I knew something was wrong when he didn’t answer his phone.

Silent, I looked at his office, my stomach queasy with uneasiness.  Papers, strewn everywhere.  Books lay on the floor in total chaos; open, upside down, pages crinkled.  Little remained on his usually organized bookshelves.  I stepped inside, my shoe crunching over the broken leavings of a pottery project from my fourth grade art class.  The pieces lay in a starburst on the floor, where someone had dropped — or more likely thrown — it.

“Dad?” I called, even though I knew he wasn’t there. I stared at the crudely painted shard of my elementary school pottery.  This was… Someone had been here.

I felt cold.

Something flashed green under a pile of papers still on his desk.  Carefully, I stepped over the rubble.  Reaching out, I nudged the pile of papers aside, revealing his cell phone.

My hands began to shake.  Dad never forgot his cell.  Never.

I pocketed the cell phone and backed up.  Things crunched and slipped under my feet in my haste to get out.  I had to call the department head, tell him something was wrong.  Call the cops.  I felt the door jamb hard in my backside, and whirled to leave the room.

I screamed as I came nose-to-nose with a man.

He blinked.  My heart thundered in my chest. I gripped the door frame to steady myself, white-knuckling.

“I admit, I’ve never gotten that reaction before,” he said, faint amusement curving the corners of his mouth.  He was handsome, and I immediately berated myself for the thought. How could I think such a thing when my father was missing?

“Sorry,” I stammered.  “S-surprised me.”  I gulped air.  “I have… have to call the cops.”  I started to walk around him, but my shoe hit the edge of a stray piece of paper and I slid out of balance.  He caught me by the arm, steadying me.

“Are you alright?” he asked.

I trembled, shaking my head. “Office… ransacked.”

The young man pursed his lips as if he were irritated.  “Here,” he said.  “Sit.  I’ll call.”

I slid to the hallway floor and tried to hold myself together while he called.  I felt… numb.  Frightened.  Confused.  I placed my head in my hands and closed my eyes, focusing on my breathing.

The young man flipped his phone shut, stuffed it in his pocket.  He dropped to the floor next to me.  “They’ll be here in ten,” he said.  “We’re to stay put.”

I nodded.

A few minutes later, he asked, “How do you know Dr. Harlan?”

“He’s my Dad.”

The young man looked stunned.  “So you’re… you can’t be Leslie.”

I gave him a wan smile.  His face paled until his blonde hair looked brown.  He fidgeted.  “Then we have to leave.  Now.”

* * *

(This piece is part of an ongoing serial story. You can catch up on the plot via the Serials page. If you liked this work, please consider purchasing one of my other stories, or some of my music for your collection. 🙂 )

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