Written by: Aaron B.
Cover art by: TheWonderbot’s Wonderworks
Plot: CJ, a brown Thoroughbred who runs a local vegetable farm in a world of anthropomorphic animals, comes to the realization that his best friend and one of the only humans in town, Jacob has gone missing. Once the police stop caring, it’s up to the stallion to take matters into his own hands and look for him.
As he does so, he uncovers a dark and disturbing secret in the town of Havenport all starting with the furry high school Jacob attends, he doesn’t realize it yet- but CJ is in over his head and he could die in the process of trying to find the teen.
Not only is this a psychological thriller, but an inspirational drama of pushing limits and discovering courage deep within.
Chapter 1- Now
The drive home from the hardware store was one CJ could do with his eyes closed. Since he was a foal, he had gone to the store with his father, taking care of Havenport Farm. He always looked forward to seeing his employees, they were all family to him. Without them, the farm would be doomed, a fate CJ couldn’t live with.
The sound of crickets was the only thing that could be heard, pulling up to his farm and parking his pickup truck, he tunes some last-minute details, things he’d done for years to keep his place up and running. The night chilly as he zipped his jacket up and warmed his hands by cupping them next to his mouth. Another normal night, he’d have to enjoy now though as life would soon change for the farmer.
The afternoon sun beat down on the workers who planted vegetable seeds. A few chickens, goats, hens and a beagle. Sometimes they bailed hay or fixed fallen down fences. They stood typically behind the large barn in a healthy grassy field, which went on for miles, typically the workers stood in rows, planting, weeding and things of that nature. Beside the large barn, is a two-story home where CJ resided and where his office was located for giving out payment, which is where the bathroom, food and some tools were located. Even though CJ was the boss, he still worked with them. He wasn’t a boss to just stare at everyone and expect everyone to work for him while he sat around. He rarely offered negative critique unless it was necessary.
At the end of the row of hard workers, stood a human. Five feet tall, short blonde hair and blue eyes that were quite incredible to look at. He was the quietest of the farmers, but hard working and polite, the workers always made sure to ask how he was and sometimes would get answers. Jacob loved his friends here, however shy he may be.
During break after a few hours of planting and tending to the field, everyone sat at a large table outside. If the weather was poor, they’d go to the house and sit on the couch and various chairs. On this beautiful afternoon, they sat drinking lemonade, cold beer and eating snacks. They would be dismissed at noon, but CJ insisted on feeding them at eleven. Jacob also insisted on sitting next to the brown thoroughbred, he found comfort in horses.
The beagle sitting on the other side of Jacob spoke calmly. “Want me to drive you home, bud?” Jacob smiled.
“Sure, thank you Henry.” CJ sipped his drink.
“Everyone at home good?” CJ asked as he eyed the human. He nodded.
“Yeah. I’m graduating high school soon, so all my family are excited for that.” Henry smiled and eyed Jacob with his usual kindness. Pleasant conversation continued for a little while, getting Jacob to talk could be a bit of a chore. No doubt he loved it here though.
Nighttime alone was something CJ thought he’d be used too. It wasn’t an overt fear, and if someone else was with him, he wouldn’t feel the sense of eeriness. Horses were born as prey animals, and CJ’s fears were from someone breaking into his home to ridiculous notions like some crazy person finding him. Even when he relaxed, whether it was to watch TV or read a book, he often kept way too many lights on. If the fear got too much, he’d sometimes call Jacob and get his mind off his hyperactive mind.
Chapter 2- Now
Tuesday morning, CJ bailed hay by lifting the thin ropes that bonded it all together and hoisting it into its proper spot. The sun wasn’t out on this day. Clouds were overhead, but the weather was warm, his usual short sleeve flannel, jeans and brown hiking boots did just fine today.
The place where CJ stood was a shed full of hay to be delivered to a large company for various materials. As he turned to face his work, lifting the hay into the bed of his truck parked close by, his pointed ears twitch to the sound of footsteps behind him. Being that he was a horse, the police dog didn’t want to frighten him. The grey wolf spoke in a serious and calm tone.
“Excuse me sir, are you CJ?” He turned with a soft smile, his tail swished momentarily, he used his hand to wipe a tiny bit of sweat from his forehead. He removed his work gloves and approached the canine.
“Yes officer, may I help you?” He nodded and took out a pen and paper, a tingle of nervousness when through the horse.
“One of your co-workers, Jacob Brown has been missing since last night. We contacted his family, they’re shook up. We’ve tried calling a few of his friends as well. No sign of him for a full day.” CJ wiped his hands on his pants, then crossed his arms with an air of sadness and concern. “Henry dropped Jacob off at around noon yesterday. Maybe he knows something?”
