by Sam Creed
The Collins live with us, but there's something about them that's special.
Phineas Collins was there the first time Fletcher Collins died, and Flynn Collins was there for the second. But Victoria Collins died once, and she died alone, despite the fact that she had been there for three of Phineas’s deaths and one of Flynn’s.
She had been buried in a small tomb, along with her small portion of the family fortune, but it had been robbed twice and her body, along with her treasure, was mysteriously gone.
Her three younger brothers never spoke of it.
The night that Sandra Coast disappeared was the day Fletcher Collins stayed up all night.
Fletcher paced nervously around his room, unable to say what was making him so anxious, though he had a feeling that he already knew.
It was raining hard that night, with only the occasional crack of thunder to break the steady rhythm of the rain falling hard on the roof of the Coast Family Inn. The inn wasn’t nearly what was required of a hotel, and it barely fit the requirements for a Bed & breakfast. Besides this, the Coast’s usually took on more long term guests than just vacationers. Fletcher had been staying for two months.
On that night, Fletcher stood at the window, which was moaning against the wind and rain. He stood incredibly still, the silhouette of his pale, slender frame in the window made hazy from the rain.
It wasn’t until a figure appeared in the wetness outside that he moved.
Stepping carefully, he made his way down the hall, tiptoeing past six year old Melody’s room so as not to wake her, silently gliding past sixteen year old Alex’s even though he figured it was empty. He paused at Valerie’s room, listening to make sure she was asleep.
When finally he got outside, the rain seemed to avoid him, making a wide circle around him so that he remained dry. When he reached the figure standing outside, though, the man was soaked.
The man was a few inches taller than Fletcher, with a wet sweatshirt and jeans. The hood was pulled up over his face so that only his mouth and chin showed.
As he stepped into the little safe haven from the rain, he smiled. “Surprises me every time,” He admitted as he pulled down his hood. He looked to be at least three years older than Fletcher, with a remarkably handsome face, dark brown eyes, and a warm smile, which quickly disappeared. “But the reason I’m here isn’t.”
Fletcher closed his eyes and sighed. When he opened them, he suddenly looked much older. “It happened again, didn’t it?”
The man nodded quietly, his face solemn. “More and more often. He insists nothing is wrong, though.”
Fletcher rolled his eyes. “Of course he does,” he muttered. He sighed again. “It’s my turn to go, isn’t it.” It wasn’t a question; it was a resigned statement.
The man flinched. “Sorry,” he said sincerely. “I would go, but you know how uptight Phineas is about his rules.”
“Well I had to go sometime,” Fletcher said sadly as lightning flashed brightly in the sky. “And I knew it was coming. I guess I should just prepare myself, then.”
The man studied him with a half smile. “I guess so.”
Thunder suddenly boomed loudly overhead. Outside Fletcher’s rainless circle, rain started falling even harder.
The man sighed and pulled his hood up once more as he turned to leave.
Fletcher watched him, biting his lip. Finally, just as the man was leaving, he spoke. “Oh, and Flynn?” The man turned slightly, listening. “Thanks for coming to tell me. I know I didn’t do the same for you.”
A wide grin spread across Flynn’s face. “Well, that’s true.” He laughed loudly, and Fletcher couldn’t help but laugh with him. Flynn stepped forward and gave him a quick hug. “Anytime, brother.” He looked up at the storm and roared with laughter, wild with sudden humor. “Thanks for the shelter – while it lasted!”
Fletcher grinned, then beckoned to the house. “You can stay, if you like – wait out the storm. The kids are asleep, and the owner’s taking some night classes. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind if you stayed for a night.”
Flynn looked at the dark but warm-looking house, clearly tempted by the idea. But he shook his head firmly. “No, I can’t. Not on a night like this, anyway.” He glanced worriedly at the sky, as though he expected it to fall on hm if he did even the slightest thing wrong. “But thanks anyway.”
He left without saying goodbye, as always.
