Danny’s face wasn’t like I remembered. It was the same guy, but fifteen years had passed since I had last seen him and the constant influence of time had wrinkled his skin, mostly in the smile lines. He’d gained a little weight around the jaw too, and his fuzzy black hairline was receding back like a tide returning into the ocean on a dark night. He was frozen in a perfect smile, his white teeth contrasting to his dark skin. His wife had a big smile too. But their baby girl didn’t. She was looking slightly off-center, at the photographer, no doubt. He probably had a little squeaky duck and was jumping up and down making goo goo sounds. But he wasn’t a very good comedian ’cause she looked more scared than happy.
Danny looked happy. He had a beautiful wife and a gorgeous daughter. His dark eyes shone with his broad smile.
“That was taken last week,” Bianca said. She sniffed and with a tissue stretched over one finger, she carefully dabbed under each eye, cleaning up the running mascara.
“I really don’t think you need to worry. Like I said, seventy percent of missing people show up in 48 to 72 hours.”
“But he wouldn’t just leave like that. It isn’t like him.”
“Did Danny suffer from depression, substance abuse, anything like that?”
“No, of course not.”
“Any credit problems?”
“Sorry I have to ask but how was your marriage? Did he seem happy, had you guys been arguing?”
“No, not at all. I guess we’ve both been a little tired because of Angel. She hasn’t been sleeping all that well, but other than that everything’s been great.”
I nodded. “Look, Bianca, being a missing person isn’t technically a crime, so there’s very little I can do—”
“Not this again. That’s why I called you Blake. The officer told me the same thing. He said all he could do was file a missing persons report into the system.”
“Bianca, I’m in Homicide. I shouldn’t even be here, but I’ve looked around. There’s no evidence of foul play. No forced entry. No evidence of a struggle. If anything bad had happened don’t you think you would have woken up?”
“I’ve been tired,” she said defensively, dabbing the tissue again. “He wouldn’t just get out of bed and leave in the night. What about his car? And his wallet? He didn’t take anything with him. It’s not right, something’s wrong, Blake. I know it.”
I breathed heavily out of my nostrils and averted my eyes. “Look, it’s early days. If he left in the night he’s been gone less than twelve hours. I’m sure he’ll be back soon.”
“So that’s it?” she asked sharply, her dark eyes boring into me, filled with torment and worry.
“I’m sorry, Bianca. There’s really nothing I can do.”
She turned away, hands on hips, looking out the window. Then she turned back to me, tears rolling down her cheeks, her mascara running. “Please,” she said. “Please, Blake. He talked about you. Said you were like a big brother to him back in college. Can’t you just do something? Anything?”
I wanted to tell her that it wasn’t my job to go looking for missing people. But her eyes were pleading with me. I looked down at the photograph in my hands. He looked happy. Then I looked at his baby girl.
I nodded. “I’m not promising anything but I’ll do what I can.”
Her lips tightened, a smile without joy. She touched my arm. “Thank you, Blake,” she said.
“You mind if I keep this?”
“Yes. It’s a copy. Take it.”
* * * *
The door shut behind me and I looked up at the sky. It was pale blue, but there was a chill in the air. I knew I’d messed up. I’d told her I’d look into it, but missing persons wasn’t my business. I checked for foul play and there wasn’t any. So it wasn’t my place to do anything. If I had some evidence, something to bullshit the Lieutenant with … but there was absolutely nothing.
I checked the door lock again. The gold handle was scratched up around the keyhole. It wasn’t the strongest lock going around. Someone with a lock pick and some basic knowledge could get the job done. But there was no way of telling if someone had picked it or not. Keys scratch up locks worse than anyone with a couple of tiny lock picks. I shook my head. I was grasping at straws.
I checked the time. 11.47am. I told the Lieutenant I’d be half hour. It’d already been three quarters. So what to do? Go back to the station now and see Schultz a little irritated, blowing at his mustache, or start door knocking and see Schultz with his face on fire.
I folded the photograph in half and put it into my jacket pocket. “Six of one, half a dozen of the other,” I said, then I put on my shades and started for the neighbor’s house.
* * * *
Door knocking is one of those things in police work. It’s a necessity, but no one wants to do it. I always feel like a damn salesman when the door opens, ’cause people look at you with an expression that says, I don’t want to buy anything. Then there are the dogs. They yap and they bark and the owner kicks them back but they keep coming and I’m always standing there like an idiot, asking questions while looking at the dog wondering if it’s gonna get passed its owner. 'Cause then I’d be running away like a damn idiot with a Chihuahua on my ass.
