Brown Suit drove past me, into the driveway and then around the back of his house, the vehicle disappearing from my immediate view. I wandered off a little more to the south and could see some faint motion back in the trees, and then another building into which the vehicle drove. A few minutes later Brown Suit was walking toward me, a good one hundred yards away still but his voice was right in my ear.
“What do you want?”
I waved feebly in his direction. “Hi, I’m just checking out something I thought I heard. It seemed to come from this direction.”
“A voice, a kid’s voice, kind of shouting like kids do when they play. Is there one around here?”
The slightest tick had whisked across Brown Suit’s face when I mentioned the child but it faded quickly and did not return.
“No children here.”
“You sure about that? I’m really sure that I heard it, pretty clear too, and it was definitely coming from somewhere down this road.”
“I told you that there ain’t no kids around here. These woods play tricks with sound all the time. You probably heard something from far away just echoing around. Happens all the time.”
“So where are these kids then? Where do they live if they aren’t here? I’ve been around this place a bit and haven’t seen many houses nearby, especially any close enough for sounds to carry over here. Or any children.” I realized as I spoke that I was standing like an old-time Western gunslinger, feet spread apart and hands on my hips. It really did feel like a showdown as I was certain about what I had heard.
“You’ve been in these parts a few days and you know everyone here? You really are some kind of detective aren’t you? I told you, there ain’t no kids.” That last sentence was loud in my ear, almost screeching in it’s tone. My head twisted a little in shock, instinctively turning away from a sound that it really could not avoid. I shook my head and replied.
“I know what I heard. I’ll find that kid.”
“Don’t threaten me, boy,” Brown Suit angrily answered back. Then he spun around and walked quickly into his house. I turned to look west, contemplating my next move and was greeted by a fierce but distance stare.
Standing out on the road, parallel with the location of Shotgun’sproperty, was an older man, about six and a half feet tall and wearing what appeared to be very dark blue overalls. He stood there, ramrod straight, with his thumbs hooked into the place on the overalls where the bib fastens at the front. He was staring right at me with dark eyes, a look that was clearly challenging even at the distance we stood apart. He had long grey hair and a bushy beard, one that cascaded down his chest in various shades of white. Shaking my head to clear it I shouted a greeting at him but he did not reply, remaining as he was and continuing to stare me down. I took a look back at the old building on Brown Suit’s property that had caught my eye, the one with the flash of red, and then I started walking up toward Mr. Overalls. As soon as I did so he turned and walked off the road, into the driveway of the garage I had seen with all of the automotive parts piled inside of it. I kept walking and so did he, passing by that garage, and the house it was attached to, finally disappearing through a break in the cedar bushes that surrounded that neat, split-level brick house which I had seen on my first trip down Cemetery Road. This was the man from that house apparently, the one set far back off the road and wrapped in a strange aura of secrecy. That intrigued me and I stopped in the road, right where he had been standing and staring at me, shouting after him that I just wanted to ask a few questions. I still could not see him but several seconds later a door slammed from the general direction of that house and I stopped yelling to consider what to do.
There was obviously another property between me and the split-level brick house, and I also had Shotgun’s place directly behind me. I glanced over that way and was relived to find that so far all my shouting had not brought him, or anyone else, out to check on what was going on. I did not feel much like risking any kind of trespassing violation, especially in light of the “Beware of Attack Dog” sign posted on the garage full of auto parts. It looked like an old sign, faded and with broken corners, but around here it seemed possible that warnings like that were meant to apply forever. Resolving to come back tomorrow after my hike to the mine I walked back up the road toward my truck.
I awoke the next morning to the slightly disconcerting sight of Reverend Currie standing off to the side of my truck bed. He smiled back at me as I sat up.
“Good morning! I figured you wanted to get started early, and I always try to hike before the sun gets too high in the sky, so here I am.” He smiled at me again, almost too nicely.
“How long have you been standing there?’
“About forty-five minutes.” That just seemed odd to me, to stand there instead of maybe leaving a note for me, or going for a short walk and then coming back to see if I was up yet. Why would you just lurk there? That train of thought gave me the creeps so I buried it.
“Ok, give me a few minutes to try to get myself together.” As I pulled my boots on I caught a whiff of myself, a rank odor that made me realize a shower was going to be needed very soon, today really. I definitely felt the grubbiness of the last few days all over me. Lacing up my boots I asked the reverend for a favor.
“You have a place I could grab a shower later on? Like maybe at your office?”
He smiled at me yet again. That was getting pretty irritating but his answer was better than expected. “Yes, actually I do. Because there have been so many ministers in and out of this place over the years, my office has a small apartment attached to it. I don’t use it, but there is a working bathroom in there. You’re welcome to it whenever you care to use it.”
“Thanks,” I replied and then stuffed a few granola bars and three bottles of water in a small backpack. “Let’s go check out that mine.”
…to be continued