Like a warring enemy though, an antithetical thought popped into his head just as his mind was made up: Ian filling up Bryson’s space in Julie’s bed. After all these years that image was seared in Bryson’s memory and he couldn’t erase it. He was almost to Colburn Park and anger and hate sprouted where forgiveness had stood merely a moment ago. He would not forgive Ian and he would not help Ian no matter what it was. If it weren’t for Ian he would probably be in a better place right now, he would probably be leading a better life with a better job and with Julie by his side. Whether any of that would have come true or not might have been a matter of conjecture, but all Bryson knew was that Ian had robbed him of any opportunity of finding out if something could have come from their plans and this was the first time he could really punish him for it.
Bryson parked outside the park and turned the engine of his car off. He wish he had brought a beer with him to chug back before having to meet Ian for the first time in years but the shock kept him from thinking things through properly. He heaved a sigh and rubbed at his face, his sense of nervousness displaying through his inability to stop fidgeting.
Finally he slowly opened the car door and stepped out. Quietly he shut the car door while looking for any sign of onlookers. He was quite sure the park was dead and empty, but Ian’s secrecy and paranoia was catching. Bryson made his way up to the pavilion but didn’t see Ian anywhere. Not knowing where Ian was contacting him from Bryson figured he could give him a few minutes to show up. Bryson found a picnic table under the pavilion, stepped up onto the bench and took a seat on the table top to wait.
To pass the time, Bryson pulled out his smartphone and started playing Angry Birds. Just as he was getting into the game a call came in from an unlisted number. Normally Bryson would just hit ignore, but since Ian hadn’t shown up and had already proved to be adept at finding him online that he should probably answer it in case the call was Ian.
“Hello?” Bryson answered the call.
“Are you alone? Is there anyone else around?” a voice answered on the other end.
“Yeah, is there anyone else around? I just need to know that you weren’t followed or anything.”
“I looked around when I got here and I didn’t see anyone.”
“Okay, you probably wouldn’t know what to look for anyway.”
Bryson thought to himself, What would I need to be looking for? But he didn’t say it out loud. “Where are you?”
“There’s a trail behind the pavilion…”
“Yeah, I know,” Bryson said getting a little irritated with the cloak and dagger routine.
“Follow it a little ways into the more wooded areas, try not to freak out; I’ll find you when you approach my position.”
Before Bryson could answer Ian hung up the phone. Things were really getting weird, and Bryson was half tempted to walk away, but morbid curiosity won out over his other instincts. This was no longer about his past with Bryson, he was more curious about what Ian had going on that was leading to such secrecy. He looked around one more time and walked to the trail behind the pavilion.
He walked quietly and slowly, not because he thought anyone was following or watching, but because the stillness of the night seemed to demand it. It had been a while since he had walked this path. Mike lived close to Colburn and when Bryson had first moved to Green Bay he would walk this trail to help keep himself in shape after his discharge from the military. It especially helped in the wake of his boot camp injury. As he got further and further away from boot though he exercised less and less and all but forgot about his walks in Colburn Park.
Now it all seemed foreign to him. He recalled those walks listening to his iPod and watching local middle school kids play bocce ball, but this seemed to be the bizzaro version of that world. Too quiet, too night, and there was too much Ian standing behind him tapping on his shoulder.