####By Gabriel Mundo
#####This game is meant to be played several times. Every choice you make will lead you into a new story with a new ending.
[[Start|Intro]]  "Forlan? Henry Forlan?" I said as the door opened. "We talked on the phone. My name is Renly Bloom, you can call me Bloom, I'm the private investigator you hired."
The man on the other side of the door was tall and dark haired. He wore thick horn-rimmed glasses and was skinny for his size.
"Yes, I'm Henry Forlan. What time is it?" He said.
"5. Sorry, did I wake you?"
"No. Well, yes. Haven't been getting much sleep anyways. Please come in."
Henry was wearing a pair of striped pajamas, the kind you see in cartoons. His glasses magnified the dark circles under his eyes.
[["We can talk here. Shouldn't take too long,"|TalkHere]] I said
[[Follow him inside.|Follow]]   The house seemed to reflect Henry's appearance, everything was clean and perfectly placed. In the early morning darkness the house felt deathly still. He walked me into the living room and motioned me to sit.
"Tea? Coffee?" He said.
"Coffee would be great," I said.
Henry got up, walked out of the room, and turned a corner. I could hear the clink of cups and bags opening. "You're here early."
"On missing children cases I try not to waste any time.
[[You know, the whole 72 hours thing."|72Hours]] I said
[[Don't like the idea of children being left alone,"|LeftAlone]] I said.  Henry shook his head as if to shake off the drowsiness. "If you wish," he said. "What do you need from me?"
"I just need to ask you a few questions about your daughter, Amber was it? About you, about how and when she went missing. Anything that'll help me find her," I said taking out my notebook.
"About me?" Henry said.
"Yes," my eyes caught his eyes. "Is that a problem?"
"No, no problem."
Henry's eyes shifted slightly. It was small shift, so small most people wouldn't notice. I've been in this job long enough to know that the body often reveals more than we'd like it to.
[["Let's start there, tell me about yourself."|TellMe]] I said.  "What about myself?" Henry said.
"General things. What you do for work? Your relationship with your daughter. Your relationship with your wife. Why, if any reason, did she go missing?" I said.
"And these questions are going to help you find Amber?"
"Maybe," I said. I pressed my pen onto the paper. "Go ahead."
"Okay," he said taking a second to collect his thoughts. "Well, I'm a teacher. I teach social studies to high schoolers. Not as exciting as PI but I enjoy it. I love Amber. Ever since we brought her home-"
"-She's not your daughter?" I said.
"No," Henry said. "She *is* my daughter, just not by birth. We adopted her 6 years ago."
[["And how old is she now?"|Age]] I said.  It was pouring soft blankets of rain when I pulled up to the 423 Sheridan. It was a quiet Thursday morning with the entire neighborhood sound asleep. Everything was quiet besides the occasional thunder far off. All the houses looked identical. Red brick with white mortar, like out of a Christmas card.
That day it was a missing persons case. A man lost his daughter. From my experience it was never that simple.
I walked up to the dark cherry wood door. I rang the doorbell but it didn't work. I started my rhythmic closed fist pounding on the door
[[And waited.|Start]]  "What happens after 72 hours?" Henry said.
"After 72 hours the police stop searching for person and start searching for a body." I said.
The kitchen went silent.
"But you called me early, that's good. I'm good at my job and we still have plenty of time." I added.
Henry came back into the living room with two cups of coffee. His face tight and his eyes heavy. "Thank you Mr. Bloom. You have no idea what this means to me. I don't know what I'd do if I lost Amber."
"I am going to need a couple things from you before I get started." I said.
"Anything," he said.
[["Walk me through the day she went missing."|Missing]] I said.  "Neither do I," Henry said. "Especially if it's my daughter." He came back with two cups of coffee. He took the seat closest to me and leaned in. "You got kids of your own?"
"Just a daughter. She just turned 6," I said.
"I'm sure you couldn't imagine what'd you do if you lost her." Henry took a long drink of his coffee. "What do you need?"
"Need for?" I said.
"Need in order to find her. I'll give you whatever you need."
"Just need a couple questions answered. After that I'll just do my job," I said.
"Anything you need," he said.
[["Talk me through the day she went missing."|Missing]]  "Well the day she went missing was last Tuesday. She was up at 7 and out the door by 7:45, just like every day." Henry said.
"And does she take the bus or do you drive her?" I said.
"No, she walks. It's about a 10 minute walk. I ask her every day if she wants a ride but she always says no. I think she enjoys the time alone."
"And how old is she exactly?" I asked.
"Yeah teenagers tend to like being alone. Go on."
"Well, then I went to work. I teach high school social studies. Went through my entire day, nothing out of the ordinary. Came back home and waited for Amber."
[["And what time does she usually get home?"|Missin2]] I said.   "She's 14. Just turned," he said.
"So you got her when she was 8. That's pretty old for adoption. Do you have any contact with the birth parents?
"No, she's an orphan."
"And can you think of anyone she might go live with? Maybe a friend of her parents or an aunt or uncle?
