My legs ache and my throat is so swollen I don’t cry Elise’s name any longer. I stop, close my eyes, and try to conjure her instead. She comes to me as a baby with her undersized body, her blue eyes staring calmly into mine while I feed her. She rarely left my arms for the weeks it took Grace to recover after Elise’s twin died. When I had Grace, I was so young and frightened, I could hardly stand to look at her.Something hard encircles my arm and yanks.
“Do you want to be lost out here too? Why aren’t you following us?”
Grace’s hand is strong but I shake her off.
“I’m going back to the car.”
“Fine, you don’t want to look anymore? Go.”
“We’re not going to find her like this.”
The road isn’t as far as it looks. I sit in the Cadillac and flash the lights at the few passing cars. Two stop in succession and I tell the occupants what’s happened. The first couple takes down the information and promises to drive straight to the police in the next town. The second driver is an older man, alone, and he leers at me. While we’re speaking, Edward, Grace, and the boys emerge from the darkness behind me. Soon this man is swearing that he’ll help us find that little girl. Edward shakes his hand.
The state troopers arrive an hour after sun-up. The dog that will track Elise’s scent sticks his long nose under the tongue of the loafer I fetch from her suitcase. The troopers take each of us alone into their cars and question us about what we saw and heard. They keep Edward much longer than the rest of us.
While we wait for him, Grace reads her novel with unnerving concentration, her expression almost serene. Hugh, James, and I eat the sandwiches the troopers bring, bland offerings from their own lunch pails. James gets sick into the dirt and his heaves become sobs. When he’s finished, he curls up on the ground a few yards away and refuses to stand. I pull my skirt beneath me and sit down in the grit so I can rub his back. The troopers shuffle around us in their heavy boots and brown serge pants.
The searchers are confident they will find Elise. No child could go very far alone.
“The question now is time,” says a thin officer.
“Some conditions she could be found in would be better than others,” says one of them to Hugh, who has positioned himself against the hood of the car, arms crossed. He is eleven but, I realize now, could be taken for older with his height and air of strength.
The police car with Edward in it rolls slowly toward the highway, then turns and picks up speed as it moves away.