I’m missing something. Some vital clue that would help me to locate the missing girl. But what? I sit, and I think. I pace, and I think. I go for a jog around town to help me clear my head (and that’s saying something, because I never jog). But nothing comes to me – no alarm, no light bulb, no earth-shattering revelation. I had scoured every inch of Raven Creek, and investigated everyone from janitors to baristas. There’s nothing left. It’s time, I know, to face the grim reality.
Little Philippa had either been kidnapped by some stranger passing through town, or she’s dead.
I’m not ready to face up to either possibility, especially the idea that her remains could be buried in some sicko’s basement right now. I decide to head to Chloe’s house for comforting. Maybe after a night in her arms, I’ll be ready to call it quits on the search.
“It’s after midnight,” she says, rubbing her eyes. She doesn’t look happy to see me. “I was about to head to bed.”
Still, she lets me in and listens patiently as I share my worries about Philippa. “Cases like this make me think about changing careers,” I say.
“I’ve changed careers like, five times,” says Chloe. She starts listing all the jobs she has, and I’m barely paying attention, until all of a sudden, she says something I can’t believe.
“Say that again?” I rub my ear, hoping that I heard her wrong.
She grins. “I said that I used to be a mime. For around six years. Once in a while, people still hire me for birthday parties and stuff.”
I resist the urge to shove her away from me right then and there. A mime? My girlfriend is a freaking mime!
Now I understand the feelings of uncertainty I’d been having lately whenever Chloe and I were together. Somehow, my instincts must have known that something about her was off. No one can be a mime and be a stable, rational human being. This honeymoon is definitely over.
“Hey Chloe.” I try to keep my voice bright. “Would you mind making me a cup of tea?”
“Now?” She sounds incredulous.
“It’s been a long day.”
“Well…I guess so.” I wait until she disappears into the kitchen. Then I put on my detective hat, figuratively speaking, and begin to search the one place in Raven Creek I had neglected to search: Chloe’s house.
I creep from room to room, scanning for anything I may have missed while head-over-heels for Chloe. Then I head upstairs, cringing when one of the steps groans under my weight. I pause, certain that Chloe has heard and will come running out of the kitchen to see what I’m up to. But she doesn’t.
The upstairs bedrooms are dark and silent. I flip on the light switches and glance around, but see nothing out of the ordinary. I’m filled with disappointment. Not that I want my girlfriend to be a kidnapper or anything, but at least the idea gave me a glimmer of hope for finding Philippa alive.
I’m about to go back downstairs when I notice something odd. At the end of hallway, there’s a huge bookcase against one wall. My first thought is, Chloe can’t stand to read, one of the differences between me and her. My second thought is, who puts a massive bookcase in a narrow hallway? My detective spidey senses are tingling.
I walk over and examine the books, which are an eclectic mixture of how-to manuals and classic works of literature. Nothing too out of the ordinary there. But then, I hear a small sound from behind the books, and I swear it sounds like a sneeze. What the…?
Now I’m convinced – this is not a mere bookshelf. I flip through the books, searching for a button to press, a handle, or something. Then I push gently on a row of books. There is a click, and a sound of a motor humming.
A panel opens up in the bookcase, revealing a doorway to another room. Without hesitation, I step inside.