Winter checked her phone every few moments while waiting outside of Randy and Simon's dorm room. She tapped her knuckles against the hard wood once more and a groan was heard from the other side.
The twist of the door knob shot her to attention and she quickly straightened out. Her long black hair was tangled in a messy pony tail that spiraled down the middle of her back. Her eyes were tired from lack of sleep and an oversized sweatshirt hung around her thin shoulders atop of dirty jeans.
"Where is Blake?" She asked quickly as soon as a half-asleep Randy answered the door. He raised a brow in confusion and glanced back toward Simon's door that was still closed.
"Sleepy bastard." He muttered. Randy's hair shot up in loose twirls here and there and his glasses hung over his nose. He still had lines on the side of his face where his pillow had been pressed to his cheek.
"He was in the nurse's room last I knew." Randy yawned and glanced at the clock. "Winter. . .it's 6:05 AM. . .did you go check for Blake at the nurse's office to see if he was still there?" He asked quietly. He rested his hip against the door frame. His white tank top hung from his muscled figure. He eyed her carefully. She seemed really ruffled about something and he sighed and went back into the dorm to put on his favorite pair of flip flops.
"Hold on, I'll come with you." He called from inside. He remembered last night how shaken up Blake and Winter were. Something about some girls cornering Winter.
'Bullies' Randy thought to himself.
"Thanks for coming with me Randy." Winter sighed and smiled up toward him as they walked down the hallway.
"Not a problem Winnie." Randy sighed out and then glanced back at her to make sure the nickname was okay.
Winter laughed and smiled to herself. "My grandma used to call me that" for a moment her worrying seemed to cease. It seemed like they were the only two students in the hallway as they grew closer to the nurse's office.
Randy became suspicious when a tall boy came creeping out from the nurse's office just as they turned the corner.
"Hey you. . .did you see another student in there?" Randy called out and the figure turned around. Winter gasped and her heart flipped for just a moment. Tanner flashed his pearly whites toward her before looking to Randy.
"If you're talking about Blake. . .he already left." He responded and adjusted his ball cap back on the top of his head. A long flannel hung around his toned arms and he tilted his head curiously.
"Is that what you wanted to know?" He asked.
Randy's face drew into a frown. He noticed that kid slightly from the team. Someone that never really spoke up. "What do you mean he left?" Randy moved closer to the stranger.
"Well . . .he left for break like the rest of the students." He answered softly with a shrug of his shoulders. "Didn't he tell you?"
Randy tilted his head to the side curiously.
"Blake never leaves without Tika." He answered slowly "and especially without saying good bye." Randy moved past Tanner and opened the door to the nursing station.
"Or taking his finals." He whispered under his breath.
Everything looked clean. The linens were folded on the bedside and the counter from yesterday was clean of the flowers and cards. Randy glanced around a bit more. A curtain was pulled in the corner of the room that he had not remembered seeing yesterday.
Slowly, he glanced over his shoulder towards that kid and Winter. He had his back turned to Randy and was too busy flirting with Winnie to notice him exploring. He crossed the floor quickly and pushed aside the curtain.
The wall was empty except a small gash in the white paint that looked as though something had been attached to it. The gap was as long as a ruler and about as thick as three fingers placed alongside each other. Randy stepped back from the wall and glanced to the bed where Blake had been laying.
"Blake I know you. . .something isn't right man." He whispered under his breath and slowly held his fingertips around his neck to measure the width of his collar.
"Randy, you want to borrow one of my ties for your date man?"
"Nah Blake I got this! I can go buy one it's alright."
"No really, we have about the same neck size remember? I've got a expensive blue one I wore a long time ago, I never dress up."
With shaking hands Randy held his fingers up to the strip on the wall.
And it fit perfectly. Quickly Randy reached within his pocket to pull out his cellphone and dialed Blake's number quickly.
After several rings someone picked up and answered quietly.
"Hello?" The voice whispered groggily. "Simon!" Randy exclaimed and peered over his shoulder toward the pair. "What are you doing with Blake's cell phone?"
"Dude. . .it's been here on the table. . .come on man."
"When do you think Blake left?" Winter asked Tanner curiously. Her head tilted as she glanced at him up and down when he wasn't looking. He was incredibly handsome. Blake and Tanner both looked very similar in appearance but Tanner held a certain roughness to his appearance that made him seem more masculine at times than Blake.
She rested her back against the wall behind them and sighed to herself. She ran her fingertips aimlessly through her hair to comb through small knots that had originated from last night's sleep.
"I guess I'm a little disappointed." She confessed to Tanner. "Our dance is supposed to be in a few days and I guess him leaving means he might be coming back for it- but he'll miss helping out the committee."
"That is too bad. . .I would be upset if I was you too." Tanner agreed and pressed his back against the wall beside her.
"Any man would be honored to have the privilege of taking such a beautiful lady out for the night." He said to himself quietly.
