After sending Cindy out to run after Jamie, Graham moved quickly and put on his coat and shoes. Quickly grabbing Jamie's hiking boots Graham put them into a shopping bag and he then took Jamie's coat from the hook on the wall where it still hung next to the door and tucked it into the bag as well. Only a couple of minutes after Jamie had left at a dead run Graham was out of the house and looking for him.
Graham ran down to where the grass met the edge of the forest and then hurriedly followed the trail through the trees towards the Tomlinson's house. Graham was hoping that perhaps Jamie had gone to be with his friend Jason but that was just a faint hope. While moving along the trail Graham called out periodically to both Jamie and Cindy but there was no reply from either of them and Graham could not hear anything in the forest other than the sound of his own ragged breath and pounding heart. Much quicker than he usually managed the trip Graham was soon coming up the path to the Tomlinson's house and knocked frantically on the back door.
The door opened and Graham gasped almost out of breath, "Is Jamie here?"
"No, what's the matter?" asked a surprised Kathy as she looked on at Graham panting heavily.
"He's run off," said Graham while trying to catch his breath. "I was trying to tell him that I wanted to get him some help for the nightmares and when he realized that he was the reason I've been getting banged up he took off and ran. He must have thought I was going to beat him like his father used to do."
"Oh no!" exclaimed Kathy as she quickly went back into the house followed by Graham. "Frank! Jason! Come quick!"
Frank and Jason dropped what they were doing and ran to find out what the problem was. Moments later they were both in the kitchen seeing an exhausted Graham holding himself up against the kitchen counter still panting heavily.
"Jamie's run away," said Kathy excitedly. "You've got to get your coats on right now and help Graham find him."
"What happened?" asked Frank and Jason simultaneously while they began getting dressed for the cold winter weather.
"I was trying to tell him that I could get him some help for his nightmares and he got scared when he realized that he was the one that's been belting me," said Graham. "He probably thought that I was going to react like his father would. He's going to freeze out there, he was just wearing a t-shirt and some shorts - he doesn't even have shoes on. I sent Cindy off after him hoping that she might be able to find him."
"Oh boy it never rains but it pours. OK, let's do this logically," said Frank quickly taking charge of the situation. "Jason, you run up to the stream where you and Jamie go fishing together, I'll go east, and Graham you try towards the west. We'll all meet back at Graham's place in about an hour. Kathy you burn up the telephone line and get everyone you can out looking. Now remember, the temperature outside is almost at the freezing point so we have to move quickly. Whoever finds Jamie remember that the most important concern is exposure, you will especially need to check his fingers and toes for frostnip. When you find him, make sure you get him dry and protected against the weather as quickly as you can. Re- warming should be done slowly and preferably after you get him back home where we can call for help if there are any complications."
Jason started tying up his boots while he listened to his father but then pulled them off quickly and ran back up to his room calling out, "I almost forgot my day pack!"
Quickly returning Jason put his arms through the straps of his day pack and centred it on his back, bent down and laced up his hiking boots, and then went outside. After taking a quick look around, Jason ran into the forest at full tilt heading in the direction of the trout stream.
The moment that Jason closed the door behind him Kathy went back into the kitchen and sat down with the telephone and began to dial. The more people that were on the lookout for Jamie the better and Kathy knew almost everyone from having lived on the island for years. She'd start with Dave, the weather was getting too bad for him to use his floatplane but he would be able to borrow a boat to check along the shoreline.
Jason ran into the forest at full speed in the direction of the stream where he and Jamie had gone fishing several times. Crashing through the trees and jumping over fallen logs and branches he moved quickly. While running along however Jason could not help but feel that he was going about the search in the wrong way. Despite his feelings of misgiving, however, Jason pushed his worries to one side and kept going, calling out to Jamie and Cindy as he went.
Less than ten minutes after leaving the house Jason arrived at the trout stream. He ran around the area frantically looking behind trees and shouting out to Jamie and Cindy. Jason first ran upstream and then down again but there was nothing to find. Jamie was not there and Jason suspected that he had not come in this direction at all.
