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In the dark: In Principio

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Tom looked everywhere within Witchwood Forest. Everywhere, but inside the caves.

It was possible. The teenagers said something scared them enough to flee. They didn’t say what. It was plausible Tim hid in the caves. It was even more plausible he lost his way and waited for someone to come and save him.

Don’t worry, Tim. Dad’s coming.

Tom descended into the caves, flashlight on, and shouted his name. it echoed against the walls and ceilings, twisting and turning and spreading further along the caves. He disturbed some bats, but Tom relentlessly continued. Tim had to be down here.

Because if he wasn’t, Tom wouldn’t know what to do.

He didn’t know how long he was in there. It felt like he’d seen every tunnel already, and maybe even had seen the same tunnel twice. It was hard to keep track of stretches of tunnel he already inspected.

Then he found something he hadn’t seen before.

The nuclear power plant was partly built over the caves. Tom, like everyone else, had always assumed they built on the surface. Now, Tom found a rusted metal door with the nuclear sign printed on it, blocking the way.

Tom hammered on the door. “Tim!”

He could be on the other side. Tim may have forced himself to go to the other side. The door could’ve fallen into the lock. What if he was there? Alone and scared?

His reasonable side this wasn’t the case. The door was locked. Tim could have never gotten through.

But if Tim wasn’t there, there was nowhere else he could be. Tom could not accept that.

Everyone gathered in the briefing room. Even Tom decided to show up. Sam was glad the obsession with his son’s disappearance wasn’t big enough to forget about the corpse they found in the forest.

It was Sam’s task to brief the other officers, being the police chief. In front of him sat and stood the officers who would work on the case. Tom was there, too, as he was put on this case as soon as they found the body. It was better if someone else looked for Tim. Tom’s subjectivity would inevitably appear the more progress they made.

To keep him working as an objective good officer, he was taken off Tim’s case, though he was never officially involved. Now, he had something else to investigate.

“Alright, people,” Sam said, scratching his throat. The noise died down until the officers looked at him with varying levels of interest. Most looked at the evidence on the table.

“A body was found in Witchwood Forest. Thirteen-year-old boy, deceased. He was dressed in clothes from the 80s and a Walkman lay close. It has a cd inside.”

Careful not to taint the evidence, Sam put on a glove and pressed the play button. The room was filled with the cheerful music of the Bangles’ “Walk like an Egyptian’. Some chuckled, but most didn’t know what to do with this information. Sam only let it play for a couple of seconds.

Then, he picked up one of the evidence bags. “This penny, engraved with the number 1986, was placed around his neck. We don’t have a conclusive cause of death, but this boy is not Tim Houston.”

Luckily, Tom was a police officer and had already seen and negatively identified the body. Sam would hate to have found him and then ask Tom to identify the body.

Sam leaned a little closer to his officers, his tone a little more serious.

“This information doesn’t leave this room. Two kids have gone missing in four days and a third unidentified child ended up dead in our forest. For the public’s sake, we don’t talk about this boy unless we know who he is. Then we can inform his parents.” Sam glanced at Xander Lee. “Xander, you’re leading this case. Is that okay?”

Xander nodded. “Sure thing.”


Everyone grabbed their coats and started to file out of the room; Tom was one of those people. But Sam wasn’t quite done talking to his partner.

“Tom, can I talk to you in private?”

Tom listened to his friend and backed away from the officers walking out of the room. He walked towards Sam and the evidence. Both knew what the conversation was going to be about.

“Sam, listen,” Tom began, fearing Sam would shut him down before he could say everything. “I was in the caves…”

“A kid won’t go in there,” Sam interrupted him.

Tom shook his head. “Tim would, if he was afraid. Look, I need a warrant for the power plant. I found a door leading to their section of the caves. I need to search it.”

For a moment, only the thought “why” crossed Sam’s mind. Then, he sighed – he realized what Tom was trying to say.

“Even if a kid went into the caves, they wouldn’t be able to open those doors.” He was certain the power plant locked the doors and guarded them well enough to ensure nobody entered those areas. Not even the police could enter if the director didn’t want them on his property.

And Tom hoped a warrant changed it.

“They have cameras everywhere,” Tom said. “If he’s not behind the door, maybe Tim hid on their terrain. Either way, I need a warrant.”

Sam knew better than to go against his friends, though it would be the right thing to do. Though it was unlikely, this was a credible option they had yet to explore. So Sam nodded.

“I’ll try to get one.” And if it is a dead-end, they could focus on other places and Tom could move on to the disfigured boy.

