Louis stopped just outside their father’s study. Beside him, Cheska looked at him askance. He schooled his features to neutrality. Allan was on the other end of the comm link. The bodyguard’s call brought good and bad news.
The Good: James was helping in his own way. Through the company’s SecTech Division, the novelist has started “investigating” on Libya’s situation. The Bad: the hover car that would bring Fred back to the mansion disappeared. Driver, vehicle and passenger could not be tracked down. The chauffeur’s company-provisioned sim card emitted a signal five blocks from the mansion. The mobile phone was found smashed to bits in the middle of the road. The vehicle’s GPS inconveniently malfunctioned. The tracker Louis had surreptitiously tagged under the doctor’s collar also lost its signal in the same area the sim was discovered.
In spite of the advanced tech in his possession, it was almost impossible to locate the missing persons.
In the legal sense, he’d need a permit from the government to acquire satellite footage – much less, video recordings of security cameras in commercial establishments along public roads. To obtain authorization, Louis would have to give a valid reason and wait a day or two while his request was being processed. But time wasn’t his friend today, not while a distant country had a shortcut to the Mysts, wanted to get their hands on Fred and his all cure medicine; and, possibly, obtain the city’s most prized treasure.
“I’ll be right behind you,” Louis motioned to his sister to go ahead.
“Is everything okay?” Cheska asked.
“I just need to talk to someone in private.” He winked and gave her what he hoped was a reassuring smile.
“Oh. Is it,” her eyes roamed while she searched for the elusive name in her memory. Then she brightened and continued, “Is it Anna?”
Louis blinked at the unexpected question. He recovered quickly, the mention of his girlfriend’s name tugged his lips to curve into a natural smile.
Cheska beamed and patted his arm fondly. “Say hi for me.”
Once he’d seen her join their father, Louis situated himself several yards from the study. Out of earshot from the security staff posted in the anteroom, his tongue flicked the switch inserted between his two molars to activate the mouthpiece of his comm link.
“Double check the chauffeur’s background and the length of his employment in this household. I want to know every detail of his life in half an hour,” Louis ordered. “Inform James about Fred’s situation. Tell him to use the satellites Anna’s family owns. She’ll know he’s using it and let him through.” He hoped his assumptions about James were correct. His girlfriend would be on the warpath if she finds a stranger hacking into her network. If the hacker, however, was none other than the legendary rain_dancer513 was a completely different story. As long as James didn’t deviate from his signature style, Anna would immediately recognize him. She’d even volunteer to help her hero locate a missing friend.
“And another thing,” Louis added. “Let’s keep the doctor’s disappearance from Father and my sister until the meeting with the President is over.”
He dreaded how Cheska would react when the news reached her.
There was something going on between them. Tony, his sister’s infuriating best friend, and he had caught Cheska and Fred sharing a passionate kiss that morning in her bedroom. Louis saw evidences of a more recent one. Fred’s awkward behavior and slightly swollen mouth earlier and the rumpled bed in the ivory room was enough to piece together what had occurred.
The physical attraction was noticeable in both parties, but Cheska’s feelings seemed more invested than the doctor’s. It didn’t matter how much Fred had scared her yesterday. She cared for him. Pretending to be asleep, Louis saw Cheska sneak out of her studio to check on the doctor late last night. She stayed when Fred asked her to.
Louis groaned, placed his palm on his forehead and let it slide down to his mouth. How could Fred suddenly disappear?
His head snapped up as a thought occurred to him but quickly dismissed it. No. There was still time to prevent the future. He’ll be here, he convinced himself.
Someone please tell me where he is.
In response to his silent plea, the air shimmered in front of him. After witnessing that effect for a number of times, he knew without a doubt that one just opened. Louis retreated to give the visitor space. To his relief and astonishment, Fred stumbled out of it. Automatically, he reached forward to keep his friend from falling head first. Gripping the doctor by the arms, he helped Fred steady himself. His blonde friend looked worse than he’d been that morning. “You look like death,” Louis commented.
The doctor’s lips parted in a low laugh and hissed at the sound. “How long was I gone?” he asked in a volume just above a whisper.
