“‘That girl has been missing for seven years, Jordan,’ the Chief Officer sighs, removing his glasses and setting down the notes I’d written on his desk. ‘There’s no way you could’ve found her.'”
“That girl has been missing for seven years, Jordan,” the Chief Officer sighs, removing his glasses and setting down the notes I’d written on his desk. “There’s no way you could’ve found her.”
“For the last time, Chief Warren, she was there. She looked just like the girl in the picture.” I argue, hastily pulling out a crumpled picture of the girl from my bag.
The Chief reaches over his desk and rips the picture from my hands, looking down at it. “Except now she’s seven years older,” he mutters. “Why do you care so much about her now?”
“Please, you have to understand! She was there in the Glengarry Forest! I saw her, I swear!” I exclaim. I will not give up on this girl and her family.
“Listen here, Eva Jordan. Glengarry Forest is on the other side of the United Kingdom. If you remember correctly, that girl disappeared in the New Forest. I’m not going to send you and my officers on some sort of pretend mission. The girl is dead, Officer, and you have to understand that,” The Chief says in a menacing tone. “No four-year-old girl can survive in the woods alone for seven years. Just forget about her.”
As I walk out of his office, I say with grim determination, “Just you wait, Warren. I will find Delilah Johnson.”
I leave the Paddington Green Police Station in a rush of excitement. The Chief had finally agreed to let Benjamin give me Delilah’s case file for the billionth time. I kind of lied to him, saying I’d only look at it and make sure I couldn’t have actually seen Delilah Johnson. I’ve done this investigation countless times, ever since she disappeared. But now I’m prepared and I know I won’t fail again. London’s icy winds howl and bite my cheeks, but I keep walking, even though I almost slip on the snowy floor. I pull my scarf over my nose and notice that the Christmas decorations are finally being put up. My mind is racing, thinking of all the crazy possibilities of what could have happened to the girl. I finally stop at Madam Puddifoot’s Cafe. I walk in and shake the snow from my boots and my hat. Old-fashioned Christmas carols pour out of the small radio, and multi-colored lights decorate the walls. The cafe smells of eggnog and Christmas trees. I walk up to the line and wait my turn. Finally, the people in front of me get their drinks and go to sit down. `
“Hello Eva,” Chloe, the cashier lady, smiles. “Same thing as usual?”
“Uh, yes please,” I answer.
“Are you okay, dear?” Chloe asks. “You seem… different.”
“I’m just really excited,” I whisper. I choose my words carefully for what I’m about to say next. “I’m working on… I’m working on a… a case.”
At this, Chloe laughs. “Oh, okay… That will be two pounds, please.”
“Here you go,” I say, handing her the money.
“Your coffee will be ready in a minute,” Chloe assures.
I sit down at a small table near the window and quickly open my black bag full of papers and pictures relating to the missing girl. I’m setting the evidence on the table when my name is called.
“Eva Jordan, regular coffee!”
I stuff the papers in my bag and haul it over my shoulder as I pick up my coffee. Chief Warren has said to keep this a secret and to not let anyone know what I am working on. He’s a weird guy. I set my coffee down on my small table and sit down again. I take all the files and images out of my bag again. One picture shows a small girl, four years old, with dark curly hair and big brown eyes. I open my laptop and start looking through all the pictures and videos I have of her.
I flip open the missing girl’s case file. Delilah was born on April 18th, 2006. She disappeared July 19th, 2009 in New Forest, England, at three years of age. She’d be ten years old now. She was wearing a pink knit sweater with cupcakes and blue pants. She was 37 inches tall and 32.6 pounds. Her hair color was dark brown. Her eyes were also dark brown. She lived in Surrey with her family.
I write down things in my notebook as I read articles, watch videos, look at pictures, and hear interviews. I write things like what color shirt she had been wearing the day she left, the exact address of where she was in New Forest that day, and what her personality was like. Then, I go to the more recent media.
Last week, I’d gone camping in the Glengarry Forest, Scotland, with my father, my sister, and my nephew. I had gotten up early to take a walk and to take pictures of the dawn, forcing my feet through the deep snow. I was already deep into the forest when I heard a branch snap above me. I turned around quickly and took a picture, thinking it would be some sort of interesting animal, but what I saw almost made me scream. It was not an animal, but a girl. She had wild curly hair with what seemed a new pair of blue pajamas with little clouds and stars. I could tell she was scared, but I managed to take a video of her as she leaped into another tree. She disappeared as quietly as she had arrived. Only when I got back to our tent and looked through the pictures did I realize that I may had just seen Delilah Johnson.
