Home > Freeks(13)

Author: Amanda Hocking

6. prejudice

Gideon’s old F150 groaned to a halt in the town square, and I gulped down my nerves as he turned off the engine. The cracked plastic stuck to my thighs below the hem of my dress.

As soon as Gideon agreed to go into town, I’d changed quickly out of my cleaning overalls and into a paisley sundress that had been my mother’s in the seventies. He’d stayed in the grubby clothes he wore for setting up—tattered jeans and a blue work shirt stained with oil and paint.

He rested his arms on the steering wheel, leaning forward and staring ahead at the small building before us. Stone pillars flanked the doorway, and Caudry Police Station had been written in iron letters across the top.

Neither of us wanted to be here. Working on a traveling sideshow, we’d had more than our fair share of run-ins with cops who thought we were nothing but trouble. I’d once seen a sheriff in a small town actually spit on my mom, calling her a witch playing with voodoo.

But when I’d gone to talk to Gideon, to see if we should look for Blossom, Mom had overheard, and insisted that we do everything we could to track her down. Gideon tried to calm my mom, reminding her that Blossom hadn’t even been gone for twenty-four hours yet and she’d probably still turn up.

Since we didn’t really know the town or where to look, Mom suggested we go to the police station. To keep her from losing her mind, Gideon and I had reluctantly agreed.

“All right, let’s get it over with,” Gideon grumbled, and got out of the truck, so I followed suit.

He opened the door to go inside, and a bell jingled loudly. I meant to follow him, but I had the strangest feeling of being watched. My feet felt frozen on the sidewalk, and I looked around the town square, half expecting to see a crowd of beady eyes staring at me.

But there was nothing. No one.

“Mara?” Gideon asked, still holding the door for me.

“Sorry,” I mumbled, and hurried in after him, trying to ignore the feeling.

Inside the station, avocado and off-white tiles checkered the floor, and dark wood paneling closed us in. A man sat behind a desk in a brown police uniform, pecking away at an ancient typewriter next to an overgrown fern.

He glanced up at us with small brown eyes, then immediately turned his attention to the document before him. His lips were unusually full, and as he typed, they puckered, like he’d just eaten a lemon. The shiny metal tag on the front of his uniform read DEPUTY BOB GENDRY.

“Ahem.” Gideon cleared his throat and shifted his weight from one foot to the other. I’d taken to playing with a small braid I had in my thick hair and staring at the Louisiana flag that had been pinned up on the wall behind the desk.

With great flourish, the deputy pulled the paper from the typewriter and set it aside. Then he looked up at us, managing a sickly smile as his eyes darted over the thick black tattoos that covered Gideon’s forearms.

“What can I do you for today?” Deputy Bob asked, his Southern accent dripping with condescension.

“We were just wondering if you could help us find someone,” Gideon said, and his words came out low and defeated. His shoulders slumped, and he fidgeted with the silver band he had on his finger.

“You’re not from around here, are you?” Deputy Bob arched an eyebrow.

Gideon sighed. “No. We’re with the carnival that’s in town for the week.”

“A girl who travels with us didn’t come home last night,” I added, before the deputy could comment on the fact that we were carnies.

“Maybe she’s just lost her way around town,” Deputy Bob suggested.

“We thought that was maybe the case,” Gideon said. “But we don’t really know where to look for her either.”

Deputy Bob let out a heavy breath, like he was doing us some great big favor. He opened the drawer to his desk and pulled out a form. Without saying anything to us, he took a pen and jotted down a couple things on the form.

“Since she hasn’t been gone long, I can’t file a missing persons report, but I can take her information in case she turns up somewhere,” Deputy Bob said finally. “Describe her for me.”

“Her name is Blossom Mandelbaum,” Gideon began. “She has frizzy brown hair, brown eyes. Lots of freckles. She’s about 5'2", maybe 5'3", I would guess. She’s sixteen.”

Deputy Bob looked up at us then, narrowing his already tiny eyes. “Sixteen? Is she your daughter?”

Gideon shook his head. “No.”

“Are her parents traveling with you?” Bob asked.

“No,” Gideon replied, swallowing hard. “She’s a runaway.”

The deputy set down his pen and folded his hands on the desk. “You’ve been harboring a runaway?”

“It’s not like that,” Gideon started, but Deputy Bob wasn’t having any of it. He leaned back in his chair.

“Maybe she ran back home.” Deputy Bob shrugged one shoulder.

“She didn’t,” I insisted, and he turned his harsh gaze to me.

Before he could say anything, the bell of the door chimed loudly. I glanced back over my shoulder to see a woman carrying a stack of fliers and folders in her arms.

“Hello, hello,” she beamed, her lips stained bright with lipstick.

She appeared to be in her early forties. She wore a pink pencil skirt with a loose blouse, and her blond curls cascaded around her, adding a couple inches to her petite frame. Her pumps clacked on the tiles as she walked over to the desk, and her golden chandelier earrings jingled.

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