Castle Roland

Devon's Choice

by Eric Aune


Chapter 4

Posted: N/A

Early the next morning during breakfast, the phone rings. Andrew answers the phone. He gets a troubled look on his face as he listens.

"You think so? Okay, I'll be right in, as soon as I can. Yeah, thanks. See ya then."

He hangs up the phone and looks at the family with a resigned look on his face.

"There's another missing boy. I have to go in to get the report."

"Oh, Dad, are they sure?"

"Yeah, I think so. I'll be back as soon as I can."

Andrew goes to his room to change. Devon, who was sitting there, is stunned. Then he starts shaking his head.

[No, it can't be. The Man did it again. I've got to stop him. I have to make them know that I'm here to help. I have to get their attention.]

He follows Andrew and gets into the car with him. They drive away. At the station Andrew is greeted by one of the other detectives, who hands him a file.

"Jonathan Murray. 11 years old. In a foster home in Santa Clarita. Mother in prison for selling Meth. No apparent problems at the home or in the school. Went missing on Wednesday, we went out to the home this morning. Everything seems okay. The Lieutenant said to call you in and give you the file."

"Thanks, Jerry. I'll take it."

Andrew goes back to his desk and looks through the file. He sees another nice looking boy, light brown spiked hair, brown eyes. No problems listed in the file from school or at the home, Devon is looking over his shoulder at the file. After looking at the file he puts it into his laptop case and heads for home. Devon is sitting quietly beside him in the car, thinking and planning on how to get their attention. Later that afternoon they get home. Andrew comes through the door and Randy looks up.

"Is it another missing boy?"

"Yes, I believe so. Same basic info, foster kid, disappeared in the afternoon hasn't been seen since. No problems at the home or school."

"That sucks."

"Yeah, it does."

Andrew goes into his office and sits at the computer entering information about the case. Then he goes out to the living room to watch a football game with Randy. Devon joins them. The Indianapolis Colts win the game. Randy gets up and goes to his room. Devon follows him. Randy sits down at his computer. He takes his jump drive and plugs it in to the computer. He pulls up the program and runs it. It runs correctly until it gets to one spot and errors out.

"What? I fixed this. It should be running perfectly. What's the problem now?"

He goes through the code again, and after 15 minutes he finds what Devon had put in. Randy jumps up, knocking his chair over as he stands up quickly totally surprised. He leans forward again and looks at what is typed there, 'DEVON'. He looks around with wide eyes.

"What the hell is going on here?"

Devon is jumping around with a huge smile on his face, clapping his hands. Randy gets up and stares at the computer, then he looks around the room. He quickly closes the program and takes out the jump drive, and heads to his dad's office, Devon following close behind him. When they get to the office, Andrew can be seen looking through the files on the case. He looks up as Randy comes in the office. Devon sits down in one of the chairs and watches father and son.

"Dad, you have got to see this!"

"See what, Randy?"

"Just a second."

He goes to his dad's desktop and puts in the jump drive. He opens the file.

"Dad, the other day at school I was working on this program for class, and I tested it that night here at home. I ran it, but it errored out. When I checked it, I found an error in the code, and there were a couple extra letters in the middle of a line of code. I deleted the letters and saved the work."

"Okay, so you made an error; what's the big deal that I have to see?"

"Wait, I'll show you. Well, yesterday I was finishing it up at school and saved it. I just ran the program, to test it and make sure it was ready to turn in on Monday, and it errored out again in about the same place. So I looked through the code and you won't believe what I found."

"Okay, son, what did you find?"

"Just a minute, I'll show you."

Randy scrolls through the code, then points to what is in the middle of a line. Andrew leans forward and looks at the screen, his eyes widen when he sees 'DEVON' clearly inserted in the middle of the line of code. He steps back, looks around, then at Randy.

"This is no joke, son, is it?"

"No, sir. I knocked my chair over when I saw it. And now thinking about it, you know what the letters were that I thought was a mistake on Tuesday? 'dc', Devon Carter, maybe?"

Andrew sits back, thinking. The implications give him the willies.

"What's going on, dad? This is kind of creeping me out."

"Yeah, me too. I don't know what is going on. There is no way you could have accidentally put 'Devon' in the code. The 'dc', I can see, but not 'Devon'. But...."

