The next morning, Jack and David decided to walk over to Mitchell’s house. Jack could tell that Mitchell’s refusal to call or text David was eating at him. He thought that maybe a walk over to Mitchell’s place might help them patch up whatever was going on between them. And, David seemed eager to go.
It was also a good chance for Jack to take in the old neighborhood. It had been a long time since he’d walked these streets and everything looked familiar, yet different. He’d spent his whole life in Middleboro. He’d played chase through these yards. Played four square and street hockey between the big storm drains along the street. He’d climbed the big tree at the corner of 7th and almost broken his arm when he’d fallen. But Mrs. Wheeler’s house had been repainted in a yuppie, Pottery Barn green and several of the houses had new landscaping, as well as new names on the mailboxes.
It was his old neighborhood, and yet it wasn’t. For every familiar site, there was something new or just out-of-place. As though while Jack had been away everything had shifted over a few feet. Distances seemed compressed and trees that had seemed so huge instead appeared to have shrunk in size. But, there was something else about the neighborhood; something odd that bothered Jack. Some of the yards were over-grown and unkempt. In the old days, no one in that neighborhood would have let his yard go. But as Jack and David walked along, Jack noted that two or three yards looked as though they hadn’t been mowed in a week or two.
Jack stopped in front of one house whose yard was about a foot high and a tangle of switch-grass and dandelions. Newspapers were piled in front of the door and the owner’s car sat in the driveway, covered in leaves and a few branches, as though it had not moved in weeks.
“Do the Carpenters still live here?” He asked David.
“No. They moved to Florida a while back. Cody lives here, though.”
Jack remembered Cody. They had been friends and Cody had been the 140-pounder on the Middleboro wrestling team. “Is Cody out of town or something?”
“I don’t know. I usually see him down at the Iron hand. But I haven’t seen him in a while. His place looks kinda run down, doesn’t it?”
Jack nodded. “Yeah. A little. What about that house down the block? Wasn’t that the Cooper’s house?”
David looked back down the street. “Yeah. They live in that two-story place. Why?”
“Their yard looks bad, too.”
David shielded his eyes from the sun and nodded in agreement. “Mr. Cooper used to wrestle quite a bit. He sometimes came to our wrestling parties. He was in pretty good shape for an old guy.” He looked back at Jack. “I wonder if they moved away or something.”
Jack wasn’t sure how to respond and they continued walking along toward Mitchell’s. Along the way, they passed Kyle Morgan’s house. Kyle had been the 120-pounder on the wrestling team. His yard was in need of a mow, too.
Then, as they turned onto Green Street, David stopped and clasped Jack’s arm. A Middleboro Police car was parked in a driveway, the car’s red lights flashing. There were several other cars parked along the road. One of them was Chris’ Volvo.
“That’s Mitch’s house!” Said David. He let go of Jack and sprinted down the sidewalk, followed closely by Jack. As they reached the drive, Chris and another guy came out the front door.
Chris looked at Jack and then David. He stepped into David’s path and blocked his way.
“You can’t go inside, Davey.”
“Get out of my way, Chris. I have to see Mitchell.”
The guy standing behind Chris was bespectacled and slight of build. He pushed his glasses up off his nose and said, “This is a police crime scene. You can’t go in there. Besides, there’s not much to see.”
“Where’s Mitchell?” Asked David, sounding frantic. “Is he hurt?”
Chris put his hands on David’s shoulders. “Mitchell is missing. The police are looking for him.”
“Missing?” Said Jack.
Chris gave Jack a look that he couldn’t quite interpret. “Look, guys. Sheriff Buddy is doing everything he can to figure out what’s going on. You guys just need to go home.”
The guy with the glasses chimed in. “And stay inside your homes. Don’t let anyone in. Even if you know them.”
“Who is this?” Asked David, near tears. “Who the fuck are you?”
The guy with the glasses calmly pushed his glasses up off his nose yet again. “Why, I am the county crime scene investigator. Nathan Fix.” He held out a thin, white hand, but David didn’t take it.
“What happened here, Chris? And why are you here?” Asked Jack.
“While you were away, I became a reporter, Jack. I work for the Sentinel.”
“Well technically, you’re not a reporter.” Added Nathan, unhelpfully. “You write a column on antiquing. That does not really make you a reporter. More of a contributor.”
“I am a reporter,” said Chris, angrily. “And I’m investigating this series of disappearances.”
Nathan squinted at Chris, and then looked at Jack. “You’re very nice looking. What’s your name?”
“What’s going on here?” Yelled David. “Tell me what’s happened to Mitchell!”
Nathan looked at David and seemed to approve. “Uh, well. I take it you are a friend of Mitchell’s?”
“Yes. We were boyfriends. Well, sort of…I mean…”
“I’m afraid I can’t tell you much,” said Nathan. “But, it appears that your boy-friend…” He drew out the word, sarcastically. “…had sex last night. A copious amount of sex, I might add, based on the amount of semen left behind. And then he vanished. Or was taken. There are some indications that he was dragged out the back door.”
David looked at Jack with a wild look in his eyes. He turned back to Nathan. “Dragged? By who?”
Nathan shrugged. “There is no evidence to suggest that he was taken by a human being.”
“What the fuck…?!!” Said David.
“What are you talking about?” Asked Jack. Then to Chris, “What’s he talking about?”
Chris turned to Nathan. “We’re leaving, okay? But call me if you learn anything, please?”
Nathan shrugged again and went back inside. Chris guided David and Jack to the street.
“What’s this all about, Chris?” Asked Jack. “What did he mean about no evidence of a human being?”
Chris put a hand on David’s shoulder, but he was looking at Jack. “I’m not sure exactly what’s going on. But something is happening in this town. Something strange. Guys. Guys who wrestle…are just…I don’t know…up and vanishing. The police keep finding their clothes, their belongings…nothing’s been stolen. These aren’t robberies. But the guys are just gone. Mitchell. Lonnie Douglas. You remember Lonnie from High School, don’t you, Jack?”
Jack had to think about it, but yeah, he sort of remembered Lonnie.
“This all started a few months ago, but it’s picked up over the last few days. All they ever find…all the evidence that they find…is a big stain of semen. Like the guy came all over himself before he was taken.”
“Mitchell’s been taken?” Asked David. He ran his hand over his forehead as though he was trying to get his mind around what he was being told. The truth was, Jack couldn’t believe it either.
“There are several houses in the neighborhood that look like their owners have gone.” Said Jack.
Chris nodded. “I know. Every one of those houses was where a wrestler lived. I mean, we have a lot of guys in Middleboro who are into wrestling, but whoever or whatever is doing this seems to zero in on our community. We’ve lost a lot of guys. Maybe eight so far.”
Jack pulled David to him and tried to calm him. Chris and Jack locked eyes for a second or two, and it seemed that they were trying to communicate with each other. Jack read fear, but also concern. Concern for David. And, Jack hoped, concern for him.
“I’ve got to go,” Chris said suddenly. “You guys go home. Don’t let anyone into your house. If you see anyone weird on the streets, call me…or the police. Okay?” He was already on his way to his car.
Jack nodded. “Call me, later…please…?”
Chris hesitated before getting in his car. “I will…maybe…if I have time…” He closed the door and drove off.