Alana hugged Alicia, who started crying. He felt like a heel. He wanted to explain, but left for Alicia’s sake. He had come here with good intentions. Damn his bad luck with women. Maybe he should just stay away from Alicia for good. He left the restaurant with a heavy heart. Romance sucked.
Noah Blake, Red Hook’s sheriff, stood behind the wooden podium. He always held the morning meetings in this conference room. Normally they were light and quick since Red Hook was a mostly quiet town. There was a large window that let the sun shine in, but today nobody was noticing the sun. The mood in the room was grim and filled with tension.
After gathering his emotions, Noah finally spoke. His eyes were red from lack of sleep.
“As you all know, we have a grave situation here.” He took a deep breath, then continued talking. It was obvious to everyone in the room he was struggling to keep his emotions under control. “My sister-in-law, Alicia Garcia, and her friend Janice Sands are both missing. They haven’t been seen since yesterday when they clocked out from work around eight p.m. They were last seen leaving a club in Morehead around midnight. They never made it home.”
Tony sat still in his chair, clenching his fists tightly in his lap. He was having a hard time not letting his own feelings erupt like a volcano. He was equal parts terrified and furious. The news of her disappearance was hard to accept. He couldn’t believe that anything bad happened to her. Not to Alicia.
He had not spoken to her over the last five weeks. After their bitter parting at the restaurant, Noah had warned him to stay away from his sister-in-law. He would have gone against Noah’s wishes, but Alicia had made her hatred for him very clear. He could see the hurt shining in her beautiful brown eyes every time he ran into her by chance. He wanted to talk to her about what happened. Several times, he almost fell to his knees and begged her for forgiveness.
He figured he was too old for her, and thought the best thing to do was leave her be so she could find a nice young man to share her life with. Still, he missed her like hell. He went through the motions every day, but it wasn’t the same without Alicia. He still remembered her smile when she teased him, or when he felt her small, soft hand touching him. She was always touching him as if his big size didn’t bother her. Even his scowls made her shake her head with amusement. Matt had tried to tell him he was making the same mistake he had made with Holly. As usual, Tony assured Matt this was different. He knew what he was doing. Only, he now realized he hadn’t a clue.
Tony didn’t notice when Drake took over the meeting. He had been so lost in his own thoughts. Noah wasn’t even in the room any longer. What had he missed?
“Noah had to step out,” Matt whispered in his ear. “He got too emotional. I heard he and Ray spent the night searching for the girls.”
Tony nodded, crossed his arms, and listened to what Drake had to say. He wanted to be out there searching for her, but first he needed all the information he could get.
“According to another waitress, Kelly Wilson, they have been going to Club Rock in Morehead on a regular basis. Kelly didn’t go last night because she couldn’t find a babysitter.” Drake looked at the report in his hand. “Noah has asked Jack to search the woods outside of town. As you know, there are a lot of acres to cover.”
Drake looked at Tony. “He asked if you and Matt could help him.”
Tony and Matt both nodded. Tony would do a
nything to help. He needed to keep himself busy. He was being hit with so many emotions at once that he wanted to howl out his pain. It didn’t feel real. He felt like he would do his usual patrol and catch a glimpse of her somewhere in town. Red Hook was a small town. He often caught glimpses of her here and there. Word of the missing girls was spreading fast, and people were bombarding the station with questions and offers of help.
“Has anyone gone to the club? It is a popular place with our young people,” Greg, another deputy, said. He was in his early thirties but had been working for Noah for a long time. He knew everyone in town. His mother owned a hair salon in town and heard a lot of gossip.
“Her brother Ray called Morehead’s sheriff early this morning. The bartender says Janice was wasted, but Alicia had been drinking water and soda. She told him she was driving. They left around midnight. He also said it appeared Janice and Alicia were arguing over something. Even though it has only been around nine hours, we are taking this as a missing person case,” Drake replied, looking frustrated. “Ray saw no sign of her or her car along the road. That is all we know right now. Morehead police are searching their area and we will stick to ours for now.”
“Finding these girls is our top priority right now,” Drake announced firmly. He looked determined to get going. “Sam, you know the Sands family. Can you see what they know? So far, they haven’t even reported Janice missing.”
Sam stood up. He looked at his watch. “Janice’s dad, Harold, has breakfast at Helena’s Diner every morning. I’ll go talk to him.” He left the room.
Drake looked at Greg. “We can patrol the town and see if anyone knows anything. The more people that know about them missing, the more information we can get. We know Alicia very well and she would not be out of contact with her family for this long, so we know something is wrong.”
Tony and Matt stood up and headed out to Jack’s house. Jack lived near their own house on the outskirts of the town, where it was quiet. Tony had drunk a few beers with Jack and considered him a friend. Jack had several ATVs that they could use to search the wooded area outside of town. There were several abandoned properties out there. A few months ago, Matt’s wife Holly had been kidnapped by a drug dealer. Jack had helped them rescue her.
Tony felt lost. His head was thumping with tension. He often got headaches when stressed out, but he was not going to let that stop him from finding Alicia. He let Matt drive, even though he usually insisted on driving. He liked being the one in control of the wheel. Right now, he didn’t care. His heart was aching and he was scared they would not find her. People disappeared all the time, and some were never found. It was sad, but he refused to let himself think of her becoming a statistic.
“I should never have let my doubts drive her away. She would have been here right now and not missing. Why didn’t you knock me upside the head?” Tony muttered, looking out the window. He didn’t even see the scenery of the town passing before his eyes as Matt drove. He pictured Alicia’s smile and big brown eyes. He was anxious to find her. He thought he knew what was best for Alicia, but he was realizing he had been wrong to not talk with her about how he was feeling. He should have tried harder to convince her Dee had been a mistake. Dee still did her best to follow him around. He had threatened to charge her with stalking if she didn’t stop. He hadn’t seen her in days and he was glad.
He needed to find Alicia alive and hold on to her tightly. He would confess his feelings and beg her to forgive him. She had to be alive to do that.
“I did try, but you were your usual stubborn self, bro. We’ll find both girls, Tony,” Matt said, his voice filled with determination. That made Tony feel a little better. He felt weak, but he could count on Matt. “Holly took the day off of work. She and Jasmine are at the Garcias’ house trying to do all they can to help. They are worried about Mr. Garcia’s heart. The whole town is pitching in.”
Tony knew Mr. Garcia had heart problems and only worked part-time now. Alicia had often talked with him about her fears of losing him. None of them ever thought it could be the opposite. Alicia had to be alive somewhere. He could not bear to entertain any other thought. Foul play had to be involved. He didn’t know Janice, but he did know Alicia. She was not the type of person to just disappear without telling someone. Alicia loved her family and was very close to them. He had always envied that about her. She would never be out of contact for this long unless something was wrong.
Jack was waiting for them when they arrived and had the ATVs out of his garage. He shook their hands with a grim look. He had a rifle on his shoulder and was wearing his hunting gear.
“It’s a sad day when we have to go back in there looking for young girls like this.” He sighed with a shake of his head. “Don’t know what this world is coming to, boys.”
“I know.” Matt patted him on the back. “Let’s get started and pray for the best. Thanks for helping us again, Jack. Unfortunately, this is becoming a habit.”
“I have a daughter. Thinking about locking her up until she is at least thirty,” he told them. Matt smiled and agreed with him.