Trees lined the path, their branches arching over it, providing a canopy of dripping yellow leaves to travelers. Without a hat or umbrella, Kaylie Walsh’s ginger hair hung in long, clumped locks. The thick, black sweater, deemed adequate when she'd started out, was now a damp misery on her skin. She could care less. With grim determination, she hurried along lugging her bag, ignoring the drizzling rain. Nothing mattered, but Max.
The knot in her stomach tightened when she reached his house and noticed his car parked neatly in the drive as if nothing was amiss. Kaylie stumbled up the stairs, but didn’t bother knocking. Instead, with hands shaking from nerves and cold, she used the key he’d given her to unlock the door. The sight of the interior only increased her alarm.
Each room Kaylie walked through, calling for Max in vain, was immaculate. There wasn’t a speck of dust, crumb on the floor, or even a wrinkle in the coverlet on the bed. She stopped in the kitchen where the floor gleamed, countertops shined, and not one dish dirtied the sink to stand shaking her head. This was all wrong. Her brother lived in a state of happy clutter, always had, especially after he’d adopted George.
Kaylie stepped over, yanked open the back door, and went out into the back yard. It was eerily tidy with no sign of the St. Bernard mix Max rescued, and nursed back to health. She blinked back tears. The dog’s toys had filled a bin, a knotted rope, balls of various sizes and a rainbow of brightly colored Frisbees her brother bought at the dollar store, replacing them when George loved them to death. She’d often teased him about having a spoiled fur child.
Tight lipped, she turned, and walked back inside of the house. Max worked from home. He rarely went anywhere without his four legged friend. She hoped, whatever had befallen her brother, George was with him.
Now more than ever, Kaylie knew her brother needed help, but she’d about exhausted all of her options. She’d already learned Max wasn’t in any of the local hospitals, and that calls to family and friends were fruitless. Everyone had been kind, yet unconcerned, and all but patted her on the head.
And calling the police again was pointless.
Every officer Kaylie had spoken to so far didn’t care that she and Max talked on Sunday afternoons, without fail, and yet she hadn't heard from him in weeks. Not one was impressed with her feeling that something was wrong. They’d ignored her when, desperate, she’d tried to explain that she'd had those feelings all her life, and that they were never wrong.
They’re never wrong.
Back in the living room, Kaylie pulled out her cell phone. She had one option left. A private investigator that had dismissed her feelings, as the police had, and crushed her heart. But he knew Max. If she could get him to come over and look at the house, then maybe… She took a deep breath, and then tapped out a number she'd sworn never to call again.
"Why are you calling me Kaylie?" His rasp held neither anger nor welcome.
A pitiful whining sound caught her attention, drawing her to the front door.
She opened it, and gasped.
Kneeling by George, one hand on his matted fur, she choked out, "I need your help Sam."
on June 10th with Part 2