Sitting in the house by the barn, all the co-workers were asked questions about Jacob. Anything and everything was evaluated. CJ sat with his elbows on his knees and eyeing his feet. Jacob seemed so naïve and innocent, why was he suddenly gone? Perhaps someone took him, knowing full well he wasn’t strong? Someone who lived close by? One of his own family members? Perhaps someone at school was holding a party and he didn’t come home? All these options were brought up and spoken of. He imagined the worst.
Henry approached the horse, the dog shrugged slowly.
“He seemed fine when I dropped him off yesterday.” Everyone’s tone around the home was full of worry and deep sadness. CJ glanced at Henry and stood up.
“I’m scared, Henry. I just get these awful images of him needing help and us clueless as to where he is.” The dog placed a hand on the stallion’s shoulder.
“If he’s not found soon, police are going to set up a search team.” With a nod, CJ went to listen to the various police dogs and his co-workers. Feeling sick and dizzy while doing so. Where was Jacob Brown? CJ grabbed a bottled water and sighed, leaning against a wall. His ears flat, this felt like some horrible nightmare.
Closing his eyes, CJ soaked in a warm bathtub, his eyes would never remain closed for long. His nostrils would flare at every noise coming from outside, however this was usual. Sudden noises were not something CJ enjoyed. Moving about the water, he sat up straight, always expecting someone to break in at a peaceful moment. Or Jacob. What a miracle it would be if Jacob stumbled in and the whole story was given. Odd, yes. But even if Jacob was afraid or even terrified, he’d know his human companion was okay. He could picture Jacob’s voice, picture his mannerisms. It hurt. More than any of his co-workers could know.
Two days pass, cops and the various anthros from town searched the farm. Looking through obvious places at first, contacting the high school he attended, talking to Jacob’s parents non-stop. The news of a missing human was big in town. The town of Havenport was home to hundreds of anthros years ago, all species and all sizes, but not one human was there, as they were viewed as odd, pale skinned and hateful. Hateful because the towns with the most humans also had a good amount of hate towards anthros.
Even in the modern era of Havenport, racism existed, but now humans were welcome and held jobs and had families. Sometimes they’d get an odd look or two, but for CJ, prejudice thinking was something that never crossed his mind. Jacob was a great worker on his farm and a kind hearted young man and that’s all that mattered. Maybe two or three co-workers were at first leery of Jacob, but time healed the false thinking and he was treated like anyone else. CJ was the one who gave Jacob his job, the one he liked to talk to the most, and the stallion wasn’t going to let his friend down. However hopeless the search got.
Some called his name, some looked in trees. A row of cops and townspeople, all looking for the missing. Behind the farm seemed an endless area of dense trees and tall grass, CJ rarely ventured here as the place was so wide, getting lost was very easy. Sometimes he’d go a few feet deep to get fire wood, but other than that, especially at night-the Havenport woods were a big ‘no way’ for the skittish horse. Going up and down little hills, officers spoke on there walkie talkies if any evidence was found, but always led to a false promise or something which looked like something else.
The looking continued as heavy clouds began to role in and the search party was wrapping up, CJ’s mind started to go to Jacob’s home life and school life. It was true while at work he seemed content, but he didn’t know a lot about what his evening activities were. His parents were sweet as far as he could tell, as Jacob and his mom and dad would often take walks to the farm and say hi even on days he didn’t have to work. Did anything go on behind the scenes? Maybe someone was troubling him? Maybe something at school? That seemed a bit more likely, teenage years were rough, maybe a bully scared him or, worse yet maybe school began to weigh on Jacob and he was self-harming? Just the mere thought of that made CJ nearly cry, was the secret that deep and depraved? Whatever the reason, everyone knew that it couldn’t have been something small. Something was going on with Jacob, and the answer may remain unknown if Jacob is never found.
The wolf officer from before eyed CJ before climbing into his cruiser, the sky pink with an orange hue overlooking the barn close by. The wind is warm, flies began to come out of hiding.
“Get some sleep, CJ. I know this is hard. We’ll find your friend.” Sighing, the horse looked into the woods, imagining how terrified Jacob must be. Sometimes imagining his corpse. Without a word, he left as the patrol car drove off, kicking up dust in its wake. Before stepping inside, he slowly moved his head from left to right, looking at the side with Havenport woods, then looking to the other side towards the farm and eventually to the dirt road which went on for miles.
Lying on the couch and looking at the ceiling, CJ not only felt the house was empty, but had an aura of sadness. He was always alone, but his heart felt alone. Even in pajamas and with most of the lights out, sleep didn’t come easy. It had been like this for a few nights, work had gotten depressing without Jacob’s optimism and cute shyness.
