It was the last party of the summer, and no one would ever forget that weekend. We were “The Gang of Three.” That’s what most folks called us—all for one and one for all.
Shelby, Peter, and me, Ryan. We grew up together in Hickstown, USA. There used to be more of us, but life happened, and folks moved on, taking their kids with them.
Weekend summer parties were always a thing, but the parties got further apart as I worked in my dad’s grocery store and college for Shelby and Peter next fall. We knew the next bash would be our last.
We’d decided that the most appropriate place for our last party was the old swimming hole, where we had our first gathering at age twelve.
The fishing hut was still there, so I stashed the cooler cases of beer and food under the shade and finished clearing off the old rickety dock. Safe enough if you were careful and sober, which I doubt any of us would be soon.
We asked Becky and Lynn, who hung around with us in the early days, to join us. Becky arrived first, wearing a floppy hat to tame her wild red mane. I still had dreams about her and that hair.
Becky and I cleaned up the rest of the area and set out the folding chairs we found in the fishing hut. Shelby and Peter showed up around noon, followed by Lynn. She said she almost didn’t come but decided what the heck.
I hadn’t seen Lynn in a couple of years since she transferred to a different high school, but one look brought back memories of a night at the swimming hole. One night, we never talked about again.
Soon the beer was flowing, and the food consumed. Talk ranged from hijinks of our youth to stories about our families until we fell silent. Each of us was afraid to say what was on our minds.
Old Man Harper. He’d disappeared without a trace five years ago. I glanced at Shelby and Peter.
“Harper.” There I’d said it.
We knew what had happened to him. Peter played with his beer bottle, not looking up, and Becky and Lynn glanced at each other.
Peter sighed. “We should tell.”
“It’s been five years. No one remembers him.” Shelby glared at Peter, then me.
“His son mentions him every time he stops at the grocery. Lots of people wonder about what really happened to him.”
“Will they believe us?” Becky took another swallow to build her strength.
“Hell. I don’t know. It was self-defense. He was going to….” Shelby looked at Lynn.
“Maybe anonymous call to say where he’s at,” Becky suggested.
“That could’ve worked then, but now, they can trace anything.” Peter held up his phone.
“Hell no, can be traced too.”
Shelby shook his head. “We need to tell the police that Harper attacked Lynn and Ryan and that we arrived in time to stop it, and Harper fell into the lake and drowned.”
I found some twigs, and we drew straws. One of us would tell.
The following morning, I went to the police station to confess what happe