“Sam, you can’t just expect to say something like that and drag us into the car without explaining yourself. I will not repeat myself again. What is going on?”
“Mom, I found something. I found a USB and Seb left clues to help me find him.”
“But, Sam, why? First thing’s first. What compelled you to even look for it? Scratching cuts never lets them heal, Sam. I hope you understand that. I don’t see the need for you to be searching around the house in the half-dazed and tired state you’re in, and searching for Seb’s so-called clues. Sam, it’s been two years. It’s time we mov--” Dad butt in, but I interrupted him.
“No, dad. I’m not scratching my cuts. I’m trying to heal them too. I haven’t told you everything, dad. There are some people behind me. They’ve wanted evidence back from when I didn’t even know something as of such existed. And I promise you, I wouldn’t have pulled you out of the house if I wasn’t a hundred percent sure it was unsafe. They’ve taken me before and even threatened me about you guys and I can’t have that happ--”
“Wait a minute. What?!"
“Mom. I really can’t explain right now. Let’s get this to the police. I swear I will sit you guys down and explain everything in detail. But for now, just trust me.”
“What in the world is even goi--”
“Mom, please. Just trust me. Please. I don’t know whether we’re going to find anything in that USB or not, but right now, we’re in desperate need of protection. They’re going to find out, mom. They always do.”
“Hold up, hold up. Who’s they? Who’s gonna find us?”
“The people who killed Seb. Mom, I told you it was a murder.”
“And we believed you, but this is just ridiculous right now--” mom disapprovingly looked at me, but dad cut her off midway with a solemn look on his face and shook his head slightly.
“If what you’re saying is right, Sam. We’re with you. And I honestly trust you enough. But if this is in the slightest bit a false alarm, I’m not going to be too pleased, Sam. Every individual in this car knows talking about Sebastian is a touchy subject. And I want another promise-- false alarm or not, I want you to tell us everything from the start to the end. Every single detail. You have to fill us up on everything you are claiming to be true right now, Sam. If you were taken as you claim to be, I want a police report filed right then and there. This is not a matter to casually throw around.” Dad’s serious face was never around as much, but whenever it was there, everyone around knew how grave of a situation it must be.
“I promise you, dad. I promise you. Thank you trusting me.”
I received yet another nod from them and continued driving the car. I looked through the mirror and my heart almost broke when I saw mom’s eyes turn moist. I didn’t mean to hurt you, mom. . .I’m sorry.
“We’ve reached,” I announced. A heavy silence lingered over us and we rushed out the door and into the police station.
“Hi, excuse me. We’re in a bit of a hurry here. We have serious information that is linked to a previous case. Do you know who could help us with that?” Dad asked the first guy he saw in a uniform as we walked around aimlessly.
He silently nodded without amy expression as though being used to this, and pointed towards a door to the left. “There should be someone you can talk to in there.”
“Alright,” my dad said already in action before remembering to call out, “thank you, sir.”
With another nod from his side, he turned on his heels and left.
My dad knocked on the door we were guided to and upon hearing a very faint ‘come in’, opened the door. “Hello, sir,” my dad went in to shake his hand. “We’re really in a rush, so if you could, I would really appreciate if you could hear us out real quick.”
“There was a case issued on the death of Sebastian Anderson in the year 2016, of which his death was declared as a suicide. However, sir, we’ve just found this USB which may just provide as solid evidence for the murder.”
“And what are your relations with Mr.Sebastian Anderson?” he asked noting everything down.
“I’m his dad, this is his mother, and this is his sister,” he said pointing at each of us individually.
“And where is the evidence?”
Dad looked at me and held his hand out, his eyes questioning the reliability of it yet again.
I averted my gaze. How could I tell him I really wasn’t sure what to expect from it?
He sighed and took the USB from my hand. By now, the three of us held our breath, hoping the tiny object wouldn’t let us down.
The policeman averted his eyes to the lot of us. “Is there a problem here?”
My leg bobbed up and down as I anxiously asked myself if it was the right thing to tell him that I wasn’t sure of what we could find. If we could even find anything.
