“You didn’t know about the letter, you couldn’t have helped her and if you had been with her you could have gotten hurt or taken too, maybe Helena knew this so she didn’t tell you to protect you" Claire speculated, she believed Chad to be innocent.
“Bob you have to find her" Chad rasped out, he was looking down at the floor, his shoulders tensing, he couldn’t look at them, he was in anguish.
“We will son, I promise you, both of you" Bob swore and Claire froze, her breath caught in her throat and her chest tightened, she also noticed Chad look up at her in shock too.
She knew that he was promising to find her parents also and she honestly didn’t know how to feel about that, she was grateful and hopeful, she was dreaded and horrified, she knew that all they’d find is bones, it had been fourteen years and she knew that the average timeframe for an adult body to decompose to a skeleton is eight to twelve years and while she knew finding them would finally offer her some answers and closure it would also make it final, that small dream that she has in the dark of night of her parents coming for her and saving her from this nightmare would come no more.
It became awkward then, no one spoke, she couldn’t speak, the words wouldn’t form and they both just looked at her with pity and she had to escape from it, it was crippling.
“I’m sorry I have to go" she managed to hoarsely whisper before she turned and hastily made her departure from the store, she couldn’t wait for their reply, tears were already forming in her eyes.
Once she was outside she rushed to the alley to her right and leaned against the wall of the shop behind one of the it bins and burst out crying, thankfully it was just before 5 o’clock so the main street was empty.
As Claire continued to cry her body began to tremble and she clutched to her chest as it tightened and she struggled to gasp for air, that is when she realized what was happening, panic attack.
It was like a switch when it hit her and she instantly reacted, she sat down on the cold, hard ground, had her knees bent up and put her head between them looking down at the ground.
Having her knees around her head sort of created a barrier between her and the world, also being in that position also released some of the pressure on her chest and relieve some of the stress which allowed her heart rate to slowly calm down and also focusing on looking at the ground helped distract her mind and slowly her breathing went back to normal and the tears stopped.
It had been a long time since she had suffered an anxiety panic attack, they had begun after she went to live with her grandparents, they had been so supportive and helped her to find ways to cope when they did hit, she hadn’t wanted to see a shrink so they did everything they could for her and thankfully she learned to cope and slowly the attacks lessened before finally coming to a stop, however being back here seemed to breathe life back into them.
“Claire oh my god what happened? Are you alright?” she heard Bob as he rushed over to her, he must have come looking for her to have spot her behind the bin.
“I’m alright, just got overwhelmed" she explained as he bent down in front of her and placed his hand on her arm to try to provide her some comfort.
“Come on let’s get you to your cabin, there’s nothing more we can do tonight" he told her as he helped her get to her feet and they made their way to the police patroller.
“I don’t think Chad had anything to do with the kidnappings" Claire said to Bob as he started the car and began driving.
“I think so too but I’m afraid that I would like to believe that no one in my town would be capable of this horror so I’m disappointed to admit that my judgement is clouded" he confessed to her.
“I understand and I’ll do anything I can to help" she replied, she could see how hard it was for him as well, he wanted more than anything to see the best in people but was haunted by the fact that there is darkness in one of them.
“I know it’s hard for you but I’m glad your here, we never forgot about you or your parents Claire, you will always find help here if you need it" he told her as he pulled up out the front of her cabin, the sun was already beginning to set, making the sky look pinkish-orange.
“Thanks Bob, my dad considered you his best friend, I cherish the memories of you coming over to watch football games on the television with him, hearing you both yell at the players like they could hear you" Claire said as they both smiled at the memories.
“Remember I’m just down the road if you need me" he reminded her as she opened the car door and unbuckled herself.
“Will do, have a good night Chief" she said as she grabbed her handbag, climbed out of the car and shut the door behind her.
He sat there and waited for her to unlock the cabin door before waving and driving off, she waved back as she watched the car disappear from sight.
Once inside she instantly locked the door shut and leaned her forehead against it, closed her eyes and sucked in a deep breath, she was now alone, in the town her loved ones keep going missing, with the darkness of night creeping up on her along with all the things that haunt it.