Andrew stops as Gus comes in the room, looks at one of the chairs, then goes and sits by it. He looks back over his shoulder at the chair, with what looks like a grin, then faces Andrew and Randy. They are frozen, watching what is going on. Gus starts to lifts his head, like he does when they pet him. Devon had looked at Gus when he came in and is looking down when he starts to pet him.

"What the fu... heck?"

"I agree, dad."

Devon looks up suddenly when he hears that. He sees Randy moving towards the chair really slowly. He is looking about where Devon is. His eyes are moving up and down and squinting, like he is trying to focus on something. Devon suddenly jumps up and runs out of the room.

"Devon? Uh... are you there?"

As he gets closer, Gus sits there looking up at him. Gus whines a little, then runs off, following Devon. Gus gets to the patio door and whines and scratches at it. Mary sees him and walks toward him.

"What's the matter, Gus, you got business to take care of? Okay, I'll let you out."

She goes to the door and opens it. Gus runs out to where Devon now is. Mary goes back to the living room.

Andrew and Randy are looking at each other with wide eyes. They look around the room some more, but they still can see nothing.

"Wh... what was that, Dad? Do you think, maybe Devon was really here? Do you think he messed with my program?"

"I don't know. I could have sworn that Gus looked like he was being petted. Of course there have always been stories of dogs being able to see spirits. But I don't know. I've never been one to believe in that kind of stuff. But that was weird."

"Dad... uh, if Devon was really here, then that means...."

"I'm afraid so, son. If what happened was real, then he's probably dead, which means that the others probably are too?"

"No. That's not fair. He hardly got a chance to have a real life. First his family is killed, then he gets put into a foster home, then this."

Andrew puts his arms around Randy and hugs him.

"Yeah, I know. I don't know what just happened, but I've got to figure out what is happening to these boys, and soon. With another boy missing, I may be too late to find him in time. I better get back to work."

"Okay, Dad. Do you think he's still around here?"

"I don't know. If he was here, maybe he still is, maybe he never was. We'll just have to keep an eye out. If he is or was here, maybe he couldn't go on, as they say, because of unfinished business."

"Okay. I'll let you get back to work. I'm going to go finish my homework."

Randy goes back to his room, picks his chair up and finishes the program. He runs it and everything works fine. Meanwhile Devon is out in the back with Gus, thinking about his next move.

[Okay, Randy found my name. The both know about it. Then I think they saw the way Gus was acting, and now they are at least thinking about me, I guess, 'haunting' them. What's next? What do I do now? It's still hard to affect things, but I can do that if I work at it. Maybe it will get better if I practice more.]

Devon starts practicing moving things around. The sky gets dark as he moves around the backyard trying to move things. He sees the Shepards having dinner. He sits outside with Gus, petting him as he watches them eat together. He wishes he could have a family again like them. Too bad he's dead now. If he was still alive, this is the kind of family he would have wished for to adopt him. He hugs Gus and buries his face into Gus's neck, crying. Gus licks his face. There is of course no real contact, but Devon can almost feel Gus's tongue on his cheek. He pulls back and giggles through his tears, then hugs Gus again, resting his head on Gus's back, looking at the family through the window having dinner. Later that night, Devon goes into Randy's room and lies down with Randy again, cuddling up close. Randy once again has a smile while he sleeps, and puts his arm around Devon.

Jonathan wakes up lying on a cot. He starts to move and realizes that he is restrained. He is handcuffed at the hands and feet, with a little length of chain leading back behind the cot. He can move enough to stand by the cot, but that is about it. He next realizes that he is completely naked. He looks around in panic and cannot see his clothes anywhere. He pulls on his restraints to see if there is any give in them. He tries to see if he can slip them off his hands. He has no luck in either attempt.

He looks around to take stock of his surroundings. He is in a room with a strange looking covering on the walls. There are some shelves along the walls, out of reach of course. Looking toward a different wall, he sees another wooden door. There are some stairs going up from this room. From the looks of it, he believes that he is in some kind of basement. He follows the chain to where it is attached and finds a large eyebolt in the wall behind and under the cot. He pulls again and again, but the bolt and the chain do not budge. He sits back against the wall with his knees pulled up to his chest and his forehead on his knees, and cries.

He lifts his head up at the sound of a door opening. He looks to the door on the other wall, but it is still closed. Another noise draws his attention to the top of the stairs. He looks up and sees the legs of a man coming down. In a few steps he sees his captor. The man looks at him with a leer as he nears Jonathan.

