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On the Line

by Ryoko

Chapter One: "The Mysterious Disappear"

Odd, thought Yusuke Urameshi as he emerged into his classroom. It was early Friday morning. Outside it was a blizzard; the snow was falling, the wind blowing. His appearance showed this weather. His green school uniform was damp and cold against his skin underneath. His hair was wet too, and so had flattened from its usually slicked back style. He shivered as he walked to his seat. The warm air emitting from the heater felt good compared to the inclement cold of the outside. Where’s Keiko? he asked himself as he pulled out his chair to sit.

Yusuke looked around the room. His peers were bundled in thick winter coats, warm hats, and mittens. Maybe he had missed her underneath this seasonal attire. Nope. She was nowhere to be found. This was odd for the model student, Keiko Yukimura. Yusuke couldn’t recall a day when she had not gone to school. Of course, he couldn’t be certain. He wasn’t there ninety percent of the time.

Perhaps she was sick. With the weather lately many people were falling ill. Would that really stop Keiko from coming to school? Yusuke highly doubted it. Her precious grades would suffer and she couldn’t permit that.

Yusuke glanced around the classroom one last time, hopeful that maybe she was now there. He sighed internally. No, she wasn’t. She must be really sick Yusuke figured.

Well, thought Yusuke. There’s nothing stopping me from ditching now. A wide grin spread across his lips as he strolled over to the classroom exist. He reached for the handle, but before he could grip it, it flew open all on its own.

The tall, broad frame of Kuwabara stared down at him. A grin of welcome showed on his face. However, it soon turned to a frown. “Skipping again, Urameshi?” he said, disappointed with his friend.

“Such harsh words,” Yusuke replied, sarcasm in his tone. “I like to call it excusing myself.”

“Haha, very funny.” He stepped closer to the door, guarding it with his body. “I’m not going to let you. And besides Keiko wouldn’t like it much.”

“Please Kuwabara. You stop me?” Yusuke gibed.

“I can so sto-” the taller boy started, but stopped his sentence after looking around and noticing the absence of someone. “Hey, wait a minute. Where’s Keiko?” He stepped forward away, to get a better view of the class, leaving his post unguarded.

Yusuke took this opportunity. He slipped through the door with sly motions which could make Kurama jealous.

By the time Kuwabara noticed he was missing, Yusuke was already half way down the hall. He heard his friend call after him, scolding and reprimanding him. Yusuke ignored him. No one told The Great Yusuke Urameshi what to do!

Out the door he went, evading the sly eyes of Mr. Takanaka, who was walking along the other end of the hall, as he did. The moment the door flung open the harsh cold of the winter burst inside. He stepped out into the winter wonderland of the outside and slammed the door behind him. The bitterness nipped at his nose and Yusuke had to wrap his arms across his chest and rub his arms with his hands in attempt to keep warm.

Though it was cold, Yusuke was positive in his decision in living the warmth of the school. The cold was better than school; anything was better than school! He heard the bell ring inside the school building as he strolled across the courtyard. School had begun and it was already over for Yusuke.

Now where was he to go on this lovely morning? Maybe he’d go to the arcade. Or get into a good street brawl. He hadn’t had a good one of those in a while. Keiko wouldn’t think very highly of that. Keiko…Maybe he’d go see her. Maybe not, thought Yusuke after thinking over what her reaction would be. She might be sick, but that wouldn’t stop her big mouth or her hand from slamming into his face. “Yusuke what are you doing here? You should be at school!” he said aloud in a high pitch voice, trying to mimic her. She’d scold him and then hit him for sure.

But he couldn’t help but want to see her. For some reason lately he yearned to see her. He couldn’t explain it. Lately he just needed, wanted to see her.

As he walked down the streets he debated the issue. Should he visit her or should he not? He wanted to see her, but then he didn’t want her to slap him. But even though his mind was undecided his feet were. He found them leading him right to her door.

He glazed inside the window door of the little ramen shop. Keiko’s parents were busy boiling ramen and cleaning up after the previous customers.

He opened the door. A bell jingled his arrival. Inside it was toasty. The heat warmed him, numbing his frozen body. Mrs. Yukimura turned to the door to welcome the customer. The already big smile widened when she saw who it was. “Good morning, Yusuke,” she said. “Can I get you anything?”

