Excerpt: Ripped Apart
“We’ve conducted a search of your ex-husband’s house but he wasn’t there, Ms. Carson. There’s no report yet of his truck being seen either, but the media and our substations have been notified along with the Highway Patrol. Billy Carson appears to be our prime suspect, unless you know of anyone else—”
“No, there’s no one,” Clare said to Jorge Garcia, the Night Utility detective. “Who would do such a thing? Who would take a child recovering from a heart transplant from the hospital? Only Billy…” Clare fell silent and stared across the desk at the detective, who turned back to his computer screen and the statement he was typing.
“We’ll be done shortly. Would you like some coffee?”
Clare shook her head. She wanted to finish the statement, wanted to get out of this chair and out of this cramped office, wanted nothing more than to pace a hallway because she didn’t know what else to do with herself.
No Billy, no Tyler, no red pick-up. When would someone shake her awake from this nightmare?
“A detective who handles kidnappings will take over the case at 7:30 a.m., Detective Doug McKain. Until then I’ll be coordinating things at headquarters. You might want to head home for now and get a few hours’ rest, but I’ll call you if anything comes up.”
Home? Rest? Clare stared incredulously at Detective Garcia as if he’d spoken a foreign language, but he seemed oblivious to her reaction as he finished typing and then printed out the statement and handed her a copy.
“Read it over, ma’am, and then sign here.”
Clare glanced over the statement but the words swam in front of her eyes. So did the most recent school photo of Tyler she’d retrieved from her wallet for the detective, a picture taken a few weeks before Tyler had been struck with the virus. The image usually made her smile because he was grinning from ear-to-ear as if the photographer had told some silly joke.
Except she wasn’t smiling. A lump growing in her throat, she scrawled a hasty signature and rose from the chair. “Is there somewhere I can wait? For any word of my son, I mean. At least if I stay here I might not feel so useless.”
“We’re pretty busy tonight but you’re welcome to sit out in the hall. It’s not too comfortable, though.”
Clare was already out of the office and heading for the exit to the main hallway, the last thing on her mind her own comfort.
What about Tyler? What about his comfort? Was he trying to sleep in the truck while her miserable son-of-a-bitch ex-husband made his way along bumpy back roads to God-knows-where? What about Tyler’s medications? What if he started a fever? What if something went terribly wrong and they were miles and miles from the nearest hospital?
Sudden panic overwhelmed Clare. She rushed blindly down the hall, her stomach pitching and her eyes burning. She hadn’t allowed herself to succumb to fear until now, and she barely made it to the ladies’ room and into the nearest stall before she began to vomit.
Tears streaming down her face, she doubled over and retched again and again, feeling as if her body was wringing itself dry. She finally sank to her knees in front of the toilet. Silent sobs shook her shoulders.
There had to be something she could do to help Tyler. Something, anything…
Clare wiped the back of her hand across her mouth and hauled herself shakily to her feet. She stood there a moment until she was certain her wobbly knees would carry her. Then she went to the sink and splashed cold water on her face and combed her fingers through her hair with a brief glance in the mirror.
She looked like hell, older than her thirty-four years, her green eyes haunted, but she couldn’t care less.
All that mattered was that she get herself back out into that hall and wait for word on Tyler. It was a small thing, but it wouldn’t help her son to have her falling apart.
The police would find Tyler soon and then he’d be returned safely to Universal Hospital. She’d caved in tonight to her fears, the only time she’d allow herself. She refused from that moment to think of any other outcome.