Doing Something by Cole Parker

A sixteen year old boy faces major life changes, ones he hates,
and there isn’t anything he can do about them but make the best of it.


Chapter 15



It’s the next day, and we’re on the road.  It all seems to be happening so fast that I don’t even have time to be as nervous as I should be.  It’s a good thing it’s a three hour drive to where we’re going.  We have a lot to talk about.

I’m in front with Lindsey.  Chase is in the back with Trevor.  I have to weigh the privilege of riding shotgun that is due me by my advanced age against the fact this puts Trevor in such close proximity to Chase for such a long time, but I figure it is easy enough to keep an eye on them, and I want the shotgun seat.  Hey, I am fifteen!

We head to Mineola, a city of about twenty thousand in the northeast corner of Kansas.  We left early so we’ll get there about mid-morning.  That should give us a lot of hours to watch the house; we’re hoping to see some sign of Carly. 

The woman who lives there—the woman we’re going to check out— is named Joan Pench.  I work out in my mind how this could have played out.  We know Joan lived in Kinnessa until a week after Carly was taken, then moved.  I figure if she’s the kidnapper then she probably has a partner, and he—it’s most likely a man—would have had to take Carly out of Kinnessa straight away.  I’ve begun to think there are almost certainly two people involved in the kidnapping as the logistics seem more easily explained that way.  Joan must be the one who was in the park and took Carly because her name is on the list.

I think she stayed behind long enough after the kidnapping to be interviewed by the police.  After that, she left to join her partner and Carly.  Those two may already have been in Mineola by then, or maybe they’d waited for Joan in a motel somewhere and the three of them arrived in Mineola together.  That is more likely, I think.  If the kidnapping was the spur-of-the-moment thing I’ve been supposing it was, then they wouldn't already have had a house waiting for them in Mineola.  They may have just driven till they found a place that looked good to them, like my dad and I did, and they found Mineola and rented a house much like we found a place in White Oak.

I watch the farm fields as we pass by, and keep an eye on the backseat as well.  “Trevor,” I say, catching him staring at Chase, “you do realize there’s some danger doing what we’re planning, don’t you?”

Trevor grins.  “No probs.  I got it covered.”

“That’s what worries me.  You think this is a joke.”

“No, I don’t.  But I know I can handle myself.  I’m cute and talkative.  Adults love me.  Adults love kids who talk to them.  Stop worrying.”

I can’t stop worrying, but I do stop nattering at him.  I don’t want him worried and nervous.  It would make what he’s going to do transparent and ineffective.

Chase speaks up.  “We’ve never discussed what we should do if we find her.  We need a plan.”

“Grab her and run,” says Trevor.  His eyes are alive.

“That might not be safe,” Lindsey chimes in.  “I think we have to play it by ear.  Keeping her safe is the most important thing to think about if we see her.”

“Shouldn’t we just back off and call someone?” Chase asks.  “We’re kids.  These are adults, and they’re criminals.  I think we should call the cops—or maybe your dad, Troy.”

I shake my head, but it’s instinct, not reason.  The fact is, I haven’t really thought about what we should do if we actually see her.  And Chase is right: we should have a plan.

We stop at a Jack in the Box for breakfast, but go through the takeout window and eat in the car while driving.  We’re all thinking about actually doing this surveillance.  The closer we get to Mineola, the more real it all gets.

We arrive around nine thirty.  There’s a bright morning sun promising another warm day.  Lindsey says we should drive around some before trying to find the address, just to get a feel for the place and have some idea of what’s where in town if we have to make a fast getaway.  Makes sense, and I say OK.

Though it isn’t a large city, it seems prosperous enough.  It isn’t like Kansas City, the only really big city around, and so we can drive through it without spending all day doing so.  We find the high school, a couple of parks, the downtown area, a hospital, and a row of fast-food restaurants on the edge of town all close together.  There is a sort of mall: a group of shops along with a theater and a huge parking lot.  The parking lot only has a few cars in it, which I think strange until I remember most malls don’t open till ten at the earliest.

We cruise through a residential area.  This is a section of the city with larger homes in it, but there aren’t too many of them.  Most of the city is made up of older homes that are much smaller.  Middle class homes, I guess.

Trevor pipes us, “There it is.”

I sit up straighter.  “What?”

“Pleasant Street.”

We’re looking for 1266 Pleasant.