I looked up from my notes and saw Henry with furrowed brows. "Okay, and your family. How are you and your wife? Anything you two have been doing that might have made Amber feel unsafe at home?"
Henry took a pause. "Well, considering she's been dead for a year, probably not."
[["I'm sorry, Mr. Forlan. I didn't know,"|Sorry]] I said.
[["And before that?"|Question]] I said  "I didn't mean any disrespect," I said.
"Of course you didn't. Just doing your job," Henry said. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to get defensive."
"No need to apologize, let's move on. Tell me about Amber, anything you think would be helpful." I said.
"Amber," he said. "Amber, was a tough one to crack. She was real shy and hardly talked when we first brought her home. It was months before she would respond in full sentences to us and maybe a year before we could make her smile. Since then she's just been something we, I, couldn't live without."
[["Okay and how about her appearance?"|Description]] I said.  "What do you mean before? Before she died?" Henry said.
"Yes," I said.
"Mr. Bloom," he said. "I don't see any reason why you need to know anything about my dead wife to find my daughter."
People get so defensive about death. With more time I would have broken a man like Henry. Made him tell me everything I wanted to know. It'd be easy too, but his daughter is missing and every minute wasted is another minute not spent looking for her.
[["I apologize Mr. Forlan, let's move on. Describe Amber for me."|Description]] I said.   "Well, the first thing you'll notice about her is her hair. We were told her parents named her Amber after the color, it's like looking into a fire. She's pale and has freckles all over her nose and cheeks. She's tall for her age and amazingly thin, a small gust of wind could take her off her feet," Henry said.
"Anything else?" I asked.
"I don't know if you'll be able to spot this but she has a birthmark on her thigh, it's brown with freckles."
"And do you have a recent picture I can look at?"
Henry walked back into the house and returned with his wallet. He flipped it open and pulled a small school picture out of it.
"It's from last year but she pretty much looks the same."
I took the photo and examined it. Her hair really was the bright orange he described. Just like looking into a fire.
[["Now walk me through the day she went missing."]] I said.   "About 4," Henry said.
"She's not in any clubs or teams?" I said.
"No, Amber likes the quiet things. She reads, does her homework, and that's pretty much it. I don't try to force her to do things she's uncomfortable with."
"Well does she have any friends that might know where she is?"
Henry shook his head no. I was chasing a ghost.
"Can I take a look in her room?"
"Her room? Why?"
"Well if there aren't any people who can help me find her then maybe her things will tell me something.
[[With your permission of course."|RoomCheck]] I said.
[[Mind showing me the way?"|RoomCheck]] I said.   "Yes, of course." Henry said with a shrug of the shoulders.
Henry led me up a small staircase to a floor with only two rooms. One was a bathroom and the other was a bedroom. The room was surprisingly large for being hidden away. Amber's room reflected the personality her father described. Large bookcases lined the walls of the room. The only furniture was a bed, a nightstand, and a large desk. There was a window nook, I imagined she read here a lot, looking out onto the driveway.
"Thank you, do you mind stepping out for a minute."
I turned to face Henry. He looked unsteady.
[["Parents usually don't like a stranger rummaging around their child's room."|RoomCheck2]] I said.   He stood there a second. His body was still but his eyes paced around the room as if he was trying to see if he missed anything. "Okay, I'll be downstairs if you need anything." Henry said and he left.
I looked around at the bland room of the missing girl. It seemed so ordinary that I almost didn't know what to look for. The bed is usually a good place to start. Nothing special about hers. It was a twin bed with a carved wooden frame, the matress was springy. The sheets smelled clean, freshly washed. Parents always neglect to look under the bed, that's where kids hide their secrets. For me it was old Playboys but everyone is different. It was a tight squeeze, hardly any room for a child let alone a grown man. I was expecting it to be empty but there it was, a shoebox decorated with colored paper.
As I wiggled out from under the bed I heard the door open.
[[Henry walked in.]]   "And why not?" Henry said approaching me. "Let me have a look at it."
I moved the box behind my back. "No," I said. "Let me finish the room check first."
"Mr. Bloom, please, that's ridiculous. Let me see." Henry straightened his back and reached for the box.
I moved the box even further back. "No. Not yet. In order to do my job I can't have you interfering."
"Interfering? I hired you."
"Yes, you did. So let me do my job."
"Mr. Bloom, enough, seriously. Give me the box."
[[I gave him the box.]]
[["No, please wait outside."]] I said.   "Oh, I'm sorry. It's just, you forgot your coffee and I didn't want it to get cold. What you got there?" He said.
"A box." I said.
"What's in it?"
"I don't know."
"Are you gonna open it?
[["Yes,"|I opened it.]] I said.
[["No,"]] I said.   "Jesus Christ, thank you." Henry said. He hesitated to open it. The box was childish and poorly made. No writing on any of the sides, just pieces of colored paper poorly glued onto the sides. He lifted the top off. He let out a small sigh of laughter. "Ha, just pictures. Baby pictures of her, some pictures of her parents, and drawings. Just memories."
"May I see it now?" I said.
