The driving directions from small-town
Melissa barely had the opportunity to take the keys out of the ignition before the front door swung open and Lily and Dave Becker walked out, each wearing an odd expression of both joy and grief.
Three travellers exited through two doors, and then the hugs and welcomes were in full swing.
"Old man", Cade offered with affection. He stick out his hand, but that was disregarded for a savage hug.
"Ah, shut up." Dave threw an arm around his son, who stood a full six inches taller than he, and walked him towards the door where, Cade could tell, dinner awaited. "Lawn looks great, don't it?"
* * *
Dinner happened as dinners should always happen: laughter, stories, good-natured ribbing, and catching up on what was new in their respective lives. The topic of Matt, while not having been intentionally avoided, had been mercifully absent until dessert and coffee. Lily was the first to speak of him, and she said simply: "I just can't believe he's gone."
There were silent nods all around.
Dave, ever the pragmatist, asked, "What was he on?"
Cade chewed thoughtfully on a piece of angel food cake. "That's the thing, Dad. Nothing. They found zip. Elevated levels of testosterone or something, but it was nothing that looked unnatural. Matt just...snapped. That's the best way I can put it. I realize that you weren't there, and it's almost impossible to explain exactly how bad he was, but he was a lunatic."
Lily looked shocked and unsurprised at once. "You shouldn't talk about your brother like that."
"Lily, Cade's right. The Matt that we all knew was never there that night. He didn't recognize us...at least, if he did, he didn't care. He just kept screaming, 'Where is she?' over and over. He attacked Cade on sight. He would have killed us, Lily. It was..."
"It was fuckin' insanity, is what it was," Cade muttered.
"Sorry, Ma. But it was." He helped himself to another piece of cake. "I could show you my x-rays, if you'd like." He pointed to Loki, who was at Lily's feet chewing on a bone. "Look at him. Look at Lis's damn face, Ma. Would you have ever imagined Matt doing that? If it wasn't for a guy who couldn't sleep on one night out of dozens, you'd be planning three funerals instead of just one."
Lily was silent, and one look from his father was enough to tell Cade that the point had been made. Cade knew that look well and intended to copy it for use against his children someday. The table was silent for several minutes, the word "uncomfortable" not quite covering it.
Loki, for his part, continued gnawing on his bone.
Cade cracked first. "Ma..."
"We're all upset. There's no need to apologize."
"Who's apologizing? I'm bent that you called me 'Caldwell'." Dave laughed, tried to stifle it, but failed. He drew mock dirty looks from both women at the table.
"I'm tried to train him, Lily. I really have." Now it was okay to laugh.
Lily stood up and started clearing dishes. The other three stood to help, but she waved the men off. "Thirty-two years and all I've been able to teach your father-in-law is when heavy stuff needs lifting, lift it. You're way ahead of the game."
Cade blurted out, "Tomorrow I'm leaving to go and find out what happened to Matt." A dessert fork clattered onto the table. Cade figured that he looked as shocked as his wife.
To be continued...