I have another new scene from Hang On for you this morning. Next month I’ll be doing Story a Day again, so my Fiction Friday will be from one of those prompts.
He was gone.
I still couldn’t believe it. I’d gone up the trail, looking for some sign Ian had been through there. But, there was nothing. No bag left behind, no rope anchoring him in. Absolutely nothing. I saw Deputy Henry coming back down the trail, but he claimed not to have seen anyone. He’d been called out about a call about some suspicious behavior but there’d been no one around.
If there’d been no one around, I didn’t understand who would have called that in. It’s not like there were any residences up this way. But, that didn’t matter. Ian was out there somewhere. What if he’d fallen and gotten hurt. I knew better than anyone how easy that could happen.
It had almost happened to me, but Ian had been there to catch me. There was no one to catch him.
It had taken some arguing this morning for the sheriff to even send anyone out here to look into things. In fact, the arguing had started with deputy Henry just for me to get to speak to the sheriff. Sheriff Miller had been a little easier to convince. He’d known both Ian and me since we were little boys. And he’d obviously seen how distraught I was.
I hadn’t been able to sleep at all through the night.
The sheriff hadn’t understood why his deputy had given me a hard time about reporting him missing. And he’d sent two other deputies up to look around on the trail. I’d wanted to go with them. But, Sheriff Miller had put a restraining hand on my shoulder and kept me right there. He’d asked me questions about the day before, and I gave him whatever answers I could. But, I didn’t know anything. Ian hadn’t been upset, we hadn’t argued, nothing had been out of the ordinary when I left for work that morning.
And I’d still been sitting there at his desk when one of the deputies radioed in to say they’d found signs someone had been up there and might have fallen.
I was pretty sure my heart had stopped beating right then. I wasn’t sure it had picked up again even as the sheriff put together a search team and we headed up the trail. I saw what had the deputies concerned, the scuff marks near the edge of the trail, what led to a sharp drop off.
“Ian would not have started a climb from there,” I said. “He wouldn’t have even been climbing by himself. None of this makes sense.”
Deputy Henry sent me a baleful look. “I thought you guys were all into that free climbing shit.”
“We don’t climb by ourselves. Never. What don’t any of you understand about this? If Ian went over the side, someone fucking pushed him.”
I didn’t realize I was yelling until the sheriff put his hands on my shoulders and said, “Calm down, son.” I wasn’t his son, but he’d always called me that, even if I didn’t need a second father in my life. “We’ll figure out what happened, but you need to calm down, or I’ll send you home with Deputy Holtz.”
I’d gone to school with Larinda Holtz, but I didn’t want to go home with her. I wanted to go home with Ian. “I was going to ask him,” I choked out. “Last night. I’d figured out the perfect way to propose to him. But, he wasn’t there.”
Then, I was sobbing. I knew the deputies and other searchers were looking at me, but I couldn’t hold it in any longer. Ian was gone, and right now, I wasn’t sure I’d ever see him again.
The sheriff patted my back, but even in this state, I could tell he wanted to be anywhere else. I tried to get myself under control, but when one of the deputies called, “We’ve got blood,” I started shaking so hard, I was sure I’d just fall over.
“Get him out of here,” the sheriff said, pushing me off on Deputy Holtz.
I didn’t have much strength to fight as she started to lead me back down the trail. Still, I tried. “I’m not going to lose it, Larry. Please. I need to be here.”
“Sorry,” she said, only keeping a tighter grip on my arm. “Sheriff said to get you away from here, so that’s what I’m doing. I am sorry, Aidan. I always liked Ian, too.”
They were already talking like he was dead. But, he couldn’t be. I didn’t know how I could keep on living if he was dead. So, that meant somehow he still had to be alive. I had to believe that.
And maybe if I believed hard enough it would be true.