Pieces of Me (A Pieces Novel)

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Chapter 19 - Aldrich

I can’t find Danica anywhere. I’ve searched every place in this hotel, on and off my hours. I have even gone as far as searching the security feed to see if she has been around today. I didn’t notice any strange activity. The only thing I found useful is that she left to go sightseeing this afternoon. She hasn’t returned. And that worries me.

“Alana,” I say as I approach her desk. “Has she come back yet?”

“No,” she shakes her head gravely. “If she had, I would have seen her . . . and stopped her for a chat. You haven’t told her, I take it.”

“No . . . I should have spoken up the moment she arrived. I had my chance when Karolina arrived, and you know how that went down.”

“At least, now, she is out of your hair.” Alana smiles at a guest before looking back at me with sympathetic eyes. “She’ll show; she has that event coming up, correct?”

I nod, biting the inside of my cheek as I glance to the front doors of the hotel. I know Danica has been excited about coming here. She spoke next to nothing else when it came to her tour, aside of the photos she was always ending me. I sigh, smiling at Alana before I turn to walk towards the restaurant. I am meeting my father for dinner. He invited Claire and Laila again. I am not entirely excited about it, but it makes him happy lately. I know that he likes Claire.

Upon my arrival, Dad wastes no time in ordering the meal. Laila is seated to my left, and her mother across from me, on the other side of my father. He is seated to my right. Laila is beaming as though she has won an award as she flamboyantly leans towards me whenever she speaks.

“Laila,” I say as gently as possible, once my patience has reached its end. “I simply hate repeating myself. Please desist.”

Her smile is immediately replaced with a scowl. She straightens in her chair and brings out a book from her purse. I glance at it, but I do not recognize the title, nor the author. Good thing too. I really don’t want any reason to have something in common. Following suit, I bring out my phone and open my reading app. I have slowly been reading each of Danica’s books. I’ve purchased all of them. Suddenly, I realize that I haven’t opened my messenger app in quite some time. Perhaps I can see what Danica is up to and reveal myself.

When the app opens, I notice that I have several messages from Danica. The most recent being soon after she arrived at the hotel. And she’s online.

Danica93: Made it to the hotel in one piece. Here’s a picture for your smiles-pleasure.

Danica93: Hope you’re well. Talk to you soon!

How could I have missed this? I immediately type a reply.

dAldrich91: Danica, moj slatki. Please forgive my absence.

dAldrich91: I am glad you are well. I am at dinner at the moment, but available to talk if you’d like.

I set my phone aside, and stare at it, waiting for Danica to reply. The food is brought to the table a while later, and she still hasn’t read the message. Which is odd. Usually, Danica replies within seconds of receiving my message. I decide to message her again. Perhaps she didn’t hear the alert.

dAldrich91: Danica, there is something I would like to discuss with you.

dAldrich91: Perhaps it may shock you, but I feel it is necessary to talk about now.

dAldrich91: Let me know if you can talk.

I am oblivious to what is happening at the table. My dad and Claire are talking about . . . I don’t even know. I’m not listening. Laila is engrossed in her book. My only focus is waiting for Danica to reply. She has to be returning to the hotel by now. She will be exhausted if she tries to visit all the tourist sites in one day. I watch for the message thread to indicate when Danica reads my message. But it never appears. My brows furrow as I send an emoji, hoping to get Danica’s attention. Nothing. A strange twist in my stomach forms. Something is not right.

“Please excuse me,” I say, taking my phone and pushing away from the table. “I have to make a call.”

My dad merely nods and returns to his conversation with Claire. Laila looks up at me with a spite expression I recognize all too well. Her eyes return to her book. I hurry towards the men’s room. There is a feature in the app that allows you to make calls, like on a phone, but only to anyone with the same app. Perhaps I should put it to good use.

My thumb hovers over ‘call’ icon. Before I can change my mind, I press it and bring my phone to my ear. It rings and rings and rings. But no answer. I curse under my breath and try again.

“Come on, Danica,” I say quietly to myself. “Answer.”

Again it rings and rings. Nothing. She can’t possibly be ignoring me, can she? Doubtful. She would have said something if that were the case. Why do I sense something wrong? Unable to control myself any longer, I decide to go out on the town. I have to find her.

After walking the area around the hotel, I decide to walk further into the city. The sun is setting, and the street lamps are starting to blink into life. I have a picture of Danica on my phone, so I can ask around. Surely someone has seen her. Several blocks away from the street that leads to the hotel’s entrance, I see a pair of tire marks. Whoever was driving must have learned that they were headed in the wrong direction and made a quick U-turn. I shrug at the sight and walk over to an older woman who is closing her flower shop.

“Excuse me?” I say as I approach. “Would you have happened to see this girl today?”

I pull up Danica’s picture and show her.

“Oh!” she says, nodding her head. “Yes, she came to see the flowers and took some pictures. Such a lovely young woman.”

“Did you see which way she went?” I ask, hope rising in my chest.

“I watched her across the street,” the woman explains, her face contorting slightly. “She was taking pictures of the coming rain clouds. A car stopped in front of her and she spoke with the driver briefly before getting in. At first, they were headed in the direction of the hotel district. But then . . .” The woman trails off for a moment.

“But then what?” I motion for her to keep going. “Please, I need to find her.”

The woman meets my gaze with a puzzled expression.

“The car took a sudden turn and fled in the opposite direction,” she says, shaking her head. “This was hours ago. Right around my lunch break.”

Everything comes crashing into me. I almost don’t want to believe it. I turn and look at the tire marks on the street. This is not good. I pull up the contacts on my phone and dial my father’s number.

“Dante,” he says when he answers. “Is everything alright? You simply left.”

“I shall make it up to you,” I say quickly. “But right now . . . remember that girl I have been talking to? The author who was coming here?”

“Yes . . . What’s wrong? You sound distressed.”

I sigh and begin to explain everything, from the moment that I left the table in the restaurant. He remains quiet until the end, not saying anything for a long period of silence.

“Call the police,” he says with decisively. “I’m on my way. That is odd behavior. Stay put.”

I turn back to the woman and ask if she would mind staying until the police arrive. I pull off my cap and run my fingers through my hair. Letting out a breath of air, I shake my head and hope Danica is alright. Please be alright.

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