I scrambled to my feet and ran to my football kit that was hiding behind my shelf, safely kept out of anyone’s reach. With hasty movements, I unzipped the bag that my dad had brought back home from my University upon my insistence.
I examined everything. Please, just please let there be something.
What am I even supposed to be looking for? I held my kit upside down and emptied its contents onto my bed, searching for something that may just be left out in the kit or anything as of such.
When absolutely nothing came out, I couldn’t help but feel the disappointment rise in me.
It’s okay, Sam. Deep breaths.
That just means I’m looking in the wrong place.
My eyes scanned my room and I found myself gulping. Where do I start? If mom happens to enter my room, I’m so done for.
She’ll probably kick me out of the house.
Shaking my head, I tried to start off with my bookshelf in a neat and organized manner. However, an hour into it, I was not only dead tired but also absolutely unsuccessful at finding that evidence.
At one point, I could feel the tears of frustration at the back of my eyes. Don’t lose hope, I’d keep reminding myself.
It’s got to be somewhere.
When my entire room had turned upside down, I decided that there really wasn’t anything that resembled a potential piece of ‘evidence’ in there and that it was time to put everything away.
And it was only when I was signing the day off by finally putting my football kit away did I notice something fishy.
I stared at the kid for a good thirty seconds and quickly grabbed the Nikon camera as a link of resemblance flashed into my head. They both had hurried ‘S.’ scribbles on it. I don’t remember writing that. Why haven’t I ever noticed that?
I took up my helmet and my heart literally soared.
There it was indeed.
One by one, I took out all the contents of my kit and carefully examined them.
Each one of them had that very letter scribbled onto it by a permanent marker at the far end. This was definitely Seb’s doing; I didn’t remember writing anything as of such, and this wasn’t my handwriting anyway.
I found myself running my fingers along that letter and smiling to myself before I shook my head and snapped out of my daydream.
How was this going to help me?
Did that mean other things had the S. as well?
He was trying to get me to notice something in particular. But what?
What other things were super close to me?
I sat down on my head and tried to think.
Think, think, think.
What is he trying to tell me?
I shot out of my bed and ran to the pile of mess that had accumulated from my messy search and started scanning each and every one of them individually. I had to look for that sign. What if it was a clue or trial on where to search next?
I picked my books up and examined each and every side of them. The first one had no sign whatsoever. I shut my eyes in annoyance, glanced at the remainder of my books, and cursed myself for reading so many books at one point. I really had to go to through all of that, didn’t I?
Here goes nothing.
Picking up each and every book, I scanned through the front and the backs of the covers for the particular ‘S.’ I was looking for.
Not in this one, nope.
No, seriously, why did I have to read so much as a child? JUST WHY?
Okay, it’s not too many books left. 40 done-- unfortunately, with no clues-- 30 more to go.
I swear to god, Seb. If it’s not in these things I’m wasting so much time on. . .
Hey! I see somethi-- never mind.
The frustration was genuine and very much real when by the end of it, I realized Seb had been such an idiot and not put any sorts of clues in the books. I really did hate him.
He made me go through all of that.
All of that for no reason whatsoever.
Oh, how I wish he was alive so I could kill him.
I slammed my fist against the table with much irritation only to end up regretting it as pain shot through my arms and a bunch of items fell to the floor. For a minute, I only grew angrier that I couldn’t even punch the table in peace.
Irrational anger-- the norm.
I looked at the items that had fallen onto the floor and bit back a scream. I was so fed up cleaning and searching the entire room that seeing untidiness at this point gave me anxiety.
Taking deep breaths, I tried my level best to calm myself.
“Just clean it up, you’ve done so much. A little more won’t hurt anyone,” I told myself in an attempt to reassure myself. If someone had seen me like this, they would’ve most definitely classified me as someone who had serious mental issues.
I heard some footsteps and then knocks on my doors. My heart, most certainly, dropped. “Sam, darling? Are you okay in there? I thought I heard something.”
“Yeah, mom! I’m just fine! It’s just that I accidentally knocked off the alarm on my table!”
