Characters: Dee, Ryo, Mother Maria Lane, OCs
Word Count: 3435
Summary: A little girl has mysteriously gone missing from Mother Lane’s orphanage. The police are already on the case, but nothing is going to stop Dee doing whatever he can to help.
Written For: spook_me 2020, using FAKE, Evil Toys, and this pic.
Disclaimer: I don’t own FAKE, or the characters. They belong to the wonderful Sanami Matoh.
A/N: Set after Like Like Love.
The whole bizarre sequence of events began one morning in October with a frantic phone call from Mother, saying one of the kids in her charge had inexplicably vanished sometime during the night. She’d already contacted the commander of the local police precinct, who’d sent out detectives to question Mother’s assistants and the other children, as well as uniformed officers to conduct a search for the missing child, but Dee was family and Mother trusted him more than anyone. She wanted him there, not just for her sake but for her other charges, all of whom looked up to their ‘big brother’.
Dee couldn’t officially be part of the investigation, there was a possibility that it might constitute a conflict of interest, but wild horses weren’t going to keep him from Mother’s side, not when she was so distressed, so he and Ryo decided to take a few personal days to help out in whatever way they could.
The lead detective on the case, Bernie Cavallo of the 22nd Precinct, wasn’t particularly happy about having other detectives getting in the way of his investigation, but there was little he could do about it since Mother Lane wanted them there. Cavallo had been raised a Catholic; he could hardly go against the wishes of a nun, especially a Mother Superior, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t make his displeasure known.
“Let’s just be clear about one thing; this isn’t your investigation. You can help the lady who runs this place, but you stay outta my way. You got that?”
Dee bristled. “There’s a little kid missin’ and you’re gettin’ territorial? I don’t care whether ya want our help or not; you’re gettin’ it anyway. These kids, they’re family, they know me, and they’ll tell me things they’d never tell you, because they don’t trust you. They’ve got no reason to; you’re a stranger. All any of us want is to find the kid. Like it or not you need all the help you can get.”
Cavallo threw his hands in the air. “Fine; talk to the kids, guess I can’t stop ya, but ya don’t do it alone.”
“I’ll go with him,” Ryo volunteered. “That’ll leave you and your partner free to concentrate on the adults and follow any leads you turn up.”
That wasn’t what Cavallo had been angling for, but on the other hand he knew both detectives by reputation; they were known to be as honest as they came. He huffed out a breath. “Fine, but ya come to me with anything you find out; no followin’ leads on yer own. This is still my case. If this turns out to be an abduction or a homicide instead of a simple runaway, I’ll be the one makes the bust.”
“That’s fine with us,” Dee said stiffly. “Less paperwork that way.” With that he stalked off, heading for the dorm rooms where the younger children slept, Ryo almost having to jog to keep up with his taller partner’s long strides.
“Antagonising him isn’t going to help, Dee.”
“Tell Cavallo that. He’s the one wants to look good by solvin’ this case all by himself. Probably buckin’ for promotion. I just wanna find Miss Pigtails.”
The missing child, a four-year-old girl named Emily Sanders, had been at the orphanage for a year and a half, placed in Mother’s care after her parents were arrested while committing an armed robbery during which the storeowner was killed and several customers injured. They’d been convicted on multiple charges and would remain behind bars for quite some time, so it was unlikely they’d had anything to do with the disappearance, and since neither one had any family to speak of, that effectively ruled out another line of enquiry.
Mother had never lost a child before, not like this. There’d been a mother back in the summer who’d tried to snatch her little boy back after he’d been taken from her because of her drug habit, but that had been in broad daylight, and she’d been high as a kite at the time, ranting and raving. Her kid had run indoors and taken refuge behind Mother’s skirts while one of the Sisters had called the police to deal with the woman. As far as Dee knew, she was still in rehab, so that ruled out another potential suspect. Besides, if it had been her she would have gone after her son, not one of the girls.
Kidnapping was still a possibility though, for various unscrupulous and unsavoury reasons. Dee just didn’t like to think that someone could simply walk into Mother’s orphanage in the middle of the night and take a child right out of their bed. He’d installed the orphanage’s security system himself; only he, Mother, and the two Sisters who were her assistants had the pass code. For anyone to bypass it, break in, and make their way through the day rooms and up the stairs to the dormitories… There would have been some kind of evidence left behind, surely. At the very least, he would have expected one or more of the children to wake up and scream. Unless of course, the intruder was someone they knew and trusted, and Dee didn’t want to think that any of the live-in staff or day help would have anything to do with abducting a child. Most of them were nuns, for crying out loud!
