Missing Person

NOTE: This is part of the new novel I am writing. I am posting it here as a diversion for readers who may be living under shelter-in-place policies while the world waits for the coronavirus pandemic to pass. For an explanation of this project, please click here. To read the chapters I’ve posted in order, click here.

Missing Person
Tumbleweed Motel ~ Coldwater, N.M.

The closer Morgan got to home, the more uneasy she felt. She was parking her bike next to the shed and was about to take off her bee suit and put away her tools when she saw Colleen’s old Subaru parked in front of the office. Morgan’s heart skipped a beat. Colleen wasn’t in the habit of dropping by the lobby just to say hi. If she’d come here, something must be wrong. Morgan left her bike out and ran for the back door, her hood flopping against the back of her stained-up canvas jacket. Lenore had flown ahead and was perched above the door, waiting for her.

Morgan raced into the kitchen to find Joey pacing, his eyes as big as saucers, while Mom and Colleen stood next to the avocado-green phone mounted to the wall, staring at it as if they expected it to ring. Colleen looked stricken. 

“Morgan! Thank God you’re back. I was just about to go out looking for you!” Mom said by way of greeting.

“What’s happened?”

“Dr. Kavanaugh has gone missing. You weren’t with her, were you?”

“No. I was tending the bees, like I told you before I left. I haven’t seen her since school let out Thursday.”

Colleen drew a shuddering breath. 

“She’s OK,” Morgan assured her. “You know I know that.”

“Do you? ‘Not in immediate danger of death’ and ‘OK’ aren’t exactly the same thing,” Mom said. 

“She’s not dying,” Morgan amended. “How long has she been gone? Maybe she just went to pick up groceries or something.”

Colleen shook her head. “No. She’d have called. I talked to her this morning. We were supposed to go to the movies in Albuquerque this afternoon. She called to ask if we could leave at 1:30 instead of noon because she’d been up crying last night and had a headache.” Colleen gave Morgan an apologetic look. “I’m sorry to dump this on you. I know you were up late, too.” 

“It’s fine,” Morgan said. “I need to know. Go on.”

“She was going to take a decongestant and go to bed as soon as we hung up. That was around 11. I called at 12:30  to see if she wanted me to bring her some lunch or just wait and eat on the way. She didn’t answer. I figured she was asleep, so I waited and tried her again at 1. Still no answer. She should have been up by then, but I thought maybe she was in the shower. I headed over to pick her up around 1:15. Her truck was in the driveway, but she didn’t come to the door. I was starting to get worried, so I let myself in to check on her. She wasn’t there. Her purse was still on the hook where she keeps it, the coffee maker was still on, and the bathroom was warm and humid, like she’d just gotten out of the shower, but Holly was just — gone.”

Morgan’s mind flashed back to the mesa and that uncomfortable feeling she’d had while she was checking the hives. Without thinking about it, she began giving orders.

“OK. Joey, you stay here in case she shows up. Colleen, you and Mom go to her house again. Mom used to cover crime for the paper, so she might notice something you missed. If you don’t find her, come back here. And — wait. Where’s Grandma Sandy?”

“Gone to get Abuelito,” Colleen said.

Morgan nodded. “Good thinking. Now that I think about it — Joey, call Brother Jerry. He probably needs to know about this.”

“And what are you planning to do while all that is going on?” Mom asked.

Morgan already had her hand on the doorknob. “I’ll be with Lenore,” she said. “Out looking.”

Before Mom could argue, Morgan walked out the door, took three running steps, and transformed, taking to the sky with Lenore right behind her.

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