In SH3, Douglas mentioned to Heather that he had already been to Silent Hill once. He suggested a missing person's case, whom is hinted to be James Sunderland (from SH2), given the usual references to the previous games. It could have been Eddie too, just like any other missing person, but most likely James. So I thought of writing this fic, set before the events of SH3, depicting Douglas' investigation to find out James' whereabouts. Hope it is enjoyed.
This is the first of a series of short stories featuring some SH characters who might have crossed paths prior to the games events. The other stories may be found in my profile, as they are released.
I do not own Silent Hill. It belongs to Konami.
I will use the following typing standards:
Flashbacks, written passages
CHAPTER 01 – CASE TAKEN
Southern district of Ashfield. That was the destination a run-down gray Chevy was heading to. The driver, a man in his fifties, with short gray hair and a stubble, looked equally run-down. Private Detective Douglas Cartland had been driving for a good bunch of hours just to go there. Apparently someone had called, claiming to have a case for him. Certainly it wasn't pleasant to drive such a long distance only to get some work done, but, considering how things have been, Douglas couldn't afford to be picky about his customers. In fact, he was thankful for his decision of putting his professional number on the Ashfield phone list.
Life hasn't been easy on him ever since his early retirement from the police force years ago. The following divorce, the gradual impoverishment... all those events had taken their toll on the old man's mind. But nothing compared to the ultimate coup de grace: the death of his only son. Deeply grieved by the tragedy, it was then that Douglas realized he had hit rock bottom and bravely decided to turn things for better. Using the skills he had acquired in the police, Douglas became a private investigator.
Of course, things weren't expected to be that simple either. Being a P.I. was a tough job. Working long hours in order to solve a single case wasn't uncommon and, many times, the lack of clients forced him to take cases outside his town's borders. And that was exactly what he was doing now: following the demand for his services to Ashfield.
Douglas took another glance at the written down address of his customer, while attempting to drive through the town's busy streets. Eventually he stopped at a traffic light, taking a moment to look around. To his left, there was what seemed a subway station entrance. It read 'South Ashfield Station' on the sign above. The former cop recalled his customer telling that the address was just across that station, so he concluded his destination was close.
Suddenly, he noticed someone coming out of said station. A beautiful young woman, with chin-length black hair, her facial features indicating she was of Latin heritage. But what drew his attention the most was her business there. Judging by the skimpy and revealing red top she wore, and the teasing way she walked, anyone could have guessed what that girl probably did for a living.
'Good Lord, what's this world turning into?' mused Douglas, shaking his head. That girl looked young enough to be his daughter and there she was, doing this sort of thing out in broad daylight. He couldn't help but acting a bit moralist in this situation. It was a cop thing, and old habits died hard. Anyway, the traffic light had opened, so he simply brushed these thoughts off and proceeded on his journey.
Just a few yards further and he finally arrived at South Ashfield Heights, a three-floored apartment block. After pulling into the estate's parking, Douglas put on his brown trench coat and hat (a look he always used whenever meeting clients), and stepped out of the car. Before entering though, he spared a few minutes to scrutinize the building in front of him. From his years in the police, the detective was aware that South Ashfield wasn't exactly the American Dream's neighborhood. Especially this part of the town, where many people with dubious pasts lived, from illegal immigrants to former convicts, some still on probation. He just hoped nobody there knew that he used to be an officer, otherwise this case would certainly prove difficult to handle.
Entering through the front door, Douglas found himself in the lobby area. He went straight to one of the hallways in the first floor, searching for his client's room. At last, he knocked on a specific door labeled with the number 105, a few seconds passing until approaching steps were heard beyond it.
A tall, white-haired man answered the door. He seemed quite old, even older than Douglas. Despite that, he still appeared quite healthy, although a faint trait of depression could be figured out on his expression.
"Mr. Sunderland?" the investigator said. "I'm Detective Douglas Cartland. We've talked on the phone."
"Oh, indeed." The older man recognized. "I've been expecting you. Please come in."
