Shrill screaming woke Zelda. She scooted nearer to Beno, thinking she was dreaming. Beno put his arm around her, bringing her closer, and kept sleeping.
The shrieks came again, and this time sobs accompanied them. Zelda raised herself to look over at the clock on Beno’s nightstand. What woman would be walking around at two-thirty in the morning screaming and sobbing outside of their bedroom window? She immediately thought about the missing women from their urban neighborhood, and her heart sank.
“Not again,” she murmured. Six women had already disappeared without a trace. The police were helpless, and Zelda trembled in Beno’s arms. Was it happening again?
“Beno, wake up!” She whispered, frantically shaking his shoulder.
“What My Sweet? Can’t you sleep?” Beno said, drowsily.
“I think I heard a woman screaming and sobbing outside by our bedroom window.”
Beno took a deep breath and opened his eyes. “Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure. Now, come to your senses,” Zelda pleaded.
Beno released Zelda quickly and sprang out of bed. Three women, two teenage girls, and an eleven-year-old had vanished into thin air in their urban neighborhood over the past three weeks.
“Where did you hear the noise, Zelda?” Beno asked as he got dressed.
“From outside Marcus’s house that faces our bedroom. They were horrible sounds of helplessness mixed with tears.”
“I’m going to take a look outside.”
“I’m going with you,” Zelda said, getting out of bed.
“No, you’ll stay here.”
“No, I won’t,” Zelda said and put on a knee-length Mou Mou dress that he’d bought her while on a mission in Hawaii.
When they got outside, Beno thought he saw light shining in Marcus’s house. He didn’t care for Marcus since he’d caught him photographing Zelda’s derriere two or three times with a lewd nasty smile. That ended his association with him.
A chill went over him, and he took hold of Zelda’s hand. “My Sweet,” he mumbled, “stay close to me.”
They walked the entire street on the side where their house stood but saw and heard nothing. At the end, they crossed over to the opposite side to return to their home.
“My Sweet, let’s go back to bed. I’ll ride in and talk with Giovanni, who’s in charge of the precinct when we get up.”
Halfway up the stairs, their doorbell rang and Beno eyebrows furrowed. Beno walked back down with Zelda trailing behind him. Before he opened the door, he sensed that it had happened again. Their deaf neighbors from across the street stood before them anguished and distraught, and his wife was crying.
In sign language, Jay explained their anguish. Adaolisa, their adopted fifteen-year-old daughter, wasn’t in her room. Jay and Veronica maintained their independence and didn’t have to live in a complex for disabled people because Adaolisa was living with them.
Beno invited them in and called and woke up Giovanni, who was also his best friend, while Zelda made coffee.
When Gio arrived, Beno signed language and interpreted the conversation for everyone. Giovanni promised the couple he would do what he could, but he had little hope. With Adaolisa, seven females were now missing from the same urban neighborhood of upper-middle-class families. His whole precinct was puzzled about the methods used to lure the females out of their homes. In fact, the husbands of the three married women had been sleeping next to them and hadn’t noticed a thing until the next morning.
Zelda stayed overnight with the deaf couple and got up the next morning when they awoke and went home. Beno was unable to sleep for fear of Zelda disappearing. The scene with Marcus taking photographs of Zelda’s derriere kept flashing across his mind. He’d never told Zelda because he hadn’t wanted to upset her. Now, he wished he had. Zelda was his heart.
Zelda was cooking breakfast while Beno sat at the kitchen table, reading the newspaper’s digital print. The title story caused him to groan.
The picture of Adaolisa stared back at him. Her innocent eyes, short-braided hair, and dark, brown skin reminded him of Zelda.
His instinct sharpened as he studied her photo. Like a foxhound, he could hear her. Adaolisa was still in the area.
“My Sweet, watch Marcus’s house and let me know when he leaves,” Beno said as he looked at the picture.
“He’s not there. I saw him leave ten minutes ago.” Zelda said.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes,” Zelda replied. “What do you want from Marcus?”
“Nothing, my sweet Zelda. I want to break into his house and investigate his living space. Early this morning, I thought I saw light in his house when we went outside to check the street, but when I looked again, the light was out.”
“Oh Beno, do you think he’s been kidnapping the females in our area?” Zelda asked, worriedly.
“I don’t know, My Sweet. I’m acting on a hunch that won’t let loose of me,” and Beno looked again at the innocent eyes of Adaolisa.
Getting up from the table, he walked to the kitchen door, and Zelda started to follow him.
“Stay here, and that’s an order! Beno said sternly. “Call Giovanni and tell him what I’m doing. I may need his help if Marcus comes back while I’m sniffing around. And call me on my mobile and let it ring once, if you see him come home, and I’ll know to get the hell out of there.”
Zelda kept her cool. This was not the first time since Beno’s Sabbatical that he’d done some snooping around and required her help. She picked up her mobile to do as he commanded.
Afraid that she would miss something, she turned off the oven and stood alert before the window.
Fifteen minutes later, Zelda breathed a sigh of relief. Beno was coming out of Marcus’s house, talking on his mobile.
Behind him were seven females, and the first one was Adaolisa.