He could almost hear Jacob’s voice banging in his brain. Help! Please! I’m lost! CJ tried to force the sound out by closing his eyes and taking deep breaths. It felt so real. A cry for help he couldn’t answer. He needed sleep. The farm had to go on. Help! Please! I’m lost! He tried to convince himself to let the police handle it. I’m lost! What were they doing now? Sleeping? Working on other cases? The horse whispered to himself.
“Don’t worry. Let the cops handle it. They’ll find him tomorrow.” Tomorrow? What if they find his body tomorrow? What if the officer called CJ in the middle of the night. We tried our best, but I’m afraid Jacob’s body was found in a lake. Rubbing his eyes, CJ stood up and went to the kitchen and grabbed a glass of water.
The sound of crickets surrounds the place, the hum of the refrigerator provided a smooth ambience. Staring out a window in the kitchen, CJ’s ears flicked. Looking at his half-faded reflection in the glass, seeing his shirtless body. How he stood there. Doing nothing. It disgusted him. Doing nothing but staring at himself or trying to sleep. His friend was almost surly in trouble. CJ wouldn’t stand for it anymore. Briskly walking through his house, he took a quick shower, dressed in a white t-shirt, jeans and his hiking boots, packed a brown leather backpack with food, water, some extra clothes and pocketed his cellphone.
The fear was there, even stepping outside to his all too familiar territory this late at night provided a sense of eeriness. He tossed his bag in his backseat, made sure he had extra gas and in a blur, he was driving away from Havenport Farm. Away from the place he knew. Into an unknown world.
Chapter 3- Then
The high school bustled with activity, Jacob stood out. He knew he did as he glanced at the faces of the anthro students. All species from rats, dogs, sloths, foxes and anything anyone could think of. Luckily for Havenport High School, segregation was looked down upon and forbidden with heavy consequence. That didn’t stop it from happening however, as whether human or anthro maybe they all had tiny prejudices among them. Get through school and you can go to the farm was what Jacob said to himself as he sat among a few students. A muscular dog on one side, a mouse on the other.
The cafeteria floor shines, the seats light blue stools, tables of three or four are connected. Large windows send in nice sunlight, the students giggle and talk amongst themselves. Jacob folds his hands in his lap and sighed tiredly. Knowing that not only would he be in a new school, but a whole new species would be around him made him feel a lack of alertness. Life at home was good, his parents supportive and CJ his new boss seemed sweet and thoughtful. He knew the farm would take him out of the six hours of potential misery he’d endure.
Eating a healthy-looking bunch of fruit with a fork was the black and brown Doberman pincher. Her ears pointed, her white sharp teeth made Jacob feel a bit uneasy. Yes. He knew that he had no reason to fear this canine, but he couldn’t help but look at the white sharp chompers.
The principal approached as he sat in deep thought. His orange fur neatly combed, his body slender, his eyes green. His suit chestnut brown. He was known as quite an energetic fox, not as stuck up as most in his field, but laid back and usually happy. “Hey buddy! Everything okay?” Jacob nodded and smiled. “Yes Mr. Bateman. Thanks. Just taking in the scenery.” Bateman nodded gently. “Good! Well, I hope you meet lots of new friends today. Come to me anytime.” With his large bushy tail with a white tip swishing happily. He knew he found a friend in Mr. Bateman, CJ and Henry the beagle in the town of Havenport. As he felt more at ease, the bell rang for first period.
Math. It was literal hell. Jacob’s talent was socializing and lifting hay bales. Not complex numbers and sitting still. As he stared at the first problem, he only became more confused. It was like he had never seen a number before in his life. He jumped at a new voice he had never heard, the same Doberman from before. A gruff ‘city accent’. Tall, 6 ft and toned arms. Her clothing tight. Jacob was asexual, but even he’d admit this canine was pretty in a tough kind of way.
“You okay?” the Doberman asked in a genuinely concerned tone.
“Hm? Yeah. Just hate numbers.” She shifts her seat a bit closer, which surprised Jacob a bit.
“Laya. You’re the new guy right?” The two shook hands.
“Yeah. Jacob. Nice to meet you.”
Sitting on a curb after school, Layla joined in. “You need a ride?”
“No thanks. My friend Henry is going to pick me up.” Jacob then told Laya where he worked and who he was friends with and how awkward he felt in a ‘furry school’ as some called it.
“Well hey, if you ever wanna stay after for a soccer game, I can get you good seats. I’m captain of the team here.” The human nodded. Jacob had always thought jocks would have hated him. In his other school, they sometimes pushed him around and made fun of his taste in a simple country life. Layla seemed sincere, something about her mannerisms and her tone. The two exchanged phone numbers shortly after, planning a quick afterschool visit. Maybe it would be good for Jacob to take some chances and make friends, get out of his bubble and enjoy life.
The large yellow school buses began to pull up, Layla playfully nudged Jacob. “See ya tomorrow!” She smiled and headed to her red sports car. As she did this, Henry’s pick-up truck pulled up.
