The Midnight Hour

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Chapter 3

3:30 P.M.

I hate this place. Nothing but assholes all day. If it’s not the customers, it’s my boss Dan. The prick sits on his fat ass all day in the office doing nothing, then preaches to me about all the crap I should be doing, as if I’m not already doing fifty things at once now. But whatever I doubt I’ll stick around here for another week, I can’t see how people can just settle for work like this when there is so much more out there.

Finally, four o’clock, time to get the fuck out of here. I walk across the store to the time card machine and clock out.

“Hey”. I hear Dan yell from his office.

“Derek, come in here”.

Shit, I knew I should have sprinted out of here. I walk over to his office and open the door, the door knob is slick with what is most likely pizza grease, the pig never stops eating. I walk in and see Dan sitting in his broken-down computer chair, worn down from years of his massive body crushing it to pieces. I can almost hear it screaming for air.

He is not my idea of a store manager, he looks more like someone you would see living in some trailer park, he’s wearing an old ripped up white tank top, and some greasy stained blue jeans.

“What do you need”. I say.

“Take out the trash in the bathrooms before you go, it smells like shit in there”.

Smells like shit in here, I thought. He’s sweating out some kind of nasty odors it’s hard to breathe in here, kind of like when you pass by a power plant, that rotten eggs smell, ugh.

“yeah, sure, why not”. I said.

I turn around and head out the door and walk past the cluttered aisles to the bathrooms. You can smell the urine odor before you even open the doors, probably because the lazy bastard hasn’t had them cleaned in over a month.

The room is a mess, there is old pieces of toilet paper caked to the floor, and the toilets are as if someone decided to take a dump standing up, no attempt to make it in the bowl, it’s sickening. I grab the trash cans and drag them out the back door to the dumpster.

I dump the trash cans into the dumpster quickly to avoid anything that may fall out on me. There is an old newspaper on the ground by the dumpster with more of those missing people pictures and articles on them, like Mark was showing me.

I wonder if he ever found anything over at the old sanitarium, unlikely. I thought.

I don’t bother going back in the store in fear that there would be some other chore the fat man would want me to do, so I circled around the store back to my car to make a speedy exit.

I hop in the car and head out to Cory’s place. He lives in one of those fancy big houses uptown, his parents are loaded so he’s never really had to do any real work. Lucky fucker. It works out for him though, he has really bad social anxiety and the thought of going out in public is a panic attack waiting to happen. If it weren’t for me and Mark, he would probably never leave his house.

Cory didn’t always have an issue going out, it all kind of started when we were in high school. Cory got picked on by the Baker boys, they hated Cory, don’t know if it was out of jealousy or just because he was an easy target. But, one day when Cory was walking home from school the Baker boys attacked him on the street. They got him pretty good, put him in the hospital for a few weeks. He had a few broken ribs, and a concussion from it, he’s never been the same since.

I pulled up into Cory’s driveway and cut the engine off. His place has an old gothic style to it, makes me think of a castle towering over me. I walk up and knock on the door, he has this cool door knocker on it resembling a dragon, real medieval looking.

“Who is it?” I hear Cory ask in a scared whisper.

“It’s me”. I yell.

Cory cracks the door open and peaks out at me. His house is dark on the inside, as if all their lights blew out.

“Oh, what’s up man, forgot you were coming over”.

“Nothing much, you gonna let me in?” I ask.

He opens the door reluctantly and lets me in. This place is ridiculous, filled with a bunch of random junk his parents collected over the years, kinda like a museum in here. Old paintings fill the walls, big stone stands with big vases on them. There is a big winding staircase going up in the middle of the room, like something you would see in a ballroom as someone important shows up. Too much space I would get lost in here.

“Hey, you hear from Mark today?” I ask.

He shook his head with a shrug. “Nah, not today.”

Cory’s wearing some old bath robe that looks like motel drapes and some house slippers, still in his pajamas. I guess Mark is still at the old asylum.

“So, anything fun happening over here?”

“Not really, I have been trying to trace this strange phone call I got today.” He said. “Mostly static on the line, but it tripped me out, so I had to figure out who it was or if it was a prank or something.”

“Did you figure it out then?” I ask.

I wonder if I should mention the strange call I got today, almost forgot it even happened. Then again, he would probably think it’s some kind of conspiracy, he thinks the world is always trying to kill him.

“Well, I found a location on it to where it should be, but there are no buildings in the area, no phone booth, nothing. Doesn’t make sense.”

“Is it from Bedford, or...?” I ask.

“It showed it was somewhere just outside town, near the old hospital buildings.” He mumbled.

“What time did they call you? It could have been Mark, he’s up that way working on a story for the Times.”

He shakes his head in disbelief.

“I have his number you know, plus that dude was definitely passed out when I got the call, it was like two in the morning.”

I must have had a strange look on my face, Cory instantly looked panicked, as if he saw a ghost. He turned and ran up the stairs towards his room.

“What are you doing?” I yell up to him.

“One sec”. He said.

This guy is always in such a panic it makes me feel nervous just being around him, like maybe he is right maybe the worlds out to get him and I’m gonna be taken out for being in the same area. The guys stressful.

I wonder if somehow the two calls are connected or just some coincidence, it couldn’t have been Mark I seen him hours after I was called. I just want to blow it off as a wrong number.

Then again, maybe Mark was right and there are missing people up there, but how would they get my number. I guess they could just hit random numbers and see who answers but, that’s a bit of a stretch since they called Cory too. See this guy’s already in my head making me trip out and I’ve only been here like ten minutes.

Cory comes running out of his room, down the stairs holding a paper. He runs up to me breathing heavy, as if he just ran a marathon.

“Look”. He says shoving the paper in my face. “missing people, there have been reports of them going missing near those buildings”.

“I know, that’s what Mark was going up there to investigate, he wanted to beat the cops to the punch on the story.”

He shakes his head; his eyes are red like he hasn’t slept in a month. He has his usual panicked expression on face, eyes darting around like someone might be listening in.

“What if that’s who called, maybe they need help.” He puts his hands on his head and starts breathing even heavier. “Or what about Mark, what if something happened to him. Oh, my God, Oh God.”

“Calm down man, just call Mark, I bet he’s fine, probably interviewing all the crack heads up there. He could already be back home for all you know.” I grab him by the shoulders. “Chill.”

He reaches in his pocket and grabs his phone, almost drops it from his shaking.

“Okay, okay, I’m calling him.” He whispers.

He paces the floor as he calls. The guy is a wreck, once the box of cereal he likes changed the picture on the box and he couldn’t find it, he panicked and had a meltdown in the middle of the store, lucky for him it was my store and I calmed him down and helped him find the box.

“He’s not answering!” He screams.

He is back in full blown panic now, shaking and pacing the floors, he starts crying.

“We have to go see if he’s okay!” He demands.

“Dude, calm down, we can drive up and see if he’s still there.” I grab a hold of him. “You gotta chill out though.”

He gives me a slight nod and whimpers a bit. He throws off his robe and runs up to his room to change his clothes.

God, this guy is going to be the death of me. I let out a sigh, and walk outside. Need some fresh air after Cory sucked it all out of the house. It’s a dark cloudy day, smells like rain in the air. It’s the beginning of spring so it’s always raining, there is a bit of a chill in the air but I can’t take another day wearing a coat, got to let my skin breath. I never cared much for wearing those big poufy winter coats, rather freeze.

A few minutes’ pass and Cory comes running out, still in a bit of a panic, he runs up to my car and hops in the passenger side.

“Let’s roll.” He announces.

I walk over and hop in the car and start up the engine. Here we go, this is not how I planned to spend my day.

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