Stop this right away
“Why are you so down, hon’?” Asks a waitress after wiping down the bar counter top with a damp rag. “You don’t have enough cash for something on the menu?”
Ludwig blinked, confused. “Oh. No. I’m fine.” He shakes his head. “I’m just trying to keep my thoughts together.”
He drew in an exhausted breath and closed his eyes, putting his head between his hands. “You ever just feel like the universe is against you?”
“Sometimes. Hold on,” She steps away from him to deal with a customer.
The diner’s having a slow night, which gives the staff time to clean up early or just stand around chatting or making phone calls or whatever. Some even said they were checking out early! It’s 7 o’clock and Ludwig once again had an uneventful visit to "the old country" seeking help from his aunt Rissa. Only instead of being told that he’s dead, he got nothing because she isn’t even home! He waited around all yesterday, returning to her home from the hotel in intervals and still nothing. He can’t call her because she doesn’t have a cell phone.
Ludwig spent the day before on the road after coming back from checking out a place where he thought he’d get some answers. Maybe if his aunt came with him there, she could feel Yakusoku’s presence if the weirdo on the phone were, in fact, his abducted friend. But he can’t do anything if she isn’t around.
“Hey, do you mind if I put up some flyers around here?” He asks the waitress when her attention comes back to him.
“Not at all, but we have a strict policy about not advertising other people’s businesses.” She’s sure to inform. “What kind of flyer is it? Are you in a band or something?”
Ludwig scoffed good-humoredly. “I don’t think people would gather for a classical concert. This is a missing person flyer. A friend of mine disappeared last year, and we still haven’t found him.”
“How sad!” Her eyes actually bugged out in shock.
You hear about things like that on the news, or see the little photos on pizza coupon booklets. But there’s never any grieving persons involved with it. It really hit her in the heart. She actually clutched her chest.
“Of course you can, can I see one of them?” She held out her thin hand for a sheet off of the stack of papers. “You think he’s been through here?” Her brown eyes scan the photo carefully.
The photo of Yakusoku smiling stares back at her; what she doesn’t see is the chopped off middle finger he’s giving in the photo.
“He looks...” She seemed to trail off for just the right wording. “so unhappy. I really hope you find him.” The flyer is stuffed beneath the bar. “He looks like he could use a good day or three.”
Ludwig blinked hearing that comment. He thought that Yakusoku looked handsome and folksy, especially since he’s smiling at his best friend. Removing the stack from the countertop, he walks the room, and with the Scotch tape he’d stuffed into his hoodie’s pocket, Ludwig weaves between the tables and booths taping the flyers to the window: one facing out and on the next window one facing in and repeat, until the diner’s windows are covered from left to right.
“Is it alright if I do the bathrooms too?”
“I’ll do the ladies room, but you can do the men's, sure.” After speaking to him she stuffs some mugs beneath the countertop.
Shouldering the door open, he places a flyer on the windows and one on the inside of each stall. There wasn’t a doubt in his mind that they’d be defaced and torn down but at least it would be seen beforehand.
Removing his cellphone from his pocket, he’s about to press 6 for the Lands but then his thumb bee-lines and instead he calls Gev. He forgot that he can’t be a burden to that poor family, especially while Mrs. Land is pregnant. Gotta place all Yakusoku searching activity to private; the cops are already doing that, they call it a “Cold Case”.
“I’m gonna stay one more day.” He says tiredly. “I wanna hang some more flyers around.”
“Are you sure he’s even out there? People could just be missing him in plain sight in the states.” Gev sounds tired like he’s been up and tapping a vein for something to run through his system.
Running a hand through his tangle of messy waves, he sighs. “I honestly don’t know anymore. All I know is I got this weird ass phone call and it's been bugging me since.”
“What did they say?”
“Nothing. I don’t think they had the chance to before getting chased off.” Then he adds. “And the second one was just plain weird as shit.”
“It could have been a wrong number, dude, that shit happens all the time- even with a cell.” He muttered something in his mother’s native tongue; surprising Ludwig that he even knew it. “Just don’t read too much into this, it’ll make you crazy.”
