'm sure for him it was a lot more gruesome seeing it with his own eyes. He started to cry with me as he continued.

Neil: Her tummy looked like it had been cut open. I could see guts...and bones..blood everywhere..

He cried harder as he opened up to me some more.

Neil: Her eyes locked with mine as she died and all I could do was run. She looked so afraid. If I had stayed maybe I could remember better..

Ivan: I think it was good that you ran away. He could've killed you too.

Neil: Then he should've killed me too! We should've died together..

Ivan: Don't think like that..we wouldn't want you to die too.

Neil: Why is it what everyone else wants? Everyone wants me to tell them who killed her. Everyone wants me to tell them where my mom could be. Everyone wants me to say and do everything they request. What about me? I want my family back! Does that matter? I WANT MY FAMILY BACK! This isn't my home and you aren't my family! I want my family back..and if I can't have it back, I want to join them wherever they are..even if it means I have to die..

Ivan: I'm sorry..I didn't mean to make you mad. I just...I'd really miss you too if you were gone.

The bedroom door swung open. My mom was standing there, her face washed over with concern. She walked over to Neil and sat in front of him, brushing his hair away from his face with her fingers.

Jessica: Neil..I promise we will find your mother. Wherever she's not the same place as Sally. I know she is alive and you will see her again. Please trust me.

Neil: How would you know? That killer probably killed her first and hid the body before we got home..

Jessica: Listen, it's not easy to explain..but I just know these things, okay? I can feel it, your mother is out there somewhere and she is alive. You have to believe in that. Don't give up on it, okay? If you decided you wanted to die, it would break your mother's heart. It would break all of our hearts, but I know for certain she would be devastated to return to both of her children dead.

I'm not sure how my mother seemed so confident in these things. Looking back on it, I've often wondered if she were psychic to some degree. Whatever the case, it seemed to calm Neil down for a little bit in that moment. He didn't reply, but he continued to cry with his head in her shoulder. She hugged him tight and continued to run her fingers through his hair, whispering reminders to him over and over that his mother was alive and out there somewhere. After he had calmed down his crying, my mom spoke up quietly.

Jessica: The officer went home before I came in here...If you boys want to come back out to the living room we can have a movie night. Lots of popcorn, soda, and snuggles. Sound good?

Neil nodded into her shoulder. She looked at me, waiting for my response. I nodded as well. Grabbing our hands, my mom led us to the living room and put some popcorn in the microwave. While she was getting the snacks ready, Neil and I chose a funny cartoon movie and waited for her. Though that summer had been tough, that night I felt like I was able to smile and laugh again, even if it was for a short while. I noticed halfway through the movie that Neil had fallen asleep. It seemed like a nice way to fall asleep, next to my mom while my thoughts were distracted by the silly characters on the screen. I rested my head against my mom's arm and closed my eyes. For the first time since Sally's death, both Neil and I seemed to get a good amount of uninterrupted sleep. I knew we would need as much of it as we could get, since we would be returning to school the following week.

Leanne Ormus