I didn’t stay at the camp long. My job had been to deliver Alicia, who was in no condition to drive and had wanted a friend to chauffeur her. I would have stayed; I would have done anything they wanted, but my presence was unnecessary. I was just an extra body, and frankly I was in the way. I drove home feeling more forlorn than I’d ever felt in my life. I’d been sworn to secrecy, but I had to talk to someone so I told my husband. And Ramona, who immediately suggested bringing Lloyd into the picture. “He knows stuff, mama. He could help.”
Intuitively I knew she was right, but it wasn’t my place to put such a thing in motion. Instead I called Betsy, who seemed to be in charge of operations at the Austin end. Why was that, I wondered. She’d never been particularly close to Alicia. But there were a lot of things about this crisis I didn’t understand. Betsy told me they had searched the grounds of the camp and the woods surrounding it for Cecily Rose, and come up with nothing. There were no signs of disturbance anywhere, no marks in the dirt suggesting a body had been dragged, no indications of a struggle in the bathroom where presumably she’d been apprehended. Nothing. The prevailing thought was Cecily Rose had been grabbed in the dark coming in or out of the bathroom. She was a spitfire of a girl, five foot four inches, strong and wiry, very vocal. She would have screamed at the top of her lungs if someone tried to mess with her, would have kicked, bitten, scratched, punched, waking the whole camp in two seconds. The police assumed she’d been snatched, drugged, and carried off by her assailant who’d thrown her into his car. They found the tire marks. They also found one of Cecily Rose’s sandals, lying innocently in the dirt.
It was horrible, horrible, horrible. They considered closing the camp, sending all the kids home. A lot of them left anyway, pulled out by frightened parents. But the police wanted to keep things as normal as possible and the owners of Grey Dove, who’d never encountered such a problem, agreed – even though by now the camp was practically empty. (It ended up closing a week early.) They tried to hush the story as much as possible, not a very easy feat considering all the people involved. Alicia and Emil stayed at a nearby hotel, chewing their nails and going crazy while they waited for news. Friends and relatives arrived, which didn’t make things any easier. Alicia called Gharith, the psychic, who told her it was a blackmail situation and Cecily Rose was most likely being held in a small house somewhere south of Austin. He had an image of her tied up, with duct tape over her mouth. “They’d probably let her loose, just drug her up and keep her locked in a room, if she weren’t so difficult.” He had a blurry image of her kidnappers, two men and a woman. He said they would receive a message soon.