“Night big brother.” Victoria’s voice sounded in the background.
“Night, munchkin. Listen Lud’, I know you like him and finding him will be everything... but you’re becoming obsessed.”
“What the hell is there not to obsess over?!” He snapped, his voice echoed around the enclosed room. “Our friend is missing and no one seems to care anymore!”
“I just spent the last twenty minutes listening to Victoria reading to me from her My Little Pony book collection, there isn’t anyone in the world who cares more about someone than me right now... but I know not to beat a dead horse.”
“You’re lucky I know you well enough now to know you’re a dick when you’re uncomfortable,” He yawned. “look, do what you gotta do then come back. Or be nuts, and live out there until you get another random phone call telling you Yaku’ is somewhere else.. but you can’t keep calling me with nothing to go on other than you’re trying- because I know.”
“So what are you saying? Just stop caring and hope he comes back on his own?” Ludwig can’t hide the anger in his tone.
“No. I’m saying stop giving yourself ulcers over what ifs.”
“He reached out once before, and he’ll do it again.”
“If it were even him!” Hearing the sadness drain from Ludwig’s mouth in a huff, he adds. “Until he does reach out again, you’ve just gotta wait.”
Sighing, he tilts his head back and closes his eyes. Deep breaths. He coached himself while breathing in and out deeply. “One last thing and then I promise I’ll...” He physically trailed off by silencing himself and swaying back and forth in thought. “I feel stupid saying I’m giving up. ...I can’t. I, and Yakusoku too, would do the same if it were you.”
“Fine! Keep fucking looking!” Gev’s calm and cool demeanor evaporated like a desert had run it over and dried it all up. “But stop calling my ass with piles of fucking nothing! Because it hurts Ludwig! It hurts me like it’s hurting the Lands; and I’m getting damned tired of the slow recovery, only to have to hear your ass every other week reminding me that we’re all still fucked!”
Speechless, Ludwig could only impersonate a fish with how his mouth opened and closed without a sound.
“Fuck’s sake, unless you’ve got him by the damn short and curlies while you're taking a plane home or whatever, don’t call me anymore.”
The call ends there.
Stuffing his phone into his pocket, he feels his shoulders sag. Gev could be right. He could be beating a dead horse. Fist balled to a painful strain Ludwig looked at his reflection in the long mirror. He looks terrible. Tired. Withered. And worst of all... angry. He walks over to the mirror, thumb up to his forehead and he’s trying to smooth out the crease between his furrowed brows.
“It shouldn’t be this fucking hard!” He shouts at the ceiling.
Teeth clenched, he felt his fist raise on its own and aim straight for the long mirror. He thankfully stopped himself before he wound up with blood all over the place and himself.
‘Maybe I am too damned desperate... maybe I am making a fool of myself.’ He glares at his reflection, but he doesn’t wanna look into that crease between his angered brows, screaming at the top of its lungs: I’M DOUBTING THIS WHOLE THING! No, he stares into his angered eyes that are screaming in return: I WON’T BE DEFEATED!
Hope may paralyze, but determination doesn’t. It fuels. It stems. It doesn’t wait. It’s what brought him out here on this tiny sliver of evidence that someone wants his attention here. And if not his aunt, then it could only be Yakusoku. And he will find him, no matter when.
That phone number... it was hard to remember but he looked it up. It belongs to a sanitarium in the next town from this one. He called them and asked about Yakusoku, he gave his description. Ludwig was unsure if the call from there even had anything to do with the disappearance, but he’s sure that Gev is wrong on this one. He’s never gotten wrong numbers calling him before, so why now? And why from such odd places like a diner and a nuthouse of all places? His Aunt Rissa used to work there, but not anymore that was some time back.
He hasn’t been to a place like that for a long time, but when he’d gone to visit it... old sickening memories returned to him and he found himself unable to stay for very long. But while there, he caught a faint sighting of Yakusoku peeking at him from behind a pillar in the center of a large room, where a single phone is placed. Could that have been the phone he used to call him? He had no way of knowing, nor of why when he saw the image of the missing friend he was frantically shaking his head.