[This is a multi-part story. Lexi Brown is trying to escape her past and create a new life for herself in Otter Village, 500 miles from where a traumatic event occurred 6 months ago. In our last episode, we read that Vicky informed Lexi of Dan’s intent to drive to Otter Village and how he seemed to have disappeared along the way.
Here are the posts in order so far:
The Angry Brother
Something You Don’t Know
Who Needs Drama?
Dan Drives North
For the first time since she’d moved to Otter Village, Lexi regretted giving up her car. She’d had a cool metallic blue Mazda with the personalized plate BLUWAVE. It had not been her intent to be political, only whimsical, and after Jim’s infamous death, the plate made her easily recognizable to those who liked to snap her picture. As soon as she’d arranged for accommodation here, she sold the car and her furniture, booked a flight, and ubered to Carolyn’s. When she needed a ride, there were Uber drivers here, though you could wait a half-hour or more, unlike the city where one would pop up two seconds after you texted.
Tonight, after Vicky’s call informing her that Dan had apparently disappeared en route to Otter Village, Lexi really wished she had her own car available. She felt trapped, having to rely on Ubers or the kindness of people like Carolyn to drop her off when she wasn’t feeling well. She paced across the porch, trying to decide what to do.
Her first impulse was to call Kevin, but no. Their romance was only just starting and it wasn’t right to impose upon him. They had already planned a fun event tomorrow and she didn’t want to ruin everything with a Saturday night drama. This ongoing Dan problem had nothing to do with Kevin. She needed to deal with Dan and make him understand that she’d tried to help Jim, but he hadn’t wanted help. She’d already told Dan that at the funeral, but he’d tuned her out that afternoon. She didn’t blame him; grief did strange things to your brain. Yet, she hadn’t wanted to restart the discussion again either.
Lexi stayed outside a few minutes longer, worrying about Dan… stranded? Hurt? The victim of a crime? Where was he now? What had happened to him? Finally the cold was too much and Lexi went inside, grateful for the warmth of the boarding house. She hadn’t eaten dinner yet, so she wandered into the kitchen.
Peering into the fridge, she wished Carolyn hadn’t left for the weekend. Her landlady would probably be willing to help look for Dan. She was a very kind person. Lexi shut the fridge, deciding she wasn’t hungry after all. She went into the great room where the TV droned… an old James Bond movie was playing.
“Hey Lexi,” said a guy on the sofa. It was Mike, the newest resident. “Whassup?”
Lexi forced herself to sit on the opposite end of the sofa, even though her nerves were still jumping. “Mm nothing. Was wondering if maybe I could get a ride…”
“Now? I’m a bit wasted.” He grinned. “How about in the morning? In the meantime, I’ve got a fine selection of party favors in my room, if you’d like to join me. When the landlady’s away, the cats will play. Isn’t that what they say?”
Ugh! That’s not what they said! Lexi felt utterly disgusted, though she usually didn’t care what the other housemates did. Calm down, she admonished herself, this isn’t Mike’s fault. “I’ll pass,” she said. “I have to go out.”
“Bummer,” he said, turning his attention back to the screen, where Bond had begun to play cards with a bad guy.
Lexi left the room and went upstairs to her own. She pulled up her Uber app and was just about to request a ride to the airport, in hopes of renting a car and abandoning her promise to Vicky and Nick, when her phone buzzed with a call from Kevin.
“Hi! How are you?” Too late, she realized her voice was jittery and over-bright.
Kevin laughed. “Good! You sure sound peppy for having worked all day. I’m tired, I confess, but I did sneak in a five-mile run before sunset.”
“Nice! I should do that.”
“We’ll get plenty of exercise tomorrow on our beach walk,” he said. “It’s supposed to be another gorgeous day. Cool but sunny. We could have a picnic…”
“Lexi, is everything okay? You seem a little on edge.”
She didn’t want to lie. “Oh, the usual. Haha, you know. My sister! All that.”
“Hmm.” Kevin paused, the silence making Lexi more nervous. Finally, he continued, “Did your sister call with more news about Dan today?”
“Yes.” Lexi sighed and picked up the otter beanie baby on her night table. It was still as adorable as the day Kevin gave it to her at the festival, back when they were friends “light,” before their kiss, before she’d begun confiding in him.
“And?” Kevin prompted. “You can tell me, Lexi. I really will understand. I know it’s not your fault this stuff happened. I too have had…”
“What?” She eagerly seized on that morsel. “What brought you here, Kevin? Why did you leave Chicago?”
“Whoa,” he said. “Actually, I’d like to tell you about all that, even though I won’t be doing myself any favors. It’s not a pretty picture of me, but fair is fair, since you’ve been honest with me. How about tomorrow though, in person?”
“Sure.” Lexi sat on the edge of her bed, still holding the otter. “But for now, I have to go. Want to meet here at noon?”
“Sounds good, but… what happened with Dan?”
“You’re so persistent! Are you sure you’re not a reporter?”
“Just tell me. I’m starting to imagine awful things.”
“It is awful.” She stood up and began pacing again. “He was driving up here and, well, vanished.”
“What do you mean vanished?”
“Vicky said he called her Friday, implying he was coming up here to talk to me. Then in the middle of the night she got a missed call from him with a garbled message like he was in trouble. He won’t pick up now or return texts from her or Nick. Nick traced the last call to coordinates about two hundred miles south of here, but his car GPS was still moving back to the city.”
“He could have changed his mind.”
“Right, but that message…” Lexi shook her head. “No, I think he got in some kind of trouble.”
“I can see why you’re concerned, but isn’t it more logical to assume he lost his phone and turned around?” Kevin sounded so sensible and comforting.
Lexi didn’t want to argue. “Yes, Kevin, that would be more logical.”
“Soooo, you’re going to get a good night’s sleep and I’ll see you at noon? We can stop at the market for picnic goodies on the way to the beach.”
“I’m going to get an Uber to the airport and rent a car to go look for Dan,” she told him. “But the rest of your plan sounds perfect.”
“You can’t do that, Lexi.”
Immediately irritated at being told what she couldn’t do, Lexi said, “And why not?”
“Because rental car places are all closed by now.”
Tears welled up in her eyes. How could she possibly sleep tonight or enjoy herself with Kevin tomorrow when Dan might be lying injured on the road somewhere? “Okay, thanks.”
“I’ll be there in ten minutes to help you go look for that idiot,” Kevin said and clicked off.
[to be continued]
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