Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Feb Story - 8

[NOTE: This is part of a progressive story. The first entry is here. Check the blog label 2007Story for all entries]

     "I'm glad everyone could make it on such short notice."

     Blake slowly panned his view around the table looking intently in the eyes of his friends, then returning to focus his gaze on an empty chair between Paul and James.

     "You likely guessed the reason for the meeting, but in case you hadn't, I just want to draw attention to the vacant seat. First, let me clear any chance for an obvious answer by asking if any of you have heard from Arnold or anyone in his family." Once again, he panned around the table, watching as each league member shook their head.

     "None of us have heard from Arnold or Meg." Tony answered for the group. "Nobody knows what's happened to any of the Johnson's. And now they bring in Mr. Call to replace Mr. Johnson without any explanation at all. There's a lot of talk around the halls at school, but nobody has given any sort of explanation that I care to believe."

     Blake nodded in agreement as he continued.

     "I've listened to the rumors and even started a few of my own, just to try and get some sense of what might truly be going on or perhaps to instill a sense of urgency in the administration. When I was called to the Principal's office this morning, I had an optimistic hope that perhaps they had returned from an unexpected vacation. Finding Mr. Call there shattered my hopes and gave no answers."

     "So whatcha got planned Blakey?" Sam leaned forward in his chair, his large Basketball player's hands palm down on the table in front of him. "We've all seen ya bustin' outa class early an' sneakin' around. We've all jus' been waitin' and wonderin' when yu'd pull us in for some help. It's 'bout time ya did too. I'm tired a waitin'."

     "Come on Sam," Tami elbowed Sam in the ribs with a grin, "we all know why YOU are anxious about the Johnson disappearance. You're afraid you won't have a date for Homecoming."

     "Naw, I ain't worried. If she don't show up in time, I'll just take you." Sam flashed a big grin and winked, leaning closer to Tami and reaching to take her hand. She pulled her hand quickly out of reach and turned back to Blake.

     "Blake, I suddenly see an added urgent reason to make sure we get the Johnson's back VERY soon." Tami winked at Sam. Everyone turned expectantly again to Blake.

     "I'm glad everyone can bring such enthusiasm to this venture." Blake grinned at Sam as he continued. "Obviously it is possible that they have simply gone on a trip without letting anyone know and are failing to answer cell phones or check in with anybody. That seems highly unlikely, especially considering Arnold's attachment to his cell phone. It's like a body part to him. He's never without it.

     "So, assuming that this isn't an ordinary vacation for them, we need to determine what it is. I've been to the house a few times and have spent time calling their relatives posing as a rep for an 'emergency contact agency' that works to keep people in touch in case of a natural disaster or other emergency that destroys normal communication lines. One of my better lies, I dare say. You would not believe some of the stuff Arnold's aunts and uncles were prepared to tell me in the name of family safety.

     "In any case, all my efforts have come back fruitless, except one. Posing as Mr. Johnson, I put in a stolen vehicle report on their family van using the title information I found in their safe. I received a call an hour ago telling me that the van was found abandoned in a grove of trees a few miles outside of town. I told them I'd have my son Arnold come pick it up for me.

     "James, I need you to do that magic that you do and go pose as Arnold to retrieve the car from the police impound yard. See if they were able to find anything relevant to who may have stolen the car. I've given you a copy of Arnold's driver's license to use as identification as well as a copy of the car title and spare keys. Tami and Paul, I want the two of you to go check out the location the car was found. Your papers contain a map to the area. Sam, I want you to go back to the Johnson house and see if you can spot anything I may have missed. A fresh pair of eyes never hurt anything. The security pass code is on your sheet.

     "If anything urgent comes up, get the information to me immediately and we'll regroup. Otherwise, we can talk briefly at lunch tomorrow. Anything non-urgent should be held until after school. We’ll meet at the park at 3. We need to be able to speak freely. Are there any questions?"

     Blake looked around the room again. Tami and Paul were looking at their map intently. Sam looked pointedly at Tony.

     "And what're you gonna be doin' Tony? I didn' hear Blake give you anythin'?"

     Tony turned to Blake. He had the same question, but had no doubt that Blake had an assignment in mind already and was just waiting for the opportunity.

     "Tony will be investigating the Commander."

     A gasp came from Tami’s side of the room. Sam began to laugh. Tony's face fell.

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