"Joe!!" Maria's scream cut right through to my heart. "Sunny isn't here!" Leaving the campfire, she ran to me, tears running down her cheeks. "He didn't leave the hostel with Seth's family."
I was speechless, an icy dread overwhelming me. I struggled to my feet under the tree where I'd flopped down to rest for a moment. Maria and I had just arrived at the spot where our friends were setting up camp.
"He's not here!" Maria sobbed.
Seth's strong hand rested on my shoulder. "Joe, he's not with us. We haven't seen him since this morning."
"But he was with your sons. Then where..." I fought to get control of my thoughts. Sunny must be here!
"I'll get the boys." Seth gave the piercing whistle that meant come here this instant.
Mark and Dave came running.
"Boys," Seth said solemnly, "Sunny's dad thought he was with us all day. When was the last time you saw him?"
Young Dave's brow wrinkled in a frown. "We were playing ball this morning before we left. And then Sunny said he had something important to do. We thought he went back into the hostel, didn't we Mark?"
Dave's younger brother Mark nodded his head, his eyes big and round.
"And since he wasn't with you two boys, I was sure he was with his parents." Seth was pale under his tan. "Joe, I feel terrible about this."
"Is Sunny okay? Is he lost?" Dave's lips trembled. "I'm sorry, Dad!"
Maria wiped her eyes. "It's not your fault, Davy," she said gently. She bowed her head, and I knew she was praying. Straightening her shoulders she said, "Let's start back, Joe."
I reached for my pack, but Seth said, "It's almost sunset, and you know the trail is too treacherous at night. Even in the daylight it's difficult in places. Besides, you never know who or what is prowling around..."
"I can't sleep. I'll start out now," I insisted. "Maria can stay here with you."
"I'm going with you!" she declared.
"Be sensible, you two. Eat something and rest. You won't do Sunny any good if something happens to you on the trail. I bet Sunny is safe at the hostel right now. I'll go back with you in the morning."