True to his word, Sid took me to Aj. We found him at a campground down the road from my house. I’d heard of this place before. It was where the homeless and runaways passing through town slept.
I bravely walked up to a group of people crowded around the fire pit and asked if anyone knew Aj. One of them pointed to a tent a few feet away. “He should be in there.” Sid said he saw someone he knew and hung back. Just as I marched up to zippered enclosure, the flap dropped to the ground and a man emerged from it.
It was him.
Aj stared at me in shock for a moment. It was like he’d seen a ghost. “I thought you were her. But you’re softer. More innocent looking.” He made me sound like a saint or something but I ignored it. Then with a hopeful expression he asked, “Has there been any news of her?” I shook my head. “No, I’m sorry. I have a few questions to ask you…if that’s okay?” He nodded. “Were you her boyfriend?” He smiled with a faraway look in his eyes. “Jennie didn’t like to put a label on anything but yeah. I loved her though. More than anything. I haven’t been the same since she’s been gone.” I was hard not to believe him. “Me either.” I whispered.
I still had to ask him though.
“Were you hurting her?” An incredulous expression passed over his face. “Never.” He spat. “And I would’ve killed anyone who laid a hand on her.” He seemed so sincere but sometimes nothing is as it seems. I narrowed my eyes at him and asked, “Why didn’t you come forward after she disappeared? You and Stella were the last ones to see her.” He looked confused. “I didn’t want to draw any attention to myself because of the drugs…we were running them for Stella. But I’m clean now.” He stared down at his feet. “Anyways…I wasn’t the last one to see Jennie that day.”
“She got a phone call.” Aj paused and glanced at me nervously. “Then she left in a hurry. She told me she had to go back home.”