Once again the feeling that he was missing the obvious came to him and this time Jason listened to his inner voice. He then remembered what he had told Jamie when they first walked through the forest together - something very basic that Pony had taught him but in his panic had forgotten: 'The forest is never quiet if you know how to watch and listen'. Jason rebuked himself and vowed not to forget again. Too much was at stake and Jamie's survival might depend upon him using his head instead of running off without thinking.
The inner voice in Jason's head was that of his Indian friend Pony who had often remarked to him how people could not see the obvious for lack of paying attention. Jason realized now that he and the others were going about the search for Jamie all wrong. The trail that Jamie took was going to be easy to find but at the same time Jason knew that he needed someone much more experienced than himself to lead the search. Jason looked about for a moment to orient himself and then started out north at a fast run.
Jason was now moving rapidly in the direction of the small fishing village on the island where his friend lived. It was a poor village as many reserve settlements often were and Jason knew this was the result of many factors. Years of interference by the government, forced cultural assimilation, simple racism, encroachment by land-hungry people, and admittedly a few bad choices on the part of the tribal elders in the past had all reinforced each other with unfortunate consequences. Despite it all however they had always maintained their dignity and most still carried on their traditions in the old ways even though times had changed. Also many of the elders still carried the wisdom of their ancestors within them. Jason always felt a comfortable sense of calm and friendship whenever he visited the village. Today however Jason's mind was preoccupied and he did not feel calm at all.
When he reached the village Jason ran to the small house that Pony lived in and found him sitting outside on a log. Pony was concentrating carefully as he worked on carving the figure of a bear out of a small block of cedar wood. His strong hands moved the blade of his carving knife carefully but deliberately and he planed off thin shavings of wood from the block producing a natural smoothness on the surface of the emerging figure. Pony was not an overly talkative man but Jason had learnt that whatever Pony said was well considered and always worth listening to. Normally Jason would have sat and watched carefully for a while before speaking but today was not a normal day and Pony could sense the agitation in Jason.
"Hello Jay," said Pony. "You're in a very big hurry today."
"Pony! My friend Jamie that you met at the barbecue, he's run off scared and we're trying to find him. I need your help please."
"Do you know where he went?" asked Pony as he stuck the end of the knife firmly into the log he was sitting on and put down the half-carved block of wood.
I first ran to the stream where we go fishing because we thought he might be there," said Jason anxiously. "When I saw he wasn't there I ran up and down along the stream looking for him and calling out to him but there was nothing."
"And then?" prompted Pony.
"Then I finally remembered what you taught me," said a sheepish Jason. "I should have looked before I ran and then it would be easier to find him. I panicked and forgot. Can you come and help me? I'm still learning how to do it and you'll be able to help me find Jamie faster. He doesn't have anything warm on and he's going to freeze in the cold weather."
"You knew to stop and think so means you are learning my friend. That is good," said Pony. "We will go together and look at the signs. Then we will find your friend."
"Thanks," said Jason as he hugged Pony. "I knew you would be able to help me.
"Your friend is special to you isn't he?" said Pony as they began to walk quickly up the hill back towards the forest.
"You know?" asked a surprised Jason. "I didn't say anything because I didn't know what you'd think about that."
"I can feel your pain now and I could see the happiness that you were both feeling sitting next to each other at the Christmas Barbecue," said Pony. "Don't worry we will find him and then you will be together again. The Creator makes one special person for each of us and it is not for anyone to question who that special person might be. First we will go to where your friend started running and look carefully. Then we will be able to see in what direction he went. Once we know that then we will know what to do."
The two began to walk swiftly away from the village and back towards the southern side of the island. Despite being much older Pony moved as quickly if not quicker than Jason through the forest. Jason always was impressed how his friend, despite his age as indicated by his greying hair, always outlasted him on hikes.
Even at the rapid pace they were maintaining it took them about fifteen minutes to cross back to the other side of the island. Eventually however Pony and Jason came out of the trees next to Graham's house. They stood outside the back of it and looked around. Pony walked out into the middle of the grassy area behind the house and stood perfectly still while looking the area over slowly and carefully.