"I just wonder why he left so suddenly after getting hurt. . .and without saying goodbye." She whispered and glanced up when footsteps sounded close to her.
Randy peeked his head back out and joined the pair. "Yeah you're right. . .it looked like he cleaned out." Randy mumbled in response.
Tanner opened his lips to say something else but Randy cut him off and met Winnie's eyes.
"Winnie we've gotta head back to talk to Simon. . .get all of Blake's things together in case he left something behind. . . that he needs." Randy's eyes darted back to Tanner.
"I'm Randy by the way." He nodded his head curtly toward the male. A weird vibe filled the room as they stared at one another. Winnie glanced between the two of them and tugged gently at Randy's arm.
"Tanner." The male with the bright green eyes responded. "Hope you guys figure everything out." Tanner raised his hand to wave good bye to them but soon crossed his arms when they were out of sight.
"He knows something." Randy muttered.
"He knows something." Tanner frowned and glanced toward the room. The curtain was pulled back. His eyes narrowed.
"Something weird is going on Winnie." Randy stuttered out quickly when they had gotten away from that Tanner kid.
"What do you mean Randy?" Her eyes seemed to narrow in worry as she searched his face for answers. "On the wall, there was this marking. It looked like some type of . . . I don't know it was something weird. Blake never leaves his phone anywhere, and it's back at the dorm room ringing every time we call."
"He never leaves Tika."
"Okay what on earth is Tika?" Winter asked quickly and stopped Randy while he was walking by placing a hand on his shoulder.
"It's his pet cactus okay?" Randy said, dead serious. Winter's lips curled up in a smile and soon Randy and her were both hysterically laughing.
"It's got a little purple flower on the top of it too. . ."He spoke through tears several seconds later. He told Winter a quick story about how Blake had gotten the cactus as a birthday present and declared it a spot on the shelve where nothing else was to be placed.
"That guy. . Blake. . .seriously has a pet cactus?" Winter pressed her hand against the wall as she laughed. "Anyway." Randy caught his breath. "And Blake wouldn't leave without saying goodbye to us, we're family."
Winter nodded her head in agreement with all these things. "Well what can we do?" She asked curiously to Randy. "I might be crazy . ." Randy started talking after several moments of silence. "But I think that Tanner guy has something to do with it."
"Tanner? No way, he's so nice." Winter retaliated and shook her head back and forth.
"Fine, fine, that's what bad guys WANT you to think." He protested and pointed a finger toward her.
"Doesn't really matter if he's part of the team, I don't know him well." Randy frowned.
"He seems to like you Winnie." Winter nodded her head in response to that fact, her cheeks lightly flushed.
"Hang out with him and see what you can dig up. I think he might have an idea as to where Blake is."
She pursed her lips and then asked "well what are you going to do in the meantime?"
"I'm going to fill Simon in and then were going to head to the main office to see if he checked out there before heading home."
Randy continued to walk down the hallway. "Unless you want to come with me back to the dorm and we can go through his stuff together for clues."
She nodded her head and caught up to him quickly.
"I hope he doesn't think I'm a weirdo for going through his stuff. . ."
"Hey, that's what best friends are for." Winter laughed and they continued down the hallway back to the boys dorm.
After they reached the dorm she called the nursing home. The phone rang several times, but no one answered. She thought back to what those girls had said to her and shook her head. She would call again later.
Simon stared at the pair blankly as they explained to him everything they had discovered this morning.
"No way. . . Blake left without Tika?" Simon asked exasperated.
"No, no, Simon, that's why I'm saying he didn't leave." Randy shook his head and crossed his arms once more. The group was sitting upon the small black futon that Randy had brought with him from home.
Winter eyed the room once more. A small messy kitchen (probably since Blake had left), a small den and living area with the futon and the TV, and two separate doors that led to each of their bedrooms. Dorms like these were for the upperclassmen, but she had never actually been in one.
The small cactus sat within the sunlight of the double window behind them. A tiny purple flower blossoming for everyone to see.
"So what do you think happened to him then?" Simon raised a brow. "After that incident that happened in the bathroom, you could say that Blake was being bullied."
Winter shook her head several times. "Even if he was, he would have told someone, Blake isn't one to keep secrets."
Randy raised a brow. "Well, that we know of anyways."
Simon slowly raised himself up from the futon and stretched out his back. A beat up red flannel hung off of his extremely skinny frame. His brown hair was flipped over to the side in a disorganized mess and one of his earrings was missing from his right ear. He sighed and touched his fingertips to his earlobe and went back into his room without saying a word.
Curiously, he glanced towards Blake's room where it was slightly ajar. He poked his head in and noticed that nothing seemed out of place. A small desk where he did most of his studying. A few shirts on the ground. But otherwise he was a neat freak so everything was always spotless.
Simon stepped in and slowly opened the blinds to look outside. "Where did you go buddy?" He whispered to himself and in the reflection of the window he saw a slightly open door to the dresser. He turned his body and approached the dresser to poke his head inside.