The sun had already set a few hours ago when I decide to go home. I walk to my car, falling a few times on the snow. I’m so distracted that I almost get run over by a car as I cross the street. So Delilah disappeared in New Forest. New Forest is at the very south corner of England. But I also supposedly saw Delilah in Glengarry Forest, which is in the north of Scotland. It doesn’t add up. What little girl can cross two countries alone, without anyone noticing her?
I finally find my yellow Volkswagen through the blinding snow and quickly climb in. I decide to wait a while until the snow clears up a bit. Driving in the snow is hard, but driving in the night as well is harder. I’m turning the radio on when a face pops up through the window. I recognize her face immediately.
“There you are! Hi, Eva! Hi!” exclaims Morgan Anderson, wiping the fog and snow off my window.
I sigh. Morgan is also a police officer, and sometimes, I just can’t stand her. “Not now, Morgan, I’m busy.”
“No, Benjamin told me that you’re working on something! Is it on that Della girl? I can help, you know!”
“Her name is Delilah,” I mutter through clenched teeth. Why does this girl have to come now, of all times? And why on earth did Benjamin tell her about my mission to find Delilah? That’s classified information! “And no, you can’t help me. So just leave me alone, thank you.”
“I want to help! Really!” Morgan calls, jumping up and down. “Let me in! Or else I won’t leave, and I’ll keep screaming at you through this window.”
I sigh even louder. What is it with Morgan? I unlock the door. “Get in,” I mumble, banging my head against the driving wheel. Why did I let Morgan in again?
“So what’s first, Officer Jordan?” she laughs, clapping her hands in excitement.
I look at her like, Are you serious? “First, please just calm down,” I beg.
“Second, leave me alone.”
“What? But we’re partners in crime now!” Morgan argues.
“No, we are not.” I explain, taking a deep breath and wondering how long I’ll be able to stand this girl. Morgan is probably the most carefree officer I know. “All you’re doing is helping me in this mission, okay?”
“Fine, but that still makes me your partner in crime.”
I ignore her comment. “We’re going to my office. We’re buying tickets for a plane to Scotland, and we’re going to Glengarry forest, and we’re going to find that girl.”
I start the engine and drive back to Paddington Green. We cross the lobby, ride the elevator, and walk into my office, number 713. I immediately go over to the huge chart I have of Delilah on the wall, removing the old sheet on top of it. The chart is made up of pictures, clips from articles, maps, and more. I turn to Morgan and see her sitting on my chair with her feet on my desk.
“Morgan!” I hiss. “Get your feet off my desk!”
Morgan jumps up. “Jeez!”
“So look. Delilah was three when she disappeared, right?” I begin, pointing to the last picture her parents were able to get of her.
“Right,” Morgan says, walking up to the chart and sweeping her eyes over it with curiosity.
“That happened July 19th, 2009. Seven years ago.”
“Mm-hm,” Morgan nods. “But how is it possible that she’s still alive? Where’s your evidence?”
I detach three pictures from the wall and give them to her. “See the picture on the left? That’s in Liverpool, September, 27th, 2011. A man was hiking and was able to capture a picture of Delilah. She’s running through the woods. See her? She’s by that beech tree.”
“Okay… ” Morgan says, squinting at the picture. “But there are a lot of ten year old girls with curly brown hair in the U.K.… “
“Exactly. But how many ten-year-old girls with curly brown hair have disappeared in the last decade?” I observe. “The picture in the middle was taken in New Galloway, during the year 2014. That’s Delilah there. She’s sitting on that rock.”
“Mm,” Morgan replies.
“And the last picture was taken by your ‘partner in crime’ last week, when she was camping. Delilah’s in that tree, wearing the blue pajamas. She’s in the middle tree.”
“Wow,” Morgan says. “So we’re actually going to Scotland?”
“Yup,” I answer, sitting down on my desk and turning my laptop on.
“Does the Chief know?”
“No. Don’t tell anyone. The Chief would never let us go.” I tell her seriously, as I buy our tickets for Scotland. I print the tickets out and give two to Morgan. “One of those is your ticket for the train, and the other is for the airport. We’re taking Heathrow Express from Paddington Station. You better be there by 4:00 AM sharp.”
