In the discarded denim jeans of Erin McRae, there was a strange movement, rustling the pile of clothes, as a cellphone vibrated in silence.
* * *
Not very far away, Jack sat in the passenger's seat of a beige van, leaning over the GPS console. Beside him, Reverend McRae held the steering wheel firmly in her trembling hands.
"That flutist said she wasn't at band, so there's no chance she missed the late bus. I think your suspicions are right."
Reverend McRae forced a smile, "They come to the food bank, in mock devotion, but I know what they talk about. I fear the worst, young man. I can see the shadows below those young women's tired eyes. Last night, I saw him there with Jules. She's twenty-eight and doesn't even see the trap he's building around her." Then, the clergy-woman began to cry.
"She'd never. You raised a good girl. She knew better than to try any of the cigarettes or joints he offered her. There's no chance she'd snort coke for him."
"It's not about willingness, Jack!"
The vehicle took a sharp turn into a neighbourhood that was much darker than the suburban sprawl they'd driven through. It seemed as if they couldn't afford Christmas lights, let alone the energy costs to leave them on into February.
They peered out of the car windows, eyeing rusty motorcycles, cars with broken windows, and old, boarded up houses. It was a netherworld of poverty hidden around a single corner of their supposed suburban paradise.
"This is where Joseph - err... Josephina died. I did the funeral, only the funeral home director showed. Poor soul passed away half way through a sex change operation."
Jack was unsettled by this anecdote, as he was raised a Baptist. He was unaccustomed to meeting such a liberal and tolerant person as clergy. Yet somehow, he never got that vibe from Erin. To begin with, she was both a minister and a woman. His parents had warned him before he left to help in the search, about how Reverend McRae was a woman who didn't believe in the Bible, who married gays, and who cast out demons as if it was something psychological. Jack didn't take them seriously, yet now found himself surprised and confused.
The neighbourhood even seemed colder. As he walked up to the door, the Reverend behind him, he held a fake pistol from the Drama Deparment's prop collection in his pocket.
The locked door was rotten, and came down with a good kick. It gave Jack a thrill that sent adrenaline steaming through his veins.
"It's the cops!" someone yelled in the distance.
* * *
In minutes, the house became empty, and neither Jack nor Reverend McRae had seen anyone. On the main floor, they'd found a bedroom with just a desk and a mattress to occupy it. There were cables on the desk, an abandoned router and a layer of dust that suggested that a laptop had once been there for quite a while.
Scattered upon the floor, they found two sets of women's clothing and a pair of men's jeans.
"Erin's," said her mother, as she took the cellphone out of the pocket and scanned the call history.
"Emily's," said Jack, as he kicked at the skirt.
And then they both looked down, gaping, at the pair of men's jeans. An awkward silence enveloped the room, and then Reverend McRae began to cry once more. Jack hugged her, and together they stood as one in the old bedroom, as a webcam hooked to the router watched their scared and desperate embrace.