Ray gave a start, and shook his head; he was falling asleep at his computer again, so it must be time to head home. He looked up at the clock in his office, in the high school locker room, and was surprised that it was already seven. He must have really dozed off there, for a while. Ray Montaigne was the head coach at River Hills High School, and he was one of the student bodies favorite teachers. He wasn’t quite in peak physical shape anymore, unfortunately–he was in his late forties, had a bit of a gut, but he could still run a nine minute mile, and bench press 200, so he wasn’t doing too badly.
Still, it was finally summer, if nothing else. He’d been nearly finished entering grades when he’d fallen asleep, and so he finished the last few, uploaded them to be processed, and then started packing up his things, happy to see this year in particular behind him at last. What a nightmare. No one had really recovered from what had been happening with Julian Porter, one of the computer science teachers, who had been systematically abusing the school’s athletes for years now. Ray was still furious with himself for never even noticing anything, but none of his previous students even remembered anything. If it hadn’t been for Noah approaching him in confidence, that afternoon, begging him to help–no one would have been the wiser at all. And now look at where they were–after Ray brought the abuse to the attention of the principal, he’d ordered Mr. Porter fired, but no one had seen Porter in days. He’d skipped town or run somewhere, and they were still searching for him, now months later. That hadn’t been the most disturbing part however–because not a few days later, Noah disappeared as well. It was assumed he had run away, though Ray and a few others suspected Mr. Porter had something to do with the boy’s disappearance. Still, no one knew anything for certain–Noah’s parents were an absolute mess, and Ray was too, though he couldn’t show it around his students. Other athletes had come forward, admitting that Mr. Porter had been abusing them as well, and Ray still couldn’t understand how no one had noticed anything in all of that time.
Just thinking about it was giving him a sick stomach. He put together his things, shut off his computer, double checked the lights, and left, happy to not have to see the place for a few months. Hopefully next year things would be better, for everyone. Especially Noah–Ray was really worried about him. He’d been so…strange when he’d told Ray what had been happening, almost like his tongue was fighting itself in his mouth, trying to keep the words from pouring out. Noah had told him Mr. Porter had him under some kind of control, but no one had believed him about that, no one other than Ray. It explained how Julian would have managed to get to Noah as well–if he had some kind of control over him that would explain a lot, but he hadn’t been able to find any sort of hard evidence. All he could hope was that they would find Noah and Julian soon, before he could do any more damage to anyone else.
He left the school and drove home. He’d gone through a messy divorce a few years back, but he’d at least managed to keep the house, even if he had to pay fucking alimony out the ass. He didn’t have any kids at least–he’s turned out to be sterile and not even that interested in kids, but she’d always wanted some. That was part of why she’d left, after she’d frozen some of her eggs years ago, and finally found a daddy for them she approved of. Already had pumped out two of them, last he heard. The house had always been too large for them, and he hated how big it was now–half the rooms were just storage at this point–but if he sold it, he’d have to give her a hefty chunk of the sale, so he might as well just sit on it, since it was almost paid off anyway.
However, when he got home that night, he immediately had the sense that something was off. It wasn’t that anything in particular was amiss–though there were small details. A light off he’d thought he’d left on that morning was off. A door ajar which was usually closed. The house seemed quiet not because there was no one there, but because someone was trying to be quiet. He tried to shrug it off, and went into the kitchen to make himself some dinner. He put one of his stockpiled frozen dinners in the microwave, turned it on, went over to find the remote, only to see a figure silhouetted in the doorway to the hallway leading towards the front of the house. He froze–the man, whoever he was, was far enough back that his face was still in shadow. Neither said anything, but Ray could hear the stranger breathing through his nose, long snorting breaths. He stepped forward, into the light of the kitchen, and Ray found himself looking at Noah.
That said, Noah wasn’t looking much like Noah at the moment. He had on a tattered and well worn football uniform, but it seemed at least two sizes too small for him. As a receiver, Noah had always been slender and quick, but his physique had shifted–his muscles had bulked up, he had a gut peeking out between the pants and jersey he had on. He was still snorting, nostrils flaring, eyeblack across his cheeks, though his entire face looked like it was smudged with dirt. Part of that was the short beard he had across his face, his hair shaggy and damp. “He…he said you’d smell good coach…” Noah muttered between snorts, “But fuck man, fuck!”