Talking to Mother, she confirmed that little Emily had been tucked up in bed asleep when she’d checked on the children at ten o’clock the previous night before going to bed herself. When she’d gotten up at six she’d found only four little girls in the dormitory where there should have been five, and a search of the whole orphanage from attics to basement had failed to give any clue as to the missing child’s whereabouts.
It was ludicrous to think that Emily might have run away; she was a shy, quiet child, probably due to her parents’ neglect, and she found the outside world scary, too loud and busy and confusing. It was possible she was mildly autistic but that had yet to be confirmed. Nevertheless, the idea of her somehow sneaking out of the orphanage in the middle of the night, in only her nightclothes, and without setting off the alarms, was implausible at best.
Dee and Ryo talked to all the other kids, the girls who shared the dorm with Emily, the four boys in the dorm across the hall, and the nine older kids, five boys and four girls, most of whom shared double rooms. They all claimed they hadn’t heard or seen anything, and as far as Dee could tell, they weren’t lying. They seemed more bewildered than anything; the orphanage was a safe place where they were looked after and loved. For one of their number to go missing… Well, it just didn’t make sense.
After questioning the kids Dee searched the building and grounds himself, with Ryo’s help, but there was no sign of Emily, and as far as the two detectives could see, no visible clues as to what might have happened to her. It bothered Dee; more and more something didn’t feel right, but he couldn’t pin down exactly what it was, aside from the obvious. Cases involving kids always disturbed him.
When he and Ryo finally gave up for the night and headed home, they were still drawing a blank; neither they nor the official investigators on the case, Cavallo and his partner, Detective Theresa Burnett, were any closer to even coming up with the faintest hint of a potential lead. It was as though Emily had simply vanished into thin air.
And that night a second child vanished; five-year-old Josefina Sanchez, who slept in the bed next to Emily’s. Once again, she was there when Mother checked on the children before going to bed, and gone by the time she got up. As soon as Mother called them, Dee and Ryo went straight over, this time arriving before Cavallo and Burnett.
“I simply don’t understand!” Mother said, wringing her hands. “Losing one child was upsetting enough, but two… Who could be doing this?”
“It’s not your fault,” Dee said firmly. “I don’t know what’s goin’ on, but I’m gonna figure it out, no matter how long it takes, and that’s a promise. Kids don’t just vanish; they have to be somewhere.”
Mother managed a wan smile. “Thank you, Dee. You’re such a good boy. What would I do without you?”
“You’ll never haveta find out. Now, Ryo and I are gonna go have another talk with the kids. I can’t believe nobody knows anything.”
“They’re good children, Dee; if they did know anything I’m sure they’d have told you yesterday.”
“Not if they were too scared to. They might’ve been warned to keep quiet, threatened in some way,” Dee pointed out.
Ryo nodded. “Maybe there’s a way into this building that we don’t know about and all the kids are scared they’ll be taken next.”
“Besides, even if they really didn’t know anything last time we talked to them, one of ‘em might’ve heard or seen somethin’ last night.”
“You go ahead then. The girls are in the quiet room; they’re obviously shaken up, losing two of their friends so suddenly and unexpectedly.”
The quiet room was an area set aside for quiet play, where children could go to get away from the more boisterous activities of the other kids. When Dee and Ryo entered, they found the three little girls, Tammy, Julia, and Alice, huddled together in one corner of the room, looking so small and vulnerable it broke their hearts. All three were older than the two missing girls; Alice was nine, Julia seven, and little Tammy had just turned six the previous month. They seemed relieved to see Dee and Ryo.
Dee crouched down in front of them. “Hey, kiddos. How’re ya doin’?”
“We’re scared.” Alice looked up at Dee with big, brown eyes. “I don’t want to sleep in my bed tonight. I don’t wanna be taken.”
“Yeah, I can understand that, but I’m sure Mother will find somewhere else for you to sleep, somewhere you’ll be safe. You know why Ryo and me are here, right?”
Alice nodded. “You want to know if we saw or heard anything, but I didn’t know Josefina was gone until Mother woke us up this morning.”
