Here is the beginning of a fiction story I started writing not too long ago. Right now I'm having writer's block, so I haven't added to it in over a month. But, this is what I have so far.

Missing

I

Creeping down the hallway, I stop abruptly at the sound of the floorboard squeaking... pause. No one heard. Peering around the corner of the door, I see a twin size bed with a red quilt and some teddy bears sitting on it . No one around. Good. I pull my hair out of my face, off of the sweat dripping down my forehead. I creep forward a bit more, around the corner into the bedroom. There is a closet across the way, so I keep in mind that I can dart there at the sound of anyone coming. As I tiptoe about the room, I find a few things that would belong to a little girl... Malibu Barbie, Palm Beach Ken, a Cabbage Patch Kid in its little doll crib, and heaps of stuffed animals stacked on top of each other all sitting in a net hanging from the corner of the ceiling. There is a wooden dresser along the wall under the window, so I go to it and open up the top drawer. It has a Children's Bible inside... that is all. The next drawer has some baby clothes inside and another quilt. And the last drawer has nothing. There are still Minnie Mouse curtains hung on the window, along with matching Minnie Mouse wallpaper. Under the bed. Nothing but dust bunnies and an old pair of shoes... girl's size 7, black patent leather Mary Janes. Must have been church shoes.

In the closet. A few dresses, faded, wrinkled and dusty from sitting in the same spot for so long. On the top shelf sits a shoebox. I reach up and grab it, dust flying everywhere... sneeze! Uh oh... hope no one heard. Pause. Ok, all seems safe still. I lift the lid to reveal a bunch of papers and photos. They are of a little girl, brunette and curly-haired, maybe about five years old. There are some that were taken with her mother, also brunette and strikingly beautiful. Their eyes have the same light in them. The papers are school papers. There are some drawings of giraffes and houses and airplanes. Then there are some practice sheets from learning to write the alphabet, all littered with sloppy children's attempts. I slip the lid back on the box and tuck it under my arm.

A car door slams. Pulse racing. I duck into the closet, amongst the dusty dresses. I try not to sneeze... but am unsuccessful. They haven't come through the door yet - I'm okay. I slide the closet door shut, leaving it ajar about a half an inch, so I can peek through the crack when people come in. I hear voices...

"What did you buy, Emily?"

"A cute new dress... look!"

"Oooh, red! That color looks so good on you! You should wear that to my company's barbecue."

"Oh, Frank, you know I don't want to go to your barbecue."

"Why not?"

"Those people are always so fake and critical... they make me feel self-conscious."

"Why, they should be the ones feeling self-conscious around you! You'd be the most beautiful woman there!"

The voices become muffled... they are moving into another bedroom. I wipe my sweaty palms on my jeans, and swallow to ease my nerves. The dusty dresses in the closet have lost my interest now, and I have become bored and extremely nervous at the same time - without something to distract me, I think of all that could go wrong.

A floorboard squeaks. Sounds like the same one that I stepped on earlier. Voices again.

"Frank, I don't care what you say, I'm not going!"

"You know that it's only because of Rachel that you aren't going... it's only because that is the same week that she disappeared."

"No it's not... Don't even get me started!"

The footsteps approach closer, and with every footstep my heart beats faster. I hear a scratching noise on the closet door.

"I'm just going to hang this here because I'm out of room in my closet," I hear Emily say, her voice closer than ever. Heart beating as fast as hummingbird's wings, I swallow once more.

Only a scratching noise on the outside of the closet door. That's all.

The footsteps retreat. My heart slows a little, and my breathing returns to normal. I peek through the crack to see red. It is red fabric, sheer over nylon. How am I ever going to escape now that the dress is in my way? I hear muffled conversation in the other bedroom, so I take my chance, since they are busy in their own bedroom. I slide the closet door open slowly, cautious not to make any noise and not to knock the dress down. It is a beautiful dress, perfect for Emily. I am now standing in the closet, behind the dress. I look up to see where the hanger is propped up on the top of the wooden border to the closet door, and I reach carefully to slide the hanger off. Dress in hand, I step forward lightly, and I quickly slide the closet door shut, while still hearing muffled conversation. I prop the dress back on the top of the wooden border of the closet door, and I make sure that the dress looks no different than it did before. Shoebox still tucked under my arm, I sneak across the room to the doorway, peering around the corner into the hallway. Their door is shut. Good. If I step along the side of the floor, by the wall, I figure I can avoid the squeaky floorboard. I test this by stepping as gently and swiftly as I can down the hallway. I reach the living room, where there is now a grey sweater (probably Frank's) draped across the back of th white leather couch. I tiptoe to the sliding glass door that leads to their landscaped backyard.

II

There is a dog in the backyard, a black lab. I should have remembered... it was there the last time, too. I guess my mind is just racing, not thinking about these details. I glance quickly behind me, to check if the coast it still clear, and it still is. My eyes scan the kitchen and dining room, searching for the easiest and quietest escape. There is a door to the garage in the corner by the refrigerator, but I'm afraid it may make too much noise. I look to the living room. There is only the front door left, and it has been locked and would make even more noise than the garage door. I opt for the garage door at this point, since my time is running out. I creep across the room, careful to step around the shopping bags set on the floor by the pantry. I am successful in being silent. This door has been locked as well. I slowly and gently slide the gold metal deadbolt from the right to the left, and it makes a small clicking noise. I don't think they could have heard from their room. I cautiously turn the doorknob, and it seems to take years for me to actually pull the door open, in my attempt to be silent. It pays off, though - it only made a bit of a creak, which couldn't have been heard from their bedroom. I slip quickly into the garage.

