Henry was taken to St. Terry’s by ambulance. He recovered from his ordeal without incident. I think he felt foolish that Solana had deceived him, but I’d have done the same thing in his place. We’re each of us more protective of the other than we are of ourselves.

The Fredricksons’ suit against Lisa Ray was dropped. I came close to feeling sorry for Hetty Buckwald, who’d been convinced their claim was legitimate. By the time I was able to swing by the laundromat to tell Melvin he was off the hook, the milk truck had disappeared and so had he. I completed an Affidavit of Inability to Serve Process and filed it with the court clerk, which ended my official connection to the man. I wasn’t surprised to find him gone, but it was hard to believe he’d give up his vigil over his youngest grandson. I kept wishing there were some way to make contact, but I’d never heard his daughter’s name, first or last. I had no idea where she lived or where her youngest boy was enrolled. It might have been the preschool near City College or another day care center I’d spotted six blocks away.

Even now, I find myself driving around the neighborhood where Melvin worked, checking nursery schools, scanning children on the playground. I coast by parks in the area, thinking I might catch sight of a white-haired gentleman in a brown leather bomber jacket. Every time I see a kid with a lollipop, I study the grownups nearby, wondering if one of them offered the child a piece of candy in that first tentative overture. At the kiddie pool, I stand near the fence and watch the little kids at play, splashing water on each other, gliding on their tummies in the wading pool while they walk their hands along the bottom and pretend to swim. They are so beautiful, so sweet. I can’t imagine anyone willfully harming a child. Yet some people do. There are thousands of convicted sex offenders in the state of California alone. Of those, a small but unsettling number are unaccounted for on any given day.

I don’t want to think about predators. I know they exist, but I prefer to focus on the best in human nature: compassion, generosity, a willingness to come to the aid of those in need. The sentiment may seem absurd, given our daily ration of news stories detailing thievery, assault, rape, murder, and other treacheries. To the cynics among us, I must sound like an idiot, but I do hold to the good, working wherever possible to separate the wicked from that which profits them. There will always be someone poised to take advantage of the vulnerable: the very young, the very old, and the innocent of any age. Though I know this from long experience, I refuse to feel discouraged. In my own unassuming way, I know I can make a difference. You can as well.

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