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~ 8 ~


Without a Trace




I was grateful that Kevin and Howie were coming to the airport with me although I really wish Brian could have come too. Okay, even AJ. I just didn’t want to go alone. Not that I would have done that because they wouldn’t let me go alone, but still. I’m glad it wasn’t some random guy who worked for Lou since those are the only people who seemed to be accompanying us this trip.


The cab ride seemed eternal. It’s so funny how everything in New York is so close but yet seems so far away. It took us almost an hour to get to the airport and it cost a boatload of cash! Both Kevin and Howie had to contribute because I didn’t bring enough money. I’m sure they were thrilled about that.


Howie must have hit my leg a thousand times during our trip. I tend to have this nervous habit of shaking my leg and apparently since we were all squished into the back seat of the cab my leg was shaking his leg as well. In the terminal as we waited for my father the leg shaking commenced once again.


“Nicky, stop with the leg!” He said, getting up and moving over by one chair. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that wouldn’t help since they were all connected.


“Sorry.” I smiled at him and he winked at me in return.


It was 10:30 and my father’s flight was miraculously on time. Fifteen more minutes until I got to see him. I felt a surge of happiness go through me at the thought of having my father here for Christmas. Maybe it would feel like a holiday after all. Maybe he would be the thing that makes all my shakiness and anxiety go away.


“Nicky, please!” I looked over at Howie once again as he glanced down at my leg.


“Sorry, I’m just excited.”


“Can you be excited without the leg shaking?”


I stood up, “I’m going to go get some money out of the MAC machine since I owe you guys.”


“Sounds good to me.” Kevin said, briefly looking up from the magazine he was reading.


The ATM was right down at the end of the terminal where all the gift shops were and by the time I got back, my dad would be getting off the plane. I was hoping one of them would have volunteered to go with me but when neither did I just started my slow walk with my head down. I found it easiest to walk with my head down when I was nervous. There was less chance of me freaking out that way.


The terminal was very busy as expected since we were so close to Christmas time. There was a little too much merriment for me here. The chiming bells were bothering my ears since I still had the smallest hint of a headache left. “I’m a real Scrooge McDuck!” I said just as I got to the machine.


The person in front of me smiled my way and laughed. I must remember not to talk to myself in public. I placed my card into the machine and punched out my password. Starting to feel a little uneasy I took a few deep breaths. I can do this. The guys are right down there. I glanced to where they were sitting and sure enough Howie was looking at me and waved. Nice to know he was watching out for me. I smiled and waved back as my cash came shooting out of the slot.


Grabbing my receipt and putting it in my pocket, I started making my way back to the guys when I caught site of someone staring at me. I swear he looked familiar. I gave him a very quick and unsure smile and continued on my way. When I got halfway to Howie and Kevin, I glanced back and the guy was gone again. “Probably my imagination.” I said under my breath as I sat down and handed a few bills to each of my friends.


“Looks like your dad’s flight is here!” Howie said pointing towards the door that was opening up and letting passengers in to the airport.


“Yahtzee!” I said standing up and walking as close as we were allowed to go. Kevin and Howie stood up as well and the three of us waited in anticipation as person after person gradually got off the plane and passed us by.


“Leave it to my dad to be the last one off the plane.” I said looking at my watch. It was 11:17.


“Be patient Nick.” Kevin said, placing a hand on my shoulder. He could tell I was getting antsy. I think I was actually bouncing.


We stood there for about another half hour as we watched the last few people come out of the door, followed by the flight attendants and finally the pilots. Once everyone was out, the person working the terminal closed the doors and I full on went in to panic mood.


“Why didn’t he get off the plane?”


“Maybe he did and we missed him?” Howie said to Kevin.


“He would have had to pass right by us.” He answered.


“Kevin, how come my dad didn’t get off the plane?” I asked again. Maybe they didn’t hear me the first time.


“I don’t know.”


“Did you have the right information?” I turned to him frantic. “Kevin?”


“I don’t know Nick. I told you, the reception was pretty bad but I’m almost positive this was supposed to be the flight.”


“How can he not be on it then?”


He grabbed my shoulder, more firmly this time. “We’ll figure it out, okay? Let me go talk to the reception area. Maybe they can tell us something.” He gave Howie a small nod and then walked over to the desk.


“We’ll find him, Nicky. Maybe he had to take another flight.”


I nodded at Howie but I was a mess. What if something had happened to him? If he needed to change flights he would have called me. He might have tried and maybe we were already here at the airport. “Maybe we should try the hotel to see if he left me a message?” I asked hopeful.


“Let’s wait and see what Kevin finds out first.” Howie answered.


