A/N: I do not own Longmire. The character is the property of both Craig Johnson for the original book series and A&E for the television program. I own the plot/original characters and nothing else.
Walt slammed the door of his SUV and strode purposefully towards the main double doors. Absaroka County High School, from the outside, had seen many a better day. The wall facing the open sports field had swathes of every imaginable Crayola color, remnants of half hearted attempts by the good folks of the community to eliminate the more vile graffiti. Even the main entryway, which could typically pass for presentable on any given day, was sporting a new softball-sized hole in one of the glass doors. Walt wasn't really noticing any of this; it was more like they were settling into his consciousness as he blazed his way to the main office.
A young woman was pulling her platinum blonde hair into an elastic while precariously balancing a pencil between her teeth when Walt knocked on the door jamb. She jumped, the elastic snapping shut and the pencil flying across the desk and onto the floor.
"Jesus Christ." She muttered and was already up and retrieving the pencil before she seemed to realize that she should probably greet the person who had so unceremoniously startled her. "Can I help you?" It was obvious that she was trying to keep her mask on, but the venom couldn't be hidden.
"Ma'am, my name is Sheriff Walt Longmire. I'm looking for one of your own teachers."
The woman's eyes bulged, but Walt wasn't sure if it was because of his title or the idea that he was looking for a member of the staff. He decided to chalk it up to his title and waited patiently as the woman retreated back to the safety of her desk.
"Sure. Um, may I ask who you're looking for?"
"Laura Rennison, if you don't mind."
"Okay. Just let me call down to be sure that she hasn't gone home yet." She reached for the phone on her desk and dialed an extension. After a few hushed words, she hung up and directed Walt towards Laura's classroom.
"Thank you for coming out, Sheriff." Laura Rennison pulled a plastic chair from out behind one of the front row desks and situated it in front of her own work station. "Honestly, I can only hope that it turns out to be a fool's errand."
"Well, I ain't no fool, Miss Rennison, so why don't you tell me what you told my deputy on the phone?"
The woman sighed, folding her hands on the desktop. "I know that it isn't my place." She stared down at her feet, as though she were still battling with whether or not she should share this information. "I have a student, a young man. His name's Brandon. He's been absent for the last two days and it just isn't like him. I don't think he's missed a day of school all year. I thought maybe it was something I had done, but I checked with the main office and he hasn't been in any of his classes, period."
"I see." Walt removed his hat and leaned forward in his chair. "Would Brandon have any reason to need to run?"
"Well, as far as I know, such a reason doesn't exist on school grounds. He's a sociable boy. But …" Laura let the thought drag out with another long sigh.
"Miss Rennison," Walt started, "if you truly are afraid for this boy, we need all of the information you have."
"That's just it. It isn't information, only rumors and whispers." Laura stood up, as though her worried frenzy needed the movement to escape. "I want my students to know that I trust them with their own lives but that, if they need anything, they can come to me. Brandon has never mentioned anything to me that would either prove or deny the things that people are saying. It could just be lies. Lord knows there are enough of those in a school anyway. But these sorts of accusations, they run deep."
"I'm afraid you aren't clearing things up so much as you're creating more questions, ma'am." It wasn't that Walt didn't believe the young teacher. From the way she was moving and speaking, he believed every word. This was not someone who would report a possible crime just for the limelight. This was someone who cared for the children she saw as being in her care, even if it were only for eight hours five days a week.
Laura bit her bottom lip and stood still for a moment. "There has been … talk that Brandon's home life may not be … safe. I really don't know how else to put it. It's only the father and three boys, and I never want to seem as though I'm distrustful of single parents. But something has always been off about the way he talks about his family. I've long thought he may have been holding back, but I can't make him tell me anything. Again, it may only be rumors. You're the sheriff. You would probably know better than anyone if there was any substance to them."
Walt stood up now. "You said this young man has been gone from school for two days?"
"Yes, sir. He was in class on Friday but I haven't seen him since."
"Does he have a last name?"
"Caldwell. You know, someone you should talk to is Alexis Marlowe. She and Brandon have been attached at the hip as long as I've been teaching them." She must have noticed the slight widening of his eyes, as she furrowed her brows together. "I'm sorry, did I say something?"
"No, ma'am. Just my own thoughts."
Laura looked skeptical but shook his hand and thanked him for coming by. "As I said before, Sheriff, I can only pray that this turns out to have been nothing to concern you with."
Back out in the silence of the truck, Walt sat in the driver's seat, the radio in his hand. It seemed childish to be so seriously considering sending one of his deputies on an errand that he could easily do himself. There were very few things that made Walt Longmire nervous, but for the last year, that young woman had been one of them.
"I read you, Walt. What can I help you with?"
"I need you to send Vic out to the high school to talk to a student."
"Is this about the lady who called this morning? I thought you already went out to talk to her about that."
"Ruby. Just ask Vic for me, would you, please?"
"Yes, sir. Can I give her a name to go by?"
"Alexis Marlowe. The front office told me that she should be at a sports practice for the next couple of hours, so she shouldn't be too hard to find."
"Oh. Oh, yes, I see. I'll tell her, Walt."
"Thanks, Ruby. I'll be back around soon."