Before Reigen could react, the figure disappeared around the corner at the back of the store.
“What-” It suddenly clicked in his brain what had happened.
“HEY! ” he shouted, “Get back here! ”
Reigen surged forward, almost slipping on the salted floor.
“I SAID GET BACK HERE! ”
Reigen flung himself around the corner, toppling a stack of boxes as he went. He made it just in time to watch the back door to the restaurant slam shut.
He barreled down the hall. His shoulder collided with the door as he slid to a stop in front of it. It took a few moments of scrambling with the handle to get it open.
Staggering outside, he found himself standing before a dark, rainy street. He frantically surveyed the scene around him for any sign of the figure.
It was almost impossible to see anything in the dark, but by the dim light of a streetlamp, Reigen spotted a flash of movement dashing down the street.
“Hey !” Reigen called again.
He sprinted down the rainy streets after the figure. His heart was racing in his chest. His feet pounded against the pavement. Water splashed under his shoes, soaking into the cuffs of his pants. He watched as the figure’s movement vanished around an alleyway.
You really thought that would get rid of me? He laughed to himself.
He raced forward, and rounded the corner into the alleyway. Reigen came to a sudden halt, finding himself facing a dead-end.
“Stay right there! Don’t move.”
Reigen whipped his phone out from his back pocket, flipping it open so that the light from its screen illuminated the alleyway in front of him.
To his surprise, it wasn’t an adult, or even a ghost, that stood in front of him.
It was a kid.
The small child held his hands up, trying to protect his eyes from the light of Reigen’s screen. His face was partially obscured by the hood he had pulled over his head. His body was practically swimming in the oversized green jacket that he was dressed in. He wore a pair of gloves that were much too big for his hands, and his feet were completely bare, submerged in a puddle of rainwater.
“What-” It took a moment for Reigen to catch his breath and overcome his surprise. “What are you doing out here kid?”
The boy said nothing, but his eyes darted back and forth, as if scoping out a means of escape.
Reigen bent down, so that he was at eye-level with the boy. Two wide, terrified brown eyes stared back at him.
“You-you okay kiddo? What are you doing by yourself out at night? Do you need me to call your parents?”
The boy shook his head vigorously.
“Then what were you doing in that MobDonald’s? If you need a phone I got one right here.”
The boy shook his head again.
“What’s your name?” Reigen asked, slower this time.
The boy said nothing.
“Alright listen, I can’t really help you if you don’t tell me what you need. Okay?”
“Seriously, I need you to help me if you want me to help you. Are you lost? Where are your shoes?”
The boy stayed as silent as ever.
“How about you come with me? We can go back to the MobDonalds. It’s much drier in there.”
Reigen waited, but there was still no response from the boy.
Perhaps he needed to take a different approach?
“What if we got you something to eat, huh?”
The boy’s eyes lit up.
Ah. Now we’re getting somewhere.
“Oh yeah! I’m sure Matsumoto-San would be more than happy to get you some food. You like chicken nuggets? Maybe we can get you a milk too, okay?”
The boy gasped, his eyes growing wider.
“Aha ! So you can talk!” Reigen teased. “If you come with me buddy, you can have all the milk you want, alright?”
The boy nodded vigorously.
Reigen breathed a sigh of relief. He still didn’t know anything new about the kid, but at least he was able to coax him into getting some shelter from the rain.
“Perfect! Now then, take my hand. ‘kay? Let’s get you something to eat.”
Reigen took the boy’s gloved hand into his own. He couldn’t help but marvel at just how tiny it was.
Rain continued to patter on the streets, soaking into Reigen’s skin as he led the boy back to the warmth and safety of the building ahead.
Reigen and Matsumoto peered over the counter at the young boy.
He was seated at one of the booths, swinging his dangling legs. His wet jacket and gloves had been placed aside. Matsumoto’s stolen t-shirt, with the large logo of a metal band displayed on its front, was so massive in comparison to the boy that it looked like a dress on him.
Reigen could see that he had already devoured a half of his nuggets, as well as most of his sweet corn. In one of his hands he held a little blue Hot Wheel car that Matsumoto had pulled from the bin of Happy Meal toys. In his other hand he held his third carton of milk, which he was sipping quite joyfully.
“And he wouldn’t give you his name?” Matsumoto asked.
“I tried,” Reigen answered. “Three times. He refused to tell me,”
The boy began stacking some of his nuggets on top of each other, forming a tower.
“I don’t understand. What is he even doing out here all by himself?”
“I have no idea,” Reigen said, “I’ve already told you, I can’t get anything out of the kid.”
“I imagine his parents are worried sick. I lost that shirt three days ago, which means he’s been on his own since then. Do you think we should take him to the police?”
“Of course we should take him to the police!” Reigen hissed. “The problem is that he doesn’t seem to want to be found. Remember how he freaked out when I tried to call them?”
“I know I know,” Matsumoto whispered, “I just don’t know what else to do.”
Reigen sighed. He turned his head to watch the boy again, who was now running his toy car along the table, pushing it so that it knocked over the tower of nuggets he had made.
