"I couldn't possibly join the search party," I said to my guests. "I walked 11 KM last night at work. I'm a wreck." Indeed they had witnessed my slow painful descent on the staircase.
When we broke for dinner, off to pick up something cheap, the giant police van was still there, down the lane, and the mounted police and the crowd, and the ambulance crew still waiting around hopefully, the stretcher all ready to go, laden with life-saving gear, piled on it and hanging off of it with just enough room left upon it for an undersized twelve year-old; just 60 pounds worth, should one turn up.
The boy had health issues, an under-developed mentality and a penchant for hiding. He'd limped away without shoes and without his medications. He couldn't have gone far, everyone said. We'd all checked our garages and backyards and even our closets. And later we checked them again.
When darkness came I checked the internet, sure he must have been found. "I'm sorry," I told my guests. "I'm really at loose ends." They understood. We called it a night.
The crowd had dwindled down to a few. The officer said, "I'm sorry, we can't suggest what you should do. After dark it's not safe. We can't ask anything of the public after dark."
"Look," I said, knowing I was about to be profoundly lame: "I'm a Commissionaire. I have training. I know safety; first-aid. I've worked in corrections. I've worked with sex offenders. Trust me. Be indulgent. Tell me where you need someone looking."
He smiled painfully. shook his head and shook my hand. "Anywhere."
People had been searching all day. What was I going to accomplish by following their tracks in the dark? Was there a really any chance at all I could save someone or was this just about comforting myself?"
Still willing to act like a fool I called an old friend who believed she was psychic; who'd dreamed of missing children before and believed in the visions; who'd once told me that my writer's blocks were nothing but fear. But I could not reach her on the phone.
I stared at the Google map and all my intuition pointed at the golf course.
A golf course is a dark dark alien world at night, the ground invisible and treacherously hilly; the greens and ponds indistinguishable at a distance. A sky full of stars that portend nothing. I'd expected to run into other hopefuls there but there were none.
I had to be sparing with the flashlight batteries. A discarded shopping bag; a lost towel, things like these became a white Special Olympics t-shirt in the dark and I fumbled to turn on the beam with hope and dread. "What the fuck am I doing here?" I kept asking. And why aren't my legs hurting? What's up with that?
The route I had planned went out the window the moment I left the parking lot. I had no clue where I was and it didn't matter. I was pretty sure I'd twist and ankle soon and roll down a hill and in the morning some golfers - or searchers - would find me instead of the boy and I'd have to apologize for their disappointment.
In the morning I talked to neighbors. I could not share their optimism. Abductions are very rare, I know, but nothing else made sense at this point. He was small and walked with a limp. Yet again I thought of his parents and yet again I had to push the thought away. I cannot imagine. It's unimaginable.
This afternoon the phone rang but I could not get it because I was busy holding the roommate's ancient shadow of a dog in an ersatz standing position so she could drink from her bowl; an accomplishment too rare to dare interrupt.
The message was from a friend. "They found him! I don't know any details but they found him!"
"Yes!" I shouted at the ceiling. "Yes! Yes!" I squeezed into shoes and bustled outside. "They found him?" I asked at the first gathering. They had. He'd gone in precisely the opposite direction as the golf course. All along he'd been a few dozen yards away from my own backyard in some kind of drainage tunnel. So close! How had they missed him again and again?
"Is he okay?"
None were eager to answer. "I don't think so," said the man.
"He's pretty sick?"
"The paramedics didn't go to the boy," said the woman. "They went to the mother."
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