When Joel and Megan approached them after lunch, list in hand, Blair looked at the daunting number of names. Frowning, he glanced up. "Anyone bother to bump this against the guys William was supposed to meet for golf?"

Joel and Megan froze, and then turned slowly towards each other to ask the same question. Without saying a word, Megan took the list and, sighing, headed back to her desk to do just that. Joel, looking embarrassed, turned and followed her.

"I'll take that as a 'no'," Blair mumbled, glancing at his partner. Jim was beet red, trying not to laugh.

It took them only a few minutes to search the list for the names of the three men William was supposed to meet for golf.

Surprisingly, one of the names matched.

He was immediately moved to the top of the list of suspects.


Jim was about ready to hit something; anything. Beating his head against the wall almost sounded reasonable. He'd tagged along after Joel and Megan all afternoon, like some kind of ride-along. Most of the people they were looking for weren't home, and they didn't have any idea where any of them worked. The people who'd had the golf date with his dad had already been questioned once, and were now 'unavailable' for further questions.

Blair understood his frustration and, instead of letting him stew about it, kept distracting him with annoying suggestions. Suggestions like working on his own caseload. Jim knew that his partner was right, but it wasn't helping. It had been two-and-a-half days, and they had nothing. Less than nothing; and he was about to go ballistic if something didn't happen, and soon.


He'd long since lost all track of time. He knew it had to have been two days, simply because of how cold he'd gotten, twice now. At least they'd stopped moving and his nausea from the exhaust fumes had dissipated somewhat. He had no idea why anyone would have wanted to kidnap him, but here he was, his hands bound behind him, a gag in his mouth, and locked in the trunk of an old rattletrap of a car. At first, he'd thought it some kind of joke on the part of his friend. Former friend, he decided. This wasn't the sort of thing one did to their friends.

He drifted in and out of consciousness as he continued to dehydrate. At least they were in some trees which shaded the car and protected him just a bit from the sun's rays, but there was no protection or comfort at night when the temperatures approached freezing. He'd given up wondering why, just wanting some relief; either kill him or let him out. He wasn't even embarrassed any more that he'd soiled himself. What did they expect, leaving him locked in here for so long?

He struggled back to consciousness, hearing voices approaching. He prayed that they'd be letting him out. He didn't want to die, certainly not like this at any rate. He heard a familiar voice shouting angrily at the other voices, he couldn't quite make out the words, but the anger was clear. Then he heard a car door slam and an engine start up. Thankfully, it wasn't the vehicle he was locked in. After the other car left, he heard voices approaching again and finally heard a key in the lock of the trunk, which opened, letting in sunlight.

"Oh, man, Rob, he shit himself!"

'Rob' grimaced in distaste. "Yeah. Guess your old man was right. We shouldn't have left him in there so long." He looked at his partner in crime. "Let's get him out of there and cleaned up, so we don't get in any more trouble from your dad."

Greg flinched and looked away, his jaws working. He didn't like this. It was wrong, and Mr. Ellison hadn't done anything to them, so why snatch him? But his dad wanted something from the old man, so he and this friend of his dad's were doing this. Seeing what poor shape Mr. Ellison was in, he was beginning to wonder if there was something he was missing.

William blinked up at them in confusion. The teen-ager and the older man pulled him from the trunk. He was so weakened from his imprisonment that his legs were unable to support him. The two kidnappers simply dragged him to the nearby cabin.

Once inside, the one he didn't recognize, Rob, insisted on taking him to the bathroom to clean up. They untied his hands and took the gag out, then left him there to fend for himself. After drinking from the sink faucet for several minutes, he regained enough strength to strip and take a shower. He couldn't remember when tepid water had ever felt so good.

He jumped when the door opened and the younger man came in. He stayed behind the curtain, pressed into the corner, wondering what was going to happen now. He needn't have worried.