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.
Chapter 5- Then
From quite a distance, Jacob tossed the basketball into the peach colored hoop. The anthros cheered as the basketball landed perfectly through the netting and bounced onto the gym floor. From the middle of the gym, the tall anthro blew the whistle and the court dispersed for next class. The gym smells quite nice considering students sweat in it all day.
The human had no idea what he was doing, but he had won the game evidently. A happy and sweaty Layla pats him on the shoulder as she passed by giggling with the other jocks.
“Good going man!” Mr. Mac, the toned cheetah in a t-shirt and shorts puts an arm around Jacob, the whistle around his neck jingled a bit.
“You won the game man! Make sure to tell CJ how epic that was!” He ran in a flash to go get set up for his next line of students. Jacob giggled at his own naivety. He felt more than a bit overwhelmed, so he sat on the bleachers which were against the wall, overlooking posters of the school mascot and all the equipment used on that day. Plus, he was self-conscious about getting his school clothes on in the changing room while everyone was there, it just felt too weird and he felt too vulnerable being nude in front of a bunch of furries. He takes a swig of water. Mac happened to spot the lone human sitting, so he took a seat by him.
“You should try out for basketball, you’re quite talented!” Sometimes Mac’s loud energy got to him, but Jacob knew it was just how he was and maybe he couldn’t help but be peppy. Jacob paused for a moment. “Why don’t you come by my office and I can at least give you the sign-up sheet. I just don’t want all that potential to go down the drain.”
His brown eyes looked at him so confidently, Jacob shrugged and nodded. What did he have to lose?
His parents were quite glad he may try out for basketball, but they were even happier that the furry school had taken to him so well. Maybe they were just a bunch of fluffy fun guys? No one would know that only a few weeks later, Jacob would be under the knife and perhaps never see his family again.
Tryouts went well enough, he knew a few of the furries there already, and having a human on the team honestly spiced things up. It wasn’t everyday this type of opportunity came. It looked good on the school record, of course that’s not how his fellow students and truly friendly teachers saw it. To them, Jacob was like them-less fluffy, but a good heart and that’s really what counted. Mr. Bateman would often come and check on things, maybe even play a game or two.
One afternoon, basketball was canceled. Which presented a problem. Henry specifically said he couldn’t pick him up on this day. Sitting outside on the field as all the students lined up to go home, he became nervous. He knew though that he had a lot of people he could trust. He didn’t want to text CJ, since he was probably busy at the farm. Casually, he walked into the school. Students were all leaving, he had asked a few other kids if they could give him rides, but no such luck came.
Chapter 6- Now
Approaching Mr. Mac wouldn’t be hard, CJ knew he’d be outside with the students today. Fixing his mane up, he showered in a nearby motel he had just gotten the evening after breaking into the school. Why? So that he could be closer than ever to whatever crime happened, plus being at home was quite hard. The memories of Jacob hanging out at the farm were too much for him to handle, he needed to be away. He needed to think.
As he showered, he thought through what to do. He wouldn’t call the cops-unless things got violent, but he would try his best to stay calm and collected. Shampooing his dark mane and closing his eyes he had a few mental images. Fear of dying, fear of being hurt. He had to push those all away now. He had to focus. That photo he found was nightmarish, sickening. Thankfully, it wasn’t Jacob-but it was indeed a human teen around his age in a situation that was highly distressing. Maybe humans were his play things? His way of truly showing what a monster he was on the inside? Sadly, sometimes when mixing humans and anthros, you had the occasional sicko. The one furry to show his or her true colors and use humans, because hey-they’re not as strong. It’s not a statement of prejudice, but fact. Anthros have animal instincts and animal strength, so taking advantage of them for the most part was ideal if one wished to be violent.
The bathroom was lackluster to say the least, this motel was cheap, with a cracked floor and leaky ceilings. CJ dried off and put on a white t-shirt, flannel and jeans. He felt more refreshed than ever. Looking at himself in the mirror, he looked better, but his soul still was beyond repair.
Mac sat at his office, humming away as he typed up grades. His office still looked the same, a small area. A few small windows, some gym equipment in corners. Mac wasn’t the neatest of all teachers, that’s for sure. After hearing CJ knock, the cat smiled wide.
“Can I help you?” The horse felt his stomach go in knots as he shut the door. Face to face with a monster. Something he never thought would happen. “You look kinda glum.” On the verge of tears, CJ sat across from him and slammed the polaroid in front of him. Utter shock hit him. CJ’s voice cracked, but his tone was low and cold.
“Where’s Jacob?” Mac’s hand shook as he brushed the photo out of his view.
