Author's Note: I just saw the 90s series for the first time recently, and I have to say I love its kitschy, not-quite-logical plots, and characters hamming it up just a little more than necessary. With this fic, I'm hoping to be able to recreate that feel like just another typical episode of the series. 'The Mitchum Curse' is set about half a year after the last episode, 'The Living Stones'.
Disclaimer: I don't own the Tomorrow People or any of its characters – they are the property of Roger Damon Price. Now let's get on with the story!
THE MITCHUM CURSE
It was dark outside, but Suite 425 at the Hotel Viennese was unlit. Only the still silvery glow from the screen of a laptop computer provided enough light for the figure to see by, but it was enough. For a moment, his fingers ceased to dart above the keyboard as he leaned back in the hotel's fine leather chair.
"This is it, suckers. You're going to pay for what you've done."
The figure stared at the screen for a long moment. Then, as if still in thought, he reached out and tapped a single key. Slowly and silently, the faint glow bathing the walls transformed from silver to bright, lurid indigo, before the computer emitted a strained 'beep' and closed itself down.
Suite 425 was already empty.
"Police are calling for information on the whereabouts of missing person Charles Dawson. The 68-year old retiree disappeared under mysterious circumstances late yesterday afternoon at his Mitchum residence."
The station broadcast cut away from helicopter cam to a worried-looking woman with grey-streaked tangles, still wearing what looked like a bathrobe. "He was in the toilet," she said. At the bottom of the screen, a caption flashed up bearing the words, Missing Person's Wife."He ran out of toilet paper and was yelling at me to get some more. I was only gone half a minute! But when I held it out through the door, he didn't take it. So that's when I started to get worried."
Switching again, the picture cut to scenes of police talking into radio receivers and close- ups of orange crime tape while the reporter provided voiceovers. In front of the TV, a huge flat-screen monitor filling half the wall, a redheaded boy struggled to kick off his sneakers.
"It's unclear how the husband left the room so quickly without his wife noticing, and police won't yet comment on whether they suspect foul play."
As if to confirm this, a policewoman's face appeared promptly on screen. "This case is still under investigation."
"There's no way he could run away," said Mrs Dawson's image. "He has arthritis in both knees. He needs help to stand up. And he would have had to come past me on the way out. I don't know how they did it, or what they want from us. I just want my darling back!"
"Hmm," said the redheaded boy, and then, "Got it!" as one shoe came flying off, crashing into a stack of magazines piled on the floor.
The news reporter himself could now be seen, a short man in a suit standing awkwardly outside the Dawsons' front verge. "This case marks the fifth person to vanish from their homes since Monday, and all five were known to be staying in the Merton borough. Local residents are being advised to report all suspicious behaviour and make sure all entrance points to their homes are locked, even while indoors. We'll keep you updated as developments emerge."
Clasping his other shoe with both hands, the boy yanked his foot free. "Phew!" Stretching out, he wriggled his toes under grey socks. "I really need to –"
"- get started on your homework," came a voice from the doorway. The boy looked over to see a well-dressed woman in a brown business suit, arms folded and hair somewhat frizzled. "Mom! What are you doing home so early?"
"Fire siren went off." Walking in, she headed to rescue the fallen magazines before they became infused with foot odour. "It turned out to be a false alarm, but nobody could make it stop once it started. No one had a hope of getting anything done next to that racket, so we got the afternoon off. But don't think that means it applies to you, too, Megabyte."
He groaned. "But –"
"We've got that dinner tonight, remember? No time for slacking off." As the last word left her lips, the TV flickered, made a popping sound and went dark, leaving a faint afterimage that died within seconds. "There, even the voice recognition finally agrees with me. Off you go!"
Megabyte Damon rose in resignation and went to pick up the sneaker that had gone flying. Behind the couch lay his schoolbag, dumped unceremoniously on the way in. He started to trudge up the stairs with it, but then looked back, remembering. "It's alright if Kevin comes over later, isn't it?"
"Only if it's for study – and he'll have to be gone before we leave. It's strictly family tonight."
"Yeah, that's OK. Thanks, Mom."
Upstairs, Megabyte made a beeline for his desk, pulling a small laptop from his schoolbag. The bedroom was relatively neat and tidy, with the exception of a few books and shoes on the floor. Today's shoes promptly found a home among them. He pulled up a chair and sat heavily, dragging his feet even as he flipped the computer open. Instantly a window popped up, displaying a list of school subjects. Those were the least of his concerns. "Gee, English. Chemistry. No thanks!"
Instead, he brought up a search engine and sat for a moment. The news broadcast. Charles Dawson, the missing person. A similar story had been on the TV the night before. It was hardly an unusual type of event, of course, but the presenters were starting to treat it seriously. He figured it seemed worth a look into, and, a while later, had managed to find the names and stories of three of the missing people. There was Dawson, a university student called Britch Downstup, and Alison Wong, a food critic from Singapore. All the records were mentioning five victims in total, but the first two were well hidden. They probably hadn't been newsworthy enough until a pattern had started to emerge.
Footsteps sounded outside his door, and he quickly opened up an old homework document, pretending to work on an essay. But it was a false alarm, and he could get back to his research.
