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Contemporary Mystery Suspense

The faint sound of footsteps shuffled through the brush as an undercover SWAT team approached the abandoned mortuary. An orange sky signaled the impending sunset and arrival of twilight across the Scottish landscape.

Clad in black tactical gear, they moved with calculated precision, their movements silent and synchronized. Each member was a seasoned professional, honed by years of training and experience.

The leader signaled for a halt as they neared the mansion converted into a mortuary. With a hand gesture and silent communication, they coordinated their next move. Slowly, they spread out, taking cover behind overgrown bushes and crumbling stone walls to ensure that there was no path of escape for the kidnappers. 

A black Mercedes 750 sat in the thick brush behind the building. Cupping his hands to peer through a small window in the back, he spotted Noah on the floor. Stepping away and tapping the mic on his shoulder, he reported their status: “Team on site, target located.” The dispatcher knew not to respond; it was safer to have one-way communication.

Noah batted his eyes inside as the twilight from the window barely illuminated the tiny storage room. Nightfall was imminent.

There remained just sufficient light to see where he was, but he didn’t remember how or why he was there. The musky smell of chemicals and damp concrete filled his nose. His head pounded from whatever they had used to knock him out. Glancing down, he realized he was naked, lying on the cold floor. He had a hazy memory of being stripped and tossed into the storage room, but that was all. 

Boxes and metal containers were spread throughout the small space, stacked against the walls, creating a cavern of junk. A light showed from the crack under the door. Noah could hear faint voices on the other side. They seemed to be arguing about something. Just then, a memory of being at The Hanging Bat pub flashed across his mind. He didn’t let the thought distract him. His survival instinct kicked in, and he had to concentrate on escaping.

His captors had made the mistake of binding his hands in front, giving him some mobility, but his feet were bound at his ankles. The tight zip-tie cut into his flesh. He rolled onto all fours.

Given that he was of medium frame, he could balance himself. His brown locks draped over his hazel eyes. Cutting them sharply he looked up at the window just as a shadowy figure moved away. He fell back onto his side when he tried to put weight on his feet. The drug had stolen his mobility as much as the physical restraints.

Trying again, determined not to make noise, he stood upright and supported himself with his hands on a crate as fog blurred his vision. He felt dizzy for a moment but managed to stay steady. “If anyone thinks they can get the best of me, they’re wrong.” He whispered, keeping his fear in check.

Then he spotted it. A tatter, but what appeared to be a well-equipped toolbox, was open in the corner. Balancing and moving slowly from one object to another, he paused at each to listen. Then, inch by inch, he managed to scoot his feet enough to maneuver over to the box. In the top tray suspended by the lid were screwdrivers, wrenches, and pliers. 

Putting his back to the wall, he slowly slid down, the peeling, cracking paint scraping his skin. He gingerly came to rest on his bottom alongside the toolbox. Then he saw a box cutter inside, hidden under the tray. He grabbed it, scraping his knuckles on the edge; he held it up before his face and whispered, “God, thank you.”

He pulled his knees close to his chest and used the cutter to free his ankles. Mircraculesly, he could feel the circulation returning to his feet. He put the cutter between his front teeth, held up his hands, and began sawing at the bindings on his wrists. His jaw clenched, holding it tight in his mouth. Soon, his hands broke free. He rubbed his wrists and pulled himself up. Putting his ear against the door, he listened to bits and pieces of the barely audible conversation on the other side.

“What do you mean? That isn’t him,” one of the voices said, tinged with disbelief.

“Yeah, I don’t think he’s our target,” a voice answered, laced with concern.

Panic seemed to be setting in as Noah heard them rustling through something. He suspected they were frantically searching through his pockets, hoping to find a clue about who he was. All went silent for a moment. “Look at this this ID. It says his name is Noah Kasprak, born in 1996. He lives in Hawkins, Indiana. He’s from the States, alright. I’ll give you that.”

The other voice said, “How did we screw this up?” 

“What do you mean, WE screwed it up? You were to identify the mark. I was only there to assist. Let’s not start the blame game, McGregor.”

“Is he still out? I don’t want him to overhear us talking about him. I should check on him.” McGregor said.

“No. I checked on him a little while ago. He’s curled up like a naked baby on the floor. Still out cold.” The other voice said.

