Dean tidied up the last bit of his writeup for the job he’d finished. The runaway was in the hands of social services, while her dad was in divorce proceedings with her mom. Neither parent seemed inclined to put her welfare above theirs. Both were in fact, so dysfunctional that Dean had actually contacted social services for the girl after meeting her parents.
I never thought helping would be something like that. What are those people thinking? Whatever it is, it sure doesn’t include their daughter.
He finished the writing, then transcribed it to an official report on the computer. He sent one to social services, and one to each parent. He knew he was going to get stiffed for his fee, but that the courts were for. Dean didn’t feel one twinge of remorse for piling another problem on the two.
I’m glad that one’s over. I can do with a nice, quiet break.
It’s said that the time you feel the most need for a break is the time when you get the most trouble. In this case, trouble found Dean right as he was closing up the office for the night. He’d just finished turning the key in the dead bolt when a woman came through the front door and walked nervously towards him.
Dean turned to face her as she appraoched. She was his equal in height, with deep coppery skin, black hair and deep brown eyes set in a soft, round face. She wore a pair of faded blue jeans, a red thermal shirt under a black winter coat.
“I’m Dean Youngwood. What can I do for you, Ma’am?”
She stepped closer and Dean could see worry lines creasing her face as she opened her brown purse, and pulled out a folded picture. She handed it to Dean.
“That’s my daughter. She’s missing. Her friends went out clubbing last night, and she didn’t come home. When I found out she wasn’t sleeping over at any of her friends places, I came here. I think something’s happened to her. The knot in my stomach won’t go away.
Dean examined the picture for a moment, then unlocked his office door. “Come in Mrs…ahh…?”
“Payamy. Henra Payamy. My daughter’s name is Maren.”
Dean held the door open for Mrs Payamy, then closed it quietly once they were inside. His office was a spare place, containing a desk with a chair and two guest chairs. Two file cabinets adorned the wall to the right, and a small coffee pot set on the desktop. Dean indicated the coffee maker.
“Would you like a cup? I can start it up. I usually want one right in the morning.”
She shook her head no, and sat in the closest chair to her.
Dean sat down and focused his attention on the woman, who was visibly trying to avoid breaking down in front of him. He didn’t have any tissues, so he got up, rummaged under the small counter to the left. he returned to his desk, unwrapping paper cloths. She took on and held it, twisting it in her hands constantly as she waited for Dean to say something.
“Mrs Payamy. If you want me to look for your daughter, I will be happy to do so. What I will need is the names of her friends, and places where she likes to hang out when she’s not at home.” He looked at the desk, then back into her eyes. “If I can find out where she was, then I can start following upon where she went and find out what’s really going on.”
Dean made a conscious effort to harden his voice. He knew that sometimes young girls ran away because they had fallen in love, couldn’t stand the home life, or gotten pregnant by their boyfriend and couldn’t face the family.
“Understand please, that if you hire me, I’ll find the truth, regardless of what it is. I don’t push anything under the rug.”
Mrs Payamy nodded. “I don’t care about that. I just want my baby home again.”
Dean stood up and moved around the desk to pat her arm sympathetically.
“I understand, Mrs Payamy. I’ll do my best to get her home to you.”
She didn’t nod, but left an envelop on the desk, then walked back out of the office, head up, back straight, forcing herself to remain calm. Dean watched her go, then sat down at his desk. He stared at the envelope, then opened the middle drawer. He pulled out a letter opener and carefully slit the top. Out came a class ring, two pictures, and five hundred dollars various denominations. A second letter was inside.
‘Dear Mr Youngwood: Please accept this as your retainer. I know you can’t do this for free, so I hope what’s here is adequate.
He put the letter aside, along with the class ring. Why she had sent that along with the money bothered Dean. A ring is a memento. It’s something you don’t part with unless a dire situation comes up. It underscored the concern the woman had for her daughter, and made Dean more determined to find the truth of the matter.
He moved everything to the middle drawer then locked it closed, and went home to sleep and tackle the problem rested and refreshed. The next morning a letter was on the floor inside his office. Mrs Payamy had dropped by and left the list of six friends, like Dean had asked for. Three had asterisks next to them, and a note at the bottom saying these three were the ones that were with her daughter the night she disappeared. A second sheet of paper had a list of four locations that she thought her daughter liked to visit. Time to go to work.
Dean went to the girls with the asterisks first. The first girl was Alys Hardisty. She was the youngest, being fifteen. She had been the first that Maren Payamy had dropped off that evening.
Alys mentioned that they’d gone to an all night diner to talk about school.
“Maren was excited, I remember. She had met some new guy, and she was crushing in a major way. She even showed us a picture of him that she’d taken when he wasn’t looking.”
“Did you get a copy of the picture from her? That would help a lot with finding them.” Dean crossed his fingers.
“Sorry. She didn’t pass it out.”
“Well, damn.” Dean thought for a moment. “Was there anything in the picture that you remember?”
The girl shrugged. “Nah, it was just a picture.”
“Okay, thanks for your time.”
Alys nodded, then closed the door. Dean went to the next two on the list and got the same answer, She showed them a picture of a handsome looking guy, but didn’t share it. None of the three girls remembered anything about the picture other than the man, who had shaggy brown hair hauled back in a ponytail, square features, and looked like he worked out. He went to the last girl’s address, hoping that he might get lucky, and he did.
“The picture? Yeah, I recognize the place because it’s where we stopped a couple of times to get beer. The guy worked behind the counter at the Kwik-Way on Docket. It’s a couple blocks from the high school.”
It was a real break. He drove down to the store, then wandered inside. Behind the counter was a grey-haired man who looked in his fifties. Dean walked up to the counter. The man looked at him.
“What brand you want?”
“Brand? Oh, no. Sorry. I’m here asking about someone who works here. Tall guy, square features, ponytail. I was in here the other day and asked about,” Dean hesitated for a moment, scanning the store, “Moosehead? I wanted to know when you guys restocked it so I could get a case.”