“Thank you,” Morgan gushes, looking down at her blue ticket. Her bright green eyes, framed by a pair of big brown glasses, gleam with excitement.
“And here… ” I say, giving her another ticket, “is your ticket for Inverness. We depart from Heathrow Airport and arrive at Inverness Airport. British Airways. The plane leaves at 6:00 AM, and we board the plane at Gate 45.”
“Heathrow Express from Paddington Station. Be there at 4:00 am sharp. Heathrow to Inverness at 6:00 AM. British Airways. Gate 45,” Morgan repeats. “Okay, got it.”
The birds aren’t even singing when I wake up. It’s all dark and silent, except when the occasional car comes down the street. I wonder what I’m doing up so early. I suddenly remember: I’m going to find Delilah Johnson! I’m going to Scotland with Morgan Anderson!
I fly out of bed and flip the lights on in my bedroom. I make the bed as quickly as possible. I’m so excited that everything seems to go by in a blur. I pull on a pair of dark blue jeans, thick, grey socks, and a blue and white striped shirt, and then dash into the kitchen. I quickly make myself a piece of toast with orange marmalade, a cup of coffee, and a Ziploc bag of fruit. I decide that I’m going to take my breakfast and eat it on the way to the airport. I zip up my faded green parka and put my boots on. I pack my hat, my scarf, and my gloves in my backpack, grab my suitcase and my breakfast, and I’m off.
I run down the street, trying to catch a taxi. The streets are dark, lit only by moonlight and a few lampposts here and there. I can barely see through the snow that threatens to blind me. After a few minutes, a taxicab driver sees me and pulls up. The driver gets out of his car and helps me stuff my suitcase into the trunk.
“Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you,” I repeat, closing the door as I get in the back seat. “I’ve been waiting forever in all that snow, oh my God.”
The driver, a plump guy in his fifties, nods. “My pleasure, missy. Name’s Tom. Where you headed?”
I look out the window. “Paddington Station, sir.”
We ride through my city, watching all the Christmas decorations that are being put up. From a distance, I see Paddington station, already alive and bustling with people. I pull my thick, dark brown hair into a quick bun and put my grey-white hat on.
“So, where you headed this early?” Tom asks a few minutes later, pulling up next to the station.
“I’m on my way to Scotland,” I answer merrily, handing him eleven pounds as he helps me with my suitcase.
Tom gets in his taxi. “Good luck, missy,” he calls.
I wave at him as I roll my suitcase into Paddington Station. I bump into a few people here and there as I look for Morgan. I look down at my watch. It reads 3:26 AM. I swear, if Morgan isn’t here on time, I’ll… I’ll do something to her. Something bad.
After waiting ten minutes, I decide to call her. My phone rings about seven times before she answers.
“Hello?” Morgan yawns.
“Morgan!” I say loudly. “Where are you?”
“Umm… “ Morgan mumbles. “Ummm… “
I can’t believe her. “Morgan! Wake up! Where are you?”
The phone is silent for a few seconds. “I’m in London.”
“Yes, I know, Morgan, but where exactly?”
“I’m outside my house. Trying to get a stupid taxicab.”
I sigh loudly. “You have exactly twenty two minutes! Hurry up!”
I hang up. I knew I should’ve just picked Morgan up and brought her with me. Now she’s gonna miss her train. I pace the station, thinking of ways I could fix this. If she misses her train, she can just buy tickets for a later one… but then she’d miss the plane. She has a car, so she can also drive to Scotland… A few minutes later, my phone rings. It’s Morgan.
“Hello?” I say.
“Hi, Eva. I’m in a taxi now, like five minutes away,” Morgan mutters. I can hear the sleepiness in her voice.
“Okay. The train leaves in about fifteen minutes.”
“Fine. I’m on my way.”
I walk over to the schedule for the Heathrow Express. It’s delayed, arriving in twenty minutes. I silently pray that Morgan will make it. The station isn’t as busy as usual, since it’s only 3:43 in the morning. But still, people push past me and yell at each other and all the usual business. I sit down on a bench by the entrance so I can see Morgan when she walks in. I take out my Goblet of Fire book while I wait for Morgan. You’re never too old for Harry Potter. All of a sudden, my phone rings again. I reach into my backpack and pull it out. It’s Morgan. Again.
“Morgan? Are you here?” I ask.
“Yup. Where are you?” Morgan says.
