A Faraway Song (Part 30)

That is where I left it all of those years ago, taking with me a head full of questions, a real feeling of having left things unresolved and that little toy car as a memento of my adventure.  I had left reluctantly but also had sensed the danger I was in, a strange feeling that I would have thought impossible to experience in the civilized world.  On my long drive back to my regular life I had vowed to go back at some point and keep seeking answers, much more brave as the distance between myself and Clyde Forks increased.  I never did of course, life taking over and the pressing need to solve the mystery fading softly away.  I would go back to it occasionally, usually triggered by some other event in my life, but it always seemed very distant and remote, all the burning questions consumed by time.  I would dream about Clyde Forks sometimes, or some member of the cast of characters I had met, or stay up an extra few minutes wondering about my experience up there.  Most of the time I found it hard to believe I had been so wrapped up in it, or so convinced of a great conspiracy.  It was a just an innocent small town, weird for sure, but innocent.

That was right where I was with it when I happened upon that podcast.  That program detailed the disappearance of a young boy from an area near Calabogie.

article courtesy re cbc.ca

A good, quick summary is also available here:


Listening to that podcast brought everything back in a wave of memory and those old events suddenly seemed much clearer than before.  That led me to digging through a pile of old boxes until I found the journal I had kept on that trip.  Sitting down and reading it left me with those questions I posed at the beginning of this story.  How could I have just left and stopped looking into what happened up there?  And, what did it all have to do with this missing boy?

The End…for now

A Faraway Song (Part 29)

I heard a faint sound to my left and realized that Mabel was speaking, much too lowly for me to hear.  I knelt down by the side of her chair, trying to catch what she was saying.  She had a sad but defiant look on her face and was staring not at me, but at the reverend.  I think she realized I had not heard her as she cleared her throat and resumed speaking a little more loudly, more like a loud whisper now.

“Children are precious, and important.  And in some places they are rare.  They are what brings light and joy.”
“I think we can all agree to that,” stated the reverend.

I waited for her to continue, to finish, but nothing happened.

“So, you are going to be part of this cover-up too?” I asked her.  “Why did you bother to help me then, to give me the clue about the red crow?  That’s a big part of what got me tangled up in this in the first place.  Why?”

I got no answer and tried again but she remained silent.  Finally the reverend took me gently by the arm.  I stood up slowly.

“Listen, it’s really time for you to go.  Like Mabel said earlier, we got you a few answers, not many and not all of them that you wanted I know, but a few.  That’s all you’re likely to get.  You have to leave.”

“I guess you got your answers and that’s good enough then?” I snapped back at him.

“That’s unkind,” he replied, although he looked just a little bit guilty.

I stood there, feeling unfulfilled, and staring out through the window into the church parking lot.  This little bit of information only seemed to make the remaining questions seem even more important, more urgent.  I really believed that a child was being hidden in this community but at the same time I had no definitive reason to believe that anything illegal had taken place. Who was this child, and to whom did it belong? What was the exact nature of this supposed evil presence in the area?  Was it real or the fantasy of a heartbroken old man?  Or was it something else? There did not seem to be anyone willing to help me figure these things out.  And then there were a bunch of other questions, much smaller and less important, but they still made me feel crazy to think of them going unanswered.  Maybe this place really did just have a much different way of living, of acting and of protecting its children.  Perhaps the evil did not exist at all, or was just an exaggerated myth. It could be that I had managed to stumble into the quirkiest place in the world.  It just all seemed so strange and weird.

I had to try one more time.

“Reverend, what else do you know about this place.  You claim to know nothing but then you seem to have some information.  You tell me that you just got here, even Otto called you a, I think it was a placeholder, but then you knew to come and rescue me today.  You make vague allusions to other things you might know.”  I made sure he was looking at me before I finished.  “What are you really doing here?”

He smiled at me.  “I’m an outsider here, just like Otto said.  I might know a few things, information passed down from the religious men who were here before me, but mostly I’m just observant. That and curious.”  He winked at me and gave a very small laugh.

“I am too, and I just want to figure this whole thing out.  What’s the difference?”

“I belong here, or at least I am part of the fabric and culture of this place.   They expect one temporary religious man to always be present.  You’re not part of it, and there is nothing that can change that.  I’m sure you’re not satisfied but it really is time to go.  If it makes you feel better, remember this though as you leave.  This talk today, it helped me too, gave me a little closure on my own experience at the mine.  I guess her spirit must still be there.  I think that is going to help me a lot.  So thank you for that.  Now, go and forget about this place, and please don’t talk about it.  Give this place it’s peace.  I’ll watch the kaleidoscope up here for you.”  He made the twisting motion with his hands and opened the door.   “You’ll be safe getting to your truck.  Otto might be mad at you but he’ll be watching and won’t let any harm come to you.”

