Disclaimer: I do not own Duskwood and I am not profiting from this work. The only thing I own are the thoughts that our MC has, her back story, and any OCs I may add. Because I'm from the United States, any statistics I use will be from here. In my mind Duskwood is located in a fictional world parallel to ours and therefore I get Writer Privileges to add or change a few things.

Please enjoy!

I'll be cross posting this on A03, , and WattPad. The rating is subject to change based on how the story goes.

Day 30 of my intentional exile started just like every other day. Waking up at 10 am because any later than that and my depression starts to show. Not that there's anyone to see it. I left my last job, my family, everyone I knew. I had enough money saved up to allow myself to wallow and the only bills that really needed to be paid were just utility, phone, internet, and food.

Groaning, I reached under my pillow to grab my phone, swiping away the alarm and checked my notifications. YouTube, a few games, some emails about classes I was taking before I fell into my slump, and one of my brothers asking me to send him $10 for cigarettes.

I dropped the phone onto my chest and stared up at the ceiling. The popular "popcorn" effect of the 70s showed dust gathering. Rubbing my hand over my face, I picked my phone back up before sending the $10 my brother wanted. If he was messaging me that means no one else would give it to him. He's the only one that ever pays me back so why not.

Finally deciding to get up, I stretched before taking my phone off the charger and making my way out of my bedroom, my over sized t-shirt hung off one shoulder and the skin of my legs prickled with contact from the cold air as I made my way to the bathroom for my morning ablutions. As I cupped water in my hands to rinse my face, my phone started to ping. Blindly, I rinsed with one hand while reaching for the nearby hand towel with the other, drying it before grabbing my phone from where I had set it on my bathroom shelf.

"Chat request from Thomas"

Who's Thomas? I wonder, idly using the towel to dry my face before dropping it.

Making my way back through my bedroom I head to the kitchen as I unlock my phone and accept the request.

T: Hello?

T: Are you there?

Don't think I've had a stranger message like this before… it's always "Hello beautiful" "Y R U Ignoring me". Making it to the kitchen, I shoot off a "Do I know you?", set down my phone, and open my cabinets. I start rustling through them to grab the filters, my favored brand of coffee, and my measuring spoon.

I'm so glad I filled the machine with water after I cleaned it last time.

Popping open the compartment, I throw a filter in and pop the lid off of the coffee before dropping in three spoons, snapping it shut and pressing the on button.

Heading to the opposite cabinets I grab the largest cup I had when my phone starts going off.

bzzt* *bzzt* *bzzt* *bzzt* *bzzt* *bzzt* *bzzt*

That's a new record.

Setting the cup down, I grab my phone.

T: I don't know

T: No matter how I put this, it'll sound crazy

T: I've e gone over this so many times in my head

T: Wait a sec

T: I have to add the others first

T: Please don't go

Thomas added Cleo

Thomas added Dan, Lilly, Richy

L: Hello

R: Hey

D: Seriously guys? A real genius idea this…

T: Dan, please shut up

And the winner for 3rd place in the strangest top 5 text interactions goes to Y/N! Right behind "The texture of blood as it dries is kinda sandy", what do you think of the placement?

I need my coffee before I make any comments Ralph! It's too early for this.

I go back to preparing my cup, 12 table spoons of sugar and coffee filled to the brim later (it's a large cup, don't judge) I open the app once again and reply.

"Who are you "

I softly blow on the hot liquid as everyone starts to reply at once.

D: …

C: Oh, is that him?

D: Seems that way, doesn't it?

Thomas added Jessy

T: Alright, sorry

T: Jessy is at the bottom of list

J: Oh, err

J: Hi guys

T: Alright, that's it

Taking a sip, I head towards my living room, plopping down on my love seat and covering my legs with a throw.

How do I even respond to this? I haven't done anything to be involved in any kind of drama lately… I mean I barely text two people as is. How would I step on enough toes that… one, two, three, four, five, six? People know who I am?

"What's going on?"

T: Well

T: How can I put this…

D: Oh that's a real good start

D:

L: Who are you? How do you know my sister?

Sister? What? Do I know anyone who knows anyone with these names? I know exactly one Lily and she's an only child and even she's just a distant childhood acquaintance that I never talk to.

Trying to figure out who these people are, I start tapping on profile images.

Lilly, no status, pictures of leaves and flowers. Seems to work at a motel. She has insta…. Just a repeat of the clover picture.

Dan, status is a sunglasses emoji, some selfies. Also has an insta with two more selfies. Likes rated R comedy and rock music.

Thomas, the guy who added me, status "I'm always with you." Pictures that seem to be on the more scenic side. Insta has a repeat of an image of a guy and a girl from behind, presumably him and his girlfriend, likes guitar, alternative music, world of ear craft.