While Pony was scanning the area for signs of Jamie, Jason ran inside the house and wrote a short note for Graham explaining what they were doing. Writing quickly he indicated that he was going to continue looking with Pony's help and that they would be back before nightfall. Jason put the note in the centre of the kitchen table where Graham would be sure to see it and then went back outside. Joining his friend in looking carefully at the grass and the bush at the edge of the forest Jason began to get suspicious about one section slightly to the left when Pony raised his hand and pointed to the same location.
"There," Pony announced simply after seeing that Jason had focused on the same location.
"Are you sure?" asked Jason feeling embarrassed almost as he spoke the words.
"Don't doubt your senses because you are worried," said Pony kindly as he led Jason towards the spot they had both picked out. "Look at the grass here and here leading up to the underbrush. Then look at the small branches there at the edge of the grass."
Jason looked and what he had only intuitively sensed before now became easy to see. There were several small impressions of what could only be feet along the soft dirt and grass leading up to the underbrush where they appeared to end. There was only one possible conclusion - it had to be Jamie. Jason in his haste to rush off to the stream to check if Jamie might be there had not bothered to check. Of course neither had his father or Graham but Jason felt that he ought to know better.
"Do you think we'll be able to find him in time?" asked Jason with concern as they started into the forest after Jamie.
"Your friend is scared and running fast," said Pony pointing out disturbed areas on the ground and ferns that had been obviously stepped on as they began to follow Jamie's track into the forest. "You can see his trail easily. Don't worry we will find him."
"He gets frightened easy," said Jason. "When he first saw my dad he got scared because he reminded him of his own dad."
"The one that dishonoured him," said Pony with obvious disdain. "I could see the pain in the back of his eyes. He has endured a lot but still remains unbeaten."
"Yes," confirmed Jason. "Jamie's told me a little. Not a lot, but some. It was pretty bad."
"A person that hurts a boy like that wounds us all," said Pony. "Your friend's spirit must be very strong to have survived. We had a boy in our village like that once. His father had been hurting him but we didn't know."
"What happened? Did someone call the police?" asked Jason.
"Once we knew about it and we were certain about the facts we took care of it," said Pony.
"What did you do?" asked Jason.
"We held a council about it and the facts were discussed," replied Pony. "Afterwards the father was brought before the council and made to confess to what he had been doing. Finally a decision was made and he was taken to one of the distant islands far up north and banished for life. All of the tribal bands along the coast were informed and if he ever tries to leave none of them will allow him to stay within their lands."
They continued to talk about Jamie and how Jason and he had become close so quickly as they moved through the forest. Jamie in his flight had not thought to use any of the many pathways that wandered through the trees and underbrush and this made the tracking much easier. While following the trail that Jamie had left Pony pointed out the signs to Jason who watched carefully and learned. It began to rain and then got colder still. Soon the rain began to change into a wet sticky snow and wherever the forest canopy opened up even slightly the boughs of the trees below began to get lightly dusted in white flakes. If the situation had not been so dire the scene might have been beautiful to behold, however under the circumstances it merely added to the urgency because they knew that Jamie was not wearing anything warm.
Jamie ran blindly through the trees not seeing where he was going and without thinking. His head was rushing with a mixture of thoughts and fears. He remembered how when he did something at home or refused to submit how his father would beat him almost senseless in rage. When Jamie suddenly realized that he had been responsible for Graham's injuries he knew that he had to run because he knew what the penalty was going to be. His father would probably have beaten him to death if Jamie had done that to him even if it had been purely by accident. Jamie knew that Graham would not react any differently. All men were the same, if something went wrong or did not go the way they wanted they would lash out and anyone nearby would suffer the results.
As Jamie ran his mind was filled with a constantly shifting swirl of emotions. Large images of his father in blind rage fought for dominance against much smaller images of Graham's calm face. Crashing through the tree branches Jamie was getting scraped and cut on his arms and face. He had lost one of his socks some distance back and the remaining one was wet and dirty. Detached from what was happening or where he was going however Jamie did not notice and hurriedly continued to push on in fear. He had no idea what his destination was; he only hoped that if he could get far enough away maybe he would not get beaten this time. If only he could keep going and keep ahead of what he knew was coming after him.
