THREE

By Friday night there were reporters stationed across the street from my house. Just a few at first casually clamoring in a van commercialized with the logo of their affiliates. I fell asleep to their gibberish news talk - loud speculations that they threw like stones at my father when he walked across the lawn to get the paper in the morning. They asked my mother while getting in her car to go to work if she was aware of my drug problem. I was still secretly dialing Abbas' number - twice as I did every night before falling into a restless sleep of lucid dreams or dark blackness. That night I dreamed of him again. Abbas standing in my bedroom doorway with the keys to the truck dangling in his hand. "Why aren't you here?" I pleaded; "Don't you know what they're saying about you?"

"I know!" He was sitting in a chair across from the bed now, neither of us moved. His hands fluttered anxiously and he looked pale.

"But why, I don't understand?" I begged, I could feel the unsaid truth between us like smoke in the air.

"I don't really understand it myself!"

"But where are you?"

He looked perplexed, like I had just hit him, that twisted feeling of having no idea what you're doing or where you are - "I don't know!"

To this day I don't know if he was communicating with me - if wherever he ended up he was contacting me, trying to explain something that he himself didn't fully understand. It gives me peace of mind to see it that way but I can't ignore the fact that it could have always just been my mind reaching out to ghosts and seeing them in the darkened shadows.

On Saturday the police banged on my door and served a search warrant. I sat silent in the bathroom as they confiscated my backpack, computer, and cell phone (all of which I never got back). They took random things like my old running sneakers and handcuffed me. The image was a poster for the news media; most stations got a hold of the footage as they walked me out of my front door and put me into a squad car.

"Victoria would you like to make a statement?"

"Did you do it Victoria?"

"Do you know where Abbas is?"

There was never any evidence that linked me with any foul play, however there was no evidence that cleared me of any wrongdoing either.

"It's not personal" they told me, "You're just the only one that we have to look at!" I was becoming aware of the small batch of evidence that actually existed in Abbas' case. A handful of leads had led to smaller investigations - a guy said that he saw Abbas (or a guy that looked a hell of a lot like him) at a grocery store about thirty miles away. As far as anyone could find out it wasn't him and other angles like that faded quickly as each day went by.

I was never officially arrested. Handcuffed, yes, fingerprinted, and questioned further but they couldn't find anything that spelled guilty for me. They found nothing in my backpack; but they locked it away just the same. On the computer they found deleted E-mails from Abbas but found that none of them contained what could be determined to be evidence. They traced the calls on my cell phone. Logging in all of the ones that I had made to Abbas in those last weeks and all of the calls that I had made after the disappearance, none of which were ever answered. That night his story made national news. His disappearance, the truck, and my arrest all spelled out fascinating clues for well-dressed journalists and analysts to tinker with.

After they released me later that night I got a call from Mr. Brody: "Are you ok?" He asked, his voice was so scratchy and dead I could hardly hear him. "I told them not to take you, I said that you would never hurt him."

"Thank you." We were two strangers now, it was knowing Abbas that brought us together and it was losing Abbas that changed us into different people.

"I-I-I," he stammered "I'm sorry that they did that to you."

"Thanks." We sat in silence for a moment; physically saying goodbye was unnecessary so we both hung up the phone.

That night I dreamed of Abbas again. I sat in his truck while it was still parked in the woods. Headlights glaring through the darkness all around me and the radio was on. I could see the blood stain on the driver's seat and I stroked my hand over it. When I looked up I saw him in the luster of the headlights. Kneeling on the ground with his hands covering a wound on his head, blood was dripping down his face. "Abbas!" I screamed, my hands fumbling for the locked door handle. When I looked for him again all I saw were shadows dragging him away. I woke up with my hands clenched together; uncut nails digging away at dry skin.

I didn't have a cell phone anymore but I still dialed Abbas' number each night before going to bed. My mother woke me up the next night because I was thrashing and screaming in my sleep. She cradled me like a newborn for the rest of the night but her touch made me ach even more. I didn't want to think about anything - even the physical act of breathing made my chest hurt when I thought about it - and her being there made me relive everything again.

On Monday she took me to the doctor. A small town man who hugged me and said he was sorry. "It's a shame they arrested you! As though they can't spend enough of their time out looking for that boy rather then insinuating things about you!" He had been my doctor all my life but I felt like he had been programmed to say that.

The national attention was still hot on our town's heels. The pressure to find or at least figure out what had happened to Abbas was still building. Theories kept evolving and everyone tried as best they could to ignore the strange situation that the truck was found in. How did it get there? No man made way could do it! I was starting to use the word - vanished.