Jessy, the one that seems to want to be here as much as I do, status: "The world has teeth and it can bite you with them any time it wants", some selfies, scenic images, food, and an inspirational quote. Seems like she enjoys writing, her notes have a short story about a woman who lost her husband and is reflecting while looking in a mirror. Likes horror and folklore/myths based on her links.

My kind of gal.

Cleo, her status is her insta, pictures of apples, food, and herself, insta is filled with food pics.

Richy, didn't say much, his status says he's at work, so that's understandable. A couple of selfies, lots of cars, a picture of him with two guys and a girl looking into the sunset, insta seems to have the same picture that's on his profile. Guess he really likes cars?

Yeah, I don't know any of these people.

And how am I supposed to know who this persons sister is anyway? I don't have a name or a face. Plus they're the ones that reached out to ME.

"But… YOU invited ME?"

C: Lilly…

L: What have you done to her?

Excuse me? What the actual…

T: We need to ask, how do you know Hannah Donfort?

Hannah Donfort? So I guess the woman with the accusations is Lilly Donfort…

Donfort… Donfort… I don't think I know any Donfort's, in fact I've never even heard of the name.

Swiping away from the app, I do a quick Google search,

"Don Fort -Wikipedia, born 1968, American law enforcement officer, yeah, no." I mutter.

"More on investigators named donfort, Fink attorney, IRS enforcement, IRS vs FBI, Kostelanetz & Fink, Does the IRS have a SWAT team?"

Pfft. Funny but not what I'm looking for.

"Police searching for missing girl, Hannah Donfort, she was last seen in Duskwood yesterday evening after picking up her car from a local garage. If anyone has any information on Hannah or her disappearance please call this number."

Seems this article was published two days ago. Would be helpful if it actually had a picture of her and if they got rid of the five million ads clogging up the page.

Anyway, time to get back to my accusers, it's obvious they think I have something to do with this.

"Never heard of her."

D: Seriously guys

C: Stop it Dan

T: Hannah's my girlfriend

T: And she disappeared

T: Three days ago to be exact

So Thomas is Hannah's boyfriend, Lilly is her sister… the others I guess are friends? And how do I fit into all of this?

To be rude or not to be rude, that is the question.

They did just basically accuse me of kidnapping, but they're obviously on the desperate side and lacking common sense…

"I'm sorry to hear that"

T: Yes..

T: Thanks…

T: She gave me your number

T: Listen

T: I got a message from her mobile last night containing only your number

T: Nothing more

D: Maybe you should mention that the phone disappeared with her

T: Yeah

Okayyyyyyy, creepy much? Either a girl I don't know has my number and knows who I am or a kidnapper has my number and knows who I am.

Fantastic.

Really.

I could use a good kidnapping, not like anyone would notice me gone.

I'd be classified as medium risk for any offender looking for a vulnerable chick on her own in this big wide world. Not low risk cause I don't live in a swanky neighborhood and I don't have regular dinner parties with fancy wine but I'm not a high risk sex worker or drug addict on the street either.

What are these people dragging me into?

"Creepy"

Short and sweet, just the way I like it.

Speaking of sweet, I need to remember to drink the coffee these people are spoiling.

D: Now it gets even better!

T: I tried to call her right away, of course

T: It was answered. But nobody said anything

C: Please, think hard

C: image attatched

C: This is her. Hannah Donfort

C: How do you know ow her? Why would her missing phone send your number?

Well at least Cleo is polite about it.

Dan seems to be on the IDGAF train.

Richy was gonna say something but changed his mind and the rest are slient… for now.

I don't know any of these people… but then again that doesn't mean she doesn't know me… Or that her kidnapper doesn't know me… how they got my number I have no idea. It's unlisted for a reason. They should have had an easier time finding my parents numbers… and even then I've erased myself out of my family. The only time any of them contact me is when they want something.

Dad's who knows where doing who knows what, probably passed out in some alley high on some kind of heroin to escape reality. Mom is off riding in the sunset with her new husband that's half her age.

Retirement seems to be a party for both of them.

"Perhaps she knows me… somehow?"

C: Maybe your encounter was just too long ago?

D: See? This is going nowhere, I told you.

D: As you all know I'm the last person that should be saying this, but;

D: You really should have left this with the police

T: Yeah, right.

T: You know exactly why I didn't

D: And that doesn't make you seem suspicious at all Tommyboy, does it?

D: I'm done

D: Good luck!

· Dan Left the Conversation

R: Can't he just behave for once?