I take years more to shut the door from the house to the garage, but again, I think it was successful. I look up to see a red truck parked on my right. It looks strangely familiar, although I can't quite place it. I wander around the garage aimlessly, trying to find an exit. There is a workbench, cluttered with shiny silver metal pieces and tools, wood scraps, and a red toolbox. There are two bikes hanging from the ceiling, matching blue and silver ones, one for a man, one for a woman. And in the corner, by the side of the garage door, there sits a small red tricycle, with a gift bow sitting on the bridge between the handlebars. It is filled with dust and cobwebs, and I see a small garden spider dart quickly into the middle of the bow. Glancing over my shoulder, I suddenly see my way out. There is a door in the corner across from me, over my right shoulder. It is a bit hidden from shelves that have been put in around it, and brooms and mops cluttering the sides of it. I sneak across the garage to the door, to see that it is covered in cobwebs and is also locked. I pick up the broom that is sitting next to the door, and attempt to rid the door of the cobwebs. Sneeze! Uh ohÖ. I canít even tell if Frank or Emily can hear me, since I canít hear them. I quickly prop the broom back up next to the door, hastily turn the lock, and grab the doorknob with my sweaty hand and slide out the door into the side of the yard. I know I have made noise now, so I must be quick. I peer around the corner of the house, and I see a couple walking together, a petite blond woman holding hands with a tan, blond man. Looks like theyíve just checked their mailbox. I catch my breath for a minute while waiting for them to go home. I hope Emily and Frank didnít hear meÖ they may be coming. I peer impatiently again at the couple. They have now passed the house, so I assume that they wonít see me if I sneak out now. I run across the lawn, to my bike, where it has been stashed behind a rose bush. I hastily toss the shoebox into the basket on my red bike, grab the handles, hop on the seat, and pedal as fast as I can down the sidewalk and away from that street, away from the nightmare.

III

She strolls so calmly and cooly up the sidewalk to the door. I pull at the blinds on the window so that I can see her face better, because it seems that her face is upset. Sure enough, her brown, spectacled eyes are red and wet, and and her forehead indented with worry lines. There is a yellow envelope in her hand, and she is looking down at it. This seems to be the source of her pain. The heavy wooden door clicks as she turns the keys in the lock, and it makes a swooshing noise as the wind from outside bursts into the room. Her pantyhose have run, her black skirt is wrinkled, and her black leather pumps are wet with dew. She straightens her red, plastic frame glasses, flops her curly blond hair over her shoulder, and rips open the envelope with a look of certainty, certainty that something bad is inside.

"Rachel, have you done your homework?"

"Um... I didn't have any today."

Her eyebrows raise with suspicion. "And why should I believe that? When I was in high school, my teachers assigned me homework every day."

"I guess I expect you to trust me, as your daughter, since I trust you."

With this came a long pause from both of us. She presses her red lips together, and I see that some of the lipstick has crusted in the corners of her mouth.

"What did we get in the mail today?"

"Oh, nothing much, just some bills and some advertisements."

I know that this is not the full truth, but I let it slide, since it is obvious that she doesn't care to share what is inside the yellow envelope. I am having a good day, anyway, so I don't want anything to spoil it. I prop my feet up on the couch and reach for the remote control, so I can see what's on TV.

* * * *

"Where were you yesterday, Miss Simpson?"

"Investigating a case."

"Oh really? And which case would that be?" questions Mr. Botha, shifting his weight from one brown loafer to another, his feet almost spilling out of them.

"The one for Rachel Thomas."

"What?! That case has been long dead! We don't need to be wasting our time chasing ghosts, Miss Simpson! Next time something like this happens, we are going to have a long talk, and it will probably be our last!"

"I'm sorry, Mr. Botha, but I seem to have found some leads on this case."

"Rachel Thomas' case is not an urgent case, Miss Simpson," he says, as he scratches at the mole underneath his nose, "so if you would like to research it on your own time, you may ask Mr. Randall for permission to use the files, but when you are supposed to be researching and investigating cases that are urgent and are posted for you specifically to investigate, that should be your number one priority. Do I make myself clear?"

"Yes, Mr. Botha. I'm sorry. It won't happen again."

"I hope not, for your sake." As he leaves, I see that his white dress shirt has become untucked from his polyester grey pants in the back, as a result of his bulging stomach stressing the shirt.

A feeling of relief comes to my stomach. I got away with it. I got away with everything - entering the premesis without paperwork and permission, obtaining evidence without a permit, leaving the premesis without being seen, and now, taking a day off work for personal reasons. God had a hand in this, I think to myself. God let it all turn out okay. He must want me to find this information, there must be more for me to find. I note to myself to spend the next Tuesday researching and investigating Rachel Thomas' case. Rachel Thomas... the name sounds funny to me, but of course, I am only used to hearing it said as "Rachel Simpson"...

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