Rachel stormed into the kitchen.
“How was school sweetheart?” Mrs. Reeds asked, her almond eyes squinting at the side as she smiled at her daughter.
“I hate St Valentines! Please don’t make me go back,” Rachel pleaded. She threw down her bag and flopped into a chair.
“I can’t remember the last time you said something like that,” she smiled. “Oh wait, yes I do. Yesterday. Maybe it’s time you stopped being so melodramatic!” She turned back to making the pot of tea.
“That’s the second time today somebody’s called me that.”
“Maybe there's a reason.” Mrs. Reeds was proud of her joke and she tried to chuckle silently to herself, but Rachel could tell she was laughing by her shaking shoulders.
“I thought you were supposed to be supportive of me, to have my best interests at heart!” Rachel fiddled with a saltshaker, spilling salt everywhere. She tried to clean up the mess as she half watched her mother for a response. Mrs. Reeds’ dark hair was neatly pinned off her face and she wore a long navy blue dress; it was plain and fitted, and she looked exquisite in it. When her mother said nothing, Rachel defaulted to another question. “Where’s Dad?” It was unusual for him to not be around her mother-- in fact it was weird.
“He's out in the garden. I asked him to mow the lawn and do some weeding. Tea?” she asked as she poured a cup.
Rachel waved off the offer. “Gardening? How's that going?”
“You know your father, the same as usual I suppose.”
“I'm going to go say hi,” Rachel announced as she stood up and pushed out her chair. On her way to the backdoor, she straightened out her shirt and re-did her ponytail.
“Hi Dad!” she smiled as she opened the door.
He didn’t hear her greeting, or if he had he didn’t turn to respond. Instead he stood over top of a flowerbed, with his face in his hands crying.
“Dad?” she called again, this time louder. He lifted his head and wiped his cheeks as he turned to her. As soon as he saw Rachel a big smile spread over his face.
“Does your mother want me? Did she send you to come get me?” he asked in giddy anticipation.
Rachel’s shoulders sagged. How she wished that smile was for her. All she ever wanted was for him to treat her how a normal father would. But that was not her luck-- her father only had eyes for one person-- her mother.
“No Dad. I just came to say hi. Why were you crying?”
“Oh, I just miss your mother so much. I know I'm making her happy by doing what she asked. But I just miss her.” Once again he started into a fit of sobs.
“She's inside!” Rachel’s frustration was rising. His answer shouldn’t have surprised her, it was the exact same every time. But once, just once, she hoped he would be different.
“It seems so far away.” He collapsed to the ground in defeat as he hurriedly plucked the weeds he could see, tears streaming down his face.
Rachel watched him for a moment before turning back to the house. She slammed the door as she barged through it, running past the kitchen and to her room, collapsing into her computer desk chair.
Vance took a moment to comb over his light blonde hair and tuck in his wool sweater before mustering the courage to knock on the Chief’s door. “S-sir. I’d appreciate it if you ttook a look at this data,” he stuttered.
“I’m busy. Come back later.” The Chief reclined in his seat and picked up the receiver of his phone, making sure to appear preoccupied. But despite his efforts, Vance entered his office, and walked up to the desk. He puffed out his small chest and pushed his thick, coke bottle glasses up on his nose as he waited for the Chief to put the phone back down.
“S-sir, in the last year there has been 600 missing person ccases filed. It is unusually pperplexing as the maj-jority of them are men, and for the most ppart we seem to be shelving the ccases after a week or two. Here--l-look at this.” He opened the folder, flipping through it until it landed on the page he wanted and shoving it in front of Chief’s face. After sighing in frustration the Chief O’Bryan sat forward and pretended to look at the paper.