By the time they arrive, there’s already a swarm of police cars surrounding a decrepit-looking building. James looks around from inside Officer Black’s car. They’re in an old factory lot, long since forgotten. There’s rusted out components of old machinery everywhere. James presses up against the window, straining to see. He spots Detective Oliver and Detective Roberts and unbuckles his seatbelt.
“Hey,” Officer Black starts, but James is already out of the car. He runs over to where the detectives are huddled together with a group of police officers, going over the plan.
“Hey!” Detective Oliver says when she sees him. “You can’t be here!” She turns to Officer Black, who has caught up. “He can’t be here!”
“Come on,” Officer Black says, taking James by the arm.
“Get your hands off him,” Michael says, jogging over to them. He insisted on coming, too. He wasn’t about to let James face whatever was coming alone.
Officer Black backs off. “He needs to stay in the car,” he says defensively. Michael steps between the two of them.
“You won’t touch him,” Michael says. It’s not a request.
Detective Roberts looked annoyed. He turns to Detective Oliver. “Why did you agree to this??” he demands. “You’re breaking protocol! You could be desked for this!”
Detective Oliver ignores him. “Mr Axton,” she says gently. “James. I know you’re scared. I know you want to help. I do. But we can’t go in there if you’re here. It’s not safe for you and it’s not safe for Alexander. Seeing you may cause whoever is in there to act rashly. It’s too risky. I agreed for you to be here against my better judgement under the proviso that you stayed in the car. If you can’t do that, I’ll have to ask Officer Black to take you home. Now I don’t want to do that. I don’t. But I will. Do you understand me?”
James meets her eyes. His body feels like it is made out of jelly.
“Please,” he says. His voice doesn’t even sound like him anymore. His vocal chords are constricted. “Please,” he says again. “I can’t…I can’t lose him.”
Detective Oliver nods. “I know. I know. So let us do our job. Wait in the car. If he’s in there, we’ll bring him out. We’ll find your boy.”
James stares at her, noticing what she looks like for the first time. The tiny scar across her right eyebrow. Her thick, tight dark curls. The way she stands as though she’s ready to start running at any moment. The sadness in her eyes.
“Who?” James asks as it dawns on him. “Who did you lose?”
Detective Oliver blinks. A heaviness seems to come over her.
“My sister.” She holds his gaze. “My kid sister.”
Suddenly James understands why she agreed to let him come. Knows that he can trust her.
“You’ll find him?”
She nods. “I will do everything in my power to bring him back to you. To keep him safe. But you have to let me. You have to let me do my job.”
“Okay,” James says. He takes an unsteady breath in. “Okay.” He turns and walks back to the car, with Michael close behind.
“How did you know?” Michael asks once they are back in the car. “How did you know that she lost someone?”
James watches them through the window. They are preparing to infiltrate the building.
“Grief recognises grief,” he says softly. “I can feel her grief.”
Detective Oliver gestures in the air, telling everyone to get into position. James holds his breath.
You wanted it to begin, he thinks, watching. Waiting. Praying. Hoping for five minutes alone with the fuckers responsible. So it begins.