Come Find Me(11)

I hesitate with the first lid, imagining him watching, saying, Out of my stuff, Kennedy.

What I wouldn’t give for that now.

Opening the first box, with his clothes inside, I can almost feel him here. Only, it’s not even him. It’s my mom’s choice of laundry detergent, nothing more.

After unpacking half the storage area, I finally find the box that holds the contents of his desk drawers: notebooks, journals, the inner thoughts of Elliot’s brain. It’s stacked full, but nothing inside is labeled, so I take the whole box with me, walking back down the hall, eyes focused on the open lid as I approach the staircase.

    Don’t look, don’t look.

I keep moving until I’m downstairs again, unlocking the front door, walking down the porch steps, circling around to the back shed, in hopes that Lydia can help me find what we’re looking for.

I’m being catfished. Maybe as a joke, but maybe not.

Send me what you have, and I’ll send you mine?

This is inevitably the start of every child abduction warning seminar my parents have been to, or have spoken at. KJ is some creepy dude trolling for some hapless kid, and the next thing you know I’ll be sending him my picture and meeting him in some dark mall parking lot under a streetlight that doesn’t work where he pulls up in an unmarked white van and I’m never heard from again.

Hard pass.

I already feel like a fool, now that it’s daylight. The whole thing seems like a dream now, like I was in some fugue state where my imagination was getting the best of me, ignoring every rational explanation.

But it’s still doing it. The dial. It keeps jumping around, like something’s over there, in Liam’s room. I set up my phone as a camera, and I hold it in one hand, and I take the reading against Liam’s wall with the other. So I have proof, in case it amounts to anything.

    There are several likely possibilities: some unaccounted-for magnetic field. A solar flare. Or something outside—the wires that run along the side of the road; the electrical box outside the neighbor’s house. Last night, I took a bunch of readings in Liam’s room with the other equipment, but there was nothing unusual. Just the pattern, the needle bouncing around, like something’s messing with the readout.

Still, I stare at that wall connecting my room to Liam’s, and then at the gear hidden under my desk. And I get this hunch, this feeling, as my mind keeps drifting back to that house. The Jones House.

It was the only thing I did differently yesterday, other than visiting the back corner of the park. I held up the device to the outside wall of the house before I heard the footsteps, before I saw the girl. I watched as she biked down the driveway, her dark hair flying behind her, pedaling fast like something was chasing her. And then I got the hell out of there myself, running across the field, back to the park, and making my way to my car.

But now I start to wonder: Maybe whatever I thought was happening in the park is actually happening there as well. Maybe I was onto something yesterday, checking it out.

I run a search for the articles about the crime last winter, and quickly get a few hits. Double Homicide Rocks West Arbordale Community. There’s a picture of the house standing all alone in the middle of the field, taken from a distance, through the trees, so that it looks haunted and ominous. I read the summary again. This isn’t paranormal. The case is solved. There’s no mystery here. But I think of the feeling I got on their front porch, staring in the windows.

    Liam disappeared after a feeling.

The phone rings downstairs, and I jump back from the screen. The house comes into focus again: I smell pancakes. I hear the squeak of the front door, the sound of my mom’s car. It suddenly feels like the perfect plan: pancakes, and an exit.

* * *

I have my bag slung over my shoulder, and I eat at the counter as my dad flips a fresh pancake onto his plate. “Thanks, Dad,” I say, still chewing as I head toward the door.

“You remember you’re helping this afternoon, right? I’m leaving at one and Mike can’t show up until three or so.”

I did not remember. “Yes, no problem.” Once again, I’m thankful for Mike, who is more reliable than me, and always willing to fill in when he can, which makes my lack of availability less questionable. But he has to split his time between here and the youth shelter, where he and Liam both volunteered. Still, it could be so much worse than just needing to fill in for two hours on a Sunday.

I hear the chatter of low conversation from the living room. “New volunteers?” I ask.

My dad peers around the wall. “Sophomores at the college,” he says, then stops. Like we’re both remembering—that’s how old Liam should be right now. He clears his throat. “Dave and Clara.” Then his brow furrows. “Maybe Sara.” He shrugs, like it doesn’t matter. Maybe it doesn’t. They’ll be gone by the end of summer anyway. This is probably something for their résumés, not their lives.

    I peek my head around the corner, and for a second, I can almost see Liam and Abby instead, sitting beside each other on the sofa, laughing in their own private world. Dave, I recognize. He’s got distinctively red hair, and I remember him from school, in Liam’s year. But I don’t think I’ve seen the girl before.

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