Warning: This chapter is extremely long with a lot of narrative. If you have problems loading it, please let me know in the messages section, and I’ll divide it into two chapters. Sorry about having so much narrative this time!
Darion was out of town trying to convince Rene to come back to Santa Fe so that she and the children could complete the remainder of the school year at home. He was hoping that she would also agree to marriage counseling and try to save their marriage. However, if she wasn’t ready for that, he would move out of the house and let her and the children live there alone. So Sharlee knew that Noah wasn’t with Darion either.
The police told her that she could not file a missing person’s report until after Noah had been missing for at least 24 hours. Sharlee felt a tight knot of anxiety in her stomach. 24 hours! That seemed like an unbearable lifetime away! She couldn’t sit there waiting for that long a length of time.
She went upstairs and bundled a still sleeping Skylar up and put her in her carseat. Then she drove around looking for her husband. When she reached his campus, she drove slowly through the parking lot. It was completely empty.
Noah heard a vehicle pass by overhead. It had been hours since he’d last heard anything. His voice was weak and his throat hurt from yelling for help. He knew that there was no way that anyone driving by would hear him now, but he still tried to call out loud.
The car continued past without stopping. Noah’s body felt numb. He knew that his wrist was either broken or it had a bad sprain because of the excruciating pain he’d felt when he tried to lift the motorcycle off of his body. Every breath he took was painful. He’d probably broken a rib or two as well. He didn’t know about his legs, but he could barely move them. There was a rock or rather a small boulder resting on top of part of his motorcycle. Even if he’d had the use of both arms, he still wouldn’t be able to lift the motorcycle off of his body.
Gingerly turning his head, he’d seen his cellphone lying busted not far from his body. Blood was flowing from an open wound on his head. He remembered rounding the curve like he usually did, only this time when he’d tried to brake, the brakes weren’t working! His motorcycle had gone over the side of the cliff, landing on top of Noah in the fall.
He didn’t understand why the brakes had failed. Every morning he checked his bike and Sharlee’s car to make sure that they were in tip top condition. The brakes had been fine that morning and the accident should not have happened!
Noah thought about Sharlee, and he knew that she had to be sick with worry and probably guilt over their argument earlier that evening. He felt guilty about blowing up on her. She didn’t deserve that. If he didn’t survive this, he hoped that she really knew how much he loved her. He hoped that she would find someone who would love her and cherish her like he did. Someone who would love and nurture Sky.
Kristian came into his mind, and he knew that Kristian wouldn’t waste much time trying to insinuate himself into Sharlee’s life. No, uh-uh, that wasn’t gonna happen! Kristian wasn’t ever going to be with his wife and raise his daughter! Noah was determined to hang on until someone found him!
Sharlee put Skylar back into her crib after she returned to the house. There was still no sign of Noah, and she didn’t know where else to look for him. She thought of calling her Dad, but she didn’t want to add to his worries. Her mother along with Aidan and Joy was still in the FBI’s protective custody.
“Uncle George, this is Sharlee. Noah’s missing!”
She explained what was happening and told him what the officer on duty at the station had told her about waiting 24 hours.
George was in a tight spot. Noah was family, but the department was under close scrutiny over showing favoritism to prominent citizens. He’d received his promotion because of the belief in his impartiality. However, he could hear the strain in his niece’s voice. He had to do what he could to help even if he couldn’t handle the case himself.
“Thank you so much, Uncle George.”
Sharlee told him about Noah and that she had spoken with her Uncle George.
Sharlee didn’t even try to tell him not to come. Cara and Shawn came with him. Then he and Shawn also went driving around town trying to find Noah, and they couldn’t find him either. Cara and Shawn offered to stay with her the next morning and skip school, but Sharlee told them to go onto school. Other family members wanted to come, but she told them to not to do it. She was barely holding it together, and she knew that even though she loved her family, being with all of them right now wouldn’t help her.
George had explained to the family why he wasn’t personally handling the case. Just recently the department had come under fire for showing favoritism to those with a high social or financial standing within the community. The son of a prominent businessman had not been charged with manslaughter for driving drunk and killing a bicyclist. So now the department was under increased scrutiny.
