Chapter 1: All Tied Up

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"Just calm down," Mitch fussed.

"Justin!" his dad called once again.

"Shit. Shit, shit, shit."

"Go see what they want," Mitch said, "and call me back." He chuckled. "They give you one call in jail, so make sure it's to me."

He called him an asshole before he hung up and headed downstairs. "Yeah, Dad?"

"Um... Officer James needs to speak with you a minute," he replied, motioning the officer and Brandon into the living room.

"Okay."

They both sat down, while his mom and dad stood near the entryway.

"How are you doing today?" the officer asked blankly.

"I'm okay, I guess."

"Good, good." The officer took a deep breath. "You're seventeen, is that correct?" Justin nodded. "You're almost an adult, so I'm going to treat you like one."

Justin swallowed hard, having an idea what that meant—prison. "Okay."

"Brandon... he went missing last night."

He wasn't expecting that. "Brandon Vick?"

The officer nodded. "His parents called and we searched the area through the night."

"Did you find him?" Justin asked, his worry shifting from himself to his best friend.

"We did."

The look on the officer's face didn't reflect his words. Finding a missing person should be a joyous thing, but his furrowed brows and frown screamed otherwise. His expression told Justin all he needed to know.

"Where did you find him?" Justin asked, his throat tight.

"In the woods a street over."

Justin never cried; not since he was seven and his dog got ran over. It had been ten years and the stinging in his eyes felt foreign. The tightening in his throat became worse, making him unable to speak.

"I'm so sorry," Officer James said. "This is never the kind of visit I want to make."

"Do they know what happened," Mrs. Brady asked, silent tears streaming down her face.

He turned his attention toward her, giving Justin time to process what he'd just been told. "All I can say is that it wasn't an accident. We are warning all parents not to let their children roam the streets at night until we have a better idea of what's going on."

"Brandon was... was...?" Justin stammered, unable to even say it.

"Yes, foul play was involved. That's the main reason why I'm here. I need to ask you some questions, since you're one of his best friends, his mother said."

Justin nodded and tried to say, "Okay," but it only came out as a snorting sound.

"When's the last time you saw or talked to Brandon?"

Thinking about it, Justin realized the last time he'd talked to Brandon would be the last time. "I talked to him yesterday. He'd been at Josh's house playing one of his new games. That was about six o'clock or so. He was supposed to come by here on his way home, but never did. I figured it had been late when he left and had gone on home. I tried messaging him, but he never opened it." Now he knew why.

The officer went on to ask about school and if Justin knew of anyone who'd want to hurt Brandon, but he didn't. Out of all of them, he was the nicest one. He never really got into trouble and was the one person who didn't want to go with them that day. He had tried to talk them out of it, but Mitch ended up talking him into it.

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