"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 television.
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 gum.
"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 for"
"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.
Published by Doubleday. Copyright © 2008 by Levien Works, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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