Dragon Apparent Book 1: Dragon Missing
Scarlet thought she was starting to get a handle on life until she discovered her friend and only source of stability goes missing.
Dragon Missing snippet –
All I could hear was the slow dripping of the kitchen faucet, and that scared me more than anything. Not that it was dripping—it had done that for years—but that that was the only noise. Anthony, my sort-of mentor, was always up to something.
Taking a deep breath, I squared my shoulders and lifted my head, imagining his words.
Scarlet, posture is everything. If you want to appear calm and confident, you have to position your body in a calm and confident way. Put your head up, lift that chin. Show people you know who you are.
That was all well and good for him. He knew who he was—an eccentric handyman who lived in the bottom apartment of my block of flats and spent the rest of the time writing journalistic papers on bizarre insects from South America.
I lived in the trust fund apartment several floors up by myself. Before you ask, that didn’t make me a rich kid. I had no idea who had left me the trust fund, and it wasn’t much. It covered my rent and a few bills. I worked in a tourist café on the beach to pay the rest of the bills and save up for college.
It wasn’t going well.
Don’t get me wrong. I did my best. I worked hard since Anthony wouldn’t cut me any slack. However, life was expensive here, and I only got so many hours of work. Sometimes the tips were good, but more often, they weren’t.
Wondering why Anthony hadn’t fixed his leaky faucet, I knocked on his door again. It wasn’t like him to leave me waiting, and silence wasn’t like him either.
After a few seconds, I hmphed and tried the door handle. It wasn’t locked, and it swung open so I could look for him. It was never locked. Anthony liked an open house.
“It’s me,” I called. I’d intended to make a wisecrack about the faucet, but I stopped as soon as I saw the main room.
Anthony’s belongings were strewn everywhere, cupboards tipped out, and contents scattered. All the insect jars had been broken, and their occupants were crawling or jumping or just gone. There was no sign of my friend.
I froze, terror gripping my heart. This didn’t happen to normal people. This was like a scene on TV.
“Anthony?” I called and took another couple of steps, being careful not to crush a beetle as I moved. There was no reply.
Fear settled into my body. Bunching my hands into fists, I moved forward, making my way to the kitchen and the dripping tap.
I called my friend’s name a couple of times, but there was nothing but the drip and the strange chirp of some insect from near the back wall. This wasn’t good. I searched the living room and the kitchen, then the bedroom and the small guest room he used as an office.
They were all in the same state, and there was no sign of his laptop. I didn’t want to step on the debris or look at it too closely. Anthony was a private person, and though I was worried about him, this felt like an invasion of his privacy.
After I’d checked every room twice, I stopped. I had no idea what to do.
I’d seen cop shows where people went missing or came home to this happening in their houses, but having it actually happen? The shows skipped ahead to the cops being there. Did that mean I needed to call them? Would Anthony want me to?
I didn’t know. There might be something here that would make the situation obvious. His laptop was gone. Maybe he had taken it with him.
Theories ran through my head as I walked aimlessly through the apartment again. I didn’t know what I expected, but I looked for anything that might offer me information. I didn’t touch anything, only stooped to examine some papers that had been pulled out of a desk drawer.
They were bills and had been neatly filed away, little labels sticking up on tabs. I flipped through them until I saw a folder that said “Cotton Candy.”
Tilting my head to the side, I looked to see if anything was in it. Anthony had called me “Cotton Candy” since the day we’d met. I’d come to the apartment with no keys and no idea of how to do anything. I’d been eighteen, fresh out of high school, and more than happy to get out of state care.
He’d found me sitting on my suitcase outside the door of the apartment after an hour of knocking with no response. All I’d had with me was a big tub of cotton candy, my goodbye present from another kid.
Why did Anthony have a folder with those words on it? I knew I wasn’t supposed to touch anything, so I hooked the edge of my sleeve over my finger and thumb and used it to lift the flap on the divider.
Although it looked as if it had once contained much more, there was nothing in there now except a few photos of me. One was of Anthony and me, but it had been ripped, and I was no longer in it.
I removed the photos and shoved them into my pocket. Either Anthony had taken the rest of the contents, or someone else had. It seemed important, and that was good enough for me.
I straightened and was trying to decide if I should keep going or call the cops when I heard a noise from the front door.
“Ant?” Mrs. Jenkins called in her high-pitched voice. “I can’t get the…”
I stepped into the living room, and her voice trailed off as she looked around. Her shock equaled mine when I’d found the place.
“What on earth happened?” she asked, her voice going up another octave.
