Chapter 4- Now
The high school felt different. The way the anthros moved, the way they spoke. Some said nothing, some whispered. A giant Missing poster with Jacob’s smiling face was put against his locker and all around the school. Laya couldn’t look at it without getting teary eyed. It ruined her day. She had seen it tons of times now. Sometimes she’d sit in class unable to work. The dog wasn’t the only one, a lot of anthros missed their human friend. Even if they didn’t know him, he was part of the team.
A knock on the front door made Layla jump a bit as her ears lightly bounce at the sound, she answered quickly. A brown thoroughbred stood in the doorframe. The stallion looked a bit tired. “Are you Layla?” The dog nodded.
“I’m CJ.” He adjusted his brown backpack. “I’m Jacob’s boss.” Layla smiled a bit and firmly shook his hand.
“Oh! Right, Jacob told me all about you! Why don’t you come in? It’s kinda muggy out.”
Layla’s home was nothing like Jacob’s, full of posters of soccer players and trophies. Her parents were also lovers of sports. Layla made the two some coffee. CJ kindly eyed the dog, she wore a simple tank top and sweatpants. “Did the police contact you about Jacob?” asked CJ in a slightly sad tone. “No.” Layla said as she put cups in front of them and sat. “Is there any news?” CJ sipped.
“Nothing. It’s like he vanished into thin air. I came to you because I know you two were close at school. I mean- – was there anything odd you noticed the day before he vanished?” She sighed.
“I mean, he’d call me sometimes if he needed to talk. I mean, he was always kind of quiet. I always tried to get him to come over and hang out. I finally did a few months ago. Never had enemies, never was bullied cause he was with me all the time. Guess being a buff girl on a sports team has its other advantages apart from being cheered on.”
“Do you have any ideas as to why Jacob would run away? Something I wouldn’t know about?” Layla sighed deeply.
“Cops came by and asked me the same. I think they interviewed everyone at the school. Well, those they could find time for. I think all his teachers were interviewed. I’m losing hope.” CJ nodded slowly.
“Which is why I’m looking for him. I’m doing personal interviews. I’m going to find him. I’ve seen missing human cases go on for years and nothing happens.” They paused.
“Yeah. Same. There is the typical stuff” Layla continued. “Like racism and bullying, and I thought about that. I wasn’t with Jacob the entire six hours. Then again, word goes by fast. If Jacob was being bullied, I think I would have heard about it.” CJ’s ears flatten in pure depression.
“I see. Can I give you my number incase he turns up at your place?” Layla nodded.
“One more thing. You’re sure Jacob was last seen at the school? You two didn’t go to a restaurant or any place where the teens hang?”
“Last I saw him and the last time he texted me he was waiting for his friend to pick him up. Henry.” CJ pondered as he stood up.
“Say, could you write down the names of Jacob’s teachers?” She was confused but grabbed a pen and paper and began jotting down names.
“I think police have already talked to them though.” She said CJ placed the paper in his back pocket.
* * *
CJ went to a few more teachers, since today was a school day. News had come of Jacob’s whereabouts, all of them seemed sad at the mention of a star student. Teachers only had nice things to say about him.
Like CJ thought, the cops slowed down their search as he kept calling the station. At this rate, he’d never be found. Not without someone who cared deeply for him. He knew it would be illegal, but CJ wanted answers. He needed to do some looking on his own.
After stopping to get dinner at a small café, CJ went back to the school, he parked his truck a few blocks down from the school grounds. He zipped his leather jacket and from his bag, grabbed a flashlight. He searched outside of the school grounds. He had never been so nervous in his life, but he had a mission.
The air became colder, the only lights were from the street lamps which lit up the sidewalk and the entrance of the school. He searched every bush and even dug in the dirt a few times, it felt desperate, but he figured no one else had done it.
It was true that the police had interview Jacob’s teachers, but maybe didn’t do a thorough search of inside the school. Luckily for CJ, some of the lights were on in an office, indicating maybe a teacher’s meeting was happening. Did they miss something? Not many new Jacob as well as CJ did. With a huff, he yanked the large front doors open, keeping his footsteps soft.
He didn’t know where Jacob sat, but he’d check every seat. Below the tables, near the windowsills. Even if the police had combed the area, he felt he was doing a service for his friend. Sounds startled him, from the air-conditioning to the vending machine in a corner. Continuing his journey, he walked past a few empty classrooms, a few of the doors were unlocked. Grabbing the paper from before, he read the list and decided to do some investigating.
CJ silently looked under chairs, under tables, through teacher’s papers and notes. Reading Jacob’s completed tests and assignments, then placed them back as they were. He didn’t know what he was looking for, perhaps some note stating something suspicious or maybe even Jacob wrote something? Standing by a teacher’s desk, he took a deep breath in thought. Looking at the empty desks and empty chalkboard.
His ears flicked as he heard two voices coming down the hallway. His heart leapt into his throat. He was doomed. He knew it. He shut the lights off to the classroom and briskly hid under the teacher’s desk. This was it. He’d be caught and arrested for breaking and entering. The voices came closer, closer and closer still. Sweat poured down the horse’s neck, he holds his breath, huddled against the work surface. There footsteps larger than life, he wanted to close his eyes. He hoped it was some nightmare. Once the footsteps went away, he rubbed his eyes, noticing his hand shake.
Given a shot of fear turned into adrenaline. He was almost caught. That didn’t mean Jacob wasn’t in danger. The last spot the horse visited was the head office. Upon entering, he saw the receptionists desk, complete with a buzzer to let students into the school and a computer riddled with papers and sticky notes. It had a distinct smell. His nostrils flared to the scent of papers and cleaning solution. A row of chairs sat in front of this large desk.
His eye catches the sight of a small hallway, he made his way to a few more rooms. The light from the flashlight cascading across the walls as he walked silently.
A copier room, the breakroom and finally Mr. Bateman’s office. None of the doors would open. None except for the high school coach’s room, Mr. Mac. Jacob talked about him.
Papers were strewn across his brown desk, the leather chair he sat in a bit tattered. The whistle which would go around his neck hung on a nob hooked to a filing cabinet under the desk. Something was off. Eyeing the desk drawers, the edge of a polaroid photo stuck out of one of them. Was this something the police missed? Or was it a family photo from a long time ago? Either way, the stallion put on leather gloves and gave the drawer a tug. The photo flew from its spot and landed on the grey rug by his foot. The sight of what was on the photo made CJ at first freeze in place, then vomit into the near by toilet.