Characters: Dee, Ryo, Mother Maria Lane, OCs
Word Count: 2567
Summary: Something mysterious is going on, children don’t simply vanish without a trace, but surely a stuffed bear, no matter how old and ugly, can’t have anything to do with it.
Written For: spook_me 2020, using FAKE, Evil Toys.
Disclaimer: I don’t own FAKE, or the characters. They belong to the wonderful Sanami Matoh.
A/N: Set after Like Like Love.
The girls’ dormitory looked so completely normal in daylight, cheerfully decorated in pinks and purples courtesy of Dee and some friends. It contained eight beds, four along each side, only five of which were in use at present, or had been before the two children had gone missing. Each bed had a stuffed toy on it, and a cabinet beside it for the occupants’ personal belongings, plus a small chest at the end for clothes. There were wardrobes at the far end of the room, either side of the door to the bathroom, and an area with bookshelves, chairs, and an assortment of toys that were communal property. That was where Mother led the two detectives, pointing to the occupant of one of the chairs, a dark brown teddy bear maybe eighteen or twenty inches tall. It was hard to accurately judge since the bear was seated with its legs sticking out.
“I believe that’s Mister Bear.”
Looking at the stuffed toy Dee felt his skin crawl, there was just something off about it, although he couldn’t have said what. It sat there, with its button eyes, bowtie, and inane sewn-on smile, a seemingly ordinary teddy, and yet it felt… wrong somehow. Not wanting to be laughed at he kept his thoughts to himself.
“Looks old,” Ryo said coming up beside him and studying the bear. “And the fur fabric, or whatever it’s made from, is weird.”
“Yeah, I thought it looked a bit odd.” The fur seemed longish and straight, not fluffy or fuzzy but somehow slicked down. It radiated out from around the bear’s snout, or perhaps inwards with the ends trapped, and the snout itself looked a bit like dark brown suede. Maybe that was why it looked wrong. There was a very noticeable seam running right down the bear’s front, from under the bowtie to between the toy’s legs, and there was probably a matching seam up the back, but Dee couldn’t bring himself to touch the bear to find out. Although the fur looked dry, he couldn’t shake the feeling that it would be greasy.
He noticed neither Mother nor Ryo made any move to pick it up either. In fact, Ryo had his hands jammed in his pockets.
“It’s sort of ugly. I can see how it might cause nightmares in an impressionable child, especially with everything that’s been happening here the last couple of days.” Ryo glanced briefly at Dee. “Are you going to interrogate it now?”
That drew a scornful snort from Dee. “Funny. Okay, we came, we saw…” He tore his gaze away from Mister Bear. “Let’s go back downstairs and take care of those dishes. I’ll wash.” Maybe immersing his hands in hot, soapy water would make him feel clean again. He hadn’t touched the toy but just being this close to it made him feel somehow contaminated.
“You want to wash dishes? That makes a change,” Ryo teased.
“Yeah, well I’m feelin’ generous today.” Dee shooed Mother and his partner out of the room, following them and closing the door firmly behind him. He wished he could lock it, but none of the childrens’ rooms had locks. He didn’t speak again until he and Ryo were back in the kitchen, running the water for the dishes. They were alone now; Mother had gone into the lounge to be with the children.
“You can laugh at me if ya want,” he murmured to his lover, who was standing beside him, ready with the dishtowel, “but I don’t like that bear.”
Ryo sighed heavily. “That’s a relief. I thought it was just me, my imagination working overtime, maybe because of what we were talking about earlier.”
Dee looked at him, surprised. “You felt it too?”
“Not too sure what you mean by ‘it’, but I wouldn’t have wanted to be alone with that thing. I think we should get rid of it, throw it on a bonfire or something.”
It was a tempting idea, but…
“No,” Dee said firmly. “We can’t. Not yet.”
“Why not? It’s an ugly, creepy old toy. The kids have got far nicer ones and it’s not like they’re attached to it. They’d probably sleep a whole lot better with it gone.”
“Yeah, probably, but what if there was some truth to Tammy’s nightmare? What if Mister Bear really does have something to do with the kids goin’ missin’?”
“How? I know it creeped me out, but it’s still just a stuffed toy.” Ryo gnawed on his bottom lip as he set the plate he’d just dried down on the counter top. “Isn’t it?”
“I don’t know. I mean…” Dee shook his head. “I don’t know what I mean, I just have a feelin’ gettin’ rid of it right now might be a bad move.”
Ryo laid a soothing hand on his lover’s arm.
“Okay, we’ll hold off on that for the moment. So what d’you want to do?”
