Authors: A.B. Gayle,Andrea Speed,Jessie Blackwood,Katisha Moreish,J.J. Levesque
Another one, again bound in leather, was a complete collection of Poe’s works. It had belonged to his mother and was the one thing of her he still had. Though he was angry with her for leaving him with his father, he understood why she had to go. After all, he’d had to leave, too.
One by one, Aiden went through each book in the box. They were a part of his soul. Reading had taken him away on adventures as a child, and let him flee his troubled home and even more troubled life with Peter. Where people had failed him, books never had.
The last book he had picked would not have been one of his choices a month or two ago. An edition of
The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood
by Howard Pyle, which he had picked up randomly at a library book sale. It wasn’t of much value in the condition it was in, but it reminded him of Flynn.
Robin Hood… Little Red Riding Hood… Flynn called me that.
The memory made him smile. When was the first time he had called him by one of his silly nicknames? It took Aiden a moment, but he remembered.
At the drive-in. We were watching those horror movies.
Reminded of that, he got up and searched through the books on the shelf above the fireplace. He did have some room in the box. Lovecraft. When Flynn first came over, he had pulled this book off the shelf. He liked horror. Too bad it caught him in real life. Aiden set the book in the box and looked around. There was one more, now that he thought about it. It was silly, really. But Red Riding Hood… Grimm’s Fairy Tales. That book was upstairs in his bedroom.
A quick trip upstairs and he found the book, but that brought other things to mind.
Flynn in my shower when he was upset. He was upset a lot after the drive-by shooting…
What he wouldn’t give to have the other man in his shower again. Or just here, for that matter.
Returning to the living room, he sat on the couch. The couch he and Flynn had first had sex on.
Pierce said Flynn was nothing.
The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm
in the box with a frown. A glance at the clock showed it was nearing one in the morning. He should get some sleep, but he wasn’t tired. He was restless. His fingers itched to pick up the phone and call the hospital. Flynn was gone, but maybe if he called he would discover that it had all been a mistake. Maybe he’d regained consciousness and been shifted to another room. Perhaps the paperwork hadn’t been done yet. Would the nurses station even answer at this hour?
Before he could answer his own question, the phone was in his hands and he had the number dialed. A nurse did answer with a polite, if bored voice. She stated her name and the name of the hospital, and then waited.
“Hello?” she said after a moment. “Can I help you?”
“Umm, yes… I’m looking for a friend. Flynn Archer. I know it’s late, but could you put me through to his room?”
“We generally do not accept phone calls at this time of night.”
“I know, I understand. I’m sorry, but could you at least tell me his room number, and I’ll call back in the morning? I’ve forgotten it….”
“Just a moment, please.” The sound of typing filtered softly through the phone, and Aiden held his breath.
Please let him be in the system.
“I’m sorry, sir. But I don’t see a Flynn Archer on record. Maybe you should try your friend at home.”
The breath he had been holding escaped in a rush and he nodded, though she couldn’t see it. “Yes, I’ll do that. Thank you.” Aiden hung up the phone and leaned over, resting his head in his hands. If he called Flynn’s house number he’d get no answers there, either.
It’s going to be one hell of a long night.
Maybe calling Flynn’s house wouldn’t get him answers, but what if he went there…
He’d have to get past the guard stationed at his door, but that shouldn’t be too difficult. He’d learned a little about sneaking around from Flynn, and the man outside didn’t seem to be too much of a threat.
Rousing Dante, he grabbed his leash and clipped it to his collar. Outside the guard was sitting on a chair beside the door, seemingly asleep. Aiden crept out, holding tightly to Dante’s leash and hoping it wouldn’t make a sound. As soon as he placed his foot on the first step, however, the man jumped up.
“Where are you going?” the man asked gruffly.
What was his name again? Matthews? Madden? Something with an M… Oh hell.
“Dante needs to go for a walk.”
“Can’t you just let him out back?”
“Dogs need to be exercised properly. He’s a big dog,” Aiden argued. “If I don’t walk him now, he’ll be wired for the flight.”
The man grunted and fell into step next to Aiden. Aiden frowned but kept going. The night air was cool and silent aside from their footsteps and breathing. Dante panted happily, seemingly oblivious to the tension in his owner.
He had Flynn’s address memorized from their first date, when he had written it on the back of an old receipt. The receipt was still in his possession, too. Upstairs in his dresser. He wasn’t sure why he kept it. Maybe as a memento?
Aiden took a left down a side street, and then a right at the next, letting Dante pull ahead. Just two more blocks and they would be at Flynn’s apartment building.
How am I going to get rid of this agent?
“We’ve been away from your place too long. It’s not safe out here,” the agent said, putting a hand on Aiden’s arm.
“Look, Agent Matthews, I need to walk Dante. Just two more blocks and we’ll go back.”
“Then let’s go this way,” Matthews suggested, turning him down a side street. He hadn’t corrected the name, so Aiden’s guess was right. But the tightening grip on his arm and the direction he tried to force him set his alarm bells off.
He’s trying to keep me from Flynn’s place. What the hell?
“I don’t see what difference it makes,” Aiden argued, trying to turn back. The grip on his arm only tightened.
Okay, not going to work.
He went along with it and walked down the street, getting only further from his destination. Dante gave a sharp tug on his leash, scenting something in the air, and in that moment, he had a burst of inspiration. He dropped the leash, letting Dante run. “Dante, come back!” He took off after him, and sure enough, Matthews ran after them.
Aiden had no idea where Dante would run to, but he knew the dog would make it home. He was smart enough, and even if he didn’t, he wouldn’t leave him behind. Putting on a burst of speed and letting his legs stretch out, he settled into a full out sprint and dashed down a narrow alley.
