I don't care if I lost everything that I have known
It don't matter where I lay my head tonight
Your arms feel like home, feel like home...
soundtrack: Your Arms Feel Like Home - 3 Doors Down
South Beach - Stanfield Residence
Cooper awakened with a start, disoriented, stiff and uncomfortable. Early morning light had begun to filter slowly through the heavy windows casting shadows against the stark white walls. It came hammering back on him as looked at the time and groaned. He had only sat down for a moment and closed his eyes to clear his head and think. That moment had been hours ago.
Cursing vehemently for losing precious hours Cooper stretched to ease his sore muscles, and headed across the silent living room toward the downstairs bathroom. He could use a shower. He could still feel the salt on his skin from the marina last night, on top of road dirt and sweat.
The 6 foot wide photo hung on the wall in front him: himself, playing a Gibson, a photo taken a long time ago. It might, he thought uneasily as he passed it, it might have been taken when he was living with Stevie. He hadn't thought about that photo in years, walking by it, never paying much attention to it. Beth liked it; he thought she did, no, he was sure she did. You're not sure of anything, he told himself wearily.
He splashed water on his face before angrily staring at his reflection. "Where the fuck did you go?" He combed through the house last night looking for something, anything that would lead to where Beth had gone. He came up empty; the house was clean. No clue as to their whereabouts, just an empty, dark house. Not even a note.
Nothing about this felt right. Uneasy, dark anger bubbling to the surface once more Cooper quickly went upstairs. The bed was made; he couldn't stand the thought of her not being in it.
Camilla's words came firing back at him, striking right between the eyes. He had effectively made himself unavailable, and if Beth had tried to reach him, had known where he was...damn he didn't want to think about what she would have felt at that point.
Cooper threw on a clean shirt and pushed through the doors and outside. Early, thin sunlight shone through the trees. Maybe he’d stayed here too long; maybe it was time to get out of this place with all its memories and take her somewhere else. He looked down the street to the west, toward Bay View, groggy, trying to ignore the ache in his neck and back. How long ago had things started to come apart? Heydon was on his case; Stevie, that was bad and he'd missed that completely; and now this. He could make it right, he'd always been able to make it right, but first he had to find her.
He’d make a call, try that first. If that didn’t work, taking a deep and troubled breath, he knew where he had to go.
South Beach and University
Cooper punched in the number on his cell as he started down the stairs. He knew Wyatt would be in class or heading to one but he was going to get what he could from him. "Wyatt, have you heard from Eric or Nate?"
Wyatt had barely answered the phone before Cooper went at him. Throwing his guitar over his shoulder he started toward the door. "Hello Dad, nice to hear from you too."
"All right cut the sarcasm. I can't get in touch with Beth or the boys. Wyatt, they're gone, when I got home last night the house was empty. Have you talked to either of them?"
Wyatt's confusion was evident in his voice. "Yeah I talked to Eric yesterday. Beth didn't leave a note? Call you? Nothing? Look Dad, Eric was asking me about you and Stevie, nothing specific but he did sound a little...freaked out about it like there was something serious going on." There was a brief hesitation before Wyatt continued. "Are you and Stevie..."
"No, damn it! There's nothing between me and Stevie, nothing! What did he say; did you ask him where he was?" Cooper's voice blasted through the phone causing one girl to look strangely at Wyatt as they passed each other between classes.
"I assumed he was home. Why would I think anything else?"
Cooper needed air; he stepped outside where he had left his bike and leaned against a tree, any glimmer of hope at a clue to their whereabouts dashed. He was worn out, his voice shaky as he spoke. "Did he at least sound safe or say anything about Beth?"
"I'm sorry Dad. He didn't tell me anything. Nate walked in, I heard his voice in the background saying something to him and he cut the call off. I wish I could help. Look Dad Beth loves you. Whatever is going on, she'll come home. Don't worry."
Cooper smiled weakly. "I hope you're right Wy. Look I gotta go. If you hear from Eric again, find out whatever you can and please, let him know..let him know I'm trying to find him, trying to find everyone."
South Beach - McDermott Residence
Ryan's place was quiet, no activity inside that Cooper could see. He walked around, glancing upstairs, down the road, and back at the house, uncertain. Ryan might not even live here now; he hadn't been seen around the place in weeks. If Beth had gone back to him, after kicking him to curb...if she had, it wouldn't be easy to get her out. Easy? It would be impossible. Neither of them could go back if she'd done that.
