Jeremy was beyond worried. He hadnt even heard from Michael in over a month. Whenever he tried to find him at home, he was either out or not answering his door. His answering machine was so full it wouldnt take any more messages.
Finally though, last night a doctor had called him in the middle of the night. Apparently, Michael had phoned Dr. Raymond as a last ditch effort to get help, but he had hung up on the psychiatrist after only a few minutes. The concerned doctor had tried to call back to no avail. Through weeks of extensive medical record searches, Dr. Raymond had found out who the boy was, and had been desperately trying to contact any of his relatives or friends. His mother was deceased, and his father was nowhere to be found. Jeremy had been next on his list of numbers to call.
The tall thin college graduate slipped on a light jacket and left only minutes after Dr. Raymond had called to meet him at Michaels apartment. The doctor wanted to find him immediately, thinking Jeremy could help calm him down so they could find him help. The short drive to his place whizzed by as he thought about what could be wrong with his friend.
He had always been a little shy, but Michael was thoughtful and considerate. Definitely not the type to ditch his friends for weeks without word. Although he kept to himself in his little apartment, he had never refused to see Jeremy. They had met during high school and stuck together ever since. Even when they had nothing to do, they would still sit and watch tv and drink beer.
Occupied with his thoughts, Jeremy missed the first turn and the second. Swearing at himself, he turned into a gas station and went back the way he came. A minute later, he was there, standing at the building below Michaels window. Leaning against the hood of his little white Toyota, he waited for the doctor.
After fifteen minutes of growing more and more anxious, he finally decided it had all been a joke. Michael needed serious help, and some freak was pulling his leg. Yanking the car door open, he jumped inside, angry at whoever had tricked him.
When he started the car, the twin headlights threw bright beams onto the road before him. In the dirty white illumination, he saw a figure coming down the street toward him. It was tall and reflected two beams of light back at him from a pair of round rimmed glasses. Jeremy let off the parking break nervously and pushed down the clutch as the person moved closer.
As the dark shadow drew near, he could see that it was a man with short blonde hair. He looked old, but he wore a jean jacket and cowboy boots from modern fashion. Steadily, he walked over to Jeremy in his car, and raised his eyebrows beneath the thin wire glasses. Jeremy rolled down the window an inch, locking his door in the same move.
Uh, hello? he asked as politely as he could.
Are you Jeremy?
The man had the strong Southern accent of a Texan. Suddenly Jeremy was reminded of an old brown cowboy hat Michael had worn all of last year, and he couldnt help but laugh. It would match the doctors clothes perfectly.
Excuse me son, but if you are Michaels friend, we dont have time for laughter.
Im sorry... Dr. Raymond, is it? Jeremy calmed himself with the thought of Michaels odd behavior of late.
You know which one he lives in. Lets get goin. Its just about sunrise, he said, gazing at the vaguely lightening horizon.
Jeremy turned off the car, unlocked the door and hopped back outside. As they walked quickly to the apartment building, he couldnt help but wonder why the doctor hadnt sounded so obviously Southern on the phone. He must have been distracted. Hastily, he called the elevator down with the push of a button.
He hated the old thing, wondering each time if this would be its last crawl up to the second floor. Jeremy knew Michael didnt like it either, but for some reason it still seemed a better alternative to the dimly lit staircase. As he rode in it beside Dr. Raymond, Jeremy felt an unnatural overwhelming fear. He wanted to get off immediately. In fact, he wanted to leave the entire building.
Hey, man, I dont know if this is such a good idea... Mikell probably give me a call when hes over this. Hes probably just depressed or something. I think he lost his job a couple weeks ago, maybe thats why, he rambled nervously.
Just then the doors slid open. The hallway was quiet and deserted this late at night. Jeremy walked quietly with Dr. Raymond trailing behind him to apartment number 206. He was so focused on his irrational fear that he jumped when the elevator doors slammed shut. He felt a thin hand on his shoulder.
Arent you worried about him? Go ahead and knock, the doctor prompted.
Michael did so, wondering what was making him so suddenly nervous. As it had been the previous three weeks, no one answered. Yellow light and soft low music filtered out under the door, but he heard no footsteps within. Calling Michaels name, he knocked on the door more insistently.
He must not be in there, Jeremy muttered.
Perhaps not, but he will be here soon, the tall man said confidently.
Jeremy looked at him in the corner of his vision. He perched over him, seeming more eager than concerned. The way he spoke made Jeremy think he knew more than he was telling.
Look, do you know whats wrong with him? What exactly did he call you about? he turned to confront the shifty southern man.
Well, he drawled, adjusting his glasses, he called complainin about an appetite problem to begin with. I thought maybe he was anorexic and finally disturbed enough to call someone, but as he went on I began to suspect more.
He paused and shifted his weight. Jeremy hadnt realized until then that the Dr. Raymond was carrying a large backpack. It seemed to be rather full.
Jeremy, how well do you know Michael? Has he had any unusual habits lately? Been talkin to strange people maybe? he asked.
Jeremy ran his hand through his curly brown hair and shook his head. Stuffing his hands back into his black and gold leather jacket, he unconsciously backed away from the man and the door. The doctors attitude struck him as strangely unprofessional, like he was straight from back-water country.
Look, if youre that worried about him, why dont we call an ambulance? What else did he say?
He sounded very distracted, and referred to his mother several times. You can imagine my alarm at findin out shes been dead for quite some time. Thats when he hung up, he explained to the fidgeting young man.
Hefting the pack over his shoulder, he let it thump to the floor. He saw Jeremys worried glance and realized he had to be cautious around Michaels friend.
Dont worry. Its only medical supplies, he assured.
Shuffling around through the contents, he proved himself by pulling out a small hypodermic needle and a red medical kit. Once he saw Jeremys confusion drain away to relief, he carefully replaced the props and peeked inside to make sure his real equipment was in the right place.
Dr. Raymond? Jeremy asked.
The bent over psychiatrist ignored him and continued poking around in his large bag. Still not quite convinced, he approached the strange doctor and caught a glimpse of something darkly metallic in the depths of his medical supplies.
Dr. Raymond? he asked again.
Oh! he uttered in surprise, grabbing the bag and holding it to his chest. Im... ah... sorry. Did you say somethin son?
Whats going on here! Jeremy said softly, but with the threat of anger in his voice.
We have to be prepared in case hes having a violent episode, the doctor let out before he could stop himself.
What?! Jeremy reacted with more anger.
Then without warning, the door to Michaels apartment swung inward, revealing a strange blonde haired boy. He glared at them, his rumpled blonde hair sticking up at odd angles.
Michael isnt here, and if he was I would tell him what you really want with him, the teenager spoke venomously.
Dr. Raymonds breath stuck in his chest in astonishment. His hesitation lasted for only a second, though, and he plunged his hand into his bag, pulling out a long, sharp piece of wood.
London immediately slammed the door in their faces and locked it from inside. Jeremy fell back against the door opposite Michaels, scared and confused. He didnt know what the Hell was happening, but he knew Michael was in much worse trouble than he had imagined.