At 9:00 p.m., an hour past the time London and Ace were to meet her parents at the city’s famed Michelin-starred restaurant, Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia, they now stood with a frantic Ace, worried Tyler, frazzled Mira and two Italian police officers in the hotel lobby. After waiting half an hour for her to arrive and their calls going to voice mail, London’s parents had called OTB, who’d tracked down Ace. When he was finally forced to tell them the truth, that he didn’t know London’s whereabouts, they’d come over immediately.
“You say you last saw her a couple hours ago?” A serious question that, delivered in a heavy Italian accent, sounded like a song.
“Around four,” Ace replied through gritted teeth.
“And she was wearing a sundress and sandals? Did you see those clothes in her room?”
“I didn’t look for her clothes,” Ace yelled in frustration. “I’m looking for her!”
“Please.” The other officer, a slight, pleasant-looking man with a shock of black hair and kind brown eyes, stepped toward Ace. “I understand that this form of questioning must be incredibly nerve-racking. But it’s necessary to give us what we need. Often, when people are upset and not thinking clearly, wrong answers are given. That’s why questions are sometimes repeated. It gives the person time to calm down a bit and think more clearly.”
Ace nodded and took a calming breath that was not so calming.
“Now, did she say anything that would give a clue as to where she might go? Does she know anyone here that she’d perhaps go visit? Or the mall? It’s close by and—”
“We’ve checked there already. I sent a team over and they scoured every inch of it, showed her picture to employees in every open store. No one had seen her. I’ve personally circled this area a half dozen times, called her phone so many times that it now goes straight to voice mail.”
Mr. No-Nonsense Police Officer scowled. “I still don’t understand why you called us. You say she’s a smart, capable world traveler who’s been gone for a few hours. There are a dozen perfectly logical explanations for where she could be. Unless there’s something else you can share with us to prove otherwise, I see no sign of danger or reason for us to stick around.”
Ace ran a frustrated hand through shiny coils as tight as his stomach was right now. London had blown off the gifts as the innocent attention of a superfan. Ace felt differently. He was sure she wouldn’t want her parents to know what had been going on. But he had to tell them, had to let the detectives know about earlier today.
“Actually, there is. She’s been getting—”
“Clarisse!” Jennifer pushed past Ace and ran toward her daughter. Ace and Ike Sr. were close behind.
“Daughter, are you all right?”
London wobbled toward them—heels in hand, clothes askew—but seemingly okay.
“Baby, are you okay? Can you walk?”
London nodded, then grabbed her head. “Ow!”
“We need to call a doctor.” Jennifer’s strained voice conveyed her worry.
“No, Mom. I’m fine. Just need to lie down.”
Ace, London, her parents and the police officers all walked toward the stairs—there was no elevator in the quaint hotel.
Once they reached them, Ace swooped her up.
“Ace, I can walk.”
“I don’t care.”
The concerned hotel manager followed behind them. “Excuse me. Is everything all right here? Is there anything I can do, anything that you need?”
“Yes,” Jennifer replied. “Please have a pot of tea sent to her room. And call a doctor!”
Ike Sr. interrupted, “Don’t argue with your mother.”
They reached the suite. Ace looked at Ike Sr. “The key card is in my back pocket.”
Ike Sr. pulled it out and unlocked the door then stepped back so Ace could enter. He walked straight to the bedroom and laid London on the bed. Jennifer walked to the other side and crawled over to her daughter, fluffed up two pillows behind London’s head and felt her forehead for a fever.
“Sweetheart, what happened?” She continued to brush damp tendrils away from her daughter’s face.