Justin stared at the red rectangular box, which they found behind the garage. It took him a minute to fathom the logic of a rotary dial instead of a push pad. He still clutched the receiver wanting to smash it into the device, but instead hung up. He stood in the glass window box with a retractable door and glared out at nothing in particular. Justin has never been so frustrated in all his life. He glanced around for Ethan and saw him talking to one of the mechanics.
Justin couldn’t see the man’s face, but from behind he stood four feet taller than Ethan and a stocky built, no fat just solid muscle. He tried Adam’s number again, but like his cell the call never went through. He gave up and left the booth.
He walked over to Ethan and the mechanic, Ethan saw Justin approaching. The mechanic turned, and Justin was able to view the normal wear and tear on his work clothes, traits of dirt, and oil stains. His hair was thick and wavy he had tied in a crooked pony tail.
“Any luck,” Ethan asked.
“No, the call kept breaking up, then it dropped,” said Justin. Ethan looked at the mechanic whose name was Connor.
“Conner told me there were never cell phones here. They just use land lines.”
“Then why can’t I call someone out of town?” Justin asked Conner.
“We never had that trouble because everything we need and everyone we know is here,” Conner said as-a-matter-of-fact.
“No one here has family outside of town?” asked Justin.
“Not that I know of.”
“What about ordering things you don’t have here?”
“We have everything we need.”
Justin and Ethan glanced at each other then Justin asked something different.
“Do you know someone by the name of, Christopher Huge?”
Conner glanced away from Justin not answering. Justin just assumed he was thinking it over.
“Well hello,” said an approaching voice. Justin turned and saw a police officer walking up. He was as tall as Conner but a bit smaller in his waist. His hair was full gray that came just to his collar. He wore sunglasses and chewed on gum.
“Hi sheriff,” said Conner.
“Conner, how you been.”
“And your mom, is she on her feet yet?”
“No, the doc said she should stay in bed for the rest of the week. But she is feeling better.”
“Well, that’s good to hear. Tell her I’ll be around with some hot plates for all of you. I know you must miss her cooking.”
“We do.” The sheriff glanced from Ethan then to Justin.
“And who do we have here?” Conner looked at Ethan and said nothing. Ethan smiled and looked at the sheriff.
“Ethan Troy,” he said, holding out his hand. The sheriff didn’t hesitate to shake. “And,” continued Ethan. “This is Justin Shi.” The sheriff looked at Justin and unknown to him scanned his eyes up and down the attractive blonde.
“You work for Adam Potter, don’t you?” This shocked Justin and Ethan. The sheriff smiled. “He told me you might be coming down here to pick up some information for our lovely town.”
“He did?” Justin asked.
“Well, that’s why you’re here isn’t it?”
“Yes, but we’ve been coming up short.”
“Oh, don’t worry about that. You both come with me, and I’ll get you that information and then maybe you can enjoy our little town.”
“Come with you?” asked Justin.
“My truck is just over here. I can take you back to my house, grab the files and get you back to your vehicle.”
“That would be great,” said Justin, thrilled that he can leave the town before dark.
“See you later Conner,” said the sheriff.
“Yeah, thanks Conner,” said Ethan, holding his hand out to shake. Conner grasped Ethan’s hand and shook, but as Ethen went to let go Conner held on feeling Ethan’s finger slip from his hand.
Justin and Ethan boarded the sheriff’s SUV. Justin sat up front while Ethan climbed into the backseat. Conner watched as they took off. Another man walked up who wore the same work clothes as Conner. He was shorter, but built like Conner with black hair, and a close shaved beard. Once they were out of sight they hurried and closed the garage turning the sign to close.
Adam arrived at his office building finding the front door locked. He entered hoping Justin did that, so he wasn’t disturbed while working. He entered, ignoring the elevator, and headed up the steps to his office.
The locked office door and the darkness inside raised Adam’s red flags. He considered turning around and driving to WillowMoss to find Justin when his cell phone ring.He retrieved it from his coat pocket and felt a weight lifted off his shoulder once he saw Justin’s name.
“Thank God, Justin.”
“Where are you?”
“I’m with Ethan.”
“Just a guy I know.”
“Oh, all right. But weren’t you doing research for me?”
“All done, I sent it to your email.”
“Good. It’s just—your last phone call to me broke up and you said Moss.”
“Oh, yeah, well—we were in the library’s basement.”
“Okay, good work.”
“No problem boss. Bye.”
Justin never heard Adam’s goodbye. The person holding his cell phone to his ear pulled it away and shut it off. The hard floor, he sat on, was cold, even with his jeans and underwear on. He had no shirt on and someone had bound his wrists behind his back. The conversation with Adam was clear in his mind, but he doesn’t remember saying anything. Words were coming out of his mouth, but he was trying to say something different to Adam.
“Where are you?” Adam had asked.
“Help me Adam!” Justin tried to cry out. “They have us, I think they’re going to kill us!” But another voice, that sounded like his, blocked his pleas for help.
“Ahhh!” Ethan’s screams went on deaf ears, as Justin sat helpless. He tried to focus on the room he was in but all he could see was black walls with graffiti that cast an eerily glow. When he tried to read the words, his body temperature dropped, and a mind crushing headache attacked him. He tried to shut his eyes, but the words kept appearing under his lids.
“Make it stop! Please!” Justin cried.
A figure stepped in front of him and stooped down. Justin kept his eyes shut as fingers outlined his face. The touch sent tingles throughout his flesh causing Justin’s body to shiver.
“Now don’t you worry; the stages have their faults, but in the end, they all are—necessary. In a few hours you’ll start to feel a lot better.”
“Ah, fuck you,” Justin moaned through his agony. The roaming fingers moved from his face to his chest. Justin struggled through the anguish as Ethan cries continued to echo in the room.
“It’s a shame, you would have made a wonderful addition to our family. But you’re too old and the treatments work better when, their young.”
“What—the fuck—are you talking about,” Justin got out in gasps.
“Nothing you’ll remember.” The fingers stopped touching him as Justin panted his relief. He opened his eyes to catch a glimpse of the man who stroked him, but when his eyes concentrated on the man all he could see was a moving shadow. Justin played video games, watched horror movies, even visited haunted houses, but never thought he’d see something so unnerving, so real. His mind had to be playing tricks on him as he tried to scream, but his throat seized up preventing him. He wanted to close his eyes as the figure turned to look at him with dead glowing eyes. Justin shook his head frantically as the figure came closer. The pain in his head overwhelmed him as he blacked out just as a hand reached out for him.