Jamie ran hard and fast but eventually began to tire and as he did his pace began to slow down. When the rain gradually turned into snow the ground over which Jamie was running began to get icy and became increasingly slippery. In his flight Jamie ran straight over a ledge of flat rock that was covered in wet moss and slipped.
"AHHH!" cried Jamie as his legs slid out from under him and he began to fall. Landing heavily just below the moss-covered section of rock Jamie paused briefly to get his breath and then tried to get up.
"OWWW!" screamed Jamie as he put weight onto his left ankle while trying to get up.
Crumpling down in pain after a second and failed attempt to get up, Jamie realized that he was not going to be going any further. Jamie began to cry because he knew now that he was going to be caught and his father was going to beat him again. However as the pain began to push back against Jamie's fears he began to think more clearly and then he remembered that his father was far away back in the city and had no idea where he was. It was Graham that Jamie needed to worry about, but the question was did he actually need to worry? Jamie then thought back and could not remember Graham having ever been anything other than kind and gentle with him. Even when Jamie had accidentally dropped a glass on the tiled floor in the kitchen and it had broken the most that had happened was a calm suggestion that Jamie not carry too many things at once.
"Graham wasn't going to hurt me and now I've ruined everything," Jamie sobbed aloud to the forest. "He's going to send me away for sure now. How could I have been so stupid and screw up like this and ruin the only decent chance I ever had?"
Unable to move without great pain Jamie slowly pulled himself over to a downed tree that lay partially under the cover of the forest canopy to help shelter himself from the weather. He tried to get comfortable and rubbed his cold hands on his tender ankle.
"How dumb can I be running off like that," he said to himself with his head hanging down looking at the ground. "My dad is right. I am a good-for-nothing useless idiot. Now I'm lost, wet, and cold. I don't know which way to go to get back to Graham's house even if I could walk."
Jamie began to cry but was shaken out of his reflections on his misery and the freezing weather by a cool damp nose that was nuzzling up against his chin. A startled Jamie flinched back, wiped away his tears, and then seeing it was Cindy he wrapped his arms around her tightly.
"Oh girl, you came to be with me," said Jamie with tenderness as he hugged the big dog who then started to lick his face. "I'm glad you're still my friend. But we're lost now and I'm hurt and scared. What are we going to do?"
Cindy immediately moved in close and Jamie feeling her warmth against him hugged her all the more tightly in the slim protection provided by the forest against the worsening weather. Cindy laid down on the ground and snuggled up right against Jamie so his cold wet feet were underneath her. With no shoes, one sock missing, and the other only a tattered remnant Jamie's feet felt like two icebergs. Jamie kept his feet underneath Cindy and the big dog's body warmth soon had the circulation returning to his feet and slowly the feeling also began to return to his toes. However Jamie's lack of warm clothing could not be so easily taken care of and his teeth were chattering non-stop due to the early stages of what would shortly become hypothermia.
Jamie sat talking softly to Cindy who looked up at him thoughtfully as he spoke, "I've completely blown it haven't I? I'm going to be back on the streets now for sure. If I manage to live through this and Graham still wants me I swear I'll never run off again."
Getting a lick of reassurance from Cindy that they would be found Jamie huddled closer to her warm body. In spite of Cindy's warmth Jamie continued to shiver violently because of the freezing cold weather. Nevertheless Jamie tried to think about what he should do to try and get out of his predicament. He quickly realized however that he was not going to get very far with his ankle in its current state. Jamie could not tell if it was broken or just badly hurt but he concluded his best hope was to wait and hope that someone would find him. Resigning himself to his predicament a half-frozen Jamie clung to Cindy who licked his face and pushed herself up firmly against him.
"He's slowing down now," Pony said as he pointed to the depressions on the ground that had been made by Jamie's feet. Jason could see how they were gradually getting closer and closer together as Jamie had slowed down from a dead run into a fast walk. Coinciding with the slowing of Jamie's pace however the number of signs of his flight had decreased as well. Jamie was now pushing branches out of the way as he went rather than them snapping off as he ran into them. The falling snow was not helping either as it was starting to cover up the tracks on the forest floor consequently Jason was having difficulty seeing the evidence of Jamie's movements now. Pony's experience however kept them on the trail, his keen senses picking out the subtle clues, although even he now sometimes stopped in order to look carefully.
