Where we live, the troopers are always on call, even if their kids are in the patrol car with them on their way to the shoe store. I’m twenty minutes out, is all Mom said to the dispatcher, but I could tell from the road we took she wouldn’t be dropping me off. There was no safe haven where we were headed. Have they found the boy?, I asked her. We’re on his trail, she said. We passed a steaming, unfamiliar lake, then followed the flashers that bounced off the trees from the ravine. In her sunglasses too the tree trunks silently flashed and faded. She had to know I had questions. Her grip on the wheel said Later. The Chief was there ahead of us, with backup already and dogs. I knew to wait in the car, but my mind raced ahead across dry leaves to the last place the boy was seen running. Toward what? Away from what? The kid was just a name from another town, but Mom struck out into the woods to maybe get shot at or who knows taken hostage. I locked the doors and sat with her backup piece in my lap. They came back at dusk, bearing the boy, and laid him in a cruiser to wait for the pointless ambulance. When I reached them, I still had the gun in my hand. I dropped it when Mom shrieked and the leaves swallowed it up. I would have learned something from hearing them talk, about how they can keep doing this job when they always arrive too late. But I had squandered the chance, and Mom was too angry, or frightened, or just too sick in her heart to say anything as we drove toward the boy’s home heavy with news.

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