“No,” Jenny shook her head, “I’m sorry, I haven’t.”
“She’s eight,” the woman continued, oblivious, “She has brown hair and green eyes.”
“I’m sorry,” Jenny repeated, opening the screen door. She stepped side, followed by Gretchen. “I haven’t seen your daughter.”
“Okay,” the woman replied, sniffling. “I just don’t know what happened to her. One minute she was there, then the next she was gone.”
Jenny shot a confused look at Gretchen. “What did you say?” she asked the woman.
“She was there, then she was gone.”
“Did she...” Gretchen asked, hesitantly, “Did she leave her clothes behind?”
“Yes,” the woman looked up. She spun around to face Gretchen. “How did you know?”
“Our sons,” Gretchen nodded over at Jenny, “The same thing happened to them. I was watching them at my house when suddenly they were gone,” she paused, “But their clothes were still there,” she finished, voice low and husky.
Jenny wrapped her arm around her friend as Gretchen began to sob. “It’s okay,” she croaked out, voice nearly choked out by the feeling of imminent tears. “We’ll find them. The boys are okay.”
Gretchen buried her face in Jenny’s shoulder. “But what if they’re not?” she asked, voice muffled and indistinct. “I should have been watching them. I failed.”
Jenny grabbed Gretchen’s shoulder and pushed her away forcefully. “Stop that!” she yelled, grabbing her friend's chin with her free hand to force her to look up. “We’ll have time to worry about what happened later. Right now you need to stay calm so we can look. The boys might be hurt and they might need our help.”
For a moment Gretchen looked like she might melt in to front step. Then she blinked once and seemed to stand imperceptibly taller. “Right,” she wiped the tears off her cheeks, “We need to go find the boys.”
“Will you let me know if you find out anything about my Tina?” the other woman asked.
“Of course,” Jenny smiled weakly at her, “We’ll keep our eyes open.”
“Thank you. I a couple blocks up at 614,” she gestured off in the general direction of her house, “My name is Kelli Ross.”
“Okay, Kelli. I’m Jenny, this is Gretchen,” Jenny replied. “And if you hear about our sons, let us know. Mine is Kevin, hers is Luke.”
"Kevin and Luke, right." Kelli turned away and walked across the lawn, intent on her search for her daughter.
Jenny looked up and suddenly felt uneasy. Something was wrong.
A young couple walked up the sidewalk on the other side of the street, obviously in search of something. They shouted out names as they went but no one responded. Down the block a black car sat in a yard smashed up against a tree. No driver seemed to be waiting for a tow truck and no curious onlookers were milling around the accident. A child's bicycle lay in the middle of the street, alone, unattended, exactly as Kevin’s bicycle looked whenever he just left it in the middle of the driveway.
Something clicked in her mind. It was quiet, that was what was wrong.
The street was never quiet. Most of the families on the block had small children and beautiful evenings like this one were always filled with the sounds of children running, playing, shouting and laughing.
Try as she might, she couldn't hear any children.
A chill ran up her spine. She instinctively flipped open her cell phone and called her husband as the cold fingers of panic began to spread throughout her body.
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