The Shift: Book 1- The Anomaly Ch 2
Chapter 2: Missing
I decide that I should shower and dress as quick as I can, knowing that my time is now crucial. My mind is whirling with ideas of how to find my friend. I know that the first place to search would be Grace's apartment. I'll then have to visit the airport, I'd want to watch the security footage searching for signs of foul play. I will need to try to get on the same flight to Hawaii- retracing Grace's steps while paying close attention to every little detail. This is the start of my plan to try to find my friend. Talking to Emma and to James would be a good idea, I'm now making a mental list of anyone else I should contact.
...Grace's mom...Grace's dad...Grace's brother...
I open my phone and dial my best friend's phone number. I know it's a long shot, but maybe she decided against going on vacation, maybe she'll realize how concerned everyone is and will talk to me... her best friend. It rings, two times, three times, four..."This is Grace..."
"Grace!?" My heart leaps...
"Leave your message after the beep... BEEEP! Sorry, but this mailbox is full, please try your call again later."
"Urrgghh..." I flip my cell phone closed in frustration and toss it aside. Then I hop into the shower and dress as fast as I can into my black skinny jeans, black tank top and combat boots. I pull on my black leather jacket and start toward the door.
Karma and I arrive at the small one bedroom flat on the other side of town. Since Grace had asked me to watch her apartment while she is on vacation, I already have a key to open the door. The the cool air flows through the door as I open it with quiet, slow and steady movement to try not to attract any scrutiny. I creep through the door, pushing Karma away with my foot. Not wanting to engage in any unwanted attention, I choose to search the flat without any luminescence; it's fortunate that I have a certain rare skill that allows me to see in the dark without the use of a flashlight.
"No! Karma...stay!" A harsh whisper escapes my lips as the dog tilts his head, not understanding why I wasn't allowing him to move. He whimpers a bit but stays in place. The flat is immaculate. The furniture is polished to a shine that is so bright, that even with the lights turned off, there is a soft glow. The hard wood floors possess the same bright gleaming shine. The white microfiber sofa and love seat are spot-less, and it is arranged in such a way that makes the place look like royalty lives there. I step in a little further and look around. "Grace?" I call her name but with caution. I hear an echo... using my ability, I cock my head and listen for anything strange.
"Grace?" I call again. Another echo... I cock my head again to listen.
My head turns toward the kitchen, my eyes adjust to the darkness and absorb everything. The kitchen is small. The counter tops are glossed and the metal sink and faucet sparkle. The refrigerator stands off to the right of the stove and both appliances possess the same gleam as the sink. The island that divides the kitchen from the living area is also very clean; it looks so sanitary that it might belong to a hospital.
Sniffing the air, I turn toward the hallway and lurk slowly toward it. I advance with caution along the wall of the hallway in the direction of the bathroom, and peer into it lifting my nose to detect any odd scents, again looking and smelling so clean that any germ would fear death if it touches the surface of the toilet, shower or sink. Everything sparkles and shines, including the tile floor. Turning into the doorway of the bathroom I glance at the glowing green eyes in the mirror, mesmerized momentarily by my own reflection.
Moving in silence to the other side of the hallway, and peer into the bedroom whose door is at the end. The Sealy-Posturepedic mattress is looking so inviting on its Athens style bed frame colored a dark cherry wood, that is placed in the center of the wall facing the door. Her dresser stands against the same wall that the door is on and there are two matching bedside tables on either side of the bed. To the right of the bedroom door is a large walk-in closet which aside from the large amounts of stylish clothing looked empty. The place is vacant. So, I call for Karma, as I flip on the light switches and shut and lock the entry door.
I search the place for any clues that may hint as to where Grace may have disappeared; a change in plans that Grace may have made and forgot to tell Emma, maybe she is taking a different flight, maybe she chose to go somewhere first and then to Emma's. I don't know, but still keep looking for clues. I scatter paper work everywhere, flip frantically through photo albums, search DVD and Blue-ray cases, and pull out every book that Grace owns. Grace is anal about everything. I know that if Grace had made any changes in her plans, she would have left some sort of clue...
I also inspect the door frame, entry way and the window frames, looking for anything that could mean breaking and entering. I thought that there might be a chance that Grace didn't even make it to the airport at all, maybe foul-play is involved here at Grace's flat. I comb every inch of carpet and tile flooring and sweep every piece of furniture that Grace owns searching for clues. Again, I find nothing suspicious.
Feeling drained, hopeless and completely empty handed, I decide that it is time for breakfast.