“Should we cut him loose and get out of here? They’re bound to be looking for him by now,” McGregor murmured.

Hearing the name McGregor, the fog started to clear, and Noah remembered meeting Logan McGregor that afternoon while waiting for his girlfriend at The Hanging Bat pub in Edinburg. Noah and his girlfriend, Karen, were staying at the Castle Rock Hostel and had stepped out for a few pints when she remembered she’d left her phone and returned to get it. 

The hostel was about ten minutes away, so Noah had ordered a lager while he waited. When the barkeep returned with his brew, he had two and sat one next to Noah’s. Noah was startled to see a man in his mid-thirties with sandy red hair and a bright smile had joined him. Noah smiled and said, “Excuse me. That seat’s taken.”

“I know, I’m in it,” the man said with a smirk. He stared ahead. 

“No, I mean, my girlfriend is sitting there.” 

The man turned to Noah with a sinister grin. “If she is, she must be as tough as this wooden stool. Because I’m not feeling her, mate.” Then, he turned back to stare ahead, taking a sip from his brew.

Noah picked up his pint and started to move when the stranger grabbed his arm. “You’re American, right?”

“Yeah.” He shook his arm free. “So what?”

“Your name is Noah, right?”

“Yes,” Noah answered, puzzled as to how this stranger knew his name. “What’s your name?”

The man extended his hand, “Logan McGregor—a pleasure to meet you, mate.” Noah stood silent, glanced at the man’s hand, and then into his eyes. McGregor patted the stool where Noah had been sitting. “Noah, please sit back down. Let’s talk a bit and get to know each other. What do you say?” 

“What if I would rather not get to know you?” Noah said, sitting back down. He took a long chug of his brew, and McGregor motioned to the barkeep to bring them two more of the same.

“Tell me, Noah, are you into American television?” 

“What kind of question is that?” Noah said, putting down his pint and turning to glare at McGregor.

“Sorry mate, I should’ve asked if you watch Netflix. But, I’ve said stranger things before,” McGregor said, winking at Noah. The barkeep brought two more pints and sat them down.

Noah finished the beer he’d started and handed the barkeep his empty glass. He turned to glance momentarily at the door to see if his girlfriend might return. When Noah looked away, McGregor emptied a small packet into his beer. “Look, I’m not into whatever you’re looking for,” Noah said.

“Of course not. A big star like you can do whatever you want whenever you want, right? Should I have called you, Will?” 

“That is about the worst pickup line I’ve ever heard. I’m not who you think I am,” Noah said, his brow bunched. He fished out his phone from his pocket and dialed his girlfriend. 

“Hi, Noah, I’m almost there. What’s up?” Karen said.

“I’ll come to meet you. A jerk at the bar is making a pass at me.”

McGregor turned and said, “Hey mate, don’t flatter yourself. I’m not making a pass, but I want to talk to you. I’m a fan.”

“You have me confused with a famous Noah. I’ve been mistaken for Will Byers from the Netflix series Stranger Things before. The actor and I share the same first name.” He chugged the pint and slammed the glass down. Stepping off the stool, he said, “Thanks for the beer.”

McGregor lifted his shirt to show Noah he had a gun. “I know who you are and that you’re staying at the Double Tree just down the street. Please sit back down.”

Noah tried to respond, but his throat tightened, and the room spun. Just as he was about to fall, a burly man with a scar across his cheek caught him. McGregor slapped a twenty-pound note on the bar. “Looks like our mate here has had a little too much. We’re going to go get some fresh air.”

The burly man grabbed Noah’s chin and turned it to face him, “That’s him, alright.”

Once outside, they crammed him into the back seat of a Mercedes 750 and jumped into the front. McGregor in the driver’s seat. The vehicle roared to life and sped away from the curb. Noah’s girlfriend stood not far away on the sidewalk, watching what happened. She dashed into the pub, glancing around; she ran to where they’d been sitting and shouted at the barkeep. “Call the authorities. My boyfriend’s has just been abducted.”

He smiled at the twenty-something blue-eyed blond with a panic-stricken face and said, “If that was your boyfriend, maybe they took him to the Upside Down.” He chuckled, wiped the bar, and took the empty glasses away, ignoring her. She dialed 999 and waited. Rubbing her brow, she whispered, “Not again.”

