Olivia drove slowly through the dark streets, looking for any sign of Cleo’s mom. She hadn’t seen the woman in a long time, but she’d looked the same since they were seven. Long silver hair, nice dresses. Very quiet and shy, even with Cleo.
Her own mom had Mia right now. As soon as Olivia had told her what had happened, she came over. Olivia was so grateful for her mother that sometimes it overwhelmed her. She genuinely didn’t know what she would have done without her. Just the thought of her, alone and scared in the cold, was almost unthinkable. And now Cleo was experiencing that.
Sure, she knew that Cleo and her mom didn’t have the closest relationship. But that didn’t matter. What mattered was that it was dark. And cold. And her mother needed to be found.
She saw a figure walking down the road as she made her way back toward downtown. They were too far away for Olivia to see, but they were hunched in the cold with a heavy coat on. Maybe it was her? Heart pounding, Olivia slowed down as she got closer, rolling down the window.
It was Iris. She looked over nervously, then her face brightened as she realized who it was. “Olivia, hi!”
A spark of an idea came to life in Olivia’s mind. It felt stupid, almost insulting to Cleo. But it might be worth a try.
“Iris, Cleo’s mom is missing,” she said. “Do you think you can help?”
“She’s missing?” Iris repeated.
“Yeah, Cleo got to the house, and the doors were open and her mom was gone.”
Iris moved around the front of her car, then slid into the passenger seat. “I can’t promise anything,” she cautioned as Olivia started driving again. “But if you can bring me over to her house, I can try. And if not, I’ll join the search.”
“Anything helps,” Olivia said. “The police are setting up a search party and we’re already looking in the more likely places.”
“Alright, let me focus for a moment,” Iris said. “I’ll try right now and then if I don’t get anything, I can hopefully get a stronger read once I’m at the house.”
Iris leaned her head back against the car headrest and closed her eyes, breathing steadily. Olivia kept driving, avoiding potholes as best as she could so that Iris could concentrate.
As they reached the entrance to the mobile home park, Iris took a sharp breath. “Do you have something?” Olivia asked.
“Nothing clear,” Iris said, her voice distant. “I feel the cold. Like I’m outside in it. I think that’s her, but it’s not clear. I’ll keep trying.”
“Please do,” Olivia said as they pulled onto Cleo’s mother’s street. “Anything helps.”
They got out of the car and walked up the sidewalk, past the police cruiser that was parked outside the house. The door swung open as they walked up the steps. Cleo stood there, her eyes red. “Iris,” she said.
“Cleo, I’m so sorry,” Iris said. “I’m going to do anything I can to help.”
“Do you know anything?”
Cleo’s eyes were pleading and Olivia felt awful as Iris grimaced. “I think she’s outside, it hurts my hands. I don’t have anything else right now, but I felt the cold.”
“I’m going to go look for her,” Cleo said. “Can you stay here? I can’t just sit here anymore.”
“Are you sure?” Olivia asked.
“Yes. I’m going to join Charlie’s group. They’re heading into the woods now. Roman and his son are with him.”
“Noah’s looking in there too,” Olivia said. “I haven’t heard from him, but if you want to go, I’ll absolutely stay here.”
Cleo looked like she wanted to throw up, but she nodded. “I’ll be here,” Olivia said. “I’ll call you if anything changes. Just be careful, please.”
Without a word, Cleo zipped up her coat and headed out the door.
Fifteen minutes later, Iris came over to the kitchen table where Olivia was sitting after a round of stress-cleaning the grimy counters while constantly checking her phone.
“I’m not getting anything,” she said regretfully. “I’m sorry. I’m trying everything I can think of and all I’m getting is the cold. Which I know isn’t helpful.”
“It’s okay,” Olivia said. “You did what you could.”
“I’m going to do a lap of the park again,” Iris said. “I know Andrew’s been doing them, but maybe I can find something he missed. It was only an hour, maybe she’s closer than we think.”
Olivia nodded. “That sounds good,” she said. “I feel so helpless.”
“Me too.” Iris admitted.
“The only thing I’m grateful for is I haven’t seen her. Like that, you know.”
Olivia kept her voice low so that the officer sitting in the living room didn’t hear. But Iris picked up on it immediately. “Same,” she said.
She ducked out of the house, the door swinging shut behind her. Olivia stayed where she was for a minute, listening to the low voice of the officer in the other room. He’d barely said a word to her, just setting up shop in the living room and occasionally talking to the search parties on his radio.
Olivia stood up and headed toward the sink. Dirty dishes would keep her occupied while she waited for any news. She plugged the sink and filled it around the dishes stacked inside. Once she found a somewhat clean sponge in the cabinet, she tackled the dishes ferociously.
Midway through the dishes, Olivia glanced up at the clock and swore. She was supposed to be at Keegan’s in fifteen minutes. But in the chaos of the day, she’d completely forgotten.
Hoping Cleo’s mother had decent cell service, Olivia took out her phone and called Keegan’s. After a moment’s hesitation, the line connected, and she heard it ring on the other end.
After a few rings, someone picked up. “Keegan’s Pub, this is Hugh.”
“Hugh, it’s Olivia.”
“Olivia, are you alright?”
“No,” she said. “Listen, I’m going to be late. My friend’s mom is missing. She’s got memory problems and she wandered off.”
“Shit,” Hugh muttered. “Don’t worry about it, I’ve got everything under control here.”
“It’s surprisingly slow.”
That made sense, Olivia realized. If half the town was out on search parties, they weren’t going to Keegan’s yet.
“Do you want me to help you find her?” Hugh asked.
“We have enough people,” she said. “Andrew and Cleo are both out. And Noah’s out in the woods, but I haven’t heard from him yet. There are several search parties out over town, and
I’m waiting for updates at Cleo’s mom’s house at the mobile home park. Honestly, if you can stay there and keep everything covered, that would help me so much. If Bret saw that we had nobody working, he wouldn’t care what was going on. He’d probably just fire us all.”
“Understood,” Hugh said. “Are you alright?”
“I’m fine,” Olivia lied.
She knew there was no way that he believed her, but he gave her the mercy of not pushing further. If he had, she knew she might actually start crying. And she needed to be strong for Cleo right now.
“If you need anything, call me,” Hugh said.
Her throat was dry as she thanked him and hung up. Then she looked at her phone. No missed calls. And it was much darker now.