It didn't take very long for the police to get there. The park was filled with red flashing lights and search dogs. Officers were asking questions and jotting down notes. There was an anxious feeling in the air, mostly from the students. It seemed like everyone was looking to escape, especially Sophie.
They finally sent everyone home once the questioning was over. Mr.Webb said it was because it was getting late but they all knew he was just afraid of what they might find next.
The following day they cancelled classes again, and decided to go forward with the search party for that day. Sophie was one of the first students there. She peered in the office as she walked toward the student lounge. No Mrs.Nora.
When she opened the door to the student lounge she was surprised to see Ian. He was sitting, his head cradled in his hands. He appeared to be as startled as she was. As soon as she saw him she remembered what he had been trying to tell her before, and the questions she had came flooding back. "Hey" she said, putting her purse down on one of the chairs. "Hey" he said, with a tiny salute. She walked over to where he sat and took a seat on the bench in front of him. "How are you holding up?" she asked. "Depends on what you call holding up" he replied. "And your mom?" she inquired, even though she could guess. "Didn't get out of bed this morning" he sort of mumbled. "I'm really sorry" she said. "I know" he replied. "Just because we found her shirt doesn't mean she's dead" she continued. "Yeah, that's what I told my mom all day" he added. He hadn't been back to school since Olivia went missing. "They're gonna find her, I know they will" she consoled him. "How can you be so sure?" he asked, looking down at his hands in his lap. "It's all I can do, it's as simple as that" she explained. Sophie could tell he was beginning to lose hope. She knew how hard this must be for him. Having to be strong not only for himself but for his parents as well.
She didn't want to ask him about last night right then, but something was telling her she had to. "Ian, I know this isn't the right time but I need to know what you found out when you followed Olivia?" she said, almost desperately. Ian hesitated before he spoke, glancing at the ceiling, the door, the floor, and finally Sophie. "You're right, this isn't a good time". He started to stand up and leave, but she grabbed his arm before he was even a foot away. "You don't have to tell me, I'll understand. But I want you to know that I'm not asking for curiosity's sake, I just want to help" she explained. He turned back toward her, slightly clenching his jaw. "What makes you think you can help?" he questioned, crossing his arms. "What makes you so sure I can't?" she shot back, but not sharply. "You promise not to tell anyone?" he asked. "Of course, whatever you say stays between us" she assured him.
He hastily went to lock the door, then he sat down in front of Sophie. "She was pretty mad when I confronted her, furious that I didn't trust her. I told her if she didn't fill me in on what was going on I'd tell mom and dad, and seeing as she didn't have any dirt on me at the moment she agreed. She was there for a cult" he told her. " A cult? Are you serious? She actually referred to it as a cult?" she asked, even more confused than before he had started. "Well she didn't use the word cult, I kinda gathered that by the things she told me about it, she referred to it as a nature apprecation group. They researched different wild flowers, and animals. mediated for hours on end, promoted giving up all worldly possessions, which I know Olivia didn't agree with that part by the way she loved to shop" he replied. "What's the harm in that?" she inquired. "Some of the members weren't as harmless. Olivia mentioned to me one time that a few of them had become obsessed with the willow tree, some of them even mediated under the big willow tree in the park. So I looked it up online and I discovered that the willow tree was commonly associated with witchcraft" he said, in hushed tones. "Oh my gosh! Did Liv know?" she replied. "No, I didn't want to worry her. I did tell her to get out fast though" he explained. "Did she?" asked she. "She said she did, but I was never sure, Olivia always thought she was invincible" he answered.
They sat silent for a while, both feeling leery. "Did you tell the police?" she asked abruptly. "Yes, but not all of it" he told her. "Well what did you leave out?" she questioned, leaning slightly closer to him. Knock! Knock! They jumped at the noise nearly knocking the benches over. Sophie hurried to unlock the door. It was June Hamilton. "Hi Sophie!" she greeted her. "Hey! It's good to see you" Sophie responded friendly. June then noticed Ian on the bench in the back of the room. She waved at him warmly, and he smiled in return. "Are you gonna be in choir tomorrow night?" inquired June. "Uh, yeah, as long as it's after tomorrow's search party" Sophie replied with a nod of her head. "That's good" June encouraged. "I kinda have to use the bathroom" she explained. "Oh, sorry" Sophie said, as she backed up in the room. "It's okay" June said as she opened the door to the bathroom.
Once he heard the door lock Ian stood up to approach Sophie. "I guess we'll talk later" he said, motioning toward the bathroom. "Good idea". She started to leave, but before she did she turned back. "I'll be praying for you. And your family" she reassured him. "Thanks Soph" he said with a melancholy smile. She lingered for only a moment, and then she glided down the hall.
The search had proved to be fruitless. It seemed as if they knew less than when they started. No one dared to bring up the shirt. Not so much because they were worried it might upset someone. They just weren't ready for anymore bad news. Mr.Webb canceled the search for the next day, he thought everyone needed a little break. More emotionally than physically.
It was the next day and Sophie had just arrived at church. She had turned off her car and was reaching over in the passenger seat for her purse and choir book when she heard a loud rap on her window. Startled at first she turned around and was relieved to see June, again. She smiled and got out of the car. "Hey, sorry if I scared you" June apologized while Sophie locked the car. "Don't worry about it! I'm just glad it was you" Sophie responded as they made their way to the church doors. "Yeah, with everything that's happened I've definitely learned to be more cautious" agreed June.
"If you don't mind me asking why were you and Ian in the student lounge with the door locked?" June questioned. Sophie could feel her cheeks starting to burn scarlet, the way they always did when someone confronted her about something suspiciously. "Well, you know, he was upset about his sister and he didn't want anyone to just walk in and see him like that" Sophie fibbed. June seemed to roll the idea over a little bit in her mind. "Oh" she finally said. "Don't tell him I told you" Sophie said with urgency. "Oh I won't, I promise" June assured her with her understanding smile.
Soon enough they were inside. Once inside they started to walk to the choir room. Then something quite peculiar caught Sophie's eye. It was Dean talking to Rev.Grant. Sophie didn't notice but she stood there for a long time just staring at the two. Dean didn't look like himself, he looked, pale, almost ghost like. Rev.Grant put his hand on Dean's shoulder, as if comforting him.
Was he really taking Olivia's disappearance this hard. It's not like they hated each other, but they were in no way close. "Sophie?" June interrupted Sophie's thoughts. "Yeah?" Sophie exclaimed. "Everything okay?" June asked, clearly worried. "Of course! It's just um, have you ever seen Dean here before?" Sophie inquired, as she pointed in Dean's direction. June studied Dean's image for a second, taking it all in. "No. I don't think I have. I didn't even know he was interested in church" June replied with a confused expression.
Finally Rev.Grant and Dean said their goodbyes and Dean scampered out the door. "I'm gonna go see if he's okay, I'll see you in choir" Sophie said to June before darting out the door after him. When she spotted him he was in his car. She waved to him to get his attention. But once she did he took one look at her, turn his car on, and sped off.