Here is my story, part four of Woody Valley Rescue.
Leroy turned the final corner and stopped the car right behind Don Summers' vehicle. Don was standing on the front porch calling out to Wayne, hoping he was inside and could hear him. Ross approached the porch while Leroy looked around the yard in case the kids or Maddy were hiding close by. He didn't see them, so walked to the fence near the sheds and called softly, without getting any reply. He noticed even the dog was gone, his kennel standing empty. Ross and Don spoke quietly for a moment, then agreed that Don would wait on the porch while Ross entered the house. Calling out to Wayne as he pushed open the unlocked door, Ross glanced around the huge living room leading into a dining area, then around an "L" into a large farmhouse style kitchen. Maddy's pride and joy. A basket of knitting lay overturned on the sideboard, Ross saw a half finished exquisite baby shawl done in Maddy's favourite gossamer fine silk in the amethyst colour she like best. Being neither pink nor blue, she always claimed it was perfect for newborns and made several of these each year to donate to the local hospital's maternity section. A bushel basket of apples stood on the sink, next to the steriliser and Ross knew a new batch of apple sauce was about to be made. Glancing out the window showed him an empty back yard, so Ross turned to the hallway leading to the rest of the house calling as he went. "Wayne? Maddy? It's Ross. Anybody home?" No voices replied. Opening the door to Wayne and Maddy's bedroom, Ross saw the neatly made bed, shoes lined up on the wardrobe floor and several hanging items pushed aside, leaving a gap where Maddy's go-to-town coat usually hung at the end of the row. So Maddy must be somewhere outside and hopefully the kids were with her. Ross checked the kids bedrooms, noting that Jessy's no longer held dozens of dolls, just one favoured teddy bear sat on the bed. The boys rooms were similarly updated, with toddler toys long gone and replaced with model making kits and a few science kits. They had already put together a mobile of the planetary system.
The small beds had been replaced with loft style bunks that had desks and bookshelves under the sleeping area. Ross saw the desk on Jeff's side held a microscope, the kid was still as interested in tiny things as he had always been. Nothing seemed out of place at all. He moved down the hall past the bathroom, glancing in quickly, then into the laundry, which was a larger room than in most homes, having an entire wall dedicated to low shelves for boots and baskets and hooks at various heights for jackets and raincoats. The jackets and boots were all gone, even Wayne's. Hurrying back to the front door, Ross told Don what he had found and together with Leroy it was decided Ross would call Jessy's phone and hope for an answer, before they began searching the yards and woods that formed boundaries on three sides. Holding his cell phone to his ear, Ross heard a whispered "Hello? Uncle Ross?" "Yes, it's me Jessy. Where are you? I'm at the house and there's no one here, but I haven't checked the cellar yet. It seems too quiet though, I don't think anyone is down there." Leroy said, "I'll check," and walked to the outside storm door to pull it open. He walked down a few steps to clearly see the entire cellar which held nothing but canned goods and more baskets of apples. "All clear here Ross," he called. Jessy said, "I'm at the Fairy Tree house with the boys, Mum gave us candles and said to come here and she would go to Dr Clarence to get help for Dad. Do you remember how to get here?" "Yes, of course," said Ross. "I have Leroy with me and Don Summers. I'll send Don towards the Doc's place and have Leroy wait by the car in case your Dad shows up. Do you know where he might have gone?" "No," said Jessy. "He was acting wild like before, but different, but still scary. I just got panicked and called you." "I'm on my way in," said Ross. "I've just passed the big old log where you can see the lake from. You don't know what might have set off your Dad?" "No," said Jessy. "He's been a bit odd for a few days, said he was itching all the time and maybe his clothes weren't really his and then something about aliens taking his clothes and giving him itchy stuff to wear. Mum said she'd go and talk to Dr Clarence if he wanted and that's when Dad started yelling about devils again and threw a basket of apples across the shed." "I didn't think to look in the shed," said Ross. "But I'm here now, I can see the Fairy Tree and one of the boys up in the branches." "I'm inside the trunk." said Jessy. "there's all kinds of stuff in here from all the birthday parties I had here. That's Jeff up on the branch, Josh is across the clearing keeping watch on that side." Ross looked across the clearing and waved to Josh. "Some lookout you are, didn't even warn Jessy I was coming," he smiled. "I'm watching out for Dad, and I knew you weren't him." said Josh, sliding down to the ground. "Come on down Jeff, Uncle Ross will help us now." There were hugs all round as Jessy came out from the hollowed tree that used to be her playhouse. "What time did your Mum head off to the Doc's place?" asked Ross. "I'm pretty sure she took off right after she told us to come here, right after we all put on our boots and we pulled on our jackets while we ran across the yard. Dad was yelling at the apples he'd thrown and making huge scratch marks up his arms." "I don't like what's happening." said Jeff, the quieter twin. He was the one Wayne had planned to cut first, to release the devil he insisted was inside him and had spent plenty of hours talking out his fears with a child psychologist during the last five years. "You're safe now Jeff," said Ross. "Gather your things and we'll head back towards the house, there's no one there but Leroy. You remember Leroy?" "Yeah! He flies that little plane and always smiles." Both boys cheered up at the thought of seeing Leroy again. Jessy said, "Leroy's daughters are close to my age aren't they? I seem to remember at least one of them is a year younger." "That's right." said Ross, happy that Jessy could talk about other things instead of focusing only on Wayne. "He tells me the girls have a French bulldog now, named Froggy, because he sits back on his haunches, then leaps forward like a frog." Jessy laughed at that, something Ross was happy to see. They made their way back to the house in good time, where the boys were already chatting a mile a minute to Leroy all about the new deck Dad was building over on the lake side so they could sit out there at dusk and watch the sun go down over the water. Leroy raised his eyebrows in a silent question and Ross shook his head in reply. No sign of Wayne in the woods where the kids had been. He pointed to himself and then the shed, indicating he'd take a look inside. Leroy nodded and turned his attention back to the kids. Inside the shed, Ross stood for a minute while his eyes adjusted to the gloomy interior, then looked around slowly and carefully. Spotting a familiar pair of boots in the far corner, he made his way over there and saw Wayne, face down in the woodchip pile with outstretched arms covered in long, raw scratches. Ross shook Wayne's shoulder gently, but Wayne didn't wake. Ross rolled him over and gasped at the mess his brother's face was in, deeply scratched with many large splinters embedded in both cheeks, as if Wayne had ran face first into the wall of the stall holding the chips. He walked back out and signalled to Leroy to take the kids inside. Rubbing his stomach meant Leroy should help them all get something to eat. As soon as they were inside, Ross phoned Dr Clarence to see if Maddy had made it there and to ask if he could please come out here right away. He told the Doctor what he had found and asked again about Maddy, feeling a sadness wash over him as Doctor Clarence said he hadn't seen her.