Aiden Parker, Agent Matthews with mention of Flynn Archer
After midnight, Sunday 23nd January, Aiden Parker’s home
So much had happened in the last few hours, it was little wonder Aiden couldn’t sleep. After nearly an hour of pacing nervously after he’d gotten home with Dante, Aiden started packing, but his mind was elsewhere.
Where the hell is Flynn?
They had to have taken him. That woman, what was her name? Pierce? He didn’t like her, and he wouldn’t trust her. After what she had said about Flynn being nothing, how could he? How could anyone find any life insignificant?
And what about the others in the group? Apart from the gruff Doctor’s brief offer to call the hospital in order to confirm Flynn’s disappearance, none of the others seemed to give a shit. But Flynn had saved his life! If he hadn’t shown up when he did… who knew what Vale would have done to him. He had no doubt he would have died, but what would he have died from? A shift of a broken rib, puncturing a lung? Bleeding to death? At the memory, he reached up, wincing as the bandage squeezed his chest, and touched the scar on his face. Maybe it would fade with time, along with the pain, but the memories wouldn’t.
Dante whined at his feet, and Aiden stood uneasily. “You need to go out, boy? Come on.” The distance from his seat to the back door wasn’t far, but he had difficulty getting there with Dante trying to weave between his feet like a large cat. He managed to get him outside and switched the yard lights on, so he could stay inside but still keep an eye on his dog as it circled the yard, looking for a spot.
Aiden sipped at the warming beer and made a face. He didn’t want to leave this place. This was his home now. After he’d left Peter, he had come here to start his life over, and he had found acceptance here. The job was great, the scenery was amazing. And this house… it must have been built with him in mind. It was everything he’d wanted and had everything he needed. All of the built in bookcases…
I really don’t want to leave, but what happens if I don’t? What happens to Flynn if I stay and he goes? Will that woman even keep her word? The thought that Pierce had lied and they were really going to abandon Flynn and leave him at the mercy of the mafia made the beer in Aiden’s stomach curdle like sour milk. He felt sick.
Dante barked from outside the door and Aiden was pulled from his reverie. He let his dog in and locked up as the growing pup found his bed and settled down. “I hope you’re ready for a new adventure, Dante.”
Setting the now empty bottle in the sink next to another, Aiden walked back into the living room. Sitting on the table was the box of books he had picked out from his collection that he simply could not leave behind. He pulled them out one at a time and looked at them again.
A leather bound Divine Comedy was one of his favorites. It was a more modern edition, but the feel of it in his hands was comfortable and soothing. His grandparents had given it to him when he graduated college.
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. He set 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.