“Where the hell did you get that?” CJ rubbed his eyes, the voice in his head spoke almost in a yell. Leave CJ! Leave now! Call the cops! NO! Deal with it. Now. CJ sniffled slightly, he wasn’t quite crying, but his frustration was so high his body didn’t quite know what to do.
“Mac. I’m going to ask you again. Where is Jacob?” The same look of shock crossed his face, CJ began to examine it. It wasn’t ‘oh shit! I’m caught’. It was different.
“This is disgusting.” Mac stood up quickly, knocking the chair over causing a loud crash. The horse snorted as he grabbed a hold of Mac’s hand. His vision blurry with rage.
“WHERE is he?!” The stallion yelled in his face. Luckily for CJ, barely anyone was in the school after hours. Mac slapped CJ’s hand quite hard.
“I don’t want to fight you. Stop accusing me of this disgusting picture!” His voice cracked in a similar fashion as CJ. He too stood up, as tall as he was, CJ began to sort of calm down.
“You didn’t hurt Jacob, did you?” The two stare at each other for a long while before speaking.
“I don’t know where he is!” Tears escaped the cheetah’s eyes, CJ watched as his ears began to relax and his heart beat a bit fast. He sat again.
“I can barely look at that missing poster without crying. You coming in here and accusing me of – – THIS!” He didn’t want to touch the vile image.
“It was in your desk, Mr. Mac.” Mac sighed.
“I knew this day would come.” He put away papers calmly and gestures the horse to go outside. The reveal of this moment was like a dense weight on CJ’s shoulders. He could almost envision this moment. Was Jacob alive? He couldn’t panic. He couldn’t attack. The horse had who he needed in his sights. As much of a monster this coach was, he couldn’t just wham his fists into him. Even if it’s what a sicko like him deserved. Violence wasn’t the answer. Not now.
Mac led CJ outside and back around the school. The two sit on a curb, the gentle breeze beautiful, the sky clear blue. The red bricked high school behind them. Cars passed in the distance. Students could be heard through open windows, laughing and teasing each other. Unaware of the darkness under them.
Chapter 7- Then
Pondering what to do, he tried to call CJ, but the human realized his phone battery was dead. He regretted texting all that time during academic support class more than ever. Jacob stood at the enterance way of the school, deciding if he should just walk home, which would take about an hour.
Suddenly, from the front doors of the school, Mr. Bateman stepped out, wearing a loose purple tie and grey slacks, he smiled sweetly to Jacob.
“Hey bud. What are you doing here?” His ears relaxed, he rolled his sleeves up and didn’t take his eye off the student. Being able to relax, Jacob’s demeaner was more like his usual self.
“I might have to walk home, phone’s dead. It’s no problem though.” The fox pondered.
“I could drive you home.” The proposal didn’t sound bad, as dark clouds began to form over the high school. He nodded and followed the fox down to the teacher’s parking area, not many cars were there. Bateman’s car isn’t really a car, but a white van.
“Do you usually drive this?” Jacob asked as he hopped in the passenger seat and watched Bateman climb in and start the engine.
“Nope, this is my wife’s van, my car is in the shop.” He adjusted the mirror slightly as he began to pull out of the space and drive out of the school zone. The van wasn’t bad looking, the seats clean, the back area empty, the engine perhaps could use some fixing as the ride was a bit jolty.
“So, do you need directions to the farm?” The fox glanced to him.
“Nah, I know your boss and where you work.” He was going a direction Jacob didn’t know, he tried to not be nervous. It’s fine. Maybe this was a short cut? Suddenly, Jacob realized Bateman had pulled the van over, nothing was around them but trees. Before the human could truly realize they had come to a complete stop, he felt a wet rag cover his mouth and nose.
Yelling and squirming were the only things he could do within the first few seconds. He then gripped the fox’s paw, trying to shove and maybe get a bite in, but the droopiness from the chloroform hit him like a ton of bricks. Even if he tried, he couldn’t move with swiftness. His breathing was rapid from the sheer terror of the anthro attacking him so suddenly and so violently. He fell face first into the floor of the van. Out of breath, Bateman dragged his limp body to the back, and from his glove compartment grabbed two pairs of handcuffs, one for his wrists and one for his ankles. Bateman smiled as his twisted fantasy for Jacob was coming to fruition. The van lurched forward moments later, Jacob was fast asleep.
To put Jacob anywhere near his own home would be asking for suspicion, Bateman owned a cabin he stayed in during the summers that very few knew about. The dirt road narrow, trees scrape against the side of the van. Bateman couldn’t help but be a bit nervous, what if he escaped and revealed the truth? Obviously, the school and police would realize he’s missing. It was too late to turn back, to release Jacob would mean jeopardizing his standing in the community. His tendencies towards humans was okay, if no one found out and he didn’t do it often. Jacob was an easy target. Naïve, trustworthy and not a tough guy at all. He may never get the opportunity to strike again.
