Have you read Promised Land yet? A couple of months ago, I wrote about the story-behind-the-story of Promised Land. You can read it here. If you haven’t read the book yet, here’s chapter one, free of charge. No. No. Put your money away. It really is free. Of course, my hope is that you like what you read, and you go out to buy ten or twenty copies.
The first call came on the night we set up the toll-free number. The phone was in my room because the jack in Daddy’s room wasn’t working. When the phone rang, I jumped out of bed and stared at it for a second. On the second ring, I answered it.
“Mandy Reeves Hotline,” I said, just as I’d been instructed.
“I know where she is,” the voice on the other end said. It was a man’s voice, rough as gravel.
I felt weak and misty-headed. Mama had been missing for two weeks. “Where is she?” I blurted into the phone.
“Not so fast. Is there a reward?”
I turned on the light in my room so I could read the words right off the missing person poster. “The family of Amanda Reeves is offering a one-thousand dollar reward for information leading to the solving of this missing person case.” My Aunt Kay had put up the money for the reward. It was her idea. We didn’t have that kind of money.
“Just a thousand dollars?”
“Where is she?” I asked, trying not to yell.
“I guess a thousand is better than nothing,” he said. “She’s in Egypt, near the pyramids. I saw her in a dream, clear as day.”
I realized I had been holding my breath. When the guy with the gravelly voice said “Egypt,” I sat down hard on the bed. “Who is this?” I asked, trying to command as much authority as my fifteen-year-old voice could muster.
“I don’t want to give my name.”
I was holding a pen, getting ready to write the information into the notebook on the nightstand. “How can we get the reward to you if we don’t know your name?”
“Oh, right,” the man said. Then he went quiet.
“Hello? Are you there?”
“Never mind,” he said. I heard a crackle as the line disconnected.
I hung up the phone. In the notebook I wrote, “Man says Mom is in Egypt by the pyramids. Wouldn’t give his name.” A worthless lead.
The detective Daddy hired, a guy named Billy Hanks, got the toll-free number, 866-Find-Mandy, and told us to write down everything anyone said when they called. He said you never knew what little piece of information might lead us to Mama.
Daddy couldn’t afford to hire a detective, so he cashed in what little retirement he had to get the money. Billy’s ad in the Nashville phonebook said he specialized in “missing person cases.” Daddy gave him a call, and Billy drove out to our place in Christiana. He said the cops didn’t know what they were doing, and it was a good thing we called him. I followed him around the house as Daddy asked him questions, hopeful he’d have the answers we’d need to bring Mama home.
I turned the light out and went back to bed, but I couldn’t sleep. I was buzzing, full of adrenaline from the phone call. I thought about the day Mama went missing. She had gone to work that morning at the nursing home. The ladies there said she acted normal all day and then left to go home after her shift. Nothing unusual. No one saw her after that.