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The Disappearance
Excerpt

 

Prologue

 

“So you’ve found nothing, right?”

 

I was bone tired of the mind games they’d been playing. Thought I’d liven things up a bit by changing tactics. Up until then I’d been giving them the silent treatment, keeping my lips clamped tight shut whenever they asked a question, not even breathing hard in case they took it as some sort of assent. Unusual word that, eh? Assent, I mean. Bit incongruous from a rough hard-ass like me. Oops, there I go again, throwing in another one.

 

Words are my thing, see, only no one knows it. Always have been, ever since I learned to talk. They give you power, do words. Because I look such a thug, and, I’ll admit it, act like one most of the time, people think I’m dumb, but there’s very little I don’t understand. You’d be surprised how much people say in front of me, particularly those in charge, because they think it’ll go over my head. Wrong! I’m careful though in the way I use words. I’ll think the big ones, but for anything public I’m monosyllable man and master of the all-purpose grunt.

 

Not saying anything for nearly four hours hadn’t been a problem. It was totally pissing off the cops, so now that I had spoken it was pathetic to see the wave of relief that visibly swept over them. It was like they had a neon sign over their heads, saying, “The little bastard’s finally cracked.”

 

Only I hadn’t.

 

 I went straight back into silent mode while they pounded me with questions.

 

            “What should we have found, Mike?”

 

            “Come on, tell us where Jacob is.”

 

            “We know you left the group home together. Vinnie said you ran after you nearly killed Paddy.”

 

            I fought down a smile. That simple sentence contained two things that made me happy. Vinnie had come through for us. He said he’d give us two hours and he had. Paddy was alive.

 

            “Where did you go, Mike? You were gone for two days. We know you went to Dundas the first night and that Jacob was with you. A woman in the donut store called the tip line after we put your photograph on the news. She said you’d both been in. Said you’d bought some hot chocolate and donuts —supplies, eh? Planning to camp out, maybe?”

 

            It was the ugly one asking the bulk of the questions, the one with the big nose that twisted to one side. He was being the good cop, his voice was kind and he kept the anger and frustration out of his eyes for most of the time. Not like the other one. He looked at me like I was a piece of wet dog crap he’d found on his shoe. That one was smooth looking, all well cut suit and styled hair, but his eyes were cold and I knew that he’d like nothing better than to hit me, beat the answers out of me. What he didn’t know was that if he tried, he’d only land the one blow because I’d have him. Not only am I big and strong for my age, I’m fast, too.

 

            “Did you do something to Jacob?” Pretty Boy smiled at me. There was an insinuation in those words: the way he said “do” made it clear what he was hinting at.

 

            I didn’t let myself react, just smiled at him. It got right up his nose and I saw his fists clench. When he saw me looking, he quickly pulled his hands under the table top.

 

            Ugly tried again, picking up where he left off. “The next day, early evening, you surface in Hamilton, pan-handling outside the GO station, but Jacob’s not with you anymore.”

 

            “You blew it there, didn’t you, you little punk?” Pretty Boy smirked at me. “Turned nasty when someone refused you. Not very smart that, was it? Because when the police came, they recognized you, too.” He laughed. “Not that you’re hard to recognize, not with that face.” I heard the social worker they’d assigned to me draw in his breath at that, make a strangled sound, but he didn’t have the guts to say anything more. Pretty Boy continued, “So that’s how you ended back here with us. Now, cut the crap. Tell us what happened to Jacob?”

 

I smiled again, couldn’t help it, because he was the one who wasn’t being very smart. I mean, wasn’t it obvious that I wanted to be picked up at that point? Turned nasty didn’t even describe what I did. It was beautiful—loud and dramatic, a complete melt down: spit and four letter words flying, I’d grabbed some old geezer by the lapels, shaken him, and kept a hold of him until some passersby rushed to his aid. Then I let myself be overpowered, which, if you’ve ever seen me is a bit of a joke.

 

            Jacob was long gone by then.

 

They’ll never find him, not ever, no matter how hard they look.

 

 That’s good.