“Are you sure? Do you need anything else?”
“I’m good, mom! Thanks!”
“Okay, then. Tell me if you need anything, alright?”
“Of course, mom. You and dad should rest too.”
“We will. Try to sleep, darling. You need it.”
I heard faded footsteps in the background and my heart pounded against my chest as though I had narrowly escaped from doing something wrong. Only, I wasn’t doing anything wrong. It wasn’t my fault I had been sucked into this mess. It wasn’t.
I ran my hands down my face and proceeded to pick the items up in a tired and fed up state.
But that was until I saw something. Something I’d been looking for a good deal of time now. I snatched my wallet from the ground as though I were yanking it away from someone who wouldn’t let go and tried to test the legitimacy of the permanent marker beneath my fingertips.
It was there! It really was there!
I threw the contents of my wallet and examined each one of my cards and folds in the wallet. And that was when I almost threw my head against the wall at my stupidity. Of course! Seb’s picture! He knew I carried it around everywhere I went!
I don’t know whether it was the fact that I was an emotional mess due to all the exhaustion or if it was really the happiness flooding out of me when the tears fell down my cheeks once again as I looked at his smiling face staring down at me. “I love you,” I whispered.
And then I remembered. Shit. I’d let my emotions take control of me.
No, no. They probably saw that through whatever they had been monitoring me with. How do I get my next clue without making it to obvious from here? How could I pull it off as though I hadn’t found a hint whatsoever?
Where could I go to investigate more into this without being in plain sight of the camera?
It was right then when the idea clicked. The bathroom! That was the safest place I could go to. I had no idea what rooms they had monitored, but surely they would have some decency to spare the bathroom. And if they didn’t, then at least it could be said that I’d tried my level best.
But I knew one thing for sure, I had to give it a shot.
Alright, Sam, just let those tears flow. You’ve been letting them form a stream on your cheeks anyway, Sam. A little more drama wouldn’t do you any harm.
Yes, awesome, Sam. That’s it. Try to make it seem as though you’re subconsciously holding your wallet and going into the bathroom to freshen up or something. Still sobbing, I went into the bathroom and locked myself in.
Only when I had gotten in did I truly rush into action. I took my keys out of the pocket and scratched the back of the picture with it. I let out a breath that I’d been holding as I saw the paper reveal a date:
We never got to play it, but Seb would’ve been great at treasure hunt. It was such a perfect clue. And he was the only person other than me that would’ve remembered such a day. It wasn’t anyone’s birthday.
It was plain and simple April fools day. But our most enjoyable one so far. In fact, I was the one who kept reminding Seb that our 2015′s April Fool prank was something we needed to top. I never thought that it was about to our last April Fool’s prank together though.
He utilized it in the best way possible. It was such a clear and precise clue, however, one where I had no idea where to start. We’d wrapped some stranger’s house head to toe with toilet paper along with the help of the boys and Gabby. So it definitely had something to do with toilet paper, but what could it possibly be?
And either it was a sheer intelligence that let him know I’d somehow end up in the bathroom or pure and creepy luck. But I couldn’t have been happier to have the next clue in a toilet paper-- a phrase I was unsure on whether I was being genuine or sarcastic in.
I picked the toilet paper up with an inquisitive stare. What could I possibly find in this? The toilet paper was regularly changed so there was no way there would be any S. symbols on this one. Did that mean there were no more clues? Had we reached a dead-end after all that work?
Turning the tissue a complete 360 degrees, I scanned my eyes through each and every aspect of the tissue roll before coming to the conclusion that I wasn’t going to find anything in it. I was only placing the tissue back when I realized that there was a metallic toilet holder that I hadn’t looked at either.
Getting into a very uncomfortable squat as I couldn’t just yank the holder out, I looked all around that too. Maybe the lack of sleep really made me an emotional person in general, but I almost cried when I saw the S. at the far end of the holder.
The letter confirmed there was definitely something I was missing here. What could possibly be related to a tissue roll or the metallic holder for that matter? I looked under and swiped my hand around it to feel for anything suspicious but to no avail.
