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PART NINETY-ONE

Sheriff’s Deputy Tierney Rosenstock sucked on her top front teeth, raised and lowered her eyebrows, did a tiny shoulder shrug while shaking her head minutely, looked to the three women, said, “Come on. There’s a place over here,” and started walking away.

‘Over here’ turned out to be the last curtained examination area in the ER. An oversized, overstuffed seat just large enough to have a crisis regarding whether to identify itself as a chair or a loveseat sat against the far wall, giving anyone who sat in it a clear view of any passersby who might approach from either side of the hall like room. Officer Rosenstock nodded at the settee, declared, “Go ahead and have a seat. I need to look in on my charge,” and knocked on the side of the closed-curtain examination room. “Sara?” she said softly through the curtain, “It’s Officer Tierney. You alright in there?”

A small voice replied, “Yes. I guess so.”

“You guess so? Would it be okay if I came in for just a second?”

“Sure,” Sara said. “That’d be great.”

Tierney Rosenstock turned her body three-fourths of the way toward the settee where the three women were gathered, her head completing the final forty-five-degree turn on its own. She held Suzann’s eyes for a full second before turning back to the examination room curtain and pulling it back far enough to enter. She entered, leaving a yard-wide space open behind her. “How you doing in here?” she asked, eyebrows raised and mouth set in a small, tight-lipped smile. “Nurses treating you alright?”

“Yes. I guess so. Do you know when I can go home?”

“No. I’m afraid that’s not up to me. I’m just here to make sure that you’re okay.”

“I thought that was what the doctor was for?”

Tierney’s minute smile blossomed into a full grin. She nodded, saying, “Right you are. I’m really just here to keep you company. You’ve had a hard night.”

“Have they found Marti and Skylar yet?”

“Not that I’ve heard. I know we have people looking for them. There are people looking for you too. Friends of yours, I mean. I know your teacher Mrs. Shannon is worried about you. And your school secretary. And Skylar’s mother, Karla. They’re all praying for you.”

“Karla called me on Marti’s phone while I was waiting for you at the bus depot. She said she’d come to the hospital right away. Have you seen her?”

Tierney nodded. “I have. She’s given me some good information that’s going to help us find your mother.”

“Stepmother. Marti’s my stepmother. My mom moved back to Chicago. I hope she’s okay. And Skylar too.”

“I hope so too, but the most important thing is to make sure you’re alright. That you’re safe and comfortable. I can tell you that Karla, Mrs. Shannon and Mrs. Layher would all love to see you but aren’t allowed just yet. Soon though.”

“Okay.”

“I’m going to go see Karla Kisor and get some more information from her. I’ll be close at hand if you need anything, okay?”

“Sure,” Sara said with a sigh. “I just want Marti and Skylar to be okay.”

“Me too. We all do. You rest, I’m right outside here.”

“Where’s Karla?”

“Oh. Didn’t I mention that? She’s right outside here too. Did you want to see her? Are you asking to see her?” Tierney asked, emphasizing, ‘asking.’

“She is?” Sara replied, tears welling. “Yes! Yes, please. Can I?”

“Well, I guess you can; but only for a second. You’re really not supposed to see anybody until Doc Bikerman says it’s okay.”

Sara’s brow furrowed. “For just a minute?”

Tierney nodded. “For just a minute. I don’t want Doc Bikerman mad at me. She’s a tough cookie.”

“She’s nice!”

“Oh, I don’t disagree with you there. She’s nice, but she’s tough. Hang on, I’ll let Karla and the rest know you’d like a little visit.”