"Look!" Jason suddenly cried out as he spotted a dirty white sock on the ground just ahead. Jason quickly picked it up and he and Pony could both see bloodstains on it.
"Jamie's hurt," said Jason fearfully.
Pony looked at the bloodstains closely and said, "The blood is fresh but not dark. That means it is not a deep wound which is good. It also means that we are only a few minutes behind him now."
Jason and Pony continued following Jamie's trail through the forest as quickly as they could and eventually Pony stopped and crouched down and motioned to Jason to do the same. Jason knelt down and looked around but could not see anything. Pony pointed towards Jason's ear indicating that he should listen carefully. It was very faint but Jason could just barely make out something, a sound that was not quite natural in the forest.
Jason and Pony began to move forward carefully and quietly. Watching where they put their feet and what they brushed against to ensure that they remained completely silent they crept forward. After a few minutes of silently moving forward they could now hear the sound more clearly. It was the sound of a young voice crying - they had found Jamie!
Jason was about to jump up and run towards the sound of the voice but Pony put his hand on Jason's arm and held him back. Knowing it would be all too easy to scare Jamie and thereby cause him to run off again in fear Pony whispered, "You will scare him if you rush out too quickly and he could start running again."
Pony pointed at a location further along to the left of Jamie's position and then to Jason's ear. Jason then moved towards the spot that Pony had indicated carefully and quietly. At the same time Pony moved in the opposite direction stopping when he and Jason were positioned on opposite sides of Jamie but still remaining hidden. Once Pony was in position he made a bird call to alert Jason by putting one of his hands over his mouth and gave a short wavering whistle. Hearing the familiar sound Jason then stood up, made sure to step on several dead tree branches laying on the forest floor to make some obvious noise, and slowly moved out into the clearing in front of Jamie as if taking a casual stroll.
Jamie looked up in fear as he heard the bushes in front of him rustle and then felt a sudden flood of relief wash over him as he saw Jason coming out from behind the branches of the trees. When Jason emerged from the brush he could see Jamie shivering and sitting on the ground leaning up against a fallen tree partially sheltered by a tall Douglas Fir towering overhead. Cindy was snuggled up against Jamie to help provide warmth while the snow continued to fall down onto and around the two of them.
"Jay!" cried out Jamie.
"Jamie!" replied Jason as he then ran up and hugged Jamie and Cindy with obvious relief. "Are you OK?"
"I'm really cold and I hurt my foot but I'm OK," said Jamie through chattering teeth. "Cindy helped to keep me warm. How did you find me? I got lost and didn't know how to find my way back."
"Pony helped me," said Jason indicating his friend now stepping out from the trees behind Jamie.
"Oh hello again, sir. Thank you for helping Jay to find me. I'm sorry I've caused so much trouble but I got scared and ..." said Jamie who began to cry again. "I've totally ruined everything haven't I? Graham's going to throw me out now for sure."
"No way Mr. M. would do that," said Jason comfortingly as he knelt down beside Jamie.
"And you would always be welcome in our village," added Pony.
"They wouldn't want someone like me there," said Jamie sadly.
"You have struggled and fought against an evil opponent yet remain undefeated," said Pony with great formality. "There is no one more worthy of respect than that. If you were unable to go back you would be very welcome amongst my people. I would be proud to call you a member of my family and you would do honour to my house."
"Thank you very much," said Jamie shyly, clearly affected by Pony's solemn declaration. "No one ever said something like that about me before."
"You don't have anything to worry about Jamie," said Jason. "My dad, and Mr. M., and everyone have been looking for you all over the island. They're going to be so relieved when they find out that you're OK."
"I don't know what I'm going to say to Graham though," said Jamie sadly. "He's always been so nice to me and I ran away when I found out I was the reason he'd gotten hurt. I thought he was going to beat me like my father used to do."
"The only thing Mr. M. is going to do is be really happy when we bring you home," said Jason. "You should have seen how worried he was when he ran over to our place to ask us to help look for you."
"I guess you're right but I was so scared," said Jamie shivering from the cold. "My father would have killed me if I ever put a mark on him like the bruise that Graham has."