 

 Knowing that, I can stand whatever crap they throw at me. So, maybe it’s all right to talk. Only I think I’ll keep them waiting a bit longer. Why? Because it amuses the hell out of me to piss them off, and because, more importantly, I have to get it straight in my head first, because if I am honest, I’m not really sure what happened to Jacob. All I know is that he is safe.

 

 

 

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The Clock
Excerpt

Chapter 1

Coming from Des Moines the weather had been nice but that has since changed. It’s been gray and cloudy all the way down from Boston. When they cross the bridge into Cape Cod, it starts to drizzle. By the time they reach Woods Hole the rain is coming down by the bucket.

“Not the greatest day for a sail,” Mom says as she drives the black Mazda 6 into the line of cars waiting to board the ferry.

“It’s a bad sign,” Elizabeth mutters from the back seat. She has been quiet for most of the journey but those words will prove to be an understatement–an understatement indeed.

“I thought you were asleep,” Mom says.

Elizabeth sighs letting out a long breath. “I wish I was.”

“What’s wrong, dear? You’ve been in a funny little mood since we left home,” Mom says in a concerned voice.

“I wish this vacation was over and not just beginning,” Elizabeth replies. “I have this really scary feeling, and I’m sure it’s going to be dreadful. The closer we get, the more anxious I become.”

“I’m sure everything will be just like every other vacation we have been on. When it’s over, you’ll see how wrong you were,” Mom tells her.

Elizabeth lets out another sigh. “I’m sorry. I’m sure that you’re right, but I can’t shake this feeling I keep having. It’s like a premonition or something.”

“What do you mean a premonition?” Matthew asks. It’s obvious that he has no idea what she is getting at.

“It’s just an overactive imagination,” Dad replies from the front passenger seat.

“It’s more than that,” Elizabeth protests.

“Never mind, dear, I was young once too,” Mom says, trying to diffuse a situation she can see is coming.

“It has nothing to do with being seventeen, for goodness sake,” Elizabeth snaps. “Nobody understands me anymore.”

Buddy, the Janssen’s Golden Retriever gives a sympathetic whimper and snuggles a little closer to Elizabeth.

“I can’t wait to get on the boat,” Matthew says excitedly, as the rain eases off.

His spirits haven’t been dampened at all. Being eighteen and a year and a bit older makes him the big brother, a role he, at times, takes seriously. There, of course, are times when it is a burden he would sooner not have. He wanted to get a summer job and stay behind, but has been talked out of it. This might well be the last real family vacation they will ever have. His dad has told him that he will have the rest of his life to work. It will quickly lose its appeal, so Matthew feels that he made the right decision to put the job on hold.

The line of cars starts to move and, when they are parked and it’s safe, everyone gets out. Matthew and his dad Leonard move to the railing as the ferry pulls away. The sky is beginning to clear a bit and the chill in the air is dissipating.

“It’s too bad Buddy has to stay in the car,” Mathew says to his dad.

Matthew turns to see a pair of sad eyes watching from the side window. The wind has died down and the waves are now small, making the ride to Martha’s Vineyard pleasant. As Matthew watches the ocean, he sees what appears to be a dolphin jump out of the water. Unfortunately, it’s gone so quickly that he can’t be sure that’s what it was. From a distance, the coastline of the island is a ghostly blur as a mist still hangs in the air.

It may well be an indication of what is soon to come, Elizabeth thinks as she approaches the railing.

Slowly the docks and the buildings begin to materialize as the ferry approaches the dock. The ferry churns up the water as it’s maneuvred into position. Uniformed deckhands prepare things for the safe departure of its passengers and their vehicles.

“Let’s go guys,” Dad shouts as he gets into the driver’s seat, letting Mom be the passenger for the remainder of the trip. Ten minutes later, they drive off the ferry and are on their way.

“I sure hope the rain is gone for a while,” Matthew says as the car is turned onto the road along the coast.

“We have the whole summer ahead of us, so there will be plenty of sunshine and water time for us,” Mom tells him.

Elizabeth is still quiet and a little withdrawn.

“Come on, sweetie, cheer up,” Dad says, looking a little concerned.