Knowing Grace wouldn't mind, I decide to raid her fridge. There I find eggs and some ham and some cheese, a lovely omelet sounds delicious. I pull out a frying pan, and spray some cooking oil into it, pour the beaten eggs into the pan and let if sizzle for a moment. As I am slicing the ham up getting it ready to pour into the egg, I notice something weird. Sitting in the corner of the counter, where the island and the wall meet, is an answering machine on Grace's landline phone that is flashing a bright red 57. I know Grace's every move.....Grace walks into the flat after a long day at the office, walks into the kitchen, presses the "play" button on her answering machine and listens to all the messages on the phone, while she's walking about preparing something for dinner or walking into the bedroom to change....there should not be 57 messages on her answering machine. 57 messages in less than twenty-four hours' time? That just doesn't seem right... I push the play button...
"Hi, Grace, it's Ariella, call me when you get to Hawaii...wished..." already knowing what that message contains, I push the button again. It is the message I left Sunday wishing Grace a good trip.
"Hello, this message is for Grace Thompson, this is Jason Aldrich from Financial Bank and..." pushing the button again, knowing about the loan that Grace was working on to purchase the new car.
"Hey Gracey, it's Mom, I was wondering what time you were leaving for Hawaii? 'Kay, well, I am excited to hear all the new stories you have to tell me about your job, and that crazy friend of yours! Love you. Can't wait to see you!"
And several beeps later...
"Gracey, it's me, Emma...this is not funny! I was at the airport to pick you up, and... well, I called your cell phone...where are you? C-call me b-back...k-kay, love ya..."
How long has she truly been missing? Who was the last person to see her?
"Grace, its Emma again...well...call me"
"Grace, I'm worried, I tried calling your cell phone again, this is not like you...why won't you answer either phone? Just call me..."
I press the stop button with 35 more messages to go. Emma is right; this isn't like Grace at all.
And why hadn't Emma called me to see if I knew where Grace might be? That was strange too. My heart sinks deeper; I don't know where to even begin. I sit down, and start playing all the messages, looking for a clue. My omelet smokes in the pan, and since I have lost my appetite, I just throw the burnt egg into the trash and the pan into the sink as I listen carefully to each message, with one thing on my mind; I have to find my friend and make sure she is alright.
Karma and I find ourselves driving back from Grace's flat empty handed. Unsure, stunned, and feeling hopeless, I am now wracking my brain into trying to figure my next move. "Who," I thought, "would have talked to her last, seen her last, who would want to hurt her, and why?" All these questions keep entering my mind and keep haunting me. I am supposed to have been back at the office, but instead, I had been to Grace's flat and am now driving around toward an unknown destination. I have to think. What is going to be the smartest thing to do right now? I pull out my cell phone, thinking that I need to call Emma, then I am going to drive to the airport. But first I have to talk to James and find out what he knows. I need to know Grace's flight information, and to try to track down Grace's last moves. Dialing Emma's number, I remembered the first time I met the twins:
It was about 8 years ago; I was still in high school. My family and I had just moved into the area when the twins were watching from across the street as my family was moving boxes out of the moving van and into the house. I was really a rather dinky little teenager, no curves, no muscle tone, just really small. Family members said I looked like a twig. The twins raced across the street excited to meet a new face, someone their own age. I remembered that my talent was just barely emerging from my body, but at this time, I didn't know I had it.
"Hi, I'm Emma," came the scrawny blonde-haired girl. She was a little taller than I, and had bright green eyes, she smiled.
"And I am GRACE!" said the other scrawny blonde with a mix of amusement and excitement in her voice.
"What's your name?" the two blonde girls asked in unison.
"My name's Ariella..."I said nervously.
"Ariella? That's a weird name," the first twin scrunched up her nose.
"It's cool, I like it. Come and chill at our place while your parents unpack..." said the boisterous second blonde nonchalantly.
The phone range... and again... a third time... and a fourth...
"You've reached Emma's cell phone; please leave your message after the beep! Thanks...oh, and I may or may not call you back! BYE!"
The phone slips out of my hands as I try to close it. The car swerves onto the shoulder of the highway while the sun is blazing down on the asphalt, reflecting up and almost blinding me as the car slows to a stop. I bump the hazards button and dive down quick in between my legs searching for my cell phone. As I am feeling around the floorboard for my phone, I hear a rapping on my window and Karma barking; I jump and bump my head on the steering wheel. After finding what I am looking for, I straighten myself out. I turn my head toward the sound of rapping, there stood a highway patrol officer outside my car door. His badge reflecting the blinding sunlight into my eyes. I roll down the window with some hesitence.
"Hello, Ma'am, is everything alright?" said the officer peering into the driver side window and then jumping back when he sees the massive pit bull sitting in the passenger side seat. Karma is sitting quietly, panting with his tongue lolling out and a huge grin causing his eyes to squint looking at me and then at the officer.
"Uh, yeah...I dropped my phone, and was just looking for it; don't worry about him...he's harmless." I say innocently holding up my phone and then gesturing to Karma. "I just need to make a quick phone call." I say flirting and fluttering my long eyelashes; I flash my bright white teeth at the officer and curl the corners of my lips up into a seductive smile. I always got away with all kinds of stuff when I did this.