My eyebrows furrowed and I stared at it in confusion. What was I supposed to do with this now? I take my words back. Seb would’ve been one of those guys who have the most confusing and indirect clues ever. What in the world was I supposed to do with a clue that relates to a tissue roll?
I got up from the uncomfortable squat I’d been in and slammed my fist against the tissue roll in anger so as to transfer all of my frustration to it. But maybe the lords above decided to finally side with me because the moment I did that, the metallic end fell to the floor with a sharp ‘clack’.
I stared at it with my jaw dropped and scrambled to my knees in an attempt to see through it. Out from the tube-like thing came the one thing I’d spent so much time looking for. Such a tiny thing, yet something that held so much importance to me. That could potentially and finally bring justice to my brother.
I held the black USB in my hand and looked at in wonder. One looking at me without knowing the proper context would think I won a million dollars instead of a mere USB.
“Finally,” I whispered and then proceeded to look up and thank god for helping me. Because without the series of pure coincidences, I wouldn’t have been able to find this.
Holding the USB up with very delicately so as to make sure I wouldn’t damage it, I carefully placed it in my back pocket along with my keys. I was just about to leave the bathroom when I backtracked.
What now? How was I going to search through my laptop to make sure this was the one? And how was I going to do it with the so-called cameras?
I knew for a fact that the moment these files were going to be displayed on my screen, both my family and I were going to be in serious danger. How could I possibly pull this off at this point?
The police? Could I go to the police at this point? Would they help me?
What if there is nothing in the USB except for another clue to another place? What was I going to do then? I had no possible ways of making copies without my laptop with me and I had no support.
All I had if anything, was one chance. One chance that could either finally end the torture I’d been going through for years or make it worse.
I didn’t know whether what I was going to do was the right choice. Or the right path to take to solve this. But I chose to not do what got Seb killed in the first place. I couldn’t go to the police by myself at this point. It would leave mom and dad in danger and I would never do that.
If I left and mom and dad were left alone here, those cruel people would, without a doubt, come to get them. I couldn’t do that. And if I opened my laptop to check whether this was legitimate or another useless piece of item, I could risk losing the evidence to my brother’s murder or my family forever.
And although both the options weighed me down with the fear of not knowing what was going to happen next, I knew the next step for me was to tell mom and dad what was going on. And fast. Time was ticking and each and every second mattered.
I stepped out of the bathroom, my heart beating faster and faster as I neared my bedroom’s lock. I didn’t know whether I was visibly pale or not, but the fear sat heavily on my shoulders and caused my body to turn numb.
With one last glance to Seb’s room, I slowly made my way down the stairs until I saw the silhouette of my parents watching the television. My brain was telling me to do everything fast and get out of the house with my parents and rush to the police, but my hands and legs had a mind of their own-- they simply wouldn’t move any faster.
“Mom? Dad?” I whispered meekly.
They didn’t hear me.
I shook my head at my stupidity. Speaker louder, you fool. Stop being such a wimp. Get out there and tell them. And leave the house.
“Mom? Dad?” I said louder.
It grabbed their attention enough for them to turn their heads around and see me. Mom quickly got out of her seat noticing something wrong.
“Sam, dear. Are you alright? Is everything fine?” No, mom. It’s not.
“Mom, we need to leave the house,” I broke down into tears. No, no, Sam. Don’t start now! Get out of the house first! What was it with mothers and turning vulnerable in front of them.
This time dad got up too. “What do you mean, kiddo? Do you want to go out to a hotel the--”
“No, dad. You don’t understand,” I broke eye-contact with mom and turned my head to dad. “We need to leave this house. Now.”
They both looked as confused as ever. Of course, they would be, Sam. At least tell them the reason. Why can’t you say anything properly right now? Say it!
“Go on, darling.”
I took a deep breath. It was now or never.
“Mom, dad. I found something related to Seb’s death. It’s not safe here anymore. We need to rush to the police. Now.”