Home For the New Year

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Dirk could have watched the game at the bar with the usuals, but it wasn’t the same as hanging out around the house with Bryce or Tom. Eating pizza and Doritos and yelling for the kids running around the house to be quieter made it a different experience. It seemed more wholesome and became the vision for what Dirk wanted when he was ready to settle down.

When they first became friends, Bryce just assumed he was included in Dirk’s plans. It was Dirk’s turn to follow a page out of Bryce’s rule book, Refused to be ignored. Dirk texted Bryce, “I’ll bring the beer if you want to watch the game.” Dirk waited for Bryce’s response. Sooner or later, his friend’s resolve would break, and he’d accept Dirk’s olive branch.

“Kinda busy,” Bryce replied. A few seconds later, another text followed, “Have you seen Cam?”

The first thought was Bryce had seen Dirk at the swim meet and was calling him out. Even then, it was at a distance. Dirk learned more about Cam through slips of conversations with his mother. “Not lately.”

“Alright. Thanks.”

The phone fell silent. Hmm, that’s odd. Something about the way the conversation ended pushed at Dirk, compelling him to probe.

“What’s up with Cam?”

“He’s missing.”

Dirk gaped at his phone. Kinda busy was an understatement. He pressed the phone to call. It was time to get the full story.

Bryce answered with a rally of answers. “Liz is out driving the roads, we’ve called all his friends. Tom has checked the stockroom at the stores, and we’ve checked to make sure he wasn’t at home taking a nap.”

The next part was muffled by what Dirk suspected was Bryce placing his hand over the speaker for his phone. “I doubt he knows where Bentley lives. Okay, I’ll ask.”

“Did Cam ever talk to you about Bentley?” waited for Bryce’s response.

“No.” Bryce’s question emphasized how little Dirk knew about Cam.

“Liz said that Cam asked to go to the park to play with Bentley. Sam was supposed to join them. But, I kept him at home because he didn’t clean his room.”

“And you checked Bentley’s house?” Dirk knew they had. Like them, he was grasping at straws.

“Bentley is a stray dog. Cam has been taking care of him for months.”

Dirk’s world froze in place. The cessation of movement jarred his insides.

Whether Liz wanted him or not, he needed to be there. “I’m coming over to help.”

“I don’t think there’s much you can do.” Dirk could almost see the apologetic expression on Bryce’s face. He was in the middle. He didn’t want to exclude Dirk but wanted to respect the boundary Liz had set.

Well, too bad for Liz. Dirk eyed his keys on the edge of the kitchen counter by the sink. Since childhood, they had been connected. She was there for him when he struggled through school. Liz and Tom’s father included him in everything like he was one of their children. The crisis with Cam removed the veil. A simple stay away didn’t have as much power as Liz or Dirk thought it had. “I’m heading over.”

Dirk crossed the room to pick up his keys. He didn’t want to answer his mother’s questions. A vague explanation would work for the time being. “Ma, I’m heading to Bryce’s to help out with something.”

She appeared from the hallway. Her face tightened in horror. “Liz just called. Cam is missing.”

The phone was in the chest pocket of Dirk’s flannel shirt. Liz had called Dirk’s mother, but not Dirk? It hadn’t made sense. Then he saw the missed call message. She must have called at the same time he dialed out. He hoped to God, she didn’t think he was keeping his distance. For the time being what she thought didn’t matter. Once Cam was found, Dirk would sort through the feelings.

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