Fletcher stared after him for a moment, then made his way back inside.
He leaned heavily on the table, smoothing down his sand colored hair. His dark eyes narrowed as he bit his lip, thinking.
“What were you doing outside?”
Fletcher jumped slightly, surprised to see Valerie in the doorway, a tired look on her face and her short black hair tousled. “Nothing, Val. Just checking something out.”
Val’s eyes narrowed. “I saw you out there. You were talking to someone.”
Fletcher rubbed his face with his hand. He yawned like he was tired, though in reality he was wide awake. He knew it was useless to lie, Val would just pester him until he told the truth. “It was my brother,” he admitted. “He had to tell me something.”
“I didn’t know you had a brother,” she said, crossing her arms and squinting. “What did he have to tell you?”
“There’s a family emergency,” Fletcher answered, which wasn’t really a lie, though it wasn’t exactly true. Val looked like she was about to say something else, but thought better of it.
Suddenly her eyes widened. “Where’s my mom?”
“At her night classes,” Fletcher replied automatically, though a tinge of worry tweaked at his gut for a reason he couldn’t name.
The feeling only strengthened as Val shook her head, a worried look crossing her face. “She’d be home by now. Look at the time.” He looked at the clock. Indeed, it was three in the morning, well past the end of class.
“Maybe she already came home,” Fletcher suggested. “She came home tired and went to bed. You just fell asleep and didn’t hear her.” He doubted this even as he tried to reassure her. Val had a tendency to wake up when anyone came home or left in the night. Sandra had had to greet her at midnight more than once. He shouldn’t have been surprised that she saw him outside.
Val bit her lip, suddenly uncertain. “I’ll check her room.” She was out of the kitchen before he could reply.
He only had to wait a moment before she came down, looking even more nervous than before, almost panicked. “She’s not here.”
Fletcher felt a bit of fear prick at him, and he fought hard to show it. “Maybe classes ran late.”
Val shook her head wildly. “They wouldn’t go this late.”
Fletcher sighed. “Traffic?” He offered up lamely.
Val snorted. “In Collins Borough? Not likely.” She bit her lip, looking at him with wide eyes. “Besides, the community college is only thirty minutes away.”
He sighed. She was never going back to sleep now. “If you’d like, you could stay up with me and watch for her.” It was the only offer that might get her.
She nodded, and he got glasses of water for both of them. Finally, he said, “Listen, Val. Once Sandra gets here, I’m going to have to run out. That emergency my brother was talking about…it’s kind of urgent.”
She shrugged, but he saw the curious spark in her eyes. “Sure, hope all’s okay.”
For several hours they waited, until the windows began to glow with the light of dawn. Val had finally drifted into sleep on the couch, and Fletcher sat, worried, at the kitchen table, sipping coffee. Sandra still hadn't shown up, and he really did have to go. Glancing over at Val, he judged that she was deep in sleep, probably wouldn't wake for a while.
Hit by a sudden urgency, he scrambled and found some paper and a pen. Hesitating with the pen over the paper, he finally sighed and started writing. The Truth. He wasn't going to lie – he knew she would want him to stay and help her find her mother, but he wasn’t going to say he was out searching for her when he wasn't.
Val, I’m sorry for leaving, but I have to. Your mother still hasn’t shown up yet, but I hope she does soon. I’m sorry, but this emergency is serious….not worse than your mother disappearing, but I need to take care of it. I will hopefully be back tomorrow. Good luck, and I hope you understand. –Fetcher
He gently placed it on the table, where he knew that she’d find it. Finally, he rushed out the door, into his beat up 1980 Chevrolet truck, and drove, one hand raised to block the light of the rising sun from his eyes.
Somewhere, someone was sleeping.
Somewhere, someone was dying.
Somewhere, someone was screaming.
Somewhere, someone was driving.
Somewhere, someone was fighting silently.
Somewhere, someone was dead, forgotten.
And somewhere, someone was waiting, plotting, watching.