Detective on the trail as spring goes missing in Chicago

"Where'd you get that name, doll?" Snark snorted as they idled in the gridlock. "April Hope? What a joke. A cruel joke. But then" — he made a toasting motion with his Caribou cup — "April is the cruelest month."

Detective Hope glanced across the squad car. Huh. She wouldn't have taken Snark for the type to quote poetry — T.S. Eliot, no less — but sometimes you could find a sliver of soul in a jerk.

"Well," she said, "my parents wanted more for me than they had growing up."

The traffic had picked up by now, and they cruised through the gray city, past trees as stiff as corpses and lawns the color of sewer water.

"They wanted me to have sunshine and flowers in April," she said. "They'd heard that those things came true in other places, and they believed that words can shift reality. So, voila. April Hope Grabowski. I dropped the 'Grabowski.'"

Snark winked.

"Better stripper name, am I right?"

Detective Hope was about to say something she'd be more than happy to regret when she spied it, there, next to a sidewalk. A swipe of blue and yellow.

"Snark! Look! Spring!"

The squad car screeched to the curb. Detective Hope leaped out, into a mud puddle. And found only an old potato chip bag that skittered away in the wind.

"Listen, doll," Snark said. He winced as she slammed the driver's door. "You want a sign of spring? Despair. Despair is a sign of spring in Chicago."

He was babbling on — about how spring was the season of transition, and all transitions are filled with ups and downs — when she stopped the car again, quietly this time.

She stepped out, knelt down and reached a hand toward the cold, wet ground.

Here, at last. She had found it.

Her name, April Hope, incarnate in a single purple crocus.

All she'd had to do was look.