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Maybe, not.

I pretended not to care all the way to the senator’s office.

I was going to have to be prepared to pretend for the rest of my life.

“Do you have an appointment?” the receptionist with curly black hair and dark freckles across her nose asked, without looking up from her computer.

“My name is Brantley King, and I don’t need a fucking appointment. Let him know I’m waiting. Give him this. He’ll want to see me.”

I placed the folded up picture on his desk, one I took of Doe this morning while she was sleeping. I didn’t wait for her to answer. I took a seat in the waiting area in a plastic chair that faced her desk. When she finally looked up from her computer, her jaw dropped. She’d probably never seen someone who looked like me waiting to see the senator. I didn’t have the patience to be inconspicuous. I needed to make shit happen and make it happen before I changed my fucking mind.

The receptionist stood and walked down the hall. She emerged a few moments later and dialed a number on her phone. She held her hand up over her mouth as she whispered into the receiver.

“Senator Price will see you now,” she said, with a fake smile, setting the phone back on its cradle.

She stood, and I followed her down the hall until we came to an office with a double-door entry. She opened it and stood aside to let me through. When I stepped inside, she shut it behind me. There was another click, which I’m sure meant that she locked it as well.

“I know who you are, Mr. King, and the only reason I’m even letting you in this office is because I know you had to pass through the metal detectors. So, I know you’re not armed,” the Senator said, standing up from behind his oversized mahogany desk, holding the picture I’d given his receptionist in his hand. He was trying to even the playing field, but he didn’t seem to understand that I was the one holding all the cards.

“That’s where you would be wrong, Senator.” I lifted up the front of my shirt and removed the pistol from the front of my pants. I was wearing my big metal junior rodeo belt buckle trophy. The one I got for looping a sheep at the fair. “Crazy thing about those metal belt-buckles. They make the alarms go off every single fucking time.”

The senator sat back down and folded his hands on the desk, gesturing to the chair in front of him. “Let’s cut the shit then, shall we?”

A picture on a shelf beside his desk caught my eye. It was my Pup, several years younger than she was now, on some sort of beach, her smile bigger and brighter than I’d ever seen. She’d been happy once, and it was seeing that bit of happy that made it easier to propose my deal.

“I have your daughter. You have ten seconds to tell me why you don’t know where she is and why you aren’t looking for her. The truth. Not some bullshit lie either,” I warned.

The senator’s eyes grew wide. “You better not have harmed my daughter so help me…” He stood abruptly, his chair tipped backwards and crashed onto the floor. “What do you know?”

“Calm the fuck down. What I know is that she has big blue eyes and a tendency to talk too much when she’s nervous.” And then just for fun I added, “I know how her heart beats faster when she’s turned on.”

“What the fuck did you do to my daughter?”

“Oh, no. That’s not how this works. You need to answer me first. Why haven’t you reported her missing? Why haven’t you looked for her?”

“Why do you think we haven’t been looking?” the senator asked, settling back into his seat, nervously wringing his hands.

“Because if the senator’s daughter went missing, you would think it would be kind of a big deal. All over the news and whatnot. And it isn’t.”

Senator Price picked his chair up off the floor and sat down, rubbing his hands over his eyes.

“We’ve been telling people she’s studying abroad in Paris. But as you already know, that’s not the truth,” he admitted. “We didn’t report her missing because Ramie is a troubled child. She started hanging with the wrong crowd. Disappearing for weeks at a time. This time, it’s been months, and she hasn’t so much as used my credit card. Her mother and I thought she was rebelling, teaching us some sort of lesson. We’d gotten into a huge fight before she stormed out. We haven’t seen her since.”

“So, you didn’t report her missing, because she was a troubled child? Or because you were up for reelection and you were afraid the story would taint your oh-so-perfect political image?”

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