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The past few days had been tense to say the least. Mitch had thought Ben would have called long before now. Unfortunately he’d been wrong. Darrin wasn’t dealing well with the lack of information either. He’d actually thrown a coffee mug at Mitch in a fit of pique that was something he never saw from Darrin. But he’d taken it as a sign that he wasn’t needed in the house.
He decided this would be a good time to straighten the shop, and was soon busily coiling cords and putting tools back in their proper spots. He was sweeping the concrete floors when he heard a vehicle turn into their driveway. He stepped out to see the sheriff’s car stopping beside the yard gate. The sheriff stepped out of the SUV, but Mitch could see he had someone in the vehicle with him. Not in the back, but sitting in front beside him.
“Hey, Jim. What can I do for you?”
“Well I picked up this kids.” He motioned to his vehicle. “He’s a native kid. Came down from one of the northern tribes. He ran into a few Kiowa kids at a powwow we had a few weeks ago. Been taking advantage of folks hospitality until Nanna talked with the other elders and said it was time for him to go home.”
Mitch chuckled a little and shook his head. “No one in their right mind would argue with your grandmother.”
The sheriff chuckled. “If you were to ask her it was a joint decision of all the elders. You ask the other elders…well they aren’t elders for no reason. They know when to keep quiet.”
Mitch shook his head. “There’s a reason they lived long enough to be an elder. But what can we do for you, Jim. It doesn’t sound like this boy is another of the lost sheep you want us to take in.”
“No, but while we talked. Nanna helped with the conversation. The boy does know better than mess with a Kiowa elder. But anyway, he apparently got to know that missing boy of yours.”
Mitch stiffened, struggling to remain calm. “What does he know about Ben?”
“Let me get the boy. I don’t want to get the facts wrong.” Jim motioned at the car and Mitch watched as the dark skinned youth walked toward them.
Jim motioned from the kid to Mitch. “This is Mr. McRichards. I’d like for you to tell him what you told me.”
“Yes, sir.” He turned to Mitch, who could see that he was visibly nervous. “I don’t really know too much. Just a lot of phone calls. Everytime he got off the phone he was pissed off.” He glanced at Jim and dropped his head. “Sorry. He was upset.”
“What had him so upset? It seems to have came on pretty quick and we didn’t know what was happening.”
The young man shrugged. “I dunno. He gets really upset every time they called.”
“Yeah. His parents.”
Mitch glanced at Jim, who looked very somber. He turned back to the conversation, his eyes boring into the kid. “His parents? When did his parents start calling? More important, how did they find him?”
“I think he called them or something. I dunno. It was before we started hooking up.”
Mitch shoved down his mix of fear and anger. “What’d they tell him?”
“Not real sure. I think…” He stopped and looked at Jim.
“You know what the elder said. You have to tell them everything.”
He nodded and thought for a minute before looking back at Mitch.
“They said you owed him money. That you were treat him like a—well like a word I knew never to use before I talked with Nanna. They told him if you cared anything about him that you’d give him money to get what he wanted.”
“He never asked for money.”
The kid cocked his head. “He knew. He knew they were playing him. But he wanted them to keep talking to him so bad.” His expression softened. “It was like a druggie. He needed for them to love him.”
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