Life in Flambeau Falls was the same as any small town really. There was a pretty little park, a pretty little playground for the kids, a pretty little shady alley where the dealers peddled their pretty little wares to teenagers, and a pretty little police district that was vastly overworked and understaffed. In all seriousness, however, the town had been recovering from the meteoric loss of their tourist destination for a while now, and things seemed to be looking up.

Flambeau Falls was once a bustling town, and still had its college to keep things interesting during the school year. The big hit came when the frankly ancient West Manor burned to the ground mysteriously about twelve years prior. What was most interesting about the case was that the police couldn't find a cause. Finally after a few more weeks of investigation they chalked it up to faulty wiring and the case was closed. It was a fair assumption after all, seeing as some of the wiring was still from the eighteen hundreds.

With the destruction of that building, part of the town's history went with it. The people kind of lost their cheerful demeanor after the event, and it was obvious that things would never truly be the same. Several people moved away, back with their families in other sections of the state. Others tried to carve out their niche now that business was set to decrease in the area. Those four months out of the year that students weren't present were the worst, when nothing exciting ever happened in the area, people weren't around, and it was simply a ghost town.

After a few years of that, and the town council trying to add to the attraction factor with family friendly entertainment, the town had started turning around. The maintenance of the park right next to the river kept the children happy, the bowling alley and skating rink for the teens and college students, and of course a few good bars for the elders made sure that everyone had some form of recreation. That same river, by the way, ran through the center of town, a dam on either end of it, but of course not visible from town. With the addition of a fairground and nature trail the town had found its happy medium, and life started slowly coming back to the town.

It went without saying then, that Jack led the life of an average teenager in a small town. He would coast through classes in high school, hang out at the local bad boy spot where kids even smoked, and stay out 'til just before curfew because he was edgy like that. He dressed in tighter clothes with a button up shirt over it, brought himself up to look skater punk without actually touching the things. He had a personal belief that his feet were meant to stay planted firmly on the ground, thank you very much. Yes, there were many interesting facets to this particular teenager's life, same as every other teenager who is of course misunderstood.

He kept his brown hair in a shaggy state, drifting over his eyes and covering their usual green shine to make them look almost black in comparison. He wasn't Emo, perish the thought, he was simply himself and how he wanted to express himself. He was an individual just like the rest of the school, of course. That, however, is enough of bashing the high school and teenage lifestyle. He did indeed have those pieces of his lifestyle that didn't fit the cliques, those parts of his life that he made certain to foster and groom over the years. One of those was the friends that he carried with him.

He was the emo/scene boy, and his friends varied widely from jocks to nerds and even the bruiser kids in the "biker gang", most of whom rode normal bicycles. At least they had the leather jackets. And they even pitched in together and bought him one as an honorary member. He kept it in his closet; while he liked the thought they put behind it he was concerned it wasn't really his type of style.

As stated before he was the type to drift through schoolwork, hoping his smart friends could help him out later. Jazmyn, Eric, or Adam would probably help him with his dreaded nemesis math, and of course James, or Specs as he was known by the rest of his peers due to his antique looking glasses, would help out with science and English. He was the go-to brain when it came to anything the boy needed to know. This of course led to him coming back to Jack's house on several occasions, and led to him being fed supper by the punk's mother on many occasions.

The two of them fostered a friendship beyond that of tutelage and usage. Jack may have been trawling for passing grades, but he wasn't that heartless. They would constantly play video games together, Shooters, Parties, Beat-Em-Ups, and Brawls were their favorite types, though Specs had a soft spot for RPG's as well. It wasn't that big of a deal since Jack wasn't above watching the brainiac take on hosts of goblins and slimes and watch the intrigue unfold before his eyes. He sometimes caught himself wishing the world was as simple as going outside, beating up some creep, grabbing cash, and going out to buy some pizza to celebrate.

Then of course there was Specs himself. Long blond hair that he tied loosely behind his head so it at least didn't get in the way of his blue eyes. He worse loose, almost baggy clothing to keep his true body shape out of the public eye, though he was rail thin underneath it all. He seemed to be attracted to Tripp pants the most, as he would wear them even on sweltering summer days, not unlike the one the two found themselves in today. The two of them were sitting in the park on one of the merry-go-rounds, trying to stay in the shade of a large oak tree as if it would save them from the heavy feeling of hot, moist air.

