College student, Veronica Randall, disappears from her car in her own driveway, everyone in the Rocky Bluff P.D. is looking for her. Detective Milligan and family move into a house that may be haunted. Officer Butler is assigned to train a new hire and faces several major challenges.
The silver Toyota Prius stood empty and idling in the short driveway. The driver’s door gaped open. A plump, and obviously distraught, middle-aged woman ran barefoot down the cement steps of the small older home toward Officer Vaughn Aragon.
He’d responded to a call from the dispatcher about a missing person. Ordinarily, the caller would have been asked to come to the station to file a report, but the circumstances in this case seemed urgent.
“Thank God you’re here. My granddaughter, Veronica, she’s gone.” Gray strands mixed with the woman’s long black hair she’d pulled back and tied with a scarf. “Please find her.” Tears threatened in her dark eyes.
Without touching anything, Aragon poked his head inside the running vehicle. A large purse lay open on the passenger seat, belongings scattered, among them, a cell phone. On the floor lay a multi-colored backpack.
Though blond, Aragon, having grown up in East L.A., spoke fluent Spanish. Because the woman had dark skin and hair, he assumed she was Latina. He introduced himself in English and Spanish, and asked for her name.
She frowned as though his Spanish confused her. “I’m Mrs. Randall.” She added, “And I’m not Mexican. Please, help me find my granddaughter.”
Though flustered by his mistake, Aragon said, “When was the last time you saw her?”
“A few minutes before I called the police. We finished breakfast and she went out the door, on her way to school. She is a student at UCSB. I started to do dishes and then I noticed her car still parked in the driveway. I came out to see what was wrong and found the car like this.” Her voice rose. “She disappeared.”
“Maybe she went to a neighbor’s.” Though Aragon thought it unlikely she’d leave her car running.
“I’ve been to both houses. No one is home on the right, and I woke up old Mrs. Hill. She hasn’t seen her.” Tears filled Mrs. Randall’s eyes. “That’s when I called the police. Please, you must do something.”
“Ma’am, I’m going to call for assistance. Do you have a recent photograph of your granddaughter I can use?”
“Yes, of course. Right away.” Mrs. Randall turned and hurried toward her house.
Using his portable radio, Aragon called the station, asking to speak with one of the detectives.
Detective Doug Milligan came on. “What’ve you got, Aragon?”
“A missing young woman.”
“How long has she been gone?”
“Not long, but the thing is, Detective, her car is in her driveway and it’s running. Her belongings are still in the car. It looks like someone may have kidnapped her.”
Milligan asked for the address. When he heard it, he said, “Not far from my place. Find out any information you can about this woman, description, etc.”
The detective promised that he and his partner, Felix Zachary would be there in a few minutes.
Marilyn Meredith is the author of over thirty-five published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series. Marilyn is a member of three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. She lives in the foothills of the Sierra.