We both watched Kevin at the desk. I was getting discouraged just by the body language the attendant was conveying as she looked up things. She left her station to check on something and Kevin gave us a glance and smiled. I didn’t like that smile. That was his, ‘try to look like everything is okay when it isn’t’ smile. When I saw that, I made my way over to him, much to the dismay of Howie who for whatever reason, thought it was best if we waited faraway.


“What’s going on?” I asked Kevin as he gave me that smile once again.


“She’s just checking on something for me.”


“Was he on the flight?”


“No, he wasn’t listed as a passenger. She’s checking all the other flights that were arriving from Tampa today.”


She came back a few minutes later, “Sir, I’m sorry there is no Bob Carter listed on any of the flights arriving today. Are you sure you have the name correct?”


“Positive. Maybe it was a different airline?” I asked the lady in a visibly shaky voice.


She glanced over at me and smiled, “That’s a possibility, but there’s not much I can do about that. I’m sorry.”




“Okay, thank you so much for checking it out for us.” Kevin said, pulling me away from the desk.


“Kevin, what the hell are you doing? We need to find out where my dad is? He’s probably in the airport somewhere waiting for us.”


“We could try to have him paged.” Howie suggested. That was a great idea! I hugged him.


“Yes! Let’s do that! A page will go through this entire terminal at least.” I was happy again.


“You guys go figure out how to do that and I’ll go try to call some other airlines to see if maybe I got the airline wrong. Don’t worry Nick, we’ll find your dad.”


“And we can call the hotel too!” I added.


“Why don’t you be in charge of that?” He said to me. “Howie will try to get him paged.”


Howie walked back to the reception area and Kevin and I walked over to the pay phones. As I put in my phone card info I was trying my best to calm down. I’m sure he called the hotel. This was probably some big misunderstanding. Maybe he couldn’t get away from the B& B after all and just forgot to call and tell us. I know it was an out there way to think since he called in the morning with the flight info and as much as I wanted to believe Kevin got the information all wrong, I knew he probably didn’t, but still it made me feel better to think that way. I’m babbling. I babble when I’m nervous.


The front desk clerk told me I had no messages waiting for me just as I heard the page come over the loud speaker for a Bob Carter to please call the courtesy phone. I asked to be patched in to AJ and Brian’s room not sure if they would be back from their interview or not by now.


I was happy to hear AJ’s voice. “Yello?”


“Hey J, it’s me.”


“Sleep over boy! How’s the dad?” Great!


“He’s missing.”


“Come again?”


“He’s not here. I was hoping that maybe you guys might have heard from him?”


I heard AJ ask Brian if he heard anything from my dad and that’s when I heard them arguing over the phone. Apparently Brian won because it was his voice I heard next, “What’s going on Frack? Why would we have heard from your dad?”


“Brian, he’s missing. He wasn’t on the plane and wasn’t even supposed to be!” now that I was actually confessing this to someone other than Howie and Kevin, I found myself getting very upset to the point of tears.


“Relax Nick I’m sure he’ll turn up. Have you tried other airlines?”


“Your cousin is working on that now.” I heard the announcement for Bob Carter once more over the intercom. That only heightened my emotions.


“What are you guys gonna do?”


“I don’t know. I’m not going anywhere until we find him.” I probably sounded like I was two the way I said it, but I didn’t care because it was the truth.


“If he calls here we’ll try to contact you guys.”


I gave Brian the name of the terminal we were in and then hung up on him just as Kevin was also getting off the phone. “Well?” I asked him.


“He wasn’t booked on any flights Nick.”


“How is that possible?”


He shook his head at me, now looking as nervous as I felt. “Maybe I got the entire day wrong.”


We both walked over to Howie who was waiting by the reception desk. “No sign of him yet.” He said, smiling at me.


“We have to try my house.”


“Good idea buddy. Why don’t you do that now?” Kevin motioned for me to go back over to the phones.


I walked over and sat back down, taking a few deep breaths before I made the call. I tried to convince myself that everything would be all right. Hearing his voice on the phone would be such a relief. I would kill him later. Right now, I just had to make sure he was okay.


I let it ring and ring and ring until finally I got our answering machine. “Dad, it’s me. You said you were coming but you aren’t here. I’m worried…please call us back. I’m at the airport waiting for you but you can call the hotel. Please….I don’t know what I’m supposed to do!” And there were the tears. Finally, after about an hour or so of pure fear, they came freely and wouldn’t stop. “Just call me!” I said hanging up the phone, suddenly mad as hell at him and everything in general. I would have thrown the phone across the terminal if it wasn’t connected to a cord so instead I hung it up repeatedly hitting it as if it were a hammer and nail.


