“And where were they going?” said Alice, raising a sculpted eyebrow. Her pad was covered with dark scribbles and barely legible notes. The small boy sitting across the table stared at his hands and said nothing. “You have to tell me where they were going or we can’t start looking.”

“I don’t know,” came the mumbled, halting response. He shuddered as if the room had suddenly gotten cold. She looked for a reaction on his delicate face, but there was none. His gaze remained fixated on the back of his knuckles.

“You said he had told you,” she continued.

“He didn’t. He was—-He didn’t.”

Alice waited a few more seconds in case the boy decided to finish his thought, but his lips were shut tight. Children. A liability to themselves. She phrased the next question as carefully as possible so as not to upset him; if the tears started, the information would stop.

“Can you tell me why you didn’t go with them?”

The boy looked up for the first time and there were streaks down his face.

“He told me to stay.”

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