He handed it to me without a word. I inspected it and found nothing out of the ordinary. Just the time capsule of a little girl. "Why would she hide this?" I asked out loud.
"Why do kids do anything? I'm sorry I got so defensive. I didn't know what to expect."
[["It's okay. I get it,"]] I said.   "Mr. Bloom, I'm starting to lose my patience."
I could have made him leave. It wouldn't have been hard to push him out of the room, a small wind could do that. He had a look on his face. I wasn't sure if it was fear or sadness, maybe a bit of both. "We can open it together right now if you really want to."
Henry nodded, placed the coffee cups down on the nightstand by the bed, and stood beside me. He towered over me and watched my every movement. "Go on," he said.
The box was childish and poorly made, definitely a couple years old. No writing on any of the sides, just pieces of colored paper poorly glued onto the sides.
[[I opened it.]]  "Your daughter is missing and everything is a mystery." I said.
"But for next time, let me do my job."
"Okay, can I finish my room check please?"
He nodded again and folded his hands behind his back.
"Alone please," I said.
He let out a sigh of emberassment and walked out of the room. I went back to the box. It wasn't out of the ordinary for children to make things like this, but why would she hide it? The rest of the room looked as uninteresting as the bed. I made my way to the desk. It was a sturdy desk made of the same dark cherry wood as the door. There were a few drawers which had nothing but writing utensils and notebooks inside it. One of them was an agenda.
[[I took the agenda out.]]  The box opened with a soft scrape. I was surprised with how much was inside it, letters mostly.
"What is it?" Henry said taking a letter out and reading it. "There's nothing on it. Just dates. No writing, no address, nothing."
He was right. That's all that was on it. Some went back a couple of years others as recent as the week before. "Do these dates mean anything to you?" I said. "Birthdays, vacations, anything special?"
Henry looked up to think, searching every crevice of his brain. Then, a moment of recognition flashed on his face for just an instance. "No," he said.
[["You're lying,"]] I said.   "Now don't start accusing me of things," Henry said. "Especially not now."
"You're telling me the truth?" I said.
"Yes," he said. He stood with his shoulders back and his face clenched.
"Look me in the eyes and tell me that. This is your daughter's life."
He dropped a bit to meet me at eye level and took off his glasses. "I don't know what these dates mean."
He was lying, I was sure of it. The way his mouth twitched as he said the words. His excessive blinking. He had something to do with his daughter's dissapearance. I can't say I was surprised, it's always the quiet ones.
[["Okay, Mr. Forlan. I believe you, I apologize."|Apologize]]  "I'm about done checking the room. I think I have everything I need to start my investigation. Do you have a recent picture of her I can use?"
Henry looked at me, not breaking eye contact. I could see his jaw clenching and his teeth grinding. "Mr. Bloom," he said. "I didn't have anything to do with her going missing."
"Yes, Mr. Forlan. I already said I believe you. The picture please."
He reached into his wallet and pulled out a school photo of Amber.
"Thank you," I said. I knew I couldn't turn him into the police with nothing but his facial expression as evidence. I needed to go find some proof. "Hopefully the next time we meet I will reunite you with your daughter."
He nodded and walked me down the stairs. He said goodbye as he closed the door. I waited a minute and then
[[I went around back.]]  Henry's jaw tightened. "She was walking home from school, like she always does. Every day I ask her if she wants a ride but she says no. She's supposed to get home around 4 every day. Usually, I come back from work 15 minutes earlier than she does and I'll wait in the kitchen for her. When it got to 5 o'clock I called the school and they said she was there the whole day. That's when I called the police. They looked at security footage from the school and there she was, walking home. They told me she might have snuck off to her friends house after school but I told them Amber wouldn't do that. They said they'd look for her but I doubt they've done anything at all, probably think it's just another case of teenage angst. I drove around all night, knocking on stranger's doors, hoping anyone knew something. No one did." Henry's voice began to waver. "I can't lose her too Mr. Bloom, I can't."
[[Get to work.]]   I put my hand on his shoulder. "Henry," I said. "I'll do everything I can to find your daughter. I promise you."
He seemed to appreciate that. He took my hand off his shoulder and shook it.
"I should get going Henry," I said. I was told not to lie to clients in order to comfort them but I thought he needed it. "The next time we'll see each other I'll be with your daughter."
I walked back to the car, it was still pouring rain outside. Amber went missing on a Tuesday afternoon. At that point it was Thursday morning, the trail was still fresh. The police wouldn't have taken the case seriously until they thought she was dead or some evidence fell into their laps.
[[I had to start from nothing.]]   "Thank you Mr. Forlan, that will be enough for now." I said.
"That's it?" He said.
"For now. I'm gonna go talk to police, see what help they can be. I will call you if anything comes up." I had begun to turn to walk back to the car when I thought I should say something. "Oh, and Mr. Forlan. Try to take care of yourself, this day is going to be a difficult one."
He gave me a stiff nod back and closed the door. I've always hated missing person cases, the race against time. Sometimes it's just a kid running out on mommy and daddy in a tantrum. Other times I'm returning a body, and the worst of times I'm returning nothing at all. Only time could tell.