"I, uh, brought you some clothes. They're Rob's, but he's bigger than I am, so they should fit you okay. Look, I'm sorry about this, but my dad says he needs you out of the way for a few days. We'll let you go when he's got what he wants, okay?"

"What is it your father wants?" William asked, his voice still weak from his ordeal.

"I don't know. Something about a vote, or a proxy, or something. We're just supposed to keep you here until afterwards, then we'll let you go."

William didn't reply, afraid that this boy might get upset if he mentioned that they'd have to kill him to avoid going to prison for kidnapping. Maybe, just maybe, he could manage to escape, if he didn't do anything to annoy them or make them suspicious. He could only hope.

"Look, uh, Mr. Ellison, you finish up your shower and get dressed. We've got some soup on the stove. I'm sure you're probably starving. I know I would be."

William listened as the door closed behind the boy and wondered if the kid was really that stupid.


While Jim and Blair pored over one of their cases, Megan got busy getting backgrounds on the three men William had had the golf date with. She finally got a hold of one of them, one whose name was not on the list of owners of old cars with vanity plates.

"Mr. Kostmayer? Yes, I'll hold." She glanced over at Jim, who was frowning, but not apparently at her. When the voice came on the line, she immediately identified herself and asked her question. "This is Inspector Conner, with the Cascade Police? I'm assigned to the kidnapping of William Ellison and I was wondering, since he had a golf date with you and the two other men, didn't you think it odd that he should miss such an appointment?" She listened and began taking notes. "Really? You're sure? Mr. Grigsby? You're sure? No, I'm not doubting your veracity, Mr. Kostmayer, just making sure I've got it straight. No, no word yet. No ransom demand, nothing. Oh? Really? That's very interesting. I'll follow up on that as well. Thank you very much for your time." She was frowning as she hung up. As a shadow fell across her desk, she looked up at her partner.

"Something interesting. According to Mr. Kostmayer, Mr. Grigsby said that Mr. Ellison had changed his mind about playing golf, so just the three of them played. He also noticed that Mr. Grigsby kept looking over his shoulder. He said he didn't think anything of it at the time, but then in retrospect, the man was acting very odd."

"How odd?"

Megan frowned and shook her head. "I'm not sure I understood, but he said he kept looking for someone who never arrived, so he seemed to relax towards the end of their game. He said it gave him the 'creeps', to use his word."

"Let's see if we can find his car, shall we? I'll put out an APB." Seeing her frown of concern, he quickly added, "Not an 'arrest' them one, just a 'find this car for us so we can ask them some questions' kind." Joel glanced over at Jim. "We need to get something, and soon. I have no desire to see Jim in full meltdown."

Megan followed his gaze. "You and me both, mate. You and me both."


William, dressed in some of Rob's clothes, came out of the bathroom. He paused for a moment and then followed the sound of voices to the kitchen. He probably should have tried to escape, but one look out the window at the woods and he knew he couldn't get very far barefoot. He paused and shamelessly eavesdropped for a few minutes.

"I sure hope we can take him back soon. I don't like this, Rob."

Rob didn't answer for several long moments. "We aren't taking him back, Greg," he finally replied.

"What do you mean, we aren't taking him back? Why not? After the vote, my dad will have what he wants, so why keep him any longer?"

Rob sighed. "Greg, he's seen us. He can describe us to the cops. He's heard you mention your dad, so he knows that one of his business partners is behind his kidnapping. Oh, and kidnapping is a federal crime, Greg. You won't just get a slap on the wrist for this one. It's not like snatching a car for a joy ride. This is heavy-duty, man."

Greg was silent for a time. "Then," he paused for a moment to swallow. "Then what are we going to do with him?"

"Kill him, of course."

