Grandpa couldn't imagine what could be wrong. Things were good at home. After work that day, he was scheduled to fly back east to see his sons. The night before, as he was packing for the trip, he had felt a sudden wave of peace and contentment. "A good feeling just came over me," he told my grandmother, taking her hand.
"Me too," she replied gently.
There was no sleeping in at my grandparents' house, and the girls were up when he left for work that morning a little before seven. Ruth had a cold, so he didn't get his customary kiss goodbye from her, but Maria gave him one. "Bye, daddy," she smiled.
Five hours later, Grandpa arrived back at the UPS station. The others there fell silent when they saw him; some averted their eyes as if afraid to look at him.
"What's the matter?" he asked his supervisor, fear rising in him like bile.
The man shook his head. "You just need to go home."
When Grandpa reached Lakewood Avenue, the street was filled with police cars and TV news trucks. It looked like a parking lot for some big event. A crowd of people hovered near the wide yellow tape that cordoned off the area in front of his house.
As he drove up, a young police officer motioned for him to stop and roll down his window. "What happened?" Grandpa asked.
"Who are you?" the officer demanded.
The cop's demeanor changed. He asked Grandpa to get out of his car and have a seat in the back of his police cruiser. Grandpa did as he was told, sitting with the door open and his feet on the ground as he waited for the officer to tell him what happened. But the young man seemed unsure of what to say. All Grandpa could gather was that someone had done something bad.
Then he understood. "All of them?" he asked, his voice cracking.
The officer nodded. "All of them."
The young officer was relieved when a Sonoma County detective walked up and introduced himself. He asked Grandpa to come with to the sheriff's office in Santa Rosa. He'd be safe there, and they could talk about his son-in-law, Ramon.
After speaking to the detective at the station, Grandpa called his sons and told them what had happened. As if he were trying to shake off some horrible dream, he drank cup after cup of coffee, but that just left him awake and numb. That morning, when he left for work, he had three beautiful daughters and a wife. Now they were all gone. And his granddaughters -- Sofia, Teresa, and me -- were missing.
Excerpt from NOT LOST FOREVER by Carmina Salcido, provided and reprinted by permission by William Morrow/ An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.