“Jada!” my mom said, her voice frantic. “Jada, it’s Sadie!”
“Mom, what happened?” I asked, “What’s wrong?”
“Oh Jada,” Mom moaned into the phone. “Jada, she’s gone. We think she’s been kidnapped!”
Kidnapped? It wasn’t possible. It couldn’t be true. “No, Mom, I’m sure she’s just gone out of town for a long weekend. You know how she is.”
Hank grabbed the remote and paused the movie, making it easier for me to hear my mom between sobs.
I’d always thought that, when people said that their blood ran cold, it was a weird euphemism or an exaggeration. I learned firsthand that it was a very real phenomenon.
“It’s true,” she insisted. “The cops are involved.”
“Mom, what happened?” I asked, desperate to figure out whatever the hell was going on.
I listened to her take a deep breath and release it as she tried to calm herself down. “She came over to visit us today and was fine for most of the day, but the later it got, the stranger she began to act. After she left, I called her to see if she was alright, but it went to voicemail each time. So I decided to go to her house. Her front door was kicked in, Jada, and her living room was a mess. I rushed inside, not knowing if she was hurt. But I couldn’t find her, Jada. She was gone.”
I couldn’t breath and thought that I was going to throw up.
“Jada?” my mom said urgently. “Jada, are you there?”
Gulping, I said, “Yeah, mom, I’m here.”
“Can you come home?” she asked. She sounded smaller, more distraught, than I’d ever heard her before.
“God, Mom, of course,” I said, sitting up. “I’ll be on the first flight I can get.”
When I got off the phone with my mom, four pairs of eyes were on me.
“What is it, Jada?” Hank asked.
“It’s my sister,” I said, standing and dashing for the stairs. As I ran up the stairs, I yelled, “She needs me. Can one of you give me a ride to the airport?”
Once in my bedroom, I grabbed a duffle bag from my closet and began to throw clothes and toiletries inside it. As I ran back down the stairs, I hoped that I’d grabbed everything I needed, but it didn’t really matter in the long scheme of things. Besides, I could always get whatever I needed once I got to Las Vegas.
Ben was waiting for me, car keys in his hand. The guys walked me outside and each gave me a goodbye kiss. It hurt to leave them behind, but my family needed me.
Two days had passed and we still hadn’t heard anything from Jada. My anxiety and sense of dread were through the roof. It was hard to concentrate on the stacks of paperwork that sat piled up on my desk and even working on the ranch failed to bring the joy it usually did.
Seki, Ben, and Ace didn’t seem to be faring much, if any, better than I was.
Things had grown tense at the ranch. We all snapped at each other more times than we probably had the entire time we knew each other. After work, we would sit wordlessly at the dinner table, picking at our food. I couldn’t tell if the food wasn’t as tasty as usual because my taste buds were off or because Seki was too distracted to make things correctly.
Either way, it didn’t matter. With radio silence from Jada, food wasn’t important to me.
Mechanically, we would clean up dinner, wash the dishes, and retire to our rooms despite how early it was. I couldn’t say what the other guys did, but I sat on my bed, leaning back against my pillows, and tried to call her at least a half dozen times over the course of the evening.
Each time, I prayed it would be the time Jada finally answered, but she never did.
It worried and made me question whether something happened to Jada too.
While he drove her to the hospital, Ben had managed to get the details about what happened from Jada.
I couldn’t imagine what it felt like to have your sister kidnapped. I didn’t have any siblings, so it was a little difficult for me to imagine anyway, but I knew it had to hurt a lot. Jada was probably just too busy to call any of us back. Maybe her phone died, maybe she lost it during her flight to Las Vegas.
On the fourth morning after Jada left, I studied Seki, Ace, and Ben in turn. They each had purple bags under their eyes like they hadn’t slept much either. They looked ashen with worry, making me wonder how much more of this any of us could take.
Somehow, we managed to make it through the workday. I last about twenty minutes in my office, staring off into space the entire time, but I joined the guys outside. I spent the rest of the day that way, moving the cattle to a different part of the ranch so the grass had a chance to recover from the place they’d been grazing. It was strenuous work, but the ache in my muscles helped take my mind off my worry for a time.