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Authors: Jennifer Torres

Tags: #Fiction, #Mysteries & Detective Stories, #Action & Adventure, #Science Fiction

The Disappearing

BOOK: The Disappearing
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About this Book
Little Town, Big Secrets . . .
Hidden Truths, Stolen Lives

A stranger lurks. Children vanish. Perhaps the quiet town of Briny Deep is not as safe as Tim and his friends Max, Emily, Luke, and Nina once thought. Can the five teens uncover the truth before all of their friends disappear? And are those closest to the teens hiding something unimaginable? In
Book 1
of this paranormal mystery trilogy, author Jennifer Torres takes you on an amazing journey into the unknown . . . and leaves you with an ending no one could have imagined.

About the Author

Jennifer Torres
lives and writes in a little beach town on the coast of Florida. She loves to write about fantastical lands, secret passageways, and doorways to magical places. A journalist for over fifteen years, she has also written a series of celebrity biographies for children and numerous articles for magazines, newspapers, and non-profit organizations.
The Briny Deep Mysteries
series is her debut into mystery fiction.

Chapter 1
A Midnight Visit

Every night Tim runs for his life.

Through a sticker bush, onto a dirt path, his lungs straining for air as he pushes ahead down a small hill.

Faster now.

The man pursuing him is close; he can hear twigs snap under heavy feet, pounding into the grass just behind him. Ahead, a patch of flowers and a yellow house, if he can just get there, but then he remembers he won't make it.

He never does.

The rock, hidden in the grass, is steps away. Tim trips, landing on his knees, a strong hand grips his shoulder, pulling him away again.

It was a nightmare he could do without.

Yet here he was again, sitting straight up in bed, sweaty, gasping for air, forced out of a sound sleep at the same moment in the dream every time.

“Whew,” he exhaled. Lying back down with hands clasped behind his head, Tim silently considered telling his mom he might need to talk to someone about this. The whole thing was getting ridiculous already.

Soon enough his eyes grew heavy, his breathing deep, then . . .

BANG—BANG—BANG!

Tim jumped to his feet. Someone was here, and they wanted in.

Within moments, he could hear his parents' bedroom door swing open, their feet moving quickly down the steps. In his head, one thought screamed out:

Don't open it!

Tim slipped out his door, into the hallway, and peered down the staircase just in time to see his father open the front door.

It was the police.

“Sorry to bother you at this hour, but there's been an incident,” said a giant, burly man with dark eyes. “Can we talk for a moment?”

“Tim?” his mom called out as she made her way up the stairs.

“I'm right here,” he quickly stammered and ran to meet her half way. “What's wrong, Mom? What happened?”

She threw her arms around her son and exhaled in relief, “I don't know, I don't know.”

As his father led the man inside, Tim's mother walked him to his room, making sure he was safely back in bed. Then she slipped back down the stairs to join the others.

He could hear the door to his father's study click shut, and then nothing.

Soon he drifted off into a mercifully uneventful sleep.

•••••

“Did you hear what happened last night?” asked Max as he rode up on his skateboard the next morning. “Everyone is talking about it.”

“Yeah, they came to my house in the middle of the night to tell my parents,” said Tim, who had been sitting on the steps of his front porch waiting for his friend Max. “They told me this morning.”

He stood up, jumped on his own board, and the two headed down the road to the beach sharing what details they had.

All they really knew was that a young girl in town had disappeared. Her name was Eva. Everyone knew her and liked her. Her parents were inconsolable and certain she had been taken by a stranger—a man Eva told her mother she had seen just days earlier.

“A stranger in Briny Deep?” said Max. “Now
that's
strange.”

Nothing bad ever happened in Briny Deep.

Tim had lived here all his life and couldn't imagine a better place to grow up. Nestled in the hills, crested by the sea, he spent his days at the beach, playing ball, and hanging out with his four best friends.

They had known each other forever. It helped that all their parents were friends, too. They were always at each other's houses for barbecues, pool parties, and movie nights. It might have been difficult if their kids hadn't got along. But luckily the friendships came easily and instantly and were fiercely strong, even though two of his best friends were girls.

Nina and Emily were always together and thought of each other like sisters. And Tim and the guys, Luke and Max, were brothers in every sense of the word but blood. They even wore these silly matching fabric bands around their wrists. They had made them one summer at camp—when they were much younger. Emily teasingly referred to them as their “friendship bracelets.”

Everyone at school called the five of them “The Family,” which would have been okay except for the fact that Tim had feelings for Nina that went a bit beyond friendship.

As much as he tried to deny these feelings and push them aside, they persisted.

“Hey,” Nina called out as she rolled up behind him on her board, causing Tim to nearly fall off of his.

“Hey back,” he managed to reply.

She smiled and gazed up at him with those eyes, “I thought we could ride over together.”