“An hour. Where were you and what happened?” Louis whispered back harshly. “Seriously, Fred you look terrible. And what in the name of the gods are you wearing?” He eyed the outfit critically. What happened to Fred’s old clothes? The doctor wore a white turtleneck sweater and pants at the height of summer. His hair was combed back in a style the public could recognize him.
“I’ll tell you later. Do you have something for migraines?” He massaged his temple and instantly regretted the action. Louis’ frown deepened at the sight of the doctor’s trembling fingers. “The medicine?” Fred prompted.
“We don’t have the kind you’re used to.”
“It’s fine. I need something stronger than the usual stuff.”
Louis led him to the sofa; then spoke to one of the security staff. The man left and came back moments later with a maid. She brought a glass of water and a bottle of pills on a tray and set it down on the side table beside Fred.
The doctor thanked the maid, took the bottle and fumbled at the cap. Fred cursed the combined side effects of his time travel and the deal he’d struck with Messenger.
A hand gently took the object from his useless digits. He lifted his gaze to the maid as she twisted the cap without effort, took a pill and offered it to him. Fred accepted it and thanked her again. The corners of her mouth curled up as she set the container back on the tray and returned to her duties.
Fortunately, Louis received a call and missed the whole thing; he’d surely demand an explanation about the weakness right then and there. A second later, he strode in purposefully toward Fred. His watchful gaze stayed on the doctor who downed the medicine in one gulp.
“Later then,” Louis spoke through the comm link as he sat on the couch beside him. “That was Allan,” he informed Fred. “Had to tell him that you came back alone. I think you just about convinced him that he’ll get canned for negligence.
“Do you know the driver, hover car, and you went off the grid?” He peered at his friend. A bit of color had returned to Fred’s face “You don’t look half as dead now. That’s a good sign. But you’re not off the hook yet. You’ve got a lot of explaining to do later, starting with my missing driver and hover car.” He rose to his feet, straightening his clothes. “I’m late for a meeting already. Rest for now. Buzz,” Louis jerked his head toward the stocky built security personnel near Mr. Roucan’s study, “will take you to your room.”
“I’ll sit here for a few more minutes before I go.” Fred wanted to stay in that chair forever if he had his way. At the moment, he preferred to remain seated rather than walk around the mansion in search of a guest room.
“I’ll see you before dinner.” Louis rested his hand on the doctor’s shoulder.
Fred watched him square his shoulders before entering the study. Mr. Roucan had mentioned a visit from the President. No wonder Louis took a moment to compose himself first.
The doctor let the back of his head rest on the chair’s backrest. The Messenger assured him the headache and weakened state were temporary. Fred hadn’t anticipated that “weakened state” meant feeling like he took a dip in a frozen lake. He took a deep shuddering breath as his eyes drifted close.
Muffled voices reached his ears. Fred shifted on his seat. He noted the orange glow of the sky and realized a couple of hours had passed. The excruciating pain in his head and the freezing cold were gone. Fred approached the man Louis had pointed out to him. “Is the President still with them?”
“No, sir. He left the premises half-an-hour ago,” Buzz replied.
The security personnel blocked Fred when he turned to the door. “I don’t think it’s wise to come inside, sir.”
Suddenly, Cheska stormed out of the study. Louis called her. She didn’t look back and ran down the hallway. Her brother spoke to their father then headed out in the direction she’d gone. Fred thought better not to pursue the siblings. He didn’t want to get entangled in their family problems, especially now that he had to prevent a bigger crisis.
Buzz guided him to his room via the scenic route. The halls they came through were open to visitors and the media. They passed an art gallery, the dining room, the grand staircase, and the living room. The latter was unforgettable because of its piano – the surface was made of a transparent glass-like quality. He’d been to all of them before and knew where it would lead him next: the ivory east wing.
As a form of gratitude for saving Louis’ life, Mr. Roucan offered Fred to stay in the mansion for the duration of his final year in the academy.
The setting also provoked another memory at the back of his mind. What was it? He gazed at the window which overlooked the greenhouse.
The ivory room. Cheska’s bedroom was right next to his. His forehead creased for not realizing it sooner. Fred’s ears burned at the recollection of what had him preoccupied at the time.
His hand curled on the doorknob of his room, but his eyes were transfixed on Cheska’s door.
In the mood she was in, Cheska was in some place no one would think to look for her. It was a trait that drove him crazy with worry in the past – when she was still Electra. In that instant, his chest constricted at thought of losing her.
