Nobody knew his real name, but when he appeared years back with promises to rebuild the town on the back of its pier, the people of ParaDice Point listened.
Back then it had been Peak’s Point, but he suggested they change the name and start looping in people in search of or on their way home from the casino.
“I don’t care about history,” Farrah said, holding up a hand to stop the old woman’s story. “Have you seen these kids?” She held the picture in her hand, and the woman hadn’t looked at it once.
“I’m getting to that,” the old woman spat back with a dirty look. “What’s wrong with the scenic route?”
“Every moment I waste means there’s less of a chance to find these kids alive.”
“Sheriff says they drowned,” the woman shot back.
Farrah sneered. “I disagree.” She held the picture closer to the wrinkled face. “Have you seen them?”
“That’s what I was trying to tell you. I don’t remember any of the people I see, but he does.” She jerked a thumb behind her to indicate the round, cherry-faced man in the booth a few feet away. “He sees everyone, and he knows everyone. He can tell you if they came by.”
“Thank you,” Farrah hissed, then pocketed the picture and walked up to the ticket booth.
Upon closer inspection, the man was much older than he looked. The jovial face was painted on with pancake makeup, and up close, he looked more like an ancient clown under all the rouge.
“Would you like to buy tickets? We’re having a special. Three-for-one!” he crowed at her, his voice laced with saccharine. She wondered if the story the old woman told about him was true, or if it was one of those apocryphal tales used to build up mystique and sell more tickets. She was willing to bet on the latter.
“I’m looking for these kids.” She slid the picture into the money slot. “Their family is missing them.”
He pinched the photo between two sausage fingers and held it close to his face. Then he put it down and slid it back. “I have seen them. They were here last week with their grandparents, the Harrows. Good people.”
“You’ve not seen them since?”
“No. Children are eager for fun, and adults want to throw away their cares. But teenagers… Teenagers are the hardest to please. They have no imagination.” He tapped his large skull. “How about you?”
“I’m too busy. Thanks, anyway.”
She had turned to leave the arcade when a shriek cleaved the happy sounds of the arcade and it seemed everything came to a halt.
When she got to the source of the sound, a crowd had gathered around a boy of about six in front of a row of gumball machines. In his hand was a ragged, bloody tooth, and Farrah realized that this place was in deeper trouble than she thought.
Continued in ParaDice Point, Part 5.