Authors: Stacy Claflin
GONE - BOOK ONE
by Stacy Claflin
Copyright ©2014 Stacy Claflin. All rights reserved.
Edited by Garrett Robinson
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, businesses, events, or locales is purely coincidental or used fictitiously. The author has taken great liberties with locales including the creation of fictional towns.
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Sitting in his warm truck across from the park, Chester Woodran watched her walk across the open field. An overhead light turned on as she passed under it in the dusk. Her long, dark hair swished back and forth behind her. She wandered around the playground, walking between the climbers and slides until she stopped in front of the swings.
He had spent hours watching her. Studying her. He knew her almost better than she knew herself.
The moment of truth would arrive soon. She'd come a few minutes early, but he wouldn't deviate from the schedule. He would act exactly on time. He'd laid the groundwork. He wasn't going to let her change a thing.
Chester pulled out his phone and scrolled through the pictures, stopping at his favorite. It was the girl in the park for sure, although he couldn't see the details of her face up close yet. He would have to wait a few minutes.
From the phone, her light brown eyes shone at him. Her shy, almost insecure face smiled sweetly.
His heart sped up at the thought of many weeks of work coming together at long last. The waiting was about to end.
Clenching the steering wheel with all his might, he took several deep breaths to calm himself. Every precaution had been taken. Prepared with painstaking care. There was no chance of anything going wrong so long as he stayed with the plan.
The alarm on his digital wristwatch beeped. He turned it off and then leaned back into the seat, adjusting his over-sized glasses.
It was time.
Macy Mercer sat on the swing, clutching the cold, metal chain. Soon she'd meet Jared, the sweet and adorable boy she met online. She pushed the dirt with her foot, swinging back and forth, listening to the leaves rustle nearby as a breeze picked up. The temperature felt like it had dropped ten degrees, so she zipped up her hoodie as far as it would go. She should have worn a coat, but it was too late to go back home.
A crow cawed in the distance, giving her the chills.
To distract herself, she grabbed the new smart phone she'd received for her fifteenth birthday. She checked the time. Jared still had another five minutes. Macy had been so eager to meet him that she'd sneaked out of her house a little early, eager for her first real date. Her parents had a stupid, outdated rule that she couldn't date until she turned sixteen. There was no way she would wait an entire year. Not when her friends all went out every weekend.
She looked around the empty park once more, the swing chains groaning as they carried her back and forth listlessly. Jared was supposed to meet her after his baseball practice. He was the star of the team, and sometimes had to stay a little late because the coach expected more from him than anyone else. She scrolled through their latest texting conversation, her excitement building.
The phone buzzed, startling her. Hoping that it was Jared, she scrolled to the bottom of the screen and smiled.
Sorry, coach is keeping me late
Macy sighed, shivering in the cold Washington breeze.
Abt a half hr
The last thing Macy wanted was to put the date off, but it was really cold.
U sure 2day still works?
You want my dad to get u?
Macy ran her hands through her freshly-styled hair. Going with a grown man hadn't been part of the plan. She was just supposed to meet Jared and go the mall, or maybe a movie or to the arcade. They were going to play it by ear.
Is it ok? Or u wanna wait?
It was getting colder, and no way she wanted to sit here that long. The mall was too far to walk to, but with his dad she'd be warmer and see Jared sooner.
They'd talked for so long over computers and texts. Macy didn't want to wait more. She'd show everyone she wasn't afraid to go out with a boy, no matter what her parents said.
She texted him back.
He's ok driving me
U can't come now?
No. I have to help
Ok. Your dad can pick me up
K c u soon
Sliding the phone back into her pocket, she looked around again. Something didn't feel right, but she pushed it aside. She and Jared had known each other for a whole month, and he was sweet and funny. If he thought it was okay for her to go with his dad, it was fine. She wasn't a little girl anymore. Macy held her chin a little higher.
A green pickup truck with a black canopy pulled into the empty parking lot. Macy squinted, trying to see if the driver looked like an old version Jared's profile pictures. She couldn't tell.
The lights flashed the high beams, and she took that as her cue to go. She held her handbag close, stood tall, and walked to the truck trying to look mature and sophisticated.
