Long listed in https://brilliantflashfictionmag.wordpress.com/2015/09/23/freestyle-writing-contest-results/
Time and tide rushed in as the moments froze. She’d been missing for all of a few hours, but for a baby, it was long enough. Her fragile form had disappeared from the intensive care facility in the late afternoon, during shift change. The young nurse on duty hadn’t stopped crying since before the police had handcuffed her. She kept trying to apologise, but could barely stifle her sobs.
The hysterical, caesarean mother was sedated. She’d tried to leave the bed and almost bled-out.
They knew who it was. CCTV had captured the drug-addled waif as she’d walked in, casual as you like and spent a good five minutes selecting. Recordings led them as far as the coast line, somewhere near the pier and then she’d vanished. The detectives led the search. Police men and women scoured the beach. Members of the public were urged to stay back; the thief might do something dangerous, but a leaked story to the press had put pay to that.
Bodies saturated the streets, alleys and arcades. The sun was beginning to set and across the horizon the figures shimmered in rhythm with the sea.
All of a sudden, a faint cry, something pitiful in the distance sounded. The lead detective heard it, over the calls and the wails. It ebbed from beneath his feet, under boardwalk. He fled, his feet pounding the aged wood and promenade alike. The tide had encroached, then flooded. His shoes sank into the pebbled sand as he jumped and fell away as he powered through the resort. The pier creaked and ached for him.
As he neared the underside heads farther up the beach turned and raced. Wading in up to his chest, his eyes scoured the tree trunk legs. The last vestiges of daylight flickered on the waves. His flashlight pled for some sign, anything.
It came again, then stopped. He dove and swam as fast as his arms and legs would allow. She gripped the pier leg and cried out. He paused and frantically searched. She continued to scream. “Help me!”
He saw her. Tiny, atop a concrete slab, just, just free of the water.
“Help” came the cry again, but he refused to hear it.
He powered to the child and scooping her into his breast he back-paddled free of the pier and onto the last of the shore.
The emergency crew arrived and pulled the baby from the detective’s arms. Her breathing, ragged, but still she breathed.
The rest of the police force and the local residents surrounded the man and sang his praises.
“And what of the woman?” asked the Superintendent.
The hero swept his hair free of his eyes.