Deep conversations over an untouched pile of books were a common occurrence for Mary and Paul, even before they’d begun questioning everyone’s uncharacteristic behavior. They had a broad view of the neighborhood from the window-encased alcove where Mary’s family ate their meals, but neither noticed the harsh glare of the afternoon sun, the faded blue sky or the children playing on a makeshift bike ramp in the middle of the street. As often happened when they were together, they were intent on solving a puzzle to the exclusion of everything else.
Research into connections between Josh’s and Mr. Adams’s family had so far yielded nothing they hadn’t already known and nothing which explained their animosity towards Sasha and her parents. The fact that nobody had seen Sasha for the last two days, not since the locker gluing incident, was disturbing the two amateur sleuths far more than their inability to uncover any real clues. Although Josh was acting very smug, certain their series of tortures caused Sasha to pull a disappearing act, neither Mary nor Paul believed for a minute that a teenage girl could convince her parents to just pack up and leave so suddenly. Since nobody had seen Sasha’s parents in at least two weeks, Josh’s explanation was lame at best.
Paul and Mary took a detour after school to check Sasha’s house for clues as to her whereabouts. They’d stood at the front window with their hands cupped around their eyes peering into the sparsely furnished living room. Both felt an almost palpable sense of desolation and loneliness. The house sat isolated at the edge of town, it’s yard neglected, and faded yellow paint peeling away to reveal bare wood. It seemed more a part of the desert than the town despite being only a few minutes’ walk from the shops on Main Street. The road beyond now led only to an abandoned mine a few miles outside of town where teens used to go to drink beer, shoot cans, or to test each other’s bravery in the mine’s deteriorating caverns. The once-thriving ranches had been left to the desert’s harsh embrace for years. As far as they knew, nobody with any sense visited the mine or the ranches these days. They offered too many opportunities to get yourself hurt or killed. Mary had shivered, and tears filled her eyes thinking of Sasha getting up every day in this miserable, lonely house knowing another day of cruelty from her classmates and even some of the teachers was her only respite from this solitude.
She wiped the tears from her eyes...