I knocked on four doors. Two houses either side of Danny’s place. Two of them answered, and two of them didn’t. Both who answered saw nothing, and heard nothing.
Then I crossed the street, and did the five houses opposite. Nothing except for a yapping poodle. I looked over at Danny’s house.
That was it. I tried. What else could I possibly do? I got in the Crown Vic and pulled off the curb. Then I stopped a hundred yards down the street. At the fourth house down from Danny’s place. I looked up at the two story house. Best one on the street by far.
There was a truck parked in the drive. A big, blue, Ford F150. I left the engine running on the Vic, and jogged up to the door and knocked. A dog barked. A heavy piercing bark.
A man was yelling at the dog to shut up. Then the lock clicked and the door opened.
“Yeah?” The guy was wearing blue jeans, a blue shirt and a blue baseball cap, and his expression said I’m not interested. The cap had a yellow logo on it which read, Brock Pagoda Plumbing. His dog was a Shepherd and he was holding onto its thick collar with a grasping fist. The thing kept on barking up at me, teeth bared.
“Detective Gamble, San Jose Police.” I stared at the mutt wondering how strong the man’s grip was. The dog barked and the guy yanked hard on its collar.
“Shut up!” he yelled. The thing sat back and starting whining.
“I’m asking around to see if anyone heard or saw anything suspicious last night.”
“Anything. Car doors. Shouting. Tires screeching …”
“No. Nothing. Is it those damn kids? They breaking into cars again?”
“No. Nothing like that. Is that why you’ve got those?” I looked up at the camera above the door. There was another one just like it on the front of the house, facing the driveway. It was the reason I had stopped.
“Yeah. Kids broke into my truck a month ago. Stole all my tools, little bastards.”
“Why do you park it in the drive?”
“I’ve got the Dodge and the wife’s SUV in the garage. I put up cameras so I could catch the little shits if they ever tried it again. Then I’d let Frank on to ’em.”
I looked at Frank. He wanted to eat my face off. “The one on the front of the house,” I said. “Does it get the road?”
“Yeah. Gets the Murphy’s house, too. Had to clear it by them, but they were glad for the extra security.”
“Any chance you’ve still got last night’s footage?”
“Deletes every 48 hours. So yeah, I’ve got it.”
“Can I see it?”
“What you wanna come inside and watch eight hours of video?”
“No. I mean, can you send it to me or something?”
“Ah, that’s a pain in the ass. I’m too busy. It’ll take time to upload it, and then I gotta send it. What’s this about anyway?” The dog started barking again. Big harsh woofs.
“I’ve got an email address,” I said.
“So does everybody. I’m too busy for that shit. Shut up!”
“What’s it worth to you?” I asked.
“What, the police gonna pay me for it?”
I reached into my back pocket and pulled out my wallet. Pulled out a fifty and held it between two fingers. “No. Just me. For services rendered.”
He looked at it. Like he was thinking if this was somehow against the law. Bribery in reverse.
“Alright,” he said uncertainly, and he took it. “What’s your email?”
I gave it to him, then he shut the door. Frank ran around to a window and started barking at me behind the glass. The mutt wanted me alright. I flipped him the bird, then got in the Vic and left.
* * * *
The San Jose Police Department Substation is a modern work of architectural beauty. A police department in Silicon Valley should, after all, represent the very future of policing. A move away from the buildings of yesteryear, of giant functional rectangles made up of hundreds of thousands of little yellow bricks and no nonsense square windows. Buildings which cry out, “I'm reliable. I'm functional. And if you don’t like it you can go fuck yourself!”
At 100 million bucks, it’s the bee’s knees when it comes to police departments. It looks like a giant collage of Kit-Kat candy wafers, all stacked one on top of the other with pure reflective glass in between the layers. It was a beautiful building.
The building I was walking into, however, was the San Jose Police Department. The one built in 1990. Unfortunately the City doesn’t have the kind of cash or the staff needed to fill the new building up with actual cops, so it’s used for recruitment, and learning and development, and psych evaluations. So five years on, and I'm still walking into a building that’s yelling, “Go fuck yourself!”
The second floor was the hub of the San Jose Investigations Unit. I walked through the usual office white-noise buzzing through the open cubicle offices. Phones ringing, chitter-chatter mixed in with laughter, and the constant crackle of voices over police radios.
