The search is on.
Chapter Seventeen: Hopeless
They had been driving for hours. Mikey's hands were sweating from gripping the wheel so hard, but it was likely that some of it could be attributed to the twisting in his stomach. He couldn't help but feel irked at his passenger, but at the same time he knew that Frank was in enough pain at the moment without having to endure more yelling.
Where could he have gone?
The trees that comprised the forest were beginning to clear, but their doubt only accumulated. They had both agreed that it was unlikely Gerard had gotten past the forest, even with the car.
"You don't think someone picked him up, do you?" Frank asked, breaking the silence that had developed in the last two hours of the car ride.
"I...I don't think so." Mikey sighed, although truthfully the idea didn't seem farfetched at all. Gerard was still famous, even if he was no longer the same Gerard that had earned that fame. Celebrity kidnappings were hardly unheard of, and Gerard didn't exactly have his wits about him.
Nonetheless, Mikey's answer clearly didn't soothe Frank as he only continued to fidget in his seat, sighing loudly every few minutes.
The land that was now only occasionally speckled with trees soon gave way into a small town, and Mikey pressed down on the brakes of his vehicle.
"What do you think?" he asked Frank. "You want to continue on, or do you want to go back?"
"Well we can't just stop looking. Any minute passed could mean his life!" Frank said dramatically, his panic increasing now that their forest search had proven fruitless.
"Don't talk at me like I'm the one giving up!" Mikey snapped at him, "My car is running really low on gas -- if we don't turn back soon, I don't know how we're even going to make it back to your cabin, let alone how I'm going to make back to my place..."
"You'd go home while Gerard is running around god knows where?" was the only retort Frank could come up with, which Mikey shot down with, "Well I'd figure finding him would be more your job since you're the one who lost him, no?"
Frank turned, looking on the verge of murder, and Mikey braced himself for impact. But something clearly caught Frank's eye before then, as he froze like a deer in headlights. Mikey craned his neck to search for what he was staring at, and Frank must have noticed because he re-focused himself and explained.
"That white car over there..." Frank pointed to a side street in the town, the left part of an intersection, where a white Nissan was parked at a strange angle. "...is that mine?"
Mikey looked at his gas gauge worriedly, which had the pointer nearly overlapping the E. He sighed and put the car into park, shutting off the engine.
"I guess we can just walk around and investigate." he told Frank, who nodded his agreement.
They stepped out into the glaring afternoon sun, having to stretch out their legs as they had been cramped up for so long in small space of the car. Despite the heat of the day, the appearance of the town ahead gave them both chills. Most of the buildings look nearly abandoned.
Frank led the way, as he went to go investigate the white car. As they walked closer, it became evident that this was indeed Frank's car --- and so was the fact that Gerard was somewhere here.
They examined it, checking for any damage or any clues as to what had happened to their friend. They peered through the windows to check inside.
"Did you bring your keys?" Mikey asked Frank, who thankfully responded with the tinkling sound of metal.
They searched through the car for a bit longer, certainly longer than was needed for them to realize that the car held no further clues to Gerard's whereabouts. Mikey then had to push them further into action by suggesting, "We should ask people in town if they've seen him at all."
"Yeah, good plan." recurred Frank. "We should use a picture."
Mikey went for his wallet to get out a picture of Gerard to show to people, but Frank managed to beat him to it. He stared at his short friend in bewilderment as he went through multiple miniature photos -- all of which were of Gerard.
"You have more photos of Gee than your kids." Mikey remarked, enjoying the annoyed look he got in return.
"Gerard's been around for a lot longer --- a collection sort of accumulated." he mumbled his explanation.
"Oh, is that all? You met me 'bout the same time you met him." Mikey retorted, "How many pictures of me you go t in there?"
"Shut up..." Frank hissed, quite full up of Mikey's snaps and snarks. Sure, he had stopped yelling --- but this wasn't much better. Luckily, his concern for Gerard was distracting him from getting too angry at his companion. He selected a picture, one where he had the black hair similar to the one he had now, and gestured for him and Mikey to move forward.
The first place they visited was a small general store. The elderly man who ran the place claimed he had not seen Gerard, and offered them free mints. The next place they had visited, was a dingy burger place. The man behind the counter had evidently not seen Gerard either. The third place was a book store, and the teenage girl behind it's counter had not seen Gerard as well.
And finally, they came to the end of the line -- a building that looked more like a house than a business. They knocked on the door, and the handsome man with long blonde hair -- who had Gerard locked in a bedroom upstairs -- claimed to have never seen the boy in the picture.
Frank and Mikey both turned away with heavy hearts, feeling that they had reached the end of the line. Frank almost hesitated, thinking his ear had caught the faintest trace of a whimper coming from the building behind him -- but quickly shook it off and followed Mikey back to the car.
Gerard watched them go from an upstairs window, debating if he should try to call their attention. Instead, he took to his sketchbook and pen, writing words feverently until he heard his footsteps again. To this sound he stopped, hiding the pen and paper under his pillow until the shutting of a door meant that he was safe.
As he closed his eyes and exhaled at the signal, a single clear thought passed through his mind.
I can't believe he's still looking for me.