I drove slowly over there, thinking about how I was going to approach him if he was home. I had quite a few questions for him running through my mind and I realized that asking them could easily elicit a hostile response. Brown Suit had not seemed that friendly even at the best of times. My interrogating him about the strange things in Clyde Forks, and more specifically about his own behavior, was probably not going to improve his mood. Still, I felt that I needed to do it.
As I turned onto Cemetery Road I slowed down even more, my thoughts switching to the mention of an Otto Clements who had been reported as living on this road. It seemed probable that he still lived there and I was hoping to find his name on one of the mailboxes that lined the road. That, however, turned out to be yet another odd thing about the place, as not one of them had even an address on the side. I had not noticed it before but all of those mailboxes looked the same, the standard model you might imagine and either black or green in color. Only one had any kind of identifying mark on it, a faded sticker of a Canadian flag attached to Shotgun’s box. As I pulled up at the end of the road, off to the side of Brown Suit’s driveway, he opened his side door and stood there looking at me. I walked over and put on my friendliest face.
“Hello! I was hoping that you would be home. Do you have a few minutes to talk?”
He was not wearing his fedora and his hair looked slightly disheveled. He scratched at his long scar as he replied.
“About what, boy?”
“Well, you asked me before if I liked history and this place, well, I have questions about it that I thought you might be able to help me with. You seem to know a lot about things around here.” I thought appealing to his vanity might work. I waited as he stared at me, still scratching at his scar. Finally he turned around and walked inside, calling, “Fine, come in,” over his shoulder. Once we were seated at the table, again with glasses of water, he spoke.
“What is it that you want to know?”
I took a deep breath before starting, wondering how far I would get before he became angry and threw me out.
“Does someone live here with you?”
“Why do you care?” he growled back, his voice as always sounding right inside my ear.
“I’m just wondering I guess, it’s just a getting to know you kind of a question.”
“What’s your next one?”
Strike one for me I thought before going on. “You told me that the mine was thirty miles away. I found out that was not true and that it really is just a few miles from your house here. Why lie to me about that?”
“I thought it was obvious that you shouldn’t go there but you weren’t listening. I was trying to protect you.”
“From what?” I replied.
“Danger naturally.” Brown Suit was answering calmly now, his voice softer than when we started.
“I went there you know, with the reverend, and nothing happened. I’m here, all safe and sound.”
“That doesn’t mean you weren’t in danger.”
“Again, from what?”
He just looked back at me with a face that was serious and also sympathetic, like I was too stupid to understand what I was facing. He stayed silent so I continued.
“You know, I followed you one day, out toward Mississippi Mills. Past it a bit, onto that dirt road.” I paused, figuring that would get some kind of reaction but Brown Suit just sat there with that same look on his face. “And then you walked back into the woods and released that rabbit. What was that all about? What is your whole rabbit collection in your backyard here all about?”
He leaned forward, elbows on the table, before speaking. “You had no business following me around, boy. What I do is not your concern, or wasn’t any of your concern anyway until you decided to stick your nose into it. You want answers? Do you want to understand something about this place? Do you really want to learn something?” His face had darkened as he spoke, eyes seeming to glow in the deep recesses of his face. He repeated himself. “Do you really want to understand?”
I nodded but that was apparently not enough, as Brown Suit continued to look at me silently, a demanding scowl on his face. I spoke softly. “Yes.”
“Fine then. Maybe this time you will listen to me and stop this little adventure you are on.” Leaning back into the chair he drank some of his water, then slowly and deliberately set the glass back down. His facial features were still tense as he resumed speaking. “Let’s begin with rabbits, which you seem to know little about. I’m sure you think that rabbits are soft and fuzzy little animals, cute but a little skittish?”
“Well, yeah, sure,” I replied.
“Rabbits are also known as Fear Callers by Native Americans. I suspect you didn’t know that and don’t know why, do you?”
I shook my head in reply and he continued.
“Rabbits, even when they are just sitting there looking at you, even when they may seem perfectly normal, are incredibly afraid. It is their natural condition. They are so afraid, so timid and scared, that they actually project that fear outward, like a call into the wilderness, a call that attracts predators. It draws in those who want to eat them.”
“That’s creepy and weird.”
“Maybe, but it is also very useful. They can be used to attract predators toward them and also draw them away from other prey at the same time. Plus, they are relatively stupid animals and easy to catch, so not only do they attract hungry hunters but those animals also end up eating them almost every time. It makes for satisfied predators. Do you understand me so far?”
“Yes, I get it. What does that have to do with anything around here?”
“To understand that you need to be willing to believe in evil. Do you?”
“What kind if evil? Cultural? Religious?”
“I mean real evil, unnamed and unseen, the kind that exists in this world but which we never want to face, never want to deal with. The kind that is simply part of nature and hunts us all.”
…to be continued