“Carson what’s wrong” Britland asked sitting up rubbing his eyes. It felt like they had just gone to bed. He reached for Carson’s arm alarmed by the expression of fear in the other man’s eyes. “Did you have another nightmare?” Britland knew it had been weeks since Carson had a nightmare that woke him up in the middle of the night.
“Shh” Carson brought a finger to his lips indicating to Britland to be quiet.
The question he was going to ask died on his tongue as he watched Carson move silently towards the door. He stopped to grab the old wooden bat Britland’s dad had brought from home. Britland followed Carson whispering “what’s going on?”
“Call the police” Carson told him.
“What? Why” he asked confused.
“I think someone’s in here” Carson explained.
“I didn’t…” something crashed outside their bedroom walls. It sounded like someone had knocked into a shelf in the dark and knocked something over. Britland’s eyes were round with fear. He tugged on Carson’s arm “don’t go” he pleaded.
“I’ll be ok” he assured him. Carson took a moment to pull the blonde close. Kissing his forehead gently “I have to check on Rush.” He moved his hand to the open the door “it’ll be ok.”
Helplessly Britland watched his fiance slip through the door. He wanted to stop him. Keep him safe. The thought of their infant son alone in his crib the only thing stopping him doing any of those things. Carson had to go. Britland moved to do his part. He retrieved his phone. His fingers trembling as he pressed the numbers that would send help their way.
He waited for what felt like forever but was only a few minute. He ears straining to hear anything, even the gentle steady tick tick of the clock hanging in the kitchen. Nothing. What was going on out there? He inched towards the door careful to keep clear of anything he might knock over. His hand gripped the door handle, clammy with fear.
Taking several deep breaths before opening the door. The small tinny click sounded loud in the dark silent hallway. It was too silent. His heart beat loud in his ears. He bit down into his bottom lip to keep from calling out to Carson. He moved in the direction of Rush’s nursery. That was where Carson was headed. That’s where he’d start.
There was a faint glow coming from beneath the door. The baby’s nightlight. It was normal. Expected. For those reasons it felt all the more alarming. He gripped the door handle breathing hard. He hoped the police were on their way and would be here soon. The shrill cray of his infant son galvanized him into action. He twisted the door knob and stepped into the room.
“Good of you to join us” a familiar voice greeted Britland as he stepped inside the room.
“Mr. Svir” Britland mumbled “why are you here?”
“I missed my nephew” the older man sneered, gruffly pushing him forward into the room.
“Carson” Britland cried upon seeing the terrified panic in his fiance’s eyes. “Are you ok” even to his own ears that question was a stupid one. Anyone in this situation was anything but ok.
Carson stared at the crib ignoring the blonde’s querie into his welfare. “Give him back” he growled turning to face the man who had broken into their home. Impotent rage boiled over inside him seeing the man of his nightmares holding his son. “Put him down” he swallowed trying to reign in the fear and anger threatening to overwhelm him.
Britland put a hand on Carson’s shoulder. A restraint to keep him from charging across the room. “Don’t please” he flinched under the baleful glare Carson directed towards him.
“He has our son” he cried.
“He also has a gun” Britland wrapped his hands around Carson’s arm. “Please don’t do anything that’ll get you shot.”
“I won’t let him take our son” he half turned towards Britland. “I’d rather be dead than to let that happen.”
Britland could see the determination in his fiance’s lavender eyes. “I love you” he whispered “I don’t want to lose you too.”
“How touching” the man snapped waking the baby in his arms. Frowning down at the wiggling, fussy baby his arms. His gun hand lowered pointing towards the floor.
Carson seeing his chance charged forward getting within arms length before his Uncle pointed the gun at him. “Nice try. Now back up and join blondie over there.”
Not ready to give up Carson reached for his son. The click of the gun froze him in place. “If you don’t do as I say I’ll shoot lover boy. First in the shoulder then the knee.”
“No don’t hurt him” without thinking Carson put himself between the gun and Britland.
“I thought that might get your attention” his Uncle smirked.
“Please let me hold him” Britland held his arms out yearning to comfort his screaming son.
“Why” the man inquired “are his screams getting to you too?” The man’s laughter was harsh “we can always silence the little bugger forever.”
“No” Carson and Britland cried out together. Carson pulled the blonde close to his chest. He could feel the terror filling the younger, smaller male making him shudder. “Its’ going to be alright” he whispered in Britland’s ear. “I promise our son is going to be alright. You’re going to be alright.”
Britland closed his eyes listening to the comforting words. He wanted to believe that it would be that simple. That he’d wake up from this nightmare and Carson would be asleep beside him. His arm casually draped around his waist. Their son would be babbling to himself in his crib. He squeezed his eyes tight. Where were the police? How long had it been since he called them?
As if reading his thoughts the man grimaced at his captives. Waving the gun he indicated he wanted them to move forward. “It’s time to say goodbye.”
