“I don’t know”
She whimpered, curled up in her seat.
“I really don’t know”
She was curling her long straight hair with her pale fingers. She looked away, almost ashamed. She bit her bloody lip, and tugged at her hair again.
“I wish I knew, but I don’t”
Drops of tears started falling from her deep grey eyes, and she sighed as if she was unloading her sorrows in front of my desk.
“It’s- Kayla” she muttered.
I jotted it down quickly. Looking back at the tiny frame that was stumped at my desk, I felt a jolt a pity running through me.
“I’m sorry, honey. But this is the just standard procedure. When was the last time you saw him?”
Her pale face was a show of inexpressible emotion, I could read pain, hurt, anger, agony- all in her eyes. She was fighting back tears, and her little body was heaving with sighs and deep breaths.
“T-three days a-ago. I saw him three days ago. I don’t know. I’m losing my mind”
Her breathing was ragged and tears fell down her porcelain face. She was shaking and she tugged at her hair again almost ripping it.
“Find him, please. Mr. Sheriff, please. I don’t know. I don’t know what else to do.”
I could do nothing but sigh. It was a slow day, I only had Perkins and Green at the station. I called Perkins over.
“Call Alisha. This girl could do with some therapy. She’s lost her baby brother. Parents are out of town. And it’s been three days. You know how the stats go.”
exclaimed Perkins. “That kid ought to be found already, Cap’n. This is going to be a field day for the fucken paper, accusing us of being shitty at the job.”
He was right. Twenty four hours after a child is missing, the chances of finding the kid cuts down in half. Three days, it doesn’t get better.
“Nothing is easy on this job, old man. Get Green to stay with the girl, and let’s go check around the neighborhood”
As I grabbed my coat, I noticed the teen shivering and mumbling in a corner. She was skinny and small, almost like a kid. She noticed me and smiled with her gray eyes filled with sorrowful tears. I couldn’t help feeling terrible for her fate, so I grabbed a blanket and went over to her.
“There you go”
She smiled again.
“I know it’s hard, but can you answer some questions for me?”
“Mhhmm” she whimpered.
“Where did you see him last?”
“I don’t know. In his room, he was playing with his toys. And then, he was gone.”
“Do you have any idea where he might’ve gone? Any relatives? Friends?”
“N-no. I-I’m his best friend, he wouldn’t just leave me”
Her tears were renewed and she was hiding her hands in her gray t-shirt like a little child. I sighed, and got up, ready to check the neighborhood.
“I will find him, I promise.”
“Will you? I want to play with him again. I miss playing with him”
She was like a little child. A kind smile dawned my face and I called on Perkins and we went on the drive.
It was a chilly evening, and the neighborhood was quiet.
“What do you think, Cap’n? Kidnapping?”
“I don’t know, Perkins. But I don’t think so. Why only take one kid. Plus, she was in the house too. It doesn’t make sense. He might’ve wandered and then gotten kidnapped, I don’t know”
Perkin scratches his head.
“Maybe the kid walked into the woods?!”
“Possible. I asked Jim to get some people looking for the kid in the woods. The word got out and people did check, found nothing. Let’s go again today”
We spent hours talking to the neighborhood, and finally, when Perkins was done talking to the Chans next to the park, we were exhausted.
“Damn, where is this kid?!”
“I dunno what I’m going to tell that kid in the station cap’n”
I grit my teeth.
“Let’s check the rosewood field”
As we walked past the field, we saw lights and a bonfire.
We walked towards the lights and there were loud singing and dancing. As I walked closer, it stopped.
“Ay, meester, we need no trouble, we good peepal”
A tall, stinky man in a brown shirt which looked like it used to be blue screeched.
“Seen a kid of about 7 years?”
“No” they whispered.
“Don’t make me knock down this place, TELL ME NOW. Did any of you go close to the Canterbury Avenue three days ago?”
“We jus came yesterday, ask anyun”
A woman with dark, dirty hair spat.
“Y’all think we did wrong, to check- you need a warrant- ay? Dun think us stupid”
I grimaced. She was right. I nodded at Perkins and as we walked on, they jeered and spat at us.
“Dirty folk. I have half the mind to shoot the shit outta them” Perkins growled angrily.
“Calm down, let’s head down to the Pub right by and see if those rats are telling the truth”
After getting a beer at the Pub and being reassured at the gypsies just came yesterday, I was stumped.
My head was aching and I was angry at myself. Years of practice and I can’t even find a kid. How do I tell that I failed to the girl? How do I look her in the eyes?!
“Man, we did look everywhere, eh cap’n. The woods, the streets, the houses, the field. You think the kid might’ve been stolen?”
I silently chugged my beer, blaming myself. We had looked all day in the woods, we checked under every tree, every rock, we even scavenged the rabbit holes. This was a small town, and I can’t even do this properly. It’s been a while since anything has happened. And suddenly it comes with a kid gone missing.
I tore at my hair, punching the table. I haven’t felt this lost since the Ernington case. It still kept me up at night, always thinking had I done it right, I could’ve saved the family.
“This sorta like Ernington, eh cap’n?”
Perkins added sheepishly.
“We checked out everything, we forgot the most important part.” He said as he chugged more beer.
The most important part. I froze in my tracks. Everything seemed to fall into place. I wanted to kick myself for making the same mistake. We looked everywhere but not the most obvious place. We suspected everyone but not the most obvious.
“I know where he is, let’s go.”
Perkins and I exchanged looks of complete shock. The little rotting body was crumpled in a corner, with sharp incisions all over the body. The white rug had drunk the blood, it looked a very dark shade of crimson. The kid had a haunting look on his face, and his left hand was clutching a toy.
“Who would do this?! What monster would do this?!”
As I looked at his little face, gritting my teeth. It was a truly horrendous sight. The body stank, reminding me of Ernington. I had forgotten that the immediate place where everyone forgets to check. We checked everywhere, but the house. Everywhere but the house from which the complaint was issued. As my eyes locked with the toy, the realization hit me.
“GET THE FUCKEN CAR! PERKINS! HURRY!
I was too late.
As I ran past Green, barging into the therapy room, Alisha lay on the floor still. Crimson leaked from her arms, legs, head, and her brown eyes were still. I could do nothing but stay frozen as the little figure on Alisha kept stabbing her, tugging at her long dark hair, with a ghastly unreadable expression on her face, murmuring,
“Play with me, play with me, play with me, I don’t know why you won’t play with me!! PLAY WITH ME!”
She noticed me, her expressionless gray eyes met mine. She started laughing. Humorless, full of mirth. Her laughter echoed throughout the room, and she suddenly looked sullen and whispered,
“Mr. Sheriff, she won’t play with me either.”