Chapter 3

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I was not going to give up. My parents were not at all happy with me. But they understood my need to find her. They would have done the same thing if they were in my place. I could sense that she was here, in California where I suspected. But that's as close as I had gotten. I went to the city where the accident happened. It was along the coast on a steep mountain road the locals had named Devils Slide. It seems lots of people had met their end on that same cliff. They had since made it much safer to drive, thankfully.

I traveled up the coast and down it in search of her, to no avail. Then I decided my hacking skills were going to help me more than my sensory skills. I decided to do some serious research. I parked the R.V. at a campsite just outside of San Francisco. Anyone who chose to camp here would have to be crazy. Its freezing, even in the summer. But it most definitely was beautiful.

For the next week, I concentrated on hacking police reports for the week I sensed her emotions two months ago. There were thousands upon thousands. I just hoped she had made a report for whatever had happened to her. It was unlikely, but I had to take the chance. The police database wasn't hard for me to get into. I needed to find a report from a female around 17 years old. I had searched her name obsessively. I hadn't found anything. So maybe she was going by an alias.

After two days of searching, I found six police reports that looked promising in northern California. All filed by girls who were 17. One was a purse robbery on the street in San Francisco, and I seriously doubted that was her. She was super strong and smart. I couldn't see her having her purse stolen, or that she would make a report for something like that. Another was a rape. I just hoped that one wasn't her. There was a photo enclosed showing her injuries. I could tell immediately that it wasn't her. It was the eyes. I would know her eyes anywhere. And those weren't hers. Thank God.

Another was an altercation with a woman at a club. A fight ensued and the seventeen year old got a black eye. Photo enclosed. Not her. The last three were domestic disputes. One was a girl beaten by her mother. The photo told me it wasn't her. The last two were my last hope. One was a guy beating up his Foster Sister, his mug shot was in the file. That was a possibility. And the last was a man abusing his Foster children. The funny thing was, the photo enclosed was of him. He looked pretty bad. A cut on his head. One eye seemed swollen shut. I looked further into him and found a little rap sheet with a few drunk and disorderly arrests. One for drugs. He was still in jail. Good.

Then I looked at the names. His Foster Daughters name was Riley Grayson. My heart started beating a thousand times faster. That had to be her. Riley was her Mom's name, and Grayson, that was me. She was hiding in plain sight with my name. Oh God, this was her. I had to find her. She was in a city called Pacifica. It was right near the accident location. I was so close. I looked deeper into the report. He had been beating the whole family for years. No one ever told the police until now. Why now? I read further. It seems "Riley" stepped in when he was hurting the four year old sister. That's my girl! The report says she pushed him, he then fell and hit his head, broke his arm, sprained his ankle and sustained a black eye. Yeah right! Her address isn't listed because her record is sealed for some reason. But his previous address is listed, and I know exactly where it is.

I immediately started driving. I got my Dad on the Bluetooth and told him everything. He sounded like he might actually believe it was her. That gave me hope. He told me not to go in there with guns blazing, trying to take her away. I guess that was actually my only plan. I would have to think this through. She didn't come home to Colorado for a reason. I had no idea what it was, but I needed to find out. Discreetly.

Half an hour later, I was parked in front of an apartment building that looked like it had seen better days. The sign on the outside read, "The Pink Palace." Ironic, the place looked nothing like a palace. More like the projects. The paint was pealing and very old. I could tell it used to be pink at one time. Across the street was a 7/11. Not a very palace like neighborhood. It was probably the worst building I had seen in this quaint little town. But if my girl was in there, then it was my favorite place on earth right now.

I sat outside the building and waiting for something to happen. I couldn't just go knock on the front door. I didn't want to scare her, or her Foster family. They had obviously been through enough. At about four in the afternoon, I saw someone walking up the street toward the building. A few people had come and gone throughout the day, but no one that looked like her. This girl was wearing a hoodie and sweat pants. She looked tall. She had one little girl holding each of her hands. And she carried both of their backpacks over her shoulder. Along with a bigger one of her own. I couldn't see her face at all. Long brown hair hung down in front of the hoodie that covered her head. It was blocking me from seeing her face. Her head turned briefly toward the R.V. I could tell she was checking out her surroundings. Something she and I had both learned at a young age. I'm sure she had more reason than me to be wary of this neighborhood. This had to be her. She had two little Foster Sisters.

I debated with myself about what to do next. I decided that some more hacking was in order. She should be a senior in high school. Wait, it was still summer, right? Then she must have been a junior last year. I can hack into the high school databases and see which one she goes to. I drove the R.V. a little further down the street where it wouldn't stand out so much. But you can't hide a huge recreational vehicle. I needed to rent a car too. That would be less conspicuous.

I found out there were two high schools in Pacifica. One was just a few blocks away. Since she was walking, I would assume she has no car and goes to the closest school. That's where I will start. I did some digging in the school files. I found the last three yearbooks and looked her up. For her Junior and Sophomore year, there was no picture. Just her name. That sucks. I want to see what she looks like. But there was a photo for her Freshmen year. She looked similar to what I remember. Beautiful. But also, sad. The spark was gone from her eyes. She had what looked like a scar along the side of her face. She was trying to cover it with her long hair. The soft hair I had spent years twirling around my finger. This picture hurt me when I looked at it. She didn't resemble the carefree girl in my photo book. She looked like she carried the weight of the world on her shoulders. I would have to help remove that weight from her.

I found out school starts next Monday. Her schedule was already in their database. I would have to enroll in school like any other seventeen-year-old. I had never been to public school. This might be fun. That's how I would talk to her. Take as many of the same classes as possible. From her transcripts, I could see that she was still very smart and was doing well in school. She had all advanced classes for her senior year. She must be trying to go to college. That wasn't usually necessary for our people.

I skillfully enrolled myself in her school. I even went as far as giving myself a locker number near hers. She would see me and come running into my arms. At least, that's how I hoped it would go. I noticed she had work for the last period of her day. She did that last year too. She worked as a bookkeeper in a restaurant. That sucks. She should be working in the field she excels at, science. She could intern at any of the labs in silicone valley. Her education was way above college level. Even at 14 when she disappeared. But of course, she couldn't do that. She lived in an abusive household as a Foster Kid with no transportation. What was I thinking?

The next day I rented a new Jeep Wrangler, so I could drive to school on Monday. I bought a surfboard and put it on my roof rack. I grew up in Colorado. So, I knew how to ski, not surf. But in looking around town, I could see that it was big here. I just wanted to blend in. The R.V. might not blend very well in the school parking lot. I also found the restaurant where she did book keeping. It was a little dark hole in the wall near her school. Now it makes sense. She could easily walk to school and to work. But her life wouldn't be like that forever.

AN: please vote. Let me know what you think. I would love to hear from you.

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