Dee shuddered. “I can’t believe I’m sayin’ this, but I’m gonna spend the night in that room. I’ll slip inside after Mother goes to bed, lie on the floor outta sight, and see what, if anything, happens.”
“Aright, then I’ll join you.”
“No.” Dee turned to meet Ryo’s eyes. “I want you across the hall in the boys’ dorm. If that frickin’ bear isn’t behind the abductions, there’s a chance whoever’s takin’ kids might strike there next. Soon as we’re done here I’ll go shoppin’, pick us up a couple walkie-talkies so we can keep in touch.”
“Why not just use our police radios?”
“Oh, sure, because havin’ dispatch overhearin’ us talkin’ about malevolent teddy bears is just what we need. That would go down real well at our next psych evaluations.”
Ryo grimaced. “I see your point.”
“Thought ya might.”
“So you’ll be on bear watch, and I’ll keep an eye on the boys. Are you going to tell Mother about your plans?”
“No way. I’ll tell her we’re stayin’ over, that we’ll stay awake and keep an eye on things, but right now that’s all she needs to know. She’s got enough on her mind. We’re not tellin’ Cavallo and Burnett either.”
“Agreed. They can work the investigation their way while we try a different approach. Very different.”
“What for?” Ryo gave Dee a puzzled look.
“Goin’ along with your crazy partner.”
“You’re not crazy, Dee. Or maybe we both are.” A wry smile curved Ryo’s lips. “But we’re partners, and a whole lot more. Doesn’t matter what I do or don’t believe, I’ve got your back, always, no matter what.”
“Good to know. What about the other three girls though?”
“What about ‘em?”
“Alice said she didn’t want to sleep in her bed tonight, and I think it’s probably best if the other two don’t either, just to be safe.”
“Yeah, you’re right. They can maybe sleep in the boys’ dorm tonight; I think there’s enough spare beds, and you’ll be there to protect ‘em.”
The two detectives spun around, startled; they hadn’t heard anyone come in, they’d thought they were still alone in the kitchen, but Tammy stood by the table, serious grey eyes watching them.
“What d’you mean ‘no’, honey?” Dee asked, drying his hands and stooping to pick the child up, settling her on his hip. She was getting a bit too big for that, but with everything that was going on it just felt right to lift her up to his level
“Mister Bear took Josie. She’s my friend and I wanna help get her back.”
“No!” she said again. “If the beds are all empty, if there are no little girls to take, Mister Bear will just be an ugly old bear. Alice might be too scared to sleep in her own bed, but I’m not.” She looked beseechingly at Dee. “I can be brave if you’re there. Please, Dee!”
“I hate to say this,” Ryo murmured, “but maybe she’s right. We might only get one chance at… whatever it is we’re trying to do. It there’s nothing to entice Mister Bear into action…” He winced, fully aware of how insane his words sounded. “I can’t believe I just said that,” he muttered under his breath.
“Are you outta your mind? You’re talkin’ about usin’ a little kid as bait!” Dee sounded appalled at the very idea.
Ryo stood his ground. “I don’t like it any more than you do, Dee, but nobody’s forcing her, she’s volunteering, and you’ll be there to protect her.”
Dee let his breath out in a long sigh, taking his brief surge of anger with it; he knew Ryo was right. He focused instead on the child in his arms. “You sure about this, kiddo?”
“Yes.” Tammy’s bottom lip jutted out, determined; she’d always had a stubborn streak.
“Just so ya know, if ya change your mind later, that’s okay, understand? Just ‘cause you’ve said you wanna help doesn’t mean you have to, no one’s gonna get mad at ya if you find you can’t go through with it, ‘kay?”
“Okay, but I’m not gonna change my mind. Josie needs me. Emily too.”
Hugging the little girl tight, Dee kissed the top of her head. “Josie’s lucky to have such a good friend. Listen, Ryo and me are gonna take a nap this afternoon so we’ll be wide awake tonight when we need to be. You should maybe do the same, then later, when ya go to bed, just pretend to be asleep. You’ll need to shut your eyes and keep very still, but I’ll be nearby, keepin’ watch.”
Tammy nodded. “I can do that.”
“You wanna come shoppin’ with me? I’ve gotta pick up some stuff for tonight and I could use the company. Maybe we could sneak an ice-cream without Mother knowin’.”
That got a giggle and another nod from Tammy. “Strawberry?”
“Whatever you want.”
“I’ll hold the fort here while you’re gone, and I’ll talk to Mother about Alice and Julia sleeping in the boys’ dorm tonight. I can help her make up the beds.”
