Gev walked out of a pretty shifty looking apartment building holding a fat stack of cash, he waved it proudly in the cold winter air. The three of them left the area, as asked, to get coffee and donuts from Krispie Kremes. Krispie Kremes is hopelessly out of the way, but they had a feeling they’d of been waiting outside of that building for a while, had they stayed. Clark was over the phone saying that it looked like Gev’s dealer’s apartment, but he wasn’t sure. Ludwig wasn’t sure of how he felt about using drug money; and wouldn’t the goth have to pay it back? He’s watched television shows about this sort of thing, and it never ends well.
“Where did you get that sweet amount of cash?” Nono asks getting out of his car; followed by the others.
“My dealer. Shit head tried to kill me.”
“How much is there?” Clark asks taking the wad from his friend’s chilled fingers.
“A thousand for each of us.” Taking the money back, he counts it quickly then hands a pile over to Nono. “Here. Make it last big boy, no sneaking away and buying piles of food.”
“Whatever.” Nono felt his cheeks heating from the comment.
He’s actually lost a little weight, unable to eat properly knowing that one of his friends is missing. He wondered if his other friends have been affected in some way, and judging by the bags under Gev and Ludwig’s eyes, the two can’t sleep- despite the goth’s heavy make-up to cover it up. Clark... he looks about the same. But Nono isn’t going to judge him. People grieve in different ways; Clark’s way could simply be to pretend the problem isn’t real. He wished he had that ability. He could go for something to eat, and not just a swig of coffee and a donut.
“I hope you know how to read a map, London,” Clark says when returning to his car. “I don’t wanna end up in Texas because of you.”
“I can read a map.” He flipped his sporty friend off while climbing into the passenger's seat.
Doubt in his tone, Clark sucks in a breath before saying. “Here we go.”
At the police station, down in the morgue. Reeve and Quinn, accompanied by another man and an officer are standing between two tables where two bodies lay at rest. Quinn forced herself to keep her eyes on the table before them. She won’t look away. She will be strong.
“I want you to look for distinctive things, things that might belong to your son.”
“Won’t the face be enough?” Asks Reeve.
Taking a breath, the officer shakes his head. “I should warn you, one has burns all over his upper half, especially his face. The other...” He couldn’t even finish the sentence.
What could be worse than being burned beyond recognition? They wondered. Then the officer moved the sheet back. Quinn shut her eyes immediately. If it is her son, this is not the last image of him she wants to have. But she would know without looking, one touch and she would know. Her fingertips, trembling and slow, move out to touch the cold body’s shoulder.
The officer watched this and decided to explain. “The reason his face is cut off is because it’s the signature of a serial killer that we haven’t been able to catch yet.” His expression is very somber as he speaks. “Is this either of yours’ son?”
“No.” Reeve answers.
Relief hard in his posture but fear remained in his voice. This was not how he, or anyone, should have to spend the holiday. He should be at home with his family, laughing at their favorite parts of the Christmas Story receiving phone calls from relatives. Not in the police station morgue looking at bodies that could possibly be their son. It's like a sick and cruel joke.
And whoever has their son had better hope that the police can keep him or her safe, because he’s had enough! His wife is a mess, his son Ai isn’t doing any better. He can tell the child is trying his best to hold up, but he can’t do much when everyone around him is falling apart. And constantly hearing bad news isn’t helping it. It's better than not hearing anything, though. But it’s hard to dub either or as the worse case scenario when you’re the one living it.
The other man shook his head; all were relieved when the boy was covered back up. When the sheet is moved from the other child, Quinn kept her gaze steadily trained on him. But she knew right away it wasn’t Yakusoku. Unfortunately, the other man started to cry and spit out curse after curse. He knew it was his son the minute he saw the small tattoo of a shark on his upper abdomen.
“We’ll call your wife if you’d like?” Suggest the officer to the broken man.
“No... No... I’ll call her.” He sniffles.
Turning away from the others, he couldn’t help but punch the stone wall. It didn’t even seem like it hurt, but with force behind it how could it not have?
“We’ll keep looking for your son, Mr. and Mrs. Land.” Says the officer. “Detective Hayward would like to question you about a phone call made by one of your son’s friends concerning someone he used to know. He’s upstairs in the interrogation room. It’s the first door on the right.”
