Detective Don Harrison is on a case too close to home. His nieces are missing. During his investigation, he finds out that the twins took a bus to Space Dock and were last seen there, but a complete search of the facility comes up empty. Where could the two girls be?
Detective Don Harrison stiffened in shock. “What do you mean that the twins are missing?”
He gazed at Frank, his brother, then his sister-in-law, who was so upset, she couldn’t utter a word. Her eyes were red and swollen from crying.
Frank fidgeted nervously. “They just learned to shapeshift yesterday and were practicing all evening until they went to bed. When we got up this morning, they were gone.”
Don pulled out a chair and sat. “Calm down, both of you. Now sit and tell me exactly what happened before they went to bed. Did you get mad at them for anything? Were they upset?”
Frank and Delia each took a chair and sat at the table. Frank took a moment to calm his wife, then said, “Nothing happened. I tucked them in, read them a story, talked about what they were going to do during the end-of-year holidays, and that’s it. We went to bed not long after, and they were sound asleep when we looked in on them.” He ran his fingers through his hair. “Well, they looked like they were sound asleep.”
“It doesn’t make any sense. The two girls are always so good. What was your story about? Was it scary?” Don asked.
“Hell, no. It was about Christmas. You know, the holiday the colonists celebrate every year this month. The one they’re celebrating in nine days. I’ll go and get the book.”
Frank returned fast and handed Don the book.
“Did you warn the kids that they were never to shapeshift outside of the home? Or talk to anyone about their ability?” Don asked.
“Of course. Delia and I sat down with them and explained that the colonists don’t know that we’re shapeshifters, and they should never find out.”
“Did you also explain that, on Earth, our species are considered pests? That they multiply fast and by the dozens, and get into people’s pantries and destroy a lot of stuff? That the Earthlings have got special exterminators to kill the mice? That mice on Earth can’t shapeshift? They might look similar to us, but they’re not like us.”
“We’re not stupid,” Delia snapped and promptly burst into tears again.
“Sorry, but I had to ask.”
“Don, don’t interrogate us like you would one of your perps at the police station,” Frank warned.
“I said I was sorry. But being a detective, it’s second nature to ask a lot of questions and to consider all kinds of possibilities.” He looked at the title of the book. It had a spaceship on the cover with some mice in spacesuits and a Christmas tree. The story was about three mice friends who found a digital toy spaceship under the Christmas tree and headed off into space for a big adventure. “Mm, I don’t see how this could have influenced them in any way.”
Frank agreed. “We don’t either. Although lately, they were kind of obsessed with stories about Christmas and how it’s such a big deal for their colonist friends.” He paused for a second. “Do you think they could have been kidnapped? They’re such pretty girls and growing up too fast. They’re twelve going on thirty. Have there been any kidnapping cases recently? Murders?”
This caused Delia to cry even harder.
Don reached over and patted her on the back. “Delia, not to worry. There are no ongoing recent murder investigations right now, and no kidnappings have been reported.”
“What about other missing kids?” Frank queried. “I’m worried sick. It’s been hours. Delia’s been on the phone to all their friends, but no one knows anything.”
“And you waited this long to call me?” Don heaved a huge sigh. “They’re twelve and street-smart. Hopefully, they’ll come home soon. You’re probably worrying yourself sick about nothing. They didn’t leave a note or anything?”
“Not that we’ve found. I told you we should have let them have a cellphone. All their friends have one,” Delia, while wiping her eyes and trying to contain her sobs, complained.
“When they’re responsible enough and can pay their own bill. This escapade proves that responsibility is not yet part of their makeup,” Frank grumbled.
Don stood. “Leave it with me. I’ll go to the station and make some inquiries. Maybe someone has seen them.”
“I’m going with you,” Frank informed him.
“And what can you do? Stay here with Delia. She needs you. I’ll call if I find out anything,” Don promised.
He left and hurried to his aircar. While he drove to the station, he thought about his nieces, Ella and Emma, who had just celebrated their twelfth birthday. Frank and Delia had mentioned they were worried about the twins coming into their shifting ability after their birthday. Did that have anything to do with their sudden disappearance? Maybe they had shifted, and two little mice were merrily running around outside somewhere… He remembered his and Frank’s shenanigans after they came into their shifting ability and grimaced.
Before going to the station, he stopped at the bus terminal, where he questioned the ticket agents in the booths. Maybe the twins had decided to go to the city to spend their birthday money. He showed the two agents a photo of the girls he had on his cellphone. The first one shook her head. The second one thought for a moment, then nodded.
“Yes, I remember thinking how pretty they were with their blond ponytails and bright blue eyes. They were here early this morning and bought tickets to go to Space Dock.”
“Space Dock? Are you sure?”
“Positive. The bus should have arrived there about two hours ago.”
“Thanks a million.” Don hurried out of the terminal and back to his vehicle. He took his cellphone out of his pocket and called Frank. “I went to the bus terminal, and I have a lead. Early this morning, the girls bought bus tickets to Space Dock.”
“What? Space Dock? For what reason?”