Joe burned with anger at being duped.
So, it was easier to lie with the talkie than he’d thought. “Oh please let me turn the lie detector off. And by the way, please do this little favor for me.” Give the stupid jerk a smile and he’ll do anything for you.
All she wanted was the talkie, and he handed it over to her! How much of the other things she said were lies, too?
“Trash this note, indeed!” He crumpled the piece of paper and tossed it to the ground.
Conditioning kicked in. Gritting his teeth, he picked up the litter from the gravel and walked it over to the trash barrel.
“I’m just too tame!” He did what everyone told him to do. The ride up here into the mountains was just a taste of the wild and rebellious.
It had been wonderful. He’d no idea what was going to happen next. It’d been exciting—his arm around a beautiful girl, racing on a motorcycle to escape mysterious bad guys!
Okay, she was riding and he was the passenger, but still it’s more than he’d ever done before.
“She thought I wasn’t up to it.” That’s why she dumped him. She had to move fast. And he was a stick-in-the-mud.
And now he was stuck. It was maybe fifteen miles back to town. It would be a long walk. He picked up the canteen, and shook it. It did need to be filled.
He walked the road to the campground, rather than the hiking trail, just to be different. A couple of cars passed by, and he toyed with the idea of hitchhiking.
But he’d never tried that before. And what would I tell them? Confess he’d been dumped by a girl? Make up something?
“I can’t even lie very well.”
Judith raced out of the campground, but the talkie’s buttons flashed to white almost immediately, as the mute mode expired. It was still synced to Joe as its host, and it was close enough to pick up the overtones of his shock, hurt, and anger. Before it gave up trying to translate his thoughts into words, she felt horrible.
I had to leave him behind. This isn’t his problem. I have to find Daddy.
A mile down the road, she stopped and zipped up her leather jacket. Carefully, remembering a lesson her father had given her years ago, she shut the talkie all the way down. Somehow, Joe must have stumbled across the combination of keys that told it to adapt to a new user. She’d tune it to herself, once she got back through Las Vegas. It was too useful to be able to communicate, and if she were careful, with simple signs, most people wouldn’t realize they were being helped in their understanding. They’d just think they were skilled or lucky.
I wish I could have let him come along. It’d been great to be able to talk to someone. Three times Daddy had transported a talkie from one base to another, and he’d arranged to have her along on those trips. She prized those few days when Daddy had been able to talk with her. Today had been different. Joe was her age. It had been nice. But now, he hated her. Oh, well, it was for his own good.
She passed through Las Vegas without seeing any sign of the car Carl Morris was using. Lucky. She didn’t have Joe’s confidence in the local law enforcement. Dad had stories of incidents in his past with cops of various stripes. In each case, the Trust had been able to pull strings to keep him out of trouble and off the books.
Why is the Trust working against itself? It makes no sense. Daddy must have known something was going on. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have impressed on her to keep monitoring the phone, in case he called. He must have thought it was going to be dangerous if he had a talkie and didn’t bring her. She wished he’d told her more. He’d been worried for weeks, but he kept his secrets. That was his job, after all.
And it was her job to find him. She touched the talkie, inactive in her pocket. He’d be glad she recovered it.
Joe’s feet were starting to hurt. It’d been a year or so since he’d taken a good long hike. Not too far down the mountain road from the campground, he saw a little sign with just ‘14’ on it. Fourteen miles back to Las Vegas. That wouldn’t have been too bad on his bicycle, especially since a lot of it would be downhill. But he could make it, he was sure.
Dad would be furious. He was supposed to be back at the office by now. How long would it take to get back home?
By the time he saw the next mile marker, Joe was seriously considering calling home to get someone to come pick him up. If there’d been a convenience store, he would have done it by now. He patted his pocket where the five-dollar bill rested. A cold coke and change for a pay phone would be welcome.
He was draining the canteen faster than he’d expected. In spite of the shade from the trees, there were more uphill stretches on the road than he remembered, and he was working up a sweat.
A white van passed by. The driver waved. Joe waved back, and kept on walking. It made the dozenth time he’d lost his nerve. What’s wrong with hitchhiking?
Nothing. It’s me that’s the problem.
On his home ground, he took care of people, cleaned up after them, and helped them find what they sought. But out here, he was too timid to ask for help himself.
As he trudged past the next mile marker, he looked longingly at the nearby house, and the wires running to it from the telephone poles. He paused, partly to take a break, but also to see if he could build up enough courage to knock on the door.
Joe turned around. Dressed in dusty work clothes, a man stood next to the fence on the other side of the road, a hammer in his hand.
Joe nodded towards the house. “I need to find a phone.”
The man nodded. “Go knock on the door. She’ll show you where it’s at.” Then he turned his attention back to fence repair.
Joe sighed. He wasn’t looking forward to this.
“Railroad Motel.” It was his sister.
“Hi. Can I speak to Dad?”
“Joe! Where’ve you been? Dad was furious. Mom called and needed him to bring some stuff to her in Albuquerque. You were supposed to be here to cover for him.
“Now, I’m stuck, and my boss won’t like it when I’m late to my job at the dorm.”
“Sorry. I’m stuck too. I need you to come get me.”
“Come get you? Where are you?”
“Out on route 65, near mile marker 12.”
“What in the world are you doing there?”
Joe sighed. “You wouldn’t believe it if I told you.”
“Um. Well... there’s this girl, and we rode out towards Hermit’s Peak on her motorcycle. And uh....”
“Joe, what did you do?”
“Nothing! Honest.” He lowered his voice. “I was just helping her out. And then she up and left. I’ve been hiking back to town.”
The lady of the house had shown him the phone and let him make the call from the front porch, but he’d die of embarrassment if she were listening. It was bad enough he had to tell Anna.
She had no sympathy. “Serves you right.”
“Can you come get me?”
“No. I’m stuck here at the office, remember. Dad’s already left, and it’ll be hours before he’s back.
“You’re on your own. Teach you to trifle with girls. It wasn’t one of our guests was it?”
Joe hesitated, and that was enough for her. “Boys!” And she hung up.
Meekly, Joe returned the phone and thanked the lady for the call.
More walking was in order.
I wonder if I could get Mr. Patel, or maybe Mark’s parents to come get me.
But he’d need a few more miles under his feet before he’d have the nerve to make those calls.
Judith pulled off the interstate and pulled out her maps. There were several roads Daddy could have taken. Something had happened immediately after his call. He would certainly have made another attempt to contact her.
Suppose he had an accident. But if he’d been on the interstate, the police would have been on the scene long ago and they would have called the house.
For the tenth time today, she called her home number and checked the answering machine. Nothing.
She was alone, and on her own. She clenched her teeth and stared hard at the road ahead. She was not going to cry. Daddy had always been there to take care of her. Even when he was away for days, he’d called her every night and listened carefully as she tapped out her thoughts with the spoon. When Momma left....
She shook away the self-pity. Daddy needed her now. He sent for her. He might be in trouble. She had to concentrate.
The possible routes Daddy might have taken were not that many, considering how much time had elapsed from when Joe heard him leave the motel and when the call had come.
Daddy knew he was being chased and headed west on either Highway 58 or 64. If she stayed on I-25 until the 64 exit, she could loop back over 58 and cover all the options.
Daddy, what’s happened to you?