“Coming!” I hear a woman yell. A few seconds later, she appears behind the desk. Her eyes grow alarmed when she sees Charlie and me.
“Charlie?” she asks.
Charlie nods, wringing her hands together nervously. “Yeah,” she says. “I’m here for my stuff. A backpack?”
The woman stares at Charlie for a few seconds and her eyes drop to Charlie’s hands. The way Charlie is standing makes her look nervous…like she’s hiding something. The woman tells us she’ll go see what she can do, and she disappears around the desk again.
“Try to relax,” I whisper to Charlie. “Don’t make it look like I forced you to do this. They’re already suspicious of me.”
Charlie folds her hands over her chest, nods, and then brings her thumb to her mouth. She begins to bite the pad of it. “I don’t know how to look relaxed,” she says. “I’m not relaxed. I’m confused as hell.”
The woman doesn’t return, but a door to our left opens and a uniformed officer appears in the doorway. He looks over at Charlie and then me. He motions for us to follow him.
He walks into an office and proceeds to sit behind his desk. He nods at the two chairs opposite him, so we both take a seat. He doesn’t look at all pleased when he leans forward and clears his throat.
“Do you realize how many people we have looking for you right now, young lady?”
Charlie stiffens. I can feel the confusion roll off of her. I know she’s still trying to grasp what’s happened in the last hour, so I answer for her.
“We’re really sorry,” I say to him. His eyes remain on Charlie for a few seconds, and then slide to me. “We got in a fight. She decided to disappear for a few days to process everything. She didn’t know anyone would be looking for her, or that she would be reported missing.”
The officer looks bored with me. “I appreciate your ability to answer for your girlfriend, but I’d really like to hear what Ms. Wynwood has to say.” He stands, towering over us, and motions toward the door. “Wait outside, Mr. Nash. I’d like to speak to her alone.”
I don’t want to leave her alone with him. I hesitate, but Charlie places a reassuring hand on my arm. “It’s fine. Wait outside,” she says. I look at her closely, but she seems confident. I stand up a little too forcefully and the chair makes an awful screeching sound as it scoots backward. I don’t look at the officer again. I walk out, close his door behind me, and begin pacing the empty lobby.
Charlie emerges a few minutes later with a backpack slung over her shoulder and a smug grin on her face. I smile back at her, knowing I never should have doubted that her nerves would get the best of her. This is the fourth time she’s started from scratch, and she seems to have made it through the first few times okay. This time shouldn’t be any different.
She doesn’t sit in the front seat this time. When we approach the car, she says, “Let’s both sit in the back so we can go through all this stuff.”
Landon is already annoyed that he thinks we’ve carried out what he thinks is a prank for so long, and now we’re forcing him to chauffer us around.
“Where to now?” Landon asks.
“Just drive us around until we figure out where we want to go next,” I say.
Charlie unzips the backpack and begins rifling through it. “I think we should go to the prison,” she says. “My father might have some sort of explanation.”
“Again?” Landon asks. “Silas and I tried that yesterday. They wouldn’t let us speak to him.”
“But I’m his daughter,” she says. She glances over at me as if she’s silently asking for my approval.
“I agree with Charlie,” I say. “Let’s go see her father.”
Landon sighs heavily. “I can’t wait until this is over,” he says, making a sharp right out of the driveway of the police station. “Ridiculous,” he mutters. He reaches for the radio and turns up the volume, drowning us out.
We begin pulling items out of the backpack. There are two separate stacks I remember making a couple of days ago when I first began going through these items. One of them is useful to us, one is not. I hand Charlie the journals and I begin sorting through letters, hoping she doesn’t notice I’m skipping some of the ones I know I’ve already read.
“All these journals are full,” she says, flipping through them. “If I wrote this much and this often, wouldn’t I have one that’s current? I can’t find one from this year.”
She makes a good point. When I was in her attic taking all of this stuff, I didn’t notice anything that looked like she was actively using it. I shrug. “Maybe we missed it when we grabbed all of these.”