Now in a minute
The phone rang. And it rang, and it rang. And once again the operator repeats her programming. Ludwig listened as it rang and with each old school brrrring! his heart sank more and more. With each automated “we’re sorry” he was dying. He was a fool to believe it was real. A fool to believe that maybe Yakusoku’s being abducted had somehow changed his way of speaking, or he had to speak that way to conceal himself from whoever took him. But that wouldn’t make sense because why would the person who has him allow him to use the phone?
‘Could he have gotten away, and now he’s trapped someplace else?’ He wondered.
He hung up his phone and closed his eyes. If Yakusoku is asleep... if he can disconnect, then maybe he can find out where he is. What’s going on? It has to work. Gripping his closed phone, he sighs. “Please be asleep.” He whispered into the darkness. Taking in the deepest breath he exhales like every ounce of air in his body is going along with it.
He couldn’t believe he’d returned to his room just as much as couldn’t believe Mamoru had convinced him to hide the dead orderly’s body in the laundry room duct. The plan was set. He’d pose as the dead orderly, unlock all the doors and let the nuts out. Maria would come to the building when finding out that he’s gone missing during the riot, all the while he’s in plain sight right under their noses. They’ll complain about him and send him home with Maria. Perfect.
Yakusoku is very nervous about this little stunt, but Mamoru says that he can pull it off. And that he had to stop believing he’s not real and trust him. It’s hard, though, when it always feels like there’s just something beyond his reach that Mamoru wants to say to Yakusoku but isn’t. How do you trust someone who speaks to you and holds back? But if he ever wants to leave, this is something that he’ll have to move past.
Laying in bed, he let out a shaking breath. He hoped it wouldn’t take them long to declare him missing, or for Maria to come.
“Mamoru? Why was it so surprising to you that I said what I’d said before.” He asked as they lay in bed waiting to put on the act tomorrow.
Snuggled against the male’s back, he shrugged. “Just thought it was kind of nice... you said we’d be strong together. Not just you becoming strong since you won’t need me.”
“When will you leave?”
“When you can handle things... when you don’t need me anymore.” He sounded sad when saying this.
Changing the subject, he rolled over to face the male. “Twice now... you’ve called Ludwig. Why?”
“Because he’s the only one who can hear us right now.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You hear what I hear, same as me with you. Right?” He continued when Yakusoku nods. “Did you hear a dial tone on that phone?”
Thinking about when they were in the patient lounge, he searched his memory. “Now that you mention it... no.”
“That’s how I figured Maria must be somewhere in the building. Whenever you took phone calls there was never a dial tone. That phone is either not hooked up, or it doesn’t and never has worked. Just a prop to give the kooks some hope.”
“And I fell for it, I was so happy that she was calling me from beyond these walls, that I didn’t even realize that I was being tricked again.”
“I’m the one who’s sorry. I don’t trust you, and I should.” He hugged his twin close. “You’re the only one helping me in all of this.”
“Tch. You’re welcome... ya wimp.” He snickered. “And stop swooning.”
“I’m not swooning, asshole. I’m just grateful for you.”
“Oh, you have no idea, Hak’.”
They sit in silence a moment. “You never answered my question.”
“About Ludwig. Why do you say that he’s the only one who can hear us?” He closes his eyes feeling the day’s exhaustion in every blink. “Do you have any idea how much my mom and dad and little brother miss me, that you’re wasting calls on Ludwig?”
“They must be beside themselves,” And how his tone had turned mocking. “What’s it been now, a year? Woooow, that completely trumps the pain of nine years- it’s an old wound anyway. Not like the freshness of a year.”
“I get it! I know now that I didn’t run away from home, and that’s great... but I was taken from my home.” He felt tears pricking his eyes. “And there was no one there to help me.”
“You can’t blame them for that.”
“But I do! ...I don’t remember it like you do. I don’t remember the love and the stories behind it, all I know is what you told me. And I can’t even really remember that...” He sniffed back tears. “But I have to see them... to let them know that I’m ok, so they can sleep at night. This hurt my family, and I can sympathize with the Krenn’s pain now, to wanna let them know that I’m alive.”
Eyes sharpened by Yakusoku’s words, they soon soften and the alternate holds out his pinky. “Then here’s to the big feast of joy we’re gonna have once we get out of here.”
“Here here.” He tugs his pinky with his own. “...Now, about Ludwig?”
Mamoru groaned. Using his finger like it’s a gun, he says. “Back unwanted pesterer. Piew! Piew!” Smiling when seeing Yakusoku’s drowsy smile, he brushes the male’s messy bangs. “He’ll tell you when you’re ready... you may even already know.”
“See, you’re being mysterious again.” He yawns.
Scoffing, he shakes his head. “Oyasumi nasai.”
With a smirk, he replies. “Gute natch.” He snickers.
The two lay there snickering at nothing, one bathed in the moonlight the other hidden in the darkness behind him. But the moon has a funny way of changing where it shines, doesn’t it?
