After hours of Superintendent Cockhead, as Damen was calling the walking mass that was Govart in his head, questioning him in a fairly poor manner Damen was spat out onto the streets of Aquitart a little before nine o’clock in the evening, and told that they would be in touch. He was allowed to collect his phone, wallet, and keys, the only items on him at the time of his arrest, and a release form which Damen read very carefully before signing his name.
Thanks to Superintendent Cockhead, Damen’s swollen eye had progressed to the point that it was completely closed. He had taken a few hard hits, but overall, he was alright. Other than the first initial shove that had made him hit the floor, Govart had mostly just come across as bored and had asked him the same questions over and over, which had obviously been all the effort he needed to exert in the past. Damen figured it was because doing anything else would require far too much effort for the obviously unfit Govart.
Damen took a moment to walk away from the police department before stopping to assess himself. There was no blood, no open cuts, but his head throbbed and most of his pain radiated from around his swollen eye. He leant back against a random building and with careful hands, he went through the assessment he had performed on others countless times.
There was no tingling in his finger tips or his toes, no strain to his neck or difficulty of movement. Running his hand over the back of his head there was a small bump but no broken skin or severe swelling. Then he used the pads of his fingers to press lightly under his eyes and run along the bone of his eye socket, checking for any bumps or ridges to indicate any breaks. When done he did the same to the bone over his brows, finding nothing but some standard swelling. There was a slight click to his jaw but overall there was nothing that wouldn’t sort itself out in a few days. Nevertheless, his head was still swimming with the hits he had taken and the knowledge that his friend, Auguste, was missing and that somehow, he had ended up the prime suspect.
He knew it was a bad idea when he pulled out his phone and scrolled through the messages he had exchanged with Auguste. However, he put it down to the blows to his head and the need to be close to his friend. Scrolling through the messages, Damen found the time Auguste had sent him his address. He knew it was a bad idea to plug the address into his map’s app, and an even worse idea to start walking towards it once he realised that it was only a 20-minute walk away.
He started walking, telling himself that he was not necessarily heading to Auguste’s house. He was merely walking away from the city centre he had been thrown out into, if it just so happened to be in the direction of his friend’s house, then he could blame his throbbing head.
The city was still alive, if not a little quiet, and he was sure there were plenty of business’s that preyed on student’s needs for late night caffeine and snacks.
As he walked, Damen scrolled through and reread every message that he and Auguste had sent back and forth over the past few months, trying to find some hint or reasoning. However, other than the fact that he was missing, and foul play was suspected, Damen did not have anything to go off of. There was nothing in the messages and Damen felt a thrum of guilt upon realising that all of their messages from the past few months were centred on himself, with little mention of Auguste’s own life. The guilt gnawed at him as he walked the streets towards Auguste’s house.
Despite how close it was to the village centre, Damen was surprised to find just how quiet the streets surrounding Auguste’s house were. There was still the shine of the centre glowing over the houses, but the rumbling noise was not present. Mostly it looked like any outer suburb Damen had visited in Ios. He still didn’t know what he was doing walking the streets of Auguste’s life, if anything he was making himself look more suspicious. All he wanted was to understand and feel closer to his friend, and a part of him held some hope that maybe, just maybe, his friend would be there.
He found the house easily enough as it was one of the only houses left on the street, and Damen recognised it in a way from social media posts. It was an older cottage style house, the kind that was either a family home or the kind that had hipster home renovators salivating. It was a one storey stone homestead with a modest veranda and Damen just knew the interior would have polished wood floors and a fireplace in every room. Probably one of those giant claw foot bath tubs as well. It stuck out like a sore thumb in the modern age.
Most of the street now comprised of town houses and small blocks of units, the older style houses on large blocks having been knocked down and crammed with as many dwellings as possible. Another change that seemed to have occurred rapidly since Damen had been gone.
Auguste had told him the house was inherited from his parents, and that he had moved in with his younger brother after recovering from his injury. Damen didn’t let himself dwell on Auguste’s life changing injury and instead focused on the house. It was dark, and it was clear that no one was home.
“Maybe he’s just asleep?” Damen said to himself, closing the app on his phone and putting it away.
Now that he had arrived he didn’t know what to do next. He was there, and there was still no Auguste, and, in all likelihood, he was not asleep inside.
“Shit,” Damen said, rubbing his hand down his face, wincing slightly as he pushed too hard on his swollen eye.
Knowing his trip was pointless, Damen turned to leave, fumbling in his pockets to find the key to his hotel room. However, just as he was about to leave, he catches movement coming from inside the house. Pausing, he concentrates back on the house waiting to see if there is more movement. Just when he thinks he was imagining it, he saw a flicker of movement again, briefly illuminated by a street lamp, Damen catches a distinctly human shape moving through the house.
Obviously, he should just walk away, he was in enough strife as it was yet, somehow, he couldn’t walk away and instead approached the house slowly. He avoided walking up the three steps to the veranda and instead went around the side, hoping to find a window to peer through.
As luck would have it, there was a window just to the side of the house before the property was fenced off. His height allowed him to see easily into the house and fate seemed to be on his side as the headlights of a passing car lit up the house, briefly exposing a tall figure who dropped low as what looked to be a living room was momentarily lit up.
