The librarian sat on the curb. She didn’t want to go into work today.
Her stomach ached, her head throbbed. All she wanted was to lay in bed and rest. It didn’t help that it was that time of the month again.
Her mother used to tell her, “Lydia, the world doesn’t revolve around you. If you can stand, you can follow through with whatever you promised to do.” This included almost anything and everything her mother wanted her to do, a prime manipulation tool, but Lydia had cemented it in her subconscious regardless.
Feeling weak, she gave herself a few more minutes to rest.
Down the street, across the parking lot, she recognized a truck coming down the way. Standing, she partly expected the man to stop, but Chief’s truck passed by in a blur. Sharply feeling how alone she was, Lydia pulled her sweater tighter and walked into the library.
Carl was at the café. He had a drip coffee, cooling in a ceramic mug. It was extremely fancy and city-like. His date was sure to be impressed… when she arrived, if she arrived.
It’d already been three hours.
He tried texting, but there was no response.
This was his fourth coffee and his stomach was starting to rebel.
Glancing around the nearly empty place, he entertained himself by watching the two employees mess around with the inventory. Currently, they were warring against each other by stacking cups in a pyramid faster than the other.
He texted again.
Maybe he should call?
But she could be on the road.
His thumb hovered over the call button. He groaned, setting down his phone and taking a sip of coffee instead.
Roxy said goodbye to Evan with a wave as they headed off to their separate classes.
When she arrived, she was surprised to see that Melissa wasn’t there.
“She must actually be sick.” The girl spoke to herself as she sat down in her usual spot at the front row. Pulling her hair back into a tight ponytail, she placed her notebook and textbook in front of her. Two sharpened pencils, one pen and an eraser went in the upper left corner, neatly placed in routine position.
Glancing at the empty seat next to her, she sighed, then got comfortable as she waited for the teacher and other students to arrive.
Maybe Melissa would just be late.
Evan thought about going to class. He really did. Honest.
But he didn’t go to class.
Instead, he slipped out the side door and took the trail that led to the art teacher’s trailer. Evan knew the town well, he grew up here and having a police detective for a mom and a newspaper editor for a dad, he got away with enough hijinks to make his adventuring worthwhile. He didn’t like to waste his time. School, unfortunately, wasted his time.
He could take care of Melissa instead. That was a much better use of his time.
Nurse her back to health, he smiled at the thought.
Besides he had already read the book they were silently reading for the first two hours in English. It was a boring thing.
Evan reached the trailer soon enough. He took a deep breath and fixed his hair before knocking on the door.
Sniffing, he recognized a strange smell. Was that gas?
A buzzing in his pocket distracted him. His phone got a text.
“I’m @ School Now.” Melissa had sent back finally.
He glanced at the silent trailer. That meant Melissa wasn’t in there. He nodded, turning to head back. Pausing, he realized that there was a buzzing sound. Looking around, he wondered if it was insects in the grass or some sort of machine.
Ignoring it, he texted, “Wanna skip? Meet @ Hedges?”
Chief stared at the phone.
His arm trembled.
He couldn’t breathe.
Why did he send that to Evan?!
Dropping the strange phone, he looked around, “Where am I?” He asked no one in particular.
It was dark.
Something was dripping.
Shaking his head, he didn’t want to look behind him.
He felt a looming dread burdening his shoulders.
Someone was there.
He knew it.
He didn’t want to know it.
“Nope.” He shook his head, staring ahead into the darkness and wondering if he could pick up the phone.
Who would he call though?
If it was like he thought… but his memories were such a blur, fading in and out as if the darkness in front of him was absorbing it, feeding from him.
The phone beeped.
Evan had responded.
Warily, Chief watched as the phone was raised by nothing in particular and placed in his hand to look at.
His thumb moved without his permission, clicking send before he could even open his mouth.
“Yes! But let’s meet @ the caves! <3”
Carl looked at his watch. It’d been another hour.
Still, no response.
He worried. Maybe something had happened. What if she’d gotten into an accident?
The coffee was getting to him. He was lucky the café had a bathroom to use. Thinking perhaps, since he was soaked in sweat, it was better if his date never showed at all, he watched as a familiar face walked through the café.
Standing, he hurried over, “Joey!” He greeted his friend.
Joey smiled and shook hands with Carl in greeting, “How’re you?”
“Not bad, not good.” He wiped sweat from his brow, “Supposed to be meeting a lady, but she’s not showing or answering any of my texts.”
Nodding, Joey pointed to the menu so that one of the employees could start the order. His smile faded, “That’s strange.”
“It is.” Carl agreed, “She seemed excited to come. Maybe she was lying?”
“Maybe.” Joey shrugged, walking over to a table and sitting down.
Carl followed, “Look, or I think maybe something happened to her car?”
“You think,” Carl paused, then asked, “Michelle could help out?”
“The detective?” Joey cleared his throat, closing his eyes and looking away so sharply that even Carl thought it to be odd.
“Yeah…” He nodded, sitting down, “You two are close, aren’t ya? I figure you have her phone number?”
Joey nodded, taking out his phone suddenly. He stared at it, his thumb moving in a jerky fashion over the keys. He smiled tightly, putting his phone away, “She’ll be on it if she can do it.”
“Yeah?” Carl asked, “Busy for her, huh?”
“Oh yeah, all sorts of crime in Juanita.” Joey said, his jovial tone returning as he relaxed in the chair. Behind his tone, dread filled his mind. Michelle, he thought, Where have you gone?
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to be continued