How long had it been? One year? Three years? Five years? Longer than that? Time
blurred together in my mind as I tried to think about how long I have been friends with him.
The tall, funny, charming (in his own way), slightly nerdy but cute boy next door. Charlie had
moved into the house next to my family’s when we were both very young. When we first met,
Charlie had trouble pronouncing my name, so he started to call me ‘Duck’. Why Duck? Well he
called me the name of his favourite animal of course! Worse enough the nickname stuck way
into our childhood. I couldn’t remember a time when Charlie and I weren’t friends, all my
earliest memories had Charlie in them, Charlie had always been there. When we first met, he
was an outgoing and cheerful boy, but after the ‘incident with Sam’, he had changed. The
happy Charlie I had once known became more distant, shy and kept to himself. His change in
attitude did not bother me as he was my friend no matter what. But I noticed after that day, he
would try to distance himself. I don’t remember much of that day, but I know that Charlie saw
something that he has never recovered from. It hurt to know that someone I loved so dearly
was hurting on the inside. If I asked him what really happened that day, he would try to play it
off like nothing major occurred, but I can tell that he was be lying. I wished upon every star that
he would tell me what happened, and together we could try and heal from the past wounds.
Some days I caught myself thinking that I would do anything to take that pain away from
Charlie, but I knew that no matter how hard I prayed, he would forever be emotionally
unavailable. Or so I thought. Truthfully, I will admit that I have had a small crush on Charlie. I
had always thought it was kind of obvious the way I felt towards him, but Charlie never seemed
to pick up on my hints. How long I had liked him for, that I couldn’t tell you, but I did know one
thing. I know that Charlie meant everything to me, he had always had my back and maybe I had
taken that for granted. So, the day he went missing, my whole world shattered.
It was a mid-summer day when Charlie’s mother knocked on our main door. This was
not unusual, his mom and mine often sat and chatted while having a cup of tea on our front
porch. This visit, however, was a little bit different. I heard my mother open the front door and I
could hear the hushed whispers of the two. I was happy just staying in my room until my mom
called me down. I made my way downstairs slowly; I was slightly annoyed that my Riverdale
binge watch session was being interrupted. When I reached the door, I noticed that Charlie’s
mother’s face seemed different than her normal cheerful self.
“Hello Mrs. Hill. How are you?”. She peered behind me before responding.
“Is Charlie here with you? He hasn’t been home in the past day”. I tilted my head, slightly
“Sorry Mrs. Hill but I haven’t seen Charlie all day”. Her face dropped after I answered her
question, I could see that her eyes were slightly damp.
“He’s not? Are you sure”? Mrs. Hill spoke quickly. At this point I began to worry.
“No, I haven’t I’m sorry. I can try to text him if you’d like”? I ended off my answer with
“No, no dear it’s alright I’m sure he’s hiding somewhere to avoid chores. Sorry for worrying you
both, I should get going”. Mrs. Hill spoke as she shook her head and left the doorway, heading
back towards her house.
I retreated back up to my room, my mind racing. It was not like Charlie to be away from
home for this long. It didn’t occur to me earlier, but now I had realized that Charlie hadn’t
texted me all day. I felt a headache coming on, as much as I liked Charlie, sometimes he was a
pain in the butt. ‘There’s no way he is avoiding chores, that’s so unlike him’ I thought as I
nervously dialed his phone number. The phone rung in my ear, I desperately pleaded for him to
pick up. As I paced around my room, I heard a faint vibration coming from outside of my
window. ‘The cheeky fool!’ I thought as I excitedly opened my window getting ready to scare
Charlie who was obviously trying to prank me. I opened the window only to find an empty
backyard. Puzzled, I dialed his number once again and heard the buzzing. This time it was much
clearer where the sound was coming from, in the bush below the window.
I rushed outside frantically, searching in the bush for the cellphone. When I finally found
it, I noticed it was covered in scratches and was dirtied with mud. I held it close to my chest,
tears stinging my eyes, I realized that something was very wrong. I wiped my face with my
sleeve before knocking on the Hill’s door. When Mrs. Hill opened the door, it was clear she had
been crying; she had puffy eyes, red cheeks and a tear stained face. My words were suddenly
caught in my throat.
“I-I found Charlie’s phone in my backyard. I… came to return it”. I showed the phone to Mrs. Hill
and her face turned another shade paler.
“Thank you dear”. She said as she tried to force a smile. “You can take it up to Charlie’s room if
you’d like, he doesn’t like me invading his space”.
