Wells nodded. “Nice job. Let’s talk a bit more about your neighborhood. Who typically leaves their cars parked on the street?”
“Two houses down,” he replied promptly. “A red Taurus is always in front of their house. It’s more of a magenta, actually. And there’s always a big Chevy pickup on the street farther down on the opposite side. It’s black.
“Most people don’t park on the street. Mom told me the neighborhood discourages it. When I was learning to drive, she always made me park in the driveway. That’s how I noticed who parks on the street. It’s a bit narrow. You always have to veer around the same vehicles.”
Wells looked through his notes and stopped at an aerial photo of the Fairbanks home and surrounding houses. “Your house does sit back pretty far. I’d imagine you can’t see very far up the street.” He set the photo in front of Jake.
Jake nodded and tapped his street on the photo. “From my window, I can only see the street directly in front of the house. I can’t see to the neighbors’ houses on either side of us because there are too many trees. I can hear the neighbor’s dog, though, and I can see part of the house directly across the street, but it sits back a ways, too.” He dragged a finger along the picture, indicating his lines of sight.
“Notice any walkers or joggers since you’ve been back?”
The teen shook his head.
Wells silently studied his notes. Ava glanced at Callahan. The man was watching his son carefully but seemed distracted. He kept glancing at the clock on the wall and shifting in his seat. He’d brought a pencil and notepad but hadn’t written a word. He just kept spinning the sharp pencil between his fingers. He caught her watching him and set the pencil down but didn’t make eye contact.
She looked to Wells, but he was engrossed in his notes. If Callahan’s pencil spinning had bothered him, he didn’t show it. She suspected Wells was taking careful mental notes of every movement Callahan made. He was a born observer.
“I saw one of the news station reporters say Lucas’s business is being investigated,” Jake said slowly. “They also said Lucas wouldn’t talk to them.”
All the attention in the room went to Jake. His lips were pale, and his gaze bounced between the three of them, seeking reassurance.
“Don’t listen to what the media says,” started Ava. She leaned forward and touched the boy’s hand. “They’re looking for ratings, and Lucas is smart to not talk to them. We advised him not to.” She didn’t know that fact for certain but figured it was a safe bet. “Yes, they’re looking at his business. They need to know if there are any issues with clients that could drive someone to harm Henley. It’s common sense to look.”
“I’ll be doing all the talking to the media for the family,” Callahan added. “That was my agreement with Lucas and your mother.”
“They said he has a lawyer. Why did he get a lawyer if he didn’t do anything? They make it sound like he’s hiding something.” Jake’s voice wavered.
“It does make it sound bad, which is why the media makes a big deal of it. The business has a lawyer to protect its rights. Hiring a lawyer is not a sign of guilt,” Callahan reassured the teen. “It’s the right thing to do. Innocent people need lawyers, too.”
Jake didn’t look convinced, and Ava suspected that was a hard line for Callahan to sell. Lawyers slowed down police investigations, and there was no doubt Callahan had vented his frustrations in the past within Jake’s hearing.
“Online, too. People are saying horrible things about Lucas in the comments under the stories on the news websites. They all think he did something to Henley.”
Ava’s heart cracked. “Don’t read that stuff, Jake. They are uninformed people wanting to share in the public speculation. Making a stupid comment makes them sound smart in their heads. Anyone with half a brain knows they’re full of shit.”
He blinked at her choice of words. Ava didn’t care. Online speculation would be the family’s worst enemy. Nothing good ever came from it—just a lot of hurt feelings and anger.
“You need to keep your chin up. Some idiots will try their hardest to make the family look bad in this case, and they will do it where everyone can see it, read about it, and add fuel to the fire. You know the truth. Not them. Ignore it. There’s a chance it could get out of hand. I pray it won’t, but you need to realize that if it happens, it’s up to you to stay out of it. Don’t give them reason to focus on you. Your first reaction will be to defend your family. You have to stay strong and ignore what people say.”
“Stay offline,” Callahan ordered. “Keep the TV off, too.”
“They took my laptop last night,” Jake said.
“Don’t use the browser on your phone, either,” his father stated.
“Will I get my computer back before I go back to school?” Jake looked at Wells.
The agent nodded. “I’ll make certain we get it back as soon as possible.” He scratched a note.
“Will we know what happened before I leave for Duke? Before Christmas?” Jake whispered. He looked down at his clenched hands on the table, his knuckles white.
Ava bit the inside of her lip. Jake hadn’t asked if Henley would be back.
Had her brother given up already?
26 HOURS MISSING
Jake rubbed his eyes and stared out the window. After his interview, he’d excused himself to use the restroom and then wandered to the far end of the church. The building felt more like a school. Lots of small rooms and hallways. He peeked in the windows of the doors, passing an obvious nursery and toddler playroom. He kept going. God was somewhere in this building. Or at least there was a good place to talk to him.