Balloon Man

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Chapter 33

Detective Booth checked off the last name from the section of the notebook he took. Most of the calls ended up being tool supply companies.

“Dead end!” Booth muttered under his breath. He stood and stretched, cracking his stiff back.

The sound of heavy footsteps running down the hall toward his position in the kitchen made Booth’s adrenaline spike.

“Detective? Where are you?”

Booth stepped out into the hall, coming face-to-face with a young, sweaty cop whose name he couldn’t remember until looking at his shirt. “What is it, son?”

“The dogs hit on the scent of one of the boys.”

Booth’s mouth went dry as he pointed back to the front door, urging the young cop to follow. “Where?”

“Out past the old boathouse, about two miles from where we found the hole and bones.”

“Take me,” Booth said, climbing on the back of the mud buggy still idling by the front steps.

“Hang on,” the young cop replied, situating himself in the seat. “Bumpy ride coming up.”

Once they arrived, Booth looked around, trying to get his bearings. The swamp wasn’t a place he was familiar with, and certainly not this far deep.

Walking over to Leo Welch, one of the officers who’d brought a dog, Booth asked, “What did you find, Leo? Any idea where we are?”

“This,” Leo answered, a big smile on his face as he held up a plastic bag. “And we ain’t but a few miles from Prairie Creek.”

“Looks like a child’s t-shirt,” Booth said, studying the muddy material through the bag. “Anything else?”

Before Leo could answer, Booth’s radio crackled to life. “Booth, you copy?”

Booth rolled his eyes at the sound of Chief Fox’s annoying voice. “Go, Fox.”

“We just got an APB on a missing boy from Baton Rouge. He was last seen by his friend, talking to a man outside a store holding balloons. A citizen called in and said he picked up a man and young boy hitchhiking not too long after, and dropped them off near Leesville.”

Booth cursed under his breath. “Ten-four.” Memories of old, unsolved cases, popped into Booth’s mind of missing children as far back as the early nineties, most male, and not one solid lead.

Looking back at the muddy shirt, Booth grimaced, hoping the case of the missing Baton Rouge boy wasn’t connected, yet his gut told him otherwise.

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