Last Chance at the Someday Café(9)

By: Angel Smits


Finally, as the sun slanted through the French doors that looked out over the wide stone patio she hadn’t even started on yet, she stepped back and admired their handiwork. She smiled with pride and anticipation. Things were finally coming together.

Wyatt came to stand beside her and slipped his arm around her shoulders. “You did good. It looks great. Mom would love it.”

For the first time since Mom had passed away, Tara felt at home. She smiled at her brother and hugged him. “Thanks for helping.”

“Anytime.”

Tyler walked over and grinned. “So, when do we get to eat?”

The room filled with laughter and Tara couldn’t resist joining in. Everything was falling into place, just as she planned, just as it was supposed to be.

* * *

MORGAN CRANKED THE stereo in the semi’s cab. The windows practically rattled, and he was certain he’d lost at least a couple years of hearing in his old age. He didn’t care. He needed something to get this anger and frustration out of his system. Geddy Lee’s voice with a screaming guitar at full volume was the perfect solution.

Outside the windshield, the sun fell behind the horizon, a fiery ball of light that painted the west Texas hills with a wide, red brush. This was normally what he loved about driving. But tonight? He just wanted this trip to end. He wanted this chapter of his life done. He was ready to move on.

The past week had brought nothing. No new info. No more sightings. Nothing. Damn it, Sylvie was still screwing up things.

Was he a bad father for even wondering if he should quit looking for her and Brooke? He wouldn’t, and he couldn’t, but some days he flirted with the idea of letting go. Of just giving up.

He didn’t think Sylvie would ever really hurt Brooke. In her way, she loved their daughter. But Sylvie thought of the girl as a mini-adult, expecting her to do things a kid had no clue about. Brooke took care of Sylvie more than Sylvie took care of Brooke.

No, Sylvie wouldn’t ever intentionally physically hurt her, but she’d easily neglect and emotionally scar Brooke with her expectations.

That was worse—if there was such a thing as worse—abuse.

He’d promised himself this was his last serious run. Didn’t mean he would stop looking, he just had to do it differently. Despite good intentions, the police were too overwhelmed to focus on a year-old case. He’d already talked to a private investigator who could take on the search. But Morgan knew no one would put the heart and energy into the hunt like he had.

Like that had gotten him anywhere. Sylvie and Brooke were still missing. Maybe it was time to hire someone who actually knew how to do this. All he needed was the money to pay for it.

Morgan didn’t hear his phone ring, but the lit-up screen caught his eye. He didn’t want to talk to anyone, but Jack rarely called. And when he did, it was usually business-related.

Pausing the pounding beat, Morgan answered, “Yeah?”

“Hey.” Jack’s voice was soft. Strange.

“What’s the matter?”

Silence. Heavy and thick. “Nothing’s the matter.” Another long pause. “We got a lead on Sylvie.”

“What?” Big rigs did not stop on a dime, but Morgan couldn’t drive. Not now. He wanted to hear every nuance of this conversation. “Let me pull over.”

Time stretched out as Morgan slowed and eased the eighteen-wheeler to a safe place along the side of the road, a spot barely wide enough for the trailer, but enough for him to feel safe on this deserted highway should anyone drive by. When he geared down the big engine, the empty countryside moved in close.

“Tell me,” he finally demanded.

“We got a call from one of Ben Walker’s drivers. He said there was a woman matching Sylvie’s description at a street fair over in Haskins Corners last week.”

“That’s it?” Why did that fill him with disappointment? Because a week had passed, and she could be anywhere by now. “Does he know for sure it was her?”

“No.” Jack was silent for a moment. “She had a little girl with her.” Another painful pause. “A girl carrying a purple dragon.”

Jack’s voice faded into the approaching night. Morgan stared at the emerging stars just above the hills and vaguely wondered why they blurred. He scrubbed a hand down his face. He wanted to scream and cry and curse all at the same time.

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