Falling into the Siphon; [06]

Summary:
Few people notice the absence of Victor Lewis, an Urbex that targets one building a month, taking pictures and recording video. Two weeks ago, he targeted an abandoned mall, and told friends of his plans – only they made the connection to his plans and disappearance, and share it on a small local forum. As the rumors spread, more follow after Victor’s footsteps.

Mature | Death; Body mutilation; Body horror;

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“Just call him,” Alexis groans from the passenger seat, slipping down as she stares at the van sitting in front of them. Carol taps against the side of her car in the rhythm of the radio, humming along and staring at the tail lights of the cars in front of her. Alexis taps the radio off, “are you even listening?”

“Yeah, his block is just a short ways up from here,” Carol turns the radio back on and turns it up. “No reason to call him.” Alexis lays her head to the right and sigh, reading the signs outside her window. “What?”

“You told him we were going to be there, right? Around this time?”

“Yes. Yes I did, I got his number on here twice. You want to check,” as the light turns green and the cars in front of her move, she holds her phone out to Alexis – who takes it when the van in front of them moves. “Just hope he’s wake, he sounded tired when I called him.”

“Ah, must be on his fucked sleep schedule again,” Alexis drops the phone in the cup holder and sits back. They pass another light and Carol clicks the left turn signal. “Have you been to the site recently?”

“Nah, why?” she pulls the car across the eastbound lanes and into a parking lot. Putting less pressure on the gas, the car crawls forward, Carol looking around the apartment buildings.

“There was a notice up on the plan page – do you remember the VTLewis profile?”

“Yeah, guy was planning a trip to the mall,” she stops the car and waves out the window. “Hey Hadi! Where do you want me to park?”

“At the block that reads 147,” Hadi replies, leaning over his balcony rail.

“Alright,” she shouts and presses the gas gently, watching out the window for a block reading Hadi’s apartment number. “What about it, Alexis?” When she finds the block she drives into the space, puts the car in park, and pulls the keys out.

“There was a notice that linked to his page on the forums today. He hasn’t made a follow up to his post or been online in a week, and those that have his number can’t contact him.” Alexis unbuckles herself and steps out of the car, slamming the car door and opening the back.

“Huh,” Carol pulls her backpack out off the back seat. “Strange.”

“Yea, though it’s way too early to suspect that he’s missing. Shit, you remember JJ?”

“Pff, how could I forget? That fuck plans to go somewhere and fucks off before we pick him up. Got himself hopped up and took a train and never came back. Where is he now?”

“Fuck if I know,” Alexis heaves all of her bags over her back and shuts the back door with her foot. She backs away from Carol’s car and goes around someone else’s sedan, hopping up to the sidewalk beside Carol. “Last I heard he was behind rent and wanted me to help him out with it.”

“What a shit,” Carol shakes her head and stifles her own laughter. They walk through a small hallway with a notice board up on one side. Nothing caught their attention and they continue up the stairs to the second floor where Hadi waited for them. “Hey, Hadi. How’s the car.”

“Shitty, thanks for asking. Alexis, need any help with that?”

“Nah, I got it,” she groans and jumps a strap back over her shoulder.

“Okay,” Hadi turns back and walks down the open hallway, Carol and Alexis following behind. The keys dangle from the door as Hadi shoves it open. Hadi pulls the keys out and, when he is in his apartment, drops them into a basket on the countertop. “Sorry, it’s a little messy.”

“That’s alright, a hundred times better than the stained bedspreads,” comments Alexis, dropping her things in front of an armchair. “Where is the projector?”

“Oh, it’s in my office, I’ll get it in a bit,” Hadi pulls a pack of soda from his fridge and drops them on top of the coffee table across from the sofa. “Anything wrong Carol?” He noticed her shoveling her hands into her pocket.

“Fuck, I forgot my phone in the car. You two can set up the equipment, I got to get it incase my sister calls me.” She’s already out the door. “I’ll knock three times when I get back!”

“Alright,” Hadi shouts through the door.

“Shit, why did I forget it in the car. It was right there,” she bounces her way down the stairs and slows at the bottom, passing a woman standing at the notice board. All she can see at the top is in bold ‘missing’, she thinks nothing of it. Then the woman turns and starts walking, excusing herself past Carol. The missing poster shows a picture of an older man smiling with a young daughter, along the side reading; age 37, eyes green, hair brown, height 5’8”, missing since November 1. One week ago. “Hey! Miss!” Carol jogs up to the woman holding the missing persons papers. “Can I see one of those?”

“Yeah, sure,” she hands one over to Carol. “Have you seen him?”

“No, I haven’t, but I think someone I know saw him somewhere. Are you a relative?” Carol folds the paper twice and sticks it on her back pocket.