After driving through the woods, to get up to the cabin by way of a vehicle was impossible, so Bateman had to place Jacob in a large trash bag and drag him through the dirt. Through narrow dirt covered pathways. Trees overlooked the fox as he grunted, beginning to sweat. Dragging the knocked-out human through mud and puddles for about a mile. The sun beat down on him, but he had made it too far to give up.
* * *
The cabin is one floor. Most of the bigger trees stood in the back of the home while a clear pathway led to the wooden cabin out front. Stopping to rest, Bateman tossed his tie to one side and unbuttoned his dress shirt, pulling the bag until he made it to a large ditch in the back of the cabin. After pulling him through so many bushes and fly swarmed areas, he gave the bag a kick, sending it down to the large ditch below.
That night, he stripped Jacob down to his underwear and threw his clothes way out in the middle of the woods. He needed to put Jacob in a more secure spot underground.
Inside the cabin was a couch, a small TV and a few lights and a refrigerator. The floor made of smooth wood, the ceilings cracked and needed to be re-done. Sitting on the ripped couch with a tired sigh, Bateman held a beer and thought of what to do. Jacob was at his mercy and he could do what he wanted. For so long he looked at pictures of innocent, cute humans and now this was his chance to shine.
Chapter 8- Now
CJ didn’t take his eye off the cheetah as he spoke, his tone so truthful. In his heart, the horse knew he must be innocent, something in his soul told him so. “So why the hell is there a polaroid of a beat up human being assaulted?” Mac’s ears went down. “Bateman put it there as an alibi incase things got to out of hand. If his dark secret was exposed, he could simply point to me, he threatened my family if I were to ever come out with the truth. He’s been doing this to me forever. Since we were young neighbors and first met. He’d do some crazy shit and then keep me quiet.”
“Couldn’t you have reported him to the police?” With a sniffle, Mac continued.
“Everyone loves Principle Bateman. If I came out, he’d have lawyers and a whole town against me. I’d go to prison for disgusting crimes. He’d walk away and hurt more people. I should have known he’d go after Jacob.” There was a pause. Mac gently held CJ’s hand, sensing his dismay and hopelessness.
“I know where Jacob is.” CJ’s heart skipped a beat. Did he hear him right?
“What? How?” The sound of sudden hope and surprise was a total shock to Mac, he sighed deeply.
“When we were teens, we’d go to a cabin out in the middle of nowhere. That’s where he’d do his illegal stuff. Drinking or abusing other kids. He knew no one would find him out there. CJ. I can’t hide from this anymore. I can’t take the fall for what he’s done. Let me go with you. I want to see him. I want to see Jacob and I want to see Bateman burn.” CJ stood up, fixing his mane.
“No. This is my quest. I can’t bring anyone with me. Give me the directions and let me go.”
As dusk set on the town of Havenport, CJ was far beyond where he knew. Far beyond his farm and far beyond the town he loved. Driving down a dirt road, all he could think about was not making it in time. The head lights showing a smooth dirt road, tiny rocks hit the side of the vehicle. It all felt uneasy, the isolation and the unknown. Fear crept into his heart again, but CJ swatted it like an annoying fly. With a coffee by his side, tiredness wouldn’t be an issue.
He didn’t account for the giant pot hole in the middle of the road, the sound of a tire pop caused him to snort in terror as he panicked, jerking the wheel. The sound of tires against the dirt violently caused his heart to leap into his throat. He knew he messed up. Thinking of a thousand other things than the road. The truck derailed into the woods on the side of the road, the stallion pulled the emergency break back, but the front of the vehicle collides with a large tree making his actions futile.
Chapter 9- Now
CJ’s brain raddled in his head as his skull collides with the wheel, causing a quick black out. One nostril dripped with blood, he moaned in pain. The front windshield shattered by a low hanging branch. The sound of the engine dying was all he could hear. Killing the engine, he took deep breaths as he looked down to see a shard of glass protruding from his left leg. Oozing with blood, CJ let out a few tiny yells as he tried to move it, causing pain like lightening to shoot through his entire body. Help! Please! He heard Jacob’s voice again, ringing helplessly in his head.
Opening the driver’s side door, he slowly was able to crawl out, sweat dripped down his neck as he moaned loudly. Falling to the ground below, he was able to use the truck’s still working headlights to see what he was dealing with. Getting to Jacob would be impossible to do if his left leg was out of commission.
Closing his eyes for a moment in thought, he was able to get to his back pack, which housed a giant strand of medical gauze. He also found a pair of black leather gloves, the ones he used at the school. It was the closest thing to sterile he had.