I made my way to the offices at the back of the floor. I sat behind my desk and logged onto the computer. Opened up my email. The second from top had the word Surveillance in the subject line. I clicked it open and found a Dropbox link. I clicked it. It was a big file. I clicked download. It was going to take some time.
I heard Schultz’s voice from his office. “Blake! Get in here, God dammit.”
I stopped at his open doorway. Little block letters across the door read, Lieutenant T. Schultz, HIU. An anagram of Homicide Investigations Unit. He was leaning his ass against his desk, the phone cord pulled around from behind him. His brown jacket was open and the buttons on his shirt were at breaking point. As he spoke, the spider veins on his cheeks glowed pink.
“I said I want them gone!” As the other person on the line spoke, Schultz blew at his mustache. “Sit down,” he told me, having two conversations at once.
I sat down and interlocked my fingers over my stomach.
“I don’t give a shit,” he said into the receiver. “Make it happen.” Schultz spun, unwound the cord and slammed the receiver onto its base. He picked up a white box off the desk and turned back to face me. The box had the logo Psycho Donuts on top with the tagline, Crazy Good.
“Where the hell have you been, Blake?” He reached into the box and pulled out a donut. It had a hockey mask glazed on top.
“Your old buddy? That was two hours ago. Is it ours?”
“Whad’ya mean you don’t know?” He took a bite of the donut and glaze shattered, breaking off and running down his front and onto the carpet. “God dammit!”
“I mean I’d like to keep looking into it. I’d like to send CSU down there. Do a sweep.”
“No. Not gonna happen. Give it to missing persons and wipe your hands of it.”
“Might be more than a 10-65.”
“Why? What have you got?”
“Husband and wife go to sleep, talking about dishwashers. Happy marriage. Little girl in the house. Good credit. No signs of depression. In the morning the wife wakes up and the husband’s gone. Not a trace. Left everything behind and just vanished. No keys. No wallet. He took nothing.”
“I don’t know. Something tells me it isn’t right.”
“What, you think someone broke in and took a fully grown man out of his bed in the middle of the night?”
“I don’t know. Maybe.”
“Bullshit. Over 40,000 adults went missing last year in California alone. 35,000 of those were voluntary. Left ’cause life got shitty and they wanted out. Another two thousand were the kind who can’t think straight. Alzheimer’s patients, confused elderly people. Do you know how many got written down as stranger abductions for adults? Thirty. Thirty out of a possible 40,000. Guess how many of those thirty came out of Santa Clara County?” He held his fingers up forming the shape of a little donut. “Zero. Now I’m not exactly sure, Blake, but I’d bet my left boot that ninety-nine percent of those thirty abductees were women.”
“Get to the point.”
“The point is you’re in here telling me you think this old friend of yours has been kidnapped. Possibly murdered. And your evidence is bullshit. It’s nothing. And we don’t have the luxury of time to go chasing geese around. Give it up, Blake.”
“I read that report as well, Lieutenant. 40,000 adults went missing last year in California. You remember how many of those went into the category of unknown circumstances?”
Schultz said nothing.
“Over three thousand. Three thousand people and no one has a clue as to what happened to them. Just vanished.”
“Come on, Blake. Let’s face it, the only reason you’re on this is because the guy’s an old football buddy. He’ll probably turn up in the next day or two. He’s in the 35,000 group. The volunteers. Let this one go. That’s an order. Pick up where you left off on the Barrera case. Okay?”
I pushed myself up off the arm rests.
“Hey,” Schultz said. “An order, Blake.”
I looked at him. “Okay.” Then I walked out.
* * * *
I checked my computer. Half way done on the download. I finished up some paperwork and made some phone calls on the Barrera case. By then it was three quarters done.
I got up and made myself a coffee.
I stood there leaning against the counter in the kitchen, doing little circles in the cup with the wooden stirrer, looking off into the distance.
I was thinking about Danny. I hadn’t seen the guy in fifteen years, and yet his wife said he spoke about me. Enough that when she was in trouble, she called around and got me on the phone. I don’t know why we never kept in touch. College finished and I went into the academy and he went into sports therapy.
