Time to Heal(5)

By: Karen Young


“Thanks,” Jake said dryly, knowing that if anything of substance had been on the tape, Gonzales would have already acted on it.

“Naturally my men will cooperate if it turns out to be something within my jurisdiction.”

“Naturally.”

“I’ll hold off making this public,” Gonzales said, pausing with his hand on the door. “For the moment.”

“Yeah, J.B. I appreciate that.”

As the two men filed through the door, Joe Crenshaw paused then turned back. “Have you heard anything new on the disappearance of your son, Jake?”

“No, nothing.” He set his jaw.

“I’m sorry. I still can’t believe it happened right here in Tidewater.”

“Yeah.”

“If there’s anything—”

“Thanks, Joe.”

“Tell Rachel that Marge said she’s in her prayers.”

“I will. Thanks again.”

When the door closed, Jake was still for a minute. Only his fingers moved, massaging the bridge of his nose. One of the hardest things he had to endure was the well-meaning sympathy of others. He knew it was crazy, but it made his failure to uncover a clue in Scotty’s disappearance even worse. Here he was, charged with the protection of the people of Kinard County, and he’d failed in the most elementary way. Did they wonder if he could do his job, having failed to safeguard his own flesh and blood?

Was that what Rachel was thinking? That he’d failed her because he hadn’t been able to find Scotty? Was that why she had closed him out? Was that why they lived like strangers in the same house?

His fingers stilled and he stared at the phone. He’d left mad. Maybe he should call….

As his hand hovered over the receiver, his intercom buzzed.

“Yeah, Mavis. Who is it?”

“You’ve got another visitor, Jake. He’s—”

“Can somebody else handle it, Mavis? I can’t get a thing done around here if I spend the day talking.” He thumped the unopened mail stacked in his in basket. Lined up neatly beside his phone were half a dozen pink phone messages. “I haven’t even had time to return my calls. If anything was important, it’s probably too late.”

“Nothing was a matter of life and death, Jake. You know I always handle those calls.”

He chuckled in spite of himself. “Okay, Mavis. For a minute there, I got carried away thinking I was indispensable around here or something.”

“About this visitor, Jake…”

“Okay, who is it?”

“A kid. His name is Michael. He—”

“Mavis, I’m up to my armpits in here. Get Jacky. She’s the juvenile officer.”

“He insists on seeing you.”

“Well, who’s in charge out there! Tell him—”

“Jake, I think you ought to see this kid.”

He slammed the receiver on its cradle and closed his eyes. When Mavis was that determined, there was little point in arguing. He drummed his fingers on his desk. Actually, on a regular day when Mavis was that determined, he wouldn’t argue with her, because she usually had a good reason for making a stand. As the thought formed, his door clicked and opened slowly. Jake waited expectantly. When no one appeared, he called out, “Come on in.”

Finally, the door swung fully open to reveal a tall, skinny, scruffy-looking kid wearing a cap bearing the logo of the Miami Dolphins. He quickly gazed around the room, then looked shyly at Jake.

“Hello, sir.”

“Hello…Michael, is it?”

Michael nodded, shifting the strap of a worn denim knapsack so that its weight rested on the floor. Despite the warm May weather, Michael wore a denim jacket that was nearly as worn as his knapsack. Looking closer, Jake could see that his jeans, too, were threadbare, as though they’d seen a lot of miles and countless washings. His orange T-shirt looked new, though. Across the front was a huge ocean wave and the words “Pensacola Beach, Florida.”

A runaway. First thing they did was spend their precious resources on an overpriced T-shirt. Jake ran an experienced eye over him, stopping at his feet. He’d have been better off buying new shoes. His were battered beyond recognition. And big. The kid must wear a size twelve. If he ever grows into those feet and hands, Jake thought, he’ll be my size.