“Uh, am I invisible here?” Max shouted as he fell onto the pavement in a failed attempt ride the curb.

Laughing, Nina jumped off her board, ran over to Max, and began playfully tousling his hair. “You are too good looking to be invisible.”

Tim suddenly felt like throwing up.

The three jumped back on their boards and headed to the shore.

Paradise Beach was packed.

It seemed as though the entire school was there, hoping to catch a few more rays of sun before school started again next week. Someone had plastered posters all over town, encouraging everyone to come out for one last summer party on the beach—and it appeared everyone had.

Barbecues were being manned across the park leading down to the sand. Thick, sweet smoke filled the air as meat sizzled on dozens of grills. Younger kids ran past, heading for the playground, fingers and faces sticky with remnants of quickly devoured ice cream. Several volleyball games were in full swing, and kites filled the air.

Emily and Luke spotted them first and quickly darted through the crowd to meet them.

Emily looked nervous. “Did you hear what happened?”

Nope, nothing bad ever happened in Briny Deep, until the stranger arrived.

Chapter 2
The Search for Eva

A warm gust of ocean air purred through Tim's hair as he raced his friends past throngs of beachgoers, searching for an unoccupied patch of sand.

Luke's call was barely a whisper over the pounding waves as they crashed on shore. “Over here!”

The group met up on what had to be the last free spot on the beach and proceeded to set up for the day. Luke and Emily had brought along a beach blanket, chairs, and a cooler full of icy drinks.

“Emily, I'm over here!” a little voice called from nearby.

It was Isabelle, Emily's little sister and practically her twin in appearance—but a mini-size version. She was three years younger. The two were extremely close—they even shared a “Best Friends” necklace. It was a heart that was broken in half with the inscription
Best Friends Forever
on it. Each sister wore one half around her neck.

“Okay, Izzy, just don't go too far, alright?”

Isabelle put her thumb up in agreement and ran off with her friends.

The boys had already continued on toward the shore, where they dove into the cold blue water with zeal.

Nina grabbed a juice from the cooler and moved a tray of brownies Emily had made to a shadier spot of blanket.

“Perfect day,” Emily purred, stretching her arms up over her head. “It's so sad school has to start again so fast. I can't stand to be cooped up when the weather is so perfect.”

Nina sprawled out on the blanket, letting the hot sun wash over her skin. She squinted and peered over her shoulder at Emily.

Her curly, platinum blonde hair glistened in the light. Her skin was milky. She was a dancer, which made her graceful and fit. She always dressed as if she was attending an event in her honor, with her makeup perfect, her shoes the latest style. But for all her obvious beauty and elegance, she was even more beautiful inside. Smart, kind, and compassionate, she had listened for hours—over too many nights to count—as Nina spilled her heart out over the way she felt about Tim.

Nina was thankful she had finally let go of all that and moved on. Tim didn't feel the same about her—it was obvious. But he was one of her best friends, and she would never risk losing that over some stupid crush.

In contrast to Emily, Nina's long, straight hair was dark brown, almost black. She often scooped it up in a ponytail. Her olive skin tanned easily, and while she was often called beautiful by her friends, she preferred T-shirts and cutoffs to designer clothes. She dreaded shopping for shoes and purses. Instead, she chose to spend her free time tending to the horses on her parents farm and exploring the dozens of trails on the land.

Nina's parents were not farmers. They were scientists who worked in a big, important lab somewhere. She explained to her friends that their jobs were “high stress” and that's why they bought a farm. It was peaceful. And aside from the horses, there were no other animals to care for. And there were no real crops other than a run of the mill vegetable garden.

They were often busy, distracted with one project or another. And Nina was often alone, but she relished the time to herself.

Tim emerged from the waves and reached for her hand.

“The water is great,” he coaxed. “Come in with me.”

She smiled.

Then she saw them.

Men, dozens of them, were spanning out across the crowded beach each wearing the same style black suit and each with a silver badge pinned to the jacket.

They must be looking for Eva.

Tim noticed, too.

“I really thought she would have shown up by now,” he whispered. “I mean she just got mad at her mom or something, right?”

But deep inside he knew something was very wrong. No one ever went missing here before. Briny Deep was safe; everyone knew each other and looked out for each other. It was actually a little creepy how much neighbors seemed to watch each other's comings and goings. At one time, Tim had actually thought they were just watching him. But he quickly realized that would just be silly.

“Why do you think they're looking on the beach?” Nina asked, moving closer to Tim.

He watched the men as they surveyed the shore line.

“I don't know.”

Some of the men had rakes and used them to sift through the sand. Another was on his knees picking up something and depositing it in a plastic bag. A few of the men had started to approach people in the crowd, maybe to ask questions? Others were staring into the crowd of beachgoers, but looking for what?

Suddenly, he noticed one man was looking right at him.

BOOK: The Disappearing
2.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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