” I don’t care if I have to go from house to house all over town,” Jim told the sheriff, his fists tightly clenched by his side, “I’m going to find her.”
” You can’t just go barging into people’s houses. You aren’t the police, and you sure don’t have a warrant. I sympathize with you, but this is our job.” The sheriff tried to wrap his arm around Jim’s shoulders to console and to calm him before Jim went off the deep end. He wasn’t having much luck though.
” Look, I adopted Jenny. She’s all that I have left now that Mary’s gone.” Jim was on the verge of a breakdown, and lack of sleep was sapping his strength and turning his nerves into raw meat. There was a visible twitch in his legs as the two men stood in the bright sunlight, trying to make sense of the senseless.
Not wanting to mouth tired, meaningless clichés, the sheriff patted his friend on the back and said nothing for a few minutes, waiting for some gem of wisdom to pop into his head. When it didn’t, he continued his soft-sell approach. “Do you think that Mary would want you to do anything rash?” he finally muttered in a low voice. It sounded like tripe to him, but it was all that his mind could assemble at the time.
Still staring into nothing, Jim replied. “No, of course not, but I can’t just stand around doing nothing.”
” We’re not doing nothing. Look, this is a small town. I only have two deputies, but they’re out searching, along with plenty of your friends. Sometimes the best things you can do are sitting and waiting. Come on in the office and sit down, rest. You haven’t slept since she disappeared yesterday.” The sheriff thought that he was finally getting through to his friend, but Jim still wouldn’t budge. “Look, if we haven’t found her by tonight, I’ll call in some more help. I promise.”
Finally, Jim released some of the tension in his body, enough to take the few steps over to the sheriff’s car. As he got inside, an audible sigh of relief could be heard from the sheriff, who closed the door and got in himself. The drive to the courthouse where the sheriff’s office was located didn’t take long, but it was long enough for Jim to crawl deeper inside himself. He was close to being a zombie by the time they drove the five blocks and parked in front of the building.
The office was deserted. The sheriff led his friend into his office where there was an old sofa. “Here, lie down for a while.”
” I don’t want to lie down for a while. I need to look for Jenny,” Jim said in a now-shaky voice. His face was contorted in pain, both from the mental anguish and the physical exhaustion of the last day’s search. Jim’s tank was nearly empty; no sleep and no food were taking their toll on his ability to think.
” There are plenty of people searching right now. Let’s let them carry the load for just a little while. Let your battery recharge for a couple of hours. I’ll get you something to eat and drink. Just sit there,” urged the sheriff as he helped Jim settle onto the sofa and then left the room.
As soon as his body touched the sofa, Jim succumbed to its demand for rest. He leaned over and plopped his head on the pillow lying at one end of the sofa. In a moment, he was out. He wasn’t quite asleep because his mind had not shut down, even though his body had given out. Memories of his wife and Jenny raced through his head. They weren’t complete memories, only pictures of the past that flitted through his brain.
He could see the first time he’d met his wife, how beautiful she was. Their first date and their wedding flashed before him. All of the good moments and a few of the bad flooded his mind. Then there was Jenny. She had come to them as if by a miracle. A friend of a friend of a friend had told them about Jenny. When they brought her home, she was so tiny. Neither of them could understand why anyone would give away such a beautiful girl. Those long nights nursing her were hard, but they created a bond that not even Mary’s death could break.
When the sheriff returned, Jim was sound asleep. “The food will have to wait. He’s finally asleep. Maybe this will all be over by the time he wakes up,” he thought to himself. He laid a cover over his friend and left him to recoup his spirit.
Jim’s sleep was restless. Though wonderful dreams of Mary claimed most of the three hours of sleep, horrible nightmarish visions of Jenny pushed their way into his subconscious mind. He called out to Mary and Jenny as he wrestled on the sofa. His mind kept reliving the torturous moments of his life: the loss of his beloved wife, and the disappearance of Jenny. It was at this moment that Jim was shocked back into the world of the living, of conscious reality. Suddenly he felt a clammy, wet sensation. Forcing his eyes to open, he came face to face with a beautiful, black Labrador retriever whose breath left a lot to be desired.
As he came fully alert, Jim yelled with ecstasy and embraced the animal, crying over and over, “Jenny…Jenny…Jenny…You’ve come back!”