I was urged to make myself as comfortable as possible. Someone handed me a cup of coffee and offered to get me something to eat. I declined. I would have enough problems digesting the coffee.
There was little conversation in the room and the phone remained silent. I sat glumly on a soft leather chair while Michael paced back and forth. The tension reverberating through the office was thick and heavy. I could feel my nerves becoming more and more frazzled.
“Could you please stop that?” I snapped angrily at Michael as he passed in front of my chair for the hundredth time. He stopped, but it was only to spin around and fix me with a ferocious glare.
“What the hell do you want me to do?”
I opened my mouth to give him an appropriate answer involving certain body parts, but his friend Sean, who evidently wanted to spare him the indignity of my response, interrupted me.
“This is just a suggestion, because I realize tempers are frayed, but I think it would be better if you two put whatever animosity you seem to feel toward each other aside for the moment. It’s neither constructive or productive.”
He was right, so I snapped my mouth shut, and contented myself with a stormy glare in Michael’s direction, which was expertly returned before he resumed his pacing. As a concession, he chose to pace in another corner of the office.
I sat rigidly in my chair trying to stay quiet, but I was too high-strung at the moment. I needed to talk, so I spoke to no one in particular, not knowing if I would receive a response.
“I don’t understand. He said he had discussed the possibility of his being Melissa’s father only with his immediate family. Why would anyone kidnap Melissa with the hope of getting a ransom payment from him if no one even knows he’s her father?”
Michael chose to respond, albeit with a definite trace of impatience in his voice.
“That’s why Sean is going to question my family also, to see who they may have discussed it with. As Allan explained, we don’t know for sure someone will be looking for ransom. It could have been just a random kidnapping.”
That was the possibility which scared me the most. It would mean we would have few leads, no one contacting us. Melissa could be anywhere, and we would have no chance of ever finding her.
I didn’t respond. I stared out the window unseeingly, wondering where she was at the moment. It was late evening by now, and even though the days were getting longer with the approach of summer, it was already dark and I didn’t know if Melissa would be spending the night outside; alone, cold and possibly hurt. My morbid thoughts were tearing me apart.
I looked around the room. I could feel the tears welling up inside me and I swallowed hard. I found I wasn’t able to speak, and even if I had been, I had no idea what to say. I felt empty and miserable. I couldn’t help myself. I put my head in my hands and started to cry. There was dead silence in the room as I sobbed.
I dimly realized I was in a room with five men and they were likely uncomfortable with my display of emotion. When I lifted my head and looked around me through blurry eyes, my suspicions were confirmed. The two technicians were studiously concentrating on the computer screens that a few minutes previously were being completely ignored. The two policemen were standing facing each other staring into their respective Styrofoam cups as if they were reading tea leaves. The only person whose attention I seemed to have was Michael. He stood a few feet away, staring intently at me with an unreadable expression on his face. I wasn’t sure if he was angry at my apparent display of weakness or if he was sympathizing with me. When our eyes met, he reacted.
He approached the chair where I was sitting and knelt down in front of me until we were face to face. He had my complete attention.
“Listen, Rebecca, we’re going to do everything we can to find her. You and I may have our differences, but, as far as Melissa is concerned, we’re on the same wavelength. I’ve already lost out on five years of her life. I don’t intend to let any more of it slip through my hands.”
He spoke quietly and calmly, taking my hand in his as he talked. Unfortunately, instead of comforting me, his speech and his unexpected display of compassion only succeeded in re-opening the floodgates. As I once again buried my face in my hands, I felt him awkwardly pat my shoulder. Then I heard him curse softly and his arms closed around me so my head was resting on his shoulder. I sobbed helplessly for a few minutes until it began to sink in that I was truly making a spectacle of myself.
I opened my eyes to see I had made the men in the room even more uncomfortable, if that was possible. I pulled myself together and pushed gently on Michael’s chest, letting him know he should release me. He complied quickly, and I mumbled an apology to the room in general. Detective O’Grady responded diplomatically on behalf of everyone.
“There’s no need to be sorry. It’s perfectly natural to be upset. As a matter of fact, I’m impressed you were able to hold yourself together for this long.”