With a desperate eye, he put the gloves on and looked at the small piece of glass sticking out of him. Grasping the sharp edge, he held his breath and slowly yanked at it, causing his flesh to make a sickening squishing sound.
Tears filled his eyes as the lightening pain came through again. Come on CJ! Do it you wimpy bastard! PULL! Being able to ignore the pain for only a second was all he needed to make the final pull. His flesh became a bit mangled as he did so, warm red fluid covered one side of his jeans as he yelled loudly into the night.
He didn’t have much time to wallow, he wrapped the wound tightly and quickly. His breathing erratic. Pulling it even tighter, he yelled one last time, after letting his heart rate get back to normal, he stood up. Certainly, it stung if he put too much pressure on it, but he could walk. Fight through it. Get to Jacob. Let the nightmare be over.
Being careful where he stepped wasn’t hard, if this wound got worse, it truly could mean the end of finding the human he loved so much. Going uphill was the worst, he thought he’d get used to the searing throbbing, but every step caused him to sigh deeply as he tried to block out the strain. He whispers a few profanities. As if the night couldn’t get any worse, a rumble of thunder caused his ears to pin back in pure annoyance. Reaching for his bag again, he thought he had a jacket-but he had left it in the back seat of the truck.
“Damnit!” He yelled into the bag as he tossed it over his shoulders again. The rain started soft, a slight drizzle wouldn’t mean much. After walking through sticks and leaves and swatting away flies, the water soon became more than a slight annoyance as it began to pour. Seeping into his white t-shirt, his mane becoming flat with heavy water, his brown coat damp. Dirt soon became mud as his boots sloshed through puddles, making his pants even wetter.
“Help!” he froze in his spot. The call was muffled, he knew it was in his head. “Help me please!” Hearing it again, he wasn’t so sure if it was his imagination. He yelled back as loud as he could. “HELLO?!” A moment passed.
“CJ?!” All the annoyances went away. His damp clothes, the pain in his left leg, through the rain which aimed at his face, CJ trudged through the wilderness. Jacob’s voice was closer.
“Keep yelling Jacob!” CJ’s feet were wet from dirty water beneath him, sludging through deep puddles from heavy rain fall. He slid on slick ground, catching himself as he stuck his two hands out, getting drenched in wet dirt, his shirt covered in speckles of grime. His left leg wasn’t fairing too well as his pants had ripped and he thought he felt the gauze slightly tear, causing blood to trickle softly down his leg. His ear pricked forward as Jacob yelled into the night again.
The horse’s run was more of a tired jog, a tinge of relief hit him when he saw a large, wooden cabin. If Bateman would show up, he’d show up during this time. Running to the side of the house, the rain falls only became harder, hitting the roof of the house beside him. He was so close to the wall he could reach out and touch it. The muffled yelling was not coming from the trees beyond. Where are you Jacob?
CJ panicked. WAS it his imagination? Was he standing by some cabin that had nothing to do with his hunt and he was going crazy? Standing out in heavy rain fall, clothes slightly tattered and sodden with mud, water and who knows what else from the ground? He would have cried out in pure disappointment, but he heard Jacob again. BELOW his feet. CJ knelt, pressing his head to the dirt. “Jacob! I’m here!” He heard Jacob again, so close and yet so far. He wished he could see his human friend this second, but he’d have one last task. Digging him out.
Huffing as he stood, he eyed a shed close to the cabin, racing to it, he found a small metal shovel leaning by it. He ran back to the spot and dug. Using all the stallion’s might was hard. He was so tired from the past days of being depressed and searching. This was it. He grunts as he began to move the earth below him, thunder rumbled a few times. Water stung CJ’s eyes as he looked down, praying to find some semblance of a helpless teen. The shovel soon hit a wooden surface. CJ’s heart skipped a beat.
It was a wooden coffin, thinly built. Had a human been searching, they probably would have never heard Jacob’s muffled cries, but anthros, especially dogs and horses had exceptionally acute hearing. Once the form of the wooden container was revealed through more poking with the shovel, CJ knelt again and began to tug at the lid. Come on CJ! This is it! THIS IS IT! Pull you lazy bastard!
The coffin came apart after what seemed to be a good five minutes, the sound of wood snapping had never felt so satisfying. And there Jacob lied, only for a fraction of a second before sitting up and wrapping his arms around the brown horse. Jacob’s clothing was merely a hospital gown, he looked pale and terrified, as perhaps should be expected. The hug was tight, the best bonding either of them had ever experienced. Jacob cried softly, CJ merely held him close taking deep breaths of pure tiredness.
“Jacob. We need to go. Now.” He helped the human up, groaning in pain as his left leg was beginning to hurt again. The evening would have ended in victory at that moment, if Bateman hadn’t come out of his cabin, smiling condescendingly. Eyeing someone who was so good in the community and seeing him perform such a sick act was something out of a horror movie.
