“Hey, Debbie, I’m sorry, I got out and was gonna hurry over here but the chain just fell off-”
Ellen stopped and stared at the tennis shoes that sat on top of her desk attached to the man with the long hair.
“Sorry El, Debbie had some patrons so I said I’d watch out for the little ones,” Jessie said.
“Huh, well, I guess that’s okay. Don’t you have some computers or something?”
“Updating. Ninety percent of IT work is waiting on updates.”
“What’s the other ten?”
Jessie flopped his feet to the floor and stood up. “Any mention of the police?”
“What did they say?”
“I haven’t talked to the police, El… I was asking if you had.”
“Oh, huh, right. Why do you ask?”
“Everybody’s hunting for that kid. Nobody’s seen hide nor hair. Strange.”
“But why ask me? I didn’t do it.”
“No worries. I just thought you might have heard something.”
She stared at him, quiet for a second, “You think I did it.”
“What? No. Kid probably just run off. Did it myself a half a dozen times. One time they caught me three counties over after a week of walking. Kids just do stuff his age. Not your fault.”
“Just go back down to your basement or over to those hippies in the tents and do whatever it is you do.”
“Whoa, harsh. Might should go over and talk to Caleb. At least he seems to be doing something round here getting us a new building.”
“Tough talk, dude,” Debbie said from the connector between the trailers, “Like you never done nothing for anything. Just sat back and got high while the old building burned.”
“I tried to help. Carried Natalie out myself. At least I was here, where were you? At the college getting some bullshit degree.”
“Oh, you think cussing at me will help you, little boy? Don’t worry, this is all going in my report,” Debbie took out a little pocket notebook and started making notes.
Jessie’s brow wrinkled and his hands rose and fell, “Enough of this shit, man, try and help somebody. Go back to my computers.”
Jessie walked away from the two ladies, past the computer lab and down into the server room in the tunnels beneath the lab. Debbie and Ellen watched him go.
“What was his problem?” Debbie said.
“He thinks I had something to do with the kid going missing.”
Ellen looked up and stared at Debbie.
“I mean, the way it looks to me you seem to get really skittish when people ask you about that kind of thing. Like you’ve been hiding something. At least that’s what Jon thinks.”
“Oh, you don’t know him like that? Detective Norsworthy. Maybe you don’t know him like I do. He thinks you did something and are hiding.”
“What does he think I’m hiding?”
“Didn’t say you were hiding something, just that you were hiding. Quick to shift things around away from yourself. I think he’s right.”
“You go from telling off Jessie to telling me off?”
Debbie smiled, “There you go again, classic deflection.”
The door opened and both of them turned and squinted into the sunshine. Caleb stood blinking.
“Have either of you seen Jessie?” he asked.
“Down in his creepy little hole,” Debbie said, “What do you need him for?”
“The police. Need to see if we can move those servers around so they can have access to the tunnels that way.”
Ellen’s back straightened, “Why do they need access to the tunnels?”
“It’s about the kid. They think he might have gone down there and hid.”
Debbie nodded, “Okay but I need to talk to you about Jessie. He and Ellen were talking earlier and he got real combative and started using language…”
Caleb stood, nodding, but Ellen could tell he had checked out. Everything was going wrong, all wrong.
“When do they want to start looking?” she said, cutting Debbie off.
“Soon as we can give them access, but there’s all that computer stuff down there maybe tomorrow. But I’ll have to talk to Jessie. Thanks, ladies.”
The older man stepped past them and back to the computer lab. Debbie started to follow and then walked back through the connector to the circulation area, all the time making notes.
Ellen dropped into her chair and started to think. Everything was falling apart because of that brat. She needed to get down in those tunnels, but wouldn’t. Couldn’t. Not anytime soon. She wanted to scream and throw everything off her desk, but she settled for picking up a piece of paper and tearing. Long strips, around and around, tearing the paper and it calmed her. She concentrated on the paper as she tore and saw it was the Parker Building loft apartment brochure. She tore and she tore and thought and thought… How to keep the police above ground?
Tear, tear, tear…