“You go on up to bed, darling. I’m gonna stay down here and read that book on the local history. I’m just not ready to sleep yet.” Giving her a kiss and a playful swat on the rear, he headed into the living room where a cozy fire burned. The lamps were on low giving him just enough light to read by.
Outside the window, no one noticed the snow beginning to fall. It went from a light flurry to heavy flakes in a matter of minutes. It worsened until an hour later, when they had a full whiteout.
Engrossed in the book, he didn’t notice the storm outside, though the howl of the wind must have registered on some level. By the time the wail was loud enough, and there was no way he could ignore it, he was crying. Hiccupping sobs blended with ethereal crying. The story never stopped, even as tears streamed out of his eyes, blinding him to the words. As each new tragedy befell the Widow Johns, he felt her agony. Finally at the end, he felt her desolation and inability to continue living.
Luke put the book down on the side-table. Dressed only in the pants and sweater he’d worn all day, no shoes on his feet, he let himself out the door and disappeared into the deadly weather.
Sandy woke alone in bed; looking over, she thought Luke had stayed up all night, again. Sighing, she got up and headed to the shower. She was used to it. Two or three nights a week, she slept alone, and sometimes it bothered her. Today, was one of those days. Here they were in this fabulous house with their friends, nothing to do but enjoy the time and each other, and he couldn’t even try to be there to cuddle with her. Who knew where cuddling could have led?
Clean and refreshed after her shower, she opened the curtains. Snow fell so thick nothing was visible. She could hear the wind as it raged outside the house. Shivering, Sandy closed the curtains. She wondered as she headed to make coffee and to talk Luke into coming back upstairs for a bad weather snuggle and the, whatever else, he’d missed upon waking.
Stopping off in the living room, hoping Luke had slept on the couch, she stopped suddenly to find it empty. Baffled by his disappearance she started the coffee she desperately wanted. While it percolated, she checked the other rooms on the first floor, but still found no sign of Luke. Back in the kitchen, she made toast to go with the java, and sat down.
Sandy rose and put her empty plate in the dishwasher, just as Diane and Hugo entered.
“Ah, coffee, thank god!” Diane dove at the cabinet for cups.
Hugo, still sleepy-eyed, smiled quietly at Sandy, “Thanks for making the coffee. Can I get mine in an IV? Somebody …” he jerked his thumb at Diane. “…kept me up way past my bedtime.”
“Is that a complaint?” Diane waited until he sat, before plopping onto his lap. She gave him a loud smacking kiss on the lips. “We’re on vacation, no one has a bedtime.”
They sat in silence enjoying the coffee.
“Are you ready for breakfast, baby?” Diane asked. “What about you, Sandy? Want some breakfast? Wait, where’s Luke?” She bumped back up and rattled around looking for the makings of breakfast. “Did you wear him out so bad he’s still dead to the world?”
“I had toast, so I’m good, thank you. I’ve no idea where Luke is, He never came to bed last night, and he isn’t anywhere down here.” They both looked at her.
“Is he outside?” Hugo asked.
“I don’t think so. Its storming bad out there, absolutely no visibility. No one in their right mind would dare try.” She shivered at the thought.
Hugo put his cup down, and then moved swiftly to open the drapes covering the closest window.
“Wow, the old man wasn’t kidding when he said there were terrible snow storms Christmas week.” He stared at nothing but white. “Yeah, no way is anyone out in that.”
He turned back to the table. “Let’s go look around, see if we can find him. You said you’ve checked down here, so you go up. I’ll check the basement. There is a game room and stuff down there.” He walked over and kissed Diane on the head. “Be right back, baby.”
Sandy ran back up the stairs, checking each room as she went down the hall. Frustrated at not finding him, she returned to their room. She stood in the middle of the floor looking around. His suitcase was still zipped, so she went and opened it. Everything was just as it was when she zipped it closed; Dopp kit, clothes, and shoes. Troubled, panic rising, she went back down to the kitchen and checked the mudroom where they came in last night. His coat, scarf and shoes were where he’d left them.
“He isn’t anywhere up there,” She said when Hugo came back into the room alone.
“Not down stairs either.”
“His coat and all his stuff is still in there,” she gestured. “His suitcase is still packed. He’s just gone.” She turned in a panic back to the mudroom, grabbed her coat. “He must be outside. If he went out before the storm started, he may be trapped somewhere. We have to go look for him.”
Hugo grabbed her before she could reach the outside door. “You can’t go out there, you won’t be able to find anything, and you said yourself there is no visibility.” He turned her to face him as she struggled to break his hold. “Come on now, you know he wouldn’t have gone out there. He wouldn’t have stayed out there once this storm started.”
Diane stood next to the table where she had set three breakfast plates, looking pale. “Honey, hang up your coat and come sit down, we’ll figure this out.” She walked over, and led her to a seat, gently urging her down. “I’m going to get you some water.” Diane shot a look at Hugo, which he correctly interpreted as to mean ‘Sit with her.’
He sat in chair to her right and scooted next to her, taking her hands in his. “I’m going to call for help. We won’t give up on him. Hey, he’s probably in here somewhere playing a joke.”
Diane, back with the water, helped Sandy hold the glass as she took a sip. “It will be alright, you’ll see, Hugo is going to call the police. They will come help us look for him, okay? You just sit here for a moment.” She jerked her head at Hugo and they both left the kitchen.
“What are you telling her that for? You know the owner said that emergency help wasn’t available with the storms. She’s gonna go nuts when she finds out that no one is coming.” He hissed at Diane.
“I had to tell her something after your asinine ’he’s hiding somewhere in the house’ nonsense.’” She gave as nasty as she got. “Look, she won’t know no one is coming right away, just go call and let them know we have a missing person, so they can get here as soon as the storm clears. Then we won’t be lying to her.”
He stalked to the phone in the library, picked it up, listened, and then slammed it down. He looked at her stricken. “The phone is out, and there isn’t gonna be any cell reception in this storm.” Thinking a moment, he looked around and spotted a desktop computer. “Let’s hope I can get an email out.” He booted the computer and quickly composed an email to the county Sheriff’s office, and hit send. “I’ll leave it on and keep checking to see if we get a reply. What do we tell her?”
“The truth. The phones are out, but we got a message through.” Diane surprised him with her practicality. “They’ll get here as soon as they can. If he is out there and isn’t under cover, he’s already dead and it won’t matter.” She took his hand.” Lets go back to Sandy, I’m gonna try to get her to go lay down. The crying would have worn her out. I’ll have her take a sleep aid, and hopefully she will sleep for a while.”
Hugo pulled her to him and held her close. “What the hell was he doing? He has to be out there. Why would he go out there?”
“I don’t know. Maybe he heard something. It doesn’t matter now, let’s just do what needs doing, and worry when it’s time to worry,” she sighed and leaned her head on his shoulder.
“I always forget how wise you are. You wear a man out, always going a hundred miles an hour, but I couldn’t imagine my life without you.”