“So none of you can tell us anything? You don’t remember anything odd, maybe a sound or a smell? The smallest thing could be a clue, even if it doesn’t seem important.”
“I had a bad dream.” Tammy’s grey eyes were wide and haunted.
“Yeah?” Dee sat down properly and pulled the little girl onto his lap. “You want to tell me what it was about?”
“Will you keep me safe if I do?”
“We’ll do our very best to.” Ryo knelt beside his partner.
“It was Mister Bear.”
“He’s new, he’s in our room. I dreamed he took Josie. A horrid arm came out of his tummy and it pulled Josie inside. She tried to scream but she couldn’t make a sound, couldn’t even move. She looked so scared and I wanted to help her but I couldn’t move either, and then I woke up and it was morning, and Josie was gone.”
“Don’t worry, sweetheart; we’ll make sure Mister Bear doesn’t get you, that’s a promise.” Dee hugged the little girl tightly then set he down and stood up. “Now, you kids stay right here; me and my partner need to have a word with Mother and then we’ll go talk to Mister Bear, see what he has to say for himself.”
Outside the quiet room, Ryo turned to Dee. “You’re not serious about questioning a stuffed bear are you? Tammy just had a nightmare; probably when she woke up to find Josefina had been taken she incorporated her missing friend into the dream. You know how kids are.” Josie and Tammy were best friends and practically inseparable.
“All I know is there’s somethin’ weird goin’ on here and this is the first thing remotely like a lead we’ve had.”
“Dee, stuffed toys don’t come to life and pull people inside them.”
“Believe what you want, but I’ve seen some weird shit so I’m not gonna discount the possibility without at least checkin’ it out. Some perfectly ordinary objects are just plain evil; I’ve read about ‘em. Possessed or somethin’.”
“You’re clutching at straws. You just don’t want to think that the kids have been abducted, maybe killed, possibly by someone who works here.”
“Damn straight I don’t wanna believe that. Do you?”
“No, of course not, but there has to be a more logical explanation than a carnivorous toy bear, doesn’t there?” Ryo demanded, exasperated.
“Tammy didn’t say the bear ate Josie, just that she was dragged inside it, maybe through some kind of portal into another dimension. And don’t give me that look, like ya think I’m crazy or somethin’!”
Ryo deflated; arguing wouldn’t get them anywhere. “Sorry, but as theories go, you have to admit it’s a bit out there.”
Dee didn’t want to fight either; he sighed heavily. “Yeah, I know, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong. Look, I know you don’t believe in the supernatural the way I do; all I’m askin’ is that you try to keep an open mind. Can ya do that for me?”
“I’ll try, it’s just, stuffed toys aren’t exactly scary are they?”
“Depends on the toy. You ever see Child’s Play?”
“Chucky was a doll, not a soft toy.”
“Same difference. C’mon, let’s see what Mother can tell us about this Mister Bear. Tammy said he’s new so I’d like to know where he came from. Might be a clue there.”
“Like whoever left the toy here might be the kidnapper?”
Dee shrugged. “Or something.”
Mother was sitting at the kitchen table nursing a cup of tea when they entered. From the other empty cups still on the table it looked as though Detectives Cavallo and Burnett had arrived and already been by to talk to her, although where they were now was anybody’s guess. Maybe they’d gone upstairs to look at the scene of the crime again, or maybe they were in the orphanage’s small office interviewing the other staff.
The elderly nun looked up, her plump face creased with strain. “Did you find out anything?”
“Not sure yet.” Dee swung one of the kitchen chairs around and straddled it, folding his arms along the back and resting his chin on them. “Tammy had what might or might not have been a nightmare.”
“It’s possible she woke up and saw something but dismissed it as a bad dream, although what she told Dee and what she actually saw might not be the same thing,” Ryo added, clearing the used cups off the table and putting the kettle on to make mugs of instant coffee for himself and Dee. They’d been in such a rush after getting Mother’s call that they’d skipped breakfast completely.
Mother looked up at him, puzzled. “You’ve lost me, dear. What do you mean?”
“She said one of the toys, a new one she called Mister Bear, took Josefina. That an arm came out of the bear and pulled her inside,” Dee explained.
“I was thinking maybe a woman in a fur coat…” Ryo trailed off at Dee’s incredulous look. “It’s possible, isn’t it?”
