Jenni drove the point. Intuition and logic had opened a trail she intended to follow. She asked Andrew directly.
Put the absence of any clue of his disappearance together with the last time you saw him, what do you get?
Andrew didn't know. He was still processing his last.
You get insight into his intention, she stated firmly. He meant to do this. He wanted to disappear.
Andrew jumped. He began sifting through all the images he could recall of his father in recent months. He replayed fragments of conversations, looked at memories through a different lens, went over his own search efforts looking at charts, old logs and flight plans. Nothing came immediately however he sensed the truth of Jenni's claim.
With the clarity of her last statement came a multitude of questions. She pressed on.
Why would he want to disappear, where would he go, did he intend to survive, if so for how long, where did he put the plane, did he crash the plane? Did he have…?
The emotion in Andrew's eyes stopped her.
Sorry, she said. I'll slow down. She waited. Then.
Andy we need to go through these questions. Jenni changed gears. What assumptions do you think we can reasonably make?
Andrew recovered. I have to assume he intended to survive. If I don't then I should forget about looking for him and I am not going to do that. As clichéd as it sounds, in my heart I know he's alive but I have no idea why he'd want to disappear. I have no idea where he would run to, hide out or even put a plane down. Shit Jenni we're talking about my dad. Mr Reliable, Mr Dependable, Mr Super-Responsible. This is crazy stupid shit. My old man faking his disappearance, how does that happen?
Truly Andy, I don't know, she whispered.
Jenni could see Andrew's distress. However she was determined to help him solve the puzzle. Jenni had known Andrew for a long time. They'd virtually grown up together. She cared for him and in some way felt a sense of responsibility. This whole situation with Andrew's father was growing in complexity by the minute. Jenni knew she was Andrew's greatest confidant and she had a role to play.
Hey Andy if what we're saying here is true and it seems like it is, then what are the most important questions we need to ask? Knowing your dad he would have …
Andrew cut her off. He wasn't ready to return to problem solving. All the emotion of the last two weeks erupted. Andrew vented outrage.
He would have what? A good fucking reason for pissing off and leaving mom and me? What reason could he possibly have for ruining our lives? For fucking everything up that he'd lived for? You tell me huh, tell me? Andrew pleaded with his friend to provide the relief of explanation.
I don't know Andy, I'm sorry. She said as she held his gaze.
Andrew contained himself. He breathed. Hey, I'm sorry Jen; I don't mean to take it out on you. It just doesn't make any sense.
It's ok, she said. I know it doesn't but it feels like we might be on to something. I think we just have to keep going.
Just then a customer entered the shop and Jenni excused herself. Make another cup of tea Andy. I'll be back in a sec.
She returned after a few minutes. Andrew had made another cup of tea however he wasn't ready to continue. It had occurred to Andrew while he was waiting for Jenni that all this had nothing to do with her. Perhaps he was taking Jenni's help for granted. He had to ask; why should she get so involved, why should he impose his problems on her? His concern for his father was overwhelming. He reckoned that he didn't need to drag others into it. He decided that he would thank her for her help and let her concentrate on the shop. He shared these thoughts with her when she returned however he didn't anticipate her reaction.
Jenni erupted. You know Andy; sometimes you can be a real twat. Of course I want to help, of course I am involved, my uncle and I think of you and Malcolm and Deidre as family. How could I not help you? You can be such an idiot sometimes.
Now it was Jenni's turn to deal with strong emotion. Didn't he get that she cared? Didn't he understand that he was special to her? She and Andy had certainly had their moments; they'd had their periods of not speaking and deliberately not seeing one another over the years. But there was no escaping the truth of it; they were the best of friends. They'd been there for one another many times. She thought now of the time when he'd sat with her for hours, after Ashmo, her blue cattle dog of fourteen years was bitten and killed by a king brown snake. He'd been her rock many times. As she thought about it, he'd always been there for her when it mattered and to help him in return was the most natural thing she could think of doing.
As Jenni explained these facts to Andrew in certain and specific terms, he listened attentively. Surprisingly his reaction to being admonished passed quickly. And as his resistance subsided her words began to reassure him. A warm sense of appreciation and admiration began to grow for his longtime friend. He was soothed by her sincerity. The sensation was something he was not expecting.
Jenni sensed the shift between them. It was strange and new. For a moment there was awkward silence, which Jenni broke with:
So can we continue?
Ah yeah, sure, he said meekly.
And will you accept my help, however it may come?
Grateful and compliant, he nodded.
Disregarding the fact that something had changed between them Jenni continued with the business at hand.
Making the assumption that he intended to survive, what next? She asked assertively?
Andrew explained that his father would need a place to land the plane and be able to conceal it. It would have to be fairly remote area from him to go unnoticed. Then he would need to think about where he was going to go and how he was going to survive. If he had thought all this through then he must have planned it. Which also meant that Andrew had not suspected anything. Andrew thought to himself that his father's training in covert operations had served him well.
Jenni and Andrew continued to work through all the possibilities for the rest of the morning as Jenni served customers who came and went. Working through their questions and assumptions, they eventually agreed on a likely scenario.
His father had gone off the radar and landed his plane in an unusual place where it could be concealed. It would be a remote location well known by Malcolm and would possibly offer access to food and water. He would either be able to remain in the area or would move to a more suitable location. After that it was anyone's guess.
Now and again Andrew heard an internal voice reminding him that everything they were doing was based on guesswork. That it was fanciful and naive supposition at best. However he knew that if he listened to this voice for too long he would become immobilised.
He countered against the thoughts that stood to drag him down with the belief in his insight and intuition. He and Jenni had used sound deductive reasoning. He knew what he knew. He committed to use the doubt and uncertainty to feed his determination to pursue what might be possible no matter the consequence.
Jenni and Andrew had agreed that to spend too much time trying to figure out why Malcolm had faked his disappearance would distract them from their core purpose, which was to give Andrew a starting point for his search. However Andrew knew it was a deeper question that would need to be explored eventually. It went against everything he knew or thought he knew of his father.
What next? Jenni blurted unaware of Andrew's contemplation.
Maps. Andrew replied. Can we go though your uncle's maps? All that you've got that cover the area surrounding Mt Ismuss, Arkefield and everything in between. We need to see if we can find any locations that match our ideas.
That could take ages. Jenni replied.
So let's get to it. Andrew beamed; fuelled by the strong sense of purpose and direction their collaboration had given him.
Jenni's uncle sold a wide selection of topographic maps and there were quite a few to look through. The shop became busier and so Andrew was left on his own searching for familiar spots that met the criteria they'd listed.
It was close to noon when Andrew realised he'd not let his mother know that he'd gone running early that morning. He called his number at home. After a while it went to message service. His father's voice had a warm and welcoming tone. He thanked the caller asking that they leave a message. Andrew listened to the silence that preceded the message tone. He had no words. No words that would reach an absent father.
He placed the phone down and returned to the maps. He would try to call his mom later, for now there was work to do.