We played college ball together. The San Jose Jaguars. He was quarterback and I was running back. If he wasn’t throwing it, he’d be handing me the ball so I could charge headlong into the defensive line. I wasn’t the fastest guy but I could take a hit. One guy was never enough, so by the time backup had come, I’d gone another five yards. I was an okay player. But Danny, I thought he’d go pro. He had one hell of an arm. A rocket arm. Lethal, we called him. Then he got injured. The Doctors said his knee was like an injury from a car wreck. So he went into a career as a sports therapist instead.
We were the same age, and we got along like brothers. We spoke on the phone about five years ago. He told me he was getting married and wanted me to come to the wedding. I said I couldn’t 'cause I was working. It was a lie. I just don’t like social situations, especially when there’s dancing involved.
He said he wanted to catch up after the wedding. It never happened. I was stirring my coffee thinking I should’ve called the guy. I should’ve called him and met up for a beer, talk about old times.
On the phone he seemed real happy about life. It was five years ago, but he was the kind of guy who always had a smile on his face, just like in the photograph. A spring in his step. Life was always good, no matter what. Even when he got injured, I visited him in the hospital and he just said, “It sucks but what can you do, man?” Then he smiled. I couldn’t believe it. His football career was over, his knee filled with pins, and the guy was smiling and telling me it was no big deal. But that was the sort of guy he was... is.
I sipped my coffee, then walked back to my office. The download had finished. I opened the file. The whole thing went for eight hours. I adjusted my seat and clicked play. The image was like the plumber had said. It was of his front yard, with his blue truck parked in his drive. The field of view took in his entire front yard, and the road, and the Murphy’s house across the road, only it was hard to make out anything ’cause it was dark and filled with speckled noise.
I watched the first minute in real time. Then I doubled the speed, then I doubled it again. Nine cars passed in the first hour, from 11pm to 12am. Bianca had said they went to sleep around mid-night so I discounted them. From 12 to 1am four more passed the house, two from left of screen and two from right of screen. From 1am to 2am another two cars passed by, both from right of screen. An old yellow Honda Civic and a silver Nissan Maxima, or Altima. Then . . . nothing. Just a dark street and not much else. I rubbed my face, thinking about what a waste of time it was. About how I should be working the Barrera case.
I’d been hoping to see Danny walking from his house across the screen, left to right, heading in the direction of Denair Avenue. Because then I’d know for sure he’d just joined the 35,000 volunteers. Then I could do as Schultz said and wipe my hands of it.
A maroon wagon drove past at 3.42am. Then there was a cat fight at 3.50am between a white fluff ball and a gray tabby. The fluff ball won.
I’d given up. I was wasting my time. I had other cases to work. He shouldn’t even be a case.
At 4.17am a white van drove past. An old Chevrolet Astro, or maybe a GMC Safari. They both looked the same. A square box on wheels.
I rewound the footage and watched the van again. Then I repeated the process two more times. It came from the direction of left to right. From Danny’s house, towards Denair Avenue. It wasn’t like the other vehicles. There was something different about it. It was speeding up. The other cars all passed the screen at a constant speed. Some fast, and some slow, but all at a constant speed. The van didn’t. The van sped up, like it had just taken off from a standing position about a hundred yards back. And about a hundred yards back was Danny’s house.
I thought about that. Did someone pick him up? A friend? A girlfriend perhaps? Possible. Or was there something else to it? Something more sinister…
I rewound the footage and let the van come into view and hit pause. The windows were tinted dark. Not really the kind of vehicle a girlfriend drives. Maybe a friend then. But as I looked at the van I felt something form in my gut. Something which said, this isn’t quite right. It’s what cops call a hunch, and I had one, and it told me the van was no good.
I took a screenshot of the van and printed it off. I thought of going back into Schultz’s office with this new piece of evidence, but I knew what he’d say. And it wasn’t what I wanted to hear, so I folded the piece of paper up and stuffed it into my jacket pocket.
I thought of how I could get another angle of the van. Intersection cameras would have it caught down at traffic control, but I couldn’t get access to the footage right away. It’d take time, and I’d need Schultz to clear it. Not to mention a lot of the traffic cameras aren’t all recording either. So it was possible, but not easy, and definitely not quick.
I needed something else. I leant forwards and opened up the NamUs missing persons database. I didn’t exactly know what I was looking for but I started ticking boxes. Starting narrowing the list down. I was just searching around in the haystack and hoping I’d prick my finger on something.
First I took away all the females. Then I narrowed the search to California only. There were 967 cases of missing males in the state. I focused the field to the previous two-years and came up with 183 names. Then I took away everyone aged over sixty-years and everyone aged under eighteen-years. 140 missing men.
