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