Reporters are trained to develop a sixth sense, a nose for when a story smells fishy. And something about this one wasn’t right. First of all, Tom Sutherford’s wife Rosa was missing, but all of her belongings were where she left them. She didn’t take any money out of their bank account. Her car was still in the yard. The only thing missing was Mrs. Sutherford herself, and she left behind a frazzled and bewildered husband. Peggy Whitman had been working at the Star Herald for just six months. A transfer from Chicago, she thought she had seen and heard it all. But the missing middle-aged wife and a curious drop of black goo the kitchen floor made Peggy’s spidey-senses tingle deliciously.

“I—I just left her in the kitchen for ten minutes,” Tom recounted, eyes wide and swollen red. “I came back to check on her before going to bed and she was gone. The only thing left was the jar we put the black stuff in. But the jar was clean like it had been washed out…” He looked down at his hands, then took a gulp of water from a glass on the counter. “Rosa…I couldn’t find her. She disappeared.”

“Mr. Sutherford, do you mind taking me out to the place you and your wife first saw the black substance?” Peggy motioned to the yard outside.

“Oh, okay, “Tom sniffed. “I’ll show you the spot.”

Tom led Peggy outside to the place he and his wife first found the black goo.

“It was bubbling up like curd oil,” he explained. “We thought we’d hit the jackpot…”

“Did you ever get the substance analyzed?”

“Yeah, we had a geologist take a look at it, but he couldn’t tell us nothin’.”

“Would you tell me the name of the geologist you spoke to?”

“Sure. It was Nicholas Allen.” Tom wiped his eyes and gazed at Peggy. “Are you going to help me find my Rosa?”

“Mr. Sutherford, your story has really touched me,” Peggy reassured him. “I want to do my best to help you get some answers and find your wife.”

Tom nodded and briefly clasped her hand before releasing her and turning back to the house.

Peggy eyed the tiny samples of the black goo she got from the kitchen and the yard. Was this mysterious substance the key to finding Rosa Sutherford? The reporter climbed in her Jeep and headed towards her office at the Star Herald with a story ready to bubble up, just like the black goo in the Sutherford’s yard.

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