Chapter 1: All Tied Up

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And now their best one was gone.

"Everybody liked Brandon," Justin admitted. "I don't know of anyone who'd want to hurt him."

"Okay," the officer said as he stood up, "but if you think of anything you think might help us out, please let us know." He reached out to shake his hand, holding it there until Justin took it. "My condolences."

Justin nodded, unsure what to say, not bothering to get up. His legs felt so weak, he wasn't sure he even could just yet.

He felt his phone vibrate in his pocket, but didn't care who it was. When it kept on vibrating, though, he finally answered it.

"Hello?" Justin's voice sounded as dead as Brandon was.

"Have you heard?" his friend Josh asked. "Did you hear about Brandon?"

"Yeah, I heard."

"Holy, shit! Who do you think could've done something like that? I mean... holes all in him? Why would somebody do that? And to Brandon?"

"What?" Justin felt sick. "I didn't hear how he died, just that he did. How do you know he had... holes in him?"

"Oh, man, I'm sorry. When you said you'd heard, I thought you'd heard everything."

"No, just that someone killed him." Justin got up and walked over to the window, watching people come and go from Brandon's house.

"Well, Lance, my uncle, was with the ones who found him. He works at the sheriff's office and had been called out to help look for him. I didn't even know he was missing."

"I didn't either," Justin said, watching a woman who was parked in front of Brandon's house cry in her car.

"Uncle Lance was talking to my dad when I heard. He didn't know I was listening, so he told him how he'd found him."

Justin didn't want to hear, but he still felt like he had to know. "How did they find him?"

"Well, he said he'd been tied up and his mouth had been taped. Then he said... he said he had... had been mutilated."

Bile rose in Justin's throat. "What?"

"Yeah, he said it was the grossest thing he'd ever seen."

"Mutilated?" Justin repeated.

"I'm sorry. Maybe I shouldn't have told you. Sometimes not knowing is—"

Justin dropped his phone, not hearing anymore of what Josh said as ran into the bathroom, glad he hadn't eaten breakfast.

"Honey, are you alright?" his mom asked, knowing he wasn't.

He didn't answer, images of Brandon's mutilated body flashing through his mind; mouth taped, hands and feet tied, flesh maimed. Why would someone do that, and to Brandon, of all people. Mitch, he could possibly see, but not Brandon.

Once he could make it back up to his room, he laid down, not coming out. His mom brought him lunch, but he didn't eat it. His friends called and sent him several messages, but he didn't answer. He just wanted to be left alone.

Later that night, he deleted most of his messages without listening to them, not wanting to hear it. He knew Brandon was dead. He knew and he didn't want to talk about it.

There was one message he listened to, though, just in case he'd heard anything else from his uncle.

"Answer, damn it," Josh said, sounding like he was juggling his phone. "Man, call me. Some weird shit is going on. Call me." Five minutes later he left another one. "Dude, call me back!" Josh lowered his voice. "I keep hearing that freaky music—the music from the ice-cream truck." He laughed nervously. "I know it sounds crazy, but I swear I just heard it." He was quiet for a few seconds, his voice shaky when he spoke again. "Dude, I'm not playing. Call me back." And that's the last message he'd left.

Justin called him back, but he didn't answer. "Yeah, you really needed to talk to me." No sooner he laid his phone down, Josh called back. "Hey, what's going on?" Justin asked.

"Oh, I'm sorry," a disturbingly deep voice said, "but your friend is all tied up at the moment." A creepy-as-hell laugh pierced his ear.

"Who is this?"

"Do you not remember me? Here, let me refresh your memory." Muffled screams could be heard in the background. "Does that ring a bell? No?" More smothered screams.

"Josh!" Justin was frantic.

"Oh, is that his name?" the monster asked. "He doesn't look like a Josh; not anymore."

Eerie music drowned out Josh's stifled pleas. Justin yelled again, but to no avail. He was in a full-blown panic when the phone went silent.

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