“No, I’m a friend with his ex-wife. He wasn’t acting right the week before he went missing, she thinks he’s gone back into relapse.”

“Oh… is there a number I can call her at?”

The woman taps at the bottom of another flyer. “Her number is on the bottom there, only call her if you know anything for sure. She doesn’t want more calls than what she normally takes.”

“Alright, and to call you, so I won’t clog up her line. I might have questions later and don’t want to bug her.”The woman taps at the first number.

“Mine is right there, thank you so much for helping.”

“No problem, I’ll call if anything comes up.” The woman continues down the hallway and out of the apartment complex, getting into her car on the far side of the parking lot. Carol wiggles around to her car and gets her phone out of the cup holder, picking out some garbage as well to dump off in Hadi’s trash. On the way back to Hadi’s apartment she pulls out the paper again and reads it out to herself. “Missing. Reward. Victor T. Lewis. Yadayada age, eyes, hair, height. Missing since November 1st. Last seen in his apartment at 12th and Thompson. That’s not very far off from here.” She folds it back up and knocks on the apartment, listening to Alexis groaning in frustration at the other side and open the door for her.

“Welcome back, you can help us with this hell,” Alexis motions over to the wad of cables laying on the floor and the projector sitting on the coffee table. Carol closes the door while Alexis drags herself back over to the wires and plays around with the connections between the projector and her cameras. Carol pulls a soda from the packs and sits by her backpack on the couch.

“Where’s Hadi?” Carol slips the Missing paper out of her back pocket and digs inside her backpack, her binder coming out first.

“Toliet,” Alexis finds the right way to connect one of the video cameras to the projector and sits back relieved, adding a little fist pump to her imaginary celebration – then stares at her other video camera. She ignores the other one, turns on the projector, and sees the paper Carol is staring at. “What’cha got?”

“Missing paper, a woman put one on the notice board we passed on the way here.”

“Did she make you take it?”

“No, I asked for it you tit, here.” Carol slides the paper across the coffee table to Alexis.

Alexis takes the paper, makes sure the projector is on, then sits back against the armchair to read it. The silence gets broken by Hadi knocking on the bathroom door. “Toilet paper is one of the bottom cupboards, Carol.” Carol groans and gets up and enters the kitchen and searches for the toilet paper. When she finally finds one of the two rolls left, she knocks on the bathroom door and throws the roll in to him.

“Read it all?”

“Yeah, just going through it again. Who was passing these out?”

“Friend of his ex-wife, she has her number on their and his ex-wife’s number on there,” Carol sits back on the couch and opens her binder, unclipping a few from the bindings.

“So a guy is missing, what of it?” Alexis slides the paper back over to Carol and welcomes Hadi back into the room while he picks a soda from his counter. “Got it connected, is there any other wires for it?”

“Nah, but I haven’t used it for a while, might need to be configured again.” Hadi falls back onto the couch and pops the soda open. Alexis gives out a huff and gets back to the projector, looking it over for the menu and settings buttons, the opposite wall where the projector’s light hit reading ‘no input detected’. While she works Carol going back over the information in her binder, Hadi picking the missing person paper from the coffee table. “What’s this?”

“Missing person paper, Carol brought it in,” mumbles Alexis, tapping at the projector’s buttons. Carol looks up and from Alexis to Hadi the back to her binder. Hadi begins reading the paper with his head in his right hand; a few minutes pass before he places it back down.

“My neighbor and I were talking yesterday – it started with asking if I wanted to help him with something – but we got to just chatting, crazy work stuff, and he brings up that one of his coworkers hasn’t been to work for a week. The last time he saw him was in the backroom and completely out of his mind, and he suggested to his coworker that he should just go home.” Hadi puts his soda down, Carol slides the papers she pulled from her binder into the back and closes it. “But he never showed up to work, and there was no sick calls from him either. He remembers that the guy was out of it for that entire week, drinking coffee all the time, came in with a coffee he was going to drink and one that went to the trash can. This guy, his coworker, he says would normally show up on time and was active enough every day.”

“Alexis, remember the user’s SN from last week?”

“Which one?” Alexis clicks the projector on and off.

“The one that was planning a visit to the abandoned mall in Findlay.”

Alexis stares at the ground for a bit, snapping her fingers as her mind turns itself over, then she goes to her laptop. “VTLewis? He’s the one that got a notice about him. He hasn’t followed up on his visit?”

“Yeah, I think. You were talking about it in the car,” Carol moves beside Alexis as she digs her laptop out of the backpack and tap it back on.

“So VTLewis has not come back on in a week. The neighbor’s coworker hasn’t shown up for a week. And this guy Victor has been missing for a week? Could they be the same person?” Alexis taps about on her computer and pushes the wires trailing off the projector beneath the coffee table. “One hell of a coincidence if it is,” she shakes her head and laughs a little to herself.