The loud rumble of a bike behind him drew Cooper's attention - and there was McDermott himself. Ryan threw a long leg over the bike, placed his hands on his hips as he stared back at Cooper and then slowly and deliberately walked toward him. Ryan didn't speak; he only glared at Cooper with contempt and anger. Cooper drew a deep breath. Damn he didn't want to come here like this, but he was here, nothing for it but go ahead and come right out with it. "Do you know where Beth is?"
Ryan looked like hell, the side of his face bruised, but he still managed to force a grin on his face even if it didn't reach his eyes. "Why, did you lose her...again? And you thought she came to me. That's priceless. If you're here looking for answers you made a serious mistake."
Grabbing at the back of Ryan's shoulder as he turned to walk up the stairs, infuriated, convinced the man was playing with him and enjoying it, Cooper shouted at him, "You son of a bitch, you know where she is, don't you!"
Ryan wheeled around to face Cooper once more, knocking aside his hand. "What if I do? What are you going to do with her? Nail her up on your wall? Hurt her again? You think there's any chance in the world I'm going to help you find her? I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll let you walk out of here alive. For her sake. Now get the fuck off my lawn."
South Beach and Chinatown
"Rayne! Hey can you hear me?" It had taken half the day before he’d gotten her to answer. The sky had begun to darken into twilight over the bay and the marina, and now Cooper's anger and frustration were reaching catastrophic proportions. His body shook with rage; he needed answers. Squeezing the cell tightly in his fist he blasted in the mouthpiece. "Rayne damn it! Answer me!"
He heard music, laughter coming through the receiver. Cooper paced down the street, shouting into the phone again until she finally answered, "Yeah hang on hang a sec got to get out of shit wait a minute ok what?"
She was drunk. He knew it before she’d said half a dozen words, and it stunned him. If she had a problem with alcohol, he had not known it. If he hadn’t known that, what did he know about her? Yanking back hard on the anger, he tried again. "Rayne, I want to know what’s going on with you, but I need to take care of this first. Where is your mother?"
Her voice, slurred, drunk, but intense, as if she was mouthing the cell, came right back. "Oh yeah! Damn I did pay for that, didn’t I pay for that? Put it on this card not the other one. Dad? They're by a bridge. There's a very big bridge. You go take care of all of that because you do not want it to be like Ryan. It can’t end up like Ryan! Ok? I have to go."
The phone went dead leaving him disturbed and deeply uneasy as he stared at the phone. Rayne’s incoherent response, meant to be helpful as far as he could tell, left him with no answers and even more questions.
Bay View - Taylor Residence
Cooper kicked aside the gate, the thing was hanging on one hinge as it was, and stood in the front garden looking up at the house. He'd been here before a few times but not like this. With any luck he'd find Gayl at home and Rafe out somewhere, anywhere, on the other side of the damned world.
He took a few seconds to think about how he wanted to deal with this if Rafe was here while walking through overgrown bushes toward the front door. Nothing.
Tired, close to exhausted, nothing came through. Fuck Rafe. If Rafe was here, he was here.
"Cooper?" Gayl opened the door and started to join him out on the front porch. "Beth's been -- "
"She hasn’t been here." Rafe loomed up behind him, coming out of nowhere, cutting her off. "We haven’t seen her, and yeah, I know she’s not where you’d like to have her."
Taken by surprise, he hadn't heard him coming, Cooper wheeled around hard. He drew a long angry and weary breath and shot back at him,”I'm tired of the damned games Rafe. Don't get in my way, not this time. Where is she?"
Rafe cast one glance at his wife, careful, an exchange that seemed to go both ways, then whipped long light eyes back at him. Wind from the beach tossed black hair over his shoulders, and Rafe rocked back, crossed his arms, and shook his head and aimed that feral smile at him. "I'm going to be in your way. I'm always going to be in your way. You don't go through my wife, and you sure as hell don't go through me to get to her. If she wants you, she'll let you know. Think about it – you know you can have what you want, but you can’t have everything you want. Good night, Cooper. And don’t trip over my Christmas tree on your way out.”
"Wait..." Cooper turned, trying not to clench his hands, and looked down at Gayl. She smiled, and said softly, "Rockwood. Merry Christmas, Cooper."
Rockwood - Near Bay Bridge
Rockwood - 14 Bridgewater Drive
It don't matter where I lay my head tonight
Your arms feel like home, they feel like home to me
Hold on, you're home to me, just hold on, you're home to me...
NEXT CHAPTER: Passages 10