When I returned to my apartment later in the afternoon, two damp tens wadded in my coat pocket, I found Father Cash waiting at my door.
"Don't you ever answer your phone?"
His question and tone were so out of line with his usual manner that I was taken aback. I had seen the missed calls, but hadn't thought much of it. "I was with a customer."
He let out a sigh of frustration. "Sella is missing. I had been hoping she was with you."
I fumbled for my key and opened the door, motioning Father Cash inside. "No, of course she's not with me." I scrambled for ideas. "Maybe she went to the store. I showed her where it was the other day, and–"
"She's been gone for hours!" It sounded like an accusation. "There's no note, and I don't even know how to call her. If she has a phone, I've never seen it."
"Could she have gone back home?"
"All her stuff is here, except her coat."
"Well, wherever she is, at least she's warm." I could tell from Father Cash's glare that this was the wrong thing to say. "We could try calling the cops, report her missing."
Father Cash paced my bare floor. "It's not considered a missing person case unless one has been gone twenty-four hours or more."
"We'll say it's desperate. She's a minor."
"Borderline. If there's no reason to suspect foul play, they don't bother with seventeen year-olds, especially runaways."
"Tell them she's sixteen, then. You're not her dad. If they find her and get mad, just say you misremembered how old she is."
For a moment, Father Cash seemed tempted by the idea, but then he shook his head. "If something bad happened, the cops in this town will probably only make it worse."
I silently agreed. "How about I check with my contacts? Put out a sort of informal APB?"
"Would you?" He turned to me, an absurd light of gratitude his eyes. "I'll do the same with mine, and if we find out nothing by tomorrow..."
"We'll call the cops, no matter how incompetent they are." I finished.
"Yes." He threw his arms around me and squeezed me in a hug that nearly broke a rib. "Thank you, Judith."