The victim was a young girl. Maybe she was nine years old; I forget. Another girl, older, lured had her into a park with the promise that she'd do her fingernails up with nail polish if she went. Once they were in the park, the older girl texted a bunch of boys, who jumped over walls and fences and proceeded to rape the girl.
Whenever I read articles like this, I imagine myself as the victim's father. I get so mad. I'm not prone to violence but I swear, if someone did something like to one of my children, I'd buy a gun or knife and hunt down the perpetrators while they awaited trial. Or I'd hunt down their parents and siblings, taking a whole family hostage while I hacked away their body parts.
Really—that is what makes me so fearful, realizing how uncontrollably angry I’d be in such a situation. Violence begets violence. I’m no fan of vigilante justice, mind you, and I’d certainly not condone anything that I might do in such a situation, but it takes a village to raise a child and I’m mostly thankful for the mercy that village has so far provided.
After lunch, I went back into my office. An email had arrived. The subject matter of that email was blank, and the sender’s address was a series of digits I didn't recognize. The email came with an attachment. For all intents & purposes, I thought it was spam or malware that would screw up my hard drive something bad.
Normally, I’d delete something like that email, but this time I was curious.
I clicked it open. The email exploded into a .jpeg of two of my children, Stephen and Ellie, sitting on the steps of what looked to be an older apartment building that I didn't recognize.
My thoughts leapt in terrifying directions. I imagined that the person who snapped the picture was sending it to me, alerting me that they had my children. I thought my worst fears were coming into life. The senders were probably at that very moment performing heinous acts on Stephen and Ellie.
I looked at the sender’s email address again, trying to figure out who would do such a vile thing.
Then I noticed that the address looked suspiciously like a phone number. Sometimes I’m not as wise as I hope myself to be. I started to call that number. It was my wife’s cell phone. She had snapped the picture over the weekend and was sending it to me in hopes that it might brighten my day.
Errata: The Collagist just published my review of Weston Cutter's debut story collection, YOU'D BE A STRANGER, TOO. Again, I owe Gabriel Blackwell (The Collagist's book review editor) major gratitude for his editorial guidance, but also please check out Cutter's book. It's a great collection marking the debut of a great talent.