While they talked Jason was checking Jamie over quickly and carefully. Opening up his day pack Jason pulled out and unfolded an emergency thermal blanket and wrapped it around Jamie. Jason then took off his coat and removed the thick flannel shirt he was wearing and helped Jamie to put it on in place of the thin and how soaking wet tank top he had. Jamie's fingers were too stiff from the cold to button it up so Jason helped him and then wrapped the thermal blanket around him once again. After he had Jamie taken care of Jason put his own coat back on again.
"You're taking really good care of me," said Jamie gratefully. "Won't you be cold without your shirt?"
"I will always take good care of my special guy," said Jason with a smile. "I'll be fine on the way back. My coat is really warm and we'll be back home before it gets to be a problem."
"Thank you both for coming to find me," said Jamie. "I didn't know what I was going to do."
"Come on Jamie we need to get you back now," said Jason feeling Jamie's ice-cold hands. "You're stone cold and you're going to freeze out here."
Jamie tried to rise up but immediately cried out and fell back again in pain, "Ohhh my ankle!"
"You better sit down again so we can check it out," said Jason. "How did you hurt yourself?"
"I was running and slipped on the rocks over there and my feet went out from under me. I couldn't stop because it was slippery and I fell on it really hard," replied Jamie still wincing.
Pony knelt down beside Jamie and felt his foot and ankle carefully with his hands before saying, "It's not broken but you have twisted it badly. You are not going to be able to walk on it for a while."
"What am I going to do?" said Jamie as he started to cry again.
"Don't fear brave young one," said Pony. "We will take you back to my village and get your ankle looked after. Then we will take you back home safely."
While Pony calmed Jamie's fears Jason was once again at work and had pulled out a bottle of water and washed off Jamie's feet so he could check them for additional injuries. There were several fresh cuts but none of them were serious. Jason used a towel that he pulled out of his day pack to dry Jamie's feet and then he took out a small bottle of antiseptic and cleaned the cuts that Jamie had received. Once that was done Jason took off his own boots and removed his socks so he could put them on Jamie for partial protection against the cold. With Jamie now readied for the journey to Pony's village, Jason put his boots back on and laced them up.
"We're all ready to go now," said Jason standing up.
"But I still can't walk," said Jamie. "How are we going to get there?"
"I will take care of that for you," said Pony as he reached underneath Jamie and picked him up in his strong arms. Jason adjusted the thermal blanket around Jamie so it would keep him warm and then with Jamie comfortably settled in Pony's arms and with Cindy and Jason leading the way they all began the hike to Pony's village. After about ten minutes of breaking trail through the forest they came upon one of the narrow pathways that meandered about the island and then they made good time. When they finally emerged from the trees into the cleared area around the village, Jason ran ahead to find the village doctor.
Pony carried Jamie to the small clinic that was in the centre of the village and as he was entering Jason arrived with the doctor. A quick examination by the doctor confirmed Pony's onsite diagnosis and shortly Jamie had his ankle wrapped up securely with an elastic bandage.
"OK let's see how that feels," said the doctor as he and Pony helped Jamie off of the examination table and helped him balance on the floor with his good foot.
Jamie took a tentative step and gritted his teeth as he put a little weight on his hurt ankle. "It still hurts a lot but it's better than before," he said after a moment to let the pain subside.
"You will have to be careful with it for a few days and not walk on it very much," said the doctor. "After that, though, you should be fine. Your ankle just needs rest and not too much activity. I'll give you a couple of these pills to take right now and that'll help with the pain. Here's a couple of extra ones that you can take with you for later tonight before you go to sleep."
"Thank you very much," said Jamie as he took the pills and the glass of water being offered by the doctor and swallowed them.
"You should start to feel better soon now," said the doctor putting his things away. "In about twenty minutes the pain will start to die down."
"Are the pills expensive?" asked Jamie with concern. "I don't have any money."
"You're Pony's friend and Jason's," said the doctor. "That makes you an honourary member of our tribe as far as I'm concerned. This clinic is maintained for any of our people that might need help and since they brought you here that includes you now. When you are feeling better just come back and visit us again."
"I'd like that a lot," said Jamie with a smile. "Thanks very much for helping me."