“He wasn’t there.” I said, wiping away tears and hoping that Howie and Kevin didn’t see them.


Howie reached over to me and put his arm on my shoulder, “We’ll find him Nicky.”


They both seemed like a broken record that I was beginning to resent so I felt the need to get away from them. “I’m going to the bathroom, I’ll be right back.” I said, getting up and brushing past them both as I went. In the state I was in, I didn’t even want their company. I just wanted to be alone.


I walked in the bathroom, got myself into a stall and just sat there. Looking at my watch was another mistake. It was almost 1. I held my face in my hands and just closed my eyes. “Think Nick…think…where can he be?” a toilet flushed next to me and then I heard the water go on. Great, he probably heard me talking to myself as well. Who the hell cares? Let everyone think I’m crazy. Maybe he was traveling under another name? I mean, why not? We do that sometimes in Europe when we don’t want to be recognized. Although, why would he need to do that?


I heard someone enter the bathroom. He was wearing the type of shoes that made a lot of noise. Almost like tap shoes on the hard tile floors. It sounded like he was walking around from stall to stall and then I saw his feet stop right in front of mine. I found I wasn’t even breathing as I watched his feet. He was just standing there, not making a sound, not moving. It was clear he wasn’t in here to go to the bathroom. There were a ton of empty stalls all around him yet, he was just standing there in front of mine. They definitely weren’t Howie or Kevin’s feet and as much as I wanted them to belong to my dad’s they weren’t his either. My dad had kind of fat feet and this guys shoe’s were long and pointy.


After a few minutes, some more voices entered the bathroom and that made the guy finally move. I listened for his shoes as he walked out the door and only then did I leave the safety of my stall. I walked out with my head down and gasped when I felt an arm on my shoulder. I saw the shoes before I could react.


“What?” I said, trying to push away from him.


It was the same guy I swore I had seen earlier in the day. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.” He said. “You just seemed lost.”


“I was in the bathroom. How do I seem lost?”


“Before you went in the bathroom, you looked out of place.”


“Have you been following me?” I was getting defensive and angry but mostly I was scared. I started back stepping away from him but he had his hand still firmly on my shoulder.


“No, you just looked upset and lost. I just wanted to make sure you were okay. You’re too young to be here at the airport alone.”


“He’s not alone.” Kevin said as he walked around the corner. “He’s with me.” He gave the man a threatening look to which the guy instantly removed his hand from my shoulder. Kevin pushed me behind him as Howie also walked into view.


“Good. I would hate to think he was by himself…well, have a good day then.” He said as he smiled and walked away from us.


“Well, he was creepy. Are you okay?” Kevin asked me once he stopped staring at the guy who rounded the corner and finally disappeared from view.


“Yeah, he was following me Kevin, I’m sure of it.”




“No, I’m serious! When I went to go get money out of the MAC machine, he was there too!”


“Why didn’t you say anything before?” He asked kind of annoyed.


“Because…I wasn’t sure if I was just seeing things or not.”


Kevin and Howie looked at each other. I hate when they do that. It makes me feel like a child. “Well, let’s get out of here and go back to the hotel.”


“NO WAY!” I yelled that. I didn’t mean to be so loud, it just kind f happened.


“Nick, your dad isn’t here.”


“We don’t know that for sure Kevin! He could come around the corner any minute!”


“Or he could be waiting for you at the hotel.”


“How would he have gotten there?”


“Nicky, it’s better to wait at the hotel than here. There’s a better chance of him calling you there. If you’re here he won’t be able to track you down.” Howie said as calmly as possible. 


“But…” I stopped myself because as much as I hated it, he was right. “Fine, let’s just go home.” I let out a sigh. “I can’t believe this is happening.”


We started walking away from the terminal when Kevin stopped short. “Let’s try to find another way out.” He said as he turned us all around.


“Why?” I asked, turning to see what had him spooked. Sure enough it was that guy again. He was standing against a wall pretending to read a magazine. He glanced at me just as I looked at him. I swear he grinned before turning and walking in the other direction.


In the cab ride home, no one said much of anything. All I did was stare out the window. This was turning into a living nightmare. “Guys, I think we should all sleep in the same room tonight, okay?” I asked just as we pulled up in front of the hotel.


This time there were no smart remarks or snickers. “I agree.” Was all Kevin said and that was when I knew he thought there was definitely something wrong.


Chapter End Notes:

:O) You guys didn't actually think i'd make it that easy to find out what's happening did you? LOL I'll be back on Wednesday with chapter 9. Thanks for reading and especially reviewing. Getting your feedback helps me to know that you're enjoying this story and helps keep me motivated to work on it.