“I’m here, right by the entrance.”
“No, you’re not.”
My stomach suddenly drops to my feet as I realize something. “Morgan — where are you?”
“Um… King’s Cross,” Morgan begins. “Why?”
Oh no. Oh no, no, no, no, no. “Morgan! Morgan! It’s Paddington Station! Paddington!”
The phone is silent for a long stretch of minutes. “Oh. Whoops.”
I start breathing heavily. “Are you kidding me? What are we supposed to do now?” I practically yell. My watch reads 3:52 AM. “Okay. Morgan, pay attention.”
“King’s Cross is like eleven minutes away by cab, right?”
I look over at the wall. There’s a bus that connects Paddington Station to King’s Cross. It leaves in two minutes. “Listen, Morgan, the train is delayed by five minutes. We have thirteen minutes left. Is there a bus schedule around you?”
Morgan pauses before saying, “Yeah, why?”
“Can you see the bus that will bring you to Paddington Station?”
“It leaves at 3:55 AM,” I inform, looking at the schedule anxiously. “Think you’ll make it?”
“Yes, yes, I’ll make it!” Morgan cheers excitedly. “Of course I’ll make it!”
“Okay! Bye!” Morgan exclaims.
I sit down on the bench again, hoping and praying that Morgan will make it. I’m too anxious to keep reading my book, or to do anything else, really, other than think about all the worst things that could happen. What if Morgan’s bus crashes? Or what if she got on the wrong bus? What if she misses her stop? I decide to call her to make sure.
“Hello?” Morgan says. “Eva?”
“Yeah, hi Morgan. What bus are you on?”
“I’m on 167T, I think,”
I give a long sigh of relief. “Okay, good.”
I hear Morgan ask someone something. Then, she tells me, “The driver says we’ll be there at 4:05.”
“That means you’ll make it just when the train arrives,” I gasp, not knowing whether I should be relieved or worried about this.
“Don’t worry, we’ll be in Scotland faster than you can say ‘Delilah,’ okay?”
“Aren’t you funny?”
“Ha ha, very funny,” I answer.
“Bye,” Morgan says.
A few minutes later, I see a redhead wearing a grey beanie, a red pea coat, and brown boots, dragging a suitcase splattered with paint behind her. I jump up, grab my suitcase and my backpack, and run after her.
“Morgan!” I call, running after her.
“Eva?” she says, turning around to look at me. “Hi, Eva!”
“Yes, hi,” I pant. Then, I look down at my watch, which now says 4:05. “Come on, quick!”
I drag Morgan behind me, through crowds of people, past restaurants, maps, and more. We finally arrive at the station, where the conductor is getting the last few people on board. I yelp and bound up the stairs to the train, and Morgan leaps in after me. We put our suitcases in the overhead compartments and just as the train pulls out of the station, we find two seats near the window and sit down.
I sigh, relieved that through all this mess, we made it. I look up at the white ceiling, so grateful that we’re on this train, already on our way to the airport.
“One of these days, you’re gonna give me a heart attack,” I tell Morgan.
Morgan tugs on her brown Ray-Bans. “Sorry about that,” she says, then laughs. “Honestly, I’d lose my head if it weren’t attached to my shoulders.”
I suddenly snap my head forward and look at Morgan. “Did you remember your tickets?”
“Oh, um…” Morgan mumbles, rummaging through her backpack. She then pulls out two tickets, a blue one and a white one. “Here you are! Ha, suckers! I found you!”
“Thank goodness,” I whisper to myself and look down the aisle. The train is well lit, with two columns of plush blue chairs that run down each side. To my surprise, the train is pretty full. I can hear a baby wailing a few rows ahead. I reach into my bag and take out my packed breakfast. My coffee’s still hot, since I put it in my best thermos this morning before I ran out. I take the top of the thermos off to let it cool down a bit. I’m biting into my deliciously still warm, crunchy, orange marmalade toast when I notice Morgan looking at it with longing.
“What?” I ask, with a mouth full of bread and marmalade.
“I’m really hungry…”
“Didn’t you eat breakfast this morning?”
“I didn’t have time,” Morgan says.
I stop to think about it for a second. Then, I rip half of the toast off and hand a piece of it to her.
“Thank you so much, Eva!” Morgan cheers, carefully handling her bread and looking down at it as if it were gold.
