Today you have a special sneak peek at REVENGE by Paula Rose, available December 14, 2014.
On her return trip, the rain split building lights into fractures of miniature kaleidoscopes. She squinted through the deluge. A new pair of wiper blades moved high atop her shopping list while her fingers tightened around the steering wheel and worry pressed its full weight on her lungs. Monday morning traffic was a snarled mess, and Olivia wondered why the car behind her drove too close; however, he seemed no different than others in the lanes next to her, proving most people had foregone the safe driving distance rule.
Olivia Foster approached the last turn off before the DAYS—Development for Active/Asperger’s/Autistic Year-round Settlements—parking lot. She rounded the lot, and she realized those flashing lights were from two cruisers that hovered just outside her employer’s front door. Pulling in right next to them, Olivia sprinted into the office. Her puzzlement turned to stark fear.
Madeline’s tear-streaked face came into view just inside the front door.
“What’s happened?” Her question garnered no answers. “Madeline. What’s going on?”
A suited man moved away from her boss and came toward her. The badge, which decorated his outside jacket pocket, reproduced horrid days from years ago. “I’m Lt. Phillip Landon, and I need to speak with you about Bobby Havers.”
“Bobby?” she whimpered. Her heart rate kicked up. “Is he—?”
He motioned her into the conference room. “It seems as though he’s disappeared. And we’re talking to everyone who interacts regularly for clues to pinpoint where he would go.”
How could a special needs client go missing from a fully staffed group home? “Bobby wouldn’t run away. He wouldn’t.”
“Have a seat.” She nodded. But the last thing Olivia wanted was to sit. She needed to help the search for Bobby. Grief from the past assaulted her, but with a deep breath, she shoved those feelings aside. God, please lead us to Bobby. This detective needed to be on Bobby’s trail instead of inside wasting time on her, and she’d do whatever she needed to make that happen.
“The executive director explained that Bobby recently had some employer problems. As his job coach, you can give us more of a complete picture and some insight.”
“Bobby has a cell phone. Did you try to call him?”
“We’ve done that. Please tell me what led up to this.”
Olivia was so taken aback by Madeline’s erroneous assessment that her thoughts jumbled. She remembered the many excellent reviews Bobby had received, but soon, her memory traveled backward to a family party from years ago. Fighting a threatening onslaught of grief, Olivia refocused on Bobby’s steadfast work abilities. “Bobby doesn’t take to changes easily. Ralph Marshall was his supervisor until three months ago, and he gave Bobby warm accolades.” At his job, many new faces ran the show.
Brett Willis was his new supervisor, and Olivia had tried to set up meetings about Bobby. However, his office staff canceled them. His ongoing meetings always blunted her attempts at conversation at the office.
“At end of day on Friday, the new secretary handed over a file of errors Bobby made and said that he marked shipments as received, but the product was not in the warehouse. Once I spoke to Bobby, he insisted those shipments were received. I have his copy of the backup files to prove it.” In fact, Olivia’s intention was to meet with his supervisor today to explain and to let Bobby know what is at the heart of this problem especially since Bobby did have the necessary receipts on his side. “Honestly, I thought maybe this new manager wasn’t up to speed or that it was just a misunderstanding.”
The detective shrugged from his jacket tousling his dark hair while his eyes stayed focused on her. “Did you examine those records?” he asked.
“Yes, but not extensively. I matched up about twenty, proving those were received, and I was going to offer to have Bobby and myself do the rest.”
“Do you have any idea where he’d go?”
Shaking her head, she answered. “Bobby’s whole life revolves around his job. He’s worked at this company two years and has never missed a day. He would never just no-show. Never.”
“Well, that was before the changes. Would the trouble there have caused him to not want to work?”
Bobby had been in different departments over his tenure at this job, and he’d done well. Olivia knew all he needed was time to adjust as the job changed. It was her duty to walk him through it and make him comfortable. His new supervisor hadn’t informed her of anything different in the position duties, nor did he keep Olivia in the loop about upcoming changes. “No.”
“Did you notice any difference in his behavior at work? Or any changes in behaviors of those around him?”
“Does he ever wander off at the job?”
“No, Bobby is a creature of habit. He doesn’t do spur-of-the-moment. He’s predictable.” Her last word gave her a shiver. Somebody used this to their advantage.
Those shimmering green eyes told Phillip she cared about her client. Additionally, she spoke of him in the present tense. No annoyance showed when she answered his questions, and she continued eye contact.
The job site supervisor had told detective Bellows that the department had nothing but problems with her employee for months, yet she didn’t know this? “Is this the only problem he’s had?”
