Ryan pressed his hips against the kitchen counter. He found himself brushing tufts of hair from his eyes before returning his hands to the cool surface of the stone countertop.
He wasn’t preparing a salad, or rolling out pizza dough – he was using the countertop as a makeshift mission room table. He pulled out small strands of scotch tape and began taping a paper map of Painter, Ontario down on the countertop.
Ryan had spent the better part of his morning gathering supplies in town with Adrian and Pawel when he came across several copies of the town map on the front steps of town hall.
With a thin-tipped black marker, Ryan began to divide the township of roughly 4,500 people into three sub-regions. These would become the areas where the three search parties would focus their search for Collin.
Ryan wiped his brow; slightly surprised to find blood. He had re-opened an old head wound he received two weeks ago during a canoeing expedition with Adrian.
Him and Adrian had been walking downhill, carrying the canoe over their heads toward the creek. He remembers his end of the canoe slipping from his grasp, and the starboard end striking him in the forehead.
Ryan could recall Adrian dropping his end of the canoe, rushing to call an ambulance. When the paramedics arrived, Ryan had been laying in the dirt almost half an hour. He insisted that the cut on his forehead looked much worse than it felt.
He remembered feeling like he was on cloud nine – completely numb to the pain, but still aware of the warm sensation of blood trickling down into his right eye.
Ryan turned his attention to the group, only then realizing they’d all been waiting patiently for their team arrangements.
“Gather around, everyone,” Ryan said.
The group each stood from their seats – Antonio pushed himself slowly off the couch, wincing at a sudden jolt of pain in his leg.
“The divisions are as follows: Billy, Christian and Emily are Team 1: you’ll focus on the west end along the beach strip. Antonio and Sarah are part of Team 2, and you’ll focus on scouting the local neighbourhoods and wooded areas. Adrian, Pawel and myself are Team 3: we’re headed downtown.”
“Do we get a copy of the map?” Emily asked.
“Of course. Each map is labelled with your specific subdivision. Try your best to stay within the lines, and if you can, speak to anyone you find. Somebody has to have seen Collin.”
“Do we have any missing person signs?” Sarah asked.
“Not yet. Those will come later. If we haven’t found Collin by the end of the day, we’ll prepare signs.”
“I’m not very good at art,” Pawel said. “That’s more up Collin’s alley.”
“You don’t need to be good at art. We’ll print a photo of Collin from Facebook, and write a brief description of his build with a contact number.”
“Why don’t we get the police involved?” Billy asked.
“Collin’s only been missing a couple of hours. If we’re lucky, he’s bound to turn up. Otherwise if we haven’t heard anything by the end of the day, then we should consider calling the police.”
“And when the police get involved, it’s usually never a good sign. The longer Collin is missing, the more likely they’ll turn their focus toward finding a body,” Christian said.
Billy gasped, and began to make a move for the door.
“Billy, where are you going?” Ryan said.
“Let’s get going. We need to find Collin. I’m not bringing my brother home in a body-bag,” Billy said. His voice was shaken. The normally cool, calm and collected Billy was slowly unravelling like a loose thread.
Ryan jumped across the room, hopping over a coffee table before tugging on Billy’s arm.
“Slow down. We’re going to find him.”
“Well then what are we waiting for? Let’s go already,” Billy insisted.
Emily and Christian gave chase, as Billy threw open the cottage doors and ran toward his vehicle.
“Wait up, dude!” Christian called to him.
It all happened so fast. Emily and Christian hopped in the backseat, as the three of them sped off in Billy’s Ford Taurus. Dust sprinkled the sky behind the moving vehicle.
Ryan felt numb all over again; so numb he had to sit down. Adrian and Pawel joined Ryan on the front steps.
“Let’s go,” Pawel said, helping Ryan to his feet.
“You’re bleeding, man,” Adrian said.
“Yeah, I guess I am,” Ryan said. He touched the open wound on his head, bringing his now wet fingers to his lips.
He licked his wounds, letting the intense copper taste rest on his tongue. In that moment, he felt his actions were taken on behalf of the whole group.
He remembered reading somewhere that by licking your wounds, it mean you were regaining your strength after a loss.
The cuckoo clock in the front hall struck hour six of Collin being missing, and Ryan felt his confidence slowly restoring itself. He didn’t miss the taste of copper after it receded from his lips.