The Gravity of What Has Gone (13)

The Hansens refused my increasingly frantic meeting requests until Naomi got on the phone. “His child is missing,” she said, as I paced and tried to remember that neither punching the wall nor slashing the ugly hotel-decor painting of a wheat field would make this go any faster. “Wouldn’t you have wanted anyone who knew anything to do whatever they could to find your baby girl?”

We were in their living room a half hour later.

Nine-year-old Melanie sat, feet dangling, and told her story with a wearily adult sense of duty. A teenage boy had chatted with her at the bus stop a couple times. He’d been funny and nice, never threatening. Then one day, he’d caught her right after school and said the stop had moved to a new location nearby. She’d believed him, and when she’d followed him, two men had grabbed her. She hadn’t seen the boy since. “Is there anything else you need to know?” she asked politely.

I had a million questions. My throat constricted with the asthma of anticipation. “Hhhhh,” I croaked instead.

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