Bryson jumped at the touch. “What the fuck man?! You couldn’t just come up in front of me?” As Bryson turned around he saw a slight smile on Ian’s face as though Ian wanted to laugh but couldn’t bring himself to. He looked different than the Ian Bryson knew growing up. He was more muscular, but his face was gaunt, lines of age and chipped away at the youthful exterior Bryson had once knew; the youthful glee that had once gripped his face was replaced by a weariness far beyond his years.
“I’m sorry, I couldn’t risk you running in the opposite direction if I just walked out in front of you,” Ian answered. “Since it’s not well lit here I figured that was the best way to keep you from leaving.” The thought that went into Ian’s movements disturbed Bryson even further. Why was he putting so much thought into this? Was he in trouble? Was he thinking of himself or Bryson when he came up with a meeting place and all of these security measures?
“What the hell is going on here?” Bryson asked. And then it all exploded out of him: “It’s been ten years Ian, ten fucking years! Do you know how many times I’ve thought about contacting you? Millions, I mean we were best friend since we were four; that was fourteen years! Do you know why I never contacted you? The last time I looked you in the face you were taking up my place in Julie’s bed you asshole; and now you come to me in the middle of the night after not speaking for years because you want something from me? You need my help? Why didn’t you think of that when you fucked Julie?! And then you start pulling this cloak and dagger routine like you expect me to buy the fact that you’re actually in danger so you can… I don’t know get me to loan you money or whatever. Well, fuck it man, I don’t owe you shit! You owe me!”
Ian was silent for a few moments just staring at Bryson. Bryson couldn’t tell if he was dumbstruck or choosing his next words wisely, either way he didn’t like the silence. Finally Ian spoke, “I know, I owe you a lot of things, mostly explanations. We don’t have time for me to explain them all, but first off I want you know that I never meant for things to go this far, to last this long, and I’ve thought about reaching out to you but certain circumstances have prevented me from doing so. I’m sorry for that. I wish I could tell you more, but right now I can’t give you too much information. Right now I need your help.”
Bryson struggled for a moment to grasp the meaning behind all of this. “What could have been so important to keep you away for so long?”
“I can’t get into that right now, besides the less you know the better,” Ian responded.
“No, goddammit! If you want me to help you then you’re going to tell me why I should help you now!”
“I can’t Bryson, it’s too dangerous.”
“Then that is it, I can’t help you with something I know nothing about. If you really want my help then you will tell me why I should help you not just how I can help you.” Ian turned his head away in the darkness and kept quiet. “Fine, there’s your answer,” Bryson finally said, “I’m leaving, you can figure this out on your own.” Bryson stepped past Ian and began to walk up the path the way he came.
“I’m CIA, Bryson,” Ian called after him. Bryson stopped in his tracks and turned around.
He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. CIA? No, Ian was just messing with him to try to get him to listen. He couldn’t really be CIA, could he? “There’s a pool down the trail a little bit…”
“Yeah, I saw it when I was checking out the area.”
“Before you tell me anymore we’re going to go up there and you’re going to prove it to me.”
“Ok, but time’s running out.” Together they walked toward the parking lot outside the pool. Bryson tried not to look at Ian on the way there. He felt he had the upper hand and he didn’t want to lose that by showing any further sign of weakness. “Remember that time we snuck onto Draa Field and played football before getting caught?” Ian asked.
“Yeah,” Bryson responded curtly.
“I keep going back to that day in my mind. That and the day they found that ten foot gator hangin’ out in the creak by your house. We had some good times back then.”