Mystery Man (PART 1)

Submitted into Contest #102 in response to: Write about a mysterious figure in one’s neighborhood.... view prompt

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Middle School Mystery

He was tall with a strong build. He wore a black hat low on his face so that only his rough lips were seen. He had driven into Sunnyside in a black SUV, dressed in a black suit with a bright red tie. He went by Mr. Black and nobody knew his first name except Mayor Sullivan, and he wasn't telling.

Sunnyside was quite in a riff about this mysterious man.

Nobody knew he was, nobody knew where he lived, nobody knew what he did, nobody knew why he had come- but everybody wanted to. There's a reason they call me Curious Cara - I can't just sit and wonder. I'm curious, and I'm proud of it. If I want to know something, I end up getting it. Not to sound like a villain or anything.

So maybe that explains why I was sitting at the bus stop at four fifteen on a Friday afternoon. I'd got information from Mrs. Albernich, the school gossip, that he was coming to the bus stop at four. And there I was. I had to be at home by five, which was forty-five minutes away. That was all the time I needed.

Four Twenty. The bus would be here any minute. Where was he?

Four Twenty Five. Where was the bus, for that matter?

Four Thirty. Why was everyone late today?

Four Thirty-Two. The town bus roared to a stop. I picked up my green backpack, unsure. I had planned to go to the library to work on my book report. But I did have the whole weekend, and it wasn't like it would take me a week to write it. The book report could wait.

Making up my mind, I sat back down.

Four Forty. I am an idiot for believing Mrs. Alberich. She and her silly rumors. What a gossip.

Four Fifty. If I didn't get moving now, I'd be late. And Dad was strict about the before-five rule. I had just gathered my things and was about to turn around when a car passed the Sunnyside sign at an incredible speed (fast enough to get a speeding ticket). I gasped when I saw Mr. Black behind the wheel.

Was he leaving Sunnyside? Where was he going?

I sighed. I had wasted a whole afternoon. I began my walk home, down the sidewalks. It was spring in Sunnyside, and that meant a lot of planting activities. All the kids got to grow their own plants, and in the fall, we were given the chance to cook our own food from the plants and enter them into the contest. I had participated in the Harvest Festival last year and got third-place (Certificate, $250 cash, and tickets to a local concert) for my carrot cake. I was determined to win first place this year and win an iPad. Though a bicycle (second place) sounded good - it really beat walking - I would try for first. The Spring Fling was also coming up - lots to look toward. I finally reached my house, a two-story white with a gray roof.

I dropped my backpack by the door, kicked my shoes off, and plopped onto the couch. "I'm home, Dad, just getting myself a snack," I hollered, taking a pretzel from the bowl on the table.

Dad came down the stairs.

With Mr. Black behind him.

I dropped my pretzel. "What's he-" I began but shut up at the grim look on Dad's face. "Mr. Black here tells me you were at Gangley's Market," he said. "What were you doing there?"

I choked. "Gangley's Market?" I asked. "What would I be doing there?" Dad folded his arms. "That's what I asked you, young lady."

Keeping my voice even, I turned towards Mr. Black, who had a smug look on his face. "You must have seen someone else," I said. "Most of us look alike."

"Yes," he said. "But not all children wear white sneakers, a green backpack, and white flap pocket side self belted cuffed Bermuda shorts. That too, with a green tank top."

I just stared. "Are you ridiculing my fashion sense?" I asked.

He smirked. "Of course not. Mr. Lewis, I'll be leaving. It was nice meeting you, Cara." He tipped his hat a little and walked out the door. "How does he know my name?" I asked. "And isn't it creepy that he looked at me like that? Dad, how come you were quiet? Do you think he could describe my clothes like that from a glance? He was spying on me!"

Dad looked at me sternly. " So you were at Gangley's?"

"I wasn't there!" I cried. "Why would I? I was at the bus stop."