R:

J: Sorry guys, you already know what I think about this

· Jessy Left the Conversation

R: Well

C: I don't know what else we can do now

C: You know, we're trying to find her…

C: We're just clutching at straws

No shit Sherlock? Who could have guessed? Certainly not me, definitely not Conan Doyle… deep breaths Y/N. Seems like it's time for your own Study in Scarlett. Remember, these people are upset, yes they're rude AF but they're being pushy for a reason. Maybe I can help… I am, what would you call it? Detective adjacent?

Time to break out the old criminology and profiling books.

"I'd do the same. "

R: This is more than just a straw

C: I agree

C: I mean that generally, not just about this number

They do remember I'm still here? Right? Rude.

L: This can't be happening

· Lilly Left the Conversation

R: One down, three to go

R: Uh four

I knew they forgot, again, rude. If you're gonna make a group chat to throw accusations at people, you should at least remember the person you made the chat to make the accusations toward.

R: Considering Mr. X

R: Or Ms. X, I beg your pardon!

R: Nowadays you should be careful with something like this

And now I'm remembered.

Seems this one at least has a sense of humor now that the slightly more rude ones are gone.

"Ms. X, please. ️"

R:

R: Or you can just tell us your name

R: That would be much more personal I guess

I didn't even realize that none of them knew my name. Making accusations to a nameless, faceless number. What if I had been a killer or a kidnapper? I know their names and general location and some information about them. Internet safety 101 people. Never volunteer information.

"My name is…"

Don't be a hypocrite Y/N, you just thought about how these people are volunteering information. What is wrong with you.

…I guess I could use my internet Alias. It's still part of my actual name, my middle, that would be safer, remember these people are looking for a kidnapper who possibly has your information, best to throw things off.

"My name is… Y/M/N"

R: Hello Y/M/N

R:

R: I'm Richy

R: And I must apologize for our famously rude behavior

R: This isn't us

C: What are you doing, Richy?

Is it me or is he pretending he's a dapper English gentleman butler or something? Breaking down the tension. I knew he had a funny bone, and it's obvious that he's realized he needs to break said tension in order to try to get me to cooperate. My number is the only real clue they have.

R: I don't know

R: I just thought that…

"… to involve me in small talk would be wise"

R: Well

R: Hannah sent us your number

R: That's gotta mean something, right?

R: Shit, I don't know

C: I guess what Richy is trying to say is

C: You're our only lead to Hannah

R: Yes

R: Sort of

Sort of? What?

T: Yes…

Don't even know why I'm their only lead, my numbers could mean almost anything. What if it was actually a code? What if it's coordinates? What if it's mean to be broken down into something significant to only them? Yeah, way back before my dad retired and my mom left him in the middle of her middle aged crisis for young bucks my last name meant something, but I've had my number unlisted for ages and I highly doubt my dad was high enough to pass it out to anyone desperate enough to contact a washed out detective, regardless of how famous he was in his prime.

"If you think so…"

R: I know how weird this seems

R: It's not easy for us either

R: I think it might really help if you stay

R: Stay…

R: …sounds strange.

Well this guy is the only one that seems to at lease be sincere in trying to understand things from my point of view. Seems like he's got some emotional intelligence hiding behind a grease smeared face.

"I'll do my best"

R: Awesome

R: I have to go now. Duty calls

R: I have to see to the old banger belonging to the older Mrs Mayers, again!

R: Otherwise she'll go to the pompous jerks at 'TT'

C: Okay Richy, we got it

R: Okay

R: Adios!

And then there really were three.

"Adios"

· Richy Left the Conversation

C: Bye

"He seems nice"

C: Yes, he is

C: You're one of the few who notices so quick

C: Well

C: I think you should get a rundown of the situation first

T: I'll do that

C: Okay

T: I'll add you in a second

Ok I definitely need a break after all of that Thomas can wait a few minutes. My coffee is on empty, this shirt, while comfortable, is a bit drafty when not wearing anything but panties, and it's been around an hour since this mess started. I'm starving.

Still, I want to be comfortable. Maybe just turn the heat up a bit.. I do have it on 68F

There's no need to get dressed when I'm not going anywhere.

Stretching, I got up, tossing my phone on the cushions before walking over to my book shelf and pulling a few old textbooks out for research before I forgot. Then, tossing them on the couch next to my phone I head to the fridge.

What do I want to eat?

Scanning the shelves and seeing a whole lot of "not much" I frown before pulling out the ingredients for an omlette loaded with the sausage and pepper stir fry I had yesterday for lunch and cheese.

Quick and easy, leftovers are the best. Still need to get groceries though…

15 minutes later and I'm at my dining room table with a glass of orange juice and my omlette along with the remote for my mounted smart TV in the living room next to me.

Semi-open floor plan for the win, I think before pulling up amazon and restarting Buffy for the millionth time. I settle in for my meal and entertainment with one leg crossed under me and the other propped up, foot flat on the seat and my arm resting on my knee as I use the fork to shovel omlette in my mouth.