Pony had gone over to his house while the doctor was examining Jamie and had now returned with a thick coat for Jamie to wear for the journey back across the island. After Jamie had the coat on Jason rewrapped the thermal blanket around Jamie's legs and feet to help keep them warm during the trip back. After thanking the doctor one last time Jamie let Pony pick him up and the trio left the clinic and began to head for Graham's house. Even with the added weight of carrying Jamie, Pony's pace did not slow down or slacken and he kept right up with Jason and Cindy as they hiked back up the sloping hill for the trip back across the island.
The winter sun sank down into the horizon and the trail gradually became more difficult to see but Jason and Pony both knew the route from memory and they arrived at Graham's house just before night fell completely. As they approached up the pathway the sliding glass door on the front of the house slid open Graham, Frank, Kathy, and Dave ran out to greet them. Speaking all at once to Jamie who was still being carried by Pony their relief over his safe return was clear for anyone to see.
"Jamie, you're OK!" cried Kathy as she came running up. "We were so worried about you."
"I found Jason's note saying he was going to ask Pony to help look for you but that's all we knew," said Graham with relief. "Then about half an hour ago Kathy got word over the phone that you had been hurt and were at the village clinic. What happened to you?"
"We were looking everywhere but we couldn't find any sign of you," said Dave anxiously.
The comments and questions were pouring out of everyone while they stood in the middle of Graham's backyard when suddenly Cindy barked loudly twice to interrupt and Jason who had prompted her then said, "We need to get Jamie inside now. All these questions can wait for a few minutes. Jamie has been out in the cold for way too long and needs to get in the house so he can start warming up."
Frank smiled broadly at his son seeing him taking charge of the situation and then helped by going ahead of the crowd and opening the sliding door leading to Graham's kitchen so Pony could take Jamie inside and sit him down on a chair.
Prompted by Jason's example Kathy started opening cupboards in Graham's kitchen and said, "Frank go and get the comforter off the sofa for Jamie, I'm going to make him a cup of hot cocoa to help warm him up."
"Jason, what happened to your shirt?" asked Graham seeing that Jason was bare-chested when he started taking his coat off. "I'd better go and find you something to put on you must be cold too."
As Graham rushed off to find Jason a shirt Frank and Pony both saw Jamie and Jason exchange a knowing look and smiled. The mother hens were in full feather now and both boys were about to get an overdose of fussing. Frank wrapped the comforter that he had taken off the sofa around Jamie to help warm him up and then walked over next to Jason.
"Before your mother completely smothers you with concern I want to tell you how impressed I am with you son," said Frank while giving Jason a hug. "What you did today is what makes the difference between a man and a boy. You kept your head in a crisis and knew when to do things your way and not to worry about what my ideas were. We're all very proud of you for how you handled this."
"It wasn't just me," said Jason. "Pony was the one that did the tracking."
"Jason knew what to do and how to do it," said Pony modestly. "He just wanted a little company from an old man while he was finding his friend."
"The thing is you knew that the approach I was taking was wrong, you knew what was needed instead, and then you went to ask for help," continued Frank. "If we'd just stuck with my plan Jamie would still be out there shivering or worse. You're the one that used his head and was thinking clearly."
Coming back into the kitchen with a shirt for Jason to put on Graham said to Pony and Jason, "This isn't the first time that the two of you have come to my aid and I can never thank you enough for what you've done. I don't know what I would have done without your help today."
Jason looked at Pony and nodded whereupon Pony then answered for them both saying, "You are helping our new young friend here and it is our honour and privilege to assist if we can. It was written long ago by men in another land that whomsoever would save a life it is as if he had saved the entire world. We are grateful that we have been able to be a very small part of what is happening."
"Cindy helped too," added Jamie as he ran his hand over her head petting her. "When I was running I wasn't watching where I was going and I slipped on some rocks and fell. I twisted my ankle and it hurt too much after that to keep going and that's when Cindy found me. She helped me to keep warm until Jay and Mr. Twofeathers found me."
"I knew you could find Jamie and help him. You're the smartest girl there is," said Graham to Cindy as he knelt down and gave her an enormous hug. The sparkle in Cindy's eyes and the rapid wagging of her tail clearly showed that she understood why Graham was thanking her.
