On a bright and chilly October day, with orange and yellow leaves floating down to rest on suburban lawns, Jocelyn did not return home from school. Martha called the school to learn that she had boarded the 4:30 school bus, having stayed late—as she often did—for band practice. She should have been let off the bus at 5:20, with Martha often de-boarding her own bus at the same time, on the same corner, after a day at the office. Martha knew that Jocelyn would not enjoy the six-block walk with her mother for much longer, and she savored each time they made the short journey home together, each talking about her day and trying, as they liked to do, to make each other laugh.
At 5:45, Martha called the police to report her child missing and the Sleuths were activated to investigate. Children born in the past decade had GPS signatures implanted over the right eyebrow at birth, Jocelyn was 12 and implant-less, her parents having declined voluntary registration when she entered public school. It was strongly encouraged, but not mandatory for people born before the law. Martha and Brad had not so much declined as never had gotten around to having it done, feeling that, as a child grew into an understanding of death, being registered was too frightening.
Martha waited for another 20 minutes before calling Brad, who was still on campus, and probably doing student conferences. Her thoughts were chaotic, a mixture of icy fear and burning regret. We should have had her registered, why didn’t we? If she’s gone . . .