113 MinutesBy: James Patterson
3 minutes, 10 seconds
A mother’s instinct to protect her child—the most powerful force on the planet.
Right now I’m bursting with it. Overwhelmed by it. Trembling from it.
My son, my precious little boy, is hurt. Or, God forbid, it’s worse.
I don’t know the details of what’s happened. I don’t even know where he is.
I just know I have to save him.
I slam on the brakes. The tires of my old Dodge Ram screech like hell. One of them pops the curb, jerking me forward hard against the wheel. But I’m so numb with fear and panic, I barely feel the impact.
I grab the door handle—but stop and count to three. I force myself to take three deep breaths. I make the sign of the cross: three times again.
And I pray that I find my son fast—in three minutes or less.
I leap out and start running. The fastest I’ve ever moved in my life.
Oh, Alex. What have you done?
He’s such a good kid. Such a smart kid. A tough kid, too—especially with all our family’s been going through. I’m not a perfect mother. But I’ve always done the best I know how. Alex isn’t perfect, either, but I love him more than anything. And I’m so proud of him, so proud of the young man he’s becoming before my eyes.
I just want to see him again—safe. And I’d give anything for it. Anything.
I reach the two-story brick building’s front doors. Above them hangs a faded green-and-white banner I must have read a thousand times:
HOBART HIGH SCHOOL—HOME OF THE RAIDERS
Could be any other high school in America. Certainly any in sweltering west Texas. But somewhere inside is my son. And goddamnit, I’m coming for him.
I burst through the doors—But where the hell am I going?
I’ve spent more hours in this building than I could ever count. Hell, I graduated from this school nearly twenty years ago. But suddenly, the layout feels strange to me. Foreign.
I start running down the central hallway. Terrified. Desperate. Frenzied.
Oh, Alex. At fifteen, he’s still just a child. He loves comic books—especially the classics like Batman and Spider-Man. He loves video games, the more frenzied the better. He loves being outdoors, too. Shooting and fishing especially. Riding his dirt bike—shiny blue, his favorite color—around abandoned oil fields with his friends.
But my son is also turning into an adult. He’s been staying out later and later, especially on Fridays and Saturdays. He’s started cruising around the county in his friends’ cars. Just a few weeks ago—I didn’t say anything, I was too shocked—but I smelled beer on his breath. The teenage years can be so hard. I remember my own rocky ones. I just hope I’ve raised him well enough to handle them.…
“Alex!” I scream, my shrill voice echoing off the rows of metal lockers.
The text had come from Alex’s cell phone—Miss Molly this is Danny—but it was written by his best friend since first grade. I always liked Danny. He came from a good family. But rumor was, he’d recently started making some bad choices. I’d been secretly worrying he’d pressure Alex to make the same ones someday.
The moment I read that text, I knew he had.
Alex did too much. Not breathing. At school come fast.
Next thing I remember, I’m in my truck roaring down Route 84, dialing Alex’s cell, cursing when neither of them answers. I call his principal. I call my brothers. I call 911.
And then I pray: I call in a favor from God.
“Alex!” I yell again, even louder, to no one and everyone. “Where are you?!”
But the students I pass now just gawk. Some point and snicker. Others point and click, snapping cell-phone pictures of the crazy lady running wild through their school.
Don’t they know what’s happening?! How can they be like this, so…
Wait. Teenagers spread rumors faster than a brushfire, and it’s way too quiet. Maybe they don’t know.
He must be on the second floor.
I head to the nearest stairway and pound up the steps. My lungs start to burn and my heart races. At the top, the hallway forks.
Damn it, which way, where is he?!
Something tells me to hang a left. Maybe a mother’s intuition. Maybe blind, stupid luck. Either way, I listen.