"Christ it's hot! How can you stand sitting here in those damn space heater pants?" Jack groaned aloud as he fanned himself rapidly with a hand. The brainy kid just smirked, the light glaring off his glasses in such a way to hide his eyes as he looked up at the sky, leaning back on his arms. Birds were twittering away in the trees, squirrels were busily rummaging around here and there for acorns they could sink their teeth into. A small breeze had started to blow, but it only served to swirl the heat around them more than anything else. There was the sound of children screaming and laughing as they chased one another around a nearby swing set.

"Guess I can just handle the heat better than you can."

"Shut up! I just dress sensibly."

"Says the boy in two layers." Specs cast a sidelong smirk in the direction of his punky friend. Jack simply ignored the comment, though still betrayed a small huff as he kicked at the ground, shuffling his legs to dangle over the edge of the merry-go-round. The spinner was made entirely out of metal, so at least sitting on the shady part was cold and refreshing. The thing was surrounded by sand to make it safer for kids, that way when they tripped at least they'd have a soft landing. This wasn't an industrial type park with rubber matting and asphalt all over the place; it was a natural park with the equipment sunk into the dirt to hold it in place. Grass, Trees, even a nearby river kept the place looking nice.

The two had spent a fair few days just bumming around the area, walking between the different jungle gyms and talking about subject after subject. Specs had to admit that for a lay about on the school scene, Jack had some intelligence all his own. It was more situational than it was academic in origin; he had a presence that suggested that he was street smart while still having the capacity to learn more. He just never applied himself in that way.

Jack jumped softly, cramming a hand into his pocket to pull out the cell phone that vibrated dully against his leg. He jabbed his thumb at the center button on his dated slider phone and sighed softly. There was a message from Brick, not exactly his first choice of conversation partner.

"Who is it?" Specs pulled his glasses off his face to wipe at some insubstantial smudge as Jack pored over the message.

"… I-It's Brick."

"Not that –"

"No, no, wait, listen to this. The cops were called in to investigate a body found in the woods missing its head, its heart, and… its arms." The brainy boy's skin turned from its normal pale complexion to a nearly palpable shade of green. You could almost hear his stomach fall away.

"What… the hell… is wrong with people!?" Specs roared aloud, causing some children nearby to gasp and murmur to each other that 'he said a swear!' He of course was much too preoccupied with his own tirade on psychosis and decency to care, and Jack was stuck to every word.

"This is just sick! How can a person do such a thing without feeling any remorse whatsoever?"

"I would imagine the same way people can flip a switch to electrocute that same person. It's all about how you rationalize what you're doing. I mean, look at witch hunts for instance. Thousands of women burned, drowned, beaten, because of a silly superstition." The smart kid shriveled for a second. Sometimes in his fits he forgot that the person sitting next to him wasn't as stupid as he was made out to be by the rest of society in the town.

"hmm… you have a point… I wonder who it was that they found out there though…?"

"Brick didn't say." Jack looked down at the ground and kicked at the sand again, forgetting a bit more about the heat in the air. He had to admit he was just as curious as Specs was. He was also a little worried. Being in this small town to have something like this crop up was really unusual. Sure murder wasn't out of the question; small towns with big forests were perfect places to hide bodies after all. The problem was the dismemberment.

"You think your dad will have any information to pry from, Specs?" Jack had a small glimmer in his eyes. Specs knew that look. He hated that look. It was the look that got him in trouble. He screwed up his face and shook his head quickly.

"Jack, no, I'm not going to pester my father for this kind of stuff. You know he can't reveal anything-"

"Then just get him drunk or something… anything, man… either that or we go look at the body ourselves!"

"What's gotten into you all of a sudden Jack? Why do you need to know what's going on here? You never care about anything!"

"Think about what this means for the town, James!" the boy jumped at the sudden use of his real name. "There's a person out there with a missing heart, head, and arms. What kind of sicko does that? This is going to attract so much attention to this town, but none of it will be good!"

