Strider Security

MISSING CHILDREN

Light Traveler Adventure Series - Book Three
 

CHAPTER ONE

“Bart, come with me. I need your help,” Dad said, walking towards the garage door and patting me on the shoulder.

“What for?” I said. “I just started supper.”

“Supper can wait. One of my friends’ little boy is missing, and he wants some help looking.”

“Missing?” Mom asked, spinning around. “What do you mean, missing?”

“I mean he’s been gone for several hours, and they’re starting to get worried.”

“Oh, dear.”

“He’s probably just at some friend’s house,” I said, sliding back my chair and abandoning my plate of steaming hot spaghetti and meatballs. “He’ll turn up any minute.”

“Maybe so,” Dad said, “but we’re going to help them, just the same.”

“Can I come?” Cynthia asked, her whole face transformed into beg mode. Cynthia was my youngest and most pesky little sister.

“That’s just what we need,” Mom said, holding her from running out of the kitchen. “Two kids running around lost, instead of one.”

“I won’t get lost! Why does everybody have to treat me like I’m a little kid or something?”

“Because you are,” Darin said, with a mouth full of garlic bread. Darin was three years younger than me, and made it his life’s work to torture his two little sisters.

“Am not! I’m almost eleven!” Cynthia cried.

Across the table, Charlene, the newest teenager in the family, giggled and pulled a face. Dad and I hurriedly made our escape into the garage, sparing ourselves the stomping and screaming fit that was sure to follow.

Minutes later, we found a very crowded cul-de-sac full of cars parked at all kinds of odd angles. We parked down the street three houses away.

“Everybody gather around,” someone yelled from the steps to the dozen or so people milling around on the lawn. “Let’s get organized.”

Dad and I sprinted across the street and squeezed into the circle.

“Okay, here’s what we want to do,” said the man in charge. “We’ve divided up the neighborhood and some surrounding areas into sections. We’d like you all to pair up, at least two people per group, take an assignment, and start looking.” Another guy started handing around sheets of paper, and Dad took one. “And don’t just drive down the road in your car. Once you get to your area, we’d rather you went on foot. Look behind houses, behind bushes, inside stores, anywhere else you think he could be.”

“What about inside houses?” someone asked.

“We’ve already called the whole neighborhood and every friend we know of. We’re going to keep calling from here, so there’s no reason to start pounding on doors at this point.”

“What’s he wearing?”

“What does he look like?”

“What’s his name?”

“His name is Brian. He’s six years old and wearing jeans, tennis shoes, and a blue T-shirt.” The guy on the porch stepped back and pushed open the front door, motioning for everyone to follow him into the house. “If you don’t mind, Mrs. Swensen has a few minutes of video tape you can watch of Brian. And there are some pictures here on the table by the door. That’ll help you recognize him, if you don’t know him.”

Two and a half dozen people crowded into the Swensen’s small living room and watched Brian having a water fight, eating birthday cake and ice cream, and playing some noisy games with his four older brothers and sisters and a half dozen other kids. Then we all studied his most recent school pictures as we filed back out the door.

“What do we do if we find him?” someone asked.

“Call us right away,” the leader answered, giving everybody the number to his cellphone. “If you have cellphones, give us your number, and we can call everybody when we find him. If you don’t have one, then find a phone and call us every half hour or so.”

After a few more last minute instructions, everybody headed for their cars, maps in hand, and headed out for their assigned areas.

“Where are we going?” I asked Dad, once we were in the car. The Swensens lived on the hillside in northeast Orem, surrounded by lots of houses and subdivisions, and I didn’t look forward to walking up and down miles of sidewalks all night.

“They want us to check around the Word Perfect office complex, the cemetery, and the canal, and then walk through some orchards.”

“Orchards? What would he be doing in there?”

“Apparently he’s been known to climb the fence and hide out in there,” Dad answered. “Especially now that the fruit’s starting to ripen.”

Driving around the Word Perfect buildings only took about thirty minutes, and there wasn’t much need to get out of the car. The buildings were all locked up at that time of the evening, and there weren’t many hiding places. The cemetery was equally unyielding, but a bit more exciting to look through. It was just starting to get dark, and I fantasized all kinds of spooky things happening to an unsuspecting six-year old.

The canal was harder. There were fences everywhere, and it was difficult finding flat places to walk along the sides. The canal itself was made of steep cement walls, and was full of rushing irrigation water. Dad started to get genuinely concerned about the possibility of a drowning. Every so often, though, the canal went under a road or something, and was blocked by metal gratings, which would have stopped a body.

There wasn’t a body, thank goodness.

Every thirty minutes, Dad called in to see what was happening. Many of the searchers had returned for new assignments already, and nobody had found a single clue as to Brian’s whereabouts. The parents were starting to get really worried.

Fortunately, it wasn’t irrigation time in the orchards, and we walked up and down between the endless rows of fruit trees for what seemed like hours, calling Brian’s name and shining our flashlights everywhere.

Still nothing.

Dad called in again, after nearly three hours of searching, and learned that the police had been formally called in, as had some Boy Scout Explorer post that specialized in city-type search and rescue. We reported our failure and were relieved of duty.

After nuking my moldie-oldie supper in the microwave, eating, and taking a quick shower, I headed for bed. It was almost eleven—a bit earlier than my usual summer bedtime. But I was pretty tired after all that walking.

Lying in bed, I reviewed in my mind all the details of our search, and began to wonder what a six-year old boy would be doing getting so lost. I mean, how could he just up and disappear? Surely he would know it was night already and dark out. He should have been getting hungry.