Carson maneuvered Britland behind him “don’t hurt him.”
“That’s up to you” the man’s eyes locked with Carson’s “come with me. No arguments. No questions asked. No trouble.”
Nodding Carson squeezed Britland’s hand that was clutching his. “Only if you promise not to hurt him.”
A nasty twisted smile marred the man’s face. “I promise” his Uncle said solemnly followed by a high-pitched giggled that left them both cold.
Stepping forward Carson moved to follow his Uncle. Britland tugged on his arm. Shaking his head Britland pleaded “don’t go with him.”
“I have to” he brought up his free hand to cup Britland’s face. “I’m sorry we never got to say I do. I really wanted that. More than anything.”
“We can still have that” Britland pleaded “don’t do this.” He desperately wanted to tell him the police were on their way. All they had to do was hold out a little longer.
Moving closer Carson gathered Britland into his arms when the blonde slumped forward conscious. “You didn’t have to do that” he cried looking up at this Uncle “I would have come with you.”
“This way is easier” the older man pointed the gun at his nephew. “Put him down or bring him with. The choice is yours.”
Gently Carson laid Britland on the floor careful not to jostle him to much. Blood seeped through the scalp wound where the butt of the gun had crashed into his skull. He leant forward placing a soft kiss on Britland’s lips whispering “I love you. I’ll always love you.”
His chest ached knowing this might be the last time he would ever see the man he loved more than life itself. He knew Britland had been trying to stall for time. “Leave my son here” he demanded “I’ll come with you.”
“No tricks” his Uncle waved the gun around.
“No tricks” he repeated slowly reaching for Rush. The instant his hands touched the sturdy little body he pulled the infant close. He buried his face in the blanket, drinking in his scent, savoring the feel of his sturdy little boy in his arms.
“Enough stalling” the older man growled “either put him down or bring him with.”
Carson could tell his Uncle was at the end of his limited patience. He couldn’t stall any more. He pressed his lips to Rush’s forehead before placing hm on the floor beside Britland. The moment his arms were empty his Uncle pulled him towards the door. Carson made one last desperate look over his shoulder at the world he was leaving behind.
“Put these on” his Uncle tossed something at him that clanked to the floor before he was able to catch it.
Looking down Carson picked up a pair of handcuffs. Slowly he put the cold steel around his wrist. He could feel the metal bite into his skin. He repeated the procedure with his other wrist. His fingers fumbled under the baleful glare from his Uncle. Cringing as the man stepped forward inspecting the cuffs. The man’s touch stung his skin making his stomach lurch.
His Uncle’s eyes locked onto his. “Don’t worry boy. You’re not my type anymore. If I had the time and the inclination I’d take that son of yours and keep him long enough to see what a sweet boy he would turn into.”
“Don’t you dare touch him” Carson cried.
“I’m glad you still have some fight in you” his Uncle laughed “save it for later. You’re going to need it.”
Britland opened his eyes to the harsh overhead light he associated to a hospital room. “Where…” he croaked. His throat was dry with a feeling of having sucked on cotton balls. “Where am I” he said a little more coherently.
A young woman in a nurses smock smiled down at him. “In the hospital. You have a mild concussion.”
That explained the headache he thought. It throbbed behind his eyes “Carson…”
“Shh” the woman soothed “you need to rest.”
“Rush” he turned worried eyes to the nurse “my son and fiance.”
“Your son is adorable” she smiled at him her dimples making her look years younger than what she was.
Britland relaxed into his pillow relieved to know his son was there somewhere inside the hospital. “My parents were they contacted?”
Nodding the friendly nurse leaned over patting his shoulder. “They’re on their way. They told me tell you not to worry.”
That sounded like them he thought. Not worrying wasn’t in the realm of possibility he thought watching the nurse walk from the room. He wished he had asked her to turn the light off. It would have been easier than trying to ignore its brightness. He threw an arm over his eyes. Where was Carson? The nurse had evaded his questions. A tactic used when you want to keep from upsetting the victim. They must know that not knowing something was worse than the actual truth?
The door opened sometime later when a Doctor came in followed by two officers. The doctor picked up his chart, grunted a few times before turning to the officers. “You can talk to him for ten minutes. Not a minute longer.”
The officers nodded as the doctor made his way from the room. “You called 911” one of them stated.
“Yes” he nodded or at least tried to nod. It hurt too much to do much else. Dots danced before his eyes. Squeezing his eyes shut, he breathed deeply. “Someone had broken into our apartment. Carson went to check on our son.” He paused trying to see the events as they happened. “I followed him after making the call. I was worried.”
“Did you see who had attacked you” one of the men asked him.
“Yes” again the memory was sharp and clear. The menacing eyes of the older man took his breath away. “It was Carson’s Uncle, Mr Svir.”
“You know the assailant” they asked.