“Don’ werry ‘bowit,” I blurt, my mouth stuffed with my delicious toast. Then, I notice the conductor is coming down the aisle, collecting the tickets. “Morgan, get your ticket out.”
“Which one?” Morgan asks.
“The blue one,” I tell her, taking mine out of my jacket’s pocket.
The conductor finally reaches us. She has a badge that reads “Conductor Lilith King.”
“Hi, ladies,” she says, reaching for both of our tickets. “Where you goin’?”
I hastily wipe my mouth with my napkin. “To Scotland.”
“Beautiful place, Scotland,” the conductor smiles, punching some holes in our tickets with a small metal contraption. I forget its name. “I was born there, you know.”
“Cool,” Morgan nods, finishing her toast. My toast.
The conductor bids us good luck and moves on to the next pair of chairs. I decide to share my Ziploc bag full of fruit with Morgan. The train speeds past tall buildings, stores, houses, cars, and restaurants. Morgan braids her silky red hair as I finish my last strawberry. The snow outside has started to calm down, and only a few snowflakes swirl to the floor now and then. The Heathrow Express then zooms into a dark tunnel and emerges at the airport before coming to a halt.
“Thank you for boarding the Heathrow Express. Please gather all your belongings before exiting. Please be careful when exiting the train, and watch your step. I wish you all safe travels, and have a good day,” Lilith the conductor instructs through the megaphone.
I haul my bag over my shoulders and put the lid on my coffee thermos, which didn’t manage to cool down at all. I reach into the compartment above our seats and pull Morgan’s paint-splattered suitcase and my indigo one out. I give Morgan her suitcase, then double check the chairs to make sure we didn’t leave anything.
We wait until most of the people have exited the train, and then we cross the aisle to the doors, where the conductor is standing.
“Thank you,” Morgan nods towards her.
The conductor smiles. “My pleasure, miss.”
I wave goodbye as we step off the train, facing the huge Heathrow Terminal 5 in front of us. The white marble floor seems to stretch out for miles. The ceiling is made up of large, white, graceful arches, and the walls are made of glass, which allows a clear view of the planes taking off. The airport is full of people. I mean full of people. People sitting in cafes, people waiting in lines, people running about trying to catch planes. Restaurants and shops are also everywhere. There’s a Starbucks, a Pret A Manger, a Gordon Ramsay restaurant, and more. There’s also a Chanel, a Rolling Luggage, a Ted Baker, a Mulberry, and a Hamleys. I sweep my eyes over it all, trying to look at everything at once.
“Look! A Hamleys!” Morgan tugs on my arm. “Can we please go look? Please? I need a Christmas gift for my cousin!”
I look at my watch, which says 4:21. “Fine. But we have only like an hour and a half left.”
“Yay!” Morgan exclaims, skipping ahead of me with her suitcase bobbing behind her.
We enter Hamleys, a big red toy store. It’s the biggest toy store in England. Displays in the middle of the floor are packed with Barbies, Legos, stuffed animals, clothes, action figures, masks, and more. Morgan seems like she belongs in this store with her red coat, her peculiar but colorful jewelry, and her iconic, paint-splattered suitcase.
She zooms throughout the store, stopping here and there to admire different clothes and toys. Once in awhile, she comes to me, showing me the toys she likes and asks whether she should get them. I look around the store as well, getting ideas at what some of my younger relatives would like. Then, Morgan goes to the cashier, where she pays for a bag full of toys. I wait for her outside. Sometimes, too many things and colors at once can give me a headache. Morgan skips her way toward me, through the racks and displays of toys. Then, I notice something catches her eye, and she starts walking to the side of the store. I lose her among the blurs of toys and clothes.
“Morgan?” I call, stepping closer to the shop.
After a few minutes of silence, Morgan answers. “Eva. Eva, come quick. You need to see this.”
I walk briskly towards her, almost crashing into a stack of Barbies. I finally find Morgan, crouching over a rack of toddler clothes. “What is it?” I ask bitterly. “You almost scared me.”
“No, look,” Morgan points to the rack. Hanging there are some pairs of blue pajamas. “Look closely.”
I suddenly notice the pattern on the pajamas, and my eyes widen. Blue pajamas with little clouds and stars. “Oh my God,” I whisper, covering my mouth in surprise. Because I know who owned a pair of pajamas like these. I know who was wearing these the day she disappeared.
Morgan looks at me and nods slowly, biting her bottom lip. “Delilah Johnson was here.”
End of Part 1