School the next day seemed to drag on forever. Matt was anxious to get back to the game. His friends should be fine; without him there to run things, nothing could hurt them. But he knew time moved differently there, and he didn’t want them to get bored. Besides, it was fun. Much more fun than school.
When he got home, there was another delay, however. A police squad car was parked on the street, and his mother was waiting for him at the door.
“Matt, a policeman is here. He wants to ask you some questions.” There was a panic on her face and in her voice.
“Matt, your friends are missing.”
“Hello, Matt.” A man in a uniform was standing in the doorway to the kitchen. “I’m Officer Barkley. Nice to meet you.” He walked over to Matt and extended a hand. Matt reached out and shook it, trying to make his grip as firm as he could.
“Do you mind if we have a little chat?”
Matt looked up at his mother. She nodded. “Okay.”
They all walked into the kitchen and took seats around the table. There was a half cup of coffee in front of the officer. Matt sat across from him, and his mother sat in the middle.
“So, Matt, you were with your friends last night?”
“That was John Lommen, Kevin Hamill, Jason Davis, and Rob Kaufmann?” He was reading out of a small notebook.
“Rob wasn’t there.”
“But the others were?”
“Yes.” Matt tried not to sound nervous. He didn’t think he was doing a very good job of it.
“When did you see them last?”
“Last night. I left about 8:30 so I could get home before curfew.”
His mom nodded her head. “That’s right. He got home just before 9.”
“And your friends… John, Kevin, and Jason… were still together?”
“Yeah. Kevin and Jason were getting ready to leave, too, but they don’t live as far away.”
“Did anyone say anything about going somewhere?”
“No. Nobody said anything like that.”
“Are you sure, Matt?” His mom interjected.
“Ma’am. Please. The boy can speak for himself.”
“Yes, I’m sure. It was just a normal night. I’m always the first to leave. Unless I’m staying over.”
“So what were you all doing?”
Involuntarily, Matt rolled his eyes. “It’s Dungeons and Dragons. You play fantasy heroes and go on quests, explore dungeons. Stuff like that.”
“Like make-believe? Cops and robbers?”
“Not like that. That’s kid stuff. There are rules and dice. You have spells and swords, and all kinds of things. But it’s in your imagination. Not real.”
“Oh.” Officer Barkley looked at his mother; she just shrugged. “So after you left John’s house, you haven’t seen any of them?”
“No. They weren’t at school today. Did something happen to them?”
“I’m sure they’re fine, but Kevin and Jason never went home last night. And John’s mother said he had left the house, too. She hasn’t heard from him either. We just want to find them and make sure everyone’s okay. You don’t have any ideas where they might be?”
Officer Barkely looked at him for several seconds before concluding. “Okay. Well, if you hear from them, or if you think of anything that might help us find them, let me know. Will you do that?”
The officer stood, thanked them both for their time and left the house. When the door closed, his mother began worrying out loud. “What could have happened to those boys? Their poor mothers. Maybe I should drive you around instead of letting you take your bike. I’d never forgive myself if something happened to you.”
“You heard the police, mom. He said they were fine. They’ll find them, and it will be okay.”
She gave him a funny look. “You seem really calm about this. Do you know where they are?”
“No. Like I told him, I haven’t seen them since last night. They’re probably just playing a joke or something.”
“That’s horrible! Making their families worry like this. If that’s what’s going on, I don’t think I want you hanging out with them anymore.”
“Well, you’re right. They wouldn’t want to make their families worry. It’s probably something else then. I’m sure they’re okay, though. The policeman didn’t seem too worried.” He stood up from the table. “I need to do my homework.”
Concern still had a hold over her expression, but she nodded. “You tell me if you go anywhere.”
“I will mom.” He hurried down the hall and closed the door of his room behind him. Once he was sure his mom hadn’t followed him, he reached under his mattress to pull out the folding screen he had found. Usually he used these to hide dice rolls and notes from his players. This one was special, though.
On each of the three panels were displays, like television screens. He pressed the upper right corner and all three turned on. The one of the right showed the necromancer’s throne room. The one of the left stayed dark for now. The middle showed his three friends in the astral plane.
A flashing alert at the bottom caught his attention. “Crap.” Someone had used a healing potion and needed input from him to take effect. He entered in the maximum value using the small keypad on the right. The potion activated. He relaxed and began to listen to what his friends were saying.