It all started as a science project. Jim was my partner, and we had arranged to do it at his house tonight.
When I arrived at his house, it was a mess. His parents weren’t home like he said they were going to be. He was wearing a white t-shirt with a huge pizza stain on the side. I wanted to say something around the grounds of “How the hell can you live like this?” but I decided not to.
"Where are your parents?" I asked.
“They had to go out to take care of family matters. They should be back around midnight.” Jim replied.
The living room was a hot mess. It was as if a hurricane blew threw it. Clothes, Cheetos, cables and game controllers were scattered all over the floor. I had to look down to make sure I didn't trip over anything.
Leaving his death trap of a living room, he showed me to his bedroom.
His room was worse then the living room, clothes and empty chip bags everywhere.
“How could his parents handle him being this much of a slob...” I wondered.
He powered on his computer and swapped out the flash drive that was plugged into it for another one.
“So, it's due by Friday, right?” Jim asked in a slow, tired voice.
“Yes...” I replied. “What’s the flash drive for?”
“So if something happens with me, you can work on the presentation without me,” he yawned.
The next 2 hours consisted of me and Jim taking turns on the computer working on slides for the presentation.
Eventually, we both got too tired to do anything and agreed we would both work on it again tomorrow.
The next day, Jim approached me in class with his flash drive.
“I won’t be available after school, sorry, I'll do whatever you didn’t finish tomorrow,” he said, leaving the flash drive on my desk and returning to his seat.
The rest of the day went normally until I got home and plugged the flash drive into my laptop. First of all, the flash drive had a bunch of Unicode characters in the name.
“Who names a flash drive like this?” I thought to myself.
The flash drive had 3 folders in it, all with unicode characters too. It was almost as if he wanted his flash drive to be a puzzle to whoever took it from him.
I let out a big sigh. “Could’ve at least told me what folder it was in, Jim,” I said to myself quietly, as I opened the first folder on the list.
In the folder was a lot of… pictures. Of minors.
Scrolling through the folder, I even recognized some of them.
Some of these minors have been kidnapped recently. Others were even reported dead.
“What the hell...” I wondered. I heard my mom come up the stairs and alt tabbed out of the folder containing the pictures.
“Hey, dinner's ready, come downstairs,” she asked politely.
“Alright, I’ll be there in a sec.”
I unplugged the flash drive from the laptop and shoved it in my desk drawer, and made my way down to the kitchen.
My mom had the news running in the living room. It was the usual politic garbage.
I was in the middle of getting a glass of water, when the news got interrupted by a “child abduction emergency.”
My chest tensed up.
“Multiple child abductions have been reported in this area over the past couple of weeks. Please be sure to keep watch of your children. Do not leave them unattended. If you have any information about the abductors, you are encouraged to call crime stoppers.”
I slowly sat down at the table, wiping the sweat off my forehead while nobody was looking. “Damn, that's the 3rd alert we’ve gotten this week alone about abductions...” my dad said. “I hope they catch the kidnapper soon, this is getting ridiculous.”
I grabbed my plate and headed upstairs.
“Where are you going?” Mom asked.
“I have a school project I need to be working on, can I take my food upstairs so I can do it while I eat?” I asked nervously.
“Yeah, sure...” my mom answered.
I got back upstairs, closed my door, and headed back to my laptop. Reaching back into the drawer, I grabbed the flash drive and plugged it back into my laptop, opening the folder. I put each individual picture through google search, and sure enough, almost all of them had been abducted.
My hands started shaking.
“Do I dare open the second folder...” I whispered.
I hesitantly clicked on the second folder. Opening it, the folder was filled with pictures of… Showers. Just showers.
I was sort of relieved and weirded out at the same time.
“Well, at least it isn't corpses like I thought it was going to be…” I thought.
Scrolling through the showers, one of the pictures stood out to me. In this picture, the shower curtain had a blood stain on it.
Running it through a google search turned me no results. Everything else, however showed up locations. Searching more only proved more and more creepy things about this flash drive.
All the pictures of the kids…
The pictures of the showers giving me addresses in google search…
This has to mean something…
I was about to have a peek at the third folder when Jim texted me. I almost jumped and spilled my food all over my pants.
-Hey uh… I think I gave you the wrong flash drive… Can you stop by my place? I can swap it with the right one and you can get back to work on the project.
I didn’t know what to do.
Jim said earlier today he wouldn’t be available today for anything, and didn’t explain why. And now he’s inviting me to his place. No… its a trap. He wants me to come to his place.
He texted me again.
-Did you… look at what was in the drive I gave you?
I opened the notification and lied.
-Nope, I haven’t even got to it yet.
-Welp, thats good.
-Don’t plug it into your computer, it has stuff on it I can’t show to anyone.
-Look, just drop by my place and i’ll give you the flash drive with the project on it.
-It can’t wait until tomorrow?
-You wan’t to get it done, don't you?
Last thing I wanted to do was go to this guys house, after what I saw on that damned flash drive, so I decided to go to the police for answers.
“Where are you going?” My mom asked as I was putting on my shoes.
“Can you take me to the police station?” I asked.
“I think I found out who the kidnapper on TV is.”
She got up off the dinner table and rushed over to her purse and keys.
We were at the police station in under 5 minutes.
“Hello sir, how can we help you today?”
“Yes, my friend gave me this flash drive at school and… it has some suspicious stuff on it...” I said, placing the flash drive on the counter.
“Alright, we’ll have a look at it. Take a seat over there and we’ll tell you what we find.”
“The kid also wants me to come over to his house ASAP..” I showed him the chat logs between me and him.
“Well, it’s a good thing you came to the police, or you’d be in a huge pickle.”
Sitting down with my mom, I watched them take the flash drive to the back of the office and plug it into one of the computers. Within minutes, everyone in the office was crowding around the screen.
I could overhear some conversation.
“Oh my god...”
“They’re all here...”
“A kid’s behind all of this?”
One of the police officers came up to the counter.
“Sir, who gave you this flash drive?” she asked, getting out a notepad.
“Jim. Jim Matthews.”
“Do you know where he lives?” She asked, jotting the name down on the notepad.
“Yea, he lives just down the street from me…”
“Alright, we’ll check it out,” she replied.
She motioned to the other guys looking through the flash drive’s files.
“Let’s roll folks, time to catch this son of a bitch...”
Everyone in the office scrambled over to their cars and speed off towards Jim's house. Sure enough, when they came back, Jim, and his parents came out in handcuffs.
“Thank you for reporting the flash drive sir, you should be proud of yourself,” one of the officers said as they were dragging Jim and his family towards the far back of the police station.
“They ain’t gonna be able to hurt anyone anymore.”
Me and Jim were able to get one last final glance before he disappeared from my sight. He looked more angry then anyone I have ever seen. His look made me gag. It was like his silent way of saying, “You're next.”
His parents' faces, however, seemed full of guilt. Their heads were down and they were cooperating with the cops, unlike Jim.
I didn’t want to think much more of the incident, so when I got home, I decided to just go to sleep and worry about the project tomorrow.
They of course confiscated the flash drive as evidence, so it was no longer in my possession. I never got the chance to see what was in the third folder. Pictures of dead bodies? Weapons? Maybe it was some other thing. I guess I will never know.