New to this story? Read Part 1.
Patrick rubbed the sweat from his brow with the back of his hand, leaving a smudge of bike grease above his right eyebrow. This was ridiculous. They had been at it for hours — the “quick” bike repair was proving to be anything but. He was opening his mouth to tell Mark he could not stay much longer when his cell phone rang. It was his father. Patrick grimaced and flipped his phone open.
“Hello?” he said, nestling the phone between his chin and shoulder. “Dad? Daaaaaa-aaaad?” Patrick’s eyes rolled up to the ceiling in frustration. “Dad!”
“It’s Patrick. You called me.”
“Have you been drinking? Where’s Nellie?”
“Dad, where’s Nellie?”
“Dunno! Playing. S’mwhere.”
“Dad, listen to me. I’m coming home. But you need to find her, okay? Look for Nellie.” Patrick hung up and looked apologetically at Mark. “I have to go, man. Sorry.”
He hurried out. Idiot, idiot, idiot, he berated himself. What was he thinking? If there was anything he could trust his father to do, it was get drunk. Of course he would lose track of Nellie. She was probably just playing in her room, but God only knew what sort of mischief the four-year old could get into unsupervised.
As he walked, it occured to him he hadn’t bolted the door when he left the house. Nellie wouldn’t wander off on her own, would she? He wasn’t sure. Worry morphed into guilt. If anything happened, it would be his fault. But what could possibly happen? Well. She could leave the house and get lost. She could climb up something and not be able to get down, or fall. She could try to use the toaster oven or stove or knives or…
Guilt became terror and he broke into a run.