“That was Newnam,” Detective Wolfe said as slipped his phone into his pocket. “Tracy Hansen is at Luke’s house with his parents so he’ll speak to her himself. Her husband has given us permission to check their house for the MyBase Probiotic Deodorant.”
Geni sat in the passenger seat of Wolfe’s Dodge Charger in shocked silence. How could someone take their own nephew? Okay, so this was all hearsay, but still, how could someone look at a child and think, I’ll take that one? It didn’t make sense to Geni. Children were precious, meant to be cherished and loved. She thought of her own kiddos and her heart sank at the thought of any one of them suddenly being gone from her life. Almost in a trance she pulled her cell from her pocket and dialed Lex’s number.
“Hey, Geni,” Lex said on the third ring, “I see you won’t make it in time to say goodnight to the kids at bedtime.”
Geni burst into tears.
“Geni! What’s wrong?”
She heard the concern and fear in Lex’s voice and felt the startled gaze of Detective Wolfe, but Geni couldn’t respond or stop the tears from falling. She wanted to be there in time to kiss her kids tonight, and every night. What if she never saw them again? Her sobs got harder at the thought. Through the din of her cries she kept hearing Lex call her name and then the deep baritone of Danny’s voice as he took the phone from her and answered her friend’s pleas. On some level, Geni had the impression that Danny speaking to Lex probably wasn’t going to go over very well, but her gratitude toward Danny for taking the phone from her outweighed everything else.
Danny must have hung up the phone, because the next think Geni knew he’d put an arm around her and pulled her into his shoulder where she drenched his shirt in seconds. In that moment, Danny wasn’t the man who broke her best friend’s heart or played a part in her husband’s passing, he was just her friend, and she’d missed her friend. They’d been close friends in college, not as close as her and Lex, but close enough that after what he’d done and the discord he caused between her and Todd, Geni had still missed him. When her sobs became hiccups, Wolfe gently pushed her away, pulled a box of tissues from the glove compartment and handed them to her.
“Thanks,” she said and blew her nose.
He gave her a half smile, “I understand exactly how you feel. I keep thinking, what if it was Olivia missing instead of Luke, and it causes my heart to stop. I’d be lost without her, Geni.”
“Is Olivia your daughter’s name?”
“Yes.” He grinned, “Olivia Hannah Wolfe. If you remember, Nichelle and I grew up together and our moms were best friends, so it seemed fitting that our daughter would be named after them.”
Geni tried to smile, but fresh tears threatened to fall again--for a different reason this time. His daughter should have been named Olivia Lacie Wolfe after his mom and Lex’s mom. Nichelle shouldn’t have been part of it. Life wasn’t fair.
She said, “Should we head out?”
“Are you feeling up to it? I can drop you off at your car and go myself.”
She waved his concern away, “I’m fine. We need to find Luke Hansen and hopefully it will be soon.”
He put the car into gear and pulled into traffic, “You may need to call Lex back and assure her I’m not the reason you were crying.”
His words were joking, but Geni could hear sadness in his voice. He missed Lex, or at least regretted hurting her. Geni was astounded at the revelation. Never in the past two years did she once think about how Danny felt after everything had gone down, but maybe he regretted his actions from that night.
Her phone showed 5 missed calls and 10 text messages from Lex. Instead of calling her back, Geni sent a quick text message letting Lex know she was fine and would be home, hopefully, within the next couple of hours. Then she turned the sound off--she really didn’t want to get into a conversation about Danny Wolfe with Lex right now.
Tracy Hansen’s house was in the center of town, nestled between the best donut shop in the world and Fat Mike’s Car Parts Store. Everything along that street had once been houses, but over the years people had moved further away from the bustle of the town and the houses were turned into shops. There were still a few, like Tracy Hansen, who remained living on the busy street. Wolfe’s phone chimed and he pulled it from his pocket once they’d parked in front of Tracy’s house.
“It’s Newman, he texted saying that the MyBase deodorant should be located in the master bathroom in the top left drawer.”
The phone chimed again.
“And that there’s a spare key hidden under the ‘ugly gnome’”.
They climbed from the car and Wolfe shined a flashlight along the yard then said, “Well, I only see one gnome.”
“Is it ugly?”
“It’s a gnome. Of course it’s ugly.”
Geni laughed and picked up the red and yellow gnome to find a key lying in the dirt, “You’re biased against gnomes.”
“Just ugly ones,” he chuckled.
The house was dark and quiet as they made their way up the stairs and through the master bedroom to the bathroom. It wasn’t hard to locate the deodorant from Detective Newman’s text. It was the same blue bottle that Shanna Burton had in her home. Wolfe slipped on gloves and picked up the bottle.
“There is something slippery rubbed all over this bottle.”
“What do you think it is?” Geni asked.
“Based on the color and lack of odor, I’d say it was the MyBase deodorant rubbed on it’s own bottle.”
Geni touched a gloved finger against a side of the bottle and rolled her fingers together. Detective Wolfe was right, the substance seemed to be identical to the deodorant. It reminded her of when Trevor got into her vaseline jar and tried to close the lid with vaseline covered fingers.
“Danny, can you open the bottle?”
He unscrewed the lid without questioning why she wanted to see inside. Once she saw the deep divot in the cream, Geni’s suspicion grew. She took the bottle from him and carefully laid her fingers in the exact places in the cream that resembled fingers, but her fingers were too big against the impressions that had been left.
Wolfe said, “What are you thinking Geni?”
“Look at these impressions, they look like they were made by fingers, but my hand is too big to have made them and I have small hands for a woman. Your hand is way too big to have made these indents.” She took a deep breath, “I think they were made by someone who didn’t know what this cream was or how to use it. Remember when Shanna showed us how much needed to be used, only enough to fit the tip of your finger.” Geni tilted the bottle toward Wolfe, “Well, this bottle is missing nearly half its contents. And it’s a new bottle.”
“You’re thinking a child took half of the deodorant. More than likely they mistook it for lotion, but who? Luke Hansen? No one reported that he was ever here today and his bike is covered in this stuff.”
Geni shook her head, “Not his bike.”
She walked back into the entryway to a table they’d passed filled with family pictures. She picked one up near the front that had caught her eye when she’d first walked into the house and held it out to the Detective. It was a photo of three boys about ten-years-old straddling their bicycles and smiling big for the camera.
“The boy on the left is Luke Hansen and the kid on the right must be a friend, but I’m betting the boy in the middle standing over the red and blue Spiderman bike is Tracy Hansen’s son. He’s the only constant in all these family photos.”
The color drained from his face as he clutched the picture in his hands.
“We’ve been looking for the wrong child,” he said.
“Or we actually have two missing boys.”
Written by Linsay Ernst