Charlie looked away and pulled out my jangly key chain from his pocket and handed it over to me.
“You left that in the door handle of the main door.”
“FUCK,” I yelled out as frustrated with myself about anything as I have ever been in my entire life.
I took the keys and tucked them into my pocket while biting my lip.
“Is it okay if I bring my stuff here?” Charlie asked sheepishly. “I will just stay in my room. You will barely see me.”
I nodded externally and shook my head “no” internally. I couldn’t say no this desperate, beaten Charlie and truly believed all of the fear which had wrapped me up in the past day or so had been self-generated. I was making up something that wasn’t there because of the coincidence of the strange crossword puzzle popping up.
Charlie was off before I could say another word.
“I’ll be back in a couple of hours,” I heard Charlie yell from over in the living room before I heard the front door open and close.
I rolled back to the computer with a brain bursting with uncertainty and self-hate. I was going to go back to the crossword puzzle, but was frustratingly greeted by a laptop which had restarted on its own, probably having conducted scheduled updates I wasn’t able to postpone before it launched into them.
The computer opened up to the blue login screen once I settled in and popped up with a profile box I hadn’t noticed the first time I turned the computer on. I think I logged in as a guest in a blur and didn’t look at the main profile option.
The only profile to login with was labeled as Charlie with a headshot style photos of Charlie in his high school baseball hat.
I bit my tongue, coughed and turned away from the computer all at the same time. I wanted to barf. I thought about the box where I found the laptop in the first place and knew I needed to put wheels into motion. I flew over to the corner of the room where the box still rested. I turned it over and looked at the shipping label. The return address read:
5169 N. Industry St.
Beachwood, DE 12356
It was Charlie’s laptop and package, not Jonathan’s.
I rolled back to the computer as fast as I could. Fired up the crossword I had been working on and chewed my nails while waiting for the next question to pop up.
Who was Charlie’s best friend in high school?
What city’s baseball team drafted Charlie?
There was only one more question left and then it would all add up and I would have the ultimate answer for the crossword.
Who did Charlie love more…mom or dad?
The ultimate answer which served as the spine of the puzzle was finished. I read it with my breath held.
The final message washed away all the comfort my conversation and confrontation with Charlie had provided. I was back on red alert. It was time to just go. I was back to being pretty sure Charlie was responsible for Atchley and Jessica’s deaths.
I raced out of the house as fast as I could, on a mission to make it to my car to hit the road and go anywhere but home.
My plan hit a quick road block though. Missing from the driveway was my car. I checked the keys in my pocket as fast as I could and noticed my car key was missing from it.