“What? Are you sure?”
He nodded his head firmly in reply but I kept questioning him.
“I mean, I can see that this whole thing freaked you out, that’s obvious. But are you sure you really heard a little girl calling out to you? Isn’t it way more likely that you just heard some weird effect of the wind? Or maybe your mind just made it up because it was so silent when you were standing there? You know, the whole idea that your imagination can come up with anything it wants to and convince you that it’s real?”
He just shook his head back and forth and I started in on the questions once again. I had only uttered a single word though before he stood up and grabbed the front of my shirt. His hands were cold and his breath smelled like alcohol of course, but also like raisins, which is the thing that stuck in my mind. His blue eyes were bloodshot but focused as he spoke.
“I know what I heard in there, I know it and swear to it. That voice was clear as a bell, soft but a little worried, like she was just figuring out that she did not know the way back. There was no wind and no mind tricks. It was a little girl!” He spat those last words at me and then sank back into his chair. I was too shocked to immediately reply, wiping my face off with a handkerchief I pulled from the inside pocket of my denim jacket. We both sat there, me lost in my thoughts about the reverend’s story, until he took a series of deep breaths and spoke again.
“And I know who it was too.”
I shook myself back into the immediate moment, unsure of what he had said. “Excuse me?”
“I know whose voice is was, or at least I’m pretty sure I do.”
“You know who the little girl is? How is that possible?”
“I think it was a girl that went missing from here a few years ago, before I got here obviously, but the previous reverend, well he mentioned it.”
I could hardly believe what I was hearing as it sounded almost too good to be true. Some actual information was about to be disclosed.
“So, who is she?”
“I’m not sure of her name or anything like that. He never told me, just mentioned it as an event in the community that I should be aware of. He also cautioned me never to bring it up on my own, which I thought sounded a bit paranoid. That was before I knew the people here of course, or the culture. It makes perfect sense now.”
I sighed in disappointment. “So, you really have not idea who she is?”
“Not specifically, no.”
“Wait a minute. Someone tells you that a young girl has gone missing from a place but you don’t ask any questions about it? You don’t get any other information?”
“I tried but he wouldn’t say anything else. And once he had said it, I think he regretted it, mostly because I did ask so many questions. In the end he just gave me that warning and said that he was leaving.” He poured the last of the whiskey and stood up, waving the bottle at me. “I suppose I should have asked if you wanted some, but then there would have been less for me. Now leave me alone.” He started walking back toward what I assumed was the entrance to the apartment he had mentioned. I called after him.
“Can I still take a shower here?”
“I thought you never used that apartment?”
“Well, I’m using it today. Leave.” After that he stepped through a green door and closed it behind him. I heard a deadbolt being thrown and was not sure if this was because he thought I really would follow him, or just because he did not want anyone else finding him passed out drunk later. I left the church and started to walk back toward my truck, the new information I had obtained jumping around in my mind. Despite the lack of specifics about the girl I really felt like I was getting somewhere.
What to do next though was unclear to me. I thought about going to the local police and seeing if they had any information about this missing girl, but was not sure if they would be willing to help me. I also worried about what they might think of why I was so interested. Then the idea struck me that it must have been reported in the newspaper and a search at some library in the area might uncover some information. It could some time but I had plenty of that to spare. There was of course also the option of trying to get more information out of the Clyde Forks locals. I laughed a bit at myself as I considered that. I had not proven to be very good at extracting information so far, at least not without voluntary binge drinking being involved. The library seemed like the best option and I decided to try it out the next day, which was Saturday. Hopefully they would be open. I jumped into my truck and moved it so that I was parked on the side of Cemetery Road, right at the intersection with Clyde Forks Road, and resolved to sit there for the remainder of the evening and just observe the activity. I was also hoping to hear a repeat of the child-like noises I had heard the evening before so I rolled my window down and settled in.
An hour rolled past without anything happening, then two hours, a general weariness creeping over me. I also realized how very hungry I felt, and also that I had not eaten very well since my arrival in the area. My limited trip food, which I had packed into two coolers, was either eaten or spoiled and I had not done anything about replacing it. In addition, I smelled truly terrible and knew that the solution to all of these problems was to find a motel. Grabbing a pamphlet of information I had picked up before my trip I located the nearest one that had a restaurant nearby. Reluctantly, but also with a great sense of anticipation about being clean, full and rested, I put my truck in gear and headed out.
…to be continued