This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
This story is copyrighted by Parker Sheaffer, all rights reserved. Distribution, including but not limited to: posting on internet sites, newsgroups, or message boards, or in book form (either as a whole or part of a compilation), or on CD, DVD or any other electronic media, is expressly prohibited without the author's written consent.
One day Alex said, "I think I've got a case for us, C. J."
Simon laughed. He always found it funny when Alex called him that, but C. J. was something new.
Playing along, he said, "Really, Laser? What have you got?"
Alex handed him a newspaper folded open to an article with the headline, "Third Child Missing". The article went on to say that over the past three months young boys had been missing mysteriously from the surrounding counties. Two disappeared from the local mall and the third while riding his bicycle. The bike had been found along side the road but no one had seen anything suspicious. The police had few clues to go on and parents were becoming worried.
"This sounds pretty serious, Alex. These kidnappings are real this time."
"Yeah, not like old Jake, huh? Where do we start, Captain?" Alex was in awe of his friend and had complete faith that Simon could do anything.
"I don't really know. I suppose we could go to the mall and see if I pick up any sense of them from there. I just don't have any... intuition about this. We'll have to guess and hope we get lucky. Want to go to the mall on Saturday?"
"You bet I do. You'll solve this one, I know it."
"For right now let's check the internet and see what we can find out about the boys. We need to know all that we can."
Simon's dad dropped them off at the mall on Saturday morning and warned them not to talk to any strangers. He gave them both ten dollars for the arcade and another ten for lunch. The two boys wandered around for a while, meandering from one area to another, slowly heading for the arcade. Simon wasn't getting any readings yet, but when they entered the game room he felt a sense of dread. An image of a blond boy, eight year old Charles, the first missing boy, flashed in his mind. He sensed that he had met someone here. He and Alex played a few games and talked to some of the kids there, asking questions about Charles. A couple of them knew him, but hadn't seen him with anyone weird the day he vanished.
They went home later after having no luck finding new clues, and vowed to try again the next weekend. The next day Simon and his parents were going to the zoo and took a shortcut down a sort of lonely street with a patch of woods on one side. As they passed the woods Simon gasped aloud at the sudden vision of Lenny, the third missing boy. He felt Lenny's fear, knew where the bicycle had been found, then saw Lenny entering the woods with a man beside him. He also had a profound sense that Lenny was dead.
He began to cry and his mom saw the tears on his cheeks. "Simon, honey. What's wrong? Are you sick, sweetie? Do you feel bad?"
Simon wiped his eyes and said, "I'm alright mom. It's nothing. I just remembered something kinda sad".
"Oh, I'm sorry. Do you want to talk about it?"
"No, that's okay. Thanks though, mom."
"Well, here's a tissue. Dry your eyes and cheer up, now. Remember, we love you very much."
It was hard to enjoy the zoo because Simon couldn't shake that feeling of sorrow. He had not known any kids who died before. He had helped plenty of kids who were hurt, but this was too terrible. If the other boys were also dead, and they probably were, then a monster was loose among them. No one who could do this sort of thing could be considered human. They were a monster and there was only one way to deal with monsters.
Later that evening he talked to Alex on the phone and told him about his vision and the ugly turn that the situation had taken. Alex was upset and scared, too.
"That means we have to step up our efforts, Simon. We have to find out who it is before he gets anyone else."
"I know, but how? I still don't have any ideas yet."
All week they tried to find clues, without luck so on Saturday they went back to the mall. The first thing Alex wanted to do was visit the men's room. He had been holding it in since they left the house. Simon followed him in and then it happened. He felt the other boy's residual presence in the restroom and knew that this was where Jeffery had met his abductor. There was still no image of the man, though. There was only a sense of someone tall and creepy lurking there.
They returned to the arcade and played games while they talked of possible courses of action.
Alex said, "Well, I know one thing that might work. We need to set a trap for him."
"I'll wander around the mall alone and see if anyone tries to get me."
"That's too dangerous, Alex."
"Not really. You'll be beside me, invisible, and if something happens you can zap the guy."
"It's still risky. I can't let you take that sort of chance. What if I lose you?"
"You won't. Besides, we're partners, aren't we? I have to carry my share, do my part. I want to, Simon. Remember, I'm Laser."
Simon reluctantly agreed so they started to wander around again. They went into the men's room so that Simon could do his vanishing act and then went outside to walk around the parking lot.
Now and then Alex would ask, "Are you still there, C. J.?"
"Yes. Still here... Laser".
They spent several minutes walking up one aisle after another and then decided to explore the parking garage too. Even though people noticed him no one tried to approach Alex. He was just some kid, not worth noticing.
Disappointed, they finally went home, agreeing to try again the next weekend.
The next morning Simon and his family sat down to a great breakfast and his dad shared out sections of the Sunday paper. Simon got the comics section, his mom got the Home and Garden section while his dad began to read the news. They all sat in silence for a few minutes, absorbed in their pancakes and eggs and the paper. Simon heard his dad whisper, "No, not another one."
"Another what, honey?"
"Oh, another boy has gone missing at the Mall. I hope they catch whoever is behind all of this. Simon, I want you to be particularly careful for a while. There's someone dangerous out there and until he's caught I want you to promise me not to go walking around the neighborhood alone, Okay?"
"Aw, dad. I'll be safe." His dad's expression prompted him to continue, "Okay, I'll stick with Alex or Bill when I'm out. I'll keep them safe, too."
"Good lad. It would make me feel better."
Inside Simon felt sick. Another boy was gone and probably dead or would be soon. He felt helpless but didn't know what more he could do.