A chuckle escaped my lips as I stepped inside the Hill’s house. As always, the sweet
aroma of cinnamon entered through my nose. Their house always had the same familiar sugary
scent I thought as I made my way to Charlie’s room. I realized that it had been many months
since I had been inside of Charlie’s house, we mostly hung out at mine. I cautiously pushed the
door open, half expecting to see Charlie sitting on the bed calling out to me “Hey Duck!’. To my
disappointment, the room was empty as if it hadn’t been touched in several days. I gingerly
entered and walked over to the desk so I could place down Charlie’s phone. I ran my hand
around the surface of the wooden desk when I noticed a pile of paper and journals. Not
wanting to be in Charlie’s room any longer I looked around and then grabbed the papers and
the journal, hiding it under the sweater I was wearing. Charlie would hate it if he figured out
that I took his stuff. I made my way downstairs and said goodbye to Mrs. Hill. Once the door
had closed behind me, I sprinted to my house so I could read the papers.
I closed my bedroom door behind me as I pulled the crinkled sheets of paper out of my
sweater. I had decided to check out the journal first. I traced my fingers around all the scratches
that plagued the leather cover of the book. I opened it up to the first page, on the slightly sun
faded page, was an entry. It was dated August 10 th , 2014. My head spun as I recognized the
“Today is the day they found him; he was in such terrible condition, but I knew exactly who it
was…. Sam. Earlier in the week we had met a man in the park, and he offered us candy, this is
one of those classic situations that we were taught about by parents and teachers alike, we
knew we shouldn’t probably take the candy from the stranger, but there were 4 of us and we
didn’t feel unsafe, plus the guy had full chocolate bars, how could we say no?! We sat and ate
our chocolate and talked to the man for a short while, when I started to get a weird feeling
once he started asking us too personal of questions. I cued my friends and we left the man
sitting in the park, laughing as we walked away at how weird he was. Later that same day Sam
went missing. I had noticed a white van in our neighbourhood driving slowly and it seemed
suspicious. I went inside and as I felt eyes watching me, but never gave it another thought until
I heard Sam when missing. As soon as I heard, I had the strongest gut feeling Sam’s
disappearance related to the van and the creep in the park. I just knew it. It was so stupid of us
to trust the stranger. The second I laid my eyes on Sam, I wanted to vomit, cry and scream. My
friend was hurt and would never be the same, and I couldn’t do anything to stop it. I will never
forgive myself; I will never forgive that man. I will find him”. I stared at the page with tears
rolling down my cheeks, is that what really happened that day? So many questions raced in my
mind. One main one kept bothering me; why didn’t Charlie tell me about this.
I flipped through the other pages of the journal, they all mentioned getting closer to
finding the man. When I reached the last page, I noticed that the top half of the entry had been
ripped out. I began to read what was left of it. “I want to bring her with me, but I don’t think it
would be safe. I know that she has long forgotten about the incident, there’s no sense in
bringing up and reminding her of the horrible memories she has seemed to have erased. I have
tracked down that creep’s location, he will be receiving well deserved punishment”. My heart
stopped; I knew that Charlie often made stupid decisions but is he out of his mind?! My heart
started racing as I realized that I would have to find Charlie.
I ran around my room shoving a few things into my backpack. I grabbed a pair of running
shoes, water, warmer pants, my cellphone, my set of car keys and a small baton I had from
dance. A weird bunch of items but I didn’t really know what I was going to be in for. I scanned
through the loose pages next, I found a page with an address with a big red circle around it. I let
out a breath of air as my hands trembled while reading the page. If I wanted to save Charlie, I
was going to need to go to 57 Elmsgrove street. I made my way downstairs and was heading
out the door when my mom stopped me.
“Would you like some lunch, hon?”. I stopped in my tracks; I was kind of hungry, but Charlie
was more important. I turned to look at her and flashed a quick smile.
“No thanks mom, I don’t feel really hungry. Hey, I’m going to take the car out for a drive, I need
to get out for a bit”. I turned to walk out the front door when my mom stopped me.
“Please be safe, Mrs. Hill says that Charlie is still missing”. I could hear the concern in her voice.
“I promise I’ll be safe”. I reassured her before heading out.
