Chapter 8 (5)

She never showed up for work without a perfectly coordinated outfit and every blond hair in place.  She was a natural saleswoman.  At first I’d worried about affording her but she actually increased my profits at first.
Casey would never do that but at minimum wage, I thought she’d be fine as a cashier.  She could help with inventory and the dusting as well.  Then the bottom had fallen out.  Two large factories in town had announced layoffs.  The entire area had felt the ripple effects.  People started listing their homes for sale.  Suddenly, there was an influx of houses with no buyers in sight.  When people stopped buying homes, they stopped buying my pieces to decorate and furnish them.
My mom said Alexia had taken the loss of her job in stride.  She’d confided to her that she knew we’d been in trouble and had recently gone on a job interview in the city.  She thought she had a good chance of landing the position.
If Alexia hadn’t blamed me for the loss of her good paying job, why would Casey be that bitter about a minimum wage position she’d only held for a short time?  Maybe I  was grasping at straws.

I knew next to nothing about the girl but I did have her driver’s license, social security number, and home address.  Maybe it was time I started finding out.
I drove two hours before I finally turned into a McDonald’s parking lot.  I knew they should have wifi.  I pulled out Chris’ laptop and went inside.  I ordered a sweet tea and sat down at a corner table.  I brought up a couple of websites advertising background checks and then chose one.  I pulled Casey’s information from my pocket and typed it in along with my credit card.  Fortunately, the restaurant only had a few customers, none of which appeared to be the sort to try to steal my credit card number.  I’d have to take the chance.
I held my breath as I started to read through the data on Casey.  I let it out as I realized this might prove to be another disappointment.  I clicked to the next page.  There was a criminal charge.  I scanned through it.  It was for a shoplifting complaint.  She’d taken a pair of jeans from one of the stores at the local mall.  I closed the laptop in annoyance.  What had I expected, that she’d been arrested for kidnapping in the past?  I shook my head.  She’d never stolen anything from me so I couldn’t even lay that charge to her.  The shoplifting may have been a dare or one lapse in judgment.
The report had provided some previous addresses where she’d lived but I had been listed as her last employer.  I pictured Casey again in my head.  We were roughly the same body size.  It could have been her on the footage.  But if it was, did I believe she could have kidnapped Chris and Daniel?  I liked to believe I was strong but the truth was, Chris could have easily knocked someone with my build down and gotten away.  Plus, she would have had to manage Daniel, too.  The whole idea was implausible.  I hadn’t found anything to link Casey to the crime other than the coincidence of the purple ink.
It was the only lead I had, though.  I didn’t have any other more likely suspects.  Anyway, the coincidence still bothered me.  I opened the laptop back up and jotted down the former addresses.  Two of them were apartment complexes I recognized from their names.  They were back in the direction I’d just come from.  The third was about thirty minutes down the road toward the next small town.  The Manors.  It sounded like another apartment complex.  I got back into the pickup and headed down the highway.
I’d driven fast in my impatience and now I stared at the huge stone building looming up through the truck’s windshield.  I stopped and reached across the passenger’s seat to grab the sheet of paper with the former addresses.  I looked again at the mammoth size structure.  It didn’t look like any apartments I’d ever seen.  It looked like an old school.  I checked that I’d put the address in the GPS system correctly.  It matched my note.  I still wasn’t convinced.  The same GPS had once led me out to a field in the middle of nowhere.  I decided to park and get out.
As I entered the drive, I noticed a high chain link fence surrounded the back of the property.  I parked in the visitor’s area and then saw a discreet sign that said The Manors.  I was in the right place after all.  I looked around again.  Could it be a rehab facility?
I entered through the main doors and saw a reception desk that was flanked by glass walls.  It appeared to be a secure entrance.  I felt ill at ease.  I could hardly walk up and ask, “What kind of place is this?”  I approached the reception area.
“Can I speak to someone about your facility?”  I asked.
The brunette manning the desk appeared friendly.  “Are you inquiring about our services for a family member?”
Sure.  Why not?  “Yes, I am.”

She nodded, “I’ll have someone from guest services come out to meet with you.”
Guest services.  She made it sound like a hotel.
She motioned for me to sit in a small waiting area outside the glass enclosures.  There was a brocade sofa and two flanking Queen Anne chairs.  The effect would have been nice except the pieces looked worn and dated, the upholstery faded.  The sofa was as uncomfortable as it looked.  I didn’t have to wait long.  A tall, lanky man in a dress shirt and slacks rushed up to greet me.  “I’m Dr. Stevens.  If you follow me, I can show you all we have to offer here at The Manors.”
He pulled me along and flashed a security card at a sensor that released the glass doors.  “We have programs that can assist persons living on their own that just need a little help.  We make sure their bills are being paid and that they’re taking their medications and attending doctor’s visits.  Then we have inpatient care for those that need a more secure facility.”
Was it a nursing home?  I decided to keep quiet, which wasn’t hard as the doctor was speed talking.  We

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