He stepped aside to let the detective in, closing the door afterwards. Douglas headed to the living room, right across the entrance, settling himself on a green couch at the coffee table. His host followed after, sitting on the armchair across the couch.
"So, Mr. Sunderland..." Douglas started.
"Just Frank." The other man corrected. He was never one for formality.
"Alright. Frank, what is this case you wanted me to investigate?"
"Well, it's..." Frank had begun, but got suddenly interrupted by knocks on his door. "Excuse me for an instant." He said, standing up.
As the other man walked to the door, Douglas started smelling something. Some foul odor, resembling rotten meat. Tracing the scent, he pinpointed it to the shelf next to him. What would it be, the former cop had no idea. Maybe a dead rat behind the furniture. His nose twitched a little in disgust, but he decided to ignore it, since pointing it out to his host would be rude.
His eyes moved to the door, as Frank opened it. A young and gorgeous female brunette stood there, dressed in a pink-and-white striped top and denim shorts.
"Good afternoon, Frank," the girl greeted, before realizing the other man sat at the living room. "Oh, sorry. You have company now?"
"It's fine, Eileen," Frank kindly assured, holding his hand up. "Wish something?"
The girl produced an envelope out of her pocket and handed it over to the older man. "Just wanted to pay this month's rent."
"Okay, thank you. I'll make your receipt." Frank took the envelope and turned around to get his paper pad. After he was done, he gave the receipt to Eileen.
"Thanks. Have a nice day, Frank." She parted, giving to Douglas a polite smile on the way out, to which he nodded in reply.
Closing the door, Frank returned to his armchair. "Sorry for the interruption. I work as the superintendent here and today's rent day."
"No problem," the bearded man said. "Now, you were saying about the case..."
"Oh, yes... the case," the superintendent spoke, reaching out his arm to get an aged portrait frame off the shelf, passing it to Douglas next. "I want you to find these people."
Douglas gazed at the picture in the frame. Two people were shown on it. One was a woman, probably in mid-twenties, with shoulder-length auburn hair, wearing a pink blouse and polka-dotted skirt. Beside the woman, with an affectionate arm around her, there was a man with short, tawny-blond hair, around the same age, sporting an olive jacket. Most likely a love couple.
"Those two," Frank started to explain. "Are my son and my daughter-in-law. Their names are James and Mary."
"What happened to them?"
"They went missing, years ago."
"How exactly missing?" he asked for details.
Frank shifted a bit in the armchair. It was as though he was preparing to tell a long story. "Everything began a few years back, when Mary got severely ill. Not just any illness, but a terminal one. The doctors gave her three years, bedridden. From that moment on, their marriage went downhill. The initial shock, the feeling of powerlessness, the pain, the medical expenses... all of it transformed what was once a happy marriage into a miserable one."
In the distressed father's mind, flashed a memory of an occasion when he had accompanied James in a visit to Mary. Those moments shared with his son were very treasured by the old man, as he hadn't spent much time with James ever since he got married, and much less after Mary got sick.
Through the sterile hallways of St Jerome's Hospital, both father and son followed a nurse leading the way to a certain patient's room. She stopped before a door and peeked inside.
"Mary, your husband is here to see you," she announced, turning to whisper back to the men behind her. "Careful you two. She seems to be more sensitive than before, so watch what you do."
"We will. Thanks, Rachel." Frank said to the nurse. Coincidentally or not, Rachel happened to be a tenant in South Ashfield Heights, so the superintendent was acquainted enough to call her by the name.
As the nurse took her leave, Frank looked over his son. James seemed tense, reluctant to enter the room. In his hand, he carried a bouquet of flowers, a gift for his beloved Mary.
Finally mustering the courage to enter, James reached the door knob. But before that, he turned to his father. "Uh, Dad. I think you'd better wait out here."
The old man raised an eyebrow. "What? But why?"
"Well, it's... I..." the younger man stammered, fighting to get the right words.
Yet Frank just waved his hand dismissively. "That's okay. I understand, son. I'll wait out here," he said, leaning against the wall next to the door. He wasn't sure why his son was so uncomfortable about seeing his very own wife, but he decided not to insist on that. "If you need me, I'll be right here."