But what if the case would close again? What if he shut us down like the police did the last time? What if I let Seb down at the one chance we had at justice for him and I don’t know how many other kids like him?
What if. . .what if the case closed yet again before it even had a possibility to reopen?
Keep your mouth shut, Sam. Keep it shut, I repeatedly retold myself. As I repeatedly tried to convince myself. It’s for both your sake and the others. Not a word about this just yet.
“Let’s have a look at the drive then, sir. I’ll let you know what is to be done of the case once we have a chance to see this,” he brought the USB in front of our faces.
My eyes averted to the ground as I visibly gulped and my breathing got shallower.
Was I really ready for this?
Despite having people who cared for me, people who probably suffered through just as much trauma as I did, people who were always supportive of me, people who loved me, I felt alone. And the feeling of loneliness itself made me feel guilty. My parents, my friends, everyone was as good to me as they could be. I couldn’t have wished for anyone better. They all made me feel loved-- they made me feel lucky to have them.
Then why did I still feel so. . . so alone?
Even more than alone, I felt trapped.
I felt trapped in the web of lies, injustice, and selfishness. Everything I did seemed so selfish. Everything I thought felt selfish.
And soon, I began to hate myself.
And although I didn’t want to end up self-loathing and wallow in self-pity, my consciousness always dragged me there. The darkness of the place repulsed me and I despised it as much as I did myself.
Sometimes I wished I never pursued anything. I should have let it be. What had to happen had happened and by trying to seek justice for Seb and solace for myself, I was putting too many people’s lives in danger. There was no need for this. It could have never been talked of. I didn’t have to feel like I was going to be the reason my family felt unsafe. I didn’t have to feel guilty of breaking the one and only promise Seb had ever asked me to comply with. I would be selfish-- I’d prioritize my family’s safety to a murderer running loose on the streets.
And then, I’d snap back into reality. The reality in which Seb wasn’t here anymore. And then I’d feel disgusted about even thinking about not trying to seek justice for him. He was my family. He was an innocent who deserved to live for longer.
But the feeling of selfishness still nagged me.
I was putting everyone’s lives in danger. For what? Granted, I would bring justice to Seb, but the reason also always included my freedom. My freedom from the nightmares, the constant reminders of that night. My peace. My solace.
It always rounded back to me and I felt sick. I hated feeling like I was the center of everything, but I also hated feeling so disgusted with myself.
Swallowing the bile back down my throat, I cleared my head. If I was going to do this, I was going to have to be strong. The world doesn’t rotate around me and since I’ve already managed to other people, the least I could do is be strong enough for them.
I guarded my emotions to the best of my abilities, turning stiff and watched with my eyes as the policeman inserted the flash drive into the USB port. It took a few seconds to detect before its contents showed up in folders.
I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. We were off to a hopeful start. At least there was something.
The folders didn’t have a name to them. They had dates.
And holy crap were there a lot of folders. The policeman looked at all of us in the eye for a brief moment before his eyes were glued back to the files.
He clicked aimlessly at a few folders as he scrolled down year by year finding nothing but artistically and beautifully crafted pictures of a landscape that I had no doubt Sebastian took. He even made the leaves and branches look as though they were the most beautiful things in our lives-- that we were missing on such a lovely piece of work nature gifted us with.
This was his backup, I realized, as I recognized pictures of my own very self here and there. My cheeks turned a darker shade of red as I saw the innocent mischief in my eyes as I identified pictures of myself sticking my tongue out at the camera or making some of the silliest faces I could muster.
My mom teared up at the pictures. I put my hand over hers and she pushed her tears down.
My heart almost swelled out of guilt. I couldn’t even think of how hard it must have been for her.
It’ll all be okay, I wanted to promise her. I’m sorry, is what almost came out.
“Are we supposed to be looking for anything in specific here?” the policeman asked, not averting his eyes from the screen.
“Anything fishy. Try going to the last folder Seb uploaded,” I craned my neck to have a better look at what he was doing.