“No,” he replied. He smelled the aroma of the newly prepared food. He really was lying. He hadn’t eaten yet and his stomach growled. But he reminded himself that breakfast wasn’t the point of him being here. And he didn’t want to trouble them. It would also make him stuck there and that would not be good if Keiko went on the warpath. “Is Keiko here?”

“Of course not,” the woman replied, looking skeptical. “She’s at school.” She gave him another hard look, then in a motherly stern voice added, “Where you should be!”

Now it was his turn to be puzzled. Keiko hadn’t been in school when he had strolled in there a minute before the bell rang and the start of class. And it wasn’t like Keiko to be late. Did he miss her? How could he? She certainly wasn’t in class. And if there was the slight possibility she was late he more than likely would have passed her as he left the building and started down the street.

As if reading his thoughts Keiko’s mother said, “Keiko went to school very early this morning. She needed to finish something up, I think. Comes from being class president that she’s so busy.” She smiled at Yusuke. “You shouldn’t worry so, dear. I’m sure you just missed her.”

He stared at her a moment, comprehending what she had said, then he felt he’s cheeks burn a little. “I’m not worried!” he said aloud turning his gaze away. Why would he worry? Keiko’s mother chuckled at his embarrassment and muttered something that sounded strangely like, “Oh, really?”

“Is that Yusuke’s voice I hear?” came a voice from another room. Yusuke recognized it as belonging to Keiko’s father. He entered into view from behind some drapes closing the other room. That room was where the food was prepared. The man spotted the younger man. “Why, hello, Yusuke,” he greeted.

“Hey,” Yusuke replied.

“What are you doing he-” Mr. Yukimura began, but was cut short from steam arising from the room he had just entered from. The gas thickened the air. He gasped and hurried back to his cooking and to extinguish the starting fire.

“Actually,” Yusuke said, answering the question the almost asked question. “I was just leaving.”

And with that said he walked towards the door, hearing the adults bid him farewell with a “Goodbye” and “See you later.” The bitter air hit him as soon as he took a step outside, numbing him once again. Yusuke was really beginning to wish he had brought a jacket.

So that’s why he hadn’t seen her. She had gone to school early. He really had just missed her. It all made sense now. Probably if he checked at school she’d be in her seat, answering a question or something. But he wasn’t going back to school. No way! He knew what had happened now and Yusuke figured that he’d just start enjoying his Winter Vacation a day early.

The slush of the fallen snow under his shoes accompanied Yusuke down the streets. Everywhere around him Christmas lights winked and the tunes of merry songs filled the air. It was enough to liven anyone’s spirits. But Yusuke was not exhilarated; Instead, he kept his usually indifferent out look on the world. The cold annoyed him, yet he wouldn’t go home to be lectured by his mother for playing hooky. He was bored, too and it would be hours before Kuwabara would be free to hang out with him. Maybe he would go back to school. They usually didn’t do much the day before a holiday and it’s not like he did any school work anyway. He quickly shoved the thought out of his mind. What was he thinking? That was mad!

He walked into a café. The line was long but it was warm inside. He brushed off the snow that was starting to bury him and stomped his feet on the mat that was already damp from previous visitors. A T.V. blared and Yusuke glanced upon it as he went to wait in the increasing long line. A man, most likely a reporter, was speaking.

“Yes, Kiki,” he said, answering the question of the person on the T.V. before him. “Serial killer, Yamato Miyazaki escaped police custody while being transferred to a new prison yesterday. The convict was last seen heading down Hana Boulevard. Police assume he is hiding somewhere in that area.”

That’s not that far from here, thought Yusuke.

“We advise everyone to be wary of the following description,” continued the reporter. A picture of a middle-aged man appeared on the screen. “Brown eyes, short black hair, around one hundred and seventy pounds…” The man went on with Yusuke not paying him any more attention.

Brown eyes? Black hair? Yusuke thought. That really narrows down the search. Yusuke ignored what the reporter was saying, but still studied the murderer’s features. The man’s hair was mangled and greasy, his eyes were twisted and unfocused, his mouth was turned up into an unnerving wicked grin, and his face needed a good shave. Something about him seemed familiar.

Maybe Yusuke had seen the man on the news when he was arrested of his crime. Maybe…but something about him seemed more recent…yet he could not put his finger on where and when.

He didn’t have anymore time to think about the matter as it was, anyway. He was next in line. When his turn came, he bought a hot chocolate and sat down at a lone table seated in the corner of the café.

