The heavy night air amplified the cries of the loons and the harsh bark of an alligator, somewhere deep in the swamp that lay behind the motel.
Reid woke and rubbed a hand over his face, glancing down at the girl lying next to him. He couldn’t remember her name, could hardly remember what she looked like, the thin moonlight slatting over the bed from the window showing a slim body, and a spill of straight, dark hair over the pillow beside him, but little else.
He got up silently and pulled on his clothes, padding into the bathroom in socks and closing the door before he switched on the light. He’d been in town for three days, and he hadn’t found a solid lead on what the hell was taking children from the area.
Turning on the tap, he splashed the tepid water over his face and through his hair. The air was heavy and thick, laden with moisture and heat and the previous evening had been a decompression, of sorts, he thought. Shedding the building tension that he wasn’t going to find anything. The latest newspaper report said a little boy had vanished two nights ago and, like the local police, he’d found zero to follow up on.
He dried his face and turned off the light, opening the door and returning to the bed. His boots and jacket lay on the floor and he picked them up, looking at the girl for a moment before turning away. He left the room quietly and sat on the shallow steps that led from the rooms down to the parking lot to pull on his boots.
Walking down to the car, he listened to the sounds of the swamp and the night around him. It was noisy down here in the hours of darkness. Bird cries and rustles of the heavy undergrowth, the endless frog song and the buzz and whine of insects; he heard a short, deep growl and a splash as something entered the water to his right, beyond the line of lawn and trees that marked the motel’s ever-changing boundary, nature relentlessly pressing closer.
The car added its deep rumble to the other sounds and he pulled out, following the highway slightly west of south, back to his motel. The headlights lit up the black road and he saw a fox cross ahead of him, tail-tip bright in the wash of light.
Not one child had been found, and that wasn’t so surprising in a place like this. There was…