“I…don’t know. I only got here a moment ago. He’s not here.”
“Oh, you poor thing. This isn’t the kind of thing a young ‘un like you should see.” She opened her arms, intending to hug me.
My body went to her automatically. I’d been in enough foster homes where everyone wanted to welcome you as if you were part of their family that I knew it was better to get it over with.
She ushered me out of the building as she embraced me.
“Stay here. I’ll call the police, and we’ll let them sort it out.” She pulled out her cell phone, the kind where the font was extra large, and the case was almost as big as the device.
I watched her struggle to open it and figure out how to dial 911. I considered offering to do it for her since the wait was painful, but it wouldn’t help. Mrs. Jenkins liked to mother people, especially me.
Eventually, she got the police on the phone and gave them the building address and a brief explanation of what we’d found. By brief, I mean she told them how dreadful it was and that a young girl shouldn’t have been the first to find it. The male voice on the other end eventually cut her off and told her someone was on the way, but it might take half an hour because it didn’t sound like we were in danger.
Mrs. Jenkins didn’t think this was good enough and sucked in a breath to say so, but the dispatcher hung up. That left her with no one but me to talk to.
There was an awkward pause where I thought she was trying to decide whether I needed mothering or if she could complain more. If I had not also been confused and worried, I might have tried to look more upset so she stuck with mothering me.
“Some people really shouldn’t be in jobs like that,” she stated, her chins wobbling as she lifted them higher.
She sucked in another breath, confirming my fear that I would have to listen to her whine about the cops these days and how awful this was for her.
“Here’s us, finding such a horrible thing. No idea if Anthony is even alive. No one to fix the problems in our houses, and they want to make us wait half an hour for someone to even come and look. You shouldn’t be exposed to such a thing, and I shouldn’t be on my feet for so long. My ankles. I’m not young anymore. I was saying to June only yesterday how…”
I zoned out and thought about finding a file titled with my nickname that had photos of me in it. That didn’t make sense. I wasn’t special. Barely even needed Anthony to do much these days. I’d watched him fix things for a year.
Now I mostly talked to him to hear someone’s voice. We also played board games and cards. He liked to play games, and I didn’t mind.
Anthony had many board games. Not like Monopoly or Risk or the cheap, tacky games based on books or movies when they were popular. His made you think. They were obscure, expensive, and had lots of pieces and long rule books.
We could play for hours and not grow bored, and we had. It was a good way to spend a Saturday evening.
Not that I was a geek or a nerd. I liked to party and drink, and I took care of my hair and makeup. You didn’t survive the other girls in the foster homes if you didn’t look and sound like you fit in. I didn’t have to do that with Anthony, though. He didn’t care.
“And the poor little fluff ball. He’ll be meowing for me already.” Mrs. Jenkins paused to take another breath.
“Maybe you should go back to him,” I interjected, sensing my moment.
“And leave you here with this horrible mess? You’ll be scarred for life.”
“I’m much calmer now. Knowing the cops are on the way is a big help. I can stay here. Mr. Leroy really shouldn’t be left alone. You know he gets in awful scrapes when you’re not there.”
“He does, doesn’t he? He’s a silly cat. Are you sure you’ll be fine? You still look pale.” She squinted at me as if checking my skin tone.
“I’ve been indoors a lot lately. It’ll do me good to be out here in the sun.”
That did the trick. Mrs. Jenkins nodded, thought about her cat, and left. Her apartment was on the other side of the building.
I exhaled as I watched her go. At first, I felt better, being able to think without her chatter, but then I noticed how quiet it was. And that Anthony wasn’t here.
I didn’t do panic since there wasn’t much point. It wasted time and energy and didn’t achieve anything. This strange lack of surety was the closest I came to it. I was no stranger to hunger or thirst, and I didn’t know what it was to feel safe. Most people who made threats had no follow-through, and the ones who did knew what they wanted and made their expectations clear.
There was nothing to panic about.
Now, however, I wondered if it might help. I had feelings I didn’t know what to do with. I was worried. I liked Anthony, and I couldn’t say that about many people. He’d never not been there, not since the first day, when he’d found me a key to my apartment and gotten the power on for me.
I didn’t need him now the way I’d needed him then, but I wanted him, and I was sure he wasn’t coming back. At least not right away.
It left me with one painful realization: I was on my own. Again.
It's not enough that Anthony is missing but that he has mysterious information about her in his apartment. Find out what happens next on July 7th when Dragon Apparent Book 1: Dragon Missing is released. Head over to Amazon and pre-order it today.