She nodded. Now, he had to wonder if someone had been trying to make the coach or the client seem like a problem on the job and why. With some ‘mistakes’ being easily disproved, he was left to ponder why the executive director already knew of them. Could this intended meeting be a connection to Bobby’s disappearance?
“I know Bobby wouldn’t just run off like this. Have you spoken with his mother? She lives in Florida. I have her—”
“She’s on her way. What other work issues have cropped up?” She rested her elbows on the table but accented her words with hand gestures.
“There weren’t any.”
His interview with the human resources director demonstrated Olivia had been this client’s job coach for over two years, but the director didn’t hold that fact out as proof of innocence.In fact, he only had known the length of time because he could do simple math.
He was given the information asked for in a forthright manor, lending to the feel that the emotional scales here were out of line. The open display of grief from the executive director coupled with the facts only persona in the human resources department framed Olivia Foster’s normal reaction in the situation. Shaken with fear and concern for the missing, she made it a point to reign in her emotional state and to focus on the client.
Meanwhile, with the missing person having Asperger’s, Phillip suspected Bobby was probably not one to make conversation with coworkers. Phillip needed to know whether discussions between coach and client were limited to work. “How are Bobby’s language skills?”
“Bobby doesn’t ask about your day or weekend,” she said with a slight tremble to her voice. “He just doesn’t know how to do that kind of social interchange.”
“How does he handle vocal situations at work?”
“If you quizzed him about a shipping order and date of receipt, he’d be able to tell you what, when, where, how, and who signed for it without ever looking at the paperwork.”
Bobby’s file showed him to be methodical, regimented, and a whiz at memorization. Photographic memory? “Do you know anyone who didn’t get along with him at his group home?”
“No. At home, he helps the staff. Bobby has various chores.” Could he hold information from those duties that someone didn’t want him to have or could he have passed that something on to her, but she didn’t know it?
“I don’t know of any problems,” she continued, “Haven’t witnessed anything or anyone that made him uncomfortable. Didn’t you talk to the home staff?”
Maybe digging into Bobby’s home chores and helping jobs would net information. “What about family? Know any relatives in the area?”
The uniformed officer peeked in the doorway. “Lieutenant?”
Her head swiveled setting her red hair as a frame around her face to give him a rare glimpse of her in profile. In a few minutes, he returned to find this woman with her head in her hands. He almost wanted to tell her it would all work out, but that would’ve been a lie. In a possible kidnapping case, it wasn’t always a good outcome.
His first case had taught him a hard lesson. A missing person doesn’t always mean a runaway situation. Back then, it had been thought a young girl, Emily McMaster, had just decided to leave her stepmother’s home that she shared with her father due to family discord. The biological mother had lost custody due to abuse and had resided in the state prison, dousing possible spousal kidnapping. The teen had taken clothes from her room but left behind the cell phone that was the issue at hand. Two nights before, her father had denied Emily’s demand for a smart phone.
Phillip followed all the protocols in sending officers to friends’ homes and conducting the search of the property. He saw the newly placed garden, with its dark dirt and soon-to-be-planted seeds and crops, but Phillip’s instincts kicked in when the stepmother arrived at his side.
She seemed to want his attention on the dilapidated shed across yard. It was almost in a straight line from where he stood. He didn’t consider the placement of either as a matter, but he delayed moving and took in the space to gauge her reaction. She got into babbling. Her nervousness was expected, but she didn’t speak of the missing girl or the family’s squabble. Instead, her chatter was all about what she’d hoped to grow and about organic foods.
Once many of the leads had been exhausted and proven false, Phillip went with his instincts. The disturbed earth had led to a search warrant, and the police had found Emily’s battered body underneath it.
His heart still ached from a child’s death over the use of the stepmother’s iPhone on which texts displayed Mrs. McMaster’s drug dealing activities.
However, not having a family connection inside this case bothered him. No one saw Bobby leave in the morning, but he was present for bed check last night. All doors were alarmed, and any unexpected entry or exit was sure to notify someone. In addition, the missing man saw no visitors the night before.
Yet, Bobby Havers was gone.
The pretty job coach would have still been en route from what he could tell. Thus, he didn’t have a link from her either. “How is Bobby with strangers? Would he go with anyone or would he shy away?”
Now, her head gave a jerky wag. “He wouldn’t go with a stranger, ever.”
Phillip sat back. Pretending to be lost in his thoughts, he flipped through his notebook, and he didn’t say anything to gauge her reaction to silence.
She did not ramble on, fidget, sweat, or try to fill in the void. Instead, she waited.
He rose. “Thank you for meeting with me today. I only have a few more questions.”
“Lieutenant, he wouldn’t just walk off.”
He nodded, wondering if someone carried him away. “You’ve given me a great deal of information, but you have to give us more.”