At the end of that day, I slept one last time at the motel in Almonte and woke the next morning determined to chase down this new lead. I was not certain that I believed my tall co-worker’s assertion that people in the immediate area would not know about something that happened a mere thirty miles away. Perhaps I was just getting conspiracy-minded as I tried to solve this mystery about Clyde Forks. In any event I made the library my first stop, pulling into the small parking lot about ten minutes before it opened. When it did, the same thin, pale librarian with the green eyes who I had dealt with last time unlocked the doors. I asked him a few questions and soon realized that it was true after all; people in this region of Canada basically kept to themselves and let the rest of the world worry about itself. His most poignant comment was, “If you want to find out something from Calabogie, well then, you better get on up there and figure it out.” When I commented back that he had been so helpful before, he merely replied that this had been because the info he gave me was about Clyde Forks. That was in Lanark County, and Calabogie most certainly was not. At least that gave me a better idea of what “local” meant to people in this area.
He did give me directions and I spent a little over an hour on a scenic drive in a generally northern direction, stopping when I passed White Lake to admire the beauty of the area. Arriving around noon in Calabogie, I was impressed by even more beautiful scenery. The road I drove in on paralleled the Madawaska River which then spills into Calabogie Lake. The area, despite some surrounding shops and houses, seemed untouched by most of the other usual intrusions of larger city life. It was quiet and peaceful, filled with trees and summer flowers, slightly warm but with a erratic breeze blowing around the edges of the lake. I took a few minutes to admire it all as I thought about how to proceed.
Finally deciding to just walk around and ask some questions, I started down Mill Street and popped into the first business I came to, which was a bait and tackle shop. The clerk, after dishing out some nightcrawlers to a group of boys clutching fishing poles, asked me what I needed.
“Just information for now. A question, really. Do you know about a boy that went missing around here last year?”
The clerk gave me a rather piercing look as she replied. “What do you want to know about that for, eh?” She shook her light brown, curly hair, raised her drawn-in eyebrows and placed a hand on her right hip. It was not a friendly pose.
I raised my hands up slightly, trying to lighten the tension. “Sorry, I surrender. I’m not trying to stir anything up. I just was wondering what happened, that’s all.”
“Why would you be wondering about it, then? I figure the ones that should be wondering are the parents and police. Not strangers.” Her look this time was tinted with suspicion. “Unless you got something to gain by it, or know something about it yourself?”
“No, no, not that. Seriously, I’m just trying to, well, I’m trying to figure out something strange, a mystery I guess, over in Clyde Forks.”
The fact that I knew another town in the area seemed to lessen her hostility a little, although she did keep stepping backward, keeping the distance between us at about thirty feet even as I approached the counter. Eventually she was backed up against the wall, right next to a battered wooden door that seemed to open into an office. She called to someone through that door.
“Carl, come out here and talk to this fella.”
There were a few sounds, some shuffling, a chair scraping against the floor, and then a short man dressed in a faded flannel shirt and grey pants opened the door. The woman stepped aside slightly and the man had to squeeze past her.
“What’s up with you Martha? Can’t you give me some space?”
She did not move and continued to eye me warily until the man was standing between us. He brushed his hand through short salt-and-pepper hair.
“What can I help you with?,” he inquired while glancing back over his shoulder at Martha.
“He’s asking about that McNeville boy that went missing last year. And he’s up to some kind of detective work over in Clyde Forks.” Having made that announcement she stepped quickly into the office and slammed the door shut.
Carl grimaced and shrugged. “Don’t be too put off my Martha. She sees quite a bit of danger around here these days, since that boy went missing,I suppose. It took us all a little of guard, ya know what I mean, eh?”
I nodded a little, not quite sure how to take what had happened so far. I was not feeling too optimistic given how things had started but decided to try again.
“So, there was a missing boy then?”
Carl proceeded to tell me about a blonde, five year old boy who had disappeared while fishing with his family at a small lake just a little west of Calabogie. From what he told me it seemed as though the boy had disappeared into thin air, there one minute and gone just a few minutes later when his father went to look for him. Not a trace had been left anywhere in the area, including at the spot he was seen to be standing right before he disappeared. A massive police search had been undertaken but nothing had ever come of it. According to Carl, people in the area were of two distinct and separate mindsets.
“Drown or kidnapped. That’s what it has to be.”
“Is that really the only two possibilities?”
“Only two that make sense if you ask me, or anyone in these parts. It’s one of them two things for sure.”
“Ok, so don’t people that drown usually wash up? It was in a small lake right?”
“Yep, it was, and they sure do,” Carl replied while rearranging some keychains in a small display by the cash register, “but some folks figure he’s just caught in some debris at the bottom. It’s not an easy lake to search.”
Carl’s tone was a bit dismissive as he spoke. I figured he had a different opinion.
“So, you figure he was taken then? By who? Someone traveling through the area?”
Carl shook his head. “I’m no detective, and surely no one ever asked me my opinion. At least, no police or anyone like that. But I’ve told plenty of folks what I think. If someone took him, it was someone from around here.” He sighed when he finished and ran his hand through his hair again. Then he looked at me.
“Now, what is this thing Martha said you were looking into over in Clyde Forks?”
…to be continued