Asa’s Cabin Llantano Mountain
“Hey, this is Buchanan cabin. I didn’t think the family used this much anymore.”
“Well, judging by the car parked here and the smoke coming out, looks like someone is in there,” Salina said dryly.
“Yeah, we should check it out. Maybe who ever is in there was here around the time John disappeared.”
They both got out and Antonio knocked on the door.
“Yes, who’s there?” a familiar voice asked.
“Antonio Vega, Llanview Police Department. May I ask you a few questions?”
Natalie Vega had no choice. She knew Antonio recognized her voice. She opened the door and said, “Antonio, what brings you here?”
“Hey, Natalie. This is Salina Sanchez, FBI, and we are here to find out if you noticed anything out of the ordinary about a week ago. John McBain is missing and we are doing a house to house search for any leads.”
“John’s missing? What happened? I mean I didn’t know. I’ve been trying to get myself together. I haven’t been in town.”
“Well, if it is okay, can we come in? It’s kind of cold out here?”
“Sure, but I don’t know anything that will help. I wish I did.”
“Ms. Vega, I remember you. I met you at the christening of the McBain twins. How are you?"
“I remember. That was a very difficult time for me. My husband and I had just split up.”
“Sorry about that, but if you don’t mind could we just check and see if you recall anything that happened out of the ordinary on the day John disappeared? He was in this area when his car veered off the road and we can’t find any trace of him.”
“Sure, John is my friend. Anything, anything at all that I can do. I know Evangeline must be frantic.” She needs to be. He’s where he belongs now, with me.
“We just need to see if you have any information that you aren’t aware of,” Antonio asked. Salina was watching Natalie. In her job as an agent, she’d been taught to read people and something wasn’t adding up. She’s nervous. She keeps fidgeting and rubbing her hands up her arms as if she is chilled. How is that possible? This cabin is stifling from the fire and it seems the central heat is on at full blast.
“Whatever I can do to help. Please have a seat both of you.” They need to go. Maybe if I’m cooperative, they will leave before John gets back from his walk.
“Natalie, how long have you been up here at the cabin? I spoke to Jessica a couple of days ago and according to her you were still out of the country.”
“Well, I’ve had a few things to work through, so I asked my grandfather for use of this place. I just got back into town yesterday and I haven’t contacted anyone.”
“Well, you won’t be able to help us then, the time frame is wrong.”
“Natalie, may I call you Natalie?” asked Salina, who hadn’t spoken beyond the initial greeting.
“If you don’t mind my asking, why don’t you want your family to know you’re back?”
“I don’t mind. I was a lot of trouble in the past. I just wanted time to sort through some things before letting everyone know I was back.”
“Nat, does Cris know you came back?”
“No, and you know why, things haven’t changed.”
“Sorry, if you hear about anything unusual and you think it can help us find John, will you call?”
“Yeah, I will. I am so sorry this happened and I wish I could help.”
“You did just by giving us your time,” Salina said gently.
“Yeah, I second that. We’ve got a couple of more places to stop, so we’re going to go before it gets too dark.” Just as he was getting up, Antonio got the strangest feeling, like a chill went right through him. He glanced at Natalie and for instant a look flickered across her face. He couldn’t quite grasp what it meant, but he stored it away for future reference. He and Salina said their good-byes and headed for the car. If only they had known John was walking up the back trail going towards the cabin as they pulled away.
“Salina, is it me or did that conversation seem a little off to you?”
“Well, I don’t know her very well but the whole place gave me the creeps; the stifling heat and the way her eyes kept darting from place to place. It was a little weird.”
“Yeah I get that. No, it wasn’t what she said. It was what she didn’t say.”
“What the hell are you talking about Vega? Spit it out.”
“Well you don’t know the history of Natalie, I do. She was head over heels in love with John. It hurt her bad when he fell for Evangeline. Maybe I’m reaching but hearing that he was missing didn’t seem to bother her as much as I would have thought.”
“Maybe she is over him, it happens. Some women move on.”
“True, but every time he saw her he’d even comment about it. She made him nervous.”
“Did he say why?”
“Just that she didn’t seem to be able to let go. He handled it but you could tell she unnerved him sometimes.”
“I bet he didn’t let Evangeline know. She would have handled it.”
“No, he is very protective of his wife. He just made sure he wasn’t alone with her. He knew Evangeline would have hurt him and Natalie if anything happened; John for being stupid enough to be alone with Natalie and her for messing with her husband, but mostly him.”
“Yeah, I like her style. She is the quintessential woman. Why blame the other woman, when you know your man should know better?”
“So, you like that? You’re saying it is the man’s responsibility to keep his essentials in place?”
“Yeah, and if he doesn’t, it’s the woman’s responsibility to set his assets straight.”
“I’m scared of you.”
“You should be.”
They continued with their search until they lost the light and headed back to Llanview. Every now and then they assessed each other. Antonio was thinking that while Salina was dangerous, she wasn’t bad on the eyes. She was thinking that Antonio wasn’t as dumb as he looked. Maybe after they found John and he was back with his family they could see where they could go. Realizing that they were both thinking the same thing, they both sobered and focused on their friend John McBain. Everything had to be put on hold until he was returned to the people he loved and that loved him.