“Here.” Randy grabbed his wife’s putter and wrapped his fingers around the grip. “This is how you hold a club. Then you bend your knees, swing gently, and tap the ball.” He pumped his fist as the ball rolled through the opening at the base of the windmill. “Just like that.”
Kate gave her husband a narrow-eyed stare. “Thank you. I could never have figured that out on my own.” She snatched the club back and executed a perfect putt. Shaping her fingers like a gun and pointing them at Randy, she said, “Who’s your mama now, huh?”
“Please. This is mini golf. A two-year-old could do that. Right, Jemmy?” He looked around. “Jemmy?” He turned back at Kate, his brows knit. “Where’s Jeremy?”
“What do you mean? He’s right behind you, playing in the grass.”
Randy stepped aside and gestured at the patch. “No, he’s not.”
Kate caught her breath, her eyes wide with panic. “But he has to be. Jeremy!” She whipped around. “Jeremy! Where are you, sweetie?”
“Jeremy!” Randy spoke sternly to hide the panic filling his chest. “No more hide-and-seek. Where are you?”
Randy blew out his breath. “Look, he couldn’t have gone far. Go get the manager. I’ll look around here some more.”
Kate sprinted away before Randy stopped talking. She returned minutes later with a shaggy-haired young man and a middle-aged man with a high-and-tight and a walkie-talkie clipped to his belt. Randy turned to the older man, but it was the younger man who spoke. “I’m Elliott, the manager.” He shook Randy’s hand. “I’ve already locked the gates. No one’s getting in or out. I’d like to get a description of your son, and then Joe here, our security chief, will help you search.”
Kate reminded herself to breathe. “His name’s Jeremy,” she said. “He’s almost two and a half.”
Elliott yanked his phone out of his pocket and started typing.
“He has curly brown hair and blue eyes,” Kate continued. “He’s wearing blue jeans and a red shirt with a brown dog on it.”
“Got it.” The manager stuffed his phone back into his pocket and jogged away.
Joe put a reassuring hand on Kate’s shoulder. “I spent thirty years on the job—”
“On the job?” Randy asked.
“It means I was a cop and that I’ve seen this type of situation more times than I can count. Chances are better than good that we’ll find your son. Now, you said he’s about two years old?”
Kate and Randy nodded.
“If he’s anything like my son was at that age, he’s mobile enough to find trouble but not yet shrewd enough to get himself out of it. Is that right?”
Kate allowed herself a small, close-lipped smile. That was her boy, all right.
“For now, let’s assume that’s exactly what we’re dealing with here,” Joe said. “Ma’am, you come with me. You, sir, backtrack and check the holes you already visited. Then catch up with us farther down the course.”
Randy took off as directed, calling Jeremy’s name as he went. Kate followed a step behind Joe as they walked the path to the next hole, a pagoda. She could hear happy families scattered throughout the park, every sound a stab to her heart. Moments later, the PA sprang to life with a scratchy-sounding announcement about Jeremy. Kate prayed someone would answer it.
She and Joe made it to the pagoda. They saw no sign of Jeremy. The teens playing the hole didn’t recall seeing him, either. Kate and Joe returned to the path, her shoulders hanging a little heavier than before.
They reached a stretch that ran along the outer rim of the park. Nobody paid attention to the empty lot visible through the iron fence.
“Oh, my God!” Kate pointed to a cylindrical piece of metal at the edge of the concrete path. “Is that a bullet?”
Joe picked it up. “Yup. A 22, from the looks of it.”
“Someone here fired a gun? Jeremy might have been shot?” Kate started to hyperventilate.
“Shot? Who got shot? Not Jeremy?” Randy jogged up behind them. “He wasn’t there,” he said in answer to Kate’s unasked question. He looked at the bullet in Joe’s hand. “Is that what I think it is?”
Joe pocketed the bullet. “Did you hear a gunshot?”
Kate and Randy shook their heads.
“That’s right, because this bullet was never fired,” Joe said. He pointed a thumb at the fence. “Yahoos are always using that empty lot for target practice. This little gem probably got away from them.”
For the first time, Kate noticed the wrought-iron fence that surrounded the park. The bars were set far enough apart that a child Jeremy’s size could easily climb through. The tops of the bars lacked sharp spikes or barbed wire, making it easy for someone to climb over. How had she ever thought this was a safe place to bring her son?
Randy opened his mouth and closed it. “People shoot guns on a lot next to a miniature golf course? How is that legal? Why don’t the cops stop them?”
Joe held up his hands. “Not for lack of trying, I assure you. Shall we keep going?”
Kate pushed away her doubts and continued down the path, calling for Jeremy. The men followed. They were not quite at the next hole, a mock-up of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, when Kate exclaimed, “That’s him! Jeremy!” and sprinted toward the green. Randy and Joe hurried behind, finally spotting the red-shirted boy who had caught Kate’s eye.
“Jeremy?” Kate touched the boy’s shoulder. He turned toward her, and she lost her breath. This boy wasn’t hers. She looked up to see a woman staring at her. “Sorry,” Kate said. “I thought… I’m sorry.”
“Your boy,” the woman said. “He’s the one they made the announcement about?”
“I hope you find him.”
“Thank you.” Kate shuffled back to the path, where Randy put his arm around her. She sniffled and wiped a tear from her cheek.
“Ready?” Joe asked.
Randy squeezed Kate’s shoulders. “Don’t have much choice, do we?” he said, half to himself.
They were searching around the pyramid when the radio on Joe’s belt squawked. “Joe!” Elliott called. “Try the lighthouse. Someone said they saw the kid there. Joe, can you hear me? Check the lighthouse.”
Randy’s eyes gleamed. “Where’s the lighthouse?”
“Two holes down,” Joe answered. The three of them broke into a run.
They arrived at the lighthouse, but it was empty. No Jeremy, no anyone. Randy turned circles, looking for some sign of his son.
Kate sobbed and smacked her husband’s arm. “Why weren’t you watching him? You said you’d keep an eye on him!”
“Me? What about you? You’re his mother!”
“And you’re his father. We wouldn’t even be here if you weren’t set on making him the next…whoever.”
“Rory McIlroy,” Randy answered through gritted teeth. “Besides—”
“Hey!” A punk-looking teen waved from a few feet down the path. “You lookin’ for that lost kid?”
“Yes!” Kate and Randy yelled.
“He’s down here. At the castle.”
The trio ran to the castle green. There was Jeremy, in the castle moat, splashing, giggling, smiling, the picture of not having a care in the world. Kate couldn’t stop herself from laughing.
Jeremy looked up. “Mommy! Look! Simming pool!”
“Yes, honey,” Kate laugh-cried. “You found a swimming pool.” She reached for her husband’s hand.
Click here to read the story behind "Missing."