"They're wicked," whispers Deputy Mack, when he thinks we aren't listening. "Beautiful, but wicked."
It makes Noah smirk from the front desk, where Clara Wynn, the dispatcher, is sneaking him sips from her hip flask while she profiles him. DePrince, she writes, Noah Thomas. Age: 12. Hair: Black. She puzzles over the color of his eyes before penning gray on the line, a rarity that gives us an edge, which we use like a scalpel. Noah flickers eyes like new nickels whenever we want something. Today is the Friday after the funeral and we are sick for answers, so we ask Clara if she will take our mug shots.
"I'll find some film," she says, disappearing into the back room. The door taps shut behind her. Deputy Mack and Sheriff Spellis are still arguing about us in the office, their voices a low rumble of contention, so we slip off our chairs and spread out through the station.
"Obituaries, photos, police reports," says Noah, fanning a stack of files across the desk. "Hurry. Anything you can find."
A boy in Pocket went missing two days ago. No one'll talk to us about it, but the Pocket deputies have been in and out of Comfort ever since, taking notes over diner breakfasts of coffee and cherry pie. They are young men, the deputies. Twins, Mullen and Mullen. They smile slow identical smiles when Noah and Sam DePrince introduce themselves, and remind them, in the same breath, to watch over each other. "I try," says Noah, at the same time Sam says, "I do."
Sam sits on the floor with Kelan now, thumbing through folders. He has longer hair than Noah, a wider face, dark sturdy eyes that see right through you. Kelan watches him, and we watch Kelan watch him, knowing why. Noah shines brighter but falser, like a manmade landmark. Sam's something soft in the sky. Sam doesn't know he shines at all.
Roger raps the desk twice to get our attention. Underneath our profiles—Name: Keeper, Bennett; Height: Room to grow—he has found a newspaper clipping from the Pocket Pioneer.
The missing boy's name is Maxwell Munn. He is a luminous blond, like Kelan and our dead one, has grinning eyes, a gap between his front teeth. Pocket-charming, we decide. A certain crude charisma about him, small-town but substantiating, the type you could trust to be successful if he ever escaped. If he lived in Comfort, he would be our friend. He favors the same august angles that we do. We know our peers when we see them.
"The fuck's killing blonds, then," says Noah.
Kelan's pale bangs quiver in his eyes as he laughs. "You're such a simpleton, Noah. That's not all it's about."
"Since you know everything," Noah snaps.
"I don't know everything. I just know you're no safer than I am."
"At least I'm not next."
Roger sees shadows under the door and flicks two fingers outward on each hand: hurry. We rush the folders back into stacks. Noah folds the article three times fast, slips it up one sleeve. We're in our seats again by the time Mack and Spellis open the door.
"Sorry 'bout that, boys," says the sheriff. "We're ready for you."
Clara backs out of the supply room, opening a box of film. "Wait," she says: "I need to do this," she says.
So she photographs us one at a time with the station's black-and-white instant camera. There's an accidental brilliance in her lighting, the shakiness of her inebriate's grip: we are overexposed, residue of ourselves. We flicker on the brink of flight. Clara pins the Polaroids to the town map and we laugh at the geography, bettered. Take a left at Sam's eyelashes, then straight on until you reach the end of Ben's smile. We are your landmarks now. We are how you get home.
On our way back, Roger sits down on the sidewalk and begins to sob. He fights for Robin's name in his rare voice, which has dropped two octaves since the last time we heard it. We don't know the words he signs. He does this on purpose, his fingers a foreign flurry, shutting us out of his world, which is even smaller and more silent than ours.