Behind him, Matthews cursed and his footsteps faded. Aiden didn’t stop running until he reached Flynn’s apartment building. There was no sign of the agent or his dog, and he hoped the latter would be okay.
Now that he was in front of the building, though, he realized he had a problem. Before he’d had to ring up to Flynn’s apartment. The doors were locked and had to be opened by a key or someone from inside. He didn’t know a damn thing about picking locks, unlike Flynn, and he doubted he could just buzz someone else and demand entry, either.
“Shit, I didn’t think of this.” Feeling foolish, he put his hand on the door handle and tugged. He expected it to be solidly locked, and fell back when the door moved suddenly. Aiden froze with the door wide open before him.
That’s so strange…. This door should be locked.
Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Aiden headed inside and up to the apartment that Flynn said was his. Even though the front door had been unlocked, he still – perhaps naively – expected this apartment to be bolted. But he was wrong again. As he put his hand on the knob, it opened with the least bit of force.
Someone has been here. Who?
Vale was dead. Flynn? Could Flynn really have been released from the hospital of his own will and have come here? But if he had, why hadn’t he called him?
Leaving the door open to ensure a quick flight if necessary, Aiden cautiously crept into the room. It was sparsely furnished. Flynn had mentioned that, but he hadn’t realized how little there actually would be.
The room was dark and eerily silent. He expected at least some noise from other tenants, but there was nothing. “It’s after one in the morning, Aiden. Probably two. Of course no one’s awake,” he said softly to himself to break the silence. Nervous energy filled his body as he snuck around what barely passed as a living room. He was not cut out for this kind of work.
A book left laying on a low table caught his eye and he picked it up. It had a bookmark in it peeking out slightly at the top. A photo of a woman and a man. Flynn’s parents. Who else could they be? Carefully putting the photo back into the book, he shut it and tucked it under his arm.
Remembrance of Things Past
would go with him, then. At least he could give that to Flynn when he next saw him.
One quick search of the apartment produced very little Flynn would probably want to take. Aiden found a dufflebag and packed it with some clothes and set the book on top. It wasn’t much, but then, Flynn didn’t have a lot to begin with. Shouldering the bag, Aiden checked the apartment one last time, searching for something Flynn may have kept hidden. Finding nothing, he reluctantly shut the door behind him.
“Find what you were looking for?”
Aiden jumped and turned to look at Matthews, leaning calmly against the wall by the door. He clutched the straps of the bag tighter and nodded. “Flynn needed his things. I figured no one else would think about it.”
“It wasn’t safe for you to come here.”
“Well, I did and I’m still alive, aren’t I?”
Matthews grunted again and turned Aiden, pointing him to the stairs. “We need to get back. It’s not safe to be here.”
Aiden didn’t resist and quickly made his way back to the entrance. He was well aware of Matthews behind him and wondered vaguely if he was carrying a gun. He hadn’t seen one, but he probably was. “Did Dante give you the slip?”
“Your damn mutt took off. I have no idea where he went.”
“Probably home. He’s a smart dog.”
“Well, I guess we’ll find out once we get there, won’t we?” Matthews grinned. “Thankfully at least one of you is smart.”
Aiden didn’t like the way he looked, but he fell into step next to him. Minutes later they arrived and sure enough, Dante sat whimpering at the front door. He let out a yip of excitement when he saw Aiden and rushed him.
“Easy boy. Let’s get to bed,” he said, pushing the dog down and letting himself in. Matthews took up a position just inside the door before Aiden locked it.
Soon after Dante was settled on his cushion in the kitchen, Aiden made his way upstairs and got ready for a few short hours of sleep. Before he climbed into bed, he pulled out a shirt from Flynn’s bag. It smelled just like him.
Time & Place: Who knows?
Flynn wondered if now he was finally going to discover what the fuck was going on.
Waking up to discover you were in a hospital in some other part of the world was bad enough, and to find out your boyfriend somehow authorized this was slightly worse. He wished he could talk to Aiden (okay, not so much talk as chew him a new one), but he’d been relatively isolated since coming to. He hadn’t been in a coma long enough to be really weak, so he made a big stink, escaped from their restraints, and was basically just a hell of a patient until finally he was granted an audience with … someone. Someone who was supposed to explain some things to him. Her name was Ms. Pierce.
He wasn’t going to wear a stupid paper gown, but they had no clothes for him beyond shapeless, drab coveralls in dishwater gray. They looked like the kind of clothes a prisoner on work detail might be assigned if they were out of shocking orange, and Flynn wondered if that was a clue to what was really going on. This was some kind of prison set up, wasn’t it? Maybe he should just be glad he didn’t end up in Russian mafia hands, but somehow he wasn’t.
He was escorted by beefy armed guards through the hospital, and out some kind of secret passage to a waiting windowless van. Yep, felt like a prison transfer, only he wasn’t cuffed.
The two men, built like the unfortunate offspring between the Hulk and some industrial freezers, refused to say a word to him when he asked where they were going. So he decided to try their patience. He prattled the whole trip, mainly regaling them with tales of this muscle queen he knew in San Fransisco who had a shoe fetish and a brief day job at the Foot Locker, until the inevitable happened. He knew he was pissing them off, but sadly, before he broke them, they arrived at their destination.
He was escorted straight into a bland, empty lobby, and beyond it into what appeared to be a modified conference room. There was a long table, and at the end of it was seated a middle aged woman with Clariol blonde hair done up in a severe bun, the harshly angular features of her face making it look like she was a particularly cruel Greek goddess carved out of marble. Her eyes were such a pale, watery blue they were more of a suggestion than an actual color. From what he could tell, she was wearing some kind of brown “power suit”.