“I, listen, I just,”

“Son, your little temporary adventure is over.  It’s time to go.”  His voice conveyed a feeling of finality and also of warning.  I shook my head but stepped out the door.  It  had just about closed behind me when I pushed it back with my hand.  I peered inside and spoke to Mabel.

“What was her name, that girl that went missing down in the mine.”

“Her name was Melody.”

…to be continued

A Faraway Song (Part 28)

That brought me to a stop for several seconds but then I recovered.  “You mean, like, more than one?”

“Yes,” Otto replied.

“So, when I was talking to him he said that six people had gone missing, or maybe it was seven.”  I stopped and tried going back in my memory, sticking up my fingers as I recounted the individuals in my head.  Then I continued.  “Ok, well, I think he said six, but then it was seven, and well, either way, there was always one that he didn’t want to talk about.”

A look passed between Mabel and Otto, one which both the reverend and I caught.  Neither of them spoke so I went on.

“So, are those the people that were his relatives? All of them?”

Otto seemed to be considering whether he would answer and Mabel whispered, “Go ahead” to him, which got her a glare in reply.  He did speak though.

“Well, I don’t know exactly what he told you about but it was probably mostly about them people he was related to.  Some miner was the first, his brother, just vanished one day right as they were closing up the camp around the mine.  Then another couple of miners, or laborers maybe, one of them was his uncle.  And crazy Hattie of course, that was his sister.”

“Crazy Hattie?”

“Bat-shit crazy woman who used to wander around this area, muttering to herself, stripping off clothes and setting them on fire, walking around naked after that.  Your friend from the house was forever bringing her clothes but she’d just end up burning them again a few days later or tearing them to shreds.  I never did figure out how she ever survived a winter, but she did, quite a few actually.  But then one day he found her campsite abandoned, no trace of her around, then or ever.”

“Maybe she lived in his house in the winter?”  Mabel asked but Otto did not reply.

“So those three?” I asked.


“What about the rest of the people he talked about?  I think it was a boy and a old woman?”

“I answered your question, isn’t that enough?” Otto snarled back, a little bit of spittle jumping out of his  mouth.

“I’m just wondering about the others.  Did those other people really go missing?”

Mabel reached over and touched my arm, giving Otto a cautionary look as she did so.  “More people than that have turned up missing, and I’m sure they included those other ones you mentioned.  I think Otto was just telling you that there were three relatives that disappeared and that is what started the whole evil presence thing.”

“What about the one that he refused to talk about?  I tried a couple of times but he never told me.  Do you know about that person?”

Otto stood up quickly.  “Enough of this!  I answered his question reverend, now keep your promise and make him go away!”

“I’m not leaving until I get more answers!” I shouted back.

Otto turned, about to storm off I suppose, but the reverend spoke up.

“Please, let’s just get this done with, okay?  I don’t think that a little more information here is going to hurt.  Please.”

Silence followed and then Otto returned to his seat.  He wiped the side of his mouth with one pale finger and then spoke.

“It was a girl, one that was living with him.  A relative had dropped the child off one day and then never came back.  She was…’” he went silent without finishing, a faraway look in his eyes.

I wanted to press him but something about that look kept me silent.  He resumed speaking.

“She was ours, all of ours.  He couldn’t take care of her right, well not right exactly, just completely, like she should have been taken care of.  He was too old.  So we all helped look after her.  She was ours, a child for this place.  Ours.”

I did not think he was finished, and he did continue several moments later.  “Then, one day, she was gone.  Not a sign of her anywhere except this doll she played with, a golden-haired doll with a pink dress.”  Otto clenched his eyes closed, tightly, and shook his head.  I glanced over at Mabel, who was not hiding her tears.  The reverend was wide-eyed and staring intently at Otto and I.

“That doll, they found it on the path to the mine.  And that’s all I know and all you need to know.  Now leave!”  Which is what Otto did, slamming the office door behind him.

The reverend leaned back and let out a very large sigh.  “Well, I can’t say I expected any of that.  What a story.  Is it true?”  He asked this while looking at Mabel, who had still not bothered to clean up her face.

“Yes, it is,” she whispered back.

We all sat there in silence for almost five minutes, then I spoke up.

“You know, I still don’t know about the real mystery around here.”

“You got some answers, isn’t that enough?” the reverend replied.

“Not really. I’m sorry, but it isn’t.  The thing I really want to know is who lives in that house with, well, the guy I call Brown Suit?”

