Mrs Seeger took a deep breath and opened the meeting room door. This was not going to be an easy meeting. Waiting for them in the room was a middle-aged man with pale blue eyes and the faint outline of stubble around his chin. His hair was well groomed and he was dressed in a sharp blue suit. His immaculate appearance would have been quite intimidating if he hadn’t been slouched in his chair, a childish, sulky look on his face.
“So you still haven’t found my son,” the man said, arms folded. “I’m not happy about this. How did you lose him?”
“We didn’t lose him, Mr Gray. He ran away. Usually, he shows up again after a few hours, but this time…”
“Usually?” Mr Gray interrupted. “So you’re saying he runs away often? And you let him?”
“Well he’s quite a lot older than when you last looked after him,” said Mrs Seeger, mentally kicking herself for matching his petulance. “It’s not always possible to convince him to stay.”
“Well, you should have locked his door.”
“We don’t do that I’m afraid.”
“Well you don’t do that, and now my son is missing.” Mr Gray leant forward, glaring at Mrs Seeger.
“I know. We’re doing everything we can to find him. If we hear anything at all, I’ll let you know.”
“You’d better. I’m already talking to my solicitors about you neglecting my child. What made him run away anyway?”
Mrs Seeger paused. She knew the reason but wasn’t sure whether it was appropriate to say. In the end, she didn’t have to. There must have been something in her facial expressions because Mr Gray guessed. He slumped back into the chair and sighed.
“You talked to him about seeing me, didn’t you? Oh, crud.”
Mrs Seeger smiled internally at Mr Gray’s use of “crud”, his son’s favourite word.
“Well yes, but to be honest I don’t think he meant to stay missing for this long. We managed to track him to a bus stop in town, but then he sort of disappeared.”
“Well, the CCTV footage on the bus seems to indicate he just vanished. Obviously, that’s impossible, but we can’t trace him after that point.”
“Sounds like he’s tricked you. Can I see the video?”
“Yes, I’ll arrange it with the police. They have a copy.”
“Great, any other clues?”
“Well, he was talking to a girl on the bus. The police have identified her as Julia Price. You might have seen the appeal for her on the news. They went to school together briefly but as far as we can tell there wasn’t any recent contact."
“Yeah right.” Mr Gray laughed half-heartedly. “He’s got himself a girl and they’ve run off somewhere, he’s pretending it’s all about me and he’s playing you for a mug.”
“It’s possible,” said Mrs Seeger, “but I severely doubt it. That’s not really Aaron’s style and he’s a bit young still for that kind of thing.”
Mr Gray shrugged but made no further comment. The room filled with silence. After a few moments, Mrs Seeger hummed to herself. Perhaps it was because he was on her mind, but Mrs Seeger found herself humming the same tune that she’d heard Aaron humming so many times in the past. To her surprise Mr Gray flinched, suddenly staring at the ceiling. Mrs Seeger stopped humming and Mr Gray regained his composure.
“Mr Gray, will you wait here a moment, please? I have some pictures that Aaron drew that I’d like to show you.”