There was a large Oak tree near the back fence. The treehouse wasn’t much more than a few pieces of plywood with a rope ladder, but it looked sturdy enough. I smiled when I saw it. I had always wanted a treehouse. We had never had a house when I lived with my mother, and when I came to live with Nora, I was too old for one. The McMillan’s treehouse looked like fun.
“Cool,” I said to Anna. She grinned. I grinned back. “Can you show me how you saw him?”
I followed Anna up the ladder. There wasn’t room for both of us so I stood at the top of the ladder and looked around. Anna settled on the floor and pointed out a small opening. Leaning over I saw that she could see directly into Mrs. Kearns backyard.
“The man walked through the gate,” Anna said pointing to the gate fence, “and then to the back door.”
“Did he just open the door and go in?”
Anna shook her head. “No. He knelt by the door and played with the doorknob. After it opened, he went inside.”
He probably used picklocks. Mrs. Kearns didn’t have a security system so he hadn’t had to worry about setting off any alarms.
“Did he look around or over here at the treehouse?”
“No, he just went inside.”
“Can you describe him?” Anna looked a little confused. I smiled at her. I like kids. They don’t worry about small talk or social niceties. They do just fine with my default communication style. I ask questions. They answer. They want to know something. I tell them. It’s easy.
“Do you remember what he was wearing?”
“Oh, um, jeans, I think, and a blue shirt.”
“Okay, good. What color was his hair?”
“Kinda brown, but it looked funny.”
“Well, it had a spot on one side that was a different color.”
“Like he dyed it?” I asked. She nodded. I doubt the man dyed just part of his hair although it was possible. More likely, it was something natural. “What color was the spot?
“You’re doing great, Anna. Was the man’s skin light or dark or in the middle?”
This time she shrugged. With brown hair, the man was probably Caucasian. I verified with Anna that his hair was not dark brown.
“Okay, one more question. Was he wearing glasses?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
We came back down where Leslie was waiting with the other kids. Leslie had a worried look on her face. I thanked Anna for her help. She grinned and started chasing her brother around the yard. Leslie watched her a minute before turning to me.
“Do you think she’s in danger?”
“No. The man didn’t see her. She is well-hidden in the treehouse, and she said he didn’t look over here.”
“Anna described a man with brown hair and with a light spot on one side. That’s distinctive. Have you seen anyone like that around the neighborhood?”
Leslie’s eyes widened. She swallowed once and then looked away for just a moment. When she turned back, her face was devoid of expression. She shook her head. I didn’t believe her for a moment.