The Purchase CHAPTER 1


The living room was dimly lit as Josh walked out of his room, done editing some shots from earlier that day. Ryan was standing in the kitchen with the refrigerator door open, sticking his head inside to look for anything edible. They had been so busy shooting today's sequence that none of them had thought about shopping for groceries. Josh walked up to his older brother, leaning over to have a peek as well. Looking at each other they both uttered a small sigh. There was nothing in there, except some soda and a few bananas. Not exactly a sufficient meal for two grown men. Looking at Josh, Ryan raised his hand to play 'paper, rock, scissors' - and Josh hesitantly joined in on the game. He really didn't want to go anywhere because it was 10pm and he was tired beyond belief. But he was also hungry.

"Gotcha!" Ryan blurted out when the younger brother lost the game. Josh groaned in annoyance.

"Aww, come on...!" he complained, but Ryan waved at him to get going. The SevenEleven store was only a short distance away anyhow.

"Can't we just order something?" Josh tried, but Ryan shook his head. The budget was tight this month and there were still bills to be paid for their various equipment purchases. Sighing Josh nodded and grabbed his keys from the kitchen counter along with his cell phone.

"Have a nice walk," Ryan said as he sat himself down in front of the TV, flipping through the channels. However he sent his brother a compassionate smile before settling in on the couch.

"Yeah... thanks..." Josh mumbled and walked out the front door, closing it behind him as he walked out on the pavement. It was completely dark and the palm trees were rattling softly in the warm California breeze. He thought about just jumping in his car, but that seemed a little too dumb when the store was only two lanes from there. Besides he liked the exercise - only he was so tired, that his eyelids were almost feeling heavy. Clicking his tongue he walked down the pavement and the house slowly disappeared behind him as he continued down the lane. There was absolutely no activity there... only dimly lit windows here and there and some dogs barking somewhere. If it wasn't such a nice neighborhood he probably would have taken the car, but nothing ever happened here except maybe a dog turd left on the pavement resulting in complaining neighbors. Crossing the road, Josh was now halfway to the store and he actually enjoyed the walk despite of his tiredness. It was a nice and quiet night, allowing him to think clearly and focused. It could get hectic at home, so this was actually a great way to get some time to himself. However his chain of thought was broken when his cell vibrated in his pocket.

"Oh great..." Josh mumbled as he grabbed it. It was probably Ryan who wanted rootbeer or something. As he opened the display there was a message - but it was from an unknown number. Frowning Josh clicked it open, the green light from the display illuminating his face in the dark.

'I SEE YOU' - was the short message on the phone. Frowning and startled Josh stopped dead in his tracks and looked around. However there was nothing to be seen except a lake on the right and a big lawn between some houses on the left. Feeling his heart starting to pound faster, Josh picked up the pace and turned a corner, still with the phone in his hand. From here he could actually see the store down a long lane, it was pretty obvious with the multicolored signs. His phone beeped again - and he looked at the display. Another message from the same number. With trembling fingers he opened it. It read:

'SLEEP TIGHT, JOSHUA'

Chills ran down his spine and he swallowed hard. Was someone playing a trick on him? In that case he was going to punch them in the face. Again he looked around and he thought he saw a shadow near the lamp post in front of him. But as quickly as it seemed to be there, it was gone again. Then came the sound of footsteps - from behind him - and he spun around on his heels. But no one was there. Noticing how fast he was breathing Josh wondered if he was just being paranoid, but at the same time the sound of footsteps returned and this time they were moving much faster. Spinning around to his side Josh saw a man in dark clothes jogging towards him from a lamp post - freezing Josh narrowed his eyes. Just a jogger... He was about to sigh from relief when the man suddenly slowed down his pace as he approached Josh. A bad feeling hit Josh in the gut and he started dialing Ryan's number as he started walking, still not sure if his mind was playing tricks on him or if there really was something weird going on. No matter what he just wanted to go back home.

"I don't think so," the jogger said as he was suddenly walking right next to Josh. Before Josh had a chance to even look at him, the cell was torn out of his hand - and Josh immediately turned to face the stranger. The light from the lamp posts was coming from above and the man wore a hood, so Josh couldn't make out his face. It was all shadow. Starting to walk backwards, Josh raised his fists, ready to fight.

"Who are you?" he asked, his eyes fixed on the dark stranger, who was following him closely. The man let out a little, hoarse laugh.

"I'm the middle man," he merely said and kept walking, forcing Josh to back across the street. He didn't want to get in a fight if it could be avoided.

"Give me back my phone!" Josh hissed and stopped walking backwards. The stranger also stopped, just three feet away from him, still holding the phone in his gloved hand.

"No, can't do," he said and stuffed it in his pocket. Josh frowned as he looked at the man. He was much taller and also broader than himself. Maybe getting in a fight with a guy like that wasn't such a good idea after all. His eyes scanned his surroundings, but the scattered houses nearby were all without a single light in the windows... no help there. Then there was only one option left. With his heart thumping hard in his chest Josh suddenly spun around and started running down the street. Immediately he could hear footsteps following him - not one pair, but two. Heaving for air he sprinted down the lane towards his house, the palm trees seemed to be flying past him along with the dark houses - about fifteen feet in front of him was a house with the lights on. He had to reach the front door. Just in that second someone grabbed a hold of his shirt from behind and tore at it. Almost falling down Josh was slowed down and he could feel a strong arm wrap around his chest. As he was about to spin around to deliver a punch, something wet and foul smelling was pressed against his nose and mouth. Coughing instinctively Josh tried to jam his elbow into the guy behind him - a yelp could be heard, but he didn't let go. Josh feverishly grabbed a hold of the man's gloved hands, trying to tear them away from his face - but it felt like his strength was leaving him. Under the cloth in front of his face he tried to call for help, but only some muffled sounds made their way out. It was like his entire body was tingling and turning limp. Again he wanted to tear at the stranger's hands, but to his surprise he found that his arms were dangling down his sides. Blinking desperately to try and stay awake Josh stared at the lights coming from the house in front of him... But they started to fade. Slumping against the man behind him, Josh's vision turned black and he lost consciousness.