Once the car passed, Damen strained his eyes to track the figure that stood up after the light was gone and continued to move around in a manner that couldn’t be called anything other than suspicious. Damen dropped to the ground himself, leaning his back against the house and wondering what he should do next.
The obvious decision was to call the police and tip them off. Of course, the problem with that was that Damen’s phone number would immediately raise red flags, and he shouldn’t be anywhere near Auguste’s house, let alone peering through windows. In fact, his phone was probably pinging off phone towers at that moment, not exactly helping his case. He quickly turned his phone off, even though it was too late, and then turned it back on because turning the phone off would raise more suspicion. Then he berated himself because the activity of his phone was the least of his worries at that moment.
Shoving the phone back in his pocket, he stood up slowly to peer back through the window. The person was still there, this time they were lifting up the cushions from the couch and feeling about underneath them. Dropping down again, Damen went over his options:
Option one: Call the police and immerse himself deeper into his possible guilt.
Option two: Do nothing, leave the area and continue with the status quo.
Option three: Confront the intruder and deal with the consequences later.
Option one was obviously off the table, and option two didn’t sit too well with him, the guilt was already eating away at him. That left him with option three, which was obviously stupid but at that point, Damen didn’t care enough to think about a fourth option. Better to catch a possible suspect and be questioned later than do nothing and walk away.
He also blamed it on the throbbing in his head, any excuse really.
A quick assessment of the gate into the back yard found it unlocked and Damen entered easily. From there he moved down the side of what turned out to be a rather large house, looking through windows as he went and gently testing them to see if they were open. None of the windows had any form of security screen and they were all either the old vertical sliding kind or the open bay style. He didn’t know what to expect, quietly telling himself that it was probably for the best, when he came across a window left wide open.
Damen figured it was probably how the intruder got in themselves and, it was easy enough for him to pull himself up and shimmy through the window. He pulled himself through with little grace as his depth perception was completely off with only having one functioning eye at that point. He ended up tumbling through the window and fully expected to crash to the ground in a noisy mess.
Instead he landed on a soft, bouncy surface. Looking around he realised he was in a bedroom, and from the state it was in, it was a very lived in bedroom. The bed was unmade and from what Damen could make out in the dim light there appeared to be scattered clothing over the floor, the night stand was cluttered and there was a phone charger hanging off the edge. The irony of landing himself in what was obviously Auguste’s bedroom was not lost on him.
Shuffling off of the bed, Damen slowly lowered his feet to the floor and stood up as slowly as possible. Now that he was in the house he could hear the slight sounds of footsteps coming from the intruder. Most disturbingly, the steps seemed to be coming closer. Trying not to panic, Damen tiptoed as quietly as possible and positioned himself between the bedroom door and a set of draws seconds before it opened, and the intruder stepped in.
From the low light Damen could make out very little. He could tell the intruder was a man. His clothing was form fitting, obviously well made with the man wearing tight skinny jeans and a well-fitting corduroy jacket, with what looked like a wool lining going off the high collar. His hair was light and pulled back into a stubby pony tail that barely managed to hold his hair back. He looked to be a few inches shorter than Damen, maybe five foot ten or eleven. All over, Damen knew he could probably take him.
Having paused for a few moments after entering the room, the intruder moved to his left, seeming to be heading for the set of draws. Damen had moments to decide, he could sit still and hope he wasn’t noticed, or he could move before he was seen and take down the intruder. He went for action when the man turned his head and was microseconds away from noticing Damen.
Drawing on his wrestling skills from years earlier, Damen went low and grabbed the man around the waist, easily lifting him off the ground. It would have been easy for him to slam the man into the floor and knock the air out of him. However, the ground wasn’t padded like it was in a wrestling match, so he pulled back and pressed the man to the ground was as little force as he could manage with the momentum he had going.
A puff of air left the man as he hit the floor and Damen immediately moved to lock his arms as best as he could, pinning his back and shoulders to the ground even as the intruder’s legs started to kick and flail around, striking nothing as Damen had positioned his body out of the way. He tried to get is legs under himself and push himself up, and Damen was surprised by the strength behind the move but, ultimately it was too easy for him to mauver his own legs and lock the man down, slamming him into the floor once again.
“What are you looking for?” Damen said, trying to keep his voice low.
The body beneath him stopped struggling and went slack. Damen had a moment to inspect the man below him, and felt himself stunned for a second as he took in the sight of what was possibly the most handsome face he had every had the privilege of viewing.
“Damianos?” he said.
“What?” Damen said, loosening his hold somewhat.
“Damianos, get off of me you giant animal!”
It was the voice that made him connect the dots. It had changed, it was deeper than he remembered, but that tone, the hatred, the condescending string of words that he had heard more than once. The face had changed and matured, and the boy had grown and was no more, but he knew who he was.
“Laurent?” he breathed, letting go of his wrestlers hold and drawing back slightly.
The man’s response to being released was to draw up his leg and knee Damen in the crotch as hard as he could whilst shoving him away.
Rolling away with a groan and clutching his damaged goods, Damen took the knee to his nuts as the only confirmation he needed that yes, it was definitely Laurent.