From his seat in the food court, the man watched two young girls. He thought he recognized one of them, but he couldn't be sure. There were plenty of girls with black hair and blue eyes in Lourmack, Arkansas. He sat quiet and still, sipping his coffee as he listened to their conversation.
"So, where are you going for your mom's birthday dinner next week?" the blonde, brown eyed girl asked her friend.
"Dad's booked a table at 'The Ruby Lantern'. You know? That new restaurant on Grove Avenue."
"Yeah, I know that one. It's where my aunt and uncle had dinner with their neighbors last month. They said the food's really good."
There was a tinkling sound and the dark-haired girl pulled out her phone.
"Hi, mom. I'm just at the shops with Chloe. I'll be home soon."
"OK, see you later."
Chloe stood, put her schoolbag on her back and picked up her shopping. "Come on, Meg, let's finish up here and go."
The man kept his eyes on Meagan as she and Chloe walked past his table and into Frame, Set and Match. They re-emerged ten minutes later and headed for the exit.
'Yes', the man thought, continuing to keep his eyes fixed on Meagan as he followed the girls out of the shopping centre. 'That's her. She's the one I want.'
"You're sure you don't want a lift home?" Chloe stood beside the passenger-side door of her older brother's car.
"Thanks for offering. I'm sure I can manage a fifteen minute walk."
"OK, I'll see you at school tomorrow." Climbing into the car, Chloe waved goodbye as she and her brother drove away. "Bye!"
Barely had Meagan left the car-park when a red panel van drove up beside her. "Hi there, gorgeous. Need a ride?"
Meagan shook her head politely. "No thanks, I'm fine."
"Come on, sweetheart. I'll give you a lift, it's no trouble."
Meagan quickened her pace, as the driver continued to follow. "I said I'm fine! Leave me alone!"
The man jumped out, grabbed Meagan's arm and began to drag her into the vehicle.
"Let go, you're hurting me!" Meagan struggled to pull herself free, but the man's grip was too strong. "Let go!"
The front door of a nearby house opened and two young boys came out. Seeing what was happening, they ran toward the van, but they were too late. The man shoved Meagan into the front seat of the vehicle, jumped in after her and sped away. The boys looked at each other worryingly.
"Come on, Josh, we'd better report this to the police. I sure hope that girl's going to be OK."
"It's getting late, Jason! Meg should have been home by now!" Mrs Lord picked up the phone on the kitchen bench. "I'm calling Chloe. Hopefully, she'll know where Meg is."
"Hello, Chloe Dixon speaking."
"Hi, Chloe, it's Mrs Lord calling. Is Meagan still with you? She hasn't come home yet."
"No, sorry, Mrs Lord, she's not here. Last time I saw her was in the car-park at the shopping centre."
"OK, thanks, Chloe. Bye." Mrs Lord put the phone down and looked over at her husband. "This is completely out of character for Meagan. She would have called if she was going anywhere else."
Mr Lord grabbed his car keys. "I'm going to the shopping center to see if she's still there. If not, we'll go to the police."
An hour later, Mr Lord was home again. "Jenna, I couldn't find her! Grab the most recent photo we've got and let's get down to the police station!"
Mrs Lord grabbed a photo frame off the coffee table in the lounge room. "Darrell! Get off the video games and get your rear end in the car! We have to find your sister! Hurry up!"
Ten minutes later, they pulled up outside the police station, dashed inside and showed their photo to an officer on the front desk, who studied it for a moment before asking them to be seated and disappearing through a side door. Moments later he re-emerged, followed by two other officers.
"Mr and Mrs Lord? I'm Detective Maxwell Brock, this is Detective Ben Colbert. If you'll come with us, please, we have some things to discuss."
The family looked at each other worryingly as they followed the detectives into an interview room.
"Mr and Mrs Lord, we don't want to cause you any alarm, but a young girl matching your daughter's description was abducted from outside the Lourmack Shopping Centre around five pm this evening. Two witnesses reported the abduction and we've since been able to obtain security camera footage. We'll show it to you now. Hopefully, you'll be able to tell us whether or not the girl in the footage is your daughter."
"Yes," Mrs Lord nodded as she watched the video. "Yes, that's definitely Meagan."
"Do you recognize the man or the vehicle?"
Mr Lord looked more closely at the video and shook his head. "No idea who that man is. We don't know anyone who owns a vehicle like that."
"Please help us find our daughter."
"We'll do everything we can, Mrs Lord. Take yourselves and your son home. We'll contact you as soon as we have any information."
Detective Colbert escorted the family back to their car and noticed the sad look on Darrell's face as he sat in the back seat.
"We'll do all we can to find your sister, buddy." Darrell nodded, but remained quiet.
As the family drove away, Detective Colbert re-entered the station. "Constable Seeley, contact the Missing Persons Unit. Let's find Meagan and bring her home."