"Yeah, and what if the killer is hiding out somewhere around here? What if it's some freakazoid hunter dude that hasn't felt companionship for like twenty years? Dangerous doesn't begin to cover this!" Jack had to admit, there was sense in that statement. He opened his mouth, closed it, opened it again, but no words came to mind. He took a deep breath and slumped forward on the merry-go-round, stepping onto the ground and pulling himself up.

"I don't care. I'm going to the woods tonight; I'm going to search through the area and see if I can find some more info on this thing. What's the harm in getting a bit more information for the cops?" For once, Specs looked genuinely scared.

"Please, Jack, listen to me! This is dangerous!" He sighed aloud. "You could get killed, abducted… anything could happen to you!" still seeing that determined look on his friend's face was slowly chipping away at his resolve. The two of them had gotten into loads of trouble in the past, sneaking out past curfew, ghost hunting in the old abandoned buildings and near the trailer parks on the outskirts of town. His own father, being an officer in the force, had had very strict words with him in the past, but thankfully he'd never faced down the threat of juvie. Still, he never enjoyed getting told off by a man who had gun training and the right to use handcuffs to detain suspects and threats to life and liberty. He hated brushing against authority, obvious when he was related to it by blood.

He looked over Jack's face. Not a single sign of faltering on his slender cheeks, his eyes shining with life and a fire that was almost infectious. The longer he stared the more the question sunk into his head. 'Why not look into it? If you're careful you won't disrupt anything, won't call any attention to yourself…' the wind blew once again, jostling that dark hair out of Jack's face. It was almost as if part of his resolve was transferrable through the air, like a scent on the wind, and when it came around again, the brainy kid had breathed an exasperated sigh.

"Fine… I can tell there's nothing I can do to stop you…" Jack let out a small victorious smirk, god Specs hated that. That victorious yet sincere smile on his face came up every time he convinced his friend to do something he was going to nearly immediately regret. "I'm going with you. You can't go out there and do this alone. I couldn't live with myself if something happened… and I don't want you haunting me, dammit." Sometimes he said the strangest of things.

"… I have a question for you, Specs. Do you ever believe half of what you say?" Jack let out a laugh and clapped his friend on the back while he pulled his phone back out, firing off a text to brick about where the body was found. It took a few minutes but finally he was answered. It apparently had been found in the dense forest connected to the fairgrounds on the other side of the bridge. The two friends made sure of their plans before quickly heading their separate ways to prepare themselves.

Jack rushed up the driveway to his house on Cedar Street, a weathered number 501 drilled into the brown brick wall right next to the green screen door and a beaten up blue doghouse standing vigil over an average family lawn. There was a battered old fence surrounding the lawn, cutting it off from the other houses on the block, with small alleyways between each house. Sitting inside that doghouse was a German Shepherd, its muzzle flat on its paws and its eyes closed, the brown fur above his eyes looking like strange little eyebrows. The moment Jack got closer to the house, however, the dog came to life. Seeing the boy approaching its tail set to wagging and it all but launched itself from the house, barking and panting happily.

"Dodger! Hey boy!" Jack laughed aloud and dropped to his knee to pet the dog who almost upended him on contact after the running start. He ran his hand through the black and brown fur, scratching just behind the ears and on the sides before he stood up and rested a hand on the dog's head. Dodger panted softly, his tail still wagging, and Jack simply smiled for a second before he brought his free hand up to his mouth in a shushing gesture. It was weird, but the dog seemed smart enough to understand when he needed to be quiet… most of the time.

The punky teen walked into the house through the front door, and was instantly met by the smell of meat cooking on the stove. There was nobody in the kitchen, but nothing seemed in danger of burning. The floor was coated in a white tile, and a large table was set in the center of the room, the dining table where supper was usually served. Currently there were four plates set, one for him obviously, two for his parents, and one for his only slightly older brother, Charlie.

As if on cue, Charlie made an appearance, walking up to the stove and grabbing the pan that held the meat and grabbing a nearby turner, flipping some large burgers before setting the utensil down. He turned to look at his brother, the same dark hair cut almost military short, and his eyes a slightly darker shade of emerald green, and flashed him a smile almost identical to his own.