Her Grandmother Kaye and her father insisted on staying with her. Kaye had come to take Skylar with her to her home, but Skylar had cried out for Sharlee not wanting to leave her. She kept asking for her father and when Sharlee couldn’t tell her when he would be home or calling her, Skylar sensed something was wrong. She was okay as long as she knew that Sharlee was near and constantly checked to make sure that Sharlee was still home. So Kaye had stayed at the house to help Sharlee look after Skylar.
Noah had been missing for 48 hours. George had assigned his best detective to work on the case. Detective Perry Stewart was training a new partner, Bradley Phelps, but George knew that Perry had great instincts in handling cases involving missing people. Noah was family, and if he couldn’t work the case himself, then he wanted his best people on it.
Perry was allowing the younger detective to take the lead on questioning, but he was beginning to regret that decision. Detective Phelps had recently been divorced and thrown himself into his work. He was hoping to use this high profile case to advance in his career. Perry didn’t have a problem with that. He liked and respected the younger detective, but he didn’t realize how much the recent divorce would negatively influence Detective Phelps’ take on the case. He knew that certain questions needed to be asked of Sharlee, but some of the questions that Phelps asked her were almost over the line.
“Mrs. Hall, we have a few questions for you. How were you and your husband getting along?”
“I guess we’re like most couples. We have our ups and downs, but we’re happy together.”
“Hmm, so you weren’t arguing a lot?”
Sharlee looked at him and frowned. “We were having a bit of a disagreement, but it wasn’t anything major.”
“That’s not what witnesses tell us. One of your neighbors describes a very heated argument between you and Mr. Hall on the morning of the day he disappeared. Students at the Technical College report overhearing a conversation in which he cursed you out.”
He looked at her intently as he waited for her response.
“So you do acknowledge that your relationship with your husband has become “difficult.”
Sharlee didn’t respond.
“Was there another man in the picture?”
“What are you talking about?”
“The fact that your husband is missing is all over the news, and we’ve received a lot of information. We’ve received reports of you getting cozy with a fellow participant at a lab course in which you recently participated. You were observed hugging and even kissing the young doctor who was your lab partner, Kristian Palmer.”
Sharlee was even more upset.
“Sir, we have to ask these questions. It’s our duty to Mr. Hall to eliminate every avenue in our quest to find him. As a matter of fact, reports indicate that you were not a fan of your son-in-law either! Kristian is a close colleague. Maybe you had something to do with his disappearance as well.”
“Are you sure, Honey?”
“Yes. I’ll be alright, Daddy.”
Dale reluctantly left the room.
“It is true that Kristian has expressed an interest in having a romantic relationship with me, but I don’t return his feelings. I have made that clear to him! My husband knows all about what happened. So that is not a factor in his disappearance.”
“I know women like you, Mrs. Hall.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re high maintenance. You feel that you are better than any man and that any man should be grateful that you’re with them. You think that you can just bat your lashes and get your way! Women like you are never satisfied with what your husband does. Maybe your husband got sick of your attitude! Maybe he got tired of being chained to you. You were married at a young age, and he was probably sick of the responsibility. Maybe he found someone else just like you did!”
Sharlee’s mouth fell open in shock at what he was saying. Detective Stewart moved uncomfortably in his seat. Years of experience had taught him to quickly read the people he encountered in his investigations. The pain and worry for her husband was clear in Sharlee’s eyes and body language. She was in love with her husband and was desperate to find him. Detective Stewart had no doubts about that. Detective Phelps showed Sharlee a picture in his cellphone. It was a picture of a bag with an item of women’s lingerie sitting beside it.
“We found that in your husband’s locker. Do you know anything about it?”
“Since it was in his locker, I believe it’s safe to infer that he didn’t want you to see it. It must have been purchased for someone else, and that fits in with other information that we’ve uncovered. Mr. Hall was overheard to agree to meet with one of his instructors on the evening in which he went missing.”
He showed Sharlee another picture. It was a photograph of the instructor.
“Do you know her?”
