A small crowd of nosy passerby and would be customers huddled in the parking lot beneath Safeway’s overhang. There were whispers of made up gossip and speculation, but no one knew nothing for sure of what really happened.
The laughing little girl with the pretty ribbons in her hair was gone. That was the only that was certain. The still shocked store keeper said she’d been taken by the boogeyman, but no one knew what that meant either. Though the police weren’t calling it foul play just yet the neighborhood had locked itself down. Now they just watched and waited. For what? No one could say.
No one saw when she disappeared from the tiny store or what direction she’d been taken, but when she hadn’t returned home to her mother and ten minutes stretched to twenty, then thirty, Mama knew something wasn’t right. Mama knew her baby was missing. No one asked how. A mother always knows, they all thought. In this case they were right.
Everyone converged on the popular corner store. The cops were called, but they had nothing. However, the child’s mother was already making her plan.
I could feel it.
She was gone. The only reason I hung around was because her scent was still so strong. It was the scent of fear thick and musty. Someone was wearing my daughter’s fear like a bad coat of paint that couldn’t be stripped away, but I would find them- and I planned to make them pay.
I made several passes through the crowd. Mostly gawkers their morbid curiosity ferocious in part because of her age. Cute little ten year old girls gone missing always brought them out, and each of them had their own suspicion.
It was that crazy guy that lived in the lot one street over.
It was the pimply kid that worked at the burger joint on 5th and John.
It was that teacher that got fired a few years ago for posting naked pictures online.
It was me.
I didn’t blame them. Speculation made them feel safe. If they could put a face and a name to the boogeyman then they could avoid him or her, protect themselves and their kids; but I knew from experience that never worked. It was always the person you least suspected. The real boogeyman never looked scary they didn’t show their scars which was how they were able to do what they did. It was how they remained hidden in plain sight. It had been my duty for more decades then I cared to remember to find them and catch them.
I policed the people that made things go bump in the dark. I was their judge and jury.
At an early age I realized I could see inside the souls of people and find the thoughts that made Normal people cringe and create lies to hide their fear.
I gave all that up when I had Caitlynn. I denied my ability, ignored my feelings. I was her mother and that was enough.
“Ms. Reign we have expanded the search to include the entire neighborhood all the way down to the high school grounds. We’ve called in a helicopter to circle out from our start point here at his store,” the officer spoke softly, but his shrewd gray eyes watched her every move. He didn’t trust anyone.
Mama accepted that. It was his job. Mama had no desire to try and convince him otherwise. Because she’d already locked in on the girl. She knew where her daughter was.
There was a little girl name Christal. She was a year younger than my daughter all eyes and baby fat. She’d seen my daughter, actually brushed against her. That was how my daughter’s scent transferred to her, but the little girl was scared. She hadn’t said a word to anyone about what she’d seen, and I knew she wouldn’t. Luckily I’d absorbed all I needed to know.
“Yes, sir,” I said to the arrogant cop. “Have you set up roadblocks on the highway, called an Amber Alert?” The officer blinked. He looked surprised for a moment, but his voice remained cool.
“Like I said we’re searching the perimeter. Your daughter went missing less than an hour ago. We’re taking steps using protocol. Hopefully, we’ll find her playing at a friend’s house.”
“Caitlynn doesn’t have any friends,” I said. The cop paused for a second. In a flash I knew his story. He was new to the area as well and in over his head. “We just moved here,” I lied and the cop visibly relaxed.
“Well, if you could give any pictures you have of your daughter to Officer Pam over there, we would be very thankful.” I took the detective’s card and nodded before he lumbered away.
Officer Pam was stuffing another hostess cake in her already engorged cheeks her jowls jumping as she talked with the manager inside the small convenience store.
Calmly, I walked to an idling police car throwing my purse on the passenger seat before sliding inside. Within seconds I was peeling out of the parking lot.
“She’s gone sir,” Officer Pam said eyes searching the lot once again in search of the mother and her issued vehicle. “Someone said she left about ten minutes ago? Headed towards the interstate?” Pam had a way of ending each sentence on a high note as if she were asking a question. It was annoying, but he’d learned to keep his thoughts about it to himself. He was leading this case. It was his first time being in charge on a new job, and the last thing he wanted was to mess it up because of personnel issues, but this went above and beyond. Leaving your keys in a running vehicle? Who did that? His officers apparently.
“I’ve called in an APB on your cruiser,” he said. “And an Amber. The girl has met the qualifications and we’re not getting anything done here.”
Every officer in the state would be on the lookout for the missing girl and her mother. It was off to a rocky start, but he hoped it would end well- this time.
He’d heard of a similar case last year just around this same time. Only that case had been in the northern part of the state. Little girl missing from convenience store, just disappeared. The child was later found dead from unnatural causes.
The last thing he wanted was for this girl to suffer the way the other child had. It was pure evil what had happened to the child up north. His breakfast almost came up on him at the memory from just seeing the pictures. The blood, the dismemberment it was the work of a maniac.
He sent up a silent prayer before joining the others. It was all he could do.