“You expecting anyone?”
“No. I don’t get a lot of visitors”
“Stay here. I’ll investigate” I volunteered.
Duk! Duk! Duk! The rather violent knocking continued. I clutched the small piece of the map tightly as I walked towards the door. I peeked outside carefully not knowing what to expect. Outside were two big men with black coats. They greeted me cheerfully holding to boxes labeled clothes. Those were the people who stared at us in the shop! I recognized. I didn’t let their cheery voice and convincing smile let my guard down. I asked them what they wanted in a firm voice. They said that when they saw us shopping in his shop, we took their most popular design. So, they asked if I wanted to buy more clothes with a discount. I declined their offer and slammed the door. I went back to Clayton and Nik. I told them what had happened.
“So, they are not as bad as you thought huh?”
Before I could defend myself, the violent knocking interrupted me. Again? As I looked towards the door. I asked Clayton if he could go this time. He rolled his eyes and grunted. He walked towards the door with annoyance. Nik asked me to help him set-up the time machine. I asked Nik why not just solve the puzzle. He said when we came, the portal overheated so he turned it off to cool it down. He asked me to plug in the huge tube behind the machine and plug it into the wall. He then pressed the correct answer. The time machine glowed and produced a blinding light. The room lit up and the candles in the room were extinguished. It stopped and it looked the same as before. There were no more lights or sound.
“Is it broken?” I asked
“Nah. You just go through it. It was also not as dramatic as I thought when I first saw it,”
Nik asked me to call Clayton so I rushed to the door. When I reached the door, the cool breeze gently touched my face. The door was wide open and Clayton was nowhere in sight. I went outside and looked around. No one. I was getting worried so I shouted.
Clayton! If this is a joke, it’s not funny!” I shouted.
There was no answer. Cold beads of sweat formed on my forehead as I breathed heavily. I had a bad feeling about this. I ran to Nik and told him about his disappearance. He pressed a red button on one of his large equipment and it made a sound as though it was powering down. He turned off the time machine and asked what we should do. He suggested looking for Clayton at the store where we shopped our clothes. I agreed and we rushed off. We asked the store owner if he had seen Clayton or the mysterious, black-coated people.
He thought for a while but he shook his head. We went to the city and the beach and asked around but everyone answered it the same. Once we were out of options, I sat down at a nearby bench and rubbed my temples hoping to get some idea to where Clayton was. My cogwheels in my brain were churning but to no avail. The moon glimmered above me. The streets lights lit up while everyone else went home. Nik placed his hand on my shoulder and reassured me. I smiled at him but deep down, I was worried that I would never find him again. A wave of worry and sorrow overwhelmed me. When I was just about to give up, I received a phone call from Clayton. My eyes lit up and I quickly picked it up. Instead of hearing Clayton’s familiar voice, a deep, ominous voice boomed through the phone. Anger welled up inside me. I demanded to know where Clayton was. He offered me a swap.
“If you give us the map, we will give your friend back. Come to the abandoned factory near the beach at twelve. If you’re late, you will found never see him again,” he said darkly.
He hung up.
“What should we do?” Nik asked
“I don’t know,” I said as I rested my head on my hands.
Nik and I went back to Turner Towers. There were two more hours and I was not going to waste time worrying. I decided to make a plan. I proposed to Nik about my plan. He said he knew that abandoned factory inside out as he used to make his special coffee over there. I raised an eyebrow and asked if that was necessary. He told me that he will let me taste his coffee once this is over. After an hour, we devised a plan that might just work. I went to the abandoned factory hoping my plan would work. The moonlight shined over the abandoned factory making it eerier than it already is. I took a deep breath and walked in. Cobwebs hung from the ceiling and a few bats flew actively here and there. Even if I want to calm myself down by taking deep breaths, I would just burst out in a series of coughs. I decided to shout Clayton’s name out.
There was no response. I tried again and again but it was eerily quiet. Out of the blue, I heard Clayton shout. I ran towards his voice and him in a huge room that looks like two leveled hall. He was tied to a chair with five-man standing behind him. The shortest one was in the middle wearing a red suit, adjusting his tie. Probably the leader. Clayton grunted and struggled but it was no use. I hope the plan works. I whispered a small prayer.
“Let him go, then I’ll give it to you,” I said with a voice like steel.
“Ok,” he replied.