I get that Angel is hot, (well, David is hot no matter his age) but he doesn't pull off tortured vampire well.. I prefer cocky FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth.

Out of the corner of my eye I can see my phone lighting up. I purse my lips, internally debating on whether or not I should just give in and grab it or continue to watch the slayer kick ass.

Great, can't even enjoy my meal now without thinking about the chaos waiting for me online. And not the good kind either.

I get up and grab my phone so I can text and get back to what I was doing.

T: Alright

T: Hello

"Long time no see" Heh, ok so I made him wait a little before responding and it would have been hilarious if I had responded right away, but still.

T: Sorry again about earlier

T: Must've been weird for you

Really now? I know I've already said no shit Sherlock so I can't use it again, but I have a feeling I'm going to run out of ways to point out the obvious very quickly.

Thank you, captain obvious.

In related news, water is wet.

All Hail the Prince of the Self-Evident

Ok now I'm just getting mean.

"Indeed"

T: I've been pretty distraught since she disappeared

T: And then this message, first I thought she was back

T: Writing that everything is fine

T: But I guess I can't hope for that anymore

T: I'm sorry to digress. Actually, I should catch you up on the situation.

"Let's do it"

T: Okay

T: Where do I start…

NEW NOTIFICATION:

Jessy,Dan

J: Hey you

What the… what is that?

Backing out of the conversation with Thomas, Iook at my available messages.

Should I even click on that? It's extremely sus.

Frowning, I completely abandon my rapidly cooling omlette and set both feet on the floor.

Maybe I should ignore it for now…

I tap back on the conversation with Thomas, trying to ignore the weird pop up.

"You didn't go to the police with my number?"

Unreasonable people don't do reasonable things. Then again, I'm glad they didn't because my mood would have been ruined if I woke up to a call from the police instead of a bunch of intriguing but rude and slightly weird messages from strangers.

The difference between a good time and a bad one isn't the involvement of hand cuffs but how they're used and who is using them.

T: Right

T: I wanted to, but

T: The message Hannah wrote to me suddenly vanished

Vanished? Like the unsend feature on social media? Do regular chat services even offer those features?

"You mean it was erased?"

T: I have no idea

T: At least not by me!

""

T: It's all right. I can't expect you to believe that

Didn't say I didn't believe you Tommyboy, just thought it was interesting is all. No evidence for or against so I think I'll withhold the judgement on that one.

If I'm going to help though I might need to make nice with the boyfriend of the missing girl though. Still, a healthy dosage of suspicion can't go wrong in situations like the one I've found myself in.

"I wonder how you were able to contact me then"

T: Do you remember a bad moment in your life that you will never be able to forget?

Flashes of memories pop up in my head; A lamp flies across the room, smashing against the wall behind me. In front of me is my mother, yelling in rage about my "cocky attitude" when I brought up the fact that her new boy toy is barely out of school and my father is working his ass off to feed my siblings and I while she gallivants around town with the next most recent graduate.

Thanks Tom… I always like a side of Trauma with my OJ in the morning.

*sips* Ah, refreshing.. tastes just like mommy issues.

"Who doesn't? "

T: Fair enough

T: When this message suddenly came from Hannah

T: With just your number. Nothing else

T: It's been burned into my brain

T: Your number will be in my memory for the rest of my life

T: But without the message, I couldn't go to the police…

"You're afraid this'll make you suspicious"

It's usually almost the boyfriend or SO. We're way more likely to be victimized by someone we know or by someone who has feelings for us.

Crimes committed that include property crime, gang violence, etc tend to have higher numbers of stranger violence due to the sheer number of people, but when it comes to violent crime, offenders are more likely to know their victims. Domestic violence rates have been at a rate of 4.2 people out of every thousand and with intimate partners the rate is 2.5 people out of every thousand. Duskwood, from what I've read so far, is a small town. A small town is usually with a population of 5,000 people or less, that means statistically, right now there's around 21 people in Duskwood experiencing domestic violence and around 12 to 13 people experiencing violence from an intimate partner.

So yeah, sorry dude, but you're sus.

T: Yes

T: You've got that absolutely right

T: Oh, shit

T: I should have picked up my little brother 10 minutes ago

T: We'll keep writing later, okay?

"See you later"

T: See you later Y/N

~Thomas is Now Offline~

Man do I have a lot to think about. It's been a while since I've thought about the NCVS… or any of the other databases that collect various forms of data from different surveys and from police departments…

It's also been a while since I was reminded of one of the many reasons I lefty family.

Toxic thy name is L/N

Still, a refresher in the meantime won't hurt.

I took those dusty books off my shelf for a reason.

I can stand to avoid the weird thing with Jessy and Dan for a while and refresh my memory a bit.