Lindsey turns onto Pleasant.  I check addresses and say, “I think it’s in the next block down, or the one after it. Just keep going.  It’ll be on the other side of the street.”

Lindsey is driving slowly.  There are a few kids outside, some on bikes, some in their front yards talking to other kids.  We stop at a cross street, then  proceed. 

“We’re coming up on it,” I say.  There are only a few cars parked on the street.  Lindsey pulls over and parks in front of one of them. 

“That’s it up there.”  I point to a small white house with green shutters and a well-tended lawn.  There’s a kid’s bike on the lawn next door to it, but no toys or anything else on the lawn of 1266.  We don’t see any activity at all.

We sit and watch the house for half an hour or so.  It gets warm in the car as Lindsey has turned off the engine so we’ll be less noticeable.  We all have rolled down our windows.  We sit and watch.  And sit.  And sit.

I begin to detect movement in the backseat and turn to look.  Trevor is fidgeting, looking out the window, then moving around in the seat, then rolling up his window and rolling it down again. 

“Cut it out,” I say to him. 

“This is boring,” he says.

“OK, we’ll leave you behind next time.”  

He frowns at me, then slumps down in his seat, pretending to pout.  Pouting and Trevor go together about as well as a lace doily and dog poop.  He can’t pull it off.  After a second, he sits up.  “Why don’t I go ring the bell?” he asks.

“Shouldn’t we wait a bit, see if anyone’s there, get a feel for the street?” Chase asks.

“Yes, we should,” I say gruffly, giving Trevor a significant look.  “Detective work requires patience.  You have to be smart and patient to be a detective.”

Chase says, “Well, that leaves Trevor out,” and grins.  Trevor takes exception to that and jumps on Chase and they start to wrestle.  That’s too bad because I have to stop them so we won’t call attention to ourselves, and the thought that flickered into my mind flickers out again.  I remember I had one, and seem to think it was important, but it’s gone now.

“I should have brought my iPod,” Trevor grumps when I get him and Chase settled down again.

I turn back to the front and look out the window.

We sit for another hour and the house remains still.  Some kids ride their bikes past us, and one of them looks at me and meets my eye.  But that’s about all the excitement we have.  Then I see movement in the front window of our house.  Someone walks through a room; it’s the movement I see more than anything distinct and identifiable.

“I’m getting hungry,” says Trevor.

“Me, too,” says Chase.

I turn to Lindsey.  “Maybe we should let Trevor go to the door.  If we go get lunch, maybe whoever is in there will leave.  Now’s as good a time as ever.”  

“I don’t know…”  Lindsey has never been keen on this part of the plan.

“I’m ready!” Trevor says and opens his door.  That means I open mine, too, and slip out.

I’ve been over the rules with Trevor three times already.  The problem is, I think he’s got ADD or something.  He fidgets and jokes and half the time doesn’t appear to be listening when I talk to him, and that includes when I talked to him about this before. 

I grab his arm.  “Look,” I say.  “This is important.  You don’t go inside the house, no matter what.  Think up an excuse if they invite you in, or just say you’re not allowed.  Right?”

“Yeah.  You already said!”  He’s basically ignoring me again.  Probably thinking about Chase.

“And we want to find out if they have kids—and their sex and ages.  You probably can’t do that, but it would be good if you could.  You know what you’re going to say?”

“No, I’ll just wing it.”

“Trevor!”

He grins and pulls his arm away from me.  “You worry too much.  That’s what Chase says, too.”

“Oh, he does?”  I frown at him.  “Well, you don’t take anything seriously, and this is serious.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I know,” he says, and for once stops grinning.  “I’m doing this, OK?  And you’ll be right there.  Come on.  Let’s go.”

So, still looking like he’s on a sugar high, he crosses the street and walks up to the house.  I stay well behind him on the sidewalk and then skulk to the corner of the house where I can’t be easily seen through any of the windows.  I stand back a little, just out of sight, but in hearing range of the front door.

He rings the bell and waits.  Then the door opens and I can hear a woman’s voice, speaking in that tone reserved for youngsters.  “Hello there!”  I can hear a smile in her voice.

Trevor goes into his act, and I hear him talking—talking at about 60 mph.  “Hi.  I live in the neighborhood.  I guess you’re new here.  I’m trying to raise money for our Little League team.  Our sponsor is the best pizza place in town, Mario’s, and they’re selling coupons for their pizza.  You can buy ten $5-off coupons for $20.  That’s a $30 savings, and the $20 goes to the team.  You like pizza don’t you?  Everybody loves pizza, and Mario’s is the best!  So will you help us?  Huh?”

