Two hours into the drive down I-95, the car was silent. Poppy closed her eyes for a moment, breathing in the powdery smell of four babies packed into an artificially heated sedan. She could have fallen asleep right there, nestled behind the steering wheel; kidnapping the last one had been an overnight affair, and her brain was finally beginning to settle down, to recede from a state of hyper-vigilance and throbbing migraines. The hard part was in the past.
When she opened her eyes again, Poppy glanced in the rearview mirror to survey her little prizes. There was Joseph, the youngest at about two months old, who had his fingers curled around the edge of a blanket and his mouth pushed into a pout that made her weak. He’d been napping in a perambulator next to a bench in Central Park. She’d watched his mother cross the path to a hot dog stand, and had lifted his bundled self into her arms while the vendor counted out the woman’s change.
Edith had been the easiest to take, and Poppy felt a bit guilty that she, in the midst of the more difficult kidnappings, had favored her for it. The plump blonde had been squirming in her baby doll stroller, where her teenage mother had left while she walked a few steps away in the subway station to buy a ticket for a rush hour ride to Queens.
The most beautiful of the four was David, a five-month-old with curls the color of onyx and navy eyes that could stare out the window for an hour, just soaking in the scenery, as if the boy’s brain was a bottomless carpet bag given to him for the sole purpose of storing beautiful pictures. It was no surprise, then, that’d he been the most heavily guarded. But when Poppy finally managed to distract his father with a provoked car alarm, she’d tucked the pretty gem under her shawl and jogged away from the scene before the man could return with a head full of rage.
The two-day mission had culminated in Marcy, a child with porcelain skin and slender fingers. She’d been left at the doorstep of a church with few windows and heavy doors. Poppy could hear her wailing four blocks away where she leaned, cradling the children underneath a Salvation Army afghan, against the wall of a deli in Harlem. The car had been parked since that afternoon, when she’d stopped driving in wide circles around the city because it had felt like the time was quickly approaching. It was tucked away in a garage within walking distance. After that, she’d put herself into position and waited.
When it started, Poppy had walked in the direction of Marcy’s bleating, grabbed the handle of the bassinet streaked in moonlight, and set off. They’d go to Pittsburgh, maybe, or Indianapolis.
In the pink glow of the sunrise, Poppy watched a car speed by and smiled. She had all the time in the world.
Published at Goon and Darling Do Flash Fiction on May 30, 2012.