I give him a nod of thanks and then look over at the girls. They are both sitting on the tabletop and Sierra has her arms around them. “I was here with my niece. Her friend joined us and asked me not to let her go with her dad. She showed me bruises on her arms and so I texted Ryder to call the police and I tried to detain him until you got here.”

“Yeah, and he pulled a gun on him in a park full of kids,” a man hollers twenty feet away from us. “I saw it all. I was watching him. He was doing some kind of drug deal before all that.”

Caleb starts arguing, saying it’s a lie and that I attacked him. Another policeman pulls him to the edge of the park so he can cool off.

The man holding me tells his partner to go check on the girl. I stand there and watch as he approaches Faith, Ellie and Sierra. Faith starts screaming when he gets close and jumps off the table, running over to me. She grabs onto my legs, sobbing uncontrollably. “Please, don’t let them take me. Please.”

I start to crouch down but the policeman stops me. I turn to him and plead, “Just let me calm her down.”

He nods his head and I squat down. When I do, she wraps her arms around my neck. “Honey, nobody is going to take you,” I say in a soothing voice. “They just want to see your arm.”

She starts sniffing, trying to get control of herself.

“Faith, Faith…” a woman is frantically screaming when she pushes past a policeman and runs toward us. The little girl in my arms doesn’t let go, but she does wave and call to her mom.

She is beautiful. Her long red hair is flowing behind her. She has on a jean jacket and a green dress that shows off her legs. Her face is taut and I can see the stress and worry in her expression from here. As she gets closer, her bright green eyes are shimmering, and my first instinct is to wrap her in my arms and get her and her daughter out of here. But I can’t. My wrists are still cuffed behind my back.

When she stops next to us, I see the curiosity on her face as she looks between me and her daughter, but Faith jumps into her arms. Once she’s hugged her mom, she reaches around and clenches her little hand onto my shirt, with her happy meal toy in her other hand.

I want to hold her in my arms when I ask her, but I can’t. “Faith, honey, I need you to show the police officer your arm.”

When she starts to shake her head, I tell her, “Trust me, honey. I promise you, I will not let you go with your daddy. But you have to tell this police officer what you told me about your arm.”

Her mom softens at my words and I see the look of hope in her face. My God, what have these two been through?

Faith starts sniffling and her eyes tear up, but she takes a deep breath and pulls up her sleeve for the officer as she mumbles, “My dad is mean to me. He hurt my arm and makes me go with him to mean people’s houses. I don’t want to go with him anymore.”

When she finishes she dives back onto my chest and her arms go around my neck.

“You’re okay, honey,” I murmur to her. “You did good. I’m proud of you.”

She nuzzles her face into my neck and I feel her tears soaking the collar of my shirt. The cop standing behind me undoes the cuffs and my arms instantly go around her. Her mom stands back with her hand over her mouth. She’s alarmed at the connection her daughter feels toward me, and to be honest, I’m a little shaken too. But in this moment, I know that I will do everything in my power to protect her.

A police officer walks toward me. “There are about a dozen witnesses corroborating your story. Do you plan on filing a complaint, Mr.…?”

“John Ellis. And yes, I do. So does the girl’s mother.” I nod over to her assuredly.

“Not that it will do any good. You do know he is a police officer, right?” she asks the cop.

He nods and I can see the disgust in his eyes. “I see that you have had complaints before, ma’am. He will be arrested. I can’t guarantee how long he will be in, but I do promise we will pursue this. I won’t stand by while someone hurts a child. An officer will be over shortly to take all the information.”

Chapter 3

Olivia

I give my statement and so does Johnny. My daughter is still wrapped around his neck. I tried to pry her off, but when she protested, he assured me she was fine.

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