She patted her daughter on the head and said, “Be a dear and answer any of Mr. Collins’ questions.”
“Please call me Nathan, we are all friends here, right?”
“Sure,” Brooke said.
“I just need to know when you saw Haley last?”
“It was the night before she disappeared, about ten o’clock.”
“What were you guys doing?”
“No, riding our bikes. Yes music, its, like, all we live for.” Jacob looked at her mother who just shrugged her shoulders as if to say ‘kids, what can you do?’.
“You didn’t see her the next day?”
“No, I got up, late as usual, rushed to pick up Graham as usual and was at school with three minutes to spare.”
“Okay, well who else was there? The night before I mean.”
“It was me and Haley and Graham. Just like always.”
“I see. That is your band?”
“Was our band, yeah.”
“What do you mean ‘was’?”
Jordyn took a long sigh and rolled her eyes. He didn’t know whether it was authority or the fact that he was bothering her by taking time out of her busy day of banging the drums or smoking pot or whatever this particular teenager did.
“It was, like, our band, until she bailed.”
“When she disappeared?”
“Yep. With Haley gone we had no writer, no singer, no lead guitar.”
“So Haley was the talent of the band?”
“NO, you asshole,” her mom wasted no time smacking the back of her head. “Ouch! I played drums, which is like the heartbeat of the band. Graham played rhythm and keyboard on some songs and also did backup vocals. We all had our parts to play. Until she was selfish and left us here with no one to replace her.”
“You think she bailed?”
“That’s what everyone says. If she didn’t run away where did she go?”
“That’s what I’m trying to figure out, Jordyn. Was Haley seeing anyone that you know of?”
She thought for a minute and looked up to some pictures on the wall and Jacob looked around. They were all pictures of Jordyn when she was small, none past the age of five or six. Maybe Brooke had lost interest in her daughter.
“Not that I know of.”
“What about this Graham kid? It sounds like they had some things in common?”
She let out a laugh that made Brooke and Jacob jump in their seats. “Oh, lord no. Graham wasn’t her type.”
“What do you mean?”
“He was attainable, Haley had a thing for guys that wouldn’t want her, you know what I mean? Plus, she didn‘t have a lot of time, she spent what time she wasn‘t doing homework or practicing with us writing songs with Charles or by herself. But she was always in that notebook of hers.”
“You mean you know about Seth? His secret?”
“Yes, everyone does, just no one says anything.”
Jordyn stood and walked toward the window of the living room and looked out onto the snow covered lawn.
“Why do you ask that?”
“She was talking to someone online named Musicman28, she was confiding in him about someone giving her trouble.”
“Don’t know either name Mr. Collins.”
She breathed another heavy sigh. “Do you think she’ll ever come back?”
He didn’t have an answer for Jordyn. The fact was Jacob wasn’t sure he would ever know. There were a lot of people in this town not telling the whole truth and if people didn’t start talking he was going to be on the road heading home before he found out.
May Belle’s smelled like a million other diners. Someone had written the daily special on a black chalkboard that hung near the door, meatloaf with mashed potatoes, creamed corn, sautéed green beans and salad. Jacob could smell the sweet of the creamed corn and grease from the meatloaf the minute he walked through the door. A bell above the door rang as he entered, announcing his arrival to the packed restaurant. Everyone’s gaze meant his as he sauntered onto the dining room floor. As he looked around he noticed it to be filled with elderly couples, still dressed to the nines and chomping on their meatloaf. The sound of forks scraping the large cream colored plates stopped when all the eyes, had to be sixty pair, focused on him. He flipped his jacket collar down and shook off the cold. Their eyes returned to their plates and the squeaking sound of forks against plates returned to normal.
Just inside the doorway Jacob read a sign that ordered him to Please Wait to be Seated, and he did so with great patience. He read the sign that hung over the cash register announcing the days special one more time. How can anyone eat all that food, he asked himself. At that moment he hoped that they had a menu.
He was greeted by a young attractive server who’s name tag read ‘Trina’, instantly he regarded her the complete opposite of Gayle and wondered how this woman was waiting tables and not modeling in LA or New York. Her red hair cropped short and spiked out the back was in perfect order, she had a thin but athletic five ten frame. Her face was round but not plump, she had a tiny button nose and bright shiny teeth that glowed when she smiled. She bounced on her heels when she approached the podium that stood next to the sign.
“No, I’m meeting an associate here. I’m a little late she may already be here. Kelsey Lawson?”
“She isn’t, she called ahead and asked to give you her normal table, right this way.” She turned for Jacob to follow and his eyes went to her butt. He found it to be round and plump as well, but appeared to be firm, some might call it a bubble butt. It appeared to be a little large for her frame, and really the only flaw that he noticed on her, but some he guessed wouldn’t consider it a flaw, J-Lo had made a living off of her ass.