William, despite being hungry, realized that bare feet or not, he had to escape right now. He turned around and headed back towards the bathroom. Bypassing that door, he slipped into a bedroom and headed for the window and opened it. Realizing that the weather was changing and it was going to rain, he turned away from the window and stepped into the closet, hoping... yes! Going back to the window, he pushed the screen out and made it look like he'd gone out that way. Moving quietly, he returned to the closet and went in, closing the door behind him. Fortunately, he was light enough to use the clothes bar to climb up to the shelf, and from there, he pushed the attic access open and climbed through. He was very careful to leave no indications of his passing, and closed the panel behind him. It was terribly dusty, but he moved carefully, so as not to fall through the ceiling. He found the outside vent and settled down near it. It was comfortably warm, and through the vent he could see the car and the dirt road. He settled down to wait.

He didn't have to wait very long. Greg went to see what was taking the old man so long and when he found the bathroom empty, he yelled for Ron to come and help him. When they found the open window, Rob snarled and shoved Greg.

"You idiot! What'd you give him clothes for, huh? Come on, he can't have gotten too far with bare feet." Greg watched worriedly as Rob climbed out the window and dropped to the ground, and then followed. Neither of them had any idea of how to track, so they simply headed into the trees looking for their escaped prisoner. After half an hour of fruitless searching, they returned to the house.

"Call your dad and tell him what happened," Rob growled. Greg winced, but did what he was told. His father was furious. He told them to go out and search some more, and if they knew what was good for them, they'd find him and get him back in the house and tied up. Angry, Rob told Greg to go one way, while he searched in another direction.

When William saw the two men heading out the second time, he came down from the attic and searched; finding a pair of running shoes, he put them on, even though they were too big. Finding a jacket, he put that on as well. He slipped out the front door, listening to the two searchers calling to each other as they looked for him. He stopped by the car and looked in, only to be disappointed that the keys were not there. With a sigh, he started walking, keeping to the trees and paralleling the dirt road. He moved quietly, hoping that the two kids either didn't come this way, or made enough noise that he could hide. Unfortunately, he had no idea where he was. He could tell by the sun that it was the middle of the afternoon and that the road led southwest. With any kind of luck, if he followed the dirt road to a larger one, or if he headed west, he'd eventually come to the ocean, and then decide from there if he needed to go north or south. Of course, with really good luck, there would be a sign to tell him which way he needed to go. Right now, however, he needed to make tracks and get as far from the cabin as possible, and hope he had the stamina to get to safety. Jaw clenched in stubborn determination, he set a steady pace.


It had been two and a half days since his dad had been abducted, and Jim was just as lost as he had been that very first day. He'd listened in on Joel and Megan's conversations, but knew they had no more to go on than he did. Late in the afternoon, his phone rang and he picked it up distractedly. "Ellison."

"Jim? I'm inbound and due to land in about half an hour. Could you pick me up?" Steven's voice held some of the strain he was feeling, worrying about their father.

"Sure. Which airline?" Jim replied, shifting to grab a pen and post-it pad.

"American. Flight 2458. We're on time." He paused for a moment to give Jim time to write down the information. "Anything on Dad yet?" he asked, hopefully.

Jim sighed as he dropped his pen to the desk and folded the post-it and put it in his shirt pocket. "Nothing, I'm afraid. Did you learn anything from SugiCorp?" Jim glanced over and, spotting Joel at his desk, tossed his pen at him to get his attention. As the older man looked up, he mouthed 'Steven' at him, which brought Joel to his feet and over to Jim's desk immediately, where Jim pushed the speaker button so they could both hear.

"As a matter of fact, Mr. Sugihara is with me. There's a vote coming up on whether to sell out to his corporation. Dad's got a lot of shares, enough so that whatever way he votes, that's what's going to happen. I'll be putting Mr. Sugihara up at Dad's; if you think that will be all right? He really hates traveling, especially hotels, and eating out. Besides, I thought Sally might enjoy... well, someone to take care of, you know?"

Jim could hear how uncomfortable his brother felt, inviting a stranger to stay at their dad's house without him being there to give permission, but it made sense to him. If whoever it was who took his dad didn't know where to find Mr. Sugihara... well, that just made it easier to protect him, in case there was anything to actually worry about.