It’s the next day. Afternoon. Ludwig is at the mall with his friends, doing nothing in particular. But the sullen teen stepped away from the crowd to hide in the bathroom.
‘Maybe these phone calls are just my mind playing tricks on me. Maybe they’ve become more than just images, and now I’m hearing things too.’ Ludwig pops his head into bathroom wall beside the sink. “I should ask for the cops to trace the number... if there was a number on my phone other than the one from before, and I already sort of know where that came from.”
Gev, standing behind him eavesdropping, cocks his head in thought.
“Am I really this messed up over him?”
“The answer is, yes, twinkle star.” Draping an arm around his friend’s shoulders he spins them so that they’re facing the mirror. “But it’s good to keep hope alive, even if hope always abandons you, just keep believing that it’ll sort out.”
“Hn. You sound like you’re pep-talking me for baseball try-outs because I suck at bat.”
“Considering you have a bat, and like playing with bats... I’d sooner believe you stink at pitching- or maybe running the bases, since you couldn’t even tell the guy that you like him..”
“You know what I mean!” He’s in full-bummer-mode, and frankly, doesn’t want to cheer up.
“I do. I also know that you’re taking a really long time in the bathroom and everyone is starting to think you’re crying.” He smirked knowingly.
“Why would they think that?” He raises his head.
“Morons, all of you.” He snipped. “I thought it then, and I think it now.”
“It’s your choice what you think, I’m just here to observe.”
“...If I tell you something, you’re not gonna get on me are you?”
Rolling his eyes he says. “I already know that you’re gay for Yakuza and that you ran him off with your spooky kiss.” He teased. “What more is there?”
“I’ve been getting phone calls... the person calling doesn’t sound like Yakusoku, but,” He sighs. “They seem so desperate to reach me.”
“I don’t follow.”
“I wanna look in on them, but I checked once and it was a dead end.” He shrugs. “I don’t wanna look like a fool.”
“That’s hope, baby. Listen, if you don’t want the runaround, call the cops.” He pats Ludwig on the shoulder. “They’ll find out who’s fucking with you... maybe.” He smiled at his passionate hatred for the boys-in-blue.
“I wanted to tell the Lands-”
“Don’t!” He cast him a dire expression. “I don’t know what happened with them but Ai’s been going off lately on anybody he sees.”
“But, he seemed fine at the barbecue before.” He made it sound like that was just last week when it was really last month.
“Right. But, he told me that they got this freaky ass note in May- said it was from Yakusoku- but there was no return address or hint to where he is.”
“A letter? Do they still have i-?” He stops talking when seeing the head shaking response.
“Cops,” Gev explained.
“Do you know what it said?
“No. Ai didn’t tell me.”
“I wish he would come back...” His shoulders slump. “or that whoever is harassing them-”
“And me- would just back off.” He chews his bottom lip thoughtfully. “I can see harassing the Lands, but why me? I’m nobody. That’s what makes me wanna look into it.”
“You should. You never know...” Stuffing his hands into his pocket, he rocks on his boot heels. “Want me to come along?”
“...If you don’t mind staying over at my aunt’s place for a couple days while I search.”
“When will we go?”
“Before school starts; I need to save up for two tickets now.”
“Hey, I don’t need to be a burden.” Gev shakes his head. “If you’ve got the money now, just go.”
Ludwig thought it over. “I did have to wait for a while before following the last lead. Maybe I should go?”
“Go. But first,” And Gev marks it with a finger lifting for each thing he says. “get out of the bathroom, then buy me a burger- I forgot my money.”
“Fine. Come on.”
Ai walked out of the bathroom stall, eyes wide, reeling over what he’d just heard. ‘Ludwig likes my brother?’ He walked on shaking legs over to the sink. ‘And he might be the reason he was abducted? No wonder he always asks me how I’m feeling, and treats me so nicely. He’s to blame. If he hadn’t run away from that guy or even been at his house... my brother might still be at home with us. And not a phantom in a letter.’
Ai wasn’t sure if he wanted to cry or be angry. But he knew one thing for sure. Ludwig is the enemy.
Mamoru weeded through the sanitarium under the disguise of the deceased orderly Dan. He’s pretending to look for himself while getting the other nuts rounded up and put back in their room- which he doesn’t lock, allowing them right back out into the hall and sitting rooms.
“How could he have gotten away?”
“Who unlocked the doors to the halls?!” Wonders another worker.
He overhears this with a smirk, looking out over the chaos and whirling the stolen keycard around on its strap with his index finger. She’ll show up at any minute.
“Let’s get some order around here!” Called a man who’s very short in life but very tall in authority. “Turn on the collars!”
“Uh-oh.” Looking down at the white ankle monitor strapped to him, he swallowed when a very violent jolt surged him and every other patient in the building, even the ones now calming down in their room.
The room was an uproar of screams and wails as all the patients dropped to the floor in pain, including Mamoru. It’s really painful! And no amount of mental strength can match the high voltage running up your leg and through the rest of your body from the brace they wear there.
“Found you.” Eric, who works the cafeteria, boasts when looking at the writhing pile on the tiled white floor.