Carthage picked up his cell phone and thought about it.
Go in person?
What would be the more emotionally correct thing to do? What would be the normal, worried father thing to do?
What is the right thing to do?
Going in person seems kind of extreme.
But if I call, they’ll probably have me come in anyway to fill out paperwork. I’m sure of it.
Carthage turned his phone on.
I should just go in.
He tapped his thumb against the keypad as he waited for the main screen to show up.
It would save me a lot of trouble.
The main screen appeared.
He dialed the number for the police station.
A woman’s unenthusiastic voice intoned, “Hello, this is the Pinkerlee Police Station. Your call may be recorded for quality assurance and assorted legal purposes. How can I direct your call?”
Assorted legal purposes…?
“Uhm. My child has gone missing. I think she’s been kidnapped. I last saw her at Sammy’s Place here in Pinkerlee. She was in the company of, I believe, the receptionist.”
“Describe the receptionist.”
“Honey-blonde hair. Female. Easily over twenty-something years old. Blue eyes. Caucasian.”
“What was she wearing, sir?”
Carthage froze, mentally stumped. “Uhh, she was wearing…uhhh. I don’t know. Clothes. Female clothes.”
“That is not very specific, sir.”
“Well, I don’t make a habit of scrutinizing the clothes of every woman I meet. Sorry.”
There was a moment of silence.
“Describe your daughter, sir.”
“Six years old. Dirt-blonde hair. Dark blue eyes. Short. Skinny. Caucasian. Dressed in some sort of kid’s clothes. Can turn into a fire creature.”
“I’m sorry. Could you repeat that last one?”
“Can turn into a fire creature.”
There was a long pause.
Carthage nervously scratched his head.
“Sir. This is the Pinkerlee Police Department. We do serious work here. We do not have time for shenanigans.”
“Bye.” And she ended the call.
He shut off his phone and huffed out a breath. “Fine. I’ll pay them a visit.”
Barbara and Sarah relocated to the porch swing.
Sarah curled up against her.
Barbara sighed. “I would love to have you stay with us or with my father or with Jeff.”
Sarah raised her head. She pointed at herself and at Barbara.
“I know. I want you to stay with me too. But I need to call the police—-”
Sarah shook her head. She drew a rough attempt at a badge above her heart, pressed her fist against the middle of her chest, did a pulling away gesture, and pointed towards the city.
It took Barbara a few minutes to decipher all of that. “No. They won’t take you back to The Institute. It’s burned down, anyways. I want to find out if your parents have been looking for you.”
Sarah looked down at her knees. She touched the middle of her chest, touched the side of her head, and shook her head.
She touched the middle of her chest and hugged herself with a shudder.
Barbara’s heart sank. “I know. It’s a scary thing. But they’re your parents. If they’re out there looking for you…If they are good people…If they love you, they deserve to know that you are alive and well. I can’t just keep you without…without…Sarah, I need to know the truth. They need to know the truth. It’s the right thing to do.”
Sarah raised her gaze. She drew the badge above her heart again, pointed at Barbara, and pressed her wrists together as if they were in handcuffs.
“No. They won’t arrest me for trying to find your parents.” Barbara smiled. “And if they do, Ambrose will rescue me.” Her heart warmed up. “He’ll tear through the walls to get to me.”
Sarah smiled. She pointed at Barbara, spread her hand on her chest, and tapped her index fingers together.
Barbara laughed. “If you’re asking me if I want to kiss him, yes. Yes, I do.”
Sarah’s smile turned into a full grin.
“So much more than you could possibly imagine.”