Back at the ranch
As soon as Ethan walks in the door he is met with two very upset boys. Waiting and watching from the window, they know he has driven in by himself.
"George hasn't come home! It's not like him to stay gone so long! He wouldn't just wander off like this when he knows he was supposed to come straight home from school. There's something very wrong! It's getting dark outside. George is scared of the dark. He never wants to be alone in the dark. Plus, there 're wild animals out there !" Joseph says his voice louder than he means for it to be.
"Joseph, you're scaring Ben. I understand you are worried and upset but keep your voice down please." Ethan whispers after pulling Joseph into his arms. Joseph, trying to hold back tears nods his head against his Uncle's shoulder.
Hearing a low sob from behind him, Ethan turns to look over at Ben. Ben has his head down on his arms at the table. From where Ethan is standing he can see the boy is shaking all over. "Ben, come here to me." Ethan says holding one arm out and keeping the other around Joseph. Ben rushes over to be held too.
"We'll find him boys. Mitch and I will get a search party together. We'll have George back with us as soon as we can. Try not to worry if you can help it. Now, go get your jackets. We're going back into town. I'm leaving a note on the table just in case George does make it home by himself."
After informing Mitch of the problem, Ethan gathers Mr. Anderson and Mr. Axelrod together at the mercantile. As he is telling them which part of town each person will search Joseph speaks up
"Uncle Ethan? Let me come with you. I need to help look. Please can I come? You've taught me to track remember?" he wants to beg or shout but forces his voice to be calm and respectful.
"I remember Joseph. You may come but I want you to ride with me. No going off on your own and do exactly as I tell you. Understand me?"
"Yes Sir, I'll obey instructions. I promise!"
"Pa, please let me come too. I'll do everything you tell me. I won't get in the way. PLEASE?" Ben begs.
"No Ben. You are staying with Miss. Emma at the Anderson's place. I'll come back in the morning and get you. You mind Miss. Emma, you hear me?" Ethan says wondering briefly at Ben's calling him "Pa".
"Yes sir, I'll behave. When you come back in the morning will you let me help then?" Ben asks
"What makes you think we won't find George before then?" Ethan asks curiously.
"I just know. He's in a dark place and he's not in town. He's afraid of the dark! Somebody hurt him too! He's hurting!" Ben says wiping tears off his face and struggling not to sob out loud. Ethan picks him up and carries him out of the store. Reaching their wagon he sits Ben on the end.
"It's all right to be upset son. We're all upset. I don't want you to worry too much. We will find George and bring him home. Trust me on this. George will come back to aggravate you and Joseph." At Ben's small smile, he asks "Are you ready to go stay with Miss. Emma now? Do you promise to stay right there in her house? I can't have you wandering off by yourself too!"
"I'm ready and I promise to stay right there until you come back for me." Ben says.
"Thank you Ben. You are helping just by not making us worry about you too. I'm proud of you for not arguing or complaining when I said you couldn't come on the search. You are acting very grown up!" Ethan lifts him off the wagon hugging him tightly before setting him on his feet.
While Ben tossed and turned trying to go to sleep at the Anderson's house, the search team checked all abandoned buildings, all sheds and barns, and any other places a young boy might be. Having found nothing to suggest George is in town.
Meeting back at the Mercantile at daybreak, Ethan tells the team "Thank you for the help now go home and rest for a few hours. If you wish to continue looking, meet back here at nine o'clock. One of us will be here to go with you to search.
An Abandoned Barn outside of town
Lying on grain sacks on the floor, George cries quietly. His legs and bottom are still burning where the man whipped him with the switch, he's feeling cold,and he's thirsty too. Maybe if I ask nicely the man will give me some water. He thinks.
"Excuse me, Sir? Could I please have some water? I'm very thirsty." George calls to the man at the table.
"Sure thing kid, let me bring in a bucket of cold water and I'll bring you a dipperful." A few minutes later he is beside George helping him to sit up to drink. When George winces at the pain in his legs the man says "He beat you didn't he? Isn't that why you can't sit up? I'm sorry J. is so rough."
George realizes this isn't the same man who treated him so roughly last night. This one is smaller and younger looking. He has a kind voice and seems to want to be kind too. George speaks up to ask
"Sir? Why are you keeping me here? Why can't I just go home? I want my Papa and I want to go home."
"What's your name kid and who is your Papa? Where is home?"
"My name is George Allen Carroll, my papa's name is Robert and I live on Second Street in Paradise. The third house from the right at the end of the street is my house. Will you please take me home now? My Papa will give you money if you want it."
George tells the man the story Ethan has taught the children to use if they were ever in danger. The house he is referring to is next to Mitch's house and set up to look as if someone lives there. Ethan and Mitch have set it up as a designated safe house for anyone who needs it.
"I can't take you home yet George. I'll have to figure out how to get around J. first. He's a mean guy and would hurt me too if I tried to take you from here. You and I will hang out here together for today."
Later when the door opens to reveal the man called J., George pretends to be asleep. Listening he hears
"I set up the dynamite again. It should blow before the workers get there but who really knows. Has the brat caused any trouble? I'll be happy to switch him again if necessary! That boy tried to maim me for life. He deserved what he got." He responds to the disapproving look on his partners face.
"Z. you can't be so soft and be a good criminal. You got to toughen up some! You're too soft hearted. Stick with me and I'll learn you to be tough and mean like me! The boss likes tough and mean guys like me more than soft and sweet little girls like you are!" he says as he snorts out a laugh.
Listening, George thinks He's going to blow something up? Workers? THE MINE! He's talking about the Mine! Mitch and Papa are there! No, they'd be looking for me by now. This guy named J. sounds like someone I've heard before. Where though? Papa will need to know.
Ethan, Mitch, Joseph and Ben are all riding outside of town. Ethan has allowed Ben to join the search team this morning. Ben has convinced the men to check outside of town in all barns. "George is in an old barn somewhere. There's a well but no house. He's been hurt and is very scared." Ben told them when they came to get him at the Anderson's.
Skeptical at first, Mitch asked "How do you know this Ben? How can you be so sure?"
"I see what he sees and he's talking to me. Right now he's sleeping though so I can't talk to him. It only works when we are both awake and trying to talk to each other." Ben answered.
"Mitch, they have some kind of connection between them where they can read each other's thoughts. All four of them have it but the connection is strongest between Joseph to Claire and Ben to George. I didn't believe at first either, but I've seen too many things now that can only be explained by some kind of mind reading between them." Ethan tells him as they ride outside of town. They are heading for a barn Ethan has seen on his scouting/hunting trips.