[[It was time to get started.]]  I rode to the police station on the far side of town. This small town had an even smaller police force. I knew most of them by name and they knew me. If I was having a boring day sometimes I would come by and solve a case for them. Every time I walked through the front doors of the building I was greeted by Gladis. Gladis was a short fat blond woman, I think she told me she was Irish.
"Hey Gladis, how are you?" I said.
"Renly! What brings you in today?" She said.
"I'm working a missing persons case and need to use the surveillance cameras again. Is anyone using the room right now?"
"No, but Renly I'm suppose to tell you that you're not supposed to be using our equipment anymore. Chief doesn't want people to think that you can just walk in and do whatever you want."
[["I understand. I'm sorry,"]] I said.
[["I'll keep that in mind, thanks Gladis."]] I said.   I walked back to my car, it was still pouring outside. The sun was only barely starting to come over the horizon. I knew I had a long day ahead of me. I called the chief of police, he was an old friend. I would help him on any cases he thought could use some extra hands and in return I could ask for small favors.
"Chief? It's me, Bloom." I said.
Chief Jack Stark was a burly man with a rough voice to match. "Shit Bloom, what time is it?" He said.
"Yeah, too early. What do you need?"
"I'm working the Amber Forlan case, the 14 year old girl who went missing on Tuesday."
"Okay, and answer the question. What do you need?"
[["Do you have any leads I can go off?"]] I said.   I walked passed her and into the surveillance room. "Won't be long," I said with a wink.
It wasn't much, two monitors mounted on the wall with a few places in town on screen. This police station had two cameras they had access to. One in the city center and another at an intersection. An intersection that just so happens to be on the way to Amber's high school. I didn't have a login for the police computers but luckily the sticky note posted on one of the monitors did. Once I was in I rewinded the feed back to Tuesday afternoon.
[[And then I watched.]]   The line went silent for a second before I heard the shuffling of papers.
"Amber Forlan. 14. Last seen at Haywood High School. That's all I got Bloom," he said.
I took a long breath. There was nothing harder than chasing ghosts. No trail, no witnesses, just gone.
"Bloom? You still there?" Chief Stark said.
"Yeah, yeah I'm here."
"Not what you wanted to hear I'm assuming."
"The father gave me nothing either. Right now I'm flying blind with no place to go."
The line went quiet again. "Bloom."
[["Yeah chief?"]]   "There's an abandoned warehouse a couple minutes out from Haywoods. There's been 3, this girl makes it 4, missing people in the last 2 months that have dissappeared in that area. I sent a couple officers there last week and they told me it was cleaned out." He said.
"Okay, what help is that to me?" I said.
"Cleaned out Bloom. As in spotless. Not a speck of dust on the floor. Like someone was using it and cleaning up after themselves. That might be a good place to start."
"Thank you chief, I appreciate it."
"Bloom," the chief said with his hard voice.
"Be careful. I don't know what to expect on this one, it could be something dangerous."
"Isn't everything we do dangerous? Thanks again chief, go back to sleep." I said and hung up the phone.
[[I turned on the car and started to drive.]]  The warehouse the chief mentioned was in an abandoned lot a couple minutes from the school. It wasn't somewhere that was easily accessible. You had to take a dirt road to get there. The sun was only just starting to come out and everything was covered in a light purple haze. When I got to the warehouse and was taken by surprise, it was odly beautiful. It used to be a printing house and had an old American look about it. It wasn't a big one, about the size of a barn. The outside was a fadded white and the paint was chipping off but it looked as if it were meant to be that way. I got out of my car and started making my way to a side door I spotted.
[[I went inside.]]  There was a window that on the side of the house that looked into the kitchen. He was sitting in his kitchen quietly, drinking some more coffee. I watched him for an hour and he didn't move, it made my bones cold to watch him sit there. When he finally did get up he went to the living and watched TV. I watched him the entire day, he didn't leave the house. He wasn't out of sight for more than 5 minutes.
I had to leave eventually. It was late when I finally did leave, maybe around midnight. I drove to a nearby parking garage and slept for 3 hours. I couldn't give him any time to cover his tracks.
When I got back to his house and saw that his car was gone. I looked inside, all the lights were on but there was no sign of him.
[[I broke in through a window.]]   "So what should I do instead?" I said.
"Well what do you need?" Gladis asked.
"I'm working the Amber Forlan case. She's the little girl who went missing on Tuesday."
"I can't say I heard about that. How's it coming along?"
"She went up in a puff of smoke. Poof. Gone. I have no idea where she is, was, or could have gone."
Gladis frowned with her eyes. "I wish there was something I could do Renly, I really do." She put her hands up in a way that meant her hands were tied.
I wasn't sure what to do.
[[I could just use their stuff anyways.|"I'll keep that in mind, thanks Gladis."]]
[[I could go drive around the school and hope to find something.]]  "Alright Gladis, thanks anyways." I said.
The walk back to my car was a disheartening one. The rain was still pouring overhead. I drove down to Amber's high school. It was still too early for the kids to trickle in but there were a couple of teachers making their way inside. I waved to them as they walked through the doors. I circled the school looking for anything red.