“I’m trying that. I’ve never seen so many folders on a flash drive before.”
I didn’t know what to say to that.
“Alright, there we are. October 27nd, 2016,” he read out loud.
My heart thundered in my chest, beating vigorously. Two days before Seb’s death.
“That has to be it,” I whispered under my breath.
He clicked on it and there opened up a bunch of pictures. My pictures were significantly less this time and my heart clenched at the thought.
He was pushing himself away from me and I didn’t do anything about it. . .
But there was a lot of scenery. We searched every single video but to no avail.
Disgust filled my veins as I stared back at a pics where his so-called friends hung on the terrace. They lied too. They told the police they had no connection to his. . .his ‘suicide’. They were lying. Each and every one of them was.
The policeman seemed to have figured out that I was the only one with a fair idea of what we were looking for and directed his next question towards me. “Listen, Ms. Anderson. I understand that you lost your brother and I do sympathize with you. But I don’t see any evidence here worth re-opening the case for. Are you sure there was something in there?” He seemed to have figured out that I was the only one with a fair idea of what we were looking for.
“If he was active two days before he died, there has got to be something on this. I discovered this through clues. I refuse to believe he would spend so much time preparing it for me without a purpose in mind. There has to got to be something here. I just can’t seem to. . .” I trailed off as I now took control over the laptop and searched the contents myself as if what I was looking for would magically appear in front of my eyes.
I closed my eyes trying to think where he might have placed the file. We proceeded to check the last five folders from the bottom. “Are you sure--”
“Forgive me for sounding rude, sir,” I interrupted the policeman. “But I am sure. Even more now that I see that this is his backup and it was active two days before his death. Doesn’t that ring alarm bells in your mind, sir? He must have hidden the file. For precaution. There has--”
“If there really is something as you claim, then maybe it’s really just up to you to think of where it could possibly be. As you said, you found it through clues, I’m sure it was meant for you to find.”
He was right. Seb intended for me to find it. He must have hidden it somewhere only I could fi--
Realization clicked. “Oh my god. It was so obvious. The first of April 2015. Go to that folder. It’s what the clue said too.”
The policeman quickly nodded and scrolled up to the date. The folder had the same old--- pictures. A few of the park. A lot of us buying tissue paper from Walmart. Everyone raised an eyebrow at the absurdity of the pic.
For a minute, I almost feared the policeman would see the damage we’d done by illegally throwing toilet paper on a whole house. But much to my relief, right there, sandwiched between two pictures of stacks of toilet paper was another folder.
And it led to another folder. And another. And another.
And finally, a video.
A triumphant smile sat on my lips, but it didn’t last too long. Anticipation and nervousness weighed me down as the policeman pressed play.
There was shuffling. The camera shook as it hid behind what looked like cardboard boxes. The camera shook again for a while until it came to a peaceful stop. Seb must have reached wherever he wanted to reach.
After that, the view slowly cleared up. Almost as if he slowly and discreetly pushed the camera outwards to record it properly without being seen.
But I still couldn’t tell what exactly he wanted to show. My eyebrows furrowed together as I tried to understand what was going on.
That was until two people were brought in-- hands tied to the back and blindfolded. Just like I had been.
The voice was unclear but there was an unmistakable menace in the leader’s voice. He placed his knee on the chair the blindfolded guy sat on and shouted at his face.
“What happened to the marijuana?! Where did it go?!”
“I--I don’t kn--”
The leader pushed the chair back and it fell with a thud, startling us all in the room. Mom placed a hand on her heart and my heartbeat only got faster.
By now, everyone was very much interested in what was unfolding in front of us.
“Deal with them,” the leader seemed to have dismissed with a flick of his hand. Three other guys came running out of nowhere, or more realistically, from the far ends of the room where the camera couldn’t have gotten a look at.
Our eyes widened as they brought out knives. But the blindfolded men didn’t know that. Their obliviousness to the whole situation quickly changed when they felt the tip of the blade slide their cheeks. They were brought back to an upright position and the guy dragged his blade across the blindfolded man’s arm, slowly but surely leaving a trail of blood behind.
