(Warning: contains references of abuse, and drug use. Read at your own discretion.)
The first time John disappeared, his mother and father were waiting outside of Nick’s office when he went out for his morning cigarette. He enjoyed the cool mornings of Diamond City, generally uninterrupted. Patrick McDonough was Boston-Irish, red-haired and balding. His wife, Martha, was five years his senior, bottle blonde, and going soft around the middle.
“It’s John..” Martha said, clinging to her husband’s arm, her fingernails digging into his soft flesh. “He’s gone.”
In Nick’s line of work, it never just starts with a Hello or a Good Morning. He leads them into his office, setting his battered tape recorder on the table between them. The man and wife looked up at him in confusion, and he gently explained. “It’s a listening device. Records what you say to help me remember.. Just tell me what happened.”
Mr. and Mrs. McDonough looked at each other, and with a shaking breath, Martha began to relay the story. There’d been an argument, and their youngest son John had left in a huff. It had happened before, but John had always come back. Now it was three days later, and they were frantic with worry. No one had seen hide nor hair of their son, and none knew where he might have gone off to. He was only fourteen, and the Wastes were full of wild dogs, raiders, and ferals.
“Please, find our boy.” Patrick pleaded. “Tell him we’re not angry. We just want him home safe.”
Alone in his office finally, Nick did some investigating. The boy was brilliant and troubled. The other teens in the area were just as shocked as John’s parents, and were just as anxious to see him home safe. There were no leads, and based on a hunch, Nick sought out Goodneighbor, at the time it was just a slumhole for raiders, drinkers, and drug-addicts. He found the kid on a mattress in a flop-house, hungover (at fourteen, Nick couldn’t help but feel disappointed in the kid). One of the women in town had been watching him, “He wouldn’t tell me his name.. But I couldn’t just leave him out on the street.”
Nick hauled him to his feet, and dragged him home. John cried the whole way back, blubbering apologies and that it would never happen again. “Save it for your parents, kid.” He had said. He lit a cigarette, and offered one to the young boy. He wouldn’t generally do that, but the poor kid seemed to be having as bad of an identity crisis to deserve one.
John took it in, with a shaky laugh. “They really sent you to look for me?” His voice was full of doubt. Nick wondered if it was about them coming to the synth detective, or that his parents pretended to care enough to want him home. Nick didn’t like the surprise in the kids voice.
“Of course.” He lets a jet of smoke through his lips. “They were worried sick.”
He laughed again. He turned numb as they approached Diamond City, and said nothing when his parents embraced him. A couple of days later, and Nick saw the kid leaving his home in the upper-stands with a black eye. He liked that even less.
A year later, his parents were at the door again, and Nick was seeking out Goodneighbor.. Again. When he found John, the boy was hunched over a bathroom stall, eyes glazed, his shirtfront crusted with dried vomit. A couple hits of Jet, a handful of mentats, and a few swallows of whiskey. He didn’t remember anything about the previous 24 hours. “I must have had fun though.” He had said to Nick with a slow grin.
“Charming.” Nick said, sighing at the now fifteen year old. “You can’t keep pulling these stunts kid.. You’re going to get yourself hurt.”