I stayed there for two hours. Long enough to see the school buses unload the hoards of children. Long enough for the upperclassmen to drive to school. Long enough to see the buses leave.
[[Long enough for the police to show up.]]  It was a short drive. The intersection was getting busy from people going to work and kids going to school. I pulled into one of the stores and walked to the other side of the intersection, the side with the warehouse. I didn't grow up here but I think every town has a place like this. For me it was a place on the ravine that you could only get to by climbing a muddy hill. The specialty of a place like this wasn't lost on me.
The warehouse was far enough from the roads to be quiet. The warehouse itself was small, maybe the size of a small barn. I walked inside and found that it was empty. I wasn't surprised, it was 8 am on a Thursday but I can't say I wasn't disappointed. I looked around the place but found nothing, not even a strand of hair. I was back to chasing thin air.
[[I stood in the empty warehouse.|Wait.]]  It was just the one squad car. At first I thought they were there to look for Amber. It was only until two officers drove up to the front of my car, stepped out their doors, and drew their guns out.
"Step out of the car sir! Hands in the air! Walk to the front of the car! And lay flat on the hood of the car!" One of the officers said. I couldn't make out who it was, it was still raining and they had hats and glasses on.
I had no choice but to listen to what the said. I got out of the car with my hands up and laid flat on the hood of my car. One of the officers came behind me while the other went off to the side with their gun trained on me. "Little fucking pedo that likes looking at kids huh?" A man said. He slapped cuffs on me, tightened them, and then lifted me off the hood.
"Wait a second, that's Renly Bloom." The other officer said.
[["Hi,"]] I said.   It was labeled for this year. I opened to the most recent entry. It was dated for Monday. I flipped through the rest of the pages. Every single weekday was dated and every page was filled out going back to the beginning of the school year. Monday. She went missing on Tuesday. It's possible she just forgot it that day but I doubt a girl like Amber would. I didn't have my bag so I tucked the agenda under my shirt, I didn't want to go through another scene with Henry.
I made my way downstairs. Henry was sitting in the living room staring off into space. "I'm all done," I said.
"Did you find anything?" He said.
"No. You were right. She was a quiet girl. I'm gonna get in contact with the police, see if they can tell me anything.
[[I might even go by the school. Maybe a teacher knows something,"]] I said.   "I doubt they'd say anything either," Henry said. "Amber hardly talks to anyone besides me."
"Yeah, it seems like that. But you know, they might be wondering where Amber has been since Monday." I said.
"Yeah, I'm sure they're just as worried as the rest of us."
He didn't correct me. He told me she went missing Tuesday after school. It could have been an honest mistake. His daughter went missing and I could imagine the days have been blending together. But I doubt a father would forget something like that. I didn't want to make assumptions.
[["Oh, I'm sorry. I meant Tuesday,"]] I said.
[["Okay, Mr. Forlan. I think that'll be all,"]] I said.   "I'm sorry what?" He said.
"I said she went missing Monday but then I remembered it was actually on Tuesday. My apologies," I said.
"Oh, yes. I didn't even notice. It's early and in all honesty it's been hard to keep track of time."
"Oh, I'm sure of that Henry. Okay, I think it's time I should be going. You've been a great help, I think I have everything I need to get started. I'll show myself out."
I put out my hand for him to shake but I must have moved too quickly, the agenda shifted down one of my pants legs.
"What's that?" Henry said.
[["I guess I'm just happy to see you,"]] I said  "You sure? You don't need anything else?" He said.
"I think I'll be fine for now. If I need anything I'll call you. I will show myself out." I said as a I stood up to shake his hand. "Try and get some sleep Henry."
He stood up and met my handshake. He thanked me and walked me out the door. Something about him, Amber's room, the house as a whole left me uneasy. I could do what I told him I was going to do, visit the school and question the teachers but I doubt that would get me anywhere. I needed to get proof. I waited a minute after he closed the door and then
[[I went around back.]]   I stared at the screen for two hours covering the hours she went missing. At first, nothing. Cars driving back from work and kids walking back from school. I was beginning to think she disappeared out of thin air.
But then I saw it, right there at the corner of the screen. A head of fire red hair. I didn't see her but at that point I would have taken anything. The intersection has stores on three sides and on the fourth there's an abandoned lot. You take a back road from the lot and you'll end up at a warehouse. Any day of the week you can find homeless people sleeping there or some kids looking for a private place to drink. It wasn't much to go on but it was something.
I logged out of the computer, said goodbye to Gladis, and was out the door.
[[I drove to the intersection.]]   "Shit, Bloom what're you doing looking at kids?" I made out the man out as Officer Graves. A young guy but he took his job seriously.
"I'm not," I said. "I was looking for a lead on the Amber Forlan case."
"The who?" Graves said. "Wolner, you can put your gun down now."
"Sorry sir," Officer Wolner said.
"I don't think we've met," I said trying to reach out to shake his hand before realizing I was still cuffed. "Do you mind?"
