Chapter 1

I woke up Sunday morning and called Amos and Brian. Amos answered groggily but Brian didn't answer at all. I cleaned up and met Amos in the hall outside our rooms. We knocked hard on Brian's door. The three of us had flown in from Nashville, rented a car, and rented rooms in a beachfront hotel. Brian still didn't answer.

We looked at each other for a moment and took the elevator downstairs to the lobby. We asked the desk clerk about Brian but he knew nothing. Amos still had the keys to the rental car. We were worried. We prevailed upon the desk clerk to accompany us to Brian's room to check on him. The clerk opened the door which was locked from the inside. He knocked and called out Brian's name. There was no answer. The bed looked slept in but was empty. I called Brian's number and the cell phone on the nightstand rang before going to voice mail.

I said, "Brian, where are you? It's Nat. This is the second message. What's going on?" I thumbed the off button. I was frustrated. How could he get the message when his phone was on the nightstand and he wasn't in the room.

Amos started to step in. The desk clerk stopped him. "I'm calling the police as soon as I get downstairs. There is something wrong here."

We nodded at him. Amos said, "That's for sure. Brian is a very competent individual. This is not normal for him. We've known him since the beginning of college almost ten years ago." The clerk pulled the door closed and placed a piece of tape across the card reader. We went downstairs and he made the call.

The police arrived ten minutes later. They went into the room while we stood at the door. One officer said, "Jim, you said the bolt was thrown when you came up here?" The desk clerk nodded. "Who are you two?"

"We are Brian's friends. All three of us are from Nashville. We arrived yesterday. I am Nat Freeman and he is Amos Owenby. We last saw Brian last night around ten or so when we went to our rooms after eating and having a couple of beers."

The other policeman said, "We will call this in and get a detective team out here. Until it's released, that is now a crime scene." They closed the door and put yellow tape across the door frame. We all went downstairs. Once there, the same policeman asked, "What are you two going to do?"

Amos said, "I guess we will get some breakfast in the restaurant here. I presume we will get questions from the detectives." The policeman nodded with a grim smile.

We went into the restaurant and ordered breakfast. We had been served and were eating when two people came to our table. "May we join you?" She had a badge. I nodded and said, "Please be seated. Would you like some coffee?" She shook her head while her partner, an older man, nodded. I served coffee from the pot and handed the cup to him.

"I am Detective Angela Grimm." I decided that jokes weren't in order. "We have some questions. The desk clerk says that you are the missing man's friends."

I said, "That's correct. Brian has been our friend from the beginning of college. We have remained friends for almost ten years now. We all live in Nashville. The three of us flew in yesterday morning for a week's vacation. We went out last night for dinner and had a couple of beers each. We parted last night in the hall for our rooms. Brian is a very together guy. He wouldn't just vanish."

She said, "I understand but we have to ask the questions." I nodded. "Has he been having any problems?"

"No, he just received another commendation for the district he manages at work. His younger sister is about to graduate from college with honors. She lives with him and has been accepted into the masters' program. His older sister is married. He doesn't see his parents much. They divorced in a pretty mean divorce. His father pays no attention to his kids and wouldn't support Shirley's schooling. His mother was officially at fault and has no skills for earning money. He's popular with girls but has never met the right one. A few have lasted a month but not many."

"Is he a loner?"

"Oh, no. Brian was the guy you wanted to have around. Everyone likes him. He's a natural leader. Girls flocked to him but he has always been choosy about girl friends."

"Was he troubled about anything last night?"

Amos said, "No. He was looking forward to getting on the beach. We parted laughing. Brian always looks relaxed but, last night, it was perhaps more than usual. There were many things in his life that were coming together in good ways."

"What you are telling us is that he was a happy, well-adjusted person who would have no reason to vanish?"

I said, "That's right, Detective Grimm. Also, if he left intentionally, how did he get out of the room and set the safety lock behind him? That can only be released or set from the outside by the master key. A key card won't even do it."

She said, "I understand. We must look at everything. Thus far, we have no explanation that fits any facts."

I said, "It's my intention to call his younger sister. She should know. She will have to call her older sister because I don't have her number."

Detective Grimm nodded reluctantly. "Tell her to stay put. There is nothing here she can do to help. He may show up there."

I said, "You don't believe that though."

"No, I don't. However, it's not beyond the realm of possibility."

"Okay, Detective. I will call her. Please keep us informed of any developments." She nodded at me and took my cell phone number and gave me hers.

Amos and I talked about what might have happened. Amos' guess was aliens while I leaned toward the rapture. Brian was a better guy than either of us.

I had to think about time before calling Brian's sister. It was ten thirty in Nashville and I called her. I said, "Hello, Shirley. This is Nat Freeman. Can we talk for a moment?"

"Sure, Nat. Where's Brian?"

"That's the problem, Shirley. Brian was not in his room this morning. It was still locked from the inside when we got the desk clerk to unlock it. The police have been called. Detective Grimm wants you to stay there in case Brian calls. Somehow, I don't think he's going to call. Brian doesn't just lose touch. There is no sign that he was hurt. Last night, he was fine and in good spirits. He was hoping to hear from you about your fellowship and he had just received a commendation at work. His phone and clothes were in the room. On the good side, there was no sign of injury."

"Nat, are you sure I shouldn't come?"

"No, I'm not. However, what can you do that Amos and I can't do?"

"Nothing, I guess. Nat, I'm worried. Keep me informed. If Brian calls, I will let you know immediately. Is there anything I can do?"

"Call your sister. I don't have her number."

"Okay, I will do that. Thanks for calling, Nat. Bye."

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Story tagged with:
Ma/Fa / Romantic / Heterosexual / Fiction / Science Fiction /