Long Lost Page 65

’’Do you have a court order?’’ Paige asked.

’’Could we look at your computer sign-up logs from eight months ago?’’

’’Same question.’’

Berleand smiled at her. ’’Have a pleasant day.’’

’’You too.’’

We moved away from Paige Wesson and started for the door. My phone buzzed. It was Esperanza.

’’I was able to get through to someone at Carver Academy,’’ Esperanza said. ’’They have no student registered with the first name Carrie.’’

’’Bummer,’’ I said. I thanked her, hung up, filled in Berleand.

Berleand said, ’’Any suggestions?’’

’’We split up and show her picture to the students in here,’’ I said.

I scanned the room and saw a table with three teenage boys in the corner. Two wore varsity jackets, the kind with the name stenciled on the front and the pleather sleeves, the same kind I\'d worn when I was at Livingston High. The third was pure prep boy the set jaw, the fine bone structure, the collared polo shirt, the expensive khaki pants. I decided to start with them.

I showed them the picture.

’’Do you know her?’’

Prep Boy did the talking. ’’I think her name is Carrie.’’

Pay dirt.

’’Do you know her last name?’’

Three head shakes.

’’Does she go to your school?’’

’’No,’’ Prep Boy said. ’’She\'s a townie, I assume. We\'ve seen her around.’’

Varsity Jacket One said, ’’She\'s hot.’’

Prep Boy with the set jaw nodded his agreement. ’’And she has a terrific ass.’’

I frowned. Meet Mini-Win, I thought.

Berleand looked over at me. I signaled that I might have something. He joined us.

’’Do you know where she lives?’’ I asked.

’’No. But Kenbo had her.’’

’’Who?’’

’’Ken Borman. He had her.’’

Berleand said, ’’Had her?’’

I looked at him. Berleand said, ’’Oh. Had her.’’

’’Where can we find Kenbo?’’ I asked.

’’He\'s in the weight room on campus.’’

They gave us directions and we were on our way.

37

I expected Kenbo to be bigger.

When you hear a nickname like Kenbo and you hear he\'s had the hot blonde and that he\'s in the weight room, a certain image of a muscle-headed pretty boy sort of rises to the surface. That wasn\'t the case here. Kenbo had hair so dark and straight it had to be colored and ironed. It hung over one eye like a heavy black curtain. His complexion was pale, his arms reedy, his fingernails polished black. We called this look ’’goth’’ way back in my day.

When I handed him the photograph, I saw his eye I could see only one because the other was covered by the hair widen. He looked up at us and I could see fear on his face.

’’You know her,’’ I said.

Kenbo stood up, backed up a few steps, turned, and then suddenly sprinted away. I looked at Berleand. He said, ’’You don\'t expect me to chase him, do you?’’

I took off after him. Kenbo was outside now, dashing across the rather spacious Carver Academy campus. The gunshot wound ached but not enough to slow me down. There were very few students out and about, no teachers that I could see, but someone was bound to call the authorities. This couldn\'t be good.

’’Wait!’’ I shouted.

He didn\'t. He spun left and disappeared behind a brick building. He wore his pants fashionably loose, too loose, and that helped. He had to keep hitching them up. I followed, closing the gap. I felt an ache in my knee, a reminder of my old injury, and leapt a wire-mesh fence. He ran across a sports field made of artificial turf. I didn\'t bother calling out again. That would only waste strength and time. He was heading to the outskirts of campus, away from witnesses, and I took this as a positive thing.

When he reached an opening near the woods, I dived for his feet, wrapped my arms around his leg in a manner that would have made any NFL defensive back envious, and drove him to the ground. He fell harder than I would have liked, spinning away from me, trying to kick me off.

’’I\'m not going to hurt you,’’ I shouted.

’’Just leave me alone.’’

I actually straddled his chest and pinned his arms, as if I were his big brother. ’’Calm down.’’

’’Get off me!’’

’’I\'m just trying to find this girl.’’

’’I don\'t know anything.’’

’’Ken ’’

’’Get off me!’’

’’Promise you won\'t run?’’

’’Get off. Please!’’

I was pinning down a helpless, terrified high school kid. What would I do for an encore? Drown a kitten? I rolled off him.

’’I\'m trying to help this girl,’’ I said.

He sat up. There were tears on his face. He wiped them away and hid his face in his arm.

’’Ken?’’

’’What?’’

’’This girl is missing and probably in serious danger.’’

He looked up at me.

’’I\'m trying to find her.’’

’’You don\'t know her?’’

I shook my head. Berleand was finally in view.

’’Are you cops?’’

’’He is. I\'m working on this for a personal reason.’’

’’What reason?’’

’’I\'m trying to help’’ I didn\'t see any other way to say it ’’I\'m trying to help her birth mother locate her. Carrie is missing, and she may be in serious trouble.’’

’’I don\'t understand. Why come to me?’’

’’Your friends told us you dated her.’’

He lowered his head again.

’’In fact, they said you did more than just date her.’’

He shrugged. ’’So?’’

’’So what\'s her full name?’’

’’You don\'t know that either?’’

’’She\'s in trouble, Ken.’’

Berleand had caught up to us. He was breathing heavily. He reached into his pocket I thought for a pencil and pulled out a cigarette. Yeah, that should help.

’’Carrie Steward,’’ he said.

I looked at Berleand. He nodded, wheezed, managed to say: ’’I\'ll call it in.’’

He grabbed his phone and started walking, phone in the air, searching for service.

’’I don\'t understand why you ran,’’ I said.

’’I lied,’’ he said. ’’To my friends, okay? I never slept with her. I just said that.’’

I waited.

’’We met at the library, actually. I mean, she was so beautiful, you know? And she was surrounded by these two other blondes, all staring off like something out of Children of the Corn. It was spooky. Anyway I\'m watching her for like three days and she finally goes off by herself and I walk up and say hi. She totally ignores me at first. I mean, I\'ve been given the cold shoulder but this chick is giving me chills. But I figure, what have I got to lose? So I keep talking and I have my iPod, right, so I ask her what music she likes and she says she doesn\'t like music. I couldn\'t believe it, so I play her something from Blue October. I can see her face change. The power of music, right?’’


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