Donald forced himself to focus on Rachel. “Why do you care so much while your dad only sees Marie as a renter?”
It was a simple question, but he could see it stumping her. Maybe not her own feelings though. Probably unable to understand why Marie didn’t mean as much to Kedar.
“Marie’s a real good person. She’s not looking for fame or anything, she wants to play her guitar. Make enough by that. But she doesn’t expect that to be everything. She knows that means a lot of work. And she works on it all the time. Dad set her a curfew where she’s not allowed to practice her guitar anymore in the garage.”
With Lori still holding the paper, Donald tried to remember all of the details of Marie’s photo. Every time he had seen her outside of work, it was just a familiar form in the distance. Glasses and hair dye and a guitar. And no home?
Something was wrong, more than just her disappearance. For the life of him, he couldn’t put a finger on it.
Donald was supposed to be asking Rachel questions though, not answering them. He took a sip of his water before putting the glass back down. “So she’s been living in the garage?”
Rachel nodded, a wry pull at her lips. “It’s not like we have a lot of space in the house, as you can see. Plus, I think Dad was nervous having a stranger around at first. She’s not a stranger anymore though. She’s been here long enough, she…”
The girl trailed off. Donald tried to think about where to start. “Then it’s just the three of you here? You, your dad, and Marie?”
Rachel clasped her hands in front of her, forearms resting on her knees. “Dad’s actually my godfather. My parents were his best friends, so when they died, he took me in. It’s always been the two of us, until Marie showed up.”
Donald did his best not to fidget. “I’m… I’m sorry to-”
In a split second, Rachel went from looking mellow to stabbing him with her gaze. “So neither of you are police, are you?” It caught him so off guard, he didn’t know what to say. Rachel continued. “Of course not. I went to them too and no one cared. Just you and me and her.”
Donald’s eyes flicked over to where Lori was seated. Only the three of them? It felt hard to believe.
Kedar definitely had adopted young Rachel, but he didn’t look like Marie either. Donald wouldn’t know more, because Lori had taken over talking with Rachel’s father as he sat to the side with the little girl.
“I don’t want her words influenced by what her father says,” Lori whispered to him. “Talk to her about Marie.”
Donald wanted to swap places, but nodded nevertheless. Lori looked professional, so she would probably do better with Kedar Fontaine. Meaning that Donald had to speak with Rachel, sitting in their living room on a small sofa and looking through the doorway into the kitchen, where Lori and Kedar were seated at the table.
Rachel put a glass of water in front of him. Donald started. He hadn’t been aware that she had gone to get anything. “How did you know Marie?” she asked him.
Donald made a face. “I… I didn’t really know her. She played her guitar across the street from where I work. She’s been playing there for… it feels like forever now. So her just being gone, it made an impression on me.”
Rachel nodded, sitting down across from him on a wooden chair. “I told her to play there. She used to play near the park, but… I thought she’d do better there. More people.”
More money. Donald nodded. “I get that.”
The person behind the papers was a twelve year old girl. Donald didn’t know how Lori managed, but he felt extraordinarily uncomfortable approaching her. Strange older men and all that. Not that he was old. He felt like it was just yesterday he was twelve. Well, sixteen. Sixteen was closer.
The girl didn’t hesitate either, seeing her poster in Lori’s hands. “Marie! Have you seen Marie?”
“You made these?” Lori asked. Her voice was kind, she was obviously good with kids. Donald was good at making their fast food, but that was about it.
The girl nodded. “Yeah. No one else seems to miss her, not even Dad.”
“Are you… related?” Donald asked. The girl had green streaked in her hair, much like how Marie’s picture had blue. But not the same race, definitely not. This girl was Asian. Didn’t mean one wasn’t adopted or something.
She shook her head. “No… she was paying rent to stay in the garage, now that Dad doesn’t have a car. But he doesn’t care that she’s gone. He says that she just wandered off. I know she didn’t wander off.”
Lori nodded. “We’re looking for her too. Do you think we could talk to your father about it?”
That was a relief to Donald. He knew how to deal with adults. They were all hiding something.