“I can’t help it, Dad, I just have this feeling something is going to happen, and I don’t know if it’s good or bad. But I do know it will be big when it does happen.”

“Please, dear, don’t let this ruin your time. Your father’s been gone to the oilfields in Canada for over five months. Now that the job is finished, we can spend almost two months on the vacation of a lifetime.”

“I know, Mom.” But under her breath she mutters, “If we survive it.”

As they drive through the town of Oaks Bluff, with its ginger-bread houses and quaint little shops, they pass an ancient merry-go-round. The wooden horses appear almost phantom-like in the residual mist.

“Hey, guys, why don’t we come back here when the weather really clears up and visit the arcade. We can all ride the merry-go-round,” Dad says, trying to lift Elizabeth’s mood.

They follow the road to Nantucket Sound and Sengekontacket Pond. Stopping at Edgartown to shop for groceries, they then drive to the Island Realty Company seeking out Christine Parker.

“Good to see you Mr. and Mrs. Janssen,” Christine exclaims pleasantly.

“Please call us Kate and Leonard,” Kate said, shaking hands then introducing the teenagers.

The keys are handed over and directions are printed out to make it easier to find Lilac Cottage, the rental home they have for the summer. The directions are not particularly easy to follow. Because of this, the agent has given them a map and traced out the route, putting little notes here and there.

After quite some time with only a few turn a rounds, Matthew spots a laneway with a sign Lilac Cottage. Driving a little distance down the driveway, they pull up to a good-sized house totally off by itself within a short walking distance of the ocean.

Near the cottage, along the driveway, is an old garage. Christine Parker told them of the building, warning that it’s not safe to enter. Seeing it, they all understand why. Although the wood appears to be in fairly good shape, the whole structure leans to one side rather badly. A makeshift brace stops the garage from leaning any farther.

There are sand dunes between the house and the water. Being on the south side of the island means there will be more sunshine and warm breezes to be enjoyed making this a great spot.

The walkway to the house has flower beds on either side with only a smattering of plants. The porch though is inviting with several lilac bushes in front of the railing. Beside the house on the left is a solid barnlike building that looks like it might be a work shed of sorts. Just as all the luggage is placed on the porch the rain starts to come down. Any exploring has to be put on the backburner. Of course, a little water wouldn’t stop Buddy from having fun but, unfortunately for him, this is not to be.

The house is a clapboard design that has seen better days, but still looks solid enough and has a lot of character. A fresh coat of paint would bring the home back to life. The house is furnished and the agent informed them that it has been prepared for them.

They see that everything is clean inside as they step into the foyer. The interior has an old charm to it and this must have been a beautiful home in its prime. To the right is a staircase with an old oak banister leading to the upstairs and directly in front of them a sprawling living room leads to the kitchen and dining room at the rear of the house.

It is time to explore, so Matthew and Elizabeth drop everything and run up the stairs. Their intention is to lay claim to the bedroom which appeals most to each. At the top of the landing there is an open area that appears to be a reading room with an ornate bookcase filled with hardcover books that look like no one has read them in quite some time. There are two comfortable old-style living room chairs on either side of it. Two paintings are on the walls. These depict interesting ocean scenes of a bygone era, judging by the way the people are dressed. These will require closer inspection later. At the moment, there are much more important things to be taken care of–dibs on the rooms.

Buddy of course beats both up the stairs and waits at the top, wagging his tail and giving a single happy bark. From the landing are three short stairways leading to four doors all facing the landing. Between two of them facing the back of the house is a rather large built out brick area going to the ceiling. Elizabeth yells down and asks why it is built so strangely.

“That is called a, Good Morning staircase,” her mom answers back, “and it is called that because when people got up at the same time years ago they greeted each other with a good morning. That large built out area houses the massive chimney that was required for all the fireplaces. Sometimes the old wood stoves that people had to use back then were vented into it too.”

The choice of rooms, as it turns out, is easy as the first one Matthew runs into is obviously a grownup’s room and the second is definitely too girly. That leaves only one room and this one is much more to his liking. The girl’s and boy’s room are at the front of the house and have a small walkway at the top of a single staircase with a railing overlooking the landing. The master is at the top of the stairs at the back of the house on the left hand side of the landing and the third stairway leads to a rather large bathroom on the right.