“I’m not sure anyone does son.  Maybe it’s just your imagination, maybe you are a little too wrapped up in this whole thing that you see as such a mystery.  Don’t you think that you might just be making that part up?”

“No, I don’t.  I felt like someone else was there when I was in the  house, and I heard it later with my own ears.  I heard a child, right here, right on that street back there,” I replied while pointing back in the direction of Cemetery Road.  “What is the big secret here?”

…to be continued

A Faraway Song (Part 27)

He remained silent, staring at the reverend who stared right back at him, one eyebrow raised.  Otto breathed heavily, grunted and then spoke.

“Yes.  But that’s got nothing to do with any of the matter you are so worked up about.  She was just a missing girl and I saw her in a car.”

“Are you sure it was her?  The report I read,”

Mabel cut me off.  “Listen, it’s not relevant as Otto already said.  We’ll get you a few answers, but it will likely be a very few and you shouldn’t waste them on that Wilson girl.  Otto here is a good man but protective of this place.”  She had a kind look on her face but the tone in her voice was less friendly, much more matter-of-fact. I took her suggestion to heart and spent a minute trying to compose my thoughts.

“So, are you part of this whole thing also?”  I asked her.

“I live here, so yes, I am part of this community.  Still, I’m trying to help you out a little, ok?”

“Are you really going to help me, really answer my questions?” I directed that inquiry at Otto.

He looked over at the reverend, then at me and then at the floor before answering.  “I’ll answer, maybe.  You need to leave here, that’s what I think, just leave now and don’t bother us again.  These two seem to think otherwise, like we owe you something.  If it’ll get rid of you, I’ll answer…maybe.  Why do you think we should help him anyway, reverend?”

The reverend leaned forward.  “Because I’m sure we don’t want to have anything unfortunate happen here and I think if you give him a few simple answers, well that will be enough to satisfy his curiosity.  Then he can go in peace and we all go back to our regular lives.”

“And he won’t go telling others and bringing more trouble up here?”

“I’m sure that if we answer his questions honestly that he won’t feel the need to tell anyone about anything because there won’t be anything to tell.”

I was not too sure of the truth of that statement but did my best to look like I might be able to be convinced.  The reverend urged Otto to cooperate again.

He seemed unconvinced, his face closed and hard.  He grunted and glared at me.  “Well, boy?”

“Who lives with Brown Suit?”  All I received was a blank look.  I was about to get angry when I realized that my nicknames for these people were known only to me.  “Ok, listen, nobody around here will tell me their name, or at least most people won’t.  I don’t know why, but it seems to be a thing.  I just figured her name out when the reverend said it.”  Mabel looked back at me but did not offer to add anything.  “So, I have nicknames for people.  That guy at the end of the road, the house with the big tree down in the yard?”

Otto nodded in reply, so I figured that meant he understood who I was talking about.  He, of course, did not offer me a name to use, so I went back to nicknames.  “I call him Brown Suit.  So, who lives with him?”
Otto did not answer nor did anyone else in the room.  I threw up my hands.

“This is not going to work.  I’m going back to my truck.”  I stood up but the reverend waved me back down.  “Take it easy.  Remember that this information you want, well it really isn’t any of your business although you seem to have made it that way.  I’m trying to get you a few answers but you need to be patient.  Maybe start with something else?”

I really felt like it still was not going to be very useful but I began again.

“Do people really disappear from around here?”

“What do you mean?” replied Otto.

“I mean, Brown Suit told me that a bunch of people have disappeared from this area.  He believes that the mine is haunted by some evil thing, a presence that, well, I guess he believes it lives in this area.  He thinks it travels around and he follows it, trying to feed this thing his rabbits.”  I was met with silence which I thought meant they did not understand what I was saying so I added, “you know, so that the evil thing eats the rabbits instead of people.  He thinks it feeds on life energy or something like that and that he can substitute rabbits for people because all life has this energy.”  More silence followed that, which is when I realized that it was because I was not telling them anything they did not already know.  It was just the silence of people listening to a well-known story.

“So, then, people do go missing from here?”

Otto looked over at me, waited a few moments and then spoke.  “A few people went missing, sure they did.  People go missing from all over.  That’s not what’s making him believe in evil things.  He believes in that because of who goes missing.”

I shook my head in confusion.  “What? You said it wasn’t the people then you said it was?”

“I said who it was.”

Before I could ask again, the reverend interjected.  “I think it would be more clear to say that he believes in this evil because of exactly which people it is that go missing.”

That helped.  “Oh, so which exact people are going missing?”

“His relatives,” Otto answered and then added, “a few of them anyway.”

…to be continued