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The women stood and shook hands with Manny, Suzann introducing him first to Stacie and then Karla.

“You’re the teacher, right?” he asked Stacie, shaking her hand briefly. “Suzann tells me that you’re the one who listened to Karla’s little girl- Skylar, right? -and brought all this to her and the school principal. That was good work. A lot of folks would a just ignored a third grader telling them that she just saw her dead daddy out on the playground.” He punctuated his, “Good job,” with a single index finger point at chest level before turning to Karla.

“Karla,” he said, holding the woman’s hand in his, narrowing his eyes to a slit and nodding four times before releasing it. “I’m sorry this bad hombre Caleb’s got your little girl. I got a little girl in third grade over at Lake Myrtle. Toughest thing in the world is worrying about your kid, even if she just goes missing for two minutes in the grocery store. You got that bottom dropping out of your insides feeling when you don’t know where they are. These guys are gonna find em. Period. End of report.

“I spoke to the responding officers, guy named Derek Easton and a kid named Luis Madrigal. Never worked with this Luis guy but Derek says he’s stand up. They’ll do right. They got detectives working on it too. I know it’s hard to believe but this is probably for the best. Sheriff’s department knows who has your daughter, what vehicle he’s driving and when he grabbed your Skylar and Sara’s mother. Marti, right?” he asked the last of Suzann.

“Yes,” Suzann replied, nodding minutely three times. “Marti Kohnen.”

“You talk to the officer who brought Sara in?” he asked, eyes going from Karla to Stacie and stopping at Suzann. “How she’s doing?”

“We don’t know,” Suzann replied. “We surprised her. Officer Rosenstock, I mean. We happened to arrive here just before she and the ambulance and we called out to Sara just as the EMTs were pulling her down from the ambulance. Officer Rosenstock wouldn’t even tell us if it was Sara on the gurney and stood between us and the poor child as they rolled her into the ER. By the time we got inside, Sara, the EMT’s and officer Rosenstock had all evaporated. Whoosh! I’m sure they rushed her to a secure area back in the bowels of the building.”

“Yeah, well, it sounds like she was doing her job. This officer Rosenstock, she kind of a petite thing with dark hair in a ponytail and hazel eyes? Probably, what? Mid-thirties?”

“I don’t know,” Suzann said with a scowl. “I suppose she was short but those hats you people wear make everyone seem half-a-foot taller. Probably mid-thirties,” she conceded, bobbling her head.

“Those people wear,” Manny replied with a laugh. “I’m a civilian, remember?

“Yeah, gotta be her. I didn’t work with her much; different station. She got the nice new one around the corner on Trinity Boulevard while I got the old one up Little in Central. Course, I could walk to court when need be, and she had to drive, so I guess there’s pluses and minuses. Seemed legit, but like I said, never much contact. Probably wouldn’t have noticed her if she wasn’t a woman. Just not that many female cops in County. Sounds like she was doing her job,” he said, tilting his head and furrowing his brow.

Manny screwed his mouth up and nodded a few times before continuing. “I’d already talked to Sergeant Looney on the phone and given him the info on Caleb and his Elohim’s Army connections. If Rosenstock knew that then she damn well should have been on the alert. And, no offense, Karla,” he added, showing her his tattooed right arm, “but you’re kinda flying the colors here, right? We know gang signs, you dig?”

Karla blushed visibly. “I was never an Elohim and I’ve learned that their hate is stupid and unchristian,” she said. “Don’t judge me.”

“Whoa, whoa, no, no,” Manny said with a laugh. “I’m not judging you! I’m explaining why Rosenstock would have gotten Sara Kohnen the hell out of the parking lot. Though it would be pretty odd for Elohim scum to show up with a Jamaican, wouldn’t it, Suzann?”

“I don’t know. I’m not familiar, but it certainly sounds like I am a bit too well done for their particular tastes. In any case, what do we do now?”

“Karla here needs to talk to the police,” Manny replied. “Either Officer Rosenstock or a detective. Probably both. Let me give you a number to call-”

“I did.” Karla answered curtly. “Stacie called nine-one-one after I talked to little Sara and the police were picking her up. We called nine-one-one to find out where they were taking her, but they wouldn’t tell us. The only reason we got here before you is because you sent that text to Suzann. Thank you for that, by the way.”

“Wait,” Manny said, holding up a hand and shaking his head. “You called nine-one-one, told em who you are and what was going on and nobody connected you to the cops? That’s ridiculous.”

“Well, that’s what happened,” Karla replied.

“Yeah, yeah. No. That’s not what I meant by ridiculous. Did you give em your contact info? They get your name or just the ID from, uh, you said Stacie, right? From Stacie’s phone?”

“We gave them Karla’s full name and phone and the operator said he’d pass it on to responding officers,” Stacie replied.

“Okay. Responding officers probably means Easton and the Madrigal guy and they’re up to their eyebrows in it right now. Okay. So, we call the police directly. Hang on,” he said, grabbing his phone from his pocket.