Ellen bound up to the library trailer so fast she forgot they kept the door locked before the official hours. Her hand slipped a bit as she pulled back on the door and found it shut tight. Fishing into her bag, she pulled out a small key ring and picked out the trailer door key.
Before she had the chance to open the door, though, it opened.
“Your early,” Jessie said.
“What are you doing here?”
“I work here.”
Jessie pushed the door open and held it until Ellen caught it with her hand. Then he walked away. Carry a grudge much, Ellen thought.
Ellen followed him, “Jessie.”
“What?” he said, still walking away from her.
She started to apologize for yesterday’s argument, but thought better. Let him feel bad.
“When are the police getting here?” she said.
He did not stop, walking towards the computer lab, “They got here a half hour ago.”
Her breath caught in her throat. She dropped her bag where she stood and started thinking. There had to be a way out of this. Where could that little brat have run to?
She walked over to her desk and started shifting papers around, looking for a blank one. Small torn bits of paper fell to the floor. She looked at them and started swaying. Tear, tear, tears… No more tears, Ellen…
Ellen shook her head and took a deep breath. She was a big girl now. Time to fix the problem. Talk to the police?
Ellen walked into the computer lab and kneeled down next to the service hole in the floor. She heard voices.
“I dunno. Kid doesn’t seem down there, not as far as that sink hole” Det. Baker said.
“I heard some crying. Thought it was just steam from the pipes making noises, but who knows?” Jessie said.
“Why didn’t you say that before?” Det. Norsworthy said.
“Yeah?” Baker said.
Ellen heard Jessie take a breath, “That was before the kid. Didn’t think anything about it, like I said.”
“Could be pipes. Half the damn town used to be heated by these tunnels.”
“I thought they were for booze and books?” Jessie asked.
“That, too. How about we go over and check the old library building access?”
“Ain’t it still smoking?”
“That’s just ash, man,” Baker said, “Come’on.”
Ellen stood and walked back into the library. She started toward her desk and ran into Reshonda. Reshonda carried two steaming styrofoam cups.
“What are you doing here?” Reshonda said.
“I work here, what are you doing here?”
Resonda’s eyes narrowed, “Don’t get smart. Husband gave me a lift. Bringing them some coffee.”
“Do you think that kid’s down there?”
Reshonda looked at Ellen again, longer this time, “Where else would he be?”
“Yeah, where else would he be?” Det. Baker said from behind Ellen.
Reshonda smiled and held out one of the cups. Her husband took it and blew on its contents. The other detective took the second cup.
“Tent City?” Ellen asked.
Both detectives shook their heads.
“Asked. Whole thing runs like clockwork. They accounted for the comings and goings of all 83 members, including a cute little daycare and afterschool program I was thinking”
“You can stop thinking right there, Stephen,” Reshonda said, “I’m not giving our babies to those hippies to fill with… Whatever’s going on there.”
Again they shook their heads, “Not from this end unless he slipped through the cracks. Place caved in when they were putting that fountain in the park a while back. This end just ends.”
“Which is why we’re going over to the old library and see if we can get access from there.”
Ellen started to look around. Her mind flicked from place to place. Nobody had noticed the child leave the library, the tunnels were clear… Her eyes fell on the torn paper again.
“What about the Parker Building?”
“Parker Building? I thought they were done with that?”
Ellen shook her head, “Not the top floors. It’s been under construction all month, but just the first and second floors. The upper floors are untouched, but they have those construction shoots, you know, the ones they drop the trash down?”
“Kid might think that’s a slide, go up but be afraid to come down?”
“For three days?” Baker’s partner shook his head, “Even with the mayor halting construction like he has been… I dunno.”
“I used to live in my tree house. This kid has had the run of two floors of old timey awesome,” Baker said, “Yeah. Let’s check with the realtor and see if we can go up.”
Ellen’s smile felt bigger than her head. She knew the missing child was up there. Just knew it. He had to be.
Norsworthy opened the door to the trailer as Baker kissed his wife goodbye. Ellen could see Debbie walking up from her car in the parking lot as Norsworthy turned back.
“Thanks, Ellen,” the young police detective said, “Wouldn’t have thought of it without you.”
Ellen felt her smile grow bigger and tears in her eyes as Debbie’s mouth fell open. Reshonda placed a hand on her shoulder. Ellen put a hand on Reshonda’s hand.
The child just had to be in the Parker Building.