With a nervous nod, James proceeded to slowly step into the room, closing the door behind him.
"Mary?" his voice still could be heard on the other side, muffled by the walls.
"What do you want, James?" Mary's voice was heard next. Her tone, however, made Frank a bit taken aback. It was angry, bitter, almost as if she was annoyed by James' presence.
"I, uh I brought you some flowers..."
"Flowers? I don't want any damn flowers. Just go home already."
"Mary, what are you saying?"
"Look! I'm disgusting! I don't deserve flowers. Between the disease and the drugs, I look like a monster," she snapped, her tone getting gradually angrier. "Well, what are you looking at? Get the hell out of here. Leave me alone already!
"I'm no use to anyone. I'll be dead soon anyway. Maybe today, maybe tomorrow... It'd be easier if they'd just kill me. But I guess the hospital is making a nice profit off me, they want to keep me alive..." she continued, unaware of her father-in-law outside the room. Never had Frank ever heard his caring daughter-in-law uttering such horrible words. Now he could grasp why his son was so hesitant about this visit and why he had told him to wait outside.
"Are you still here? I told you to go! Are you deaf?! Don't come back!"
An awkward silence abruptly fell, the mood was so heavy that it was almost suffocating. Frank felt an utter sense of dread inside his stomach, just as an urge to get in the room and pull his son out of that terrible situation. But he didn't have to, it seemed. Just as he was about to reach for the knob, he heard footsteps inside coming towards the door. At any second, he expected a downcast James to walk out.
That's when, suddenly, Mary's voice was heard again.
"James... wait..." she pleaded, the bitterness in her voice replaced by fear. James' footsteps halted at the same instant.
"Please don't go... Stay with me. Don't leave me alone. I didn't mean what I said," she begged, almost on the verge of crying. "Please James... tell me I'll be okay. Tell me I'm not going to die. Help me..."
Finally she broke down into tears.
"Mary..." James muttered, pity plastered in his voice. Footsteps were heard again, but this time moving away from the door. "Mary, shhh. It's okay. You'll be alright." Frank still could pick up from the conversation, between Mary's sobs. "You'll be alright..."
Douglas realized the saddened expression that formed on Frank's face, but the older man continued anyway. "I remember... all the suffering... that James and Mary had gone through. All the pain... they must have felt.
"James had... really changed, you know. He got depressed, started drinking... even I couldn't recognize him sometimes. There was even one occasion, when I asked him how Mary was doing. He just got mad at me, telling me not to pry into his business..." the superintendent paused a bit to swallow a lump down his throat. "I mean, can't a father ask about his daughter-in-law? I know I wasn't the best father in the world, but even so..."
With a raised hand over his face, now the older man was visibly fighting back tears. It wasn't like Frank to be that emotional in front of strangers, but he couldn't avoid it. Talking about his long missing son always brought back those sore feelings, partly for wanting him back, partly for not having the chance to be in better terms with him before he disappeared.
Detective Cartland, who so far had been listening to everything quietly, seemed most stoic, externally. He was there on business, so he had to look professional. Inside, however, he was in great turmoil, struggling not to let any emotions show up. If there was one person who knew what it was like to lose a child, to not realize how important a relationship was until the moment you lose it, that person was him.
He recalled his own memories of his long deceased son. Even now, it was still a rather sensitive subject to touch. Shortly after his retirement, he and his wife had divorced, him keeping custody of their only son. Having to raise a child practically by himself, his life conditions had deteriorated, as his monthly pension barely sufficed for him and his child. Even so, he had hoped things would eventually turn out for better. His son, on the other hand, didn't share of his father's optimism. Tired of that poor life and of putting up with a penny-less dad, the boy had decided at last to take matters into hands. And not in a legal way...
Douglas still recollected of that fateful night when he got a call from the police. Those words still echoed in his head, as though it was yesterday. His son was dead. Dead. And worse, not due to any common cause: the boy had been shot while trying to rob a bank, despite all the upbringing his father had given him. In Douglas' mind, almost as painful as his son's death, was the thought that he didn't know him as well as he believed. Sometimes he even questioned himself if he should have ever been a dad to begin with.