“Great,” Tom said. He already walked back to the door, to do his work again, but Sam wasn’t done yet.

“Tom.” The man stopped and turned to his friend. “I know you don’t want to hear it… but there is a connection between the two.”

Indeed, Tom didn’t want to listen. Sam still didn’t understand why he didn’t like the topic. He must have his reason, which Sam could not see right now.

“It’s different,” Tom said after some silence.

“How?” Sam wondered out loud. “Perfectly fine kid goes missing, vanishes without a trace. Exactly thirty-three years apart. That’s not different, Tom. It’s a pattern – a disturbing one.”

“It is different, Sam,” Tom insisted. He saw the facts. He didn’t throw them out but placed them at the back of his mind. Objective facts weren’t as important as his subjective feelings. “This time, I’ll find my son. And I’ll find Deb, too.”

We will find them,” Sam said. We. There was no reason why Tom would have to do this alone. There was a reason they worked in teams. Once everyone ran around on their own, without second opinions, their work suffered. “It doesn’t take away that there is a connection.”

Tom rolled his eyes only half-heartedly.

“Go get that warrant,” he said. “I’ll meet you there.”

“Tom, you—”

Tom was already gone. He didn’t turn back, no matter what Sam would have said.

Sam sighed. He was going to get that warrant – or at least try. Hopefully, Tom wasn’t wasting his time by driving to the power plant as quickly as possible.

This was one of the worst business days of Gerald’s life. Not only was the closure of the power plant around the corner, but the disappearance of a second child brought them to the spotlight. The kid disappeared near the caves – it was widely known the power plant was nearby. Nobody but a select few knew what was in the plant’s portion of the caves, and now the disappearance came at an inopportune moment.

Gerald Monroe had run the power plant for most of his adult life. He knew everything there was to know about it. This place held secrets everywhere, such as in their part of the caves. if the police came over, they’d ask questions. He did not like questions.

He avoided the law for thirty-three years. The disappearance of one stupid boy wasn’t sending him to jail – not if he could help it. But the stress remained, and not even a massage from Harriet Green relieved the anxiety.

He hadn’t seen a warrant yet. But he had been contacted about it and knew they were coming.

Which meant he had to get some things in order. He told his assistant to call Geoff Harrington. A good man, but unfortunately his daughter went missing. He was low in rank at the power plant, Gerald knew Geoff could keep secrets. After all, the man had a secret of his own – one Gerald had promised not to make public in exchange for jobs like these.

Mr. Harrington came into the office. He looked exhausted, worn down. His eyes told the story of a weary man who waited for a command. Gerald didn’t want to place himself in Geoff’s shoes – only the thought of one of his sons disappearing and never coming back made him emotional. He didn’t want to share such an emotional side with his employees, however.

“Mr. Monroe,” he said politely. Gerald Monroe did not return the favor.

“The police are coming today,” he said.

Geoff frowned. There was no logical reason the police would come. Unless someone decided to dig up dirt on Gerald, they were coming for the boy.

“If he were on the property, the alarms would’ve gone off. We would’ve found him before anyone realized he was gone.”

“Yes, but they still believe the kid is somewhere here,” Gerald said.

“He’s not here, is he?”

“Of course not.”

Geoff worried. He took a step back and looked at Gerald incredulously. He believed they had time, and Gerald had believed the same. If the father wasn’t an officer, they probably wouldn’t even bother coming. But because they came, they needed to get it off the power plant’s grounds.

“I can’t have the police snooping around. You need to dispose of it,” Gerald said. He stood up behind his desk. “I cannot take any risks now this plant closes soon, and we can’t have the police on our back. Not now. We’ve worked too hard.”

“When should I do it?” Geoff asked. He was taken aback by the ill timing. Gerald rolled his eyes.

“As soon as possible, please,” he said. He tried not to be too annoyed with Geoff’s slow brain. “If you don’t do this before the police knock on our door, you are fired. Understood?”

Geoff gulped. Gerald Monroe never used that threat – he was not that kind of person. But what they were dealing with was dangerous, something Hatchetfield and shouldn’t know about. Geoff believed Gerald when he threatened him.

“Understood, Mr. Monroe,” Geoff said.

“Good. You can go now.”

Geoff nodded and hurried away. The threat had been effective. So long as he didn’t let anyone know what happened or why he ran through the halls, it was okay.

Gerald sighed. He did not like to be a mean boss. If they wanted to be careful, he needed to be as cruel and commanding as his Linda could be.

Then, a voice in the back of his mind asked a valid question.

What did we get ourselves into?

Into something we can’t back away from.