Chapter no 13

A Flicker in the Dark

Robin McGill was my father’s second girl, his sequel. She was quiet, reserved, pale, and rail thin, with hair the color of a fiery sunset, something of a walking matchstick. She was not like Lena in any conceivable manner, but that didn’t matter. It didn’t save her. Because three weeks after Lena went missing, Robin did, too.

The fear that followed Robin’s disappearance had doubled in size from the fear that followed Lena’s. When a single girl goes missing, you can blame it on a lot of things. Maybe she was playing by the bog and slipped underwater, her body pulled down by the jaws of a creature lurking somewhere beneath the surface. A tragic accident—but not murder. Maybe it was a crime of passion; maybe she pissed off one too many boys. Or maybe she got pregnant and ran, a theory that had floated through town as thick and foul as marsh fog up until the day Robin’s face started appearing on the TV screen—and everybody knew Robin didn’t get pregnant and run. Robin was smart; she was bookish. Robin kept to herself and never wore a dress shorter than mid-calf. Until Robin’s disappearance, I had actually believed those theories. A runaway teen didn’t seem that unlikely, especially for Lena. Besides, it had happened before. It had happened with Tara. In a town like Breaux Bridge, murder seemed far more outlandish.

But when two girls go missing within the course of a month, it’s not a

coincidence. It’s not an accident. It’s not circumstance. It’s calculated and cunning and far more terrifying than anything we had ever experienced before. Anything we thought possible.

Lacey Deckler’s disappearance is not a coincidence. I know it in my bones. I know it the way I knew it twenty years ago when I saw Robin’s face on the news; right now, standing in my office with my eyes glued to the television screen as Lacey’s freckled face stares back, I might as well be twelve again, getting off the school bus from summer camp as dusk approaches, running down that old dusty road. I see my father, crouching

for me on the porch; I’m running toward him when I should have been running away. Fear grips me like a squeezing hand against my throat.

Someone is out there. Again.

“Are you okay?” Melissa’s voice shakes me from my stupor; she’s looking at me, a worried expression cloaking her features. “You’re looking kind of pale.”

“I’m fine,” I say, nodding my head. “It’s just … memories, you know?”

She nods; she knows not to press it.

“Can you cancel my appointments today?” I ask. “Then you can head home. Get some rest.”

She nods again, looking relieved, before shuffling behind her desk and picking up her headset. I turn back toward the television and raise the remote to the air, turning up the volume. The anchor’s voice fills the room like a gradient, soft to loud.

For those of you just tuning in, we have gotten word that another girl from the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, area has been reported missing—the second in just one week. Again, we have confirmed that two days after the body of fifteen-year-old Aubrey Gravino was found in Cypress Cemetery on Saturday, June first, another girl has been reported missing—this time it’s fifteen-year-old Lacey Deckler, also from Baton Rouge. Our very own Angela Baker is live now at Baton Rouge Magnet High School. Angela?

The camera cuts away from the news desk and Lacey’s picture disappears from the green screen; I’m now staring at a high school situated mere blocks from my office. The reporter on camera nods along, her finger pushed to her earpiece, before she begins to speak.

Thank you, Dean. I’m here at Baton Rouge Magnet High School where Lacey Deckler is currently wrapping up her freshman year. Lacey’s mother, Jeanine Deckler, told authorities that she picked her daughter up from this school on Friday afternoon after track

practice before bringing her to an appointment just a few blocks away.

My breath catches in my throat; I glance over at Melissa to see if she registered the comment, but she isn’t listening. She’s on the phone, tapping away on her laptop as she reschedules the day’s appointments. I feel bad for canceling an entire day on her like this, but I can’t imagine seeing clients right now. It wouldn’t be fair, charging them for my time when they wouldn’t be getting it. Not really. Because my mind would be elsewhere. It would be on Aubrey and Lacey and Lena.

I glance back to the TV.

After her appointment, Lacey was supposed to walk to a friend’s house, where she was to be spending the weekend—but she never arrived.

The camera cuts now to a woman identified as Lacey’s mother; she’s crying into the lens, explaining how she just thought Lacey had turned off her phone, as she sometimes does: “She’s not like the other kids, glued to their Instagram; Lacey needs to disconnect sometimes. She’s sensitive.” She’s recounting how the discovery of Aubrey’s body had been the catalyst she needed to officially report her daughter as missing, and in classic female fashion, she feels the need to be defensive, to prove to the world that she’s a good mother, an attentive mother. That this isn’t her fault. I’m listening to her sobs—“Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that something had happened to her, otherwise of course I would have reported it earlier…”—when the realization hits me: Lacey left her appointment on Friday afternoon, her appointment with me, and never made it to her next destination. She stepped out my front door and vanished, which means that this office, my office, is the last place she would have been seen alive—and I’m the last person who would have seen her.

“Doctor Davis?”

I turn around. The voice doesn’t belong to Melissa, who’s standing behind her desk, staring at me, clutching her headset around her neck. It’s

deeper; a male voice. My eyes dart to my doorframe and I register the pair of police officers standing just outside my office. I swallow.


They step inside in unison and the one on the left, the smaller of the two, raises his arm to reveal a badge.

“My name is Detective Michael Thomas, and this is my colleague, Officer Colin Doyle,” he says, jerking his head to the large man standing to his right. “We’d like to have a few words with you about the disappearance of Lacey Deckler.”

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