Jake was furious. What he wanted to do was to see the cordless phone shatter against that cabinet over there. What he did do was take a deep breath and put it back on the charger. He did not like it when things changed on him. He liked it less when those changes made him worry and far less when the source of that worry was one of his kids.
Shelby and Bobby had been quite a handful over the years but, just recently, it seemed like things were starting to get a bit out of hand. After the trouble last year, Jake didn't need any more surprises from those two. This disappearing act really pissed him off, mostly because there was a time Shelby and Bobby told him everything and that time had apparently passed. Usually they answered when he called. Sometimes not, but mostly yes. They spent more and more time away from the house lately, off together exploring the island or the library, or the shallow caverns that dotted the northward cliffs near the water line. Jake could not help but be worried for them but he needed to let them be kids. It was why they moved to Miller Island in the first place. He just wished that they—especially Shelby, the older and more responsible of the two—would spare a thought for the people that they left behind during these adventures of theirs.
Jake knew, and the kids probably did too, that he could track them by their cell phones if he really wanted to. All he would have to do was call in a favor and he would have their positions in seconds. But, really, he didn't want to do that. He wanted to give the kids a little space, especially Shelby. She would be fifteen in a month's time; a young woman more and more every day. He missed the weird little girl that would ask him the strangest questions at dinner, hold his hand whenever they left the house, but time sure does fly by sometimes.
They spent two years on the private island that Elaine had arranged for them, educating the kids with a live-in tutor. It would be easier that way, Jake and Tami had decided, than trying to reintegrate the kids after homeschooling them. When they eventually decided to make the move it turned out to be a hassle anyway. There were batteries of questions and placement tests and several conversations with administrators, teachers and counselors. Especially counselors.
Tami had wanted to stay where they were but Jake had slowly convinced her that kids needed friends and that meant moving. It had taken a lot of convincing. Jake's wife, Tamiqua, was just slightly more stubborn than her husband and had learned to argue from her own mother who had, once upon a time, been a pretty talented trial lawyer. Jake won out in the end, though.
He'd kissed her and stroked her cheek and just said, “They need a chance to just be kids, baby.” Tami had pushed him away and accused him of cheating and he'd smiled and made kissy faces until she laughed and pulled him close by his hips.
She had said, “What if the other kids are mean to her?”
Jake replied, “Shelby's tough. What can another kid do to her that's worse than she's already been through?”
Tami's eyes had welled up when she said, “Cheater,” a second time.
And so it was decided. They moved to the next, populated island into a nice house out on the coast and settled in. They got some strange looks at first, this Black couple with the very white children, one scarred and the other with a wild streak. It took time and a lot of patience and they told the same story over and over again and, eventually, most of the stares stopped; most of the whispers quieted down. Bobby made friends and Shelby didn't. Shelby spent her time in the library and Bobby spent his skateboarding all over the town.
Things were pretty okay, but Jake had been restless. He longed for his own adventures. It didn't matter to him that his friend Elaine had seen to it that Jake would never need to work again. Jason Xavier Dawes just could not sit still for long. He had gone out and pressed the flesh and got to know the right people and put his hat in the ring after getting on as a deputy. Elaine had seen to it that his records were exemplary, almost identical to the real thing, and taking on the mantle of sheriff had been almost easy, like it was meant to be.
And now, despite his political and legal power, despite the technological prowess of his former partner, Elaine, and despite what he felt were his duties as a father, Jake stood in his kitchen, hands on the kitchen island, staring down into the sink drain feeling as impotent as an infant. He didn't know where they had gone or why, when they might be back, if they were safe. He knew that they weren't answering his repeated phone calls. He knew that he wasn't going to tell Tami, even if she asked. He knew it was a gamble, maybe a dangerous one, but he was trusting Shelby to be as smart as he knew she was despite the steady downward slide of her GPA. He also knew that, when they came in the door, he would be waiting.