MidReal Story

Secrets of Willow Creek

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I stood at the window in the lobby of our small Willow Creek police station, staring out at the empty street.
It had been three days since our mayor went missing, and I was at my wit’s end.
A chill ran down my spine, and I hugged my arms around me tightly.
James came up behind me and wrapped his arms around me.
“It’ll be okay, Emma,” he whispered.
“We’ll find him.”
But what if we don’t?”
I turned to him, my voice barely a whisper.
We’d searched the entire town, and there was still no sign of him.
I’d spoken with everyone who might possibly have some idea where he could be and come up with nothing.
No one had even seen him since three days ago, when he’d closed down the bar with his best friend.
There were no signs of a struggle in his home, and all of his personal belongings were still there.
It was like he’d vanished into thin air.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, there weren’t even any leads as to what might have happened to him.
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No ransom demands, no suspicious vehicles or people in town.
The worst part of it all, though, was how completely unhelpful everyone was being.
It was like the entire town had banded together to keep me from finding him.
I knew that couldn’t be true, that it was just a coincidence, but it was frustrating nonetheless.
“Come on, let’s get out there and see what we can find.”
James squeezed my shoulders gently before leading me back out to the cruiser so we could go door-to-door one more time.
I’d already questioned everyone in town at least three times, but I had nothing else to go on, so we would start over once again.
We spent hours canvassing the town, searching everywhere we could think of for any sign of our missing mayor.
By the time I finally gave up and headed home, I was exhausted and on the verge of tears, but still determined to find him no matter what it took.
The mayor had been a good friend of mine for as long as I could remember, and I would do anything in my power to help him.
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It had been four days since the mayor went missing, and I was starting to lose hope.
We’d searched the entire town, looked into every possible lead, and questioned everyone who might know what had happened to him, but so far, we had nothing to go on.
The people in town were starting to lose hope, as well, and I could see it in the faces of the few volunteers who had shown up at the station that day compared to the hundreds who had been there just days earlier.
I wasn’t sure how much longer I could keep this up, but I knew I had to try for Emma’s sake.
She was determined to find the mayor, and I would do anything in my power to help her, no matter how impossible it seemed.
I sighed as I sat at my desk, rubbing my hands over my face tiredly as I tried to think of something else we could try.
Anything was better than sitting around doing nothing.
I shook my head before I stood and grabbed my jacket from the back of my chair, knowing that Emma was probably already on her way home and I didn’t want to leave her waiting for me after everything she’d been through already.
“You’re heading out?”
Emma looked up at me from where she was packing up her bag.
“Yeah, I don’t think there’s anything else we can do tonight.”
“It doesn’t feel like we’ve done anything at all,” she muttered.
I frowned and walked over to stand in front of her.
I knew how hard she’d been working to find the mayor, but sometimes these things took time.
It had only been four days, after all.
“We’ve done everything we can for now,” I replied gently.
“Come on, I’ll walk you out.”
I waited for Emma to lock up behind us before we headed out to our cars.
“Are you sure you don’t want a ride home?
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I don’t want you to have to walk alone at night.”
“I’m fine,” Emma replied with a small smile.
“I’ll call you if anything happens.”
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I watched as she climbed into her car and drove off before I got into mine and headed home.
I was sitting on my couch, trying to stay awake as I read through the same reports for the third time that day when my phone went off.
At first, I didn’t think much of it and tried to ignore it in favor of getting some sleep, but when it went off again just a few seconds later, I knew it was important.
I reached for my phone and read the message with growing excitement.
“What is it?”
James asked as he came into the living room and sat down beside me.
“I’m not sure,” I replied with a frown.
“It’s a text message from a number I don’t recognize…”
“Is it about the mayor?”
I knew he was trying not to get his hopes up too much, just in case it turned out to be nothing, but it was hard not to when it felt like we were grasping at straws.
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I nodded and handed my phone over to him.
Emma, this is going to sound crazy, but I think the town council is responsible for the mayor’s disappearance.
He found something out and they wanted him gone.
I know you’re close with him, but please be careful.
