Farrah left the carnival feeling like she had been led around exactly where Cage had wanted her to go. She had learned little, even after watching the big woman for over an hour, and her frustration made her skin prickle and her blood pump wild. She left the camper with her flannel shirt wrapped tightly around her and the hair at the base of her neck moist from sweat.
“I don’t know what I expected from a carnival,” she said aloud as she trudged back along the strip. “This is Twin Peaks crazy.”
A man no taller than an average six-year-old chuckled at her as she walked past him. She stopped, turned, and walked back to him.
“What’s so funny?”
He shook his head and waved her on. When she didn’t budge, his smile turned down at one corner. “Not the life for everyone.”
“Not for me. Why live like this?”
“Why not? See the country, paid in cash, a different girl every night.” He looked her over. “Looking for something different?”
“You’re not my type,” she said.
He waggled his eyebrows. “I’m everyone’s type.”
She clasped the picture of the missing teenagers between two fingers and pulled it from her front pocket. “You see them around here?”
He looked from her eyes down to the picture. After a moment of study, he shook his head. “All of them look alike, but I didn’t see them. We just set up. Maybe when we open.”
He nodded. “Not here.”
“No. The beach.”
He sniffed and she had the distinct impression of being judged.
“I thought, being kids, they might have stumbled over to watch while you set up.”
His eyes slid back to her and he sized her up. “Can’t help you. If they were on the beach, try the pier.” He tapped his ear. “Sounds like they have an arcade.”
He stood up and walked around to the side of his booth where toys stretched the limits of the clear trash bags in which they were stuffed. “Hope you find them.”
It wasn’t far to the arcade, and though she had checked before, she would check again. This hunt for missing kids was starting to feel the same way the last search had gone, and the dull feeling of failure settled over her like a heavy blanket.
A hand dropped on her shoulder and she resisted the urge to start swinging. Instead she ducked out of the grasp, twisted, and stared up at one of the largest men she had ever seen. Her mouth dropped open.
“You’re searching for missing children?” he asked. She nodded. “Check the boats.”
Before she could ask him what he meant, he had ducked back into the crowd, and though she could see his large head bobbing through the throng, he was moving against the tide of the crowd in a direction she couldn’t follow.
Next stop: the docks.