Joey Laine hasn’t had it easy. At twenty-three, he’s the sole caretaker of his beloved grandma, and the mystery of his father’s disappearance still haunts them both after almost six years. Joey has gotten used to his solitude, and the way he sees colors fading from the world around him. Nothing has shaken his routines in years.
When he gets a call from Owen Henderson who says that he and his brother run a YouTube channel called Diving4Truth, everything changes. Owen wants to search the river that serpentines around Joey's town, because sometimes missing people end up closer than anyone thinks.
Letting Owen and his family come to film their search is one thing. Realizing the instant, insane chemistry between himself and Owen is a whole other ballgame. For the first time in his life, Joey feels that spark he’s only heard about before.
But things just aren’t that simple for someone like Joey. What if feeling the sort of acceptance Owen has shown so far is too much to bear after he’s left for the next dive? And what if they do find Joey’s dad? What if they don’t?
When I clicked on one of the newer videos with SOLVED in the title, I wasn’t prepared to what I’d see.
To begin with, there were two handsome, bearded guys sitting on a pile of pallets against a backdrop of green fields and a sliver of blue sky.
I grabbed my headphones, put them on in a way that left one ear free to listen for Nana, and pressed play again.
“Welcome guys, back to Diving4Truth,” the guy on the right said, smiling slightly. He had a beard instead of stubble like the guy next to him. “I’m Liam Henderson, and this is my brother Owen.”
“Hi, everyone!” Owen said in that soft, raspy voice I’d heard on the phone. His smile was more timid, his but his eyes were as sharp and friendly as his brother’s.
“We’re here in Texas, because we got a tip from a viewer about a missing persons case in the area.”
“On September 10, 1985, a twenty-one-year-old mother Cynthia Willis went missing after going for a drive in the middle of the night ...”
I stared at Owen as he recapped the case. The man was gorgeous in an understated way. Later in the video while the guys and their crew ready to start combing down a reservoir, I watched as the brothers stood side by side on the shore and felt my mouth go dry.
While Liam had that almost sort of beary energy, with his bigger body and longer beard, Owen was ... well, if I could’ve said what my dream guy looked like, he would’ve been it. Shit. I’d be in so much trouble if I let them come to town.
I watched the first video where they found the woman’s vehicle with her remains inside in a deep part of an unassuming looking river only miles from her home instead of the reservoir. They interviewed the relatives only a little, and they all seemed moved and happy to have closure.
“This is why we do what we do.” Owen looked from a distance as the gathered family members embraced one another while the coroner’s van left the riverside. “It’s not necessarily easy and it’s certainly not cheap, but sometimes we think that if we didn’t do it, nobody would.” He turned to look at the camera. “We know that there are other teams like us, and we all do our best with the equipment and time we have. And like I’ve said before, that’s what it boils down to, equipment, time, and funding. That’s why so many of these cases are still open when the authorities don’t have the means to look for them.”
He smiled sadly and then sighed, his shoulders dropping as he tugged off his ball cap and ran his fingers through surprisingly long hair. “We wanted to thank you guys for all the donations and joining our Patreon for the extra content. It all helps us immensely when we figure out where to go and who we can help. Most of the families can’t contribute to the funding, as they’re all regular people like you and me. So all donations are more than welcome. Even one buck is the beginning of making a difference and, hopefully, finding out the truth.”
He looked so earnest that I found myself smiling. Owen was clearly awkward having to ask for funding like this. It spoke volumes about the kind of man he was.
I watched a couple of more videos, then went to find another diving channel that did similar work. The crew was older and clearly a bit jaded, but they, too, had found some missing people. I felt oddly shook when one of their videos showed them pulling out an old Toyota from Rock River.
The river that curled around my town and divided it in a couple of places was a smaller offshoot of Rock River. I listened to the guys talk about how muddy and hard to dive in Rock River was, and how many people went missing around my part of the state.
Logically, I’d known that, of course. When dad vanished, I’d done some research on that to deal with the pain of the situation. I just hadn’t realized that the rivers and other water sources could be such a big deal. Well, maybe they weren’t, really. People died in various ways all the time and only few went into the muddy depths of Rock River. It was just that I had overlooked this, and I ... hated the thought.