If they took matters into their own hands once, they might be willing to do it again if they find out he told someone.
I wish I could tell you more.
Stay safe.
I could see the realization dawning on James’ face as he read the message again and again until finally he looked up at me with wide eyes.
“What are you going to do?”
I asked after a moment.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean…are you going to follow up on it?”
I bit my lip as I watched him read the message a few more times before he finally nodded.
James and I sat in his car on the outskirts of town.
We’d followed up on every lead we’d found over the past few days and had come up empty-handed each time.
This was our last resort, and if nothing came of it, we’d have to go back to the drawing board.
I watched as James typed out a quick message on his phone and hit send before we sat in silence and waited for a reply.
The street was dark and quiet; everything was still and peaceful as if none of the chaos that had consumed us over the past few days had ever happened.
But as my mind drifted back to the message I’d received late one night just a few days ago, it was hard to believe that this small town I’d lived in my whole life could be hiding something so sinister.
If what that person said was true—and unfortunately it sounded all too plausible—that would mean the mayor’s disappearance was about more than just a missing person case.
It was about corruption within the government at a local level.
I could feel the chill in the air, but it had nothing to do with the weather.
It was the kind of cold that seeped into your bones and never quite left, no matter how hard you tried to warm up.
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And as we sat there in silence, waiting for a response, I couldn’t shake the feeling that we were getting in over our heads.
But it was too late to turn back now.
The buzzing of my phone broke through the silence, and my heart raced in my chest as I reached for it.
“Where are we going?”
James asked when he saw me climbing into his car.
I gave him a small smile as I buckled my seatbelt and settled in beside him.
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I was sitting at home, trying to relax after a long day, when I got the message.
I don’t know what else it was about that message that had set off something inside me.
Maybe it was the tone, or the timing, but for some reason, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that whatever this was, it was important.
I stared down at my phone screen, reading the message over and over again until finally I clicked on the photo that was attached.
The image was grainy and dimly lit, but I could still make out what was happening—two people standing together in the shadows of an alleyway.
I didn’t recognize either of them, but that didn’t matter.
What mattered was finding out who they were and what they knew.
My phone buzzed again, and I jumped, startled by the sudden noise.
I tapped on the new message and felt a jolt of hope shoot through me when I saw that it was from the same number as before.
You need to go somewhere safe.
Can you meet me at town hall?
I stared down at my phone screen in disbelief.
Could this be real?
I had no idea who this person was or what they wanted from me, but I knew one thing for sure—if there was even a chance this could lead us to the mayor, then I was willing to take that risk.
I’m at the station.
Can you tell me where the mayor is?
I waited for a response, my heart pounding in my chest as I stared down at the screen.
I didn’t know what to expect or if I’d hear back at all.
After a moment without a reply, I turned to James and handed him my phone.
“Who is it?”
I shook my head.
I don’t know.
They said I need to go to the town hall alone.
Something about how this is the only lead that needs to be followed.”
James read the message and furrowed his brow in confusion.
“What do you think it means?”
“I have no idea,” I said with a sigh.
“But I think we should check it out.
It’s not like we have any other leads right now anyway.”
I watched James’ expression change as he thought things over.
He looked at me with a hint of sadness in his eyes and gave me a small nod.
“Okay, let’s go then.”
I met James’ gaze, and the look in his eyes told me that he was thinking the same thing I was.
If we didn’t find the mayor soon, it might be too late.
I grabbed my coat from the back of my chair and slung it over my shoulders, wrapping it tight around myself as I followed James out the door.
We made our way down the hall in silence, lost in our own thoughts as we headed toward the exit.
The message on my phone buzzed again, but I didn’t bother looking at it this time.
My mind was already racing with a million different questions, and the only way to get answers was to go to the town hall and see what—or who—was waiting for us there.
James’ gaze flicked to me as he pulled out of the parking lot and onto the road and I shifted in my seat, feeling a little uncomfortable under his scrutiny.
“Are you okay?”
he asked after a moment.
I nodded slowly.
“I don’t know,” I said finally.
I just…have a bad feeling about this.”
James’ brow furrowed as he thought things over for a moment.
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