It’s time for chapter 11 of my youth mystery novel, What Was Lost. If you are wondering why I am suddenly writing youth fiction, please read the explanation by clicking here.
Chapter 11 – In Deep
That evening Milton went to church with his parents. He still had not heard about Hannah, either from her, or Hudson, or anyone else. When he walked into the youth room, he saw Hudson and made a beeline towards him.
“Still no word, huh?” Milton asked, dejected.
Hudson shrugged a bit, then asked, “So what are you gonna do?”
“I guess I could call her parents,” Milton said slowly.
Hudson’s eyes lit up, “Call her dad? Don’t you think it’s a little too early for that?”
Milton stared at Hudson, “I didn’t say ‘call her dad’ you moron, I said ‘call her parents.’ Besides, I don’t think its funny, not right now.”
The door behind them open and in walked Hannah.
Milton stared at Hannah in disbelief, “Hannah!” he exclaimed. “You’re here!”
Hannah looked at Milton, puzzled, “Yeeeesssss, didn’t you kno?…” her voice trailed off as she glanced over at a grinning Hudson.
“Hudson, you jerk!” she said, slugging him in the arm.
“OW!” Hudson replied sarcastically, rubbing his arm as if he were hurt.
“Wait a minute,” interjected Milton, “You knew she was back? And you didn’t tell me?”
“It was a small oversight,” said Hudson, shifting his eyes between Hannah and Milton, “I thought about texting you this morning—OW! Easy, Hannah! Now that really hurt.”
Hannah had punched him again, much harder this time, in the same spot on his arm. She interjected, “What he meant to say is I told him to text you first thing this morning when I got to school. Apparently, someone thought it would be funny to withhold the news.”
“No harm done, right?” Hudson replied, holding up his arms in defense. “I mean, I knew Hannah was OK. Milton, you were going to find out tonight anyway, so I thought I’d just… let him find out,” he finished with a dramatic sweep of his hands.
“Well it wasn’t funny,” said Milton. “But I’m glad you’re OK Hannah. What happened to your lip? It looks…” Hannah’s eyes narrowed, “…it looks like I should just let you explain what happened,” Hudson finished slowly.
Hannah proceeded, in quite dramatic fashion, to tell Milton and Hudson about her harrowing trip to the warehouse. When she finally got to the point where she discovered the missing truck, Milton interjected, “Woah, woah, woah—wait a minute. You found the truck? It’s still around?”
“Well yeah, it’s not like aliens took it,” Hannah replied sarcastically. “But let me finish. After I read the letters on the license plate, I realized whoever it was who had come into the warehouse had simply turned on the lights. That’s why it had suddenly gotten so bright. I could still hear the footsteps, and they had almost reached the gap in the pallets where I had dashed into just a moment earlier. Still on my hands and knees, I peered underneath the trailer and saw a pair of brown shoes stop just opposite of me. Whoever it was had on work jeans. I felt like even my breathing sounded loud. I slowly crawled back under the semi-trailer, hoping I could hide under it, always keeping an eye on the shoes.
“Suddenly I heard a man talking. He said, ‘Nobody seems to really care in my department. I think we’re fine.’ Then he paused, as if listening to someone else, and said, “Mmm hm, yep. Yeah, I hear you. I think it’s a legitimate concern. But panicking isn’t going to help anyone. Let’s ride the storm out.’ Then I realized this guy, whoever he was, was having a conversation on the phone with someone else about the missing truck. Then he said, ‘I mean, that’s what we wanted, didn’t we? Give it a few months or so, swap out the plates, then get your man Marcus to take care of the risky business.’ He paused, as if listening again, then said, ‘What do you mean he’s getting nervous?’” For a moment, I thought the guy who was talking might be heading back toward the door where he came from, but instead his shoes turned around the edge of the trailer and started coming down the side in my direction.”
Milton broke in, “What did you do?”
“I froze,” Hannah replied. “I wasn’t sure what do to next. I really wanted to hear what he was saying, so I thought maybe I could try to wait it out under the trailer. Whoever he was, he probably would walk around the trailer just to check things out and then leave. But as his shoes came closer, another thought crossed my mind. If I hurried, I could crawl past him under the trailer, back to the row between the pallets, sneak out of the building, then start my car and drive away quickly without being discovered.”
Hannah took a deep breath, then continued, “I definitely liked the idea of escaping the most, so I decided to make a break for it. He had walked almost halfway down the trailer by then. I tried to crawl as quietly as possible. It was terrible to have to crawl towards him, but if I wanted to get out right away, it was the only chance I had. Oh, I can’t tell you how scared I was when I passed him. I felt as if my senses were on high alert. I could see the diamond-shaped pattern on his brown shoelaces. I could smell a strange mix of body odor and cigarettes.” Hannah shivered, then continued, “With each step, I could hear a rock stuck on the bottom of his shoe scrape against the concrete floor. He continued toward the end of the trailer, and I kept crawling toward the exit.
“Then, when I only had a few yards to go when I heard him say, ‘Hey, hold up a second. There’s something on the floor back here behind the trailer.’ I glanced back over my shoulder to see his shoes at the far end of the trailer, where I had just been only 30 seconds earlier.
‘It looks like blood,’ he said, then he stooped down to take a closer look. I scrambled as fast as I could out from under the trailer and ran out of the building. I don’t think he saw me, at least no one followed my car out of the warehouse parking lot.” Hudson stood in silent shock, absorbing the news.
Hannah continued, “After I got home, my busted lip was a dead giveaway. And by that point I realized the whole thing was a really bad idea, so I would have told my parents anyway. My dad was mad, really mad. So they took away my phone, and I haven’t been able to text anyone. I can’t drive anywhere, either. I feel really bad that I couldn’t text you, Hudson, I really do,” Hannah said apologetically as she finished her story.
“Well I’m glad you are all right,” said Milton. “If all that happened on Monday night, where were you yesterday?”
Hannah glared at Hudson again, “You really didn’t tell him anything, did you?”
“All right, all right already! It was a stupid joke, I get it,” Hudson responded, looking flustered, “Can you just tell him?”
Hannah turned back to Milton, her lower lip quivering, “My dad took me to the police station yesterday, Milton. He told me I needed to file a report.”
Milton’s jaw dropped, “Seriously? The police? What did they say?”
“Not just the police—the chief of police. He said they needed all the evidence. And witnesses.” She said, exchanging nervous glances with Hudson.
“Me? They want to talk to me?” asked Milton, still in disbelief.
“All three of us, first thing tomorrow morning,” Hannah replied, “and they want that note of yours.”