"Hey, sport. I see you finally woke up. Good. This is where the fun begins."

"No... who are you? What do you want? Let me go! Help! Heelllppp! Someone help me!"

"Go ahead, sport, yell all you want. No one can hear you. Even if they were right outside this room, they couldn't hear you. See the walls, soundproofed? But if it makes you feel better, go ahead and yell. Although I will tell you, it does get on my nerves, so you should get it out of your system and then stop. You don't want to piss me off. I can be a little hard on someone who pisses me off. Understand?"

The boy quits yelling and looks at the man in fear, with his arms hugging his knees to his chest. As the man gets closer the boy shrinks back. The man keeps coming forward. He unlocks the cuffs on the boy's wrist and ankles, keeping a firm grip on the boy at all times. Then with a firm grasp on the boy's upper arm, he pulls him to his feet and over to the other door. He opens it and goes inside. pulling the boy behind him. The boy's yells as they enter the room beyond, are cut off when the man closes the door.

The next morning Randy gets up and after breakfast, he takes Gus out for a walk to the park. Devon goes along. Randy carries a tennis ball with him. When they get to the park, he unsnaps the leash on Gus and throws the ball. Gus runs after it and brings it back. Randy throws it again and again. He sees Gus is panting a bit, so he sits down under a tree with Gus by his side. Devon sits on Randy's other side. Gus gets up and walks over to the other side of Randy and lies on his back. Randy smiles and reaches over and rubs Gus's belly. Devon is doing the same. When Gus isn't panting so much and seems to have cooled down, Randy stands up again. Gus jumps up, grabs the ball, drops it in front of Randy and dances around in front of him, waiting for him to throw it again. Randy sighs and picks up the ball.

"Okay, buddy. Once more, then we have to get back home."

Randy throws it and it sails into some thick bushes. Gus runs up to the edge and starts running back and forth, bending down, and trying to get into the thick bushes. Randy runs over, followed by Devon. Randy tries to lean in and look inside and see if he can see the ball.

"Well, damn, I guess that one is gone. I'll get you another one, Gus. We have plenty of old tennis balls around the house."

He reaches down and pets Gus. Devon looks at them, and then goes into the bushes, looking for the ball. Devon finds it as Randy snaps the leash onto Gus and starts to leave.

"C'mon, Gus, let's go home."

As Randy walks away, Gus pulls back against the leash and whines a little.

"Gus, c'mon, we've got to go. I'll get you another ball."

Randy pulls on the leash a little harder, then stops as he sees the ball come rolling out from underneath the bush. He is puzzled as he looks down at it.

"Oooookay. That was a little strange...."

Randy tapers off and his eyes widen as something comes to mind. He looks around, but sees nothing. Devon has come out of the bushes and looks at Randy's face. Randy bends down to Gus. He unsnaps the leash. He gets a smile on his face.

"Gus, go find Devon, go boy."

Gus stands for a moment, then he trots over to where Devon is standing right by the bushes and stops. Gus looks up to Devon, then back to Randy. Randy pumps his fist.

"Yes! I knew it! Devon, you're here? Dang, how will I know if he can hear me?"

Suddenly the ball rolls a little closer; Gus pounces on it. He picks it up and brings it back to where Devon is standing and drops it at his feet. Randy's eyes go wide and a big smile breaks out on his face.

"Devon, you are here!"

Randy looks around; he doesn't want anyone to see him talking to the air, so he searches around for a more secluded spot. He sees a nice spot in the shade of a tree where no one is nearby and where he can watch for anyone coming up. He heads for it.

"C'mon, Devon, let's go over there where we can be alone with no one nearby."

They walk over to the spot; Gus picks up the ball and brings it along. Randy sits with his back to the tree. Gus drops the ball and then lies down, and Devon sits beside Randy. Randy leans back against the tree thinking. He absently picks up the ball and kind of tosses it back and forth in his hands.

"Devon, how can I talk to you? There has got to be some way...."

He looks down at the ball and smiles. He tosses the ball a little ways away, holds onto Gus and looks around.

"Maybe we can use this somehow. Let's see... Okay, Devon, if you are here, move the ball."

Devon gets up and walks over to the ball and gives it a little kick. Randy sees the ball move toward him. He smiles.

"Okay, cool. How long... no, that won't work. They've got to be yes or no questions. Let's see... okay, try this. I'll ask a question and you answer by moving the ball if it is a yes."