They didn’t have to walk far to reach Kelsey’s normal table. It was the booth closest to the door and a window. Cops, we’re all the same, he thought.
“Would you like a menu?”
“Please, and a bottled water, if you have it.”
“I’m sorry,” She looked around the room, and gestured with her head and the raising of eyebrows, “we don’t get a big demand for it around here.”
“Tap water is fine,” he said. No bottled water, and yet Franklin Foods has a lobster tank. Irony.
Trina sat the water down in front of him while Jacob thumbed through his notebook. He barely even noticed her as he reviewed what he knew so far.
Haley was already a fitness ‘nut’ at the age of fifteen. She wrote in a journal everyday for the past three years. A journal which wasn’t in her room. She had no mother and a father who desperately tried his hardest to make her life as normal as possible without being overbearing. Her boyfriend (ex-boyfriend) was gay and had dumped her to focus on basketball. The last known person to see her was her father when he dropped her off for a run at the park. She liked to write music and had several songs on her computer. She practiced the night before she disappeared until ten o’clock, then went home and started chatting with someone called Musicman28 about a problem she was having with some guy. Jordyn seems bitter that Haley left her with no friends and without a musical partner.
There wasn’t a lot to go on but it was starting to look like she might have ran away. Like most girls she was probably stressed with all the things going on in her life and needed to get away. But where to and how did she get there?
Jacob jumped slightly in his booth when Kelsey slid in across from him. Her wavy hair hug down just below her shoulders, blown by the cold chill of the wind. She pulled off her brown sheriff’s department coat to reveal her purple silk blouse that clung to her perky breasts, she had on a pair of lace up cowboy boots and a pair of fifty dollar hand distressed jeans. Her 9mm Beretta hung on her belt next to her badge.
“So what’s the deal Nathan,” she asked. “Lead a girl on, have a wonderful night and leave before the sun comes up?”
“What? No, I had to get on the road..” he trailed off his words.
“Yet you’re here.”
“The roads are closed out of town.” He said, puzzled by his need to explain.
She chuckled as Trina approached with a large glass of tea. Kelsey most certainly is a regular. He looked around to see that all the eyes were on him again. Maybe them. He could hear the rumor mills starting now, ‘Kelsey was with a man that isn’t from here’, he would be surprised if it wasn’t in Monday’s paper.
“I’m only kidding you Nathan. I expected as much. Really I’m more surprised you called, what did you need?”
“Let me start by saying that I wasn’t entirely truthful with you last night.” He imagined her standing and putting two in his chest right here in the dining room of May Belle’s.
Instead she picked up two sugar packets and dumped them in her tea, “I expected as much.”
This was going better than he had anticipated. Maybe luck was on his side today.
“I’m actually, or was actually, a cop myself. I do a little PI work now and I got stranded here and met this guy who said he needed my help.”
She reclined in her seat sinking deep into the vinyl and took a long draw from her sweet tea. Her lips punched outward and lines formed on her forehead. He had struck a nerve she wasn’t expecting.
“So why did you call me?”
“I stopped by the station this morning to talk to the sheriff and she directed me to you, she said you were in charge of this particular case and that you would help me.”
“What case is it?”
“There is no Haley Murphy case.” she started to stand, reached into her front pocket and pulled out a ten to throw down. She held it in her hand, hovering over the table.
“What do you mean there is no case. Mr. Murphy is under the assumption that the department is investigating the disappearance of his daughter, a minor I might add.”
“Well he assumed wrong. I put the case on hold back in August as a runaway. She is listed in several missing persons data-based on state and national levels but without any new information my hands are tied, Mr. Collins.”
“Kelsey, I didn’t come here step on any toes, I just want to help Jerry find his daughter.”
“And get your hands on some of their money? I’ve seen sharks like you stroll into town and try to make a couple bucks. Mostly its psychic hacks who claim to have some knew piece of information that came to them in a dream.”
“Mr. Murphy lives very modestly, Kelsey, what does he have to offer any con-men, which I assure you I am not.”
“Mr. Murphy is a man of modest means, but his daughter is not.”
Kelsey threw the ten on the table and turned to leave the restaurant. The bell above the door rings as she passes through it and the all eyes are on Jacob again. He decides to forgo any lunch or dinner and leave, just like Kelsey.
Outside on the sidewalk he sees a giant red metal box with afternoon edition of the Post Dispatch. He plops five quarters in and pulls out the paper.
The Prius couldn’t drive fast enough back to the hotel.