Kevin felt like he was suffocating as they made their way to that food truck. The kids had said Nick had met up with this guy an hour ago. A full hour he had been gone while Kevin and Howie had played in that game room, clueless to that fact. Was that pedophile right there when Kevin had looked back? Maybe he was standing right beside Nick. How could Kevin not have seen him? Or maybe he walked up right after the two had gone inside. Maybe the guy was waiting to make his move until he saw the coast was clear. Why did they even allow the coast TO be clear? Why did they let Nick do his own thing when they both were well aware that this guy might have known where he was?
All those questions were suffocating Kevin to the point where he actually had to stop running, bend slightly and place his hands on his knees. He felt like he was going to vomit.
“Are you okay, Kev?” Howie asked as he put a hand on Kevin’s back.
“Yeah…” He barely managed to get out.
“I’m going to go ask the guy in the truck if he saw Nicky and which way he might have gone.”
Kevin slowly stood up, “Good idea.”
Howie nodded, looking just as pale as Kevin probably looked as he walked over to the truck.
Kevin moved further away now and really tried to look around. The way the mini golf course was set up it was easily accessible to the main road which meant this guy could have parked anywhere by the truck and just grabbed Nick and put him in the car and drove off. No one would be the wiser. There wasn’t even a fence or gate blocking the course.
“He said he remembered Nick but didn’t see him talking to anyone besides the kids.”
“This guy could have grabbed him and put him in a car anywhere around here.”
“It didn’t sound like Nicky was taken by force. The kids made it seem like it was a friendly encounter. “
“Why would he leave without coming to tell us then?”
Howie was biting at one of his fingernails as he looked around the course. “I don’t know…”
Kevin felt that suffocating feeling once again and started to breath heavy. He had only felt like that once before and that was the day of his father’s funeral. He had been fine during the entire church service and even at the gravesite as they lowered his dad’s casket into the ground. The panic didn’t start to settle in until they had reached the house where droves of people were there just waiting for his family. People kept coming at him, giving him kisses and hugs. People he had never even met were placing their hands on his head and petting him like he was a dog. Those strangers were telling him everything was going to be alright and kissing him on the cheek. It was then that he felt this weight on his chest, a rising panic moving slowly inside him making him want to scream, run or both.
In that instance, he ran right out of the house and down the street. He probably would have kept running if Tim hadn’t called after him and begged him to stop. It was at the corner of Hamilton and Main that he just stood there and waited for his brother to catch up. Once he did, he had fallen into his arms and just began to cry. He had felt so helpless back then just like he was feeling now.
Obviously it was a different set of circumstances, but the fear felt the same. He was scared to death that this kid who he wanted to kill only days before was possibly going to be hurt or killed for real. Someone he knew and cared about was in actual danger. The word never felt real to him before this moment, even though he had heard it countless times before. His security guards, management and his family constantly told him to be careful. There were dangerous people out there. People who meant to do harm to them, but again it didn’t feel like something he actually had to consider…until now.
“Maybe he just went to the bathroom. I’m going to go check the bathroom.” Howie muttered, sounding a little like a crazy person, but Kevin nodded “Good idea. I’ll stay here.”
Howie nodded and then ran back towards the snack area as Kevin turned towards the road. His main thought at the moment was to try to get in touch with his cousin. Not that Brian would be able to do anything to help, but maybe Nick had called Brian? Maybe he had confided in his best friend about this relative. He wished he could remember the guy’s name. He even failed at that much. He began to walk down the street a bit, making sure to look all around in hopes to see Nick just casually walking towards him. “Dave? Don? What the hell was this guy’s name?” he asked the air around him. “Nick, where the hell are you?” Once again he asked as if the teenager would suddenly materialize in front of him.
He saw Howie running towards him shaking his head as he did. “Not in there. Maybe we should call the police?”
“Maybe we should call Brian. He might know something we don’t.”
“Brian? What’s Brian going to do? Besides, isn’t he in Hawaii with his family? There’s no way Nicky could have even contacted your cousin.” Howie’s voice was also escalating to a level of panic Kevin had never heard before which wasn’t helping him feel any better.
Kevin nodded and once again found himself looking into the street, “Maybe we should check the entire golf course before we call the cops? You know… make sure he’s not here.”
Howie nodded, “Why don’t you take the far end and I’ll take this end and we’ll meet back here!”
They gave each other a friendly pat on the shoulder and went in search of Nick.
As Kevin went from hole to hole, asking random people if they had seen a teenage blonde, this tall and with an older gentleman, he wished he had taken more notice of what the kid had been wearing. He couldn’t even remember if Nick was wearing a baseball cap or not. It was embarrassing when people asked him that, but he had no answer, especially the women who seemed particularly worried about the level of fear in Kevin’s voice as he was asking. One even offered up her mobile phone and asked if he wanted to call their parents to see if his brother had made it home. Of course everyone thought that was the case, that Kevin was an older brother looking for his younger one. He had declined the offer saying he was probably just over reacting. Honestly, he had no clue who he would even call. Should he call Nick’s parents, or maybe Johnny? Howie’s parents seemed the most logical people to get in touch with.
The truth of the matter was simple, Kevin didn’t want to call anyone because once that happened then it meant all of this was real. He glanced down at his watch as he stood in front of the food truck. About another thirty minutes had gone by. That’s ninety minutes now that Nick had been missing. It seemed like so much longer.
He tried not the think the worst but he couldn’t help it. Visions of Nick being dragged into a car or pulled into a trunk kicking and screaming for help would not leave his brain. Most likely he was yelling Kevin’s name since he seemed to do that even for the stupidest of things. Then of course there was the threat of the other kind of abuse. Kevin wouldn’t even allow his brain to go there.
His stomach was tied in knots as he paced back and forth waiting for Howie to show up. He had never been so worried about another human being before. It kind of threw him off guard. It was weird; this feeling that was coming over him. In many ways, he was feeling like it was a family member this was happening to. He hadn’t really looked at things in that way before, which was kind of funny because the press, especially the cutesy tabloids, always compared them to brothers. Automatically they had just agreed that yes, they were like brothers, but Kevin never fully felt that way. This was a job and yes Brian was his cousin, his blood and he loved him but the other three were just co-workers, although he did consider Howie one of his best friends. AJ and Nick were just kids he worked with, nothing more. But if that was really the case, why was he panicking like this? He realized it wasn’t the case at all. He really did care for these guys as if they were his family. The panic he was feeling inside would be the same level of panic he would feel if one of his brothers was missing.
One of his brothers WAS missing, his baby brother…only fifteen…barely fifteen.
That suffocating feeling returned just as he saw Howie walking towards him, alone.