Maybe something horrible happened, I thought to myself. Maybe he was even beaten and killed! It was getting way past the “little lost boy” stage, in my opinion. They should be setting up roadblocks and things on the freeway. There should be an Amber Alert.

I put my hands behind my head and closed my eyes, recalling to my mind the videos we had been shown. I pictured Brian’s face and features, listening mentally to his voice and his laugh, and remembering his actions and antics. It was like I had my own video player in my head—so clear were the images. Over and over again, they ran through my head, until finally I started to doze off. Then they all started getting mixed up. Eventually, they were having water fights with cartons of melted ice cream, playing jump rope on the roof of the house, and stomping on the birthday cake in the middle of the road. It was ridiculous.

I was just barely semi-conscious enough to recognize that I was mixing dreams with reality, when I felt the familiar vibrations and pulsing sensations coursing through my body, signaling that a unique event was imminent. I mentally smiled.

There had been a time when such an occurrence would have caused me to get very excited and expectant about what was about to happen. I knew that an unusual separation was taking place. Like an egg yolk being lifted out of the white, my spirit self would shake itself loose of the pull and attachment of my physical body that housed it, and rise up into the air above my bed like a puff of smoke—weightless, bodiless, and completely invisible. Well, not exactly bodiless, but certainly not touchable and physical.

The invisible part was the best, of course, because I could go anywhere I wanted without being seen—and believe me, I had done a lot of exploring.

But after three years of going “Inviz” all through high school, the novelty had worn off some. I still enjoyed it immensely, but I didn’t get all antsy-pantsy about it like I used to.

After a few seconds of incredible pulsing—better than any vibrator bed ever made—I felt the actual lift-out take place, and soon found myself floating over my bed, looking down at my own body, sleeping peacefully under the covers.

That lasted for exactly two seconds, and I was suddenly whisked away at the speed of light—no, at the speed of thought—to some unknown destination. After mere milliseconds of blur and darkness, I found myself standing in the middle of a well-lit isle of some department store—in the toy section, no less.

Okay, where am I now? I thought, somewhat exasperated. I never quite knew where I was going to turn up. My subconscious mind would focus in on somewhere or someone that I wasn’t always aware I had even thought about, and would sometimes take me to that person or place without me even wanting to. It didn’t matter if it was across town or across the whole country, I would be there in seconds.

But why in . . . I turned around and got my bearings . . . Walmart, for Pete’s sake?

The answer became abruptly clear as Brian Swensen came wandering down the aisle in front of me, his hands full of as many small toys and candy bars as they could possibly hold. His pants pockets were bulging at the seams. He was gazing glassy-eyed at the endless racks and displays all around him without a care in the world. He was in heaven.

I found him! was my first thought. He’s safe! He’s okay!

Then it dawned on me. Wait a minute. How, on earth, did I find him? I’ve never met him before.

I had long since learned that once I met someone—specially if I had talked with them—I could transport myself spiritually to that person by just thinking about them. It was like some super-duper, high-level homing device that only spirit bodies could use—like tuning in to people’s familiar brainwaves or something, or like punching a pre-programmed button on the car radio and getting the familiar and radio station.

But I’d never seen Brian before that very second. I’d never talked to him before—never programmed him into my memory at all, except from those few videos and pictures at his house.

Weird.

Of course, Brian was totally oblivious to my presence, and as his little three-foot high body walked right through me, I was brought back to my senses and realized that I needed to let everybody know where he was. I knew his parents were well past the panic point already. They needed him found—fast!

Back to body! I commanded myself—the signal for the ever present, spiritual bungee cord to snap me back home to my physical body.

I jumped off the bed and raced downstairs to the family room where Dad was reading the evening newspaper.

“Dad, I found him!” I blurted out.

As soon as it left my mouth, I knew I was in trouble.

Dad and Mom didn’t know about my going Inviz. I doubt they’d ever even heard of the concept. In three long years, I’d never told them a thing, and only a select few of my closest friends were privy to the secret.

Besides, I was supposed to be in bed, asleep.

“Found who?” Dad asked.

“I . . . uh . . . I mean . . .”

“Well?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Uh . . . Brian,” I stammered.

“Wha . . . ?”

“I was sleeping . . . I mean . . . dreaming,” I said. “You know . . . like . . . NO, it was a vision. That’s it! A vision! A . . . a . . . feeling. An inspiration!” I stared to sweat. “I was inspired!”

“Really,” he said, raising an eyebrow. “Well, then, where is he?”

“Huh?”

“Brian. Where is he?”

“Oh . . . at Walmart. In the toy section.”

“Walmart?” Mom said from the kitchen doorway. “Which one?”

“Huh?” I answered stupidly. Which one, which one! I should have checked which one!

“The one in Lindon or the one down by the freeway?” she asked.

“I don’t know.” I couldn’t even think of what else to say.

“He must have done some serious walking, either way,” Dad said, rising from his chair. “The one in Lindon is closer to his house, though.” He calmly picked up the phone, told the Swensens—or whoever answered the phone—exactly what I had told him, hung up the phone, and sank back down into his recliner to finish his newspaper. Mom disappeared back into the kitchen mumbling “that poor baby” or something like that.

I just stood there with my mouth hanging open. Just like that? I thought. They actually believed all that vision stuff? Incredible!

Well, they always were pretty keen on getting vibes and feelings and spiritual things like that.

For the next few days, I was a local hero. People I didn’t even know came up to me and patted me on the back or shook my hand, congratulating me on my fine deed, or got all choked up about how marvelous my vision had been and how in-tune to the spirit I must have been.

Or how unusually gifted and talented I was.

Well, that much was true. I was certainly gifted. I had acquired one of the most unusual gifts ever known.

 

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