"It begins,” Detective Robert repeats. James nods. Detective Roberts taps his pencil on his notebook and glances at the clock on the wall. It’s just after one am. “And you got a similar message earlier?”
“No, not similar. The same. From an unknown number. I had forgotten about it.” He looks down at the pieces of his broken phone lying on the table between them. “And another one before that. It said something like…We gave you the chance to make the right decision. You didn’t.”
Detective Roberts writes something down and then stands up. “Okay,” he says, putting on his jacket. “We’ll be in touch.”
Detective Roberts picks up his notebook and looks out through the window separating the room from the rest of the hospital. A room specially designated for giving families bad news. “We’ll look into this and keep you informed.” He gestures towards the broken pieces of James’ phone on the table. “We’ll need that. We’ll place a tap on your sim card in case they try to contact you again.”
“You’ll keep me informed?” James repeats. Detective Roberts nods.
James stands up. “I don’t think you understand,” he says slowly, as though he is talking to a child.
“Understand what?” Detective Roberts says.
James forces himself to breathe evenly. “I don’t want to be informed. I want to be involved. I am done sitting here feeling helpless. I am done waiting for news.”
Detective Roberts rubs the side of his face. “I understand that. Most families and friends feel that way in situations such as this, but it’s best that you let us do our job. This is what we’re trained to do.”
James’ heart thuds erratically. He fights to remain calm.
“You wouldn’t let me join the search party,” he says.
“You punched an officer in the stomach.”
“You wouldn’t let me be part of the media coverage,” James continues, ignoring him.
“We felt your appearance would detract from the main focus, which is finding the boy.”
“The boy has a name,” James says through clenched teeth.
“Our forensic psychologists also suggested that your involvement may antagonise the kidnappers or encourage them to use the boy to make some kind of statement, assuming this is in fact a kidnapping and not...Something more sinister.”
James clenches his fists so tight that his knuckles turn white.
“The boy has a name,” he repeats. His heart is beating much too quickly. He feels lightheaded.
Detective Roberts stares at him. “Of course he does.”
“What is it?” James demands. His voice is louder than it should be. “What is his name??”
“Uh…” Detective Roberts starts to look through his notes. James rips them out of his hand and tosses them on the table.
“His name. What is it?? Do you even know? Do you even care?!”
Detective Roberts takes a step back. “Calm down, Mr Axton. We’re doing the best we can.”
“Yeah? And what the fuck have you even done?? It’s been thirty three hours! THIRTY THREE! And you don’t even have a fucking clue what his name is without looking at your fucking notes!”
Out of the corner of his eye, he sees a crowd gathered outside the room. James closes his eyes. He sees Alexander’s face. Sweet, smiling Alexander. He opens his eyes.
“His name,” he snarls, “is Alexander.” He walks to the door just as two hospital security guards come bursting inside. They look between James and Detective Roberts, evaluating the situation.
“It’s fine,” Detective Roberts says, holding up his hand to stop them. “We’re fine.”
“I’m done sitting around,” James says without turning around. “I’m done waiting for you to do your fucking job.”
He leaves the room and slams the door hard enough to rattle the glass.
James leaves the hospital. He texts Michael before driving off, asking him to meet him back at his place. He needs someone who’s not a borderline brain-dead moron to talk to. Someone who will understand and listen.
He needs his brother.
He arrives home a little before four am and runs down to the agency and into the storage room around the back. He drops in front of a pile of hate mail yet to be filed, dating back the last three months. Ever since his friend and fellow screen writer Thomas Kennedy was attacked at one of his movie premiers, he started keeping and filing all his hate mail. Just in case it is ever required as evidence.
Most of it is fairly generic and unimaginative: you suck, HEAT sucks, your writing sucks, and he is about to give up when he spots an envelope that has fallen off the pile. It looks newer than the others; its edges are uncurled by time and it is still a crisp, brilliant white. He reaches for it and pulls out the letter inside. It is dated three days ago. The day before Alexander was taken.
This story was never yours to tell.
You think you can do whatever you please.
You think you can make a mockery of our struggles.
You say you want to do this subject justice, but you could never do it justice. You say you care about our struggles, but if that were true you would have killed the film when we told you to. You would have put a stop to this abomination. But you didn’t. You used it to further yourself without caring about the people you were stepping on. Without caring about the people you hurt.
So now, you will hurt too.
He turns the envelope over in his hands, searching for a postmark, a stamp, an address, anything that would tell him who the fuck sent it. It is addressed to him in full, but there is no stamp. There is no postmark. There’s only two words on the back:
“James?” Michael stands in the doorway. “What are you doing down here?”
He ignores him, reading the letter again. And again. And again. He reads it eight times until it finally sinks in.
“This is my fault,” he whispers.
“I got so many tweets, so many warnings, so many threats but I didn’t listen…”
“James, what are you talking about?”
He looks up at Michael. “It’s because of me. This, everything…It’s because of me.”