So I went out to the yard and the woods and the neighboring street and called for about an hour, rattling the treat can as I went. We put out food and tuna water in case he needed a guide back home. At 630 this morning, same thing, next street over too. I thought I heard something yelling, but when I went into the woods in someone's yard to check, nothing. C was distressed, but sure that Skillet was out chasing mice and would be back when he was done. He wanted to stay home from daycare so that he could "sit on the front step in my Merrills to greet him when he comes home." (And at daycare he made up a very strange story about how we used to have a cat named Thermos -- we did -- but "Skillet scratched him with his claws and his claws had chemicals on them, so he died -- uh, no.)
In midmorning I went for another walk in the neighborhood and through the park, rattling treats and calling, feeling like a complete loser from every possible direction, still nothing. J put up a bunch of signs, we left the food out and the garage door open. Every half hour or so through the afternoon and evening, one of us would go to the door and call, but not with any real expectations. it started snowing lightly sometime in midafternoon.
I mean, you do those things because you wouldn't feel right not doing them, not because you think that they'll actually help.
Then, about 930, J opened the door and called again, and heard a faint meow from the direction of the neighbor's yard (the one with the two dogs). She called again, and the meow was a little louder, and then Skillet trotted right in, fur cold, unmussed, meowing and marking the corners that had gotten unscented while he was out, demanding in no uncertain terms that the treat can be produced, eating and drinking a little. Then he went over to the basement door, looked at it, looked meaningly at us as if to say, "It's been a nice visit, but I've got things to do."
Cat, you are so grounded.