I stayed there for a few minutes, feeling confused but safe in the embrace of the building. No wonder people seek out churches for refuge or sanctuary, as they do seem to have a sense of security embedded within their walls. I was tempted to stay, to maybe curl up in a pew and take a nap, but my curiosity got me moving. When I finally stood up to leave I had no better idea of what I was planning to do next than I had when I first sat down, but I was determined to keep trying to solve this mystery.
By the time I had walked back to my truck it was too late to get anything else done that day. The afternoon had slipped into early evening and the buzz of insects, finally able to emerge from their daytime hiding places, filled the air. I set up my sleeping bag in the bed of my truck and then sat on the tailgate, rubbing myself up with insect repellent. I had just kicked off one boot when I heard it. A shout, youthful and excited, the kind of yelp small children give when opening a present or being given a puppy. It rang out as clear as a church bell on a still afternoon, and seemed to echo a little in the surrounding trees. Then there was a loud, thick bang, like a heavy piece of lumber falling onto cement, and then silence. By that time I was running down the road, one boot sloppily tied up and hindering my speed. I had no doubt about the direction that shout had come from, right down Cemetery Road, right from the house at the end.
By the time I reached the edge of Brown Suit’s driveway, all was quiet and still. I could not even hear the insects anymore, but that was likely due to my pounding heart, which had the sound of blood booming in my ears. After a few deep breaths I marched up to the door and started banging on it, yelling for someone to open it up. When that got no response I walked around toward the rabbit enclosure and ran right into Brown Suit who seemed to be waiting for me. He stood there, taking up more space than it seemed possible, blue eyes flashing with anger but also tinged with apprehension. He put out one arm toward me.
“Get off my property, boy!”
“I heard it, you know I did, I, you.” I stopped and took a few deep breaths, trying to compose myself and recover the ability to speak complete sentences. Brown Suit’s arm remained outstretched. “I heard that child again, it came from here, I know it did. You know it did.”
“What about all of those toys back there,” I shouted, pointing toward the area behind the Red Crow barn, “and the bike, what about that?” I started to move, to try to go around him but something about his posture told me that he was not going to let me pass, no matter what sacrifice it cost him. He was old and I should not have had a problem just pushing my way past, but in that moment it just did not seem possible. By then I had also managed to realize that I was definitely acting foolishly, trespassing on private property, yelling accusations at an old man, and even thinking about forcing my way further onto his property. I settled for a final threat.
“I know you have a child here, and I’ve been to Calabogie.” I was not sure as I spoke what I exactly meant by the last part of my threat. I did not have any definitive information tying that missing boy to this mystery, but then I did not have anything excluding him either. I guess I was trying to get some kind of reaction out of the old man but he remained silent, his facial expression unchanged.
I turned to go, to walk away from the confrontation and leave Brown Suit to contemplate the implications of my words, and was brought to an immediate halt. As I looked back up Cemetery Road I saw that it was lined with people.
They all stood there, right at the end of their respective driveways, silently looking at me. Most of their arms were crossed and none of them looked friendly. Shotgun had his favorite weapon cradled in the crook of his arm, and next to him stood an older man who had a similar weapon propped into the air against his right hip. I looked behind me and Brown Suit had not moved, although his arm was down and his eyes now seemed amused. His lips did not move but I heard him.
“Time to go.”
I moved slowly down his driveway and then stopped at the end of it, eyeing the assembled residents of Cemetery Road warily. I felt like my next step, off of Brown Suit’s property, represented some kind of boundary that I was not sure I wanted to cross. It was strange to think of his property as somewhere safe, or at least safer than what I might encounter once I stepped off of it. The sounds of the insects were back even though my heart was now pounding just as hard as it had been before. The buzzing seemed louder than it should have been, insistent and ominous, and was effecting my ability to think straight. Shadows were creeping into the road, the tips of garages and trees making shapes against the gravel. I was frozen in place and the journey back to my truck seemed like a very long one.
I saw some movement up toward Clyde Forks Road and after a few moments realized it was Reverend Currie and someone else whom I could not make out. He stood directly in the middle of the road, hands clasped behind his back, looking right at me. The person next to him seemed to change shape, some billowing of various colors caught up in a breeze I could not feel where I stood. I was not sure what his presence meant for me, but it did help to get me moving. I took a minute to re-tie my boot and then stepped off, my right foot seeming to be in slow motion, and moved off of Brown Suit’s property.
…to be continued