After that, Douglas had fallen into depression. The drinking and smoking habits, which he had tried to quit for awhile, returned at full force. Hadn't it been for the help of his police friends, probably he would have sunk deeper in the mud. In the end, he managed to stand back on his feet, and that was when the decision to become a private investigator came. This way, not only he would start making some real money, but also atone for his son's mistakes.
"James told me once," Frank continued, cutting off Douglas' thoughts. "Of this place, called Silent Hill."
"Silent Hill?" the detective spoke for the first time in the discussion. "Wasn't that a resort town? I heard it was shut down."
"Exactly," the other man nodded. "James went there once, prior to its closure, in a honeymoon trip with Mary. He told me how Mary had loved that place, how she always asked him to go back there one day. And it was in one of these occasions that I've last heard of him."
"What do you mean?" Douglas inquired.
Frank took a deep breath. "Not long after that quarrel me and James had..."
The phone rang in Apartment 105 of South Ashfield Heights. It was very early in the morning, so Frank wondered who would be calling at this time.
"Hello?" he answered the phone.
A few seconds of silence proceeded before someone spoke on the other side. "Dad..." said a familiar voice.
"James?" the superintendent recognized, with a worried voice. "Son, what's going on? Why are you calling this early?"
"I'm uh... I'm going to Silent Hill."
His father found it odd. Not only the sudden trip, yet also the strained tone of his son. "Why, James?"
"There's just something I need to do..." that was all Frank could get, prior to the hang up sound and the mute line.
"And that was it. That was the last time we talked. Never heard of him ever again." The distressed father sadly sighed, his eyes lowered to the floor.
Meanwhile, Douglas analyzed all that information. "What about his wife Mary? Did he take her with him?"
"Guess so. I've been told that Mary had been permitted to go home, a few days before their disappearance. So, it's presumable they went together. Who knows, like some sort of last wish."
"I see," Then something dawned on Douglas. "Although I must say it was a pretty strange wish. Silent Hill has been long closed to the public ever since the last tourist dropped by."
"Perhaps. Yet, all I still know is that they never returned from Silent Hill." Frank shrugged.
"Have you tried contacting the police about this?" It was a rather stupid question, considering that Douglas wouldn't even be there had the police actually found something. Nevertheless, he needed to ask.
"Of course I did. But they were as clueless as I am about this case. Years have passed and they haven't got even a single lead. I guess, by now, the cops must have just assumed James committed suicide along with Mary and simply closed the case. That's why I came to you, Douglas."
Douglas pondered a little. This case could prove to be more difficult than he anticipated if even the police investigators hadn't found any clues of their whereabouts so far. Being a former cop, he knew that the longer it had passed since the incident, the less likely to be solved. Heck, after a time frame of years, he wasn't even sure if the case would be solved at all. Any crucial leads would have been washed away by then. And the cops' assumption of James committing suicide sounded really plausible. The chances of them still being alive was nearly zero, especially Mary, given she was already a terminal patient in first place.
Nonetheless, his guts told him to take it. If there was any possibility that he would find James and Mary, he must try. He couldn't help but sympathize with Frank, especially regarding his parental issues. Call it fate or anything, but even though he hadn't been able to save his own child, he could still save somebody else's child. And even if he didn't, he would at least bring some rest to a parent's despaired mind. Thus, there was only one answer to be given.
"Very well, Frank. The case's on," Detective Cartland accepted, as he got up and shook hands with Superintendent Sunderland. "I'll find your boy."
The flashback of James and Mary's argue was inspired on a scene of "Fatherly Instinct" by TheSilentButDeadlyOne, a very interesting SH fanfic I've read. The other flashback of James and Frank's phone call was inspired on a scene of "A Tarnished Photo" by LivingHologram, another very interesting SH fanfic. So I'm giving the authors their rightful credits.
Next chapter, the investigation starts. Expect many game references in this fic.