“I haven’t met her, but I don’t know any of Noah’s instructors. I attend a different college.”
“Well, most men would consider her to be very attractive. Oddly, we haven’t been able to contact her. She left town the morning following your husband’s disappearance. We have learned that she is on a week long vacation that began on that day. She has no close family and the other instructors don’t know much about her personal life. Perhaps she and your husband left together. He’s a young man and maybe he just tired of you and your nagging.”
Sharlee couldn’t believe what he was insinuating. She moved uncomfortably in her seat. He paused and then showed Sharlee another picture.
“This is a love letter that we also found hidden in his locker.”
Sharlee’s tight composure crumpled when she saw the letter. She began to sob. It was the letter that she had written to Noah when he had been on trial as a teen. She’d had no idea that he had kept it for all of these years. It read:
He continued coldly.
“So you’re not the only woman in your husband’s life. That must be an ego killer right there, but you probably deserve to be taken down a peg.”
Detective Stewart decided that it was time to intervene. He’d given Detective Phelps a lot of latitude, but he was going too far. Detective Stewart had seen recognition in Sharlee’s eyes when she’d seen the letter.
“Have you seen that letter before now, Mrs. Hall?”
“Yes, it’s a letter that I wrote to my husband years ago as teenagers before we were married. I didn’t know that he still had it and still read it.”
She sat up straighter and looked at Detective Phelps.
“Sir, I can understand that you are just doing your job and that you don’t know me. All I want is for you to find my husband. Even if it were true that he left me for another woman, at least I’d know that he is safe. If you really knew him though, you would know that he would not choose to run away. He’d tell me face to face. He’s not a coward.”
She heard Skylar crying. “If you really knew him , you’d know that if by some slight chance, he’d leave me, there is no way on this earth that he would leave that little girl! He loves her with all of his heart and would never ever do anything that might hurt her.”
“My brother is an FBI agent heading a BAU unit. He’d like to speak with you, Detective Phelps.”
Dale handed his cellphone to the detective. As Detective Phelps spoke with Alex, he frowned. “But the FBI doesn’t have any jurisdiction-” Whatever he’d been starting to say, Alex cut him off. Detective Phelps’ face paled.
“Sharlee, I wish that I could come and help you find Noah, but we’ve received a lead on the “perp” who was at the park. I have to catch him so that your sister, brother and other children will be safe again. I can’t let him have a chance to harm another child.”
“I know, Uncle Alex. Please find that despicable creep soon!”
“I will. I’ve spoken with George and with the detectives handling Noah’s case. George says that Detective Stewart is one of the best, and if anyone can find Noah, he will do it.”
Sharlee thanked him, and then Alex disconnected the call.
“I’ve had contact with many parents as a part of my profession and in my personal life. While there was a time that I didn’t have a favorable opinion of Noah, and of course I do still see areas where he could improve, I believe that he is an excellent father who deeply loves his daughter. I know that he would not willingly leave his baby in this way. I also don’t believe that he is the type of man who would leave my daughter in such a cruel manner.”
Sharlee smiled at Dale.
The detectives left the house after that.
Her cellphone rang, and she quickly snatched it up before the ringing awakened Skylar. Each time it rang, she had the momentary hope that it would be Noah or someone telling her that he had been found. She saw that it was her mother. The sound of her mother’s voice made the tears come again.
“I know, Mom. It’s just so hard not knowing whether or not he’s okay. One of the detectives believes that he left me for another woman, but I know that’s not true. Noah wouldn’t leave me like this! He wouldn’t do this to Skylar.”
“No, he wouldn’t do that. Your Dad called Trent. He’s flying in and investigating himself. He’ll be there tomorrow morning. George has instructed the two detectives assigned to the case to work with Trent. They’ll find him, Sharlee. You stay strong.”
Alissa talked with Sharlee as long as she could until the FBI agents told Alissa that they had to end the call.
The next morning Sharlee gave a press conference asking for help in finding Noah. The family and Harley Davidson offered a large reward for any information that led to locating him.
“Have you been able to locate the instructor or checked Noah’s phone records?”