“Well…”

“Our team should be good this year.  I’m in the top division now.  I was on the minor-league team last year, but I got drafted into the majors this year.  That’s the best level, where all the top players are.  I play shortstop.  My best friend, Tony, he lives down the street, maybe you’ve seen him, he got drafted too, but he’s on a different team.  Do you like baseball?  I love it, and I play basketball, too.  Not on a team, really.  They don’t have a Little League for basketball.  You have any kids?  Maybe they’d like to sign up for Little League, too?  Huh?  We’ve already had tryouts and our player draft this year, but maybe next year.  Your kid being new and all around here, maybe he didn’t know.”

“Uh…”

“I sure hope we get enough money.  If we sell enough coupons, we’ll get new uniforms this year instead of the old worn-out ones like we had last year.  Last year mine had a hole where Mom had to sew a patch or, well, I’d a been embarrassed and the other kids would have laughed.  They laughed anyway, just seeing where the patch was!  Mario said he’d help with that, too.  The new uniforms, I mean.  Some people say I talk so much they get confused, so I need to ‘splain things, sometimes.  He gives us a pizza party at the end of the year, too.  Even if we don’t win!  How many kids you have?  Lots of people buy coupons even if they don’t have kids.  It’s a good deal for everyone but great for families with kids because they love pizza.”

I watch as Trevor overwhelms the lady with his blather—uh, his persuasive sales pitch cum subtle questioning.  The lady finally gets to say something when he runs out of air.  “Well, we don’t have any kids, but we do like pizza, and it’s a good cause.  Just a sec, I’ll get my purse.”

I’m amazed the Trevor never even hesitates.  “Oh, no, lady.  I’m just taking names of who wants coupons and how many.  Since they’re worth a lot of money and I’ll be collecting a lot of money, I need to just touch base with people to find out how many coupons are needed, and then my dad will walk around with me while I collect the money and hand out the coupons.  Nobody’s going to mess with him—he’s big.  You like what I said there, you catch that: touch base?  I thought that was good.  Anyway, it’s safer this way, with my dad.  You can’t be too careful these days, that’s what he always says.  He’s telling me that all the time.  So, how many do you want?”

“You’re right,” she says.  “About being safe.  Where we used to live, just before we moved, a little girl got kidnapped.  It was an awful thing.  Please, be careful.  And we’ll sign up for one book of coupons.  Oh, what’s your name?”

“Christopher.  But everyone calls me Bucky.  For my front teeth.”

“But your front teeth look perfect!”

“I had dental work.”

There’s a pause then, the woman obviously not knowing how to respond to this, and Trevor says, “OK, I’ll mark it down in my book.  Thanks, ma’am!”

When we get back to the car I say, “Dental work?”  And he grins.


--- --- {} --- ---


We have to wait a few days before Lindsey can get the car again.  I spend some time with my dad.  I don’t tell him what we’ve done or that we are going to do it again.  But I do talk to him about what he’s doing and make some suggestions, give him some ideas of how he might expand his search.  Talking to him, getting him to talk to me, seems to bring him out of the darkness that he seems to be sinking into.

I think more about the two people who moved far enough away that we can’t drive to where they are now.  One is in San Francisco, one in Boise.  I’m beginning to think it would be more likely Carly would have been taken farther away than where we’re searching.  There’s no way we can visit either of those places.  If I had friends or even knew anyone in either place, I might be able to get help from them, but I don’t.  I’ll have to ask Lindsey if she knows anyone either in California or Idaho.

While I’m with my dad, Chase gets bored and walks over to the Mussos.  When I figure I’ve bothered Dad enough, I go there too, only to find Lindsey practicing three-point shots and Trevor and Chase nowhere in sight. 

“They went swimming,” she says, shooting a long, arcing shot that tickles the net and no rim at all as it falls through.  She runs to retrieve the ball, then moves back away from the hoop for another long shot.

“You want to go?” I ask.

“No, I want to do this.”

“OK,” I say and turn to walk away.

“Hey,” she says, and I stop.

“There’s nothing going on with them,”  she says.

“Then why are you telling me?” I ask.

“Because you’re worrying about it.”

I frown at her.  “How would you know that?”

