I was sitting at my computer when a voice called out to me from across the room.
My files are at the front desk.
What can I do to help?”
I had just been back from the office.
I was standing on the edge of my seat, holding my iPhone 4 in my left hand.
“How long until I get back?”
“Two hours,” said the voice.
“OK, what can I help you with?”
“I’m at the police station.
I’ve been in touch with them about a missing girl.
They’re looking for the missing boy.
He was last seen at the hospital.
They think he’s in trouble.”
“That’s good to know,” the voice said.
“You’ve got a very important case.”
“No, I didn’t know that,” I said.
I had been using the iPhone 4 to send and receive emails and send text messages.
I hadn’t had a chance to look at the case files, which were all in PDF format.
“The missing girl is five years old,” I heard the voice say.
Five years old.”
I thought about it for a moment.
“She was last sighted in the hospital.”
The phone in my right hand answered, “Hi, how are you?”
I’m looking for an apartment for my brother, but I have no place.”
The voice said, “I think he was seen in a restaurant somewhere.
We can’t find him.
The police haven’t come.
They have to go through him.”
“He was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” I thought.
“What do you think they’re going to do?”
“Oh, he was in a car with two other people.
They were on a street corner.
I think they saw the car and ran.
He wasn’t found until the next day.
The missing boy is about six years old.
They’ve got him in the backseat.”
“Is he still alive?”
“He’s in the car now.
They found his body.”
“What are you doing?”
“I was hoping to find out what happened to the missing girl.”
“You don’t have to tell me.
I already know.
I can do that.”
The voices continued, “What else do you need?”
“A new iPhone.
An update to iOS 10.
The newest version of FaceTime.
And a photo album.”
I started to cry.
You can’t tell me those things!
They’ll never come!”
“Why not?” the voice asked.
I said, “‘Cause they’ll come, if they ever do.
We’re in the middle of the war.
And I don’t want to miss it.”
“How can you not tell me?” the phone asked.
It wasn’t the voice that was crying, but the other voice.
The voice didn’t reply.
I waited a while, thinking about the phone, and then the phone came.
I held the phone close to my face, and I felt its touch.
It was like a warm hug.
The phone began to talk to me.
“My name is David,” the phone said.
The name sounded like a name from another universe.
It sounded like an older woman from another planet.
It also sounded like my name.
“And this is Detective Lacey.
I need your help.”
“Why are you asking me?”
I said to the phone.
“This is my job.
I know what I’m doing.”
“It’s not your job.
This is my case.
I will protect you, David.
The tone was reassuring.
“Can I get on with it?”
I told the phone what was going on.
“All right, you have a couple of minutes.
Let’s get started.”
“I don’t know what to do,” the face told me.
He had been working on the case for about an hour.
I asked him what to tell the other detectives.
“They’re not going to like this,” he said.
He said, ‘I want to help you, Detective Lacy.’
“You know what?”
“If you’re a detective, you want to protect people.”
I asked, “You want to save lives?”
“It doesn’t matter.
You have to protect yourself.”
The next day, I got an email from the missing girls family.
I opened it.
The father wrote: “I just wanted to let you know that I was contacted by the FBI and the local police department, and they are investigating the case.
My daughter, Emma, was last in touch about a year ago, when she was five years-old.
They haven’t contacted her since then.”
I felt like a failure.
“There’s nothing you can do,” I told him.
“If we’re gonna do this, we have to do it right.”
“This has nothing to do with me,” the father wrote.
“Please don’t do this to me.” I