Fast-forward to the abandoned mortuary, “We need to get out of here,” the burly kidnapper said, his voice urgent. “Before anyone realizes what we’ve done. How could you be so stupid.”

“You’re calling me stupid? I followed them from in front of the Double Tree to the pub. I thought for sure it was him. You did, too. I thought he was lying about being a lookalike.” 

With a swift and decisive motion, the SWAT team breached the front doors, sending them crashing to the floor in a shower of splinters. They stormed into the abandoned building with weapons raised, demanding surrender.

In a dimly lit room at the back of the mortuary, the two kidnappers stood frozen in shock as the intruders closed in on them. Their captive, Noah, stood naked with his back to the locked storage room door. His eyes were wide with fear and relief at the sound of his rescuers drawing near.

With calculated movements, they disarmed and subdued the kidnappers, their training and expertise shining through as they swiftly brought the situation under control. The burly kidnapper said, “What kind of scheme have you gotten us into.” The officer jerked his arms behind him and handcuffed him.

“Come along. You two are done here,” one officer said as two others escorted McGregor outside and into one of two vans, now waiting in front of the mortuary. 

Noah pounded on the door, “I’m in a storage room. I’m locked in. Please let me out.” He twisted the knob and paused to listen. He could hear nothing, and no one came to the door. He continued to beat the door with his fist. “Hey, it’s Noah, I’m in here. Please.” He looked about. The room was lighted by the moonlight, casting an ominous blue glow. 

Slowly turning around, he could see beyond the cavern of junk stacked around him. The floor was littered with tokens and discarded game tickets. Suddenly, he was blinded by flashing neon lights and the sound of arcade machines. The walls beyond what Noah thought was a small storage room were covered with posters of nostalgic video games. He dropped his head, rubbed his brow, and said, “No, not this place again.”

Barefoot, he slowly stepped around the barricade of junk where he’d been lying on the floor. Rows of arcade cabinets lined the walls. Invisible players played Donkey Kong and Pac-Man. The air was filled with electronic beeps and bloops, punctuated by an occasional faceless cheer or groan. 

Noah stood naked, slowly turning to take it all in. He realized he was inside an arcade. “God, this can’t be happening again,” he said in a panicky voice. The fluorescent lights overhead cast a warm glow inside the cavernous space. He was naked and alone in an artificial world. As he slowly strolled through the games, brushing them with his fingers, he glanced right and left. Then, surprisingly, he spotted his clothes neatly folded on one of the cabinets.

“Noah, where are you?” He heard his girlfriend’s voice echo through a speaker mounted on the wall. “We’re waiting for you. Please come outside.”

He paused and slipped on his socks, boxers, and jeans as he moved closer to the door. He dropped his shoes and stepped in, one after the other. Lastly, he put on his flannel shirt and buttoned it as he stood before the glass door. He put his scraped knuckles to his lips, soothing the burn, stared outside, and said, “Karen, is it you? Are you here?” 

“Yes, Noah, we’re all here waiting for you. Come out.” His girlfriend’s voice echoed from the speaker. 

“Where are we?” His tone cracked for fear of the answer.

“Hawkins, we’re in Hawkins, Indiana. Noah, we’re home. You’re safe now. Please come out.”

He peered through the window at a white van parked in an empty lot. The atmosphere was cast in a subtle blue glow. A vibrant rainbow of color reflected off wet asphalt from a freestanding sign near the street. The flickering neon on it read, “Palace Arcade.” 

The van’s headlights flashed. “Please come out, Noah. We’re waiting to take you home,” the voice echoed.

May 13, 2024 18:38

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3 comments

00:22 May 24, 2024

Hi Chandler. I see this story in twice! How on earth did this happen? Same person has commented on both so it seems to be a glitch. Have read because I am intrigued. LOL A very gripping story. Why on earth did those guys want him, whoever they thought he was, in the first place? He's likely to have PTS after this strange abduction. How did his girlfriend know to find him there? One point: The room was lighted by the moonlight, casting an ominous blue glow. What about - The moonlight lit up the room in an ominous blue glow.? Changes the sen...

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Chandler Wilson
15:52 May 25, 2024

Thanks Kaitlyn for taking the time to read and comment on my story. You make some very good points in your comments. I very much appreciate your feedback.

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Tommy Goround
19:00 May 22, 2024

Clap'n

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