"Er... uh...okay, just pull into that rest stop over there to make your phone call...and drive safely." The officer is tugging at his collar and clearing his throat as he points into the direction of the rest stop with a smile.
" Thanks," Smiling back to the officer, I then start the small silver Sentry, and watch in my rear-view mirror as the officer walks back to his car and drives away.
I pull the car off the shoulder back out onto the highway and turn into the rest stop that the officer had pointed out. I am grateful because I really do need to pee and get something to drink. I pull my car into the parking space closest to the Coca-Cola vending machine and shut the engine off. I open the car door and let Karma out to do his business and then venture into the bathroom while Karma follows. Afterward, I look around and view the desert surrounding the small adobe building. There really isn't much else out here just a few yuccas, agaves and maybe a cactus or two. It looks like desert for miles and miles. I sit against the hood of my car and dial Griffon's number. It rings three times before he picks up.
"Hello?" comes the smooth voice.
"Hey, Griff, it's me, Ariella..." I say, finally someone is answering my call. Feeling excited and exhilarated at the same time, now that I finally have someone on the phone; what questions should I ask?
"Hey, Ariella, I'm at work, I can't talk right now..."
"WAIT! Wait! I just need to ask you a few question...it's about Grace." I say abruptly. "Do you know the flight she was supposed to take out of Albuquerque? Did she have a layover or was she flying straight through? I just need to know all the details about her flight..." I say quickly.
"Well, she was flyin' US Airways, and it was an almost eleven-hour flight. I'm not sure she had a layover anywhere, wait... I think she may have had one in Phoenix, and Emma was supposed to pick her up at 5:00 yesterday evenin'. And she never showed up. Emma waited there all day! I'm not kiddin'! She didn't come home till almost midnight! I don't know all the details, the plans were made between Grace and Emma, so you'll have to ask Emma about that." He says in a matter-of-fact tone. "Quite frankly, Ariella, nothin' against Grace or anything, but I'm kinda glad that she never showed. Not that I wish any harm toward her, but I really wasn't lookin' forward to her visitin,' you know? In any case, I hope you find her. Listen, I'd like to be of more help, but I really gotta go. I'm not supposed to be talkin' on my phone at work."
"K, I guess I'll try calling Emma again, but thanks anyways, Griffon."
"Yeah, call Emma...gotta go now, bye" Griffon hangs up his phone.
"Bye," I say quietly as I flip my pone shut. Well, now I have one piece of information, Grace was supposed to arrive in Honolulu at 5:00 pm last night, but never showed. AND, it is not news to me that Griffon really wasn't looking forward to Grace's visit. He never does; he just tolerates Grace for Emma's sake. I try dialing Emma's phone again, and voicemail picks up again. Now I am frustrated. I think about going to the airport and demanding the information about all the different US Airway flights out of Albuquerque around 7am. and into Honolulu around 5pm. with or without layovers in Phoenix, but I am not sure how cooperative the arrivals at the check-in counter may be. I don't want to do anything rash, but I want something to go my way for a change. I decide to head to the office and question James Somers, to find out what he knows and get guidance on my next step.
"You're late!" I receive as a welcome from Brandon when I walk through the door. He smiles at me, and says, "Where've you been?" He walks over to me and leans forward to plant a kiss on my cheek. I sidestep him quickly and leave him toppling over with pursed lips.
"Where's your father, I need to talk to him...NOW!" I snap; I don't have time for his playful flirting.
"Dad's busy, he's been on the phone all day, said he's doesn't want to be bothered." Brandon says, looking kind of hurt that I don't play back.
"In his office?" I ask.
"Yeah... but I wouldn't go in there if I were you..."Brandon warns.
"Ariella! You're here... good!" a voice bellows from behind Brandon, it is Cody. "I was wondering when you'd finally show up. Somers, why don't you go and get us some coffee...."
"Sure...I guess so..." hesitates Brandon, under his breath, he then turns on his heels and swiftly walks away. "That's not in my job description..." he mumbles to himself.
Once Brandon is out of the room, Cody turns to me, gives me a quick once over and says, "You're lookin' good. Nobody else knows about Grace's disappearance, just you, me, and the boss. And he wants to keep it that way...for now. You're not even supposed to know, Emma wanted to call you, but James told her not to. He doesn't want you involved. He doesn't want you to worry, thinking that if you find out, it will distract you from other things. You being involved in this case will be...what'd he say... detrimental for you. But I think you need to know. I'll keep you informed, but you are NOT to get involved."
Read Chapter 3 here.
- The Shift: Book 1- The Anomaly Ch 3
The disappearance of Ariella’s friend starts to cause her to reflect on her adolescence. Driving Ariella forward in the investigation.