Dad's lips made a thin line. "You better had been," he said and walked into his study. I picked up my bag and went up the stairs to my room. I grabbed my phone from the drawer and texted Mia, my best friend. Mr. B came to my house. Talked to Dad. Said he saw me at Gangley's. And minutes before, I saw him go out of Sunnyside. Dad's acting weird, and he knows my name. EMERGENCY!

I copied the message and sent it to Xavier, my other best friend.

He replied We'll meet tmr at the library. 10 30. Let's spy on him for a change. Mia took a while to respond. She texted, I dunno, probably adult stuff. Have you done your book report yet?

No, I typed back. Meet me at the library at 10 30 tmr.

Later that day, around seven, I was doing my maths homework at the dinner table, trying to find the LCM of various numbers when someone knocked on the door. I put down my pen and went to open it, only to find no one there. However, a note had been stuck to the door: Mr. Lewis, why don't you send Cara to my house tomorrow at ten? My nephews are coming over. - Mr. Black

I raised an eyebrow. I didn't trust this Mr. Black.

I heard Dad's footsteps coming down the stairs, so I crumbled the paper into a ball and tossed it into the garbage can. Closing the door, I sat at the table just as Dad came into the kitchen. "Honey," he said, "Mr. Black wants you to come over tomorrow. He has nephews your age."

I panicked. "How do you know?"

Dad raised an eyebrow. "What?"

"I mean, I didn't hear you talking on the phone."

He smiled. "He emailed me."

Wait, he has Dad's email too? Oh god, this is getting out of control.

"Dad," I said. "You asked me if I was at Gangley's."

Dad folded his arms. "Is this a confession?"

"No," I snapped. "I mean, no, Dad, but why was Mr. Black at Gangley's anyway?"

Dad sighed. "I believe I asked him to watch after you," he said. "I can't act as both your father and mother..." He didn't finish the sentence. I sighed and hugged him. "I promise I won't go there again," I said, even though I hadn't. Mom had died when I was four, and I knew it upset Dad a lot. "And I'm sorry, Dad, but Mia, Xavier, and I are going to the library for our book report tomorrow," I said.

Dad's forehead wrinkled. "Fine, then," he said. "I'll tell Mr. Black you're busy." He sighed. "Promise me you won't go near Gangley's?"

"Promise," I said.

Gangley's Market was a shop in one of the side alleys in town. It sold stuff like beer and drugs, but the police hadn't been able to find any evidence. Gangley, the owner, was believed to take part in the black market. I had never been there and never hoped to be. I wondered why Mr. Black had lied to Dad about it - of course, Dad knew that I'd never go there. And why had he lied in the first place?

The next morning, I woke up early and got dressed. (This time, I decided not to match and not to wear my favorite colors green and white.) I hoped my pink skirt, white T-shirt, and black hoodie would disguise me enough. I had fit my books and stationery case into an old black bag that used to belong to Mom. The library was half an hour away from my house on the bus and even longer if I walked. I bought a croissant from a nearby bakery and sat on the bus stop bench, swinging my legs. My phone and charger were secure in my bag - the library had great wi-fi and built-in power sockets.

At nine forty-five, I boarded the town bus and got down at the library by ten-fifteen. I was climbing up the library steps when a black sedan sped through the roads. I turned around and managed to see Mr. Black in the shotgun, like yesterday.

I sighed. There was no use chasing him now. At the speed he was going, I would have to turn into Supergirl to catch up.

Since I had extra time, I browsed through the children's section and checked out The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. I hadn't read it before, but heard of it many times and was excited to finally get my hands on the book. I put the book in my bag (which was bursting at the seams by now) and walked down the stairs. To my surprise, it was already ten thirty-four. I found Mia and Xavier in the Research Room. They were crowded around the computer. "Oh, high, guys," I said. "Sorry I was late. I was just looking through books. What book are you doing for the report?"

"Cara..." Mia's voice was small.

"We found his photo on the internet," Xavier said, pointing to a webpage. It was an article from a blog. I looked at the photo of a man with a hat bent low over his pale face. "That's him," I said.

