Chapter 2- Now
Tuesday morning, CJ bailed hay by lifting the thin ropes that bonded it all together and hoisting it into its proper spot. The sun wasn’t out on this day. Clouds were overhead, but the weather was warm, his usual short sleeve flannel, jeans and brown hiking boots did just fine today.
The place where CJ stood was a shed full of hay to be delivered to a large company for various materials. As he turned to face his work, lifting the hay into the bed of his truck parked close by, his pointed ears twitch to the sound of footsteps behind him. Being that he was a horse, the police dog didn’t want to frighten him. The grey wolf spoke in a serious and calm tone.
“Excuse me sir, are you CJ?” He turned with a soft smile, his tail swished momentarily, he used his hand to wipe a tiny bit of sweat from his forehead. He removed his work gloves and approached the canine.
“Yes officer, may I help you?” He nodded and took out a pen and paper, a tingle of nervousness when through the horse.
“One of your co-workers, Jacob Brown has been missing since last night. We contacted his family, they’re shook up. We’ve tried calling a few of his friends as well. No sign of him for a full day.” CJ wiped his hands on his pants, then crossed his arms with an air of sadness and concern. “Henry dropped Jacob off at around noon yesterday. Maybe he knows something?”
Sitting in the house by the barn, all the co-workers were asked questions about Jacob. Anything and everything was evaluated. CJ sat with his elbows on his knees and eyeing his feet. Jacob seemed so naïve and innocent, why was he suddenly gone? Perhaps someone took him, knowing full well he wasn’t strong? Someone who lived close by? One of his own family members? Perhaps someone at school was holding a party and he didn’t come home? All these options were brought up and spoken of. He imagined the worst.
Henry approached the horse, the dog shrugged slowly.
“He seemed fine when I dropped him off yesterday.” Everyone’s tone around the home was full of worry and deep sadness. CJ glanced at Henry and stood up.
“I’m scared, Henry. I just get these awful images of him needing help and us clueless as to where he is.” The dog placed a hand on the stallion’s shoulder.
“If he’s not found soon, police are going to set up a search team.” With a nod, CJ went to listen to the various police dogs and his co-workers. Feeling sick and dizzy while doing so. Where was Jacob Brown? CJ grabbed a bottled water and sighed, leaning against a wall. His ears flat, this felt like some horrible nightmare.
Closing his eyes, CJ soaked in a warm bathtub, his eyes would never remain closed for long. His nostrils would flare at every noise coming from outside, however this was usual. Sudden noises were not something CJ enjoyed. Moving about the water, he sat up straight, always expecting someone to break in at a peaceful moment. Or Jacob. What a miracle it would be if Jacob stumbled in and the whole story was given. Odd, yes. But even if Jacob was afraid or even terrified, he’d know his human companion was okay. He could picture Jacob’s voice, picture his mannerisms. It hurt. More than any of his co-workers could know.
Two days pass, cops and the various anthros from town searched the farm. Looking through obvious places at first, contacting the high school he attended, talking to Jacob’s parents non-stop. The news of a missing human was big in town. The town of Havenport was home to hundreds of anthros years ago, all species and all sizes, but not one human was there, as they were viewed as odd, pale skinned and hateful. Hateful because the towns with the most humans also had a good amount of hate towards anthros.
Even in the modern era of Havenport, racism existed, but now humans were welcome and held jobs and had families. Sometimes they’d get an odd look or two, but for CJ, prejudice thinking was something that never crossed his mind. Jacob was a great worker on his farm and a kind hearted young man and that’s all that mattered. Maybe two or three co-workers were at first leery of Jacob, but time healed the false thinking and he was treated like anyone else. CJ was the one who gave Jacob his job, the one he liked to talk to the most, and the stallion wasn’t going to let his friend down. However hopeless the search got.
Some called his name, some looked in trees. A row of cops and townspeople, all looking for the missing. Behind the farm seemed an endless area of dense trees and tall grass, CJ rarely ventured here as the place was so wide, getting lost was very easy. Sometimes he’d go a few feet deep to get fire wood, but other than that, especially at night-the Havenport woods were a big ‘no way’ for the skittish horse. Going up and down little hills, officers spoke on there walkie talkies if any evidence was found, but always led to a false promise or something which looked like something else.
The looking continued as heavy clouds began to role in and the search party was wrapping up, CJ’s mind started to go to Jacob’s home life and school life. It was true while at work he seemed content, but he didn’t know a lot about what his evening activities were. His parents were sweet as far as he could tell, as Jacob and his mom and dad would often take walks to the farm and say hi even on days he didn’t have to work. Did anything go on behind the scenes? Maybe someone was troubling him? Maybe something at school? That seemed a bit more likely, teenage years were rough, maybe a bully scared him or, worse yet maybe school began to weigh on Jacob and he was self-harming? Just the mere thought of that made CJ nearly cry, was the secret that deep and depraved? Whatever the reason, everyone knew that it couldn’t have been something small. Something was going on with Jacob, and the answer may remain unknown if Jacob is never found.
The wolf officer from before eyed CJ before climbing into his cruiser, the sky pink with an orange hue overlooking the barn close by. The wind is warm, flies began to come out of hiding.
“Get some sleep, CJ. I know this is hard. We’ll find your friend.” Sighing, the horse looked into the woods, imagining how terrified Jacob must be. Sometimes imagining his corpse. Without a word, he left as the patrol car drove off, kicking up dust in its wake. Before stepping inside, he slowly moved his head from left to right, looking at the side with Havenport woods, then looking to the other side towards the farm and eventually to the dirt road which went on for miles.
Lying on the couch and looking at the ceiling, CJ not only felt the house was empty, but had an aura of sadness. He was always alone, but his heart felt alone. Even in pajamas and with most of the lights out, sleep didn’t come easy. It had been like this for a few nights, work had gotten depressing without Jacob’s optimism and cute shyness.
He could almost hear Jacob’s voice banging in his brain. Help! Please! I’m lost! CJ tried to force the sound out by closing his eyes and taking deep breaths. It felt so real. A cry for help he couldn’t answer. He needed sleep. The farm had to go on. Help! Please! I’m lost! He tried to convince himself to let the police handle it. I’m lost! What were they doing now? Sleeping? Working on other cases? The horse whispered to himself.
“Don’t worry. Let the cops handle it. They’ll find him tomorrow.” Tomorrow? What if they find his body tomorrow? What if the officer called CJ in the middle of the night. We tried our best, but I’m afraid Jacob’s body was found in a lake. Rubbing his eyes, CJ stood up and went to the kitchen and grabbed a glass of water.
The sound of crickets surrounds the place, the hum of the refrigerator provided a smooth ambience. Staring out a window in the kitchen, CJ’s ears flicked. Looking at his half-faded reflection in the glass, seeing his shirtless body. How he stood there. Doing nothing. It disgusted him. Doing nothing but staring at himself or trying to sleep. His friend was almost surly in trouble. CJ wouldn’t stand for it anymore. Briskly walking through his house, he took a quick shower, dressed in a white t-shirt, jeans and his hiking boots, packed a brown leather backpack with food, water, some extra clothes and pocketed his cellphone.
The fear was there, even stepping outside to his all too familiar territory this late at night provided a sense of eeriness. He tossed his bag in his backseat, made sure he had extra gas and in a blur, he was driving away from Havenport Farm. Away from the place he knew. Into an unknown world.