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The Beginning After by Kiersten Modglin (20)

Twenty-Three

PEIGHTON

Peighton stood at Isabel’s front door. She had called her housekeeper eleven times on the drive over, but to no avail. Now, she knocked on the door for the third time.

“Isabel!” she shouted again. “Isabel, it’s Peighton!”

The door swung open. The little old woman stood before her, her face pale white, a green and blue flannel robe wrapped around her, her red hair sticking up in every direction.

“What? What is it?” she asked. “Is everythin’ all right?”

“Isabel, where’s Kyle?”

“How on earth should I know?” she asked. “Do you know what time it is?” She glanced at the giant wall clock behind her.

“Kyle’s missing, Isabel. We know he’s here,” Frank said.

“What are you talking about?” she asked, exasperated. “He most certainly isn’t here. Why would he be here?” She stepped back. “Come inside if you’re so convinced. We’re just letting moths in this way.”

They stepped into her house, allowing her to shut the door. “Izzy, his phone is here. We tracked him,” Peighton said firmly. “Now, if you’re trying to help him, we understand. I just want to know that he’s safe.”

“He’s not here, Ms. Peighton,” she said slowly, as if Peighton were a child incapable of understanding. “Just like I told you…he’s not. What good would it do me to lie? Of course I would help him if he’d come to me, but he didn’t. And why would he? I would’ve called you. He knows I would’ve.”

“Was he here? Before?”

“What? Do you think I’d have just forgotten to tell you that? It just conveniently slipped my mind? Kyle isn’t here and he hasn’t been here, m’dear. I don’t know what sort of fancy tracker you’ve got on him, but it’s broken. I wouldn’t lie to ya. Why don’t we call the police? Shouldn’t they be the ones hunting him down?”

“We’ve already called the police,” Peighton told her. “But then I spoke to Kyle. He’s safe but hiding. The police won’t help us if he’s not in danger.”

“But he’s a minor.”

“I know. That’s just what they said.”

“Well, then, if we know he’s safe and just acting out, we shouldn’t worry ourselves with it tonight. Now, if that’s all of the interrupting of my beauty sleep you’ll be doing tonight, I think I’ll just head off to bed.”

Peighton frowned. “Could we just look around?” she asked.

Isabel’s jaw dropped, outrage filling her face. “Oh, so you don’t trust me? You think I’m hiding wee Kyle out in my underwear drawer, do ya? Go right ahead.” She waved her arm toward the hallway. “Check anythin’ you’d like. Best check the oven too, dear, I may have baked him into a pie.”

“Izzy, I don’t mean to upset you

“Upset? Oh, no, dear, I’m well past upset. See, you’ve come into my home in the middle of the night, woken me up, accused me of harboring the boy I’ve practically raised for you and lying to your face about it. And now you want to go search my house like I’m some common criminal. Like I haven’t been a part of your home for twenty years now. But, of course, go right ahead and check all the crevices of my home, just in case this has all been some clever ruse. Twenty years of wasting my time all to kidnap your son who has about a foot and eighty pounds on me. Of course, dear, you’ve caught me,” she said hatefully, her face growing red.

“I’m sorry, Isabel,” Peighton said, though she couldn’t deny her curiosity. She fumbled down the hallway, Frank close behind her. “Kyle?” she called, listening for any signs of movement. She opened a few doors, looking into a bedroom, closet, and bathroom, but didn’t dare enter the rooms. They all seemed empty, no signs of a habitant. “Kyle?” she called one last time, her hope diminishing. When she realized Kyle wasn’t there, her embarrassment grew. She didn’t want to face Izzy, a woman she’d considered a friend for so long, after the way she’d acted tonight.

“I’m so sorry, Izzy. I feel terrible,” she said, walking back into the living room.

“Did you find the dead bodies?” Izzy asked her, anger still filling her voice.

“Please don’t be angry.”

“What about the weapons room? My secret chamber?” Her Scottish accent flared up the angrier she grew.

“Izzy, take it easy,” Frank interjected. “She’s just worried about Kyle. We all are.”

“And if you’d shown up here like civilized people, I would’ve had a chance to be worried too. But instead, we’ve reverted to the ways of our forefathers, coming in and demanding our way. Now, if that is all…I’d like to go back to bed. We can look for young Mr. Kyle in the morning.”

Though Peighton still wasn’t sure about leaving, she seemed to have no choice. She turned, walking toward the door.

“If it’s all the same to ya,” Izzy said, holding the door as they walked through it. “I won’t be coming in tomorrow.”

With that, she shut the door, leaving them standing in the dark.

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