Vanished in the Night(4)

By: Eileen Carr


“Got it,” Dinsmore said, scribbling the name on a pad of paper. “When did the kid die?”

“He hasn’t, as far as I know. I didn’t see any death certificate on file.”

Dinsmore looked up at him. “The kid in the pit is really most sincerely dead.”

“I noticed. The lack of actual flesh on the bones was a dead giveaway.” He shrugged. “It’s what I’ve got so far.”

Dinsmore nodded. “I’ll call when I get more information. There’s a lot to process here.”

“We’ll take whatever you’ve got as soon as you’ve got it,” Zach said as he and Frank headed toward the door.

They’d found him. They didn’t know who he was yet, but they’d found him. Susan Tennant leaned back in her chair and snapped off the small TV in her office. The local news stations had been playing the tape of the shapeless body bag being loaded into the coroner’s van over and over since eight o’clock that morning. Every news program throughout the day had led with it, and she wouldn’t be surprised if they led with it again tomorrow.

Something else was bound to happen somewhere that would bounce Max off everyone’s radar. It was the story of his life, in a way: too much attention when it would be better to be ignored, and not enough when he needed it.

With the TV off, the clinic was silent. Susan was the last one here. The staff was used to her being first in and last out, since it was her operation. Her baby.

She hadn’t doubted that they would find Max right away; they could hardly have missed him. She couldn’t have done much more to make sure of it, short of planting spotlights over him.

Of course, they’d been missing him for almost twenty years. Maybe “missing” wasn’t the right word. Someone would have to have been searching for him to have missed him. No one had even been looking for Max. She shook her head. It was too easy for someone to fall through the cracks. Even now, with all the computers and linked databases, people slipped off the face of the earth and no one noticed. No one cared. Too many people were deemed dispensable. Half the people who came in and out of this clinic every day were people no one was looking for, who could cease to exist one day and no one would notice.

But she would notice. She would care. That was the vow she’d made to herself. Twenty years ago, she’d been too frightened and too stupid to act, but she’d tried to make up for it. She thought she had in many ways, but she could never fully erase what had happened all those years ago. It would always haunt her soul.

She was finally doing something for Max now, though. She had brought that terrible secret out of the grave along with those bones, and exposed it all to the world. The police would have to care now, too. Bones showing up in construction sites forced people to pay attention.

Susan sighed and pushed back from her old metal desk. There was nothing more she could do now. Not without destroying everything she’d worked so hard for—the clinic and all the people she helped. The legacy of her cowardice had ended up being a pretty good one.

It was the least she could do to make up for the things she hadn’t done, for not having stopped the things that still haunted her dreams and made her wake up gasping and sweat drenched, heart racing. It didn’t undo the things she’d done and seen done, but it helped balance things out. She hoped and prayed, so, anyway.

She also hoped it would stop more wrongs from being done. Some people should never be allowed to have power over others. Their true natures came out, and nature wasn’t always pretty. It was often harsh and brutal.

“Rest in peace, Max,” she whispered. “Finally, rest in peace.”





2



Oh, joy of joys. Cops on her doorstep at seven o’clock in the evening. They were illuminated by her porch light and by the little blinking pumpkin lights she’d hung outside.

Veronica could tell the two men were cops without seeing their badges or their guns. The shoulders were a little too square. The jaws a little too set. Their attitudes a little too alert. She’d seen it enough in the emergency room.

She’d seen it enough away from work, too. She’d dated one or two cops, but no more. She and Tina had sworn off them. It was like giving up sweets or white flour. At first you felt deprived and a little desperate, but you knew you’d feel better in the end.