EIGHT

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John's arrival took longer than I anticipated.

I paced the dirt more times than I can count until I finally convinced myself to walk back up the hill and sit on the edge of the trail. My refusal to leave this area of the hiking trail was strong, and not just because the butterfly led me here, but because the feeling in my gut urged me to stay.

For the past twenty minutes, I stared at the soil. The pink material was still knotted into the confinement of the tight space between the roots down the hill. As tempting as it was to grab it, I couldn't. There was a risk of contamination if I laid a hand on it before John got here. Though, the earth itself might've done that already.

"Angie, why did you call me out here?" John sped walked in my direction. I tried to jump up, and when he realized this, he reached me fast enough to grab my hand and help me.

"Look, I know this is going to sound crazy . . . but I think you and your team should check out this area."

"What?" He blinked several times; eyes widen at my outburst. His eyes searched mine for answers. But he found nothing more than panic, fear, and doubt.

"Look"—I grabbed his shoulders, turning him to the right where we could both see the hill I went down—"I think you might find something buried down there. You guys should dig it up and check."

"Angie, how would you know that?"

"I found . . . just follow me." I rushed down the hill, ignoring John's yelling for me to come back. When I saw the torn piece of cloth come into view, I stopped. Twigs and leaves snapped behind me as I awaited John.

"Jesus, Angie. You're going to give me a heart attack one of these days—"

"Look there," I interrupted.

"What? What is it?" He threw his hands in the air, a scowl covering his face, but halted as soon as his eyes landed on what I saw. His features began twisting from anger to something indescribable. He didn't say anything at first, only squinted.

"Is that what you were talking about? That looks like. . ." He swallowed, balling his fist at his side. "That looks like material from a little girl's shirt." 

"I know," I said quietly.

"Let's go."

"But—" I began.

"I mean it, Angie. Let's go." His tone said enough. I didn't bother opening my mouth to try and retort. My heart skipped a beat the longer we took to walk back up the hill. He was quiet the entire way. Meanwhile, I couldn't stop myself from glancing back every few seconds.

When we reached the trail again, he pulled his walkie-talkie from his belt and began speaking codes into the speaker followed by, "I'm going to need backup."

"Are you going to search the area?" I asked.

He didn't answer my question, instead avoided it. "Angie, I want you to go home."

"What? No way! I want to stay," I huffed.

"Please, for the love of God Angie, do not argue with me. It'd make me feel much better if you were home, safe and sound. You being alone out here by yourself is not helping my gut feeling settle down." He sighed heavily, clearly frustrated with my lack of cooperation.

My frown deepened. "Do you think that could've belonged to one of the missing children or what if . . . what if it belongs to someone else?" I hadn't thought about that. For all we know, it could just be a shirt that was dropped by someone and lost in the dirt.

Who am I kidding? At this point, I knew for sure it belonged to one of the missing children. It had to. After all, the teal blue butterfly led me here. Even if the child were not buried in that specific spot, the piece of cloth proved she was close in proximity.

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