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Little Boy Lost

The rest of June flew by, taking July with it. We had a glorious summer. Beautiful days of sun and sand shared with good friends enjoying good times together...

Shakespeare wrote 'beware the ides of March'. Isn't there a similiar saying about August? Perhaps there should be.

I dropped my bags on the floor of my living room. I could unpack later. Right now, I wanted to go see the boys. I had missed them so much.

It had been two weeks since I had left to visit my daughter and her family. Not that I hadn't enjoyed the trip, I'd had a wonderful time, but I...//Well, Eta, go on and say it//...it was boring. I've gotten too used to the being around the boys with all their antics and had quite missed it.

Besides, there were mysteries to figure out. Just before I had left, John had mentioned auditioning for a part in a new movie, HM had pestered BA into helping him train Billy Jr., and Templeton...

***

He came to my door, all nervous energy, pacing back and forth. It took me half an hour to get him calm enough to sit on the couch. Still he didn't say anything, just sat there figiting and running his hands through his hair. I plied him with Hot Cocoa and asked him what was wrong.

He carefully placed his mug on the coffee table before reaching into his pocket and pulling out a letter. Immediately, I thought back to the letter he'd showed me that day in his secret spot. I wondered if it was the same one or a new one...

"I got this yesterday."

I watched him turn it over in his hands, "Is it from your lady?"

He nodded and for a moment I thought that was he only response I was going to get. Then he gently cleared his throat, "She wants me to meet her."

"That's wonderful!"

I watched him shift uneasily and then I saw the frown. "Don't you want to see her, Templeton?"

"I..." He stood quickly and began pacing the room like a caged tiger, "I don't know...I mean, I do, but..."

I grabbed his hand to stop his frantic movements, "What's wrong, Templeton?"

He let out a heavy sigh and sank down beside me again. "I've changed in three years. What if she doesn't like me anymore?"

"Oh, Tem," I almost laughed. //Poor thing, always so worried// "Of course she will still like you."

"How can you be so sure?"

"Templeton, she wouldn't have written if she didn't really want to see you."

"So you think I should go?"

"Do you want to go?"

"Yeah...yeah, I do."

I did laugh then. I couldn't help it, he looked at me with such surprise at the decision he had already made before he began wearing a hole in my carpet.

For my laugh, I was rewarded with one of those smiles that could melt ice and a quick hug as he bounded off the couch, headed for the door.

***

I practically ran next door. Well, when I say run, I really mean 'walk at a brisk pace'. I am still seventy-three.

Almost before I rang the bell, the door flew open. I was about to grab the boy in a hug when I realized that HM's smile had faded as soon as he recognized me. I didn't know what to say then. HM just stood there with a dejected look on his face.

A moment later, Maggie came up behind him. She placed a hand on his shoulder, turning him around and I watched as she passed him off to a waiting BA.

"Hello, Mrs. Eta."

"Maggie. It's good to see you again."

Following her gesture I stepped into the house with a deep feeling of unease. It didn't lift my spirits any when I saw HM huddled on the couch clutching Billy Jr. to his chest.

"Maggie?"

"Something's happened, Mrs. Eta."

Her voice trembled and I saw unshed tears in her eyes. That coupled with what I had seen of BA and HM made me afraid to hear what she was going to tell me.

"Maggie, is John..."

"Hannibal's fine." She placed a hand on my arm and guided me to a chair. "It's Face."

"Templeton?"

"He's missing."

Isn't it odd, how time works. During the good times you wish that they would last forever but it's the tragic moments when time slows down and seems to stretch into eternity.

"Missing?" I was grateful for the chair beneath me as I don't think I could have remained standing. "Maggie, I don't understand..."

My eyes drifted back to HM. BA was kneeling on the floor next to him holding out a cup of coffee, trying to coax the pilot back to reality. It looked like a practiced motion...A hand on my arm brought my attention back to Maggie.

"He left for a date three days ago and didn't come home. Hannibal already called the police, they put out a missing person's report. They haven't found any witnesses yet and they still haven't found his car."

I swallowed the lump in my throat, "Hospitals?"

"Already checked. Nothing."

"Can I get ya anything, Mrs. Eta?"

I glanced up. BA was standing beside me. He looked lost. I could see that the last three days had been hard on him. Of all the boys, he was the one least likely to give over to waiting. He was a man of action and had no patience for it.

"No thank you, BA"

He nodded and then made his way back toward the kitchen. Maggie patted his hand as he went by, silently offering comfort.

"John?"

Maggie let out a deep sigh, "He's on the deck. He just got off the phone again, no news."

I nodded and stood up to make my way outside.

He was sitting on the deck swing staring out at the ocean. It was early evening and the sun had set the clouds on fire. They glowed a deep orange against a red sky. It was truly breathtaking but at the moment I had no care to be inspired. My eyes settled on the man.

I sat down next to him. His gaze didn't even shift in my direction.

"John?"

There was no reply. I hadn't really expected one I suppose. I decided to wait him out. I knew that sooner or later he was going to need to talk.

It didn't take long.

"Face loves the ocean."

He still hadn't looked at me. I deemed not to say anything.

"I can't handle this! He's out there somewhere..."

I know this had to be hard on John too. Like BA, he also was a man of action. He had taken care of his men for over twenty years and was not accustomed to depending on others.

"Two years ago, we would have went after him ourselves."

"Two years ago, you would have had to."

He looked at me then. The anger in his eyes almost made me pull back.

"Fifteen years on the run from the law and now one of my own is missing and I have to wait for them to find him! I don't know if I can do that."

"And are you planning to take the law into your own hands, John?"

He didn't answer, instead he turned away casting his eyes back on the sunset.

"Would you even know where to start?"

That got through. He took a deep breath, "No. No, I wouldn't. They haven't seen his car. No one has reported seeing him. He didn't even tell us where he was going that night!"

"John, I know this is difficult. I've been where you are."

"How'd you get through it?"

"One breath at a time."

He abruptly sat back, rubbing a hand across his forehead. "I'm trying, but what do I do in the meantime?"

"I'll tell you what you do, John. You go in there and you help those boys of yours. You have to let the law do their job and you gotta remember you have two more sons who need you right now."

His hand paused in it's anxious gesture then suddenly dropped to his lap. "You're right." I watched him straighten his shoulders and once again become the confident colonel, "Thank you, Mrs. Eta."

"Not a word. Now, go on."

I watched him enter the house and slide the glass door shut. Turning my gaze to the ocean, I took a shaky breath. For all my brave words to John, I couldn't stop the panic and worry from settling in my own heart.

I saw the look in those boys' eyes and I knew that they needed John. It was the only way they were going to make it through this. Now that I'd gotten John to see that, my task was done.

Time caught up with me, making me feel all of my years. I told John that I'd been where he was and that was true. What I didn't say was that I don't know if I can make it back from there again. I raised a trembling hand and brushed the tears from my eyes before they could drop and sent a silent prayer to whomever was listening for my Templeton's safe return.

***Fini***