Jacob hid behind the horse, whimpering in fear, CJ could have as well as he saw the fox pulling a pistol out of his overalls, aimed right at the two. Shaking excess rain water off, Bateman walked to the two, CJ stepped back, holding one of Jacob’s hands. Bateman’s eyes were missing emotion, sympathy for the most part. Like a rabid dog with no feeling.
“No one’s going to believe you, CJ. The principle of a school kidnapped and assaulted a human. Anthro schools got over that YEARS ago. But now we’re much better. Now, bring Jacob to me and I won’t have to shoot you. Tell them you found nothing of your human.” CJ snorts at him in agitation.
“Let him go. You had your fun. Let this kid live. He won’t tell.” The two anthros stood, facing each other. One had a pistol, one had someone else’s life. Jacob eyed CJ’s bag. Slowly, he began to unzip it, Bateman kept his gaze on CJ. The fox approached closer.
“How many humans died here, Bateman? Hm? How many?” He shrugged, pressing the gun into CJ’s neck. The horse would have normally stood down, ran away. The emotion ‘timid’ was no longer in his soul. He was bound and determined to stay with Jacob. He let go of the teen’s hand as he slowly fumbled around in the backpack. Bateman cocked the pistol.
“I don’t have to tell you shit, CJ. Now, I hope you have your last words ready. Once you’re nothing but a bloody mess, I’ll go back to my life as a school figure. Jacob will be a missing human. Among MANY missing humans and it’ll be a sad fucking tragedy in the town of Havenport.” The fox’s finger was now placed on the trigger.
The horse’s ears perked suddenly, Bateman yelled in excruciating pain, dropping his weapon. Like lightning, Jacob had found a pocket knife in among all the other items, took a chance and rammed the blade into the fox’s stomach. The large amount of blood made CJ feel queasy, but he still stared, picking up the discarded gun while he was at it. He felt quite uncomfortable holding a firearm.
Jacob rammed the knife into the fox again, this time into a large artery in his throat. His orange fur was caked in pools of blood, jetting from his open airway. Bateman collapsed on his back with a thud, convulsing, the sound of red liquid covering his throat made a horrific gurgling sound that ended almost as soon as it began. Bateman’s eyes glazed over. Jacob stands over the body. His hands covered in blood, the hand which held the pocket knife trembled. He took deep breaths. CJ placed a hand on Jacob’s shoulder, hoping to calm him. Probably it was no use.
Chapter 10- Now
Three weeks after the story of Bateman’s true sick nature came out, meetings were held of how humans and anthros co-exist. Mostly talk of how to prevent incidents such as this. Once the police raided the fox’s cabin, in locked boxes they found more photos of innocent humans. Tied up, tortured, gagged. His laptop contained worse, but most officers had trouble even thinking of the atrocities Bateman housed in his mind.
Using a cane to get up and walk about wasn’t easy, but CJ would adapt, and his leg would heal after some time. His morning routine hadn’t changed. Warm shower, breakfast then go out to check on the large field. The early morning breeze was cool, CJ looked nice in his new leather jacket, jeans and boots. As he stood out surveying Havenport Farm, he didn’t feel that chill of eeriness from being alone. Instead, it was indifference.
Turning his head to one side, he saw a shadowy figure. Leaning against one of the wooden fences. It caused CJ to startle, but he knew who it was. Limping to Jacob, he too leaned against the fence. He glanced at the human who looked a bit blank. Jacob had a few scars on him, perhaps a bruise or two.
“Isn’t it kinda early for you to be here?” The horse asked sweetly. Jacob shrugged. He hadn’t talked much since everything happened. He was always quite happy at the barn. Well, perhaps he was happy to be here, but showing it was a bit of a chore. Since all he could think of was Bateman’s disturbing voice before falling asleep every night. Jacob placed an arm around CJ.
“I like it here.” His voice groggy with tiredness. He stared at the dark blue sky, the sun would be up soon. “It’s calming, and I like being with you.” Not many had shown such affection towards him, but maybe since he was the one who rescued him, a new type of bond had been formed. CJ couldn’t help but keep looking at Jacob. He had lived through so much.
“I can make you some food. Maybe we can go out later too?” Jacob hugged CJ’s waist.
“I’m still too scared to go out far. Please. Stay?” Gently patting his head, CJ nodded. He could do his errands later. If Jacob needed him, he’d be with him. And that was that. Grabbing his cane, the two walk back to CJ’s house.
A calmness went over the two of them, being back at the farm was what they truly wanted. Jacob didn’t want to go back to school, not at least for a while. CJ didn’t want to venture far off to get away. He wanted his humdrum life back with Jacob and all his wonderful co-workers. A place of hard-work and kindness. That was Havenport Farm.