Trent pulled out his Ipad and sat at a computer station. Then he went into a private data base from his agency. He got information on the instructor’s credit cards and accessed the list of recent charges she’d made. There had been one made that very morning.
Now Trent knew how to locate her, and it only took him a few minutes to do so. She was at a private resort off the Florida Keys, and she was not alone. Trent placed a call to the resort and spoke with the instructor. He got Noah’s telephone records and he and Detective Perry reviewed them. They contacted the cellphone company and determined which cellphone towers Noah’s cellphone had last pinged.
This was Friday, the third day of Noah being missing. Dale had had to go to the hospital for an emergency with a pediatric patient. Kaye and Matthew were with Sharlee and Skylar. Cara and Shawn would be coming to her home when school let out later that day. Sharlee still was unable to sleep, and so Dale had written a prescription for a sedative for her to take even though she objected.
“Sharlee you’re no good to Noah or Skylar this way. You have to get some sleep!”
Matthew had gone to the pharmacy to fill Sharlee’s prescription. Sharlee was in the greatroom with Skylar when Kaye came into the room. Kaye had taken control of Sharlee’s cellphone so that she could screen calls from well meaning friends for Sharlee, and also because of the crushing disappointment that Sharlee felt every time that she answered it hoping for news about Noah and didn’t receive it.
“Can you take a message, Gran? Please tell him that I don’t feel up to talking.”
Kaye gave Kristian Sharlee’s message, and he asked Kaye to tell Sharlee to call him if she needed anything, even if she just wanted to talk. Something in his voice made Kaye realize that Kristian’s interest in Sharlee was more than friendship.
Matthew soon returned with Sharlee’s medication and insisted that she take it. Sharlee took the medicine and allowed Skylar to take her nap with her in the master bedroom. After the sedative began to take effect, Sharlee fell asleep with her baby cuddling close to her on the bed.
Noah could hear the helicopter. At first he wasn’t sure that it was looking for him, but then when it passed back and forth in the area, he began to think that it was. His voice was almost completely gone, but even if it weren’t they wouldn’t be able to hear him calling out over the sound of the engine.
The helicopter spotter thought that he saw a flash of light on something metallic as they searched, but then it was quickly gone. He radioed the ground unit to search more deeply in that area. Officer Ross, Detective Stewart, Trent and other officers were walking the route that Noah would have taken. Traffic had been diverted. Officer Ross examined the areas on the street curb looking for anything that seemed out of place in the area that the helicopter indicated. He found what he was looking for!
“I’m okay, Baby.”
“Your Daddy was lost, but we just found him. He’s been hurt, but the doctors are helping him. I have to go the hospital now and see him.”
Sharlee picked her up and hugged her. “I know you do, and Daddy wants to be with you too. It’s okay, Honey. Gran Kaye is going to stay with you, and I’ll call you after I get to the hospital. I’ll tell Daddy that you miss him.”
Sharlee gave her a quick kiss and handed her to Kaye. Then Matthew drove her to the hospital.
When Sharlee arrived at the hospital, Noah was in X-Ray. After that his broken ribs were taped, his wounds cleaned and bandaged. One of his ankles was wrapped and one of his wrists was also. The doctor came out and spoke with Sharlee.
“Although your husband suffered a concussion, his condition is stable. He has three broken ribs, a badly sprained wrist and a sprained ankle. He has numerous lacerations, but we’ve treated them. He is severely dehydrated, and we’re administering intravenous fluids. I don’t think that he would have survived another day. His body systems were close to shutting down.”
Sharlee had never seen him so pale and his voice was weak.
She started kissing him gently all over his face and Noah smiled.
“She misses you, and it’s been a hard few days for her too. I’ll let her speak with you.”
“Skylar, your Mommy wants to speak with you.”
“Daddy, me wan you!”
Sharlee answered for Noah. “Daddy wants you too.”
“Love you, my Sky.”
Sharlee could tell that his energy was at an end.
“Love you too, Daddy.”
Sharlee disconnected the call.
We’ll find out what Noah has been doing in the next chapter. We’ll also get back to Alex and the “perp” in that chapter too. I promise! 🙂