Ricky stepped out of the car, shut the door and locked it as he shoved the key into the back pocket of his jeans. Walking up to the black sedan he’d parked behind, Ricky leaned against the bonnet and folded his arms in front of him. He starred out towards the park. The sun hovered behind the trees with streaks of grey and blush pink stretching across the horizon.
‘A blood trail leading to nothing.’ Charlie glanced at Ricky before offering him a piece of gum. Unwrapping it, he threw it in his mouth and chewed for a moment.
‘Still no sign of the bastard leaving?’
‘I didn’t see anything on the cameras and I’ve got a guy monitoring them incase anything changes. The kid hasn’t left. I did a quick sweep of the area, but thought I’d wait for you.’ Charlie turned to him, took a deep breath, then decided whatever he was going to say next wasn’t worth it and turned back to the park. He let out a sigh. Pushing himself off the bonnet, he dug his hands into his pockets. ‘Let me show you where the trail ends.’
A lone, dried, drop of blood half hidden in the dirt was the last of the sparse trail into the park.
Ricky bent down and scratched the corner of the cement path. Examining his finger, his thumb rubbed the flakes of black, dried blood into thin smears of red.
He stood, scanning the park. Grassy mounds peppered the wide expanse amid trees, shrubs and a stream running through its centre. A small, manmade lake pooled beyond with park benches and a gazebo scattered around its edge.
‘There aren’t many places to hide.’
Ricky glanced at Charlie. ‘Then it should be relatively easy to find the git.’
Street lamps flicked on and the park descended into darkness. Having scoured through bushes and anywhere large enough for someone to hide, Ricky and Charlie stared out into the park from where they first started.
Charlie rubbed his forearm. Small scratches criss-crossed up his arms. Ricky fared no better. He took a deep breath.
‘Where the hell is this bastard hiding?’
Charlie pulled out his phone. ‘Give me a sec.’ He turned around and walked a few steps away, raising the phone to his ear.
Ricky swept his eyes over the park. They had searched everywhere. Somehow the little shit had escaped.
Hands curling into fists, Ricky chewed on his gum with deliberate focus as his gaze settled on the bridge spanning across the dark, watery hole of the lake. He’d checked the bushes close to the bridge, but found nothing.
‘There’s been no movement on the camera matching the kids description. He hasn’t left. He’s probably passed out somewhere.’
Ricky said nothing, instead continued to study the bridge. He motioned at it with his chin. ‘Does the water level look a little low to you?’
Charlie took a step forward, looking towards the lake. ‘Not really. What’re you thinking?’
‘I’m just wondering if there’s a ledge or patch of ground under there …’
Charlie glanced back at Ricky. After a moment he nodded and they both stepped towards the lake.
The lamps flooded the bridge with light. Dark shadows cut close, obscuring their view from under it. Ricky pulled out his phone, switching on the light and crept down the side. The shrubs he’d poked through earlier hugged close to the stonework. At the waters edge, he brushed aside the spiky hedge and peered under the bridge. There was indeed a small grassed area big enough for someone to hunker down, but it was empty. Sweeping his phone across to the other side, Ricky could see another small ledge. It was also empty.
He sighed and drummed out a few chews on his gum. ‘Any ideas?’
‘Wait. What’s that in the water?’
Charlie moved his own phone’s light over the water. A sparkle flared in its dark depths.
‘It would be a good place to ditch it.’
Ricky looked at Charlie with derision. He did not want to go swimming, especially in a lake with all kinds of contaminants and human excrement.
Charlie raised an eyebrow. ‘After you.’
Ricky looked at the lake again. Was it even worth it to get the knife? Taylor lying under stark, white sheets, cords and tubes sticking in and out of her flashed into his mind. When he found the knife, he’d give it back to the bastard.
He shrugged off his black shirt and sneakers and stepped to the edge of the water. His skin crawled as he wadded in to its cold depths. ‘Where did you see it?’
Charlie pointed closer to the bridge. ‘It was more towards the left.’
With the water at his waist, Ricky pulled out his phone and tapped on the light. As a shiver ran through him, he took a deep breath and ducked under the cold, dark water.
Guck and muck floated all around him. He was going to go home after this and scrub himself for an hour. A flash of light shone under him and Ricky reached down brushing his hand on the spongy floor. Two hours. He was going to scrub himself for two hours.
His fingers hit something hard and he grabbed onto the hilt of the knife and pulled. It wouldn’t budge. He tugged again. The damned thing was stuck to the floor. He frowned and clenching his jaw, he grabbed it with both hands. Using his feet, he pushed upwards and they sunk into the sludge. His chest started to burn. He needed to get back up to the surface, but his hands wouldn’t move and he could swear the water was turning murkier, twisting around him like a funnel.
His chest and throat ached as he strained against the floor, the knife, anything to get to the surface. He was going to die in this gag-infested lake.
Ricky looked up as the water darkened around him, his lungs screaming for the oxygen he knew he would not breathe.
Something black swam towards him.