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I haven’t slept much, I tell the private investigator. I think his name is Cole. He’s a tall man, a big man, but he doesn’t talk a lot. Do you have any leads, I ask, any idea who they might be?
P.I. Cole sits, inhales a cigarette, sips at his coffee, watches the waitress dancing between the clustered booths, watches a stray dog sniffing behind a dumpster (bark, bark!), watches the cars speed by on the freeway towards the city.
They were outside my apartment again last night, I tell Cole. Sat in a car, watching from across the street. Outside the window old newspapers float across the vacant parking lot. Cole remains silent, adjusts his tie, he doesn’t look at me.
I’m falling apart, I mutter to Cole or myself. The cigarette smoke hurts my eyes. He carries a gun. I don’t really know him at all, thinking about it. Bark, bark! This is a waste of time. Did you see something you shouldn’t have?
I close my eyes and I see a tent pitched at an abandoned campground, slashed canvas rippling in the wind. The girl is missing. Bark, bark! The police can’t help with things like this. What did you see in the woods?
Finally Cole speaks. What did you see in the woods? When I close my eyes his voice sounds distant and distorted, remorseful even. Memories of Lübeck in the fall. I met a girl named Sofia. No more coffee, thanks. Can you remember exactly what you saw in the woods?
I can see shadows moving beyond my eyelids. I’ll try the pie, Cole says. She liked my accent and she had a dog (bark, bark!) and we walked through the park and the dog found a dead squirrel. Sofia went missing too . . . or maybe we fell out of touch. Is there a difference?
I open my eyes. Cole has left. The diner is empty. Did he pay? I stand up, leaving a few dollars on the counter, and walk out into the empty lot. The moon is hidden behind the clouds. It’s cold now.
In the dim moonlight a man walks through uncharted woodland. He carries a gun in one hand and a dripping plastic bag in the other and he thinks he’s alone. A wary dog cautiously follows. What did you see in the woods? He’s talking to himself. I think I’m being watched.