“Thanks, babe.” Setting Tammy down and telling her to get her coat, Dee pulled Ryo close, kissing him. “Be careful while I’m gone.”
“I will, but nothing’s likely to happen until tonight; we’ll all be fine.”
“I know, just can’t help worryin’. Love you.”
“Love you too, Dee. Whatever’s going on, we’ll figure it out. Somehow.”
“I hope you’re right.” Dee reluctantly released his lover as Tammy came back into the kitchen, trying to put her coat on without putting her little shopping bag down. “Okay, gotta go. We shouldn’t be gone long, couple of hours, tops. Be back in time for a late lunch.” Mother usually ran a tight ship but everything had been thrown off schedule by the disappearances.
As Dee headed out to his car, Tammy holding his hand, Ryo went in search of Mother to discuss the change in sleeping arrangements.
As expected, Mother agreed it would be best for the girls to bunk in the boys’ dorm for a few nights, just until it was safe for them to return to their own beds. She was also relieved to know Dee and Ryo would be on guard duty overnight.
“That takes a weight off these old shoulders,” she admitted when Ryo explained that he’d be inside the boys’ dorm while Dee kept an eye on things elsewhere. He didn’t like lying to Mother, but technically it wasn’t a lie, he just wasn’t telling her exactly where Dee would be, or what he’d specifically be keeping an eye on.
Mother fetched clean sheets and pillowcases from the linen cupboard and the two of them went to make up the spare beds, with Ryo wondering all the time whether he should tell Mother they’d only need two beds and not three, although maybe it would be best to make up all three anyway, just in case Tammy changed her mind. They worked in silence for a while before Mother finally spoke.
“What is it you’re not telling me?”
Ryo’s head shot up. “What? Nothing!”
The elderly nun chuckled. “I’ve been raising children for more than thirty-five years, my boy. I know when someone is being very careful to avoid telling me something. Out with it now; you know I’ll find out in the end.”
That was true; few things got past Mother Lane. Nevertheless…
“I’m not sure it’s my place to tell you; Dee didn’t want to worry you any more than you already are.”
Sitting on the edge of the bed they’d just made up, Mother patted the mattress beside her. “Sit.”
Refusing would have been rude, so Ryo sat, head bowed, hands clasped together to keep from tearing his hair out.
“Now.” Mother rested a work-worn hand on his arm. “Talk to me. I know Dee means well, but if this involves the children, I deserve to know. I am their legal guardian.”
“You’ll think it’s crazy. I think it’s crazy, but Dee…” Ryo shook his head helplessly. “Dee believes in things that I never have, the supernatural, ghosts and monsters, because he claims to have seen them, and I want to believe him, but I don’t know if I do, and now…” He trailed off, biting his lip.
“Tammy’s nightmare about Mister Bear. She’s convinced that old teddy bear has something to do with Emily and Josie vanishing, and Dee maybe believes it too, or at least he’s willing to entertain the possibility. He intends to spend the night in the girls’ dorm and keep an eye on the bear, see what, if anything, happens. It’s crazy, but he’s my partner and my lover, I have to back him up and anyway, that bear gives me the creeps. If it wasn’t a nightmare, if what Tammy saw was real and Mister Bear is something other than just a stuffed toy… Mother, can things, inanimate objects, be evil?”
Mother nodded slowly. “Yes, I believe they can. If some objects can be holy, blessed, then the opposite must also be true. Like Dee I’ve seen things that I have no explanation for, things that could perhaps be termed ‘ghosts’ or ‘spirits’. If Dee feels there might be some truth to Tammy’s supposed nightmare, well, he must do what he thinks best. I trust his judgment.”
“Me too, mostly. I know he just doesn’t want to ignore any possibility, no matter how unlikely.” Ryo turned to Mother. “But Tammy wants to help. She thinks if there aren’t any children to take then nothing will happen, so she intends to sleep in her own bed. It could be dangerous.”
“We can’t be sure anywhere in this building is completely safe right now, dear. If Dee is there to watch over her then Tammy will be safer than she was last night, safer than Emily and Josefina were.”
“I guess. Dee and I will be in contact via radio, so I can be there in moments if he needs help with… anything.”
“That’s good. I’ll feel so much better with you both here, and I know you’ll do your best to protect the rest of the children. Now, why don’t we finish making up these beds, just in case they’re needed?”
“And then perhaps you’d help me make lunch.”
Ryo nodded. “Of course.” Keeping busy would distract him from thinking about the night to come.
TBC in Part 3