Dee sighed. “It’s one explanation, I guess.”
“But you still think it really was the bear.”
“I don’t know!” Dee ran a hand agitatedly through his hair. “But I don’t think we should dismiss the idea just ‘cause it sounds crazy.” He turned to Mother. “D’you know which bear Tammy was talkin’ about?”
Mother nodded slowly, a troubled expression on her face. “I think so. It’s in the girls’ dormitory.”
“I figured as much. Could you show us?”
“Of course, as soon as you two have finished your coffee and had a bite to eat. I doubt you had time for breakfast this morning.”
“Wasn’t really hungry,” Dee said.
“Nonsense. You boys need to keep your strength up.” With that, Mother got to her feet and began bustling around the kitchen. Dee let her, knowing it would make her feel better, a little more in control in the midst of all the uncertainty, to be doing something normal.
While she scrambled eggs and made toast, Ryo and Dee took the opportunity to ask a few questions.
“How long has this Mister Bear been here?”
“Oh, just over a week, I think.”
“Where’d he come from? Gift? Donation?”
“We had a toy drive recently; we do that once or twice a year, people donating old, unwanted toys for the children: Dolls, games, books, puzzles, and several bags of stuffed animals. Those all had to be washed before the children could have them though.”
“And then what?” Unlike Dee, Ryo hadn’t grown up here. “They just get handed out to the kids? Everyone gets something?”
“Usually we share them out, put some in the girls’ dormitory and some in the boys’. The older children will sometimes pick one or two things, but they leave most of the stuffed animals for the little ones. Dee, sit properly dear.”
“Yes Mother.” Dee got to his feet and turned his chair around, sitting down at the table as Mother bustled over and set plates in front of him and Ryo, urging them to eat.
“Thank you, Mother. This Mister Bear, he was among the ones donated this time?” Ryo asked between mouthfuls.
Mother returned to her seat, folding her hands in her lap. “Well now, I suppose it must have been, but it’s odd; I don’t remember seeing it when I was sorting through the donated toys. Perhaps it was in a bag I missed, part of a late delivery. You know how busy things can get around here.”
That was putting it mildly; the orphanage was often in a state of barely organised chaos.
Dee ate silently for several minutes, a frown creasing his forehead as he considered what they’d just been told. Finally he sat up straighter and looked Mother in the eye.
“So you can’t say with any certainty exactly when this toy bear showed up, or where it might have come from?”
“I suppose not, but it wasn’t here before the toy drive and now it is; if it wasn’t among the donated toys then how else could it have come to be here?”
“That’s what I’d like to know,” Dee said quietly, his frown deepening.
“Teddy bears don’t just pop up out of nowhere, or walk in under their own steam, Dee.” Ryo was trying to keep a level head but despite the fact that he’d always been a sceptic when it came to the supernatural or paranormal he was starting to get a bit creeped out by Dee’s insinuation that Mister Bear might be something other than an ordinary soft toy.
“Never said they did.” Dee smiled across at his partner but his eyes were troubled. Turning his attention back to the plate in front of him, he finished his breakfast, scraping the plate clean, and stood up. “Okay, let’s go take a look at this mysterious bear, see if there’s any reason it would give Tammy nightmares.”
Ryo drained his coffee mug and stood too. “We’ll take care of the dishes for you when we’re done upstairs, Mother.”
Dee raised an eyebrow. “We will?”
“It’s the least we can do.”
“You’re good boys.” Mother smiled tiredly. “Thank you.”
“It’s a little soon for thanks; we’ve still got two missin’ kids and no idea where to start lookin’ for them.” Dee led the way out of the kitchen and up the stairs, glancing into the main lounge area as they passed, where most of the other kids sat in groups, oddly subdued.
“This is affecting all of them,” Mother murmured, following his gaze. “They’re all afraid they’ll be next. I can’t help wondering if they’ll ever be able to feel safe here again. They’re so young, and they’ve been through so much already.”
Dee looked down at the woman who’d raised him from a baby, the only mother he’d ever known. “Best thing we can do for them is solve the case and get their friends back.”
“And if you can’t?”
“We’ll cross that bridge if and when we have to. Right now we’re spinnin’ our wheels so let’s just try to find us a lead we can follow, okay?”
TBC in Part 2