It just disappeared. No witnesses. Without explanation. Nothing. Prayer vigils followed one another in churches and schools. A special hotline was set up that saw a large influx of calls, although none of them turned out to be credible. A website was also created to monitor the search and filter rumors. A number of experts, real and fake, came to town to give advice. Without anyone calling him, a medium appeared, but left when he saw that he could not get money. As the search dragged on, the city became abuzz with gossip, and little else was talked about. There was a twenty-four-hour patrol car in front of Nicole’s house, apparently as a comfort to the family. Slone’s only television network hired another rookie reporter to get to the bottom of it. The volunteers searched under the stones, while the investigation was extended to the entire rural environment. Locks were installed on doors and windows. Parents slept with their firearms on the nightstand. Young children were closely watched by parents and babysitters. Preachers rewrote their sermons to underscore their opposition to evil. During the first week, the police gave daily reports, but when they noticed that there was nothing new, they began to do so on alternate days. They waited expectantly, waiting for a clue: an unexpected phone call, an informer looking for the reward… They prayed that there was something new.
And it arrived, sixteen days after Nicole’s disappearance. Detective Drew Kerber’s phone rang twice at 4:33 a.m. and he finally picked it up. Although he was exhausted, he had not slept well. He instinctively pressed a button to record the call. Here’s the recording, played a thousand times since:
Voice: I was dating Donte Drumm. A great secret. She was trying to break up, but he wouldn’t let her.
Voice: Come on, Detective, Drumm is known to everyone. He’s the killer. He caught her outside the mall and threw her over the highway 244 bridge. It’s at the bottom of the Red River.
The call was cut off. They followed his trail to a booth in a twenty-four-hour store in Slone, where the trail ended.
Detective Kerber already knew of the muffled rumors that Nicole was dating a black football player, but no one had been able to verify them.