Characters: Dee, Ryo, Mother Maria Lane, OCs
Word Count: 2112
Summary: Night is coming; can Dee and Ryo solve the mystery of the missing children before another one is snatched from her bed?
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 rest of the day passed far faster than the two detectives would have liked. Dee and Tammy arrived back just in time for lunch, bringing with them the radios, along with plenty of spare batteries, a few other electronic bits and pieces Dee thought might come in handy, and enough ice-cream for everyone. Mother had decided to have a sort of indoor picnic, hoping it might help to lift the children’s spirits, so everyone gathered in the living room, most of them sitting on the floor, and one of the Sisters put an animated movie on the TV as an added distraction from the stress everyone was feeling. If some of the children had less of an appetite than usual, no one mentioned it, and at least the ice-cream was greeted with enthusiasm.
After helping with the lunch dishes, Dee and Ryo stretched out together on the living room sofa while the kids were sent outside to play, except for Tammy, who curled up in one of the big armchairs with the squashy plush wolf Dee had bought her for protection from Mister Bear. They were woken several hours later as the kids came running back indoors; the sun was going down and soon it would be dark.
Dinner was a subdued affair, seated around the big table in the dining room, and afterwards Mother and her helpers did their best to distract their charges with board games, puzzles, and stories, but all too soon it was time for bed. By nine o’clock, even the oldest children had gone to their rooms.
Ryo had helped Mother get the four youngest boys and their temporary dorm mates, Alice and Julia, settled before taking up his post on a chair just inside the room, within easy reach of the light switch. There were two small nightlights further down the room, giving off a soft illumination so he could see all the kids tucked safely in their beds; he only hoped they’d stay that way.
Across the hall, Dee tucked Tammy into bed with Growler the wolf, and kissed her goodnight, turning on her nightlight, and another towards the far end of the dorm, which Mother had told him was always left on at night so the kids could find their way to the bathroom. He figured it was important to keep everything as normal as possible and he forced himself not to so much as glance in Mister Bear’s direction, just in case it might be watching him.
Leaving the dorm, he closed the door but remained right outside, watching the interior of the room on the screen of a borrowed laptop via four little spy cameras he’d set up earlier in strategic positions around the dorm. Picture quality wasn’t the best, especially given the dim lighting, but it was good enough that he should be able to detect any movement.
At ten o’clock, Mother made her final rounds, checking the downstairs doors and windows were all closed and locked, and activating the alarm system. Satisfied that everywhere was as secure as possible, she made her way upstairs, looking in on the occupants of the two dormitories, and the older children in their rooms, before making her way to her room at the far end of the hall. When she opened the door to the girl’s dorm, Dee slipped silently inside, keeping low, and settled himself on the floor in the shadows behind the nearest bed, radio in hand and the laptop on the floor beside him. All that was left was to wait.
If the afternoon had flown past, time now seemed to drag, creeping forwards with the same sort of lethargic indifference as a sloth crossing a road. Tammy, despite her earlier nap, appeared to be asleep, but Dee, well used to stakeouts, was wide-awake. He pulled out his pocketknife and checked the blade, making sure it was good and sharp, just in case he needed it. For obvious reasons he didn’t have his gun with him; the last thing he wanted was to be involved in a shootout around the kids, and anyway, he wasn’t at all sure bullets would have any effect against a malevolent stuffed toy; it wasn’t like Mister Bear had a heart, or a brain, or anything like that. A knife, on the other hand, would probably do considerable damage, ripping the ugly old thing open at the seams.
“Everything okay?” Ryo’s voice murmured in his ear.
Dee raised the radio to his lips. “All quiet so far,” he whispered, knowing Ryo would hear him clearly enough through the small earpiece that came with the radios he’d chosen. “You?”
They were keeping communication to a minimum, checking in with each other every fifteen minutes but otherwise maintaining radio silence. The stillness felt almost suffocating, like a heavy weight pressing down on him, but Dee knew how to deal with that. He kept his breathing slow and steady, focused on the laptop screen, and willed himself to relax. If anything happened he’d be ready, but nothing would be served by freaking himself out for no good reason. He couldn’t afford to start jumping at shadows.
The seconds ticked by and gradually tension melted into boredom; watching paint dry would have been more entertaining. Ten thirty became eleven o’clock, eleven thirty, eleven forty-five, midnight, a quarter past twelve, twenty past…
Dee blinked as he caught what he thought might be the faintest flicker of something on the laptop screen. Was that movement down the far end of the dorm? It was hard to tell, the nightlights weren’t very bright. He waited, alert, pulse starting to speed up. There it was again, the same faint flicker in the dimness. Could it be shadows from the tree branches outside moving in the wind? It seemed unlikely, since the curtains were closed and there weren’t any trees that close.
“Might have movement here,” he murmured into his radio. “Be ready.”
“Standing by.” Ryo’s whisper in Dee’s ear was reassuring; his partner was just a few yards away across the hall and could be with him in seconds if necessary.
Focused intently on the screen, Dee saw more movement, and then a shadow separating from the deeper darkness in the farthest corner of the room, where the toys were. He held his breath as a figure stalked slowly, jerkily, around the end of last bed in the row, the bed that had been Emily’s before she’d been taken.
