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I remember when Colton Crest disappeared.

It stirred a hell of a lot of commotion. Hampton High was the worst, like you'd expect any high school to be. Students started rumours, teachers gave out false information, parents gossiped. Some said he went to jail, others announced he was abducted. No one knew where he had gone.

Not even Colton's family had a clue about their son's whereabouts. Whenever they were addressed the issue, they dismissed it and repeated the same monotone explanation: he was visiting relatives. But you could see the distress in Mrs. Crest's eyes, the haunting shadows that were tattooed there as her motherly instincts told herself to prepare for the worst.

When Colton's disappearance reached a month, it was still the same. Stories spread like wildfire, residents greedily feeding off false tales like leeches.

This continued for yet another month, but by this time, the Crests seemed a lot calmer. They had obtained some information, but they seemed unwilling to share. This didn't particularly bother me at the time. He was my best friend and I trusted that he'd take care of himself. If his folks were calm enough, then I should have been too.

The days continued to pass.

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday.

It was a Saturday when I heard the unexpected knock on my door.

The day Colton Crest came back to town.

"Hey, have you got a beer?"

I stared at him as he shrugged off his jacket and went into the kitchen, raiding my fridge like he always did. The fact that he just turned up at my place like he hadn't been missing for two months was unbelievable. But alas, there he was. He hadn't shaved in a while, and he was missing his usual smile, but he seemed to be physically unharmed.

He pulled out a six-pack and pushed past me to bring the drinks out onto the pergola. I followed, my eyes glued to him as I picked up a beer. Colton remained calm, pulling out his pocket watch every now and then to study the time with unnerving fascination. The watch was a classic piece of him and there was never a moment he didn't have it hooked onto the back loop of his jeans. The family heirloom was priceless, both in financial and sentimental value. I watched as he placed it back in his pocket before I took a swig of liquid courage, letting it quench my dry throat and ignite a fire in my stomach.

Then I got down to business.

"Where have you been, man?" I asked him. "And quit the bull about being with family."

He smiled and tipped his bottle of beer to his lips. "Stop trying to play detective, Elliot. Some mysteries just can't be solved."

I never asked him after that. I guess I didn't want to push him to a point where he'd disappear again. So I kept quiet. But although my silence was ensured, it didn't apply for the rest of the school. Questions were asked, gossip was spread and the story of Colton's disappearance had him at the height of his high school fame.

This continued all the way to the night before graduation. I took Milo for a walk that night. He was starting to resemble a walking cheese puff, so some exercise was well overdue. We took our old route at the back of the house, keeping close to the park behind my neighbourhood, then onto the street, where we made a shortcut towards the local lake.

The sun was just over the horizon, the sky performing its grand finale of colour transitions. The streets were empty, the air was fresh. Other than my dog's excessive panting as he worked his stubby legs, everything was tranquil.

But as soon as we reached the edge of the water, Milo went absolutely mental. The hair on the back of his neck stood high in alert as he barked hysterically at something by the dock. At first, I thought there was another dog, or a bird he wanted to chase, but when he started pulling me towards the water, I realised what had gotten him so on edge.

There was a body floating in the lake.

"Shit," I whispered to myself as my fingers searched my pockets for my phone.

But something made me hesitate. The sinking sun's light fell upon the back pocket of the deceased's jeans and reflected off a shiny surface. It was blinding for a split second, causing me to look away. A sinking feeling settled in my stomach and my insides churned uncomfortably. I knew one object with a surface as polished as that. My hands started shaking and Milo's barks were replaced by silence. I suddenly felt lightheaded.

I forced myself to look up, to ensure my imagination wasn't getting the better of me. But when I saw the pocket watch, I knew it was him.

I found Colton Crest dead. 

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