“I think we should tell the friend and his ex-wife, they should at least know,” Carol says while picking the paper up and bringing a red pen to it, noting the top number as the friend and the bottom one as the ex-wife. “And we should be sure before saying anything.”

“Right,” Alexis brings up the account profile of VTLewis. “Alright, should I read it aloud?”

“Yes,” answer both Hadi and Carol.

“Okay, give me a moment,” she gets up and grabs a soda from Hadi’s counter, breaking the seal as she sits down. “Ah, right,  VTLewis. He’s got around 120 posts, age 37. Like the missing man. A member for two years, joined in January 2011, local time is 8:32 pm – ours. Last active November 1 at 3:24pm. Hm. So far like the missing guy. He’s got a personal blog. Should I?”

“Later, what about his last few posts?”

Alexis scrolls among the page for the ‘show posts’ link, and clicks it. “The last posts are all within his own posts or in the tech sub-forum. The last unaltered comment was on his mall plan thread, and…”

“What?”

“All it says is ‘I am having a hard time getting sleep this past week, I got a coffee in hand all the time.’” Alexis looks up to Hadi.

“Like the neighbor’s co-worker,” he breaths, then picks up the flier again.

“’Soon I’ll be there and filming it.’ That is the last post he made. What do you two think?” She slides the laptop’s top down a bit and looks among them, Carol with her hand on her chin and Hadi looking back over the flier. “Should I see what his personal page says?” Carol nods, Alexis slides the laptop back open and clicks the link, only to groan a second later. “It’s inactive, last time it was edited or posted on was in August.”

“Look, maybe he isn’t the missing guy.”

“Carol’s right, but I’m going to talk to my neighbor tomorrow – he’s out for the night – and see if he’s willing to speak to either of them – if the first names are the same at least.” He sets the paper back down and turns to both of them. “If they are reaching out to the police, there’d be more for them to go off of.”

“Right, don’t want to make a false trail.” Alexis backs off the page and goes down the latest posts made by VTLewis. “Around that week he started having trouble getting sleep it looks like, nothing indicating that he is the same guy though,” and Alexis shuts her laptop completely. “Hadi can handle the talking, right?”

“Yeah, sure. Carol do you want to copy the information down somewhere?”

“Of course,” she takes the paper from Hadi’s hand and brings it beside her binder, opening it to a blank page and copying it over. “Do you remember the name of your neighbor?”

“You could always check the mail boxes down in the hall; it’s across from the bulletin board.” Carol just keeps copying the missing person flier over to another paper, “are either of you hungry? I could go for pizza.” Carol holds a hand up and teeters it back and forth.

“I’m in,” speaks Alexis, finally getting the projector to copy over one of the video cameras. “does any place nearby sell white pizza?”

“No, doubt any got hand-tossed.”

“Well shit, can you call up a place then?”

“First, I’m only going to order one, so we need to agree on two topping sides.”

“Get half extreme meat and the other half less extreme,” speaks Carol.

“Would you mind if it has no pork or bacon?”

“No, of course not, Hadi. Just as long as it has no chicken on it.” Carol double checks over what she had written so far. “Do you got any celery here? I know Alexis wants some wings as well with her pizza.”

“Come off it Carol, don’t bring it up.”

“Fine, fine.”

“I wouldn’t mind if half was just cheese, or if it had four-cheese or whatever.”

“Alright, so half topping half cheese, four cheese?” Hadi grabs his phone from its charger port. “I know a good local place, they got a great assortment of toppings. Have either of you had onion or peppers on your pizzas?” They both shake their head and give him a confused look, almost asking ‘what?’. “Well this local place has them as an options, interested in trying them?”

“Sure, wouldn’t hurt to try new things,” Carol slides the paper back over to Hadi and slips her own papers back into her binder. “What about you Alexis?”

“What’s the harm in it; Is one of the peppers they got jalapeno? If yes, completely for it.” Alexis brings the video gallery up on the projector and starts flipping through them, hoping that they are all there from last week. Hadi walks into another room to order their pizza, speaking Arabic to the pizzeria. Carol goes over the information pertaining to their planned trip to Sandusky and Port Clinton, but the missing person flier keeps pulling her attention away.

When the pizza arrives they went on into their meeting, going through every recording they had made on their trip to Detroit. They stuff themselves with pizza and soda throughout, laying out on the floor and couch as they laugh at the recordings, making a vote after each to either remove them completely or watch them again – just to be sure. Around midnight they wrap up their meeting, Hadi tucking the flier beneath his phone and writing a note to himself in the morning. Carol drives Alexis home, carrying Alexis things into her dorm room and bidding her a good night, telling her to call in the morning about the videos.

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