The clock ticked away the minutes slowly as he enjoyed the heat of the drink. Yusuke finished his drink and journeyed back into the stormy outside. Cold and alone he wondered through the streets and by three fifteen he found himself at Sarayashki Junior High School, awaiting Kuwabara.

The wind blew and snow continued to fall and finally Kuwabara emerged, along with his peers, from the main door. Yusuke stood against the building and ignoring the numbness of his cheeks and the rest of his body, greeted Kuwabara, “Hey.”

Kuwabara whirled around and faced him. He noticed his friends red cheeks and asked, “Are you crazy? How long have you been out here?”

Yusuke ignored the question. Sure he was cold, but it was nothing he couldn’t handle. He looked around expectantly. But did not find what he was searching for. Where was Keiko?

He found himself asking Kuwabara this question. The taller boy stared at him with a confused questioning in his gaze.

“I thought you knew. She didn’t show up at school today. Must be sick or something.”

“What?” Yusuke shouted, bewildered. How could that be? Her parents said she had gone early to school and yet here Kuwabara was, saying that Keiko had never shown up. There’s no way whatever business she had to take care of this morning took all the school day. But if she was not here or at home, where was she?

Yusuke’s eyes widened in horror. His heart pushed against his chest, running a marathon inside him. Panic and fear for Keiko’s safety swelled up inside him, engulfing him. He couldn’t think clearly. His mind was a blank, only filled with worry. All the fortitude he had ever had, had vanished in a blink of an eye. Where was she? Where was Keiko?

Yusuke felt the sweat drip down his face, but that was negligible. He knew his face had whitened and knew it showed his internal horror. But that was insignificant, too. All that mattered was finding Keiko! But where to begin? How would he find her? And what if, and Yusuke gulped at the thought, it was too late?

Kuwabara noticed his friend’s strange behavior. He knew something was wrong. Yusuke didn’t ever act like this. And why was Keiko’s absence, a fact that he surely noticed this morning, so important that it brought along this odd manner? He was about to ask, but before he could Yusuke was dashing down the bed of snow, formally a road. He stared after his friend, confused and a bit worried.

Where is she? Yusuke questioned himself as he ran. Where is she? What possibly could have happened to her? He couldn’t figure that out! He stopped dead in his tracks.

He needed to calm down. He needed to think clearer. Yusuke took a deep breath, letting the exhale out slowly. He was a detective. He could figure this out. Of course, he wasn’t the mystery-solving sort. Think, Yusuke, think! He demanded himself. What should he do? He needed to find her! Wait. Yusuke stopped. He knew what he’d do. He’d follow the path Keiko usually took to school. Maybe that would help him find some kind of clue of to where she was.

Yusuke ran down the streets, right to Keiko’s home. Then he turned about and walked the path Keiko usually took to school. He took everything in as he walked; studying the surrounding snow white streets intently. If there was anything on the ground, he did not know. For it was covered in a thick layer of snow.

Sweat dripped down his face as he searched. Nothing could ease his conscience. Nothing. Not until he knew Keiko was safe.

Next thing Yusuke knew, he was plunging forward. His leg had collided with something. Yusuke caught himself before he fell, straggled forward, and turned around to see what had tripped him.

“What the hell,” Yusuke said looking down at the object that tripped him. He saw something brown. It was hidden underneath the white snow so Yusuke could not tell what it was. He dropped to his knees and dusted the snow off the object. It was a brown school bag.

Yusuke picked it up, turned it around to the side that opened, and undid the lock. He threw open the top.

Yusuke’s heart skipped a beat. A name familiar to him was written on the inside of the bag: Keiko Yukimura.

“K-Keiko,” he stammered.

If this was her bag, where was she? She wouldn’t have just left it here. Something must have happened.

Yusuke quickly rose to his feet, with her bag still clutched in his hand. He had to find her quickly. He looked around and began to walk forward, when he heard a terrified scream from behind him.

He turned to see a crowd of people encircling an alley entrance. The few faces he could see were filled with horror and fear. “It’s a girl!” someone shouted.

“Is she alive?” another asked.

“Oh, my god! I don’t think she is!” yet another exclaimed.

Yusuke’s heart stopped. He could no longer breathe. His eyes widened until they could no more. His face became white as a ghost.

No, he thought. Please don’t be Keiko.

To be continued…

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