He pauses for a few moments and the ball moves toward him a little. Randy smiles.

"All right... I'm sorry, but this is going to be hard. Do you know what happened to you?"

The ball moves a little closer.

"Were you... h...hurt?"

The ball moves closer.

"Are you d...dead?"

The ball moves closer.

Tears start to form in Randy's eyes.

"I'm sorry, Devon. That really sucks."

The ball moves closer.

"Do you know who did it?"

The ball moves closer.

Randy gets kind of excited.

"Do you know this person's name?"

The ball does not move.

"This is hard. Let me think. Was it a man or a wo... wait, that won't work. I've got it, was it a man?"

The ball moves closer.

"Okay... would you recognize him if you saw him again?"

The ball moves closer. It is now near Randy's outstretched feet.

"Okay, it was a man, and you don't know his name, but you would recognize him if you saw him again. I know, does he live in your neighborhood?"

The ball kind of wobbles sideways a little.

"What does that mean?"

The ball wobbles sideways again.

Randy sits back and thinks about it, looking at the ball. He gets an idea.

"Did that mean, you don't know?"

The ball moves closer.

Randy grins in triumph and pumps his fist.

"Yes! Okay, next question. Have you seen him before?"

The ball doesn't move.

"Okay, you'd recognize him if you saw him, but you've never seen him before. So he probably might live in your neighborhood, but you've never seen him, so maybe he doesn't." He thinks for a bit. "I can't think of any other questions. Hey, I know, maybe we should talk to my dad?"

The ball doesn't move.

Randy is puzzled.

"You don't want me to talk to my dad?"

The ball moves closer.

Devon sits down next to Randy and looks at him. Randy is looking at the ball and then looks around. He looks up and down, but still can't see anything. He frowns.

"Why don't you want me to talk to my dad? He could help. He's a real good detective. Right, I know, you can't answer that. Let me think..." Randy sits quietly for a bit. "I don't know what else to do, won't you please let me talk to Dad?"

The ball moves back and forth a little.

"So can I please talk to him about this?"

The ball doesn't move.

"Okay, I'm getting confused. Since the ball is not moving in one direction, but it is moving back and forth but not wobbling... let's see if I understand this?"

Randy looks right where the ball is sitting.

"If the ball moves like in one direction, then it means yes, but if it goes back and forth a little, that means you don't know."

The ball moves again.

"All right. Can I talk to my dad about this?"

The ball doesn't move.

"Can I ever talk to him about this? Y'know, to get his help?"

The ball wobbles.

"So I can talk to him, but not right now?"

The ball moves.

"Why? You can't answer that. This is so frustrating. I need to think about this some more. Maybe I can come up with some other questions. I'm going to go home, I feel like a snack. Are you coming, and can we talk some more tonight in my room? I promise I won't say anything more to my dad."

The ball moves.

Randy picks the ball up, snaps the leash on Gus, and starts to walk away. He looks back and then around the area where they were sitting.

"Are you coming?"

Randy pauses a moment, then starts for home. Devon gets up and follows him. They walk in silence back to the house.

Later that night in his bedroom, Randy is sitting on the bed. He drops the ball on the bed. He looks around the room and of course sees nothing.

"Devon, are you here?"

The ball doesn't move.

Randy waits a bit, then frowns and sighs. He turns on the TV and leans back against the headboard. Devon is out in the backyard with Gus, hugging him. Gus tries to lick Devon and his tongue gets in the general area of Devon's face, but makes no real contact. Devon pushes Gus' head away and just lays his head on Gus' back, just doing some thinking.

[Why don't I want him to tell his dad? He might be able to help, but I don't want Randy to talk to his dad yet. I think I trust Randy to help me, but I want to be sure he won't get into trouble with his dad about talking to me. He might think Randy is crazy. I don't want anything to happen to Randy because of me. I think I want to get better at 'talking' to Randy first, and maybe find a way to make it easier to answer their questions. Then we can talk to his dad.]

Later, Devon goes back inside the house and to Randy's room. He sees Randy sitting on the bed in sweats and a t-shirt watching TV. He sits down next to Randy and watches TV also. After a little while he sees the tennis ball on the bed. Devon gives the ball a hard push and it hits Randy on the leg. Randy jumps, startled.

"Shit... what the...."

He looks down and sees that the ball is near his leg. He looks around, breathing a little fast.