“Let me try and talk to him again. I don’t want to scare him, but somehow or another we need to get him to the police.”
Reigen straightened up, and went around the counter towards the boy.
“Hey there kiddo! You doing okay?”
The boy smiled. Reigen noticed that there was some corn still stuck to his face.
“Good! Is it alright if I sit here?”
The boy said nothing, which Reigen took as a ‘yes’.
Reigen slid into the seat across from him, and folded his arms on the table.
“Now that you’ve eaten, I think it’s time that we talked. Can you start by telling me your name?”
The boy shook his head.
“No? Why not?”
The boy reached for another nugget.
Reigen grabbed the edge of the napkin from under the nuggets and pulled them away.
“Nah-ah-a! You can have these back after we’ve talked.”
Reigen definitely did not like the look the kid gave him.
“Just for a second, I promise! I need you to answer some questions, okay?”
The boy tried to reach across the table to snatch one of the nuggets, but Reigen was able to block his hand from reaching them.
“Sorry! You can’t have these back until you’ve told me your name.”
The boy pounded his fists onto the table, smashing some of his corn in the process.
“Look kid, I can’t help you unless you help me. Alright? You need to give me something here. Anything .”
The boy crossed his arms and stuck his bottom lip out.
“Don’t give me that pouty look now!” he cried, waggling his finger at the kid. “I got you milk, so now you gotta give me your name.”
Reigen wasn’t quite sure what happened, but in the blink of an eye, one of the nuggets from the pile had suddenly made it into the boy’s hands.
“Wait- how …”
The nugget disappeared into the boy’s mouth.
“Oh- Oh okay okay alright you can have these back,” he pushed the napkin back over to the boy, “but I need you to give me something. If you won’t tell me your name, is there something else I can call you?”
The boy began to shove another nugget into his face.
“You sure do like those,” Reigen mused. He looked over at the milk carton the boy held in his hand, the big yellow “M” on its front still visible between his fingers.
“How ‘bout I call you Mob. Is that alright?”
The boy nodded, putting another one of his nuggets into his mouth.
“Okay Mob, how about you start by telling me where your shoes went.”
Mob nodded, taking a sip from his milk.
“The trash man. So he took your shoes?”
Mob nodded again.
“Why did he do that?”
“I left them by the big bin. He thought they were trash.”
“And why, may I ask, did you leave your shoes by the garbage bins?”
“I was sleeping there.”
Reigen felt a pit forming in his stomach.
“Why were you sleeping by the trash bins?”
Mob slurped loudly through his empty straw. He shook it a few times, and then held it out to Reigen.
“Yes, yes it is. Now can you please tell me why you were sleeping outside in a dark alleyway, all on your own, in the middle of the rain?”
Mob thrusted the carton at Reigen again.
“For goodness sake, I’ll get you some milk after! I need to kn- please don’t do the pouty thing again Mob, It’s not going to work this time. I need you to tell me what you were doing sleeping alone outside.”
Mob crossed his arms.
Great. This conversation wasn’t getting him anywhere.
“Alright then, I’ll get you some more milk. But then I’m going to have to call the cops and see if they can help us find your-”
Mob whole body froze.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t just let you go out into the streets again. Hey, how about we get you ano-”
Before Reigen could finish his sentence, Mob had bolted out of his seat and began to sprint towards the front door.
“W- Wait !”
Reigen tried to jump from his seat, but stumbled over the table’s leg.
But Mob had already flung open the door and was disappearing into the darkness outside.
Reigen made it to his feet, tore across the room, and caught the glass door before it shut.
“Mob come back!”
He ran out into the rain, the figure of the boy was already halfway across the parking lot.
“WAIT! I promise I won’t call the cops!”
Mob’s silhouette stopped.
“You won’t?” he called back.
“I won’t call them. I promise. Ok kiddo?” he yelled “Just-just come back inside please, I’ve already had enough of this rain.”
Mob took a step towards him.
“Sure. Whatever. Just come back inside, please .”
Mob walked forward, so that Reigen could see him by the faint light of the store.
His voice was firm. He held out his right hand, with his toy car still clutched in it, pinky finger extended.
“Alright kid, you win.”
He stepped forward, reached out his hand, and shook Mob’s pinky finger with his own.
“Ok then. No cops. Let’s see… what to do now…”
Reigen looked down at Mob, the boy’s bright eyes looked up at him expectantly. Reigen couldn’t think of what to do next. If he tried to call the police, Mob would try and run away again. But he certainly couldn’t leave the kid here by himself.
An idea started to form in his head, and Reigen was fairly certain he was going to regret it.
“How about this kid, why don’t you come and spend the night at my place? That way, you won’t have to sleep outside by the garbage bins again.”
Mob looked at Reigen with his big brown eyes. The hope he saw in them made the pit in his stomach twist again.
“I can stay with you?”
A smile spread across the young boy’s face.
Great. What have I gotten myself into?
“Ok, now that that’s settled, let’s go inside and explain everything to Matsumoto-San, alright? Then I’ll see if I can find us both a taxi.”
Mob nodded, reached out his hand, and allowed Reigen to lead him back into the restaurant.