In Matthew’s room, on the left facing the front of the house, there is a painting. It is of an old two-wing airplane. On his right, hanging over the bed, is painting of an old time hockey player. The wall farthest away from the doorway has a window overlooking the driveway.

Elizabeth immediately walks into what, to her, has to undoubtedly be the best room of all. The bed has a canopy over it, and there are flowered vases on a pretty off-white dresser with decorative handles of silver.

On the wall over the bed is a painting of a girl running along a beach in the swirling mist. She’s a pretty girl in her late teens, close to Elizabeth’s age. There is a look of fear in her eyes as she glances over her shoulder. It would appear that she’s running away from someone or something. An odd painting, Elizabeth thinks as she studies the scene. There is a fog of sorts, obscuring much of the background. At the edge of the picture there appears to be the beginnings of a hand. It’s not very solid but translucent as if, maybe, not even a hand at all. The scene gives her an eerie feeling.

On the other wall on the right side of the room is a painting of a peculiar looking grandfather clock. The room that it is in is decorated with a quite fancy wallpaper and expensive furniture, and seems very similar to a room that would be in this house. There is the edge of a window the same style as the one in her room. It is funny how one can take possession of a room quickly. She already thinks of the room as hers.

There’s something odd about the clock, but nothing that she can put her finger on. Oh well something for later, she thinks. The first order of business is to bring the luggage up and put things away. The way the rooms are arranged, the two bedrooms are at the front of the house. She would have preferred the large master bedroom and the rather large bathroom at the back of the cottage. This would have given her the view of the ocean.

The oversize bathroom, it appears, has at one time been much smaller. Another small bedroom must have been at the back of the house too. Going by the beam running across the ceiling, a wall must have been removed. The bathroom’s expansion has given it two windows with a view of the ocean. The water is only about eighty yards behind the house. When the luggage is taken care of, Matthew and Elizabeth go downstairs and join their parents.

“Hey, Kate, look at this room,” Leonard calls out.

Everyone comes into the large living room that has pegboard floors and a massive stone fireplace with a wide oak lintel. An ancient mantle clock sits on the shelf above. There is a pile of firewood off to the side, and Dad is just starting to place the kindling into the fireplace.

“This should take the chill out of the air. Have you ever seen anything as grand as this before?” he asks.

“It sure is something,” Matthew says with Elizabeth agreeing.

“This house is absolutely gorgeous,” Kate replies.

The sand dunes at the rear of the house block much of the ocean view. Fortunately, there’s a low spot that is presumably used to walk to the beach. This looks like it has been widened somewhat to make the view better. The dunes must have been left there because they offer some protection from severe storms that hit this area now and then.

As the fire takes hold, Matthew picks up a few logs that have been split and carefully lays them over the burning kindling. He has learned his lessons at camp well. The damper has already been opened and the flue warmed up by a burning rolled up newspaper. This has to be done so as to start the air flowing up the chimney. Otherwise smoke will fill the house.

The logs, being nice and dry, catch fire quickly. The warmth radiates into the room, giving the home an even cozier air about it. The feeling of foreboding that Elizabeth had earlier is pushed aside as the room loses the cool damp chill.

All the food is put away in the fridge and cupboards. The house had been modernized long ago so as to make living here far more pleasant. The old charm and special features have not been touched, though. It would have been a crime to destroy the aspects that make this home so unique.

“I think that we will be very happy here once the rain passes and the sunshine dries things up,” Mom says.

Both kids nod their heads in agreement. Most kids in their late teens do not get along very well with each other or their parents. Both Matthew and Elizabeth have friends who can attest to this fact. A few years prior, this had been true with them too, but things for the last couple of years have gotten back on track, at least for the most part.

When she has warmed up, Elizabeth goes up to her room, saying that she wants to put things in order and check out the upstairs. Matthew helps his dad finish getting things in their proper place. When they are finished he decides that since the rain is finally stopping and the sun is starting to show, he’ll take a walk outside.