"Devon? Was that you?"

The ball moves.

"You're back. You scared me. Where did you go? Right, you can't answer that. Were you thinking?"

The ball moves.

"Are you going to let me talk to my dad?"

The ball doesn't move.

"Okay, but I think he could help."

The ball doesn't move.

"You don't think he can help?"

The ball doesn't move.

"So you do think he can help?"

The ball moves.

"But you still don't want me to tell him."

The ball moves.

"Okay, you don't want me to talk to him right now, but you will soon... maybe?"

The ball moves.

"Devon, can I ask you something?"

The ball moves.

"That was a stupid question. How...."

The ball moves.

"Okay, smart ass. Ha ha, very funny."

The ball moves around in a small circle.

"You think that was funny?"

The ball moves.

"Okay, yeah, yeah, the joke's on me. Anyway, back to what I wanted to ask you. How long have you been here? A day?"

The ball doesn't move.

"Two days?"

The ball doesn't move.

"Four days?"

The ball doesn't move.

"A week?"

The ball doesn't move.

"Two weeks?"

The ball doesn't move.

"Three weeks?"

The ball moves.

"You've been here for three weeks?"

The ball moves.

Randy leans his head back and looks at the ceiling. He suddenly looks over to where the ball is.

"You say you've been here a couple of weeks. Why did you come here? Wait, you can't answer that. Wait a minute... you came here the day we went to your house?"

The ball moves.

"You were at your home, when we talked to Mrs. Jeffries."

The ball moves.

"And you came home with us?"

The ball moves.

"Because my dad is the detective on the case?"

The ball moves.

"Did you do that so that you could help somehow?"

The ball moves.

"I wish we had a better way to do this. It's hard to figure out what to ask like this."

Randy looks around the room and sees the computer. He smiles, then looks to the place where Devon might be.

"Can you type it on the computer?"

The ball doesn't move.

"What, you did it before, didn't you, when you put the 'dc' and then your name in the program I was working on? You did do that, didn't you?"

The ball moves.

"Can you do it again?"

The ball moves back and forth.

"So you don't know if you can? Why is that? Devon, can you try?"

The ball moves.

Randy gets up and goes to the computer, Devon follows him. Randy turns it on; while it boots up, he looks over to where the ball is laying on the bed, then watches the computer finish booting. He opens a blank document.

"Okay, Devon, go ahead."

Devon moves to the side of Randy and pushes on the 'D' key. He is pushing harder and harder. Nothing happens. He tries again, and the key slowly moves down and a 'd' shows up on the screen. Randy watches as he sees the key eventually go very slowly down. He frowns.

"That took a little time. Was it hard?"

After a few moments, the ball moves.

Randy sighs and shuts down the computer and walks back over to the bed. He leans back against the headboard again.

"I wish you'd let me tell my dad."

The ball doesn't move.

"You know he could help."

The ball moves.

"Did you know that there is another boy missing?"

The ball moves.

"Then please let me tell him."

The ball doesn't move.

"Well, will you at least think about it?"

The ball moves.

"Good. I'm tired. I think I'll go to sleep. Are you going to stay here?"

The ball moves.

Randy changes into some sweats, turns the light off and settles down. He turns on his side, and looks at the spot where he thinks Devon is. The ball is still sitting there.

"Devon, do you sleep?"

The ball doesn't move.

"Are you still here?"

The ball moves.

Devon lays down facing Randy. He sees that Randy's eyes are shining a little.

"Devon... I'm sorry about what happened to you. I wish I could have been there to protect you. If I had a little brother, I would do everything in my power to keep him safe. I wish you could have had someone like that. I really wish it could have been me that was there to stop whatever happened."

Tears run down Randy's cheeks. They are matched by the ones on Devon's cheeks. Devon scoots forward and puts his arms around Randy's neck and lays his head on top of Randy's head. Randy suddenly gets a look of wonder on his face. He moves his arms around Devon like he is hugging him. More tears fall. His voice is choked up and in awe.

"Oh my God, Devon... I can almost feel you. It's like cool, but warm. Oh, little brother, I'm so sorry. So very, very sorry someone hurt you."

He continues hugging Devon and Devon returns the hug, their tears mingling, Randy's real ones and Devon's ghostly ones. Randy falls asleep smiling, and Devon even seems to rest a bit, feeling safe in Randy's arms.

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