Fred tore his gaze from her door. I shouldn’t think of her that way, he chided himself and entered his room.
The bedroom was almost identical to Cheska’s, except for the flooring. His feet met soft tan carpet instead of the holographic view of the ocean. A wry smile took over his features. It really is my old bedroom.
Further into the room, he opened the cabinet. A high school uniform of the Roucan Academy hung inside just as how he’d left it eleven years ago. All this time, they’ve kept it. He shuffled backward until he spotted a letter on top of the writing desk on his left. The envelope was addressed to him in his mom’s handwriting. He pulled out the white sheet of paper and read:
If you’ve received this letter late in the afternoon, it means I’m halfway across to Cuba by now.
You remember my bodyguard Brent? His family lives there. He’s been with me for a decade and saved my life in more times than I can count. The least I could do for him is to personally give the news to his folks. Afterward, I’ll have to see to my patients and yours. Your late secretary gave me a copy of your appointments. I was planning to fit into your “very busy” schedule a few eligible women I’d like you to meet. Might I add that you’re more of a workaholic than I am? Were you planning to be single your whole life?! Well, now that I’ve freed you from commitments, stay under the radar until the investigations re: your secretary’s murder case has concluded. Meet a few girls while you’re there? Anyway, it’s just a suggestion. Just treat your extended visit as a sabbatical.
Alfred was kind enough to offer that you stay with them. He says a friend of his son is always welcome in his home. Try not to get into trouble while you’re there. Their family is having a rough time right now. Don’t add to their worries, alright?
I’ll see you soon, darling. ❤ ❤ ❤
He reread the letter and tossed it back on the table. His mom’s decisions had Mr. Roucan’s hand all over the message; it was unlike her to leave without saying a word to her only son. The consistent matchmaking attempts was definitely his mom’s though.
She’ll be heartbroken when she finds out, Fred thought. He gazed at the scene outside his window. The floral garden was backlit by a sky where a battle waged. For a brief period, Fred was enthralled as he watched night and day fight for dominance. Inevitably, evening took over and cast the world into darkness.
A star made its first appearance, twinkling in the expanse of early night sky. It brought back events which seemed impossible; conversations he’d had with the Oracle and the Messenger in a time ahead of his own. The clothes Fred wore reminded him that he had taken the journey to the future and what he had agreed to do. The Messenger promised to be close by to ensure everything goes according to plan.
Fred tore his gaze from the window and searched for the intruder. “Who’s there?” he demanded.
A shadow moved near his bed.
“Who are you?” He squinted against the gloom.
Lights came on from the garden and illuminated him and Cheska. Her head hung low and she avoided his gaze.
“I didn’t mean to intrude. I didn’t know this room would be occupied,” she said, mortified.
He sought the place where she had hidden. “Did you hide under the bed?”
She gave a tiny nod.
“How long have you been hiding there?”
“A while.” She fiddled with the hem of her blouse.
He swept a critical eye on her face. Half of it was obscured by the dark; the other half he could see was hidden by a curtain of brown hair.
“Were you planning on hiding from me too?” Fred tucked her hair behind her ear. Her face visible, tear tracks reflected against the light. He sighed and gently wiped her cheek with his thumb. “You were planning to hide from me, didn’t you?”
A tear fell down her cheek. Her face crumpled. She covered her face with her hands and turned her back to him.
The walls Fred had erected around his heart crashed at the sound of her quiet weeping. He shouldn’t allow his feelings for her to grow. Yet, seeing Cheska miserable – her shoulders quivering as she wept crumbled his resolve. His heart twisted at every sob which seemed to come from her soul.
In a few strides, Fred was right behind her. His arms enfolded the woman who he’d thought was lost forever.
Copyright © 2014-2016 Cecilia Beatriz. All rights reserved.
A/N: Fred’s back from the future! What deal do you think the Messenger and he made that affected him so badly?
Cheska seems to be going through a lot. Thankfully, Fred’s there to comfort her. Well…more on that next chapter. Hehe.
This chapter was a bit of a rush. My schedule is about to get really busy soon which is why am trying to encode and upload as fast as I can.
If you enjoyed this chapter, please like, comment and/or share. Thanks! 🙂