"Sounds like a good idea. I'll see if I can get someone to stay there to make sure he's safe, if you think he won't be too upset?"

"I'm sure that won't be a problem." The relief was obvious in his voice. "In fact, I think I'll stay at Dad's, too. Will that be all right?" The worry was back in his voice.

"That sounds like a good idea. You have Dad's proxy, don't you?"

"Yeah, why?"

"Because I'm thinking this has something to do with SugiCorp's desire to buy out the company. But if you have his proxy, and they don't know you're back in the country, that could be a very good thing, if you get my drift."

"Have you heard anything on Dad?"

Jim sighed. "I'm afraid not, but we haven't exhausted all hope, yet. Hey, do you know anyone Dad's got business dealings with who's in his fifties, short gray hair, black eyebrows?"

"Business? I don't think so, but let me check it out when we get in and I'll let you know. Oh, do you want to bring that other detective with you when you pick us up? I've got the intel on Mr. Sugihara's corporation, well, I've got Mr. Sugihara, actually. He can explain it himself."

Jim looked up at Joel, who spoke. "If it's all right with you, Mr. Ellison, I'd rather pick you up myself. Jim's not assigned to this case." He winced sympathetically and shrugged at Jim, who understood why Joel didn't want him involved any more than absolutely necessary.

"He's right, Steven, but I can come by tonight. In fact, I'll call Sally and have her get something prepared for dinner and will meet you there in a few hours, all right?"

"That'll be fine, Jim." Steven's voice showed his relief. "I guess that no news is good news, huh? About Dad, I mean?"

"We're doing everything we can, Mr. Ellison," Joel said reassuringly, but he knew that Jim was losing hope. Without a ransom note, there was no telling what had happened to his father, or if he was already dead. "I'm leaving for the airport now, so I'll see you when you get in. Maybe we can find something in your father's papers?" He knew he was grasping at straws, but at this point anything could help and almost nothing could hurt.

"Sure. I'll see you in a while, uh, I'm sorry, but I don't remember your name."

"Joel Taggart. We met at the race track."

"Right. I think I'll remember you. You're one of the partners in Little Stogie, right?"

Joel chuckled. "Yep. His first get is going to be starting this summer, and he's due in from California any day, now." Joel's tone took on a note of pride. "Anyway, my partner and I will be there to pick up you and Mr. Sugihara when you land. Thanks for coming back, by the way."

"Don't thank me, thank Mr. Sugihara for agreeing to come. He hadn't planned on coming at all, but when he heard about Dad he suggested coming."

"We will. I've got to get going or your plane will have landed before I can get out of the building. We're doing everything we can, Mr. Ellison."

"I know. And it's Steven," His voice was very soft, his worry very apparent.

"Then it's Joel. See you in a few." Joel headed for the door, grabbing his coat on his way, and his partner by the arm as she came in, not giving her any chance to speak.

"I'll see you this evening, Steven," Jim said, picking up the phone receiver and turning off the speaker.

"Is there anything? Anything at all?" Steven asked helplessly.

"There's a couple of leads, but they're pretty slim. Joel's a good man, a good detective. He'll do his best."

"Is his best any better than your best, bro?"

"Well, he's got a lot more experience than I have, and so far there just hasn't been much to go on, I'm afraid." He heard his brother sigh and resisted the urge to do the same.

"Well, the seatbelt light just came on so I've got to go. I'll see you tonight, Jim."

"Will do. And Steven? We will find Dad. I promise you that."

"I know. But will it be in time?" Without giving Jim a chance to reply he disconnected the call, leaving Jim to ponder the same question he'd been worrying over for nearly three days, now.


Megan frowned at her partner. "What's up? Why'd you rush me out so fast? Is something wrong with Jim?"

