“Do you believe our half-blind witness?” Lilly asked buckling her seat belt.
“I’ve got no doubts,” Mr. Hill said assuredly. “I believe every word.”
“So do I, but if a policeman was already at the scene, wouldn’t the officer we talked to earlier know where Manchu is, not to mention the other driver?”
“That’s what I’m questioning,” Mr. Hill echoed. “Unless they are both being held at a station for some reason.”
“Or, Manchu was not in the car to begin with. Maybe it malfunctioned, he lost control, and jumped out before the crash,” Lilly said.
“Highly unlikely,” Mr. Hill reasoned. “If that’s the case, Manchu would have called us, Sarah, or somebody else by now. And I would have to look into his car malfunctioning, you know — possible sabotage by someone else. But a sudden car malfunction for no reason? I wouldn’t buy it in this case.”
“Yeah. And how did that officer guy even arrive at the crash scene so fast?”
“He might have been patrolling the area,” Mr. Hill guessed. “But I have some reservations regarding his presence there at that time as well. According to the last witness, he went outside as soon as he heard the crash and the officer and three other guys were already there, like BAM!”
“They must have been trailing Manchu,” Lilly said. “And what do you make of the screams heard afterward?”
“I’m keeping an open mind on that since our witness did not see anything precise to equate with the screaming. Yet, I must admit, it only adds to my suspicions.”
“Before we stopped at the first house, you said that government people were probably involved. That includes the People’s Armed Police too, right Dad?” Lilly said.
“Well, based on the last guy’s account,” Lilly began, “I think you’re proven right, even though I believed you from the start.”
“I never tire of being correct,” Mr. Hill said with a wry smile. “I always am with you by my side.”
Lilly threw out a few more theories as they rode. And Mr. Hill did the same. Together they tested them, knocked a couple down, and applauded each other’s logic in formulating strong possible theories.
“O.K., I’m going to let you out up here at the Suns’ apartment,” Mr. Hill announced as the complex came into view. “Stay there while I do some confronting at the station. Is that O.K. with you?”
Lilly answered quickly. “Why? I have some words to say to whoever might be holding Manchu.”
“I’m sure you do. However, I fear this situation is becoming highly volatile, especially if the officials have found out Manchu is still pastoring a Christian church. If something happens at the station, I don’t want you caught in the mix. Now, when I come back, we’ll do something fun in the town. O.K.?”
“Um, no sir,” Lilly said again trying to keep a serious face. “I like working on cases with you. That’s fun!”
“Well,” Mr. Hill began, “if you keep on working all the time, you’ll end up looking like me in just a few years…strands of grey in your hair…worn skin…blah, blah.”
Lilly burst into laughter at her Dad’s exaggerated description of himself. In truth he was a very energetic man of thirty-nine years with eyes Mrs. Hill often proclaimed were prettier than the sunset. Still, Lilly decided to play along.
“Mom gave me these looks and I intend on keeping them.”
“So are we cool now?” Mr. Hill asked, holding out his hand.
“Yes,” Lilly said exchanging their special handshake.
“That’s my girl.”
Lilly stepped out onto the curb. “Stay safe,” she called.
Mr. Hill beeped the car’s horn.
Lilly watched him drive away before turning and walking into the retro lobby.