Many wild experiences have been had during our search for Austin, some that prove we'll do anything to find him, and this one that just may well prove that we're crazy. I will start off by saying it was all my mom's fault... well, it was her idea anyway.
A few months into Austin being gone, there had been possible sightings of him in a town near Gainesville. His photo had run in their small town paper and created a lot of buzz, and I believe, a lot of false sightings. But we had to follow them, had to look. We spent a lot of time there, staking out locations, searching state parks, and talking to anyone we saw.
One day, a call came in from a man who thought he might have seen Austin. Though he wasn't involved in drugs himself (so he said), he did do car repair work for some people who were known to, and he thought he might have seen Austin at one of these houses. He suggested that though we shouldn't visit any of these places ourselves, that if we really wanted to see if he was there, he would go with us. After all, he had kids and couldn't imagine one being missing, and he really wanted to help. Uh huh. Mom knew that this was probably a bad idea, potentially a really bad idea. But when your son is missing, you'll go anywhere. And when your mom will go anywhere, I guess you go with her.
Mom and I, along with a friend of Austin's and a guy she knew, left about 10pm. We took two vehicles, and went to the man's house, arriving about 11pm. We decided that a few people would go in the car that he would be riding in, and one would stay in another car a bit away to monitor what was happening and be available by cell. So we loaded up, and off we went. He seemed nice, and as he got in the car my mom was driving, he chatted about where we were, why he knew these people.... oh, and that we shouldn't go in and he'd be glad to but they'd be suspicious if he didn't have some money on him. So we gave him a bit of cash, pictures of Austin and set off. You wouldn't imagine how many of these sorts of houses exist in a small town. It blew me away. A few houses were dark and seemed empty, but a knock on the door would reveal someone rough looking who would look at Austin's photo and invite our 'friend' inside for a moment. I'm sure it was just for better light to look at his photo. A few seemed like party houses, with music and people milling about. I was terrified at one house when someone approached the car and asked what we needed. But mom calmly replied that someone was inside for what we needed and we'd be leaving in a minute. At each place we went, he did show the photo to every person around. We saw lots of heads shaking no, some looking at us with sad eyes. I wondered if any of them had someone searching for their faces in a crowd, or even in a drug house somewhere. Even if they weren't missing, someone somewhere was hurting for them for the life they were leading.
The night ended uneventful, with us never knowing what happened to the cash, and our friend never offering answers. He did follow through with what he said he would, taking us into places we couldn't have gone otherwise, and showing everyone he saw Austin's face. He kept some fliers and said he'd show more people, and you know, I think he probably did.
It wasn't our smartest move, and it could have ended badly. But desperate people do desperate things, and I'd do it again. Austin would have told us we were crazy, and he'd be right. But I'm pretty sure if I was the one gone, crazy or stupid wouldn't have stopped him either.