As she neared the truck, the passenger door opened. The man sitting in the driver's seat looked nice enough. He had dark, straight hair with a receding hairline and big, geeky glasses. He kind of reminded her of her biology teacher, who always cracked science jokes that only he laughed at.
"Macy?" He readjusted his glasses and ran his hands through his hair.
"Yeah." She leaned all of her weight on her left foot, biting the right side of her lower lip.
He gave her an awkward smile. "I'm Jared's dad. He said you needed a ride to his practice?"
She nodded. The car radio played classic rock, like what her dad listened to. She relaxed a little.
He patted the bench seat. "Come on in. He's almost done with practice."
"Okay." Macy climbed in and closed the door. The warm air felt good after being out in the cold. She buckled in. "Thanks for the ride."
"No problem. Jared didn't want you sitting outside in the cold. Did you have a good day?"
"Sure." She shrugged. "Just school and stuff."
He pulled out of the parking lot and turned right. His phone made robot noises, and he pulled it up to his ear. "Jared. What's going on?…Yeah, she's here with me…Oh, okay. I'll let her know." He put the phone away. "Jared has to stay a little longer. Hey, I have a quick errand. Mind if I run to the hardware store before dropping you off at his school?"
"Well, how much longer is he going to be?" Macy spun a ring around her finger, nervous. "Maybe I should go back home. I can always meet him a different day. It's okay."
"I get it. I'll take you to the school. I don't want you to feel uncomfortable. You don't even know me."
"Or back to the park. I can just walk back home." Her heart pounded. Something wasn't right.
"Jared will be so disappointed. Let me take you to the school. I didn't mean to creep you out." He turned and smiled at her. "I wasn't thinking."
She sighed. "Okay." At least she would be able to get out of the truck. She could take a bus back home, or if worse came to worse she could always call her parents. She'd be grounded for sneaking out, but that might not be so bad. Just so long as she could get out of the truck.
Macy's stomach twisted in a knot, growing tighter the farther they went. Her mouth grew increasingly dry. She watched as street sign after street sign passed by.
"Maybe I should go back. I think I might have forgotten something at home."
"Oh? Are you sure?"
"Yeah. I need to go back home."
"Well, if you really think so. I'll break the news to Jared. I'm sure he'll understand." He pulled out his phone and activated the voice command. "Call Jared."
"Well, uh…." Since he was being so nice, maybe she was overreacting. "You don't have to call him."
"If you're sure." He pushed a button on his phone and put it back in his pocket.
Macy took a deep breath. She needed to pull herself together or he might think she was immature. What if he didn't want Jared to see her? She sat taller and flipped her hair back.
He turned left down a road where he should have gone right.
"Wait," Macy said. "Jared's school is the other way."
Her blood ran cold. "What…do you mean?"
The door locked beside her. "We're not going to a school."
"Where are we going?" She clutched her purse tightly against her.
"We're going for a drive, Macy."
"I don't want to. Take me home."
"You're not going back home."
Her heart beat so loud, it sounded like it was in her ears. She pulled on the door handle, but it wouldn't budge.
"Child locks. You can't open it from the inside."
She felt light-headed. "What about Jared?"
"There is no Jared, sweetie."
Her breath caught. "Did you kill him?"
He laughed. "That's hilarious. No,
The blood drained from her face. "You…mean…?"
"I'm the one you've been talking to all this time."
Macy's stomach turned. She was sure she would throw up. "You're lying."
"No. It was me that you shared all your secrets with. All I had to do was throw on a picture of some random kid I found online. Everything else was me."
"You better take me back home. Once my parents figure out I'm missing, they can have the cops go through my laptop. They'll be able to track your IP address. I know that much."
"That's the thing. Before I picked you up, I was in your room and I reset your computer to factory settings. No one is going to find a thing."
Macy's head swam. "No you didn't. My parents are home. You're totally lying. Just let me go, and I swear I won't ever tell anyone about this."
He turned the music down. "I got in using your code to the garage right after you left. You mom was reading her Kindle in your parents' bedroom, like you told me she always does. Your dad was in his office on his computer. They didn't hear a thing. I went into your room and took care of your computer."