Wolfe was sitting at his desk going through the mail Judy had given him when he spotted an envelope that made him feel as if he had taken a punch to the gut. They had addressed the envelope to him in care of the Perdido County Sheriff’s Department. The return address read: “Dallas Police Department, Homicide/Special Investigations Unit.” Wolfe tore open the envelope and read the letter. It was a formal request from Detective Brian Murphy for Wolfe to appear voluntarily at the Dallas Police Department to submit to a polygraph examination in regard to the murder of Luis Vargas. Wolfe stared at the letter until the type blurred.
Wolfe hunched over the steering wheel, struggling to see the road ahead. It was night and raining so hard the windshield wipers could barely clear the windshield. The wet pavement of the highway was black. Suddenly, the headlights illuminated a green reflective highway sign. The sign read: “Dallas 29 Miles.”
The persistent knocking on his door jerked Wolfe back from the flashback to the present. Judy opened the door and stuck her head in.
“Owen,” she said. “We have a crying woman out in the lobby. I can’t get a word out of her.”
Wolfe nodded and got up. He followed the receptionist down the corridor to the lobby. There he found a gray-haired woman who looked to be in her late fifties, doubled over in a chair with her face in her hands sobbing.
Wolfe gently touched the woman’s shoulder. She sat up and peered up at him.
“My son is missing,” the woman said choking back a sob.
“How old is your son?” Wolfe said.
“Your adult son is missing?”
“Yes,” the woman said struggling to control her emotions. “I saw the news report on the television about the missing child. I knew I had to come in. But, this is so hard.”
“Slow down, ma’am,” Wolfe said. “What’s that got to do with your son?”
The woman wiped tears from her eyes. “David, my son, David Cowan, isn’t answering his phone. He isn’t returning any of my calls. I’m afraid for him, Sheriff. I’m afraid for what he might have done.”
“Why are you worried about David?” Wolfe said.
“He was a teacher—a grade school teacher in Las Cruces,” the woman said. “They said he—he touched some little boys, his students, inappropriately. David admitted he’d done wrong. He served his time. Then he moved back to live with me last year so I could help him.”
“Your son was a sex offender?” Wolfe said.
The woman nodded, her head bowed.
“And, he didn’t register with us when he moved back?”
The woman shook her head and sobbed loudly again. When she regained control, she said, “I didn’t want people to persecute him over his past. He promised me. I wanted him to have a fresh start. But, now I’m afraid—afraid he might have given into the temptation again.”
After taking the woman’s information, Wolfe went to Judy’s desk.
“Judy, put out an Amber alert for Rodrigo Flores, Hispanic male, age eight,” Wolfe said. “We’ve got to find that boy and soon. He is possibly in the company of a man named David Cowan, white male, age thirty-one, driving a green 2014 Ford F150 pickup, Texas license plate number BCO-4X89. We believe the Flores child is in imminent danger.”
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