“I’ve known him all my life. He lived in Riverview. He was a favorite among most of the kids I grew up with.” His voice faltered as he wondered if anyone he knew growing up had fallen victim to the man’s charms, his easy-going ways. He shivered thinking of all the times he and his friends had gone to his house to hang out. The field where he set up the yearly Spooktacular. The almost real haunted graveyard with bones sticking out of the ground. How much of that had been real?
He couldn’t wait for the officers to leave and for his parents to come. He needed to get out of here. He need to find Carson. He answered the never-ending questions. He felt a momentary pang of guilt as he omitted telling them about the field where the Spooktacular was held every year. He needed to be sure before he sent anyone to Mr. Robinson’s farm. If he was wrong he’d be disturbing an innocent man’s home.
“Are sure you want to come home with us” Miranda asked sounding concerned.
“I’m positive mom” Britland firmly closed the door to his apartment. His dad was carrying the bags refusing to let him help. His mom had Rush. He felt weak and useless. “All I’ll do is worry if I stay here.”
“Alright” she murmured softly getting into the elevator.
Britland avoided glancing in his dad’s direction. He knew his dad suspected he was up to something. He silently tapped his toes inside the elevator. The door opened letting them off in the lobby. Walking to the car his parents have had for the last five years he asked “when are you going to get a new car?”
“We’ve been discussing it” Robbie said opening the trunk to store the bags. “Son I know you’re worried about Carson. Believe me I understand how hard this must be on you. Trust that everything that can be done is being done. Your Grandfather is having the Svir farm searched top to bottom. He’ll find Carson.”
Britland nodded absently. He knew that search would come up empty. Carson would not be found on the farm. Image of the dark swampy lowlands the guy always used for the annual Spooktacular came to mind. The crazy maze that all the kids would sneak out every Halloween to run through. Mr Robinson took the credit for it but all the kids knew it was set up by Mr Svir.
Britland had to check it out for himself. If his memory was accurate the mounds in the ground were more than fake graves. Shivering he almost hoped he was wrong. That maybe his twelve-year-old self was only imagining the bones to be real instead of fake store-bought props.
“Would you like something to eat” Miranda asked as they entered the house after the long drive.
“I’m really tired” he yawned “I just want to lie down for a while.”
“Alright dear” she smiled at him in her sweet motherly way. “We’ll take good care of Rush. You don’t have to worry about a thing.”
“Thanks mom” he dragged his feet into his old childhood room. His body felt heavy as he slumped on the bed staring at the ceiling. He wished he could tell them what he was planning. If he did, they’d do their best to talk him out of it. Getting up he composed an email to send later that outlined exactly what he doing and where he was. It was a just in case something happened measure. He wanted to be sure they knew where to start looking.
When that was finished he laid back on the bed. He eyes grew heavy despite his minds best effort to conjure up everything that could go wrong.
He must have fallen asleep. He woke up to find someone must have removed his shoes for him and threw a blanket over him. He moved to the crib his parents had set up for Rush. His son was sleeping peacefully unaware of what was happening around him. Leaning over the edge Britland softly kissed his forehead before turning to the window. It was the perfect window for climbing out of when he was a teenager and needed to meet up with Felix. Not that he did it often. Mostly when Felix needed him after finding out his parents had skipped town without telling him.
Britland jogged down the road in the direction of the Robinson farm. It was only a two or three-mile run. He could do this he chanted to himself. He stopped to catch his breath. That’s when he realized he forgot to send his email. He pulled out his phone and quickly sent it. He wished he had a flashlight as he surveyed the dark rolling mists as he entered the swamp lands.
He held his ragged breath straining to hear anything beyond the normal night sounds of the swamp. Nothing out of the ordinary. Disappointment made him slump against a nearby tree. He was wrong. What was he going to do now?
He turned to leave when he found himself in the bright beam of headlights coming towards him. Where had they come from? He didn’t have time to wonder long when a familiar voice called out to him. A bullet flew past his face as he made to run. Freezing he raised his hand into the air. Carson’s Uncle got out of the vehicle and walked up to him. “Where is he” Britland demanded glancing towards the truck.
“You’ll be joining him soon” the older man motioned for him to join him. His eyes glittered with an undefined emotion that made Britland shiver. They walked for several minutes in the almost dark swamp. Britland stumbled over the uneven ground almost falling several times. There was a faint light ahead and he walked towards it. They stopped in what Britland recognized as the sight of the Spooktacular.
A figure knelt by a mound. Bones lay scattered about, too small to be that of an adult, a child perhaps. Through the semi darkness Britland could see that the figure kneeling on the ground was rocking back and forth. His broad shoulders trembled and Britland had the impression they were crying. He stumbled forward “Carson” he murmured seeing the figure turn at the sound of his voice.
“He’s dead” he sobbed his hands resting on a small child sized skull.