"Read it," Mia croaked. I leaned in and glanced at the words: Mr. Phil Jones leaves Experimentica in disgrace after proposing Operation Double.

"What's that?" I asked.

Xavier scrolled down the page in silence.

When I read the last few sentences, my heart jumped into my throat: Operation Double is an experiment to clone children. The company supervisors refused the idea, leading him into getting fired. His remark to the chairman has been caught on video.

Everything was falling into place in my head, like a jig-saw puzzle. There was only one part missing...

Xavier opened a video. It showed Phil Jones, aka Mr. Black standing before a middle-aged man. The man was sitting on a chair behind the words CHAIRMAN'S OFFICE. Mr. Black yelled, "Fine! If you won't agree, I'll do it on my own!"

"That's impossible," the chairman said. "You have to test it on yourself first -"

"I will," Mr. Black growled. "Just you wait."

Click. Everything made sense now.

Wait. If it did -

"What smart children you are," a cold, hollow voice said. We turned away from the screen, shivering in the hot, puffy room to see Mr. Black looking at us. He had pale skin and a long slimy nose that he poked into our scared faces. "But I'm afraid I'm smarter than you." Come silently and I'll spare you the pain," he hissed to Mia who had begun to open her mouth. "Why should we?" I asked.

Xavier gave me a look that said, Do you have to be sassy even in moments like this?

Mr. Black laughed. "My doubles are at each of your houses right now. If I give them the green flag, they can kill your family. Choke your Mom, poison your sibling, stab your Dad..." He trailed off, smiling smugly at our bewildered expressions. "And if you somehow try to contact them and tell them about this, I've already spread rumors about what you've been doing - or, what I say you're doing. They've lost their trust in you. The game's over."

Fuming, we stood up. He put a hand on our shoulders and led us out of the library. "My nephews and nieces," he said to the librarian behind the counter. We were pushed into the car. "I'm going to kidnap you," he said as he drove. I was surprised at how slow he went. "So when I stop at your houses, get all your clothes and stuff. Books. Toys. It should look like you ran away. If you blab -" he made a throat-cutting motion with his hand. We stopped at Xiaver's and Mia's house, and they silently obeyed.

I entered my house. I could hear Dad and Mr. Black Double talking in the study. Quietly, I tip-toed into my room, gathered my clothes and toothbrush. I took my phone out of my purse, put it on airplane mode and silent mode, and put it back. I zipped up my black hoodie, packed my backpack (clothes, book, family photo), and ran back down to the car. I got in, and Mr. Black blindfolded us. We were quiet as mice - no, dead mice. My thoughts ran over my head like water down a waterfall. I don't remember how long the journey was - possibly thirty, forty minutes. But that's no judge of location - Mr. Black was one fast driver. I almost had the urge to throw up more than thrice, but I stayed silent out of fear.

The car moved onto a country road - we were well out of the city.

Finally, the sedan came to a stop, and Mr. Black took off my blindfold. He took of Mia's and Xavier's, and we gazed up at a three-story black dungeon-like building. There was nobody for miles. He unlocked the door and shoved us inside. We walked down the long dark hallway. Mr. Black turned on the lights and closed us up in a large section of the building that was split into three rooms. He spoke to us behind the bar door. "Happy Locked-Up Life," he grinned devilishly as he walked away, leaving us in the middle of nowhere.

I looked at my friends, who looked back at me, just as helpless. "What do we do?" I mouthed, my voice dry. Wait, why wasn't I speaking? "What do we do?" I said again.

Mia shook, but she took her small hand in mine. "We'll find out something," she whispered. "We have to," said Xavier.

- Ivy Sage Penget

July 16, 2021 08:37

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1 comment

Ivy Sage Penget
08:47 Jul 16, 2021

Hi, hope you liked my story. Criticism is accepted and your suggestions would be valuable. Was it too long? Sorry, I tend to do that. Like think, this is only going to be a hundred words long, and end up writing almost 3 thousand. :) Read my other stories, and if you enjoyed them, please give me a like. And please leave a comment. Thanks, Ivy Sage Penget


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