Brian placed the little boy down on one of the bunks on their bus and then pulled a blanket over him. He still trembled so Brian placed his own coat over the shivering form. The boy kept a firm hold onto one of Brian’s hands. He didn’t seem to want to let go of him.
“How far is it to the next town, Henry?” he asked the driver.
“About two, three hours,” Henry replied. “You sure we don’t need an ambulance?”
“It’ll be quicker for us to take him rather than hang around for an ambulance at this time of the night,” Kevin said. “What’s a kid his age doing out by himself anyway? It’s not like he could’ve wondered from the town or anything.”
“Like I said, campers,” Howie said.
“But parents would have to be crazy to let a little kid like this wonder around on his own at night. We could have killed him.”
Brian glared at Kevin to be quiet. He didn’t want the kid to be even more upset. He squeezed his hand reassuringly. “I’m Brian,” he said, gently. “What’s you name?”
The little boy stared at him with pale blue eyes for a moment. “Sammy,” he finally said.
“Where are your parents?” He wished he had never asked it. As soon as the words were out of his mouth, tears began to fall from Sammy’s eyes. He reached his arms out towards Brian who gently put his arms around the distraught child and hugged him close whilst exchanging a nervous glance with the others.
AJ reached out and tried to pat Sammy on the arm but he cringed away and buried his face in Brian’s jersey.
“What happened to him?” Nick whispered, clearly distressed to see such a young boy so upset.
“Maybe he’s just lost,” Howie replied.
Brian shook his head ending all speculation. He didn’t want Sammy to hear them and the others understood. They could talk about this later. Carefully, he began to tuck Sammy back into the bunk underneath the blankets and his own coat. Sammy was only small and probably no more than five years old. He looked so innocent with the blond hair and blue eyes.
“Brian, I think you should stay with him,” Kevin whispered. “He seems to trust you.” Brian nodded. He had no intention of moving from Sammy’s side anyway. He could feel the tiny hand clutching his own and the fear and the pain in Sammy’s eyes made Brian want to cry for him.
“Did you bang your head outside?”
Sammy shook his head.
“Good, you should try and get some sleep then. We’re a couple of hours from the next town. We’ll take you to the hospital there to get you checked out, okay?”
Sammy nodded again and closed his blue eyes for a second.
“B – Bri – Brian?” he stammered.
“Yeah, that’s me.”
“I – I’m scared.”
“Don’t be. We’ll take good care of you until we get you some help.”
“Not of y – you.”
Sammy seemed to be struggling for words. He did not seem to want to say anything but at the same time wanted to.
“P – people were chasing us?”
“I don’t know.”
“Listen. Don’t talk now. Just sleep. No one’s going to hurt you here.”
Sammy closed his eyes again and pulled his teddy, a dark brown dog, closer to him.
“Don’t leave me,” he whispered.
“I’m not going to.”
So why had his mother?
Sammy’s mother Chloe was still driving along the road. Since leaving Sammy she had begun to drive at a much more dangerous speed, but the white van kept up with her easily. She’d had a head start but it hadn’t done her much good, what with her car’s tiny engine it hadn’t been long before the van had caught her up.
At least they wouldn’t get Sammy. It had hurt her more than she’d expected to leave him. She had never wanted children and had never known how to look after Sammy, but she had tried. He deserved better than here and she knew it. He wasn’t a bad kid at all. He never did anything wrong but she had always found herself shouting at him for something, even if it hadn’t been his fault. Thinking of his innocent little face bought the prickling sensation of tears to her eyes. She was more attached to him than she liked to admit. She hoped that someone had found him and that he was safe now. She hoped he would have the love he deserved, something she had never given to him.
She risked a glance in the mirror and felt her blood run cold as she realised how close the van was now. She couldn’t outrun them for much longer. They’d stop her and then… she dreaded to think what he would do when he realised that Sammy wasn’t with her.
The gunshot made her jump in fright and she found the car skidding out of her control. She screamed as the vehicle swung straight into a tree. Moaning, she lifted her head. The world about her swayed and she could feel trickles of blood sliding down her face.
The bastard. He’d shot one of her wheels. She couldn’t even try to outrun him now.
She tried to unfasten her seatbelt but it was stuck and she was trapped. She doubted if she could have run far anyway, she felt so sick and sleepy. The car door to her left was wrenched open and someone grabbed her by the shoulders. She stared into the cruel face of a well built man whose face was covered in dark stubble.
“Where is he?” he demanded in a gruff voice.
Chloe was going to tell him where to go but she could only cough and moan. Everything around her was beginning to go black. Her mind wondered to Sammy. She wondered if he would ever understand…
“Where is he! Tell me now!”
But she couldn’t say anything. The last thoughts she had before dying was a prayer for her son’s safety.