Carriero was feeling hollow-pitted in the stomach with shame. After the burglaries, he'd moved on to other cases without any further thought of the boy. That never would have happened during his first few years on the job. Now, he knew, the boy's information rested frozen in the cold case file, only to be pulled out and warmed up when the parents made inquiries or visited. The best they could hope for was a body turning up and ending the waiting. He stood without thinking further and crossed the squad room. He caught the man just as he neared the door.
"Excuse me, Mr. Gabriel?"
"Yes?" The man stopped and regarded him. A low-wattage flicker of recognition came to his face. "Oh, yeah, how are you, Officer?"
"I took your statement a while back. Good while back. I've looked into your
son's case . . ." "Yes?" A hunger leaped into Gabriel's eyes. "Have you found
out anything about it?"
Carriero chided himself for his careless phrasing. "No, I ...I don't know quite how to say it without seeming disloyal." He stopped. He knew this wasn't team play, not good for business, as they say, but he couldn't help it.
The father looked at him pleadingly.
"There's a man. He's an investigator. I used to work with him. It can cost some money, but he's...I don't know what good it'll do, but personal attention to this might be worth the cost." He held out a worn business card. "He may not even be available," the young patrolman continued, "but you never know."
Paul felt himself deflate. He was hoping for some hard information, but a business card just didn't help right now. His thought was to tell the officer about the two investigators they'd already tried, the sizable piece of their nest egg that they'd gladly spent but which had yielded only monthly meetings at a coffee shop as the investigators tried to pad their lack of results in thickly worded, laser-printed reports. Instead he just took the business card.
"Thanks. I better find my wife." Paul pocketed the card and went off after her.
Carol sat, nearly catatonic, in the darkened living room. Night descended silently without her even noticing. The only light in the room flickered from the silent television. Her fragility was such that any disappointment at all had a gross weight and power.
The door opened and Paul walked in with Tater on a leash. He unclipped the dog, then walked over and switched off the television.
"Carol, let's go on up to bed."
Though she seemed not to hear him, she got up and walked toward the stairs, with Paul right behind her.
At the foot of the steps, Paul clicked on the switch illuminating the front of the house for Jamie, as they did every night.
Carol looked at him and then turned off the lights before going up.
Published by Doubleday. Copyright © 2008 by Levien Works, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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