"Welcome back, bro! How was class today?" His brother had graduated last semester, an early grad, and was taking his final semester and summer to rest before he took off to college. Well, he said he wanted to rest but he had quickly taken up a full-time job at the local grocery store to save up some money. He had to admit that there were times he truly looked up to his brother. Unlike the rest of his family he knew not to judge the teen for what he did in his free time.

The two of them had had their fair share of misadventures as well, hunting for a few good hiding places away from their parents to discuss their evil mastermind plans. They fought like brothers, they laughed and played like brothers, and after a while their individual personalities were easy to ascertain. Charlie had been a kid that understood what adults wanted him to, where Jack had been the one to continue to dream. He never really fancied himself as an idealist, but he felt that things were unnecessarily cruel.

The two had drifted apart in their beliefs, but this didn't keep them from being good friends. Charlie had always been there to help look after his younger brother. That having been said of course there was a dark side to their relationship. Because of all of Charlie's success, their mother and father used him as the meter stick to Jack's success. Since he didn't have a job lined up for the summer yet, and he didn't have the same report card that Charlie did (he figured C's were adequate, but they wanted straight A's!) he was basically on the fast track to nowhere. They didn't realize his true passion had him doing a lot more in a direction they couldn't measure.

He looked back to his brother, and after a quick second of thought formed his answer. "I'm fine, bro. Actually, Charlie, I need to ask you a favor…"

"Sure man, what's up?" He had a small hint of concern on his face as he looked Jack up and down. "Is there a bully or something?"

"Nah, believe me I can take care of myself now, slugger." He gave a mocking laugh before he screwed his face back up into a serious look. He looked to and fro in the room, hoping nobody was nearby before he motioned for Charlie to follow him outside. The older brother followed along, a bemused face showing as he stepped through the door. The sun was just beginning to consider setting, casting a dull orange glow on the two brothers as they stood at the doorstep, Jack looking warily around once more before he began to speak.

"Listen, there's something strange going on in the woods near the fairgrounds."

"The body."

"Exactly, glad you know about that. Anyway I need to ask you to –" Charlie shook his head a little bit.

"I would assume that Specs has already tried to tell you off, but that isn't going to stop me in the least. Jack, don't get involved with this. I'm begging you as a brother. You don't know what could be out there. I'm sure once more that Specs was keeping his words nice, but the man out there could be anything. He could be a murderer, he could be a rapist, Jack you don't know. And if he's still out there and he catches you, what are you going to do? Huh?" Jack could feel a bit of anger welling up in his chest.

"Listen to me, Charlie. I know. I know it's dangerous. But you and I both know that the cops aren't going to get anything just standing there staring at the damn corpse! I at least know a little bit about anatomy and such, I might be able to figure something out. I never know unless I try."

"Yeah, you know anatomy. From a video game, you dork!" Charlie looked determined just the same as Jack. The light played on his faded Metallica shirt and khakis, turning paler and paler as the sun crested the edge of the horizon. Jack was only getting more and more incensed.

"All I need you to do is cover for me. You don't have curfew anymore, you're 18! You wouldn't get in trouble for being out past 10! Please… that's all I need… if you're worried about my safety… I'm going to be taking my bat with me, and Specs is coming along with his, too. There's no way he can take us both on if we stick together." This softened Charlie's face a bit. The wrinkles on the edges of his nose shrunk and he let out a small sigh. Jack could see the worry on his face giving way slightly to concentration and thought.

"You know, I really wish I was the one taking this little trip… that way you could feel worried about me as much as I am about you. I can tell no matter what I say it won't stop you. You really make me mad sometimes." Jack's face tightened with worry and cautious optimism. He had heard this speech before, when he was going into the old quarry to ghost hunt. That night had ended poorly, his parents grounded him for a month over it because they caught him sneaking in. On top of that, he had tripped and scraped himself up pretty badly, and was walking funny for a couple weeks.

"Alright." Jack's face lit up. "I'm doing this for you, so don't you dare get yourself killed out there." He forgot himself and launched his body into a hug with his older brother, which elicited a grunt and panic moment when both tottered over the edge of the step. "Easy there!"

"Thank you! Thank you thank you thank you so much! Now, we should probably get inside before the food burns, right Charlie?" Jack gave a sidelong smirk as he pulled open the old screen door. The elder brother slid past, sticking his tongue out and rushing over to the stove to finish preparing supper.