Lost and Found
“Well, officer? Any word?”
“I’m afraid not, Mr. Roberts. We’ve uncovered nothing new in well over a week now. In fact, that’s why I called.”
Mr. Roberts’s grip tightened on the phone. “What do you mean, officer?”
There was silence over the line for a moment. “Well, she disappeared three weeks ago, Mr. Roberts. There’s been no new information in over a week. All the information we do have points to her having run away, with no signs of foul play of any kind. It’s a cold case, Mr. Roberts, and we’re stretched thin at the moment. I’m afraid that, until further notice, we’re stopping official investigation on the case.”
Mr. Roberts had seen the words coming, but they hit hard nonetheless. He slumped back in his kitchen chair, struggling to control himself. “You won’t search for Jenna any longer?”
“Not unless we receive new information on her case, no. I’m sorry, Mr. Roberts. I’d like to be able to keep looking for her, just like I’d like to be able to keep looking for every other person who hasn’t been found yet. If we had any leads or enough manpower, we’d certainly continue the search, but as it is . . .” His voice trailed off.
“Yes, I see.” He did see, or the logical part of his mind did, anyway. The police had done all they could, and he couldn’t expect them to keep looking when they had no leads. His heart, however, wanted to cry out, “But that’s my daughter out there! It’s the middle of winter, and she could be alone, lost, hurt!” Instead, he asked, “Anything else, officer?”
“Nothing. We’ll be certain to let you know if anything changes.”
“Thank you, officer. Have a nice day.” Mr. Roberts lowered the phone before he could hear the officer apologize again and wish him a nice day as well. He rose to his feet and replaced the phone in its base. Then he walked to the door, grabbing a coat from the closet as he passed, and headed out into the cold evening. The police might’ve given up on Jenna, but there was someone else who hadn’t, and Mr. Roberts felt it was time to go talk to Him again.
She woke curled up on the pavement, cold and aching all over, just as she had . . . how many times? She didn’t know. She hadn’t bothered counting. At first she’d been certain she’d get home soon. Now it was just too much effort. She struggled to remember what she was doing out here on the streets. Where was her father? No, she’d left him. Where was Marcus, then?
Oh. That’s right. Marcus had been a liar. He hadn’t cared for her like he said he did. He’d tricked her into coming with him so he could use her. But he’d asked too much of her, and she’d refused. She remembered that much clearly now. She’d said no, no, no too many times to him. Finally he’d lost his temper and beat her until she lost consciousness. How long ago had that been? A day? Three days? A week?
She knew she needed help. She had to find someone to help her, even if it meant admitting that she was wrong. That she shouldn’t have left. Shouldn’t have trusted Marcus. She tried to struggle to her feet, but couldn’t seem to find the strength. She tried crawling, and this time she managed to move a few feet before collapsing again. She moaned and tried to get up once more, but she was just . . . too . . . tired.
Mr. Roberts knelt in the silence of 3rd Street Community Church, in between two rows of pews. He’d come here every Sunday for ten years, since he and his daughter moved across town and needed a new place to worship. In the past few weeks, he’d come here every few days, always for the same reason: to pray in the place where he felt closest to his Creator.
He bowed his head, resting it against the smooth wood of the pew in front of him. “God, You know what I come before You to ask. I’ve asked it a hundred times already: please, help me find my daughter. Somehow, some way, guide me to her. I love her so much, God, and I’m so worried for her. She’s only sixteen, and she’s out there, somewhere, vulnerable and alone. When I think of what could happen-”
He broke off, unable to finish the sentence. After a few minutes, he regained control enough to speak. “I know, God, that You have not abandoned her or me. No matter how much I love Jenna, You love her immeasurably more. Even now, no matter where she is or what’s happened to her, she is in Your hands, and for that I thank You. Protect her, God, and even if is not Your will that I see her again today or any time I’d call soon, guide her to someone who will help her. I lift her and her circumstances to You, knowing that You will not forget her or me. You’re the only hope I have left.”
In the belfry high above, a bell rang out four o’clock.
The brazen ringing of a church bell brought her back to the waking world. It seemed familiar somehow, though she couldn’t seem to figure out why. She blinked, listening for a moment, before realizing what the sound meant. If there’s a church bell, there’s a church nearby. She vaguely remembered going to church many times before she ran. It had seemed that someone there was always doing some project to help someone or another. Maybe someone there would help her.
Once again, she tried to struggle to her feet, and this time, she succeeded. She stumbled along the sidewalk, keeping as close to the buildings as she could so she could use them for support. Several times she nearly fell, and she quickly lost track of how long she’d been walking. Nonetheless, she kept moving, determined to find the church.
Finally she could go no further. She collapsed on a doorstep, too tired to try to figure out where she was. The last thing she saw before her eyes slid shut was a glimpse of a colored glass window.
Mr. Roberts rose to his feet and walked down the sanctuary aisle towards the church door. He felt comforted now, after his time of prayer. Jenna was in God’s hands; He would take care of her.
He pulled open the door and started to step out, but stopped. A girl, certainly not out of her teens, lay in a heap on the doorstep as if she’d collapsed there. Her dirty, ragged jeans and hoody made it clear that if she had a home or a place to stay, she hadn’t seen that place in quite some time.
Mr. Roberts knelt beside the girl, pulling off his coat. “Poor girl,” he muttered. He grasped the girl’s shoulder and started to turn her so he could wrap his coat around her. As he did, the hood fell away from her face. He stared for a moment at her familiar features. “Jenna?” he whispered. Can it be?
Her lips moved and she croaked out a word. “Help?” Her eyes fluttered open and fixed on him. They widened, just a little. “Dad?”
Mr. Roberts broke into a grin. He lifted his daughter and grasped her in a tight hug. “Jenna! Thank God, I’ve been so worried! What happened- Never mind. We’ve got to get you someplace warm. You must be half-frozen.”
Her eyes had already slid closed again. “’M sorry, Dad,” she mumbled. “Shouldn’t have left.”
“Shh.” He tucked his coat around her and lifted her in his arms. “It’s all right. Thank God, I’ve found you again at last.”