“I can see it.  Trevor can, too.  He’s pulling your chain.  He just doesn’t see how much it bothers you.  If he did, he’d stop it.”

“I’m going to go see for myself,” I say and start walking.


--- --- {} --- ---


Summers here are hot.  We haven’t had much rain at all since I’ve been here.  Today is like the others, hot and sunny.  The woods are cooler.  I walk past the trees hardly noticing them.  I don’t listen to the birds singing.  I’m focused on what I’m going to find.  In my head, I can already see it.

The last hundred yards, I start walking carefully, not wanting to make a sound.  I remember how when Trevor first came, Lindsey and I were alerted by the noise he was making.

I come to the edge of the clearing where the lake is located.  I stand back a little, using the trees as a screen, and look out on the scene in front of me.  The two boys are still in the water, floating on their backs, holding their breaths.  Then Trevor giggles, lets out his air, and sinks.

Chase rolls over so he’s face down in the water and begins to swim to shore.  Trevor surfaces and follows him.  They climb out, grab their towels and dry off, then spread the towels out and lie down on them.

I wait for the action to begin.

I wait, and wait, and I begin to feel silly—and maybe a little ashamed.  I wait ten minutes at least, and all they do is lie there, sometimes talking, sometimes silent.  Neither of them is aroused.  They’re just two friends, lying in the sun.

I silently move back farther into the trees, then walk back about fifty yards.  Then I start forward, not silently but not overly-noisily, either, trying to walk as I normally would.  I come out of the woods, out into the open, and the two are looking at me.  Chase grins. 

“Troy!” he calls, glad to see me.


--- --- {} --- ---


Two days later we’re off to our second possibility.  This town, Bedford, is a little closer, so we don’t need to leave quite so early.  We’re going north this time, into Nebraska. 

The scenery seems to be mostly corn and soybeans, miles and miles of fields of corn stalks and low-lying bean crops.  For some reason, none of us is as talkative today as we were on the first excursion.  We watch the farms roll by.  I glance back at Chase and Trevor.  Trevor sees me and moves so he’s a bit closer to Chase.  I grin at him, and he looks confused.  Good.

Bedford is five miles ahead of us.  That’s what the sign says.  Bedford, 5 miles; Lincoln, 62 miles.

We reach the outskirts, then drive through the town to get a feel of the place like before.  It’s smaller than Mineola and most of the buildings look old, tired even.  The downtown area is confined to only a couple of streets, just of few blocks of commercial buildings.  From the nature of the stores, I can see it was originally a farming community that has grown up a little.

It doesn’t take us long to cover the entire town.  In the back seat, Chase has been looking at the street signs as we’ve been driving.  “Have you seen Oak Street?” I ask.

“Yeah.  We passed it a few minutes ago on the north side of town.  Near that elementary school and park.”

I remember passing them.  Lindsey turns around, and we cruise back toward where we had been earlier.

We turn onto Oak when we come to it, and I check the addresses.  The one we want is in the third block.  It’s a small two-story house that could use a coat of paint.  Of course, so could all the other houses on the street.  The area doesn’t look very prosperous.  The houses are all small; none look like they’d have as many as four bedrooms.  The yards are mostly mowed, and some have clutter in them, toys or bicycles or sporting equipment mostly.  There are obviously kids living around here.

Number 87 shows no sign of activity.  No lights are on, but then, it’s the middle of the day.  We can’t see anything of the back of the house because of the way it’s situated on the property.  If anyone were in the backyard or in a room in the back of the house, we’d never know it.  There’s nothing to make me think a kid lives here.

We slowly drive past the house, not slowing down, just driving.  Lindsey turns at the first cross street, then pulls over to the curb.  We’ve done this before; no talking is needed.  Trevor jumps out and walks off.  I start to get out, too, but Chase puts his hand on my shoulder to stop me, then gets out himself a few seconds later and ambles back to the corner and around it, going just far enough so I guess he can see Trevor climbing the steps to the front door of number 87.  I can’t just sit here.  I get out and join Chase.  We see Trevor ring the bell, wait, then ring it again.  No one comes to the door.

When we’re all back in the car, Lindsey drives back toward the main drag.  “Who’s hungry?” she asks.  She doesn’t sound disappointed.  We’ve had no success so far, and we all seem to have accepted now that’s how it’ll be. 


Continued


<< Chapter 14 | Chapter Index | Chapter 16 >>

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