In which Claire searches
Claire ran into Union Station. She quickly scanned the room. No Emma. She went to the two ladies’ rooms. She found a security guard and showed him Emma’s picture. No, he didn’t remember seeing a girl who looked like that, but then, he hadn’t been looking either.
She went to the ticket desk, to ask if there was a train that left that night headed for Montana. No, not Montana, but there was one that was headed for Boise, Salt Lake City, and Denver, or another that went up to Seattle and then Spokane.
“I can’t find my daughter and I think she might have taken the train.”
“Ma’am, here’s what we do. If you can email a picture of your daughter to this address, they will send that to the conductors of tonight’s eastbound trains. They’ll do a check, and if she’s found, she’ll be escorted off the train at the next stop and detained at that station until you are able to arrange to pick her up.”
Claire sent the picture of Emma immediately.
“Now what do I do?”
“Ma’am, I suggest you go home and wait. You’ll get a call if anyone sees her.”
The few people left in the station gave Claire strange looks. It wasn’t till she got home and looked in the mirror that she realized she still had ashes smudged on her forehead. Was the Ash Wednesday service just tonight? It felt like a million years ago.
A big glass of wine was the farthest thing from Claire’s mind. She washed her face, made a cup of tea, and called Martha.
“So if I get a call intercept I have to take it. No sign of Emma at the train station, and I’ve emailed her picture to Amtrak. They’ll send it to the conductors of tonight’s eastbound trains. They’ll detain Emma if they find her and they’ll call me right away.”
“Good. Do you think you need to go to the airport?”
“Shit. Let’s see. It’s 10:30. Oh, God, I don’t know, Martha. My brain won’t work.”
“Let’s try another tack. How would Emma have paid for a plane or train or bus ticket?”
“She knows where I keep my emergency credit card. Let me check to see if there’s any charges tonight – no. Oh God, Martha, where is she?”
“Listen, Claire. I don’t know where she is. But I believe we will find her and she will be okay. She is mad at you, mad that you lied, mad that her dad abandoned you. God knows what else she’s mad about because she’s a teenager and her frontal lobe is not yet fully developed. We will find her. What you need to do is try to stay calm.”
“Oh, thanks a lot. You have no idea how I feel right now. It’s fine for you to be all curled up in Minneapolis with no child to worry about, telling me to be calm. Jesus, Martha.”
“Okay, so we’ll come back to that another time. Listen, Claire. While you were at the train station I called Alice and explained the situation. All the Saints in the city are working their networks. We have people at the train station and the airport. We have people at the shelters. We have people at hotels in case she’s there. Unless she’s hiding underneath a big rock, if she’s in town or trying to leave it, we will find her. And I’m sending Tom over.”
“Oh, no, Martha, not him.”
“Look, I know you think he’s a big suave faker, but trust me. He will help you. I’ve got some calls to make but I will be in touch later tonight. Try to stay calm, honey.”
“Thanks, Martha. I’m sorry about the thing I said.”
“Don’t worry about it. Love you.”
Claire was too choked up to say anything.
She changed into jeans and a sweater and put her tennis shoes on. She let Rex out in the backyard in lieu of his evening walk. She plugged in her phone so it was fully charged. She checked her email – nothing. Then she heard a knock at the door. It was Toledo.
“Hi, Claire. Martha has let us know what’s going on. May I come in?”
“Any word from Amtrak?”
“Nothing. Um, any word from any of your, uh, people?”
“Not yet, but we just got started.”
Rex came in, took one look at Toledo, and started a low growl.
Claire sat on the couch, her hands under her legs, her knees bobbing up and down. She stared at the wall, unsure what to say or do.
“Toledo, I’m going to crawl out of my skin.”
“I understand, but we need to say here in case Emma comes home.”
“I’m going to go crazy doing nothing. Can we call Alice and ask her to stay here so you and I can look for Emma?”
“Yes. Give me a second.” He called Alice, spoke briefly, and hung up.
“She’ll be here in fifteen minutes. What do you need to take with you or do before you leave?”
“Let me pee, feed the dog. I don’t know, what else do I need?”
“Do you have any pictures of Emma you can pass out?”
“Um, no. No – yes. I’ll make copies on my printer. What else?”
Toledo went over to her, and put his hands on her arms. He looked at her and said, “Claire, it’s going to be okay. Trust us. More than that, trust the God you tell us about every week. I’d like to say a prayer, if that’s alright with you.”
Claire nodded, and then shrugged Toledo’s hands off.
“God of light and hope, come close to all who love Emma, and especially enfold Claire in your peace. Be with the saints as they do your work, and be with whoever is with Emma right now. Most of all we ask that you send angels of mercy and protection to this girl. Help her find safe people. Help her to forgive. Show her the way home. Amen.”
Claire’s heart stopped its frantic breathing and she was able to take a full breath. She fed the dog, stopped in the bathroom, and checked her email once more. She saw Alice pull up and opened the door.
“Okay, Claire, I’m here. I will call if Emma comes home. You two keep me posted too.”
“Thanks, Alice. I don’t know what to say.”
“You don’t need to say a thing. Now go.”
And Claire and Toledo headed out into the night.
They went back to the train station. The security guard remembered Claire and said he hadn’t seen anyone who looked like Emma. Both Toledo and Claire checked the restrooms. Nothing.
They went to the airport. Toledo talked up a female security guard who was more than happy to bask in his presence for a few minutes. She didn’t remember seeing anyone meeting Emma’s description, but she hadn’t been looking. She did talk to airport security and told Claire and Toledo that they would do a walk through of the gates that were still open. Claire and Toledo checked all the bathrooms they could get to. No Emma.
They drove downtown, to the all-night shelter. No, the staff hadn’t seen any teenage girls that night. They checked the ERs of the three big hospitals. Thankfully, no Emma.
By now it was one in the morning. “I think I need to take you home, Claire.”
“But we haven’t found her.”
“I think right now she doesn’t want to be found. You and I have done all that two tired, anxious people can do. Let me take you home, and you can wait there. We’ve got the network of Saints on this. Trust us. We will find her.”
Claire agreed to let Toledo take her home. They went in the house to find Alice reading a magazine on the couch, Rex curled up beside her.
“Listen, Claire, I’m going to stay here with you tonight. I told Garrett a friend of mine was having a bit of a crisis and he’s not expecting me. Toledo, go home and if you hear anything, let us know.”
“I will. Good night, Claire. I will keep you and Emma in my prayers tonight.”
“Good night. I really don’t know how to thank you.”
“It’s okay. We don’t do this to be thanked.” And he left.
Claire turned to Alice, her voice breaking. “Alice, if something happens to her, what am I going to do?”
“Claire, I think it’s important right now to deal in realities and not possibilities. The reality is we don’t know where Emma is. That’s all we know. Let’s stay there. Now, can I get you anything?”