A murder of crows harass a hawk high above the embankment while she walks barefoot through dawn-lit dirty streets. Her thin red dress strap sliding over a pale shoulder. Her kitten heels in her hand. It’s her, of course it’s her, but the mother, who hasn’t smoked for over nineteen years, inhales quickly and deeply on a freshly lit cigarette and asks the young officer to play it again. He does, of course he does, because he’s a father, a father of a daughter, and so he understands. He talks quietly about alleyways, allotments, CCTV blind spots, how every possible resource is focused on this case. Fresh out of training this is his first, but there will be others in the years to come. The young woman listening to music at a bus stop. The teenager taking a shortcut through a play park. The flight attendant, straight off the red eye from New York, waiting at an empty taxi rank. He’ll play footage just like this for other panic-stricken parents, moving images of a person’s last known whereabouts, sometimes grainy and blurred, other times so clear it’s as if it might be possible to reach through the screen and pluck them to safety. He’ll stand in front of news cameras asking the public for information. He’ll coordinate searches through woodlands, abandoned quarries, shrublands, disused air bases where the barking of search dogs echo long after they’ve all gone home. He’ll stand on the banks of rivers and reservoirs, his black shiny shoes sinking in the mud, watching seal-slick divers submerging and surfacing and submerging again. Over the years he’ll learn the importance of professional distance, of the danger of making promises he can’t possibly keep, but there in the kitchen, the air smothered in smoke, the mother frantically stabbing the cigarette into an overflowing ashtray, he is saying, we’ll find her. We’ll find her. And all the while he’s thinking of his own daughter, so young, so small. He’s thinking of the games she likes to play. How at night after her story she buries herself deep under the darkness of the duvet and he plays along. He calls her name, quietly at first, then louder and louder pretending she’s disappeared because it’s a game, a game they play every night and she loves it, she loves it when he pats the duvet like he can’t feel her and eventually she squeals and reveals herself, hair dishevelled, face pink, eyes wide, and he slaps his hand against his chest in mock relief and he says, oh thank God, I thought you’d vanished, I thought you’d gone, I really thought I’d lost you.