Joel shook his head. "Jim's holding up as well as can be expected, but we've got to go pick up his brother and Mr. Sugihara at the airport." He cast a glance at her as he opened and held the car door for her. As the senior partner, he had the choice of who would drive and after some very close calls due to her penchant for driving on the wrong side of the road, he'd permanently opted to do the driving.

Megan perked up. "The man behind SugiCorp? Wonderful. Maybe he can give us something to go on." She fastened her seatbelt and waited for Joel to get in and start the car.

"We can only hope."


Simon had been watching his detective slowly self-destruct over the past two and a half days, and he knew he had to do something he didn't want to do. But it was for the safety of his men and, hopefully, the successful conclusion of the case. The FBI had been called the previous afternoon and they were supposed to be sending someone in today. They'd want to take over of course, and that wasn't going to set well with his crew, but it couldn't be helped.

He went to the door of his office and softly called out. "Jim? Find your partner and come into my office, please?"

From the softness of the captain's voice, Jim knew it wasn't going to be good. With a stricken expression on his face, he stood up and went out in search of his partner.

Blair was easy to find. He was in the break room, pouring over his notes. He looked up when the door opened and, seeing the look on his partner's face, feared the worst. He stood up quickly and, concerned, he reached out to his friend. "Jim? What is it? Have they found him? Is he...."

"Simon wants to see us. I imagine he's going to suspend me, just to keep everything above board."

Blair frowned. Jim had been excruciatingly circumspect, even with the scum he'd had to deal with in the past three days, so why on earth would Simon suspend him? "It can't be that, Jim. You haven't given anyone any cause. It must be something else."

"Well, maybe not suspended, but he's going to tell me to get out of town, go fishing, or something like that. As if that would help." His shoulders slumped and his entire body language expressed defeat.

"We don't know that, yet. Let's go see the man and find out what it really is." Grabbing Jim by the arm, he turned him around and gently pushed him towards the door; shifting his hand to Jim's back, he maintained contact all the way to the captain's office.

The grim look on Simon's face wasn't reassuring in the least. Blair started to fidget, thinking that maybe Jim was right. But that wasn't right. It wasn't fair. It was Jim's dad, and he'd been behaving himself... oh man. Maybe his research was the problem? His poking his nose into Joel's case? Damn! That wasn't fair to Jim, to punish him for what his partner had done. His lips compressed into an angry line as he waited for the man to speak.

"The FBI is supposed to be sending someone over this evening or tomorrow morning. I'm sorry, but they've held off as long as they could. It's been three days. There isn't anything I can do, unless we manage to find your dad before then. I'm sorry, Jim." He watched in surprise as Jim and Blair glanced at each other and then looked at him with relief on their faces. "What? What did you think I wanted to talk to you about?" he asked in confusion.

"I thought you were going to suspend me or tell me to take some vacation," Jim softly replied.

Simon was shocked. "What? You've got to be joking." Seeing the looks on their faces, he frowned and shook his head. "You've been better than expected on this, Jim. I just wish we could have found him before this became necessary."

"Me too, sir. Any word on who they're sending over?"

"None, I'm afraid. From what I understand, no one wants to work with us, which is why they put off coming in for so long."

If it weren't so serious, the three men would have laughed at the idea of the Feds being afraid of them. Not that it wasn't deserved, of course.

"If that's all, sir? We've got a few more things to do and then we're taking off," Blair asked, rising.

"Sure. Go on. It'll probably be better for everyone involved if you aren't here when the Feds arrive anyway."

"Oh, by the way, Joel's on his way to the airport to pick up Steven and Mr. Sugihara, of SugiCorp. We're all hoping he can help us figure out why anyone would want my dad out of the way for the vote. Steven has his proxy, so we don't think it can be that, unless they don't expect Steven to come back for the vote tomorrow."

Simon frowned. "Tomorrow? Hmmmm. Maybe you have something there. Don't let anyone know they're here, will you? It might be a good idea to give them some protection, as well. Just in case."