Graves unlocked the hand cuffs. "Forlan you said? Oh, the one with the red hair. Someone found her body about an hour ago by the river on the other side of town. No sign of the killer."
[["Oh. Okay, thanks."|"Fuck!"]] I said.
[["Fuck!"]] I said.  Chief wasn't kidding when he said it was spotless. The waxed concrete floors looked as if they had just been mopped. The main floor was empty and clean but there was a metal staircase that led to an upstair office near the left side of the entrance. The stairs screeched with every step I took. There was a door at the top of the stairs, it was locked. I tried to look inside but there was deli paper taped on the window of the door. I wasn't opposed to breaking and entering but I wondered if I should wait for something to happen.
[[Break the window.]]
[[Wait.]]  "You alright Bloom?" Graves asked.
"Yeah, I'm fine. Just fucking hell man she was 14," I said.
We stood there a second with the rain pelting us while we stared at our feet. I thought about what I was doing at 14. Worse things than Amber that's for sure. "Have you guys told the father yet?"
The shook their heads no.
"Don't worry about it. I'll tell him," I said. "Take care guys. I'll forget you thought I was a pedo."
We both walked into our cars, they drove off but I stayed inside mine thinking about what I would tell Henry. It wasn't the first time I had to deliver news of a death but that doesn't make it any easier.
[[I drove back to the house.]]   By the time I got to Henry Forlan's house the rain had begun to settle. The sun was at high noon and drying up the water on the streets. I pulled into the drive way. I took a minute to sit in silence before I walked up to the dark cherry wood door. I knocked once and Henry opened the door. He stood there looking at me and then behind me and then at the car in the driveway.
"She's not her Henry," I said.
"Where is she Bloom?" He said.
[["I think you should sit down."]]
[["I'm sorry Henry."]]   We walked into the living room and sat down. Henry's eyes followed me the entire time.
"What is it?" He said when the silence was too much.
"Amber's body was found by the river an hour ago. There's no sign of the killer."
Henry sank in his seat, his face buried in his hands.
"Mr. Forlan, I'm sorry for your lost."
"Get out," he whispered.
[["I'm sorry, what?"]]  Those are the only words I needed to say before he broke down. He fell on his knees and dropped his head into his hands. He cried like his daughter's life depended on it. He cried until he had no tears left. He cried until he let out nothing but the silent cries only a parent can let out.
"I'm so sorry Henry. This should never have happened. Not to you and especially not to a girl like Amber." I said.
Henry was still on his knees. "I've got no one Bloom. No one left. Valerie is gone. Amber is gone. They're all gone." He found new tears in his words.
[["It's okay Henry,"]] I said.  It was anything but okay but I didn't know whay to tell him. I lifted him by his armpits like a child and held him like a child. He was taller than I was so his head dropped onto the top of my shoulder. He cried on me and I let him. For a time it was just us holding each other in the midday sun. Eventually he pulled away.
"I'm sorry for breaking down on you," he said.
"You have every right to," I said.
"I don't know where to go from here. What happens now?"
"You try and live the best you can. If not for you, then for her."
"Thank you Mr. Bloom."
[["Anytime."]]  "If you need anything," I said taking out my business card. "And I mean anything, please call me."
"Okay, thank you." He said. "Goodbye, Mr. Bloom."
"Goodbye, Mr. Forlan."
The door closed and I walked back to my car slowly. I sat in the driveway for a minute just trying to reflect on everything. Then my phone rang.
"Hello," I said.
"Hi, is this Renly Bloom?" It was a woman's voice on the line.
"Yes, what do you need?"
"Well, I think my husband might be cheating on me. I don't want to assume anything but-"
I hung up and turned my phone off. I had had enough of work for one day. I turned on the car and pulled out of the driveway. I drove home. My daughter would be home in a couple of hours. I didn't want to waste a second of time with her.
[[The End|Opening]]  "You promised me you lying bastard! You promised me you'd find her," he said.
"Mr. Forlan, there was no way I could have known. No way any of us could have known," I said.
"Just get out. I'll pay you for you time."
"Mr. Forlan, there's no need to-"
"What're you still doing here! I said get out!" He shot up from his seat. He towered over me and waiting for me to move. I stood up and walked to the front door.
"Mr. Forlan, I'm sorry." I said.
"Save it for the next person you lie to," he said as he closed the door.
I walked back to the car. On the worst days I wonder if I'm in the right line of work. It was one of those days.
[[The End|Opening]]  I slammed my elbow through the window, the old glass broke easily. I unlocked the door from the outside and opened it. It looked like an ordinary office. The were a few metal desk left behind and a lot of boxes full of paper. I thought I had reached another dead end before I heard muffled screaming coming from the closet on the far side of the office.
"Hello," I called out. "Amber?"
The muffled screaming intensified and I heard the bottom of chair scraping against the floor. I opened the closet door and found a skinny red headed girl bound to a chair. She had a bandana tied around her mouth. She yelled and her eyes watered at the sight of me.