“Thank you.” Wrapping his arms around his wife he leads her from the room.
She completely crumpled when she got out of that room. She didn’t want the poor man who’d just gotten his son back to see how relieved she is that neither boy on that slab was her own. Reeve held his wife tightly while she gathered herself.
“Are you sure you wouldn’t rather go home, I can handle things here?”
Shaking her head. “I don’t wanna be useless.” She wept. “I’m just so relieved that it wasn’t Yakusoku.”
“I know... I know.” He said in a hushed tone; caressing her shoulder to ease the tension. “We need to get upstairs and find out if the call held anything useful for the police to find who did this.”
“Okay.” She sniffled; blew out a steadying breath, then followed beside her husband to the stairs.
Interrogation held the rich scent of coffee and sugar coming from the box of donuts sitting open beside the gurgling pot. Neither Reeve nor Quinn was even slightly tempted to eat anything after what they’ve just seen, and what went through their heads before seeing it. That poor man is going to have to go home and tell his wife that their son was found dead. They couldn’t imagine having to return home and tell that sort of thing to Ai.
The room, despite its warm cozy atmosphere and a few bits of garland and a Charlie Brown-esque tree on top of the water cooler, still held its grim and not a very appreciated heavy atmosphere. The blue tiled walls were no comfort, the puke green liner running the middle of the wall to the floor didn’t help it. Neither does the stone floor. Then there’s the cold and threatening table with the studs in it to keep suspects, being questioned, cuffed to the table.
Something about it held Quinn’s focus. She’s seen movies where people were locked away by studs just like that in the table. It made her feel a chill in the air that wasn’t there, but she rubbed her arms anyway.
“Sorry to have brought you into this room, I was just with someone who was ID’d. Have a seat in here.” He points a folder in his hand to a room beside the one they’re all leaving.
This room was much better, large windows that see in both ways and not just one. A desk with worn leather seats lining the wall from off the door. Blinds that open and close with a simple tug up or down. White walls with wooden framing lining from the center of the wall to the floor. A standard room. The desk held a tower computer, piles of paper, and a coffee mug. It was clear it came from a child because it reads: #1 Dad!
“We got a tip about a girl your son used to know, named Maria Atkinson. Does that ring a bell to either of you?” He leans forward placing his meaty hands in a steeple as he spoke.
The couple thought it over. The name did sort of sound familiar, but they couldn’t remember why. Maybe Yakusoku had mentioned the girl. Maybe Ai knows something about it?
“I remember two or so years back, I was brought to a girl’s house with an officer- I can’t remember his name” Reeve shakes his head. “but, it was regarding a girl that made my son believe she was trouble.” He adjusts his glasses. “Her name could have been Maria. But she’s my son’s age... you don’t think?” He trailed off when the officer starts to shake his head.
“We just wanted to know something about the girl because the young man who called said she might be suspicious.”
The couple nod.
“I have here the listings from the school hotline. Your son was stationed at phone four, and if you’ll take a look...” He points. “He’s received numerous calls from phone number six.”
“What does that mean?” Quinn asks.
“Whoever was making calls to your son, saying they needed help, was sitting right across from him.”
Reeve and Quinn exchanged frightened glances. How could someone be sitting across from their son making phone calls to him without Yakusoku, or anyone else in the room noticing?
“How is that possible?” Reeve asks.
“We believe that she may have been whispering into the receiver.” Removing another sheet of paper from the folder, he slides it across the table. “We’ve since checked out the names on this paper. It’s a list of the people who were in the Teens Helping Teens room.”
“Did any of them confess?”
“Not a one. Some even said they never saw anyone sitting at chair six; that the girl only came in once in a while.”
Getting mad, Reeve asks. “Well did any of those people who saw her recognize her from class?”
The officer shook his head.
This was getting ridiculous! It’s as if someone was playing a cruel trick on them, just waiting to jump out and scream- gotcha! It was me all along! Bet you didn’t know!
“I want you to be very serious when answering me... Did your son have any enemies?”
Steadying his anger, Reeve shook his head. “Not anyone that we knew of. He never came home with bruises from bullies, he never said anything was wrong, he never behaved as though anything was wrong. He’s a good kid!”
“I know every parent likes to think that way, but the things we don’t know about our children could fill a dictionary...”