Then I narrowed the list down to Santa Clara county and the list shrunk to just eight names. I saw three of the names were more than a decade old, so I figured someone had only put them into the system in the past two years. I was down to five.
I clicked on each of them and toggled through the data. It had all sorts of information on the database. First, middle and last name. Weight, height, race. Distinguishing marks or tattoos. Clothing last seen wearing. Dental information, and the investigating agency and the case file. It was all there. Public knowledge. It had one other thing, too. Circumstances in which the missing person was last seen.
Three of the men had gone missing in the middle of the night. No reason. No trace. Just vanished.
I looked for other similarities. They were roughly the same age, with five years between the three of them, mostly around the same height. Nothing else.
So now I had a list of three men who had gone missing in the last year in Santa Clara all under the same circumstances. I sat back and scratched my cheek, rough hair under my nails. Something was going on here.
I went back over their reports and found the names of the detectives who had handled their cases. Then I got on the blower and called around. The first two were a waste of time. They had nothing new to tell me.
The third call was playing music into my ear. There was a click and then a woman’s voice. “Missing persons.” There was a lot of noise in the background. Phones ringing. Papers shuffling. People chitter-chattering.
“Hi,” I said. “Is this Detective Sylvia Martinez?”
“Yes it is.”
“Detective Blake Gamble, Homicide Unit, San Jose. I’m looking into a missing persons case. Name’s Lawrence Walker. Went missing last year in July.”
“Lawrence Walker?” she asked. “Rings a bell. What about him?”
“You processed his missing persons’ file. I was wondering if you turned anything up on it. Any leads, anything like that?”
“Hold on, let me get the file up.” I heard a keyboard tapping, and then a little click, and click, and click. “Oh, okay. Yes I’ve got it now. Ah, not much going … ah … left in the night … out of the ordinary, no indication of a reason … ”
“Did you ask around? Specifically I want to know if anyone saw a white van the night he went missing.”
“Ah … ” She was reading. “No, no I remember this one. There was no van. Nothing.”
“Okay,” I said.
“Oh, there was one caller who said he’d seen him in the weeks after he went missing. He was real sure of it.”
“He was a real weird guy. You know the type. Wastes everyone’s time ’cause he’s lonely and wants someone to talk to. I checked it out. He wouldn’t let up because he wanted the reward money. Tried to call me half a dozen times a day for a week. But there was nothing in it in the end.”
“I know the type. But I’ve got nothing else going right now so I’ll look into it. You got a number or an address?”
“No number. Just a name and address on the file.”
She gave it to me, then I thanked her and hung up. I compiled the photographs of the three men onto a single document and printed it off. I looked at them. Lawrence Walker, Robert Trumbo, and Erik Jacobson. There was a face missing amongst them. Danny ‘Lethal’ Mooney.
I looked around at Schultz’s office. He wasn’t there. I made eye contact with Jeffries as he drank from his #1 Dad mug.
I exited out of the NamUs database and grabbed my keys. “Hey Jeffries, if Schultz asks, tell him I’ve gone to see about an old buddy.”
* * * *
I decided to take my own car. One less thing for Schultz to hang me on. It was a ’69 Plymouth Road Runner, with a big block V8. The body was a little dinged up and the brown paint was getting old and faded, but that’s what I liked about her. I wasn’t driving around looking in mirrors like in the Crown Vic. The Road Runner was a one of a kind, and the little dings and paint fades well and truly made her an individual.
The address Sylvia Martinez gave me was in the suburb of Palo Verde on Talisman Drive. I pulled up outside of a flat-roofed house set close to the road, and I thought I glimpsed someone looking out the window.
I got out of the Road Runner and walked up to the door and rapped my knuckles on the wood. The door unlocked immediately, and opened less than an inch. There was a man in the darkness behind the small chain that bridged the gap.
“Detective Blake Gamble,” I said. “I’m looking for Gerald Prentice.”
“Yes, that me.”
“I want to ask you a couple of questions about a missing person you called about last year.”
The door shut on my face. Then there was a chain sliding, and the door opened fast and wide and the man stood there. He was a tall guy with a round gut. He wore a cream polo shirt tucked into gray slacks and had a round moon face with a wispy comb-over.
“Please come in,” he said. He was smiling, and his pale, blue eyes sparkled behind silver rimmed bifocals.