“NO, NO. PLEASE. I DON’T KNOW. I GOT A CALL! PLEASE BELIEVE ME! I GOT A CALL TELLING ME TO DROP IT OFF IN A DIFFERENT LOCATION! WHEN I REALISED IT WASN’T YOU, I WENT BACK! I PROMISE I WENT BACK! BUT IT WAS ALL GONE! PLEASE! PLEASE DON’T HURT ME!”
“Hmm. . .and who was this caller?”
“I don’t know! I don’t know!”
The knife pressed down even more on his throat. “HE SOUNDED YOUNG, BUT NOT KIDDISH.” The knife went deeper in, blood trickled down his neck. Mom whimpered and I held her in my arms as she shut her eyes not being able to see more.
“I DON’T KNOW! I’M TELLING YOU, PLEASE! HE WASN’T OVER EIGHTEEN!” My blood ran cold as his words resembled a puzzle, fixing another piece of the mystery into place. Sebastian. He’d done this. “I COULD TELL BY HIS VOICE. BUT PLEASE! BELIEVE ME, I DON--”
We all jumped as the shot rang out.
It sounded too similar to the very sound that I heard on the 29th of October.
My throat choked up and my hand flew to my mouth as the events registered in my head.
Suddenly, there was no guy shouting. His eyes had rolled to the back of his head and all that remained was his body that slumped over the chair--lifeless.
The other guy squirmed in fear.
“Please, sir. Just listen to--”
And then an even worse thing happened. Seb seemed to have shifted the camera but accidentally knocked it on the cardboard boxes. The sound was even heavier than the gunshot. My heart thumped wildly in my chest as I feared for his safety.
I fought the urge to scream at the laptop and tell him to run and sat there with eyes fixated on the screen. “Shit,” I heard him mumble in a voice that confirmed it was Seb.
He scrambled and the video shook without a clear direction or sense of what was happening. A few more gunshots rang out as I assumed people began to follow him. For a second, the camera panned to the man behind him and my eyes widened in realization.
I reached over to the laptop and rewound to a few seconds back and hit pause. I know him, I thought. I know him. “I know this guy. I could swear I saw this guy somewhere,” I hit my head and shut my eyes tightly to help jag up my memory. “I know--”
My breath hitched as I remembered. I looked at the pairs of eyes that were on me and spilled it out. “Detective Parker. The one who handled my case,” my voice went low as I had flashbacks of the time I remembered him convincing others that I was mentally unstable and that my witness couldn’t be taken into account. The evidence piled up on the fact that it was a suicide. Everything rushed back to me. Of course. Why was I so oblivious? Why was I the dumbest creature to have ever existed?
He was there in front of me this whole time. An ally to my brother’s murder. He was going around creating false rumors, destroying evidence while I was wallowing.
I was getting sick.
The policeman had a look into it himself and took a picture of the screen on his phone. “Detective Parker, you say? I’ll have my team search for him.”
I could only nod half-heartedly and click continue. I was anxious for Seb. The video almost made it seem as though it were happening in the present and it affected me. It was affecting me more than I ever thought it would end up affecting me.
“--No, no, no, no. Shit, shit, shit,” his voice repeated over and over after I clicked play while he fumbled with the handle.
I stared at the screen, not blinking for a second.
When the knob miraculously opened, Dad and I released a heavy breath at the same time as Seb.
Run. Run, Seb. Get away from them, I thought to myself suddenly wishing I had trained him more on running as I heard his panting grow louder.
Somewhere in the middle of that, he must have realized the camera was being a hindrance to him and shut it off.
Blackness greeted the screen as all but the policeman remained rooted in our spots. The policeman jolted from his seat, calling for a team and backup.
Although the policeman wasn’t involved in Seb’s case earlier, I felt like snarling at him. At the whole department really. I felt like mocking him. It was a sinister thought, but one I wanted to stick down their throats.
Now, who are you going to believe?
Or are you going to tell me the flash drive is mentally unstable too? I felt like sneering at them.