Charles, Alison and Britch didn't seem to have much in common aside from living in the same suburb. But the cases did. None of the missing people had an obvious reason to run away. They had all disappeared suddenly from their homes, all last seen by close family members or friends only minutes earlier. All had left their personal belongings behind. Already, he noted, some articles were suggesting a handful of unlikely causes from disease to serial killers – one even proposed something called 'The Mitchum Curse'. Whatever that was, it sounded interesting.
Catching a bright flash out of the corner of his eye, he leaned around to find his friend Kevin sitting on his bed along with a large, golden tuba that had definitely not been there earlier. The brown-haired teenager was looking rather miserable. "Before you ask, it was Mum's idea. She wouldn't let me come if I didn't agree to practice."
Megabyte waved it off. "Never mind that, come and have a look at this!"
"The Mitchum Curse? What's that?"
"Remember those missing people on the news in the last couple of days?"
Kevin shook his head. "I haven't had a chance to watch anything lately. It's all been bloody tuba practice! Honestly, she's obsessed with it."
"Well, listen to this: 'Latest updates reveal a fifth resident is missing from his Mitchum home under mysterious circumstances.' Blah, blah, blah… here we go. 'None of the victims were known to have a history of mental illness or personal troubles, which is raising fears of kidnapping and even murder. Certainly this many disappearances so close together can't be a coincidence, yet so far not a single witness has come forward. Which raises the question: Are we looking at the work of a master criminal, or something more supernatural? Only time and investigation will reveal the mystery of the Mitchum Curse.'"
Kevin looked unconvinced and folded his arms. "Tabloids always make up stuff like that."
"This is the internet!"
"Okay, okay, the site's dodgy," Megabyte admitted. "But the disappearances are real. I think it's worth investigating." He looked at Kevin, who abruptly shrank back as if burnt.
"Oh, no you don't. My parents would kill me."
"Then don't tell them! They can't force you to sit at home all day, you're a Tomorrow Person!"
Kevin glowered at him from under his fringe. "You know it's not like that! You might be okay with ignoring everything your family says, but I'm not! If I start taking off around the world like you guys do, it'd be like a betrayal. I can't let them down."
"It's just Mitchum, Kevin, not Pakistan." But he sighed. They'd had this conversation before. "Anyway, I can't do anything tonight because of Mom's dinner meeting."
"What's that all about?" Kevin asked, glad for a chance to change the subject.
Megabyte kicked his chair away from the desk and swivelled round to face his friend. "Oh, some important client wants to meet the family. Don't ask me why."
"That doesn't sound so bad."
But he just grinned. "Are you kidding? No way am I missing this - I'll get to eat something more expensive than takeout. Think of the food!" The friends smiled at each other.
It seemed like ages since he and Kevin had been able to just hang out like this, and he realised how much he'd missed it. Kevin was the first – and for a while, at least, the only – friend he'd made after moving to London, but then Kevin's schedule had suddenly become so busy that most of their interaction had become limited to school hours. It wasn't right, Megabyte thought, that people their age should have such little spare time. But if it wasn't tuba lessons with Kevin, it was cricket or private tuition, or some other event that always seemed to pop up just at the wrong moment. It had all started to happen soon after Kevin's parents had found out about the Tomorrow People, too, which definitely wasn't a coincidence. But whenever he started hinting at it to his friend, Kevin got defensive.
He'd better enjoy it while it lasted, then. "What do you want to watch?" he asked, turning back to his laptop. "Except we'll have to keep it down so Mom doesn't find out. There's this great new zombie movie –" As he spoke, however, the screen flickered, lights fizzled, and everything electronic in the room went dark. "Huh, that's weird."
Kevin peered over his shoulder at the computer. "Power failure?"
"Can't be. It's not connected." He fiddled with a couple of switches. "Hmm, that's not -" As quickly as it had shut down, the laptop came back to life, the screen display bright as ever. "Oh well."
There came a knock on the door, followed by Megabyte's mother. "Hello, Kevin," she said. "Are you two alright in - er, is that a tuba?"
Mrs Damon smiled awkwardly. "You know, Kevin," she continued. "Megabyte's been telling me about all this extra practice you've been doing. I want to let you know that it's fine to come over here if you ever need a break."
"As long as that break contains homework, she means," her son interrupted.
"No, but I happen to know you two have an assignment due on Monday, smart alec. And if I know you, you haven't started on it yet."
"She's right about that," Kevin said.
Megabyte widened his eyes in mock horror. "My best friend, the traitor!"
Mrs Damon laughed. "Look, I'm happy to call your parents about it if you think that would help. Just as long as you both keep safe, and don't do anything of dubious legality."
"Would we do that?"
"Yes, Megabyte, you do it on a regular basis. But with any luck there's still hope for Kevin. Look, there's no rush. Just let yourselves be normal kids for a while, okay? And get started on that assignment!" With a final wave, she left and closed the door behind her.
The friends looked at each other and shrugged. "I suppose we'd better start working, then," Kevin suggested, reaching down to unzip his schoolbag. He pulled out a folder full of handwritten notes.
You too? Megabyte groaned. "Bah, who wants to be normal?"