I stepped into the house. It wreaked of old spice, and something else … rotten oranges.
I looked around the room. There was a single plaid arm-chair beside the window, but instead of facing the TV, it sat at a 90 degree angle. I guessed that way he could keep one eye on the TV, and one eye on the outside world.
Taking up the majority of the room was a dining table, and there was a train set covering every edge of it. It had little fake mountains, and train stations, and trees, and road crossings, and signals. There were even little cows and sheep spaced out on the fake paddocks. The train wasn’t moving.
Mr. Prentice suddenly leapt towards it. He grabbed up a square control box off a paddock and pressed a button. The train started clicking and clacking and moving around the track. He looked at me with a broad smile and sparkling eyes, then looked back at the train.
“Did you want to have a turn, Detective?”
“No. I’m fine, thanks.”
“Watch. You’ll like this.” He pressed a button on the control box and the train whistled up.
“That’s great, Mr. Prentice. Do you remember contacting the police about a Lawrence Walker last year?”
“Yes. Yes, that was me.” He placed the controller box down but the train continued on its exciting journey around the table. “Are you here about the reward money?”
“No. He hasn’t been found yet.”
“Oh. Because I saw him. I told Detective Martinez and she said they were looking into it. But then I never heard back from her. I tried to call a couple of times but she was always busy.”
I nodded. “Can you tell me what you told her?”
“I saw him. Every day for weeks. But I didn’t know it was him at the time. Everyday I’d be sitting in my chair watching a movie or doing my find-a-word, and around the same time, just after Mr. Thompson left for work, he’d go by.”
“Who’s Mr. Thompson?”
“He lives across the street. Over there.” He pointed. “But it was strange because the man always wore a brown leather jacket with a hood and sunglasses. Even when it was a warm day.”
“How’d you know it was him?”
“I’m in the neighborhood watch group in this area. So I subscribe to a lot of crime newsletters. I think I saw it in a Crime Stoppers newsletter. There was a missing persons report and a reward of twenty thousand dollars.”
“But if the guy was wearing a hood and sunglasses how’d you know? How could you even see him?”
“Oh, I could see him. It was him. I’m sure of it. I saw him every day. He was hiding himself you see? Didn’t want to be seen, which is why he wore his disguise even when it was warm. I figured that out myself. But he didn’t get past me.” He smiled again. “Would you like some refreshments, Detective? I squeezed some orange juice earlier.”
“Would you like something else then? Ah …” He looked towards the kitchen, his fingertips twiddling together. “I don’t have coffee, or tea. But, ah, I could make us up something …”
“No, Mr. Prentice. That’s fine. Have you seen him since?”
“No. Every day for weeks and then nothing. Very odd, don’t you think?” He was still looking into the kitchen.
“Which way did you see him going?”
“Oh,” he sprang towards the window and pointed up the street. “Just down that way, there. Didn’t see where he went though. I should have really got out and followed him.”
“Okay, Mr. Prentice. I appreciate your help.”
“If you find him do I …” His eyebrows went up, not finishing the question.
“Do you what?”
“Do I receive the … prize money?”
“The reward money? I’m not sure. It’s unlikely I’m going to find him, Mr. Prentice, but if I do I’ll be sure to mention your name.”
He smiled with relief. “Thank you, Detective Gamble.”
I nodded and went to leave.
“Do you have a card I can have?”
“Oh.” I reached for the card then realized my error. I looked at him, my hand frozen in my jacket pocket.
He smiled. “In case he comes back.” His eyebrows went up again and his eyes were searching over my jacket pocket, hungry almost.
I bit my lip. Shit. I didn’t want to give him my number. Sylvia Martinez had said he called her six times a day for a week. I knew his type. He’d find a reason to call me, no doubt about that. But then again if he saw the guy I wanted to know about it.
I reluctantly pulled out a card, but Danny’s photo came out along with it, and floated down to the floor. Mr. Prentice was down there grabbing it before I could move. Then he came up with it grasped in his fingers, staring at it.
I held the card out to him. He didn’t take it. He kept on looking at the family photograph.
“Who is this man, here?” He tapped the photograph on Danny’s face.
“Mr. Prentice, I’m a little busy at the moment. Can I have that—”
“I’ve seen him.”
“This man?” I asked, pointing at Danny’s picture.
He rubbed his forehead with his palm, then rested his fingers over his mouth, studying the photograph.
“Mr. Prentice . . . ?”