"I'm really sorry I screwed up and ran," said Jamie nervously. "I was remembering when I accidentally hit my father once and after he was finished with me I wasn't able to move for a week. When you said it was me that hurt you I was so scared you were going to beat me like he used to. I'm sorry Graham, I really am."
"You don't have to worry about anything like that with me," said Graham kindly. "I could never do something like that to you."
Jamie looked at Graham's face carefully and then those of everyone clustered around him. There were no signs of anger or displeasure to be found anywhere, only happiness and enormous relief that Jamie had been found safe and sound. Jamie took the cup of cocoa that Kathy handed him and sipped at it for a minute feeling the warmth spreading through him while continuing to look closely at everyone.
Finally Jamie said, "I know that now. I was just so scared that you were going to do the same things to me that he would have done."
"Oh Jamie," replied Graham gently. "I could never hurt you. That's what I was trying to tell you. I want to help you so it can never happen again."
"I feel bad because you've been so good to me," said Jamie tearfully. "All of you have. Please don't send me back. I like it here a lot. I won't be any more trouble I promise."
"I'm not going to send you back so don't you worry about that," said Graham. "That's the other part of what I was trying to tell you earlier. I'm going to try and fix it so you can stay for as long as you want. I can't make any promises right now but I'm going to try and make it work somehow."
"Really?" asked Jamie hopefully. "I can stay here?"
"If you can be brave and tell them what was happening to you I think we can make sure that it never happens again," said Graham. "We have to get a complaint from you on the official record so we can get the police to investigate."
"But he'll kill me if I tell everything," said Jamie now shaking with fear. "He always told me that. And if it doesn't work they'll just send me back to him, I know they will. That's what they always do and then it just starts all over again."
"Don't you worry about that happening," said Frank with determination. "He'll have to get through me first."
Jamie looked up into Frank's face and saw a gleam that had not been there previously. When Jamie had first met Frank he had been scared of him because of his commanding size and appearance. However during his stay on the island, and with the time that Jamie had spent with Jason and his family, Jamie had learnt that Frank was in fact a very kind and gentle man and had come to view him as a friend. Seeing the look that was now on Frank's face however Jamie suddenly realized that if a confrontation were to take place this was not someone that his father would want to tangle with.
"If there are any problems I will be there for you as well," said Pony placing his hand on Jamie's shoulder. "My people and I will not leave you to face danger alone."
"And don't forget me," piped up Dave. "First sign of any trouble and I'll whisk you away in my plane and no one will ever find you."
"You won't let him get me?" asked a still fearful Jamie.
"I talked to a friend of mine back at my office who's a lawyer," began Graham. "He did some phoning around for me and found someone at the Department of Child Welfare that honestly wants to help you. Then he did some more searching and found me a lawyer that specializes in family custody cases. I've been talking with them both and we think that together with your help we can try to make things better for you."
"How would you like to live next to us permanently and have full family barbecue privileges?" asked Frank with a big grin.
Jamie got a confused look on his face and then his mouth hung open as he realized what was being said. "You mean ..."
"You see Jamie, you have friends now that care about you," said Kathy who knelt down beside Jamie as he sat in the chair taking his hand in hers. "We're all going to help you so you don't have to be afraid any more. We don't want you to ever have to go back to living the way you did before."
"And I'm not going to lose my best friend to anyone now that I've found you," added Jason with a special smile that was meant only for Jamie.
Jamie looked around the room and saw so many people that he'd become friends with in only a short period of time. They all knew his past and what he had been forced to do in order to survive and yet none of that mattered to any of them. Each of them were smiling at Jamie, showing genuine concern and caring, and each of them declaring in their own way their unwavering support and willingness to help. For the first time in his life Jamie began to feel that maybe things might be able to be different, that a change for the better might finally be possible, and the flame within him that had always refused to die began to burn brighter.
"Can Cindy come with me if I go?" asked Jamie quietly.
"Of course she can come," said Graham.
"You won't let them take me again?" said Jamie trembling.
"Over my dead body," replied Graham.
Jamie looked around at everyone again, took a deep breath, and then said with determination, "OK, I'll do it!"
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