[["Amber, my name is Renly Bloom. Your father hired me. I'm here to take you home,"]] I said.   I found a step to sit on an counted the minutes. I stared at the door I came through, hoping some killer would barge in and I could break out in a fist fight. But no one came, I waited until it got dark outside. Once I had lost hope I started making my way to the exit but as I was reaching for the door I heard noises outside.
It was the shuffling of feet on the gravel outside. It was more than one person. I heard at least three voice but I couldn't be sure. They were coming inside.
The bandana was tied so tightly around her mouth that I had to cut it off. She gasped when it was finally off her and then she cried.
"Amber, are you okay? Are you hurt?" I said.
I think she was trying to speak but the only thing that came out was a quiet wail while she nodded her head.
"Are you bleeding? Do you need me to call an ambulance?" I said as I was already taking out my phone to call.
"He-" Amber said. She spoke in the softest voice I had ever heard. It sounded as if her voice was brand new.
"What did he do Amber?" I said.
"He. He tied my hands behind my back while he did it."
[["Oh God,"]] I said.   "Everytime I tried to scream he would choke me until I couldn't let a sound out. And then when he was done-"
"That's enough Amber. It's over now. You're safe now," I said. I had to cut off the rope around her hands and feet as well. "Let's get you home." I put her arm around my shoulder and walked her slowly out the door and down the stairs. She hardly had the will left to walk.
"He's gonna come back for me," she said as I put her in the car. "He told me I was his now."
"No, he's not. I promise." I turned on the car and drove back onto the main roads. I would look back in the rearview mirror and see her shaking.
"It's okay Amber. You're home now," I said.
[[I walked her to the front door.]]  When the door opened she cried again and fell into her father's arms. Henry sank to his knees and held his daughter in his hands.
"Where did you find her?" He said.
"The police will fill you in later. I'll tell them everything I know. Right now I'd suggest spending time with your daughter. She needs you more than ever."
Henry stood up and led his daughter back into the house. Then he turned back to me. I held out my hand but he pushed it away and hugged me. "I can't thank you enough Bloom," he said.
"No need to thank me," I said. "I'm just doing my job."
He gave me a nod of approval, his eyes still wet. We said goodbye to each other and he closed the door.
[[I walked back to the car.]]  On cases like this I wasn't sure if I should feel happy or not when I finished. I got the girl home, she's alive and that's something, but she won't ever be the same. I rang Chief Stark.
"What do you need Bloom?" He said.
"The girl, Amber Forlan, she's home now. She was at the warehouse. Found her tied up in a closet. No sign of the kidnapper."
"Good job, I'll send a couple officers to the house for questioning and some more to the warehouse to look around the area."
"Wait a couple hours before you question the girl. She's been through a lot."
[["Yeah, bad. Give her some time."]]   "Of course," he said. "Do you need anything else?"
"No, I'm fine. Thanks chief, I'll fill you in on the details later. Bye." I hung up the phone and put it back in my pocket. That's when I felt the small glossy picture that Henry gave me. I took it out and examined it again. Amber was smiling, she had her hair tied up tightly behind her head. She looked so young, and so peaceful. I looked at it a second longer before I threw it out the window. I had no business holding on to this girl. Tomorrow there might be a new Amber and I had to be ready for that. I drove all the way home.
[[The End|Opening]]  The inside of the warehouse was dark so I hid in one of the dark spots of the wall. They came inside, it was three large men and a girl. It was Amber.
"Put something in her mouth to shut her up," the largest of the men said.
"Oh, I plan to." Another one said and they laughed.
Amber laid lifeless on the ground. I wasn't sure if she was unconcious or simply didn't have the will to fight anymore.
"I like the way she screams," the last one said.
"Yeah, but I don't want anyone to her us. You know how loud this little bitch yells. Shut her up so we can get started."
I looked at my phone andt was dead. I wasn't going to stand around and watch this poor girl get raped and I coulnd't call for help.
[[I fought.|I ran.]]  I did my best to sneak out quietly but the night was so quiet that they heard me.
"There's someone here," the big man said.
I had no choice but to try and play it off. "Don't mind me, just looking for a place to sleep." I said in a drunken voice.
"It's one of the hobos that likes to hang around here. Kick him out."
"No, no worries. I'll show my self out." I pretended to stumble around as I headed for the door.
"What if he says something?" Another one said.
[["No I'm no trouble,"]] I said.  "Should have chose another place to sleep." The last one said as they all approached me.
I kept the act up until the first one wound up for the first punch. I slipped it and landed a right cross on his nose, I think I broke it. The big one sweared as he lunged on me. He got a hold of my neck but I pressed my thumbs into his eye sockets and he fell on the ground. I kicked him across the head when he tried to get up on his hands and knees. I forgot about the third guy. I didn't see him when he pulled out his pocket knife. I hardly felt the knife as he stabbed me about 20 times across the small of my back. The other two got up and kicked me as I was bleeding out. I was surprised I stayed away for that long. I saw them pick up Amber, I could see her red hair in the moonlight that snuck into the warehouse. I saw them carry her out of the door.
And then I saw nothing.
