I sat at my computer refreshing the screen repeatedly. "It's not there." I tried one more time. "Something's wrong," I said aloud, even though I was the only one in the room. I quickly opened my instant messenger program.
Me: Robin, something's wrong. It's not there.
Robin: What's not there?
Me: The new topic. That's what.
Robin: Calm down, Alex. It's a whole two minutes late. No freaking out allowed until it's over thirty minutes late.
Me: Ok, ok. Fine. But if thirty minutes goes by...
Robin: We assemble the team.
**** Precisely 29 minutes later ****
Robin: Let's assemble the team. Send out the distress signal.
Me: No need. The boards are already on red alert, thanks to Sarah and her peanut throwing skills.
We assembled the team and made plans. "How quickly can we all be in Australia?" I asked.
"Shouldn't we let our Aussie friends take care of that? I mean, no need to overreact," Annie stated.
"No," I answered. "We're going. Besides, if Dawn posts the new topic before we get there, we have an excuse for a vacation in Australia. If my calculations are correct, it's about midnight in Australia right now. She won't post the new topic for a few hours. Casey will join us down there to help us find her house."
**** Hours later, somewhere in Australia ****
"Ok, team. Here we are outside of Dawn's house. Is the perimeter secure?"
"Yes. The smell of my peanut bombs would have brought anyone out of that house."
"Thanks, Sarah. Those peanuts work wonders. I hope you have some left for the room to room check."
"Alex, when am I ever without peanuts?"
Casey found the spare key, and we walked in.
"Ok, we've done the room by room sweep. What do we have?"
"I found this note," Casey said. Just two words long. 'Gone. Later.' What could it mean?"
"It's obvious," I replied. "The topic list is gone. She'll post the new topic later."
"No, Dawn is gone and she'll be back later," Robin suggested.
"Well, analyzing the sign language for this, I have an entirely different interpretation," Annie replied. We all turned to her. "She knows we're here. She wants us gone, and she'll deal with this breech of security later."
"We'll figure it out shortly. Any other clues?" I asked.
"I found this little umbrella in an empty glass," Annie offered.
"I found this seashell right in front of a poster of the ocean," Dan replied.
"Wait!!!! Hold everything!!!!!" Sarah exclaimed while jumping in the air, flinging peanuts everywhere. "Dawn just posted on the message board!!!!!!"
"I'm sorry, Sarah. Iím going to have to cite you for excessive use of exclamation points," Dan stated. "Your punishment is to wait one extra day for anti-hinging and hinting," Dan replied, while handing Sarah a pink slip.
"No! It's too harsh," Sarah lamented.
"What does the message say?" Dan requested.
Sarah stared reading. "Hi gang. I'm doing great." There's an excessive amount of smilies too.
"Intriguing," I replied, stroking my chin. "Think. There's a note that says 'Gone. Later,' a small paper umbrella, a seashell, a picture of the ocean, and a message from a very happy, perhaps even delusional Dawn. What could possibly make her this happy?"
"No challenge," Robin stated.
"No thinking about the conference," Annie replied, shuddering at the word "conference."
"No editing," I reasoned.
"Wait. I've got it," Robin replied, unenthusiastically. "I would say this with more excitement, but I'm afraid of an 'exclamation point violation' from Dan," she explained.
"Well? What is it?"
"She's on the island of Tonga. I read about it in one of my history classes in college," Robin deduced. "She's not worrying about anything FatihWriter's related, so she's happy. The seashell, poster, and umbrella are obvious. For the note, we failed to look closely at the capitalization. Being writers, we corrected it while reading. Look."
Robin handed us the note. "GONe. lATer."
"If we rearrange the capitalized letters, they spell out Tonga," Robin clarified.
At that moment, Dawn walked in the house and stared at us.
"What are you all doing in my house?" Dawn inquired.
"Just trying to figure out where you were and why the new topic hadn't been posted."
"Oh, sorry. I was on the island of Tonga taking a much-needed break."
We all looked at Robin with admiration as she smiled broadly.
"So, what's the new topic?"
"Write in the 'mystery' genre," Dawn replied smugly.
 Names have been changed to protect the innocent. Or, in this case, the not so innocent.
 The author apologizes to all board members not mentioned in the story.
 The author takes no responsibility but apologizes for defamation of character due to a person's portrayal in the story.
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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