Her cabin was small and rustic, made out of wooden logs, the kitchen was on the left side of the room and the rest was a lounge room, it had an old brown couch in the middle with a wooden side table next to it on the right and in front of it had a bullet in fireplace made from stone along the wall and there was already some chopped up firewood piled up in the right corner.
There was no television which Claire preferred, she was more interested in reading and to the right of the room was a hall that led to the bathroom and the bedroom.
It was already very chilly and she knew deeper into the night it would only get colder so she quickly got to work starting a fire, she used to help chop wood and start the fires in the lounge room fireplace back home with her grandfather.
Once that was done she went looking for something to eat, she wasn’t sure if she would find anything though, she hadn’t been shopping yet, she then spotted a note on the dining table, it was from Bob, letting her know that he had stocked the cupboards and fridge with food for her, he was proving to be a kind and thoughtful man, he had been even when Claire was a child.
She opened up one of the cupboards and found it packed full of food and she noted to herself that she would have to thank and repay him tomorrow.
After a couple minutes of looking through everything she decided on a nice warm soup, it had diced chicken, chicken stock, noodles and some corn and carrot, she chose to cook it the old fashion way, over the fire, thankfully it was easy to set up the rods and pot and while it cooked she sat down on the couch with a knitted blanket her grandmother had made her over her legs and decided to call them.
“Hello Gail speaking" Gail's voice spoke through the phone and Claire felt her whole body relax, she hadn’t noticed just how tense she had been.
“Hi grandma it’s Claire, I just wanted you to know that I got here safely" Claire talked into the phone as she hugged her knees for comfort, she missed them greatly, this was her first time away from them and she was feeling very homesick.
“Oh darling it’s so good to hear your voice, how are you doing?” Gail asked, concern laced in her voice.
“I’m just cooking dinner, I’m having soup" Claire told her trying to keep her voice even as tears entered her eyes, she wished she was back home with them.
“Sweetheart I asked how you are doing not what are you doing" Gail replied and Claire frowned in sorrow.
“I’m struggling, this place is just full of ghosts" Claire admitted, referring to the memories, she knew that there would be no point in trying to hide the way she feels from Gail, she’d instantly see right through it.
“Does Chief Bob have any suspects at all?” Gail asked, desperation clear in her tone.
“Not that I’m aware of but he is allowing me to assist on the case and has sworn to me that we’re going to solve it and get justice" Claire replied as she got up to check and stir the soup, not long now and it would be ready.
“Darling are you sure you want to do this? You could just forget about the case and come home, being there only gives this creep the opportunity to go after you as well" Gail spoke, fear and anxiety thick in her voice and Claire’s skin prickled as she looked around the empty cabin feeling even more alone and vulnerable, what her grandmother had said hurt her and angered her, forgetting the case would be like forgetting her parents, like betraying them and she couldn’t do that but Claire also understood that Gail was just so worried for her safety, that she hadn’t meant it like that.
“I can't just forget about it though, it doesn’t just haunt me here, the ghosts follow me everywhere, the only way I’m going to get peace is if I solve it and lay them to rest" Claire explained and Gail sighed sadly but understandably.
“Alright dear but you know where we are if you need us, you go eat your soup now" Gail said lovingly.
“I will, tell grandpa I love him and I love you too" Claire told her as she went to grab a bowl and spoon.
“Will do darling and I love you as well, be safe" Gail replied before hanging up and Claire sighed exhaustedly as she put her phone down on the dining table as well as her bowl and spoon and placed her hands on it to help support herself as she closed her eyes and sucked in deep breaths as tears rolled down her cheeks.
Claire missed them so much and as much as she hated to admit it she knew her grandmother was right, being here put her in grave danger, it was one of the reasons why she was so jumpy but she couldn’t run back and hide behind her grandparents, she had done that for too long and she wasn’t going back to that, she couldn’t, it would be like living without oxygen.
This story will continue in Chapter Three- Part One.