[[The End|Opening]]  Henry lifted up my shirt and reached down my pants. I pushed him away. "Whoa, whoa, whoa. I only just met you Mr. Forlan. I'll be leaving now," I said and walked towards the door. I was walking like I had a wooden leg to keep the small agenda from going all the down my leg. As I was reaching for the front door Mr. Forlan stepped in front of me and locked the door.
"Show me," he said.
"I don't know Mr. Forlan, this doesn't really seem appropiate."
"Enough jokes," he said and reached into my pants and pulled the agenda out. "What's this?" He flipped through it and I saw the instance he realized what I had. His mouth twitched into a little grin. "You're good Mr. Bloom."
[[I stood still.]]  "I guess I missed this," he said and threw the agenda onto one of the couches.
I stood tall to meet him. "What're you trying to say Henry?"
"I doubt you know exactly what's going on but don't play dumb."
"So you admit it?"
"No I don't admit anythng."
"So where do we go from here?"
He took his glasses off and cleaned them on his pajamas. "Well I think you have an idea of the two choices you can make. You can either do your little investigation, tell the police you found nothing also, and you can get paid and move on with your life."
[["What's the other choice?"]] I said.  "The other choice is you join Amber in the basement."
"I think I'll pass on that," I said and turned to unlock the door.
Henry latched his bony hands around my wrist and pulled me away. He had a freakish strength about him. I was using everything I had to wriggle free but he wouldn't let go.
"Wrong answer Mr. Bloom," he said. He pinned my hands against the door. He let go of one hand and I cocked my fist back to punch him but before I could he slammed my head against the dark cherry wood door.
[[I woke up in a dark room with my hands tied behind my back.]]  I heard a small whimper come from beside me. I couldn't see anything in the pitch black room.
"Hello?" I whispered.
"No one's listening Mr. Bloom," a voice in the darkness said. The lights flipped on and I saw Mr. Forlan sitting in a metal chair. "You could have been home with your wife and daughter Bloom." He was holding my wallet and was showing me the pictures I had in there.
"Well, not really my choice." I said.
"Actually it was. You could have just left the house and continued your investigation to find nothing. No one would have held anything against you, kids go missing all the time."
[["Why would you hire a private investigator if you wanted to get away with this."]] I said  "I don't know. I guess I got bored. The police will believe anything you say if you cry a bit. I bet they're out looking for Amber right now. Right Amber?"
I had to turn my head completely to see her. She had her hair down in front of her face. She barely had the strength to sit up. I was amazed at how much life he had drained from her in less than two days.
"I wonder if your daughter feels as good as Amber does. What do you think Bloom?"
My blood went cold.
"Nothing to say? You had so many jokes and questions before. What happened?" He said.
"Well, if you say it like that then I have to. Maybe she won't scream like Amber."
[[No, please."]]  "Made the wrong choice, Bloom." He said. "Could have been home."
"Keep Amber some company. I'll be back to check up on you soon. Maybe even have a little company with me" He laughed as he turned off the ligths.
"No! Henry! Forlan! Don't!" I said into the darkened room. I tried to break free from the rope on my hands and feet, they were tied to the chair. I wriggled until I fell on the floor.
"You won't get free." Amber said in the darkness. Her voice void of any emotion. "I tried. He'll hurt you if you do."
"No, I have to!" I shook violently.
"Henry! Let me go! Henry!" I said but no one answered.
[[The End.|Opening]]  I felt as if something was gonna jump out at me. I ran through the house quickly, I check all the rooms again. It was only until I got into the kitchen that I stopped, it reeked. There was a door leading to a basement attached to one of the sides. It was locked. I had no idea when Henry was going to come back so I broke through it with my shoulder. Once I was inside the stench multiplied. It was the smell of a corspe. I walked down the small stair case into the basement. I found a lightswitch on one of the walls and once I turned it on I saw her. There she was, Amber, her through slashed. She was naked and her body was covered in blood. I took my phone out and called the police.
[[They arrived the same time Henry did.]]  He came back with a car full of cleaning supplies. I got to interrogate him at the police station.
"What kind of an idiot calls the police *and* a private investigator before they get rid of the body? Honestly, how dumb are you?"
Henry sat handcuffed with his head down.
"Nothing to say? What a shame. Answer me this Henry, how many times did you rape your daughter?"
Henry sat so still it didn't even look like he was breathing.
"And the dates? Every time you raped her right? Poor girl was too scared to say anything but she didn't forget. She wanted to remember for the rest of her life what you did to her and and when."
"Bloom," Henry whispered.
[["There you go. Tell us everything,"]] I said.   "I didn't mean to," he said. "I didn't want to kill her."
"So why did you?" I said.
"She was yelling so loud I thought someone would hear. She was usually so quiet. She wouldn't say anything. But I wanted to try something new-"
"-That's enough! Jesus! You really are a sick bastard."
Henry sank back into his seat.
"I am going to get great satisfaction knowning you'll be rotting in prison for the rest of you life. I think we got everything, take him away." I said to the other officers in the room. They dragged him out of the room. He was gone, forever, but so was the girl.