I sat in my parent’s car with the keys in the ignition. I looked up on google maps the
address that Charlie had circled on the paper. The app had shown that the address was about a
20-minute drive away. I took a deep breath in and pulled out of the driveway. My fingers
tapped against the steering wheel as I neared closer to the location. I stopped a block away
from the address and parked so I could approach the house on foot hopefully not bringing
attention to myself. The houses were decently spaced apart and were in terrible conditions. I
shivered as I begun walking towards house number 57. I kept my head down and began to kick
at the rocks that passed by my feet. I had begun to think about all the things that had
transpired. ‘I can’t believe that Charlie could actually be this stupid, why would he keep such an
important thing a secret! I could have helped him… but I guess he didn’t think I would be that
useful…’ Tears welled in my eyes the more I thought about Charlie. He could be in danger! Or
even worse… he could end up like Sam. I bit my lip as I tried to shake away the negative
After a three-minute walk I was nearing the dreaded location. I carefully looked around
me to make sure no one was watching before I made my way around the side of house. There
were no signs of anyone inside, there wasn’t a car parked out front or lights on inside of the
house. At the back of the deteriorating building, was a small window, the glass pane looked like
it had been recently opened. I crouched down and ran my hand around the peeling frame,
doubt flickered in my mind. “What if… he’s not here”? If he was inside there would only be one
way to find out. As quietly as I could, I pushed on the frame and felt it move under the pressure.
The bottom half of the pain turned on an angle leaving enough room for me to wedge myself
inside. I took a deep breath and carefully lowered myself into what I assumed was the
basement. As soon as I started to lower myself in, a smell of mold and rot greeted my nose. I
wanted to gag at the smell, but I didn’t want to alert anyone of my presence. I dropped onto
the floor, attempting to land as quietly as possible. There was not much natural light in the
basement and all the lights were turned off. To the best of my ability I creeped around
searching and was beginning to lose hope as there seemed to be no sign of anyone. I stood in
silence listening for any sounds or a sign of Charlie. There was a muffled sound over my
shoulder, my heart stopped. Could it have been Charlie or just an animal? I made my way over
to where the sound came from. Then I saw it or more accurately him. Charlie!
I ran to where he was. My heart ached as I saw the situation, he was in. Tape covered
his mouth, and his arms and legs were bound to a chair with rope.
“Charlie…” I whispered, tears filling my eyes. Charlie’s face did not reflect the relief I was
feeling. Instead his eyes were wide with fear, he was squirming in his chair, shaking his head.
“Charlie… hey, it’s okay. It’s alright, I’m here now”. I spoke to him as if I was begging him to
calm down, his face was red.
I heard a rustling from behind me and before I could turn around to investigate,
something knocked my head and my body went limp as I began to lose consciousness.
Some time later my eyes fluttered open as the reality of the situation crashed upon me.
My head rung with pain as my eyes tried to adjust to the new surroundings. I looked around me
and realized that I too had become bound to a chair. Charlie looked up and shot me a defeated
glance. Footsteps marched their way closer to us and from the shadows emerged a strange
man whose face seemed slightly familiar. He shook his head as he walked over to Charlie,
peeling off the tape from his mouth. Charlie gasped for air before saying that name I had to
come to love and hate. “Duck…”. I felt my cheeks burn as Charlie smiled at me. The strange man
turned to face me as he slowly walked over. Humming as he looked me up and down. He smiled
a disgusting grin; I could see half of his teeth were yellowed from neglect. He cleared his throat
and spoke in a raspy voice.
“Well… well …well, what do we have here? A boy who wants to be a hero and a girl who
stupidly tried to save him”. The man finished off with a chuckle. Charlies face hardened as he
“I know what you did, you are the one who hurt Sam!” The man looked at Charlie before
releasing a malevolent laugh. With limited hand movement I felt for my phone in my back
pocket. I discretely hit record on the camera button as the man was facing Charlie. Charlie
noticed my hands moving and I hoped he knew what I had done. He looked back up at the man
and began to speak through gritted teeth. “I will turn you into the police, I know what you did
to Sam”. The man shook his head and spoke again.
“You don’t get it do you?” You won’t be able to turn in me in, what proof do you have that it
was me?”. The man walked slowly around Charlie as if to taunt him. Charlie looked as if he had
something to say but the words struggled to come out. He did mange to weakly say “if there’s
no proof of your crime, then why have you tied me to a chair”? The man stopped to think for a
second. He began to speak.