"They're going to stay at my dad's house and I'll be there this evening." He glanced at Blair, who had been unaware of this development. "Just happened, Chief. In fact, their plane should be landing in about ten minutes."

"Okay." He looked at the captain and cocked his head to one side, consideringly. "Do you think we could be the protection?" He didn't say it out loud, but they all knew that it would give Jim something different to worry about, instead of going slowly insane with worry about his father.

"Excellent idea. Let me know if there are any problems."

"Will do, sir." Jim stood up and followed Blair from the room, closing the door softly behind him.

Simon leaned back in his chair and hoped that they found the elder Ellison soon, and still alive. It didn't bear thinking about what the loss of his father due to a crime would do to Jim. In instances like this, the entire family and their circle of friends were the victims, not just one person. Shaking his head and sighing, he turned back to the reports on his desk, dreading the appearance of the Feds.


"Mr. Ellison!" Joel called out upon seeing Jim's brother. Steven looked wan, worry lines etched deeply in his face. The older Japanese man beside him looked at him in surprise. Steven smiled when he spotted Joel, and he spoke softly to the man beside him, who could only be Mr. Sugihara.

"Detective Taggart, it's good to see you again." Steven Ellison was still the perfect gentleman and businessman. He turned to his companion and spoke to him in Japanese, apparently introducing the burly detective.

The older man bowed deeply, his strongly accented English softly spoken. "It is a great honor to meet you, Detective Taggart."

Joel bowed even more deeply to the elderly man. "The honor is mine, Mr. Sugihara. Welcome to Cascade. I'm just sorry that we must meet under these circumstances."

"You are most gracious. I do not often leave my homeland any more, but Steven is such a fine salesman that I felt the desire to see his homeland and meet his people." The man straightened up, smiling.

Joel followed suit, smiling as well. "Allow me to introduce my partner. Mr. Sugihara, this is Inspector Megan Connor. She's here on an exchange program from the Sydney Police." He turned to his partner, who was bowing deeply and began speaking in Japanese. Mr. Sugihara smiled broadly and bowed, answering in his native tongue. After straightening up, he again smiled at Joel and spoke in English.

"This is wonderful! I am most impressed, Steven, you did not tell me that your police friends had someone who spoke Japanese."

Steven blushed slightly. "I'm afraid that I didn't know, sir. I'm as surprised as you are." He smiled at Megan, who grinned back at him.

"If you give me your claim tags, I'll get your luggage for you and we'll get you through customs. If you'll follow me?" She winked at Joel and headed off with the two new arrivals to get their luggage, but Joel stopped her.

"Why don't you let me do that? Since you aren't exactly an American, yet."

Megan looked indignant. "Yet? Yet?! Never, thank you very much. I'm perfectly happy being an Australian, I'll have you know."

"Right. Which is why I'll run them through customs, if you don't mind?"

Mr. Sugihara whispered something to Steven, which had the younger man laughing and avoiding the eyes of both detectives.

Joel smiled and winked at his partner, who then realized that he'd deliberately baited her to try and lighten the worry and concern of Jim's brother. Joel didn't know the youngest Ellison well, but having met both father and older son, he figured that it couldn't hurt to distract him from his major concern of the moment: what had happened to his father.

Customs was an easy task and within thirty minutes they were on their way. Joel let Megan do the talking while he drove. Mr. Sugihara was very concerned about William Ellison's safety. He'd obviously 'adopted' Steven. He explained why he wanted William's company, that it had facilities and held patents that he could use in his other businesses, making his conglomerate even more competitive and profitable.

"Was there any outcry against your purchase plans, Mr. Sugihara?"

"There was only the usual concern about selling to foreign interests. There are still many Americans who hold strong anti-Japanese animosity, I'm afraid. However, our policy is to treat those companies we absorb more as vendors, rather than possessions. Unless, of course, they stop performing to expectations. That's happened a few times, unfortunately, but when we went in and cleaned house, those businesses blossomed and have become very lucrative, both for us and their employees."