His jaw went slack.
"He left the Honda too?" He uttered in disbelief and held up the keys. He turned and opened the door to lead back to the den to look at Winter and Randy.
"Guys, I think we have an emergency."
"So you're saying that Blake Hazelren never checked out last night?" Simon restated talking on the phone to the front desk lady at the college. He nodded his head one more time. "Our classmate is missing and no one can find him. Can you have someone review the tapes of that hallway and see if anything comes up?" He asked quietly.
"It's our policy sir. . .and we'll have an officer come to speak with everyone by the end of the day if he doesn't come back. We have to wait 48 hours to call a missing person."
Randy sighed and stood up and grabbed Blake's keys.
"Where are you going?" Winter asked quietly as Simon continued to talk on the phone.
"I'm going to go see if Blake left anything behind and drive and see if I can find him."
Winter stayed still for a moment and then looked to Randy. "I think I'm going to spend some time with Tanner, right now he's the only thing we have to go off of for Blake."
She looked down at her folded hands. "I have to help the girls later today with the dance preparations too. I'm sure they won't be very happy that our member is missing and that I skipped the prep meeting."
Randy nodded his head and turned the knob to leave the room. "Do what you've gotta do." He stated and left the dorm room. Simon put the phone down and sat at the small table in the corner with his face cupped within his hand.
"I shouldn't have been out last night, I should have been with him." He said after several moments of silence.
"Before all this happened we all got in a pretty bad fight over a dorm party Randy and I threw and Blake just wanted to study for finals. I hope this isn't our fault." He whispered mostly to himself but loud enough for Winter to overhear.
"I'm sure there's a rational reason behind all of this." Winter paused for a moment before standing. "Maybe he went for a hike. The college has miles of hiking trails behind it. Maybe you and Randy can go search through those while it's light out."
He nodded his head as Winter turned to the door to leave. Simon started writing on a piece of paper and left it on top of the counter.
Blake call us if you come back home.
Was scribbled on a torn piece of paper in a messy scrawled writing.
Randy shuffled through Blake's car and found nothing in the trunk or the backseat.
"Damn neat freak." He whispered and opened up the center council to look inside. It was empty except for a pair of Blake's favorite sunglasses and a couple of CD's. Randy sighed and smiled as he held up an old copy on the very bottom.
"That sly dog he kept it." He whispered to himself and carefully placed the CD in the radio. Track number one whirled for a moment and then Sweet Caroline poured into the car. Randy laughed as he remembered that Blake had insisted on keeping the CD when Randy wanted to throw it away.
"We don't need it anymore since we have MP3!" Randy argued and tossed the CD at him.
"You keep it then!"
With a sigh Randy looked around at Blake's favorite parking spot. He had chosen this one way away from everyone else in the lot. A big oak tree hung over the car and it was close to the college but still quite a hike to get anywhere.
He glanced over to the passenger seat. The glove box he hadn't checked. He slowly reached over and opened it and a thick black material popped out on impact.
He picked it up and held it out in front of him.
"What the hell is this? A smock? " He tilted his head curiously. There appeared to be a small pocket within the cloak and he fumbled within it. A long thin pendant fell into his hand.
It was beautifully embroidered with several orb like designs and multiple expensive gems covered the backside of the pendant. Randy weighed it within his hand and it was extremely heavy- at least 10 pounds.
"Oh man. . .what the hell is this thing?" He whispered and ran his thumb over the surface of the medal.
"Randy?" Blake's voice crept out from the locket.
Randy stared blankly at it and dropped it fear and tore out of the car screaming.
"Oh my god! Blake what the hell dude! I miss you so much I'm starting to hear crap!" He sat outside of the Honda on the ground staring at the Honda's open passenger door. The locket sat in the drivers seat with the chain hanging over the edge. A dinging noise continued to go off, the Honda telling Randy the door was ajar.
"Not cool man, seriously, not cool!" Randy moved closer after few minutes. The locket did not speak again to him as he picked it up and held it by the chain in front of him. Randy shook his head and snatched up Blake's keys to put them in his pocket.
"I must be going crazy." He whispered and slammed the driver's door shut. Randy turned back to walk to the dorms.
Melony held her hand over her mouth as the body bag was wheeled out of the room. Two cleaning women entered after they left and the forensics specialist stood chatting with one of the police officers.
"Sir. . .what happened to him, he was just fine when I left him last night?" Melony stuttered and grasped onto the Specialist's arm when he passed by her.
He eyed her up and down and gently reached down to push her hands from his arm. "Are you a family member?" He asked. She shook her head.
"He didn't have any family except a grand-daughter. . .as far as I'm concerned I was the most family he had!" The specialist looked both ways and leaned closer to her. "Death by choking. .. but it was peculiar. ..there was nothing in his windpipe according to the test, we'll have to do more tests. . he didn't have a history of aspirating right?"
Melony shook her head and the specialist nodded his head and carried on his way.