“Trespassing, you are in my house after all. I wonder… what would make you think that you
would leave here unscathed after breaking into my house and accusing me of a crime”? The
man released a cocky sigh, a look of confidence plastered on his face as he continued. I listened
in fear while I tried my best to free my hands from the ropes grasp behind my back. “Maybe all
those years ago, I should’ve taken you instead. Sam or whatever that kid’s name was, didn’t put
up much of a fight, too boring. You’re feistier…” The man finished with a malicious grin on his
face. Charlie face greyed with the confession of the crime. Charlie spoke .
“Why would you admit that to us?”. The man laughed before responding. “So, what I admitted
it? Dead people can’t speak…” I watched Charlie and saw the fear in his eyes as the realization
that this deranged man was planning on killing us hit him. As if right on cue, my hands slipped
out of the ropes. The man stared at Charlie and said. “I think I’ll start with you, boy. I’ll make
your dear friend here watch you suffer”. The Stranger left the room, and I could hear him
searching for something. Charlie was terrified, I called his name, but he kept staring at the
doorway waiting for our torturer to return. My backpack was close to my chair, I desperately
grabbed it and threw it behind me, just as the man brought in a large duffel bag with an
assortment of terrifying items sticking out. I quickly reached into my bag and pulled out the
baton I had randomly grabbed in my haste. Charlie noticed my movements and gave me a
slight nod. The villainous man was too busy choosing his weapon that he would use on Charlie
to notice I had sprung from my chair. With the baton firmly gripped between my hands I
channeled all my fear and anger and whacked his head so hard he dropped to the ground.
“Charlie”! I screamed frantically moving to untie his restraints. I grabbed onto his hand as I
pulled him to the window I came in from. The man struggled to get onto his feet. I hoisted
myself out of the window and as I was helping Charlie, the man manically screamed at us. “This
won’t be the last you hear of me! Just you wait, I will find you!”. I wanted to cry, but I knew I
had to be strong. Charlie and I ran to where I parked my car calling 911 as we fled to safety.
Hopping in, I locked the doors. We sat momentarily just staring at each other, the silence being
hushed with our winded breathing, then like a tap being opened the tears I had been holding in
came pouring out. Charlie wrapped his arms around me. I tried to speak but the tears were
getting in the way.
“Charlie… I’m so happy you’re safe now”. He tried to hush me. “Thank you for saving me”. I
pulled myself away from his embrace as I angrily asked. “Why didn’t you tell me about any of
this? I could’ve helped! It was so stupid of you to go alone why didn’t you call the police…… I
was so worried…”. I wiped the tears away as Charlie answered.
“Duck look I… I just didn’t want you to get hurt, I had hoped you had forgotten about going to
the scene where they found Sam. It was better that you did”. Before I could respond, we heard
the sirens of the police, they arrived at house 57 Elmsgrove St. We sat and watched the Police
ascend into the house, it seemed like an eternity but finally they brought our deranged captor
out of the house in hand cuffs he was escorted into a police car. Only then did we feel safe to
approach the Police and share our story and the videos I was able to capture. The evil stranger
glared at us through the window. The officer thanked us for helping them catch the man but
warned us not to do anything like that again. I shyly grabbed onto Charlie’s hand and
interlocked my fingers with his. I felt him squeeze my hand and a smile spread across my face.
We drove home barely talking, we were both processing what had happened. I pulled into my
driveway, and Charlie got out. Before he left to go to his house, he thanked me again.
“Thank you being a snoop and saving my butt. I don’t know what I would do without a friend
like you, Duck”. My heart shattered as he called me his friend. I stared at the ground before
looking away. “Y-you know, I’ve always liked you as more than just a friend…” I could feel my
face flush as the words left my mouth. Charlie chuckled before walking up to me. He pulled me
into a sweet but short kiss. “I know, it was pretty obvious”. I playfully punched him,
embarrassed that he knew all along.
Before I knew it, Charlie’s mother came bursting out their house crying with her arms
open and in need of a hug. I quietly stepped away as Charlie began to explain all that happened.
I waved them both goodbye and headed to the front door of my house.
“I’m back mom!” I called as I made my way inside.
I plopped on my bed, my heart racing as I thought about what had occurred. What I
thought about the most was the fact that Charlie had kissed me. My face turned a deep shade
of red as the events replayed in my head.
That day, many things changed. Charlie became more open with me, he promised to
share secrets with me and promised to not go hunting creepy strangers alone. Although I know
that I can’t take the past pain away from him, I know I’ll always be here for him to help him
through hard times. How long we have been friends for, doesn’t matter anymore, what matters
now is that we have each other and it won’t be easy to separate us.