Steven nodded and added, "SugiCorp has the finest stock-sharing plans I've ever seen. American companies could take a page out of Mr. Sugihara's book and learn how to motivate their people and make money for everyone involved. Unfortunately, most American companies only want to make money for their stockholders and forget that their employees are the only reason they make any money at all."

Joel and Megan exchanged a glance, both smiling at the enthusiasm in the younger Ellison's voice. Obviously, he'd been converted to Mr. Sugihara's point of view. It sounded pretty good to them, too.

"Do you know who was against it?" Joel asked, as he turned onto the street the Ellison house was on.

"There were two or three stockholders who were very vocal about not wanting to sell to us," Mr. Sugihara began. "I'm certain I have their names written down, as I wish to meet with them personally to see if I wish to ally myself to them. If they are too, well, prejudiced, I may decide to find another company to buy instead. If I do that, I will then do my very best to drive them out of business."

Joel nodded his understanding, but Megan looked shocked. "Really? Why would you do that?"

"The war has been over for more than half a century. Isn't it time to stop holding a grudge?"

Megan blushed in understanding. "My apologies. I guess I'm not really old enough to remember any of that, not even my family talking about the war. Please forgive me, Mr. Sugihara."

"You are forgiven. It is a nice change to find someone who doesn't understand ancient prejudices, is it not, Detective Taggart?"

Joel chuckled as he pulled the car into the Ellison driveway and parked. "That's one of the things I like about Cascade, and especially the people I work with. Most, if not all, are pretty much colorblind when it comes to people. It makes working with people a lot easier."

"You are most fortunate indeed. I wish everyone were as lucky," Mr. Sugihara softly replied.

"Yes," Joel agreed, "I am."

"We all are," Megan added, grinning at Joel and opening her door to get out. She then opened the rear passenger door at the same moment Joel opened the driver's side rear door to let their passengers out.

Steven insisted on helping with the luggage and then led the way to the open front door, with Sally standing in the doorway waiting for them. As they approached, she bowed deeply and spoke in Japanese, welcoming them. Mr. Sugihara smiled broadly and bowed in return. He, naturally, replied in Japanese. Sally blushed at whatever it was he said and led them into the house, with Mr. Sugihara chattering with Sally. Just inside the front door, Steven stopped, letting Megan close the front door behind them while trying to stifle her giggles. Joel just looked confused.

Megan let him off the hook and softly said, "He's flirting shamelessly with her." Joel glanced at the shocked Steven and grinned.

"Maybe this wasn't such a good idea," Steven muttered, following his guest.

Joel and Megan grinned at each other, deposited their burdens next to where Steven had dropped his luggage, and followed the others. This could be quite a diverting experience.


William heard the sound of the car and scrambled deeper into the underbrush. He watched as the vehicle slowly cruised by, the occupants searching the roadside for him. He realized that staying so close to the road might not be such a good idea and decided to head west in a more direct route. He'd need to find a stream for some water, and with any luck, he'd be able to catch a fish by hand. He smiled, remembering one of the rare times he'd taken his sons camping and Jimmy had demonstrated how Native Americans used to catch fish. He'd laughed at his son at the time, but had been impressed when the boy actually managed to catch a fish. He just hoped he'd be able to do as well. That and he hoped that he could manage to start a fire. It was going to get cold come nightfall, and even with his stolen jacket, he was going to need some kind of shelter, even if it was just a deadfall and a nest of leaves under it.

He determined which way was west and started hiking. It wasn't quite as smooth as the road, but he was less likely to be seen, found, and recaptured. Every tiny trickle of water he found, he'd pause for a drink. The going was hard and he was no longer a young man, but his sons had gotten their stubborn determination from him and he wouldn't give up, not as long as he drew breath, at any rate. He heard the car come back up the road and was glad he'd gone off at a tangent. Now, all he had to do was find a real road, the ocean, or a Ranger's Station.

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