“Elizabeth, do you want to go for a walk on the beach?” he calls out from the bottom of the stairs.

“Is it any warmer outside?”

Matthew walks out the front door and finds that it is, indeed, much more pleasant than it was earlier. “It’s really nice now,” he shouts from the bottom of the staircase. “Let’s go while we can.”

After getting their light jackets and runners on, they head for the beach. Buddy leads the way, sniffing at anything and everything he sees. He even marks the way here and there, lifting his leg to leave a scent. No point in getting lost.

Walking through the sand is slower than on the grassy spots. When they are closer to it, they can see the entire beach with the waves rolling onto the shore. Elizabeth immediately recognizes the scene as the one in the painting in her room. This causes some of the feeling she had earlier to return. She tells Matthew this and says she will show him the painting when they get back to the house.

The breeze coming off the water is actually quite pleasant and as the clouds drift away, the sun grows warmer and warmer. They walk to the shore and touch the salty water.

“This is really nice and warm. We should be able to go swimming tomorrow. What do you think, Elizabeth?”

“Yeah that sounds like fun to me,” she replies.

The walk along the beach takes the trio several hundred yards before they see other houses. They decide to go in the other direction to see if there are any closer ones that way. It ends up being about the same distance in that direction too.

“Well, so much for being bothered by anyone here. We seem to be somewhat isolated,” Elizabeth declares.

Buddy is having the time of his life, running up and down the beach. It’s great fun chasing the waves as they break on the shore.

This is all new to them, as none of the three have ever been to the ocean before. All of a sudden, Buddy stops when he finds a playmate.

A crab is making its way to the water. When it spots the dog, the crab freezes. Buddy starts to sniff at it a few times and makes the mistake of getting too close. There is a squeal as the claw nips the dog’s nose. Buddy barks as the crab races for the water and safety.

“Buddy, come here before you get hurt. Leave the little guy alone,” Matthew says, loudly enough to get his attention. After one last attempt at friendship, Buddy comes running and wagging his wet tail then gives his body a good shake, spraying both kids with water that is flying everywhere.

“Oh, Buddy, you’re getting us wet, you silly boy,” Elizabeth shrieks.

“Come on, Buddy lets go back to the house, it’s almost supper time,” Matthew says.

With the sun shining, it has turned the day into a much better start for this vacation. As they approach the house, they take a detour to the barn/shed. It’s constructed in a board-and-battens style and has weathered considerably over the years. Despite the weathering, the shed looks as sturdy as ever.

The two take a look through the dirty window. Inside there is a variety of stored items covered by canvas tarps that look like they have not been touched in years.

“It should be interesting to get in there and have a peek at some of the stuff,” Matthew says.

The two walk over to the garage and carefully look through the window. The inside is empty, except for a small stack of lumber. They don’t even consider entering it as it doesn’t look safe at all. Even here, the sound of the waves crashing on the shore can be heard.

Heading back to the house, Elizabeth looks up and notices something a little queer.

“Hey, Matt, look up at the house.”

“What am I supposed to be looking at?” he asks.

“There are only two bedrooms in the front of the house, yours and mine, right?” she asks, pointing up.

“Yeah,” he replies.

“Then how come there are three windows up there? I only have one and, if I remember right, so do you,” she exclaims.

He is puzzled as he realizes that she is right. “Then why is there a third window?”

“You know, now that I think about it, the wall that is supposed to be between your room and mine doesn’t seem quite right. If I’m not mistaken I think there may well be a small space between your room and mine. That has to be the reason for the third window. But why that should be is beyond me,” Elizabeth says.

“Well, we have the whole summer to get to the bottom of that little mystery,” Matthew tells her.

Up the porch steps they go, with that unsettling feeling haunting Elizabeth once more. She is determined not to say anything to their parents, for fear of more ridicule, and asks Matthew to keep this between them, explaining why. He agrees that it will be best for now.

© 2017 Leonardus G. Rougoor

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Anne Dublin Children's Library 2-Book Bundle

Anne Dublin Children's Library 2-Book Bundle

Stealing Time / The Baby Experiment
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