"Here it comes," Rooster says. He jerk-steps toward the boy
and kicks the door shut.
Out in the living room Tad turns up the volume on the
Goddamnit. Where did he put the damned instruction manual for
his BlackBerry? Paul sifts through his paperwork-laden desk. The phones
outside are busy. He's been programming numbers into the thing for weeks, but
now he can't get it to work. His paneled office sports several framed certificates
distinguishing him for his efforts as an insurance agent, but they aren't
helping him now.
Janine appears at the door. "Carol on three." And she
disappears again. He had called Carol on the way to work and told her to start
looking for Jamie.
"Carol? My BlackBerry just crashed. Did he show up? 'Cause
when he does he has some explaining" Her answer freezes him inside. It's 10:15.
"The police? We can, but I don't know. It seems a little
drastic. . . ." His gaze goes distant. There's a world full of possibilities out
there. But he isn't ready to accept them. Fathers may not want to know.
"If he doesn't show up at his normal time after school . . ."
He stops. His stomach has soured. Acid churns in it like he's had six cups of
coffee on no food.
"No, you're rightI'll come home and we'll deal with it. . .
. Okay....Try not to worry." But as he hangs up, that's what he has begun to do.
Paul and Carol stand static amid the bureaucratic swirl of
the busy police station. Things move slowly for them, incoherently, like a
warped videotape caught up in the machine.
They stand and gesture with the beefy desk sergeant. Later, they sit at the
desk of a concerned-looking patrolman, filling out forms, giving him photographs.
Now, waiting, silent, on a wooden bench, Paul holds a dead
cup of coffee in one hand and Carol's cold palm in his other. Her features have
begun to tightenit's not possible to see it yetbut she's begun to desiccate
and wither on the vine.
Finally. Finally, the concerned-looking patrolman shows them
into Captain Pomeroy's small, glass-walled office. Pomeroy, a soft, pillowy man
with a prominent nose bone, sits behind his desk. His tie has a silver bar
across it. A silver pen and pencil set rests in his shirt pocket. His hair is
swept back with Vitalis, his face full of Aqua Velva, his mouth full of nicotine
"Mr. and Mrs. Gabriel, I've looked over your paperwork here,
and I just want to assure you that this office will do everything it can to
assist you in locating your boy, ahh, James."
"Jamie" comes through Carol's clenched jaw.
"Jamie." Pomeroy makes a note. "Thought it was short
"No, that's his name. It's on his birth certificate."
"But before we do, before we open this thing up wide, I just
want to be sure that this is . . . That is, that your boy didn't run off for a"
"He's missing. I know it. You hear about these things."
"Ma'am, most mothers . . . Look, all I'm saying is to be
sure. It's just that boys are known to be boys."
"What?" It comes out a hoarse croak, as if Paul hasn't used
his voice box for years.
"What I'm saying is, often in these types of situation, maybe
he had a math test he didn't want to show up for. Or he got a bad grade on that
science project and didn't want you to"
"Mrs. Gabriel . . ." Pomeroy leans back and shifts his
holstered automatic against his hip. He looks to Paul in muted demand.
"Honey, I'm sure that's what everybody says about their . .
"Exactly," Pomeroy breathes in gratitude, taking over from
Paul. "Hell, he probably just . . ."
Hope is a slim branch, and the men do their best to grasp it,
but it's a bit overweighted for Carol. Her expression stops Pomeroy.
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