It was grotesque. In daylight, on a kid’s TV show it might possibly have been funny, but in the faint illumination emanating from the nightlights, it had a nightmarish quality, not helped by the fact that the frickin’ thing was so damned ugly anyway. Mister Bear’s movements were stiff and awkward; it had no joints in its legs except right at the top, and no feet to speak of, so it rocked from side to side, swivelling slightly to move one leg forward a few inches, then the other… Its arms stuck out at the sides, and its lifeless face stared straight ahead, yet it was walking on its blunt, stumpy legs, making its way slowly along the aisle between the two rows of beds, past Emily’s, now level with Josefina’s, and moving steadily towards Tammy, who was lying on her right side, her eyes closed, facing towards Dee, her back to the advancing teddy bear, if it even was a bear in the strictest sense.
“Dee? What’s happening?” The low voice in his ear broke Dee out of his trance.
“It’s walkin’!” he hissed. “It’s a stuffed toy bear, but so help me Ryo, the frickin’ thing’s walkin’, like it’s alive only it’s not!”
“I’m right outside the door.” Ryo’s voice was tight.
“Good. Stay there until I tell ya to move, then I want you in here, grab Tammy, and get her out. Got that?”
The whole exchange was conducted in barely audible whispers, and still the bear kept walking, unhurried, staring fixedly ahead. Could it see? Could it hear? There was no way for Dee to know.
Mister Bear turned, swivelling on one foot, to move between the beds, closing in on Tammy’s sleeping form. It seemed taller than it had when it was sitting on the chair, as tall as a small child, maybe two, two and a half feet or more, like it was somehow growing, and then it stopped, facing Tammy in her bed, and its front started to bulge. Dee stared at the laptop screen in horrified fascination as the seam down the bear’s belly began to stretch open, the stitches pulling apart, and a weirdly unformed arm began to emerge, flesh colored but looking somehow scaly, the fingers short, stubby and without joints. The arm grew longer, reaching for Tammy; that was all Dee had been waiting for and he moved, yelling “Now!” as he dropped his radio and raced down the dorm towards the impossible thing that was attempting to steal another child.
Behind him he heard the door burst open, the sound of running footsteps approaching, but he didn’t look back. Tammy’s eyes were open now, full of fear, her mouth wide in a soundless scream, but she seemed unable to move and a split second later Dee understood why; as he reached the end of her bed the air seemed to thicken and he slowed right down. It was like trying to wade through treacle. He could breathe, and see, and hear, but it was getting increasingly difficult to move.
Out of the corner of his eye Dee could see Ryo was there, dark eyes wide with horrified disbelief as he grabbed for the child, gripping her by both arms and pulling her towards him, like he was taking part in a bizarre tug of war against an invisible opponent. With a peculiar sucking sound the thick air suddenly gave way, releasing Tammy from its grip, and Ryo tumbled backwards onto the bed behind him, the little girl safely in his arms. Rolling across the bed and onto his feet on the other side, he raced towards the open door where Mother stood, a shocked expression on her face. Thrusting his burden into her arms, he slammed the door and turned back to help his lover.
About the time Ryo had snatched Tammy from her bed, Dee had managed to force his way through the congealing air, close enough to grab the malformed arm by the wrist, his big hand closing around the deceptively fragile seeming flesh as his adult weight hit the bear’s body, knocking it over, momentum carrying him with it to the floor. Mister Bear lay on its back, dull button eyes blank, but its stumpy legs and arms twitching with a life it shouldn’t possess as it made futile attempts to right itself.
The arm was far stronger than it looked, and tough as a steel cable. It was trying to retract back inside the bear’s body and Dee struggled to prevent it from doing so. Whatever this thing was, he couldn’t let it get away; it had taken two innocent little girls and he wanted them back.
Ryo battled his way through the glutinous air to his lover’s side, then past Dee, sinking down to pin Mister Bear to the floor, his knees pressing into the spongy substance of the toy’s shoulders. He shuddered at the oily dampness seeping into the legs of his pants, gritting his teeth and pressing down harder.
Dee looked up at him, forcing the words out with a superhuman effort. “Grab my belt; I’m goin’ in!”
“What? No, Dee! You can’t!” Although it should have been a shout, Ryo’s words were barely audible, the thick air seeming to muffle sound.
“No choice, babe; gotta find the kids!”
Closing his eyes for a moment, Ryo nodded, understanding; this was something Dee had to do.
Dee gave up trying to restrain the arm and it jerked back, retracting through the split in the bear’s belly, Dee’s arms going with it, followed by his head and shoulders, as Ryo grabbed the back of his partner’s belt with both hands. He was in an awkward position and felt as though any second his arms might be pulled right out of their sockets, but he held on with grim determination. He could no longer tell whether this was real or merely some fantastical nightmare or fever dream, but either way he knew he couldn’t risk losing Dee; no matter what it took he’d keep holding on until Dee came back out, or else he’d die trying.
Closing his eyes, he prayed.
TBC in Part 4