“What are you going to do?” I questioned the policeman as soon as he end his call to his chief, probably.
“Firstly, we are going to send you guys home. I’ve got security arranged. No one would lay a finger on you and your parents at your house--”
“Do you take guarantee of that?”
There was a slight hesitancy on his part, but he nodded nonetheless. He took note of our location and sent security to our place. “I’ll drop you off myself,” he finalized.
I nodded and helped mom up. Dad seemed to have a tough time pushing his tears back too and barely spoke a word as we headed back.
As we walked in front, I stepped in line with the policeman. “Your name, sir?”
“Okay, Mr. Lint. And what is the plan after that? Is there something going to be done about this? What’s going to happen next?”
“We have a fair idea of the location, Ms. Anderson. Leave the rest to us.”
“No, I want to know,” I pressed, urgency in my tone. “Please. I wasn’t taken seriously once, I don’t want to let this matter go off so easily. I have a lot at stake, Mr. Lint,” I added softly.
His eyes softened at my words as he debated with himself. “We decide to barge in--”
“There’s a second location too. I’ve been there. I was kidnapped. This is not their only hideout.”
His eyes bulged out of their sockets. ”What? Why didn’t you mention that before, Ms. Anderson?” He shook his head instead. “Change of plans. Your parents will remain with security. I need to speak to you, Ms. Anderson. Privately. Let’s drop your parents off and then discuss all that you have seen. I want every detail--” he cut off as he caught the look in my eyes.
“I assure you nothing will happen to them. I will double security if you wish.”
The look on my face didn’t change. I don’t trust anyone.
He sighed, running a hand down his face at my stubbornness. “Alright, how about you look at the security arrangements and then we’ll have a talk, okay? Just get going. If they’ve been monitoring you as you said, we don’t have too much time on our hands.”
He pulled the car’s door open and silence dripped like drops of water as the unmistakable sound of a timer sounded.
The policeman seemed to have reacted quicker than the rest of us because his eyes widened and he shouted at us to run and pushed us violently before we could even take in what was going on.
I was thrown off my feet by the large explosion. Thankfully, we had gotten a little away from the car otherwise we would’ve burned to our deaths.
Smoke engulfed our bodies and a few coughs racked my body. A screeching sound burned one side of my ears and I was sure there would be a little blood in that area considering how much that side burned.
My arms seemed to have gotten a lot of impact of the fire with burns covering them.
A physical scar to go along with the mental trauma. Most likely to remain with me until the last of my breaths. Dandy, I thought as I examined it.
But when the coughs stopped wrecking my body, I frantically turned around to see for my parents.
“Mom! Dad?!” I scrambled to my feet when I saw dad a few feet behind me, considering we were in front of him. I rushed to him and cupped his face in my hands. “Are you alright, dad?”
He mindlessly nodded, still seeming to be in a daze from what happened--not that I blamed him.
Mr. Lint picked the walkie talkie up and spoke into it, rushing orders urgently. “Is everyone okay?” he called out to us.
I rushed to my feet to tend mom behind me but froze in my spot.
She wasn’t there.
How’d you like it? *wiggles eyebrows* I hope you grabbed some popcorn.
Oh come on, did you really think it was going to be as easy as going to the police and complaining? Don’t insult me now.
ANYWHO, LET’S KEEP THIS SHORT AND SIMPLE. I had no time to update guys, I’m sorry :( I hope the update kept you on your toes. I had so much fun writing it. Hope you guys had fun reading it!
I did not edit this, so lemme know about any grammatical errors and whatnot :)
I LOVE YOU FOR READING THIS. I LOVE YOUR COMMENTS (they make me feel like the luckiest girl on the planet). ALSO SPECIAL SHOUTOUT TO @bibliophile_much. You’re amazing. I’ve teared up twice reading all the beautiful things you say to me. I wish I could shoutout so many more of you amazing people. You’re the best things to ever happen to me.
On your way out, hand a little cookie to this little martian and don’t forget to:
PEACE OUT PEOPLE,