Chapter 22 ~ Grace Discovers Matt Is Missing
Brad pulled his pickup truck in front of Grace’s cabin. He turned to her and said, “Grace, I really had a great time this morning. Thanks for having coffee with me.”
Grace extended her hand toward Brad, “I did as well, Brad. Now, I’m going in and find out what Matt’s been up to. He’ll say, ‘Nothing much, Mom. You know. I hung around.'”
Brad laughed and said, “Matt’s sounds a lot like me when I was his age. I’m going to change and if you don’t mind, I’ll stop by and walk over to the fireplace with you and Matt. I’ll bet Larry already has it fired up and is making a great lunch.”
“I don’t mind at all. Give me five minutes to freshen up,” Grace said. She opened the door. Stepped out of the pickup truck, grave Brad a smile, closed the door, turned and walked toward the cabin. She heard the pickup drive off the short distance to Brad’s cabin. It was only when she was at the cabin door she dared to turn back towards Brad’s cabin and watch him. Grace watched he get out of the pickup. He closed the door and raised his arms over his head and stretched. She thought he was happy and peaceful. When Brad turned toward his cabin, Grace quickly turned away and opened her cabin door. She stepped inside, she didn’t see Matt, She called, “Matt?”
Thirty seconds later, Grace swung the cabin door open and raced towards Brad’s cabin. She opened the door to the cabin, Brad was stripped down to his boxers. He looked startled to see her. Then, he sensed something was wrong, he grabbed hold of his dirty jeans and said, “Grace, what’s wrong?”
“It’s Matt. He’s not in the cabin. It’s not like him. I should have never left him alone,” said Grace. Her brown eyes wore all the marks of a coming super storm.
Brad slipped on jeans. He sat on the edge of his cot, and pulled his boots on. “We stayed a bit longer than we expected. Matt may have taken a walk around the lake. Do you have your cell? Call him,” he said.
“Why didn’t I think of that? That’s the first thing I should have tried. My cell is in my handbag. I left it in the cabin,” said Grace as she turned toward the door.
“I’ll go with you, Grace,” said Brad following her out the door, hitching up his pants, holding his boots in his right hand, and running in stocking feet behind Grace.
Grace ran to the cabin, jump up the two steps and went through the door. Her handbag was on the floor by her cot, right where she dropped it when she called for Matt.
She picked up her handbag and began to dig through it for her cell.
Brad said, “Matt left his phone on his cot.” Brad walked over to pick it up. He turned and took a step toward Grace handed it to her.
“I just know something terrible happened to him. I just know it, Brad. We’ve got to look for him,” Grace said with a sense of urgency.
Brad took hold of Grace’s hand, “Panicking is the wrong thing. We can only help him if we are calm. Remember how Matt said he wanted to go for a hike? Boys are boys and the lure of the hike may have gotten the best of him.”
“You think so, Brad? I couldn’t bear to lose Matt after losing Mike.”
“Let’s think positive. We’ll talk to Jane and Larry and see if they saw Matt. If they haven’t, we’ll go to the park ranger and get help. We’ll find Matt, don’t worry,” said Brad.
Grace felt reassured. There was something in Brad’s voice that settled her and eased the deepest fears within her.
“Give me a moment to slip my boots on and we’ll head to Jane and Larry’s cabin,” said Brad.
Grace walked over to Matt’s cot. She looked underneath it. She looked behind it. She said, “Brad, I think you’re right about Matt taking a hike. His backpack isn’t here. Do you have any idea where he might have gone?”
Brad pulled his last boot on and slipped his jeans down over the boot. He stood up and motioned toward the door. Grace followed Brad’s arm and walked out of the cabin. Brad was right behind her. He said, “When we went running this morning, I saw four trailheads. All four were temporarily closed because of the frequent sightings of black bears and mountain lions.”
“Oh God, no!” said Grace and turned around to look at Brad. Her eyes were filled with tears.
Brad gently placed his right hand on Grace’s arm and turned her toward Jane and Larry’s cabin. He said, “Animals generally stay away from humans, unless they think the human is a threat. It’s hard to predict how an animal will respond. I think Matt may be in more danger from poison oak and poison ivy than a bear or mountain lion.”
“You really think so,” said Grace.
“I do, Grace,” said Brad, knocking on the door to Jane and Larry’s cabin.
The door opened, the fringe bikini clad Jane answered, “Oh Brad, I’m so happy you came by. I’m feeling better now, thanks to you. Larry went to town to get some steaks, do you want to come in. Oh, hello, Grace.”
Brad said, “We’re not here for lunch or a social call, Jane. Matt’s missing. Did you see him after we went to the coffee shop?”
“No, matter of fact we didn’t. When Larry came to pick me up in the canoe, we decided to lay out on the raft for a while and enjoy the sun. Why? You know boys, they have a mind of their own. He’ll come home when he smells the steaks cooking.”
Grace was about to say something, when Brad said, “Thanks anyway, but we’re headed to the Ranger station.”