With Henry away, I didn’t know what to do with myself. For part of the morning I hit tennis balls against the garage, and then I tried to read, but the book I had gotten from the library wasn’t very interesting, so I gave that up.
After lunch I biked to The Lake. There were lots of kids there, including some of my classmates. I swam for a bit and then lay on a towel in the sun, propping my head up so I could watch the other kids. After a while I got kinda bored, so I biked back to my house, got dressed, and returned the book to the library, where I got Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Of course, I had already read the whole series, but I especially liked this one. It was thick enough that I knew it would keep me busy for a while.
When we finished dinner, I went out on the front porch and read, but it was no good. I kept thinking of Henry and wondering how he was doing on Cape Cod. Finally, I just went to bed.
Looking out from my window before I got into bed, I saw that there were no lights in Henry’s house. Some people leave lights on when they go away, but I guess the Hendersons thought it would be safe not to.
Again I tried reading. No luck. What a boring day and night!
Around 1:00 o’clock I got up and went to the bathroom. I don’t know why, but on the way back I went again to the window. At first I didn’t see anything, but then, as my eyes got used to the dark, I realized there was a small light moving around in Chad’s room. Puzzled, I watched for a few seconds before going to tell my parents. My dad immediately called the police.
Back in my room I continued to watch. Just as the police pulled up, the light disappeared, and in a moment, I could barely make out somebody coming out of the rear door. Whoever it was vaulted the fence and was gone before the police got as far as the backyard. I faintly heard a car start up in the street behind us and drive away.
Mom and Dad had a key to the Hendersons’ house, so Dad took it over to the police. Soon, all the lights in the house seemed to be on. I could see a man and a woman moving from one room to another. They spent a long time in Chad’s room before a police woman came over and asked my parents if they were familiar with the room. Mom called me and told the officer that I was probably the most familiar with it.
As I walked across the grass behind the police woman, I was kinda embarrassed because all I had on were my boxers, but she didn’t seem to notice.
I went upstairs to Chad’s room. Boy, what a fucking mess! His shelves had been emptied and everything thrown on the floor. It was the same with his dresser and his closet. The mattress had been pulled off the bed, and the porno magazines were very evident on the floor.
The police asked me if I thought anything was missing, but, despite the fact I had been in the room often, there was no way I could tell. Before I left, I asked an officer if I could put the magazines in Henry’s room because I was pretty sure Chad wouldn’t have wanted his parents to see them. When they agreed, I hid the magazines under Henry’s mattress and returned to my house.
Of course, now there was little possibility of getting any sleep. I sat in the kitchen with Mom and Dad, eating toast and drinking milk. I thought about having a Coke but knew that the caffeine in it would do even more to keep me awake.
I guess I got to sleep about 5:30.
When I awoke, Henry was by my bed. What a great surprise! Puzzled, I asked, “What are you doing here?”
“The cops called my folks, and we came right home. Now they’re going through everything in Chad’s room. I brought his phone over and thought maybe we could go through it carefully to see if there was anything on it that would tell us something.”
I dressed, grabbed some breakfast, and we went outside to the back porch. Henry turned on the phone. Since he knew Chad’s password, he had no trouble getting into his emails and text messages. The most recent text he found said, “u r a ded fuker.”
“Damn, Henry, can we trace that?” Henry tried the number but then realized it was sent from one of those phones you can buy in a drugstore with minutes already on it.
“Naw, that’s a dead end.” He continued to search. He found a couple of texts about going to “The Cave,” but he couldn’t trace those either.
“Do you think the cops might be able to trace them?”
“Doubt it. When you buy one of those phones there’s no record of who bought it. I read about it in a mystery story. Crooks use the phones because they can’t be traced.”
“So what should we do next?”
“I still think we should go to the cops.”
“No! Absolutely not! I told you, I’m gonna find this bastard, and the cops would just tell us to stay out of it.”
Giving up for the moment, we went to Henry’s house to see if Robbie wanted to go for a swim. It was a hot day, and we thought it would be fun to pack a picnic lunch and spend the day at The Lake.
Robbie was sitting in the living room, looking very sad and clutching his Teddy bear.
I guess he really misses Chad, I thought.
“Henry,” he said, “I think there’s something wrong with Teddy. He seems to have a hard spot in his back which he never had before. Do you think Teddy has cancer?”
Henry smiled and said, “No. But let me take a look at it.” Robbie handed him the bear. Henry felt gently around the back saying under his breath, “He’s right. There is something in there.” He looked carefully at the seam up the bear’s back and then gave a little tug. With the sound of Velcro parting, the whole back opened up.
“Don’t hurt him, Henry!” Robbie cried.
“I’m not hurting him, but this is really interesting. Somebody has sewn Velcro very cleverly into the back in a way that you can’t see it, and you’d almost need a magnifying glass to see the stitches.” Feeling very gently in the stuffing as Robbie looked on anxiously, Henry cried out, “Holy crap! It’s here, Max!” and he pulled out a pendant and a tiny black box with a little push button attached.
“We gotta look at this,” Henry said. “Can we go over to your house? I don’t want my parents seeing it.”
I nodded. Henry closed up Teddy and returned him to Robbie, saying, “Don’t tell Mom or Dad for a while. OK?” Robbie loved secrets, so he agreed when we promised to take him swimming another time.
In my room, Henry extracted a Sim card from the little box and stuck it into my computer. The first pictures were ones Chad had taken of his family, including a great picture of Henry which I really wanted. As Henry continued through the card, he came upon some pictures that were very dark. There was a fire, and there were a few lanterns. There were people too, but it was hard to make out who they were. Finally, in one of the last pictures, Henry got a hit.
“That’s Brad Whitridge!” he exclaimed.
“Lemme see.” I looked, and I was sure Henry was right.
After that, we went back through the dark pictures. “Could that be The Cave that the high school kids talk about?” I wondered aloud.
“Maybe, but why would Chad have been there? He wasn’t into partying at all.”
There seemed to be a larger person, a heavy-set, full-grown man in several pictures. He appeared to be talking to different kids, and in a couple of pictures, he was either giving them something or they were giving him something.
“Drugs!” Henry exclaimed. “I think the guy’s selling drugs. Could he be the one who ran Chad down? Is he the one who ransacked Chad’s room?”
“Maybe, but how would he know that Chad had taken the pictures?”
“I dunno. But there’s only one person here we recognize, and that’s Brad, so I think we should confront him.”
From Chad’s phone, Henry got Brad’s number and called him. When Brad answered, Henry said that we needed to see him at my house right away. “What about? I’m not gonna say over the phone, but you need to get here right away.”
Henry hung up and said, “He’s on his way.”