A Faraway Song (Part 22)

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.

off the shore of Calabogie Lake

off the shore of Calabogie Lake

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

A Faraway Song (Part 21)

It was still early in the day but I decided to retreat to the motel for the remainder of it, both to ponder all of the mystery I seemed to be caught up in and also to figure out what I was going to do next.  My financial situation was still precarious and would be getting critical fairly soon.  After checking in, once again to what was becoming my usual room, I placed the small metal car on top of the banged up dresser and sat down to think.

Where was I at?  I knew I had plenty of speculation running through my mind, but what real facts were there at this point?   I wrote this in my journal that day:

Facts I know:

Clyde Forks

– Has a collection of odd but so far relatively harmless residents (Shotgun excepted) who live in nondescript houses of varying degrees of upkeep

– No observed names on mailboxes

– Few children live or have lived in area (confirmed by mention in newspaper article)

– For an unknown reason no one has moved to Clyde Forks in the past few decades (is this really a fact? …maybe I need more info on if this is true)

– Religious leaders don’t stay long

Brown Suit

– Older man but age hard to determine – his stories seem to indicate he is elderly 

– Is definitely hiding something

– Troubled by past, incl missing persons in area 

– Truly believes mine is dangerous / possibly “evil” and links it to missing persons

– Believes in an evil presence that he keeps at bay by releasing rabbits, supposedly to feed this entity 

– Has new toys and swing set on his property 

Reverend Curry

– Is definitely shook up by whatever happened when he was in mine (real or imagined)

– Probably knows more than he is saying – not exactly a fact but I feel it is true

Other

– I definitely heard a child in the immediate vicinity of Cemetery Rd

– A girl did go missing  (Jenny) and is not one of the missing persons detailed by Brown Suit (and note to me – there was one person he refused to talk about…this one?)

Looking at that list I felt one thing very strongly – you do not know much, do you?  Basically, I seemed to have uncovered that Clyde Forks was a strange place, one that few people wanted to move to and where few children were born.  It was populated by people who fit my idea of odd, but who may very well have been perfectly normal.  Some of those people held strange ideas, all unsupported by actual corroborating evidence, and they did not seem very receptive to outsiders.  That was hardly a basis for all of my fascination with this place.  But then, I had definitely heard that child, a youngster that no one seemed to want to talk about, and who remained hidden from me.  It was all a tantalizingly elusive mystery, one I decided I could not resist.  With that decision though, came the need to make some more money, so I slept in the remainder of that day and night, and headed out to Almonte in the morning.

It was not a large place but it was definitely a more centralized town, one where a person could expect to find some work.  The location was picturesque as it sat right on the Mississippi River (not the same as the one that cuts through the United States) and the winding bends of the river gave the area a lazy and comfortable feeling.  I went around to the various small stores and other businesses and soon had picked up a job helping to unload shipping containers.

I spent a week that way, working fourteen hour days and collapsing into a bed at a shabby motel outside of the town at night.  Almost everyone that I worked with had some version of my “on the road, in need of money” story and they all seemed to be from places far away from Almonte.  It was on my last day of work, a cool Tuesday filled with drizzle and an occasional strong wind, that I finally ended up working with someone who had grown up in the area.  It had really not been my intention to get into the whole reason I was working, or what I was doing in Clyde Forks, but the man I was teamed up with was a real talker and drew it out of me.  He was tall, maybe six foot seven, and had the look of someone who did a lot of hard labor.  He had a face etched by wind and sun, big forearms covered in tattoos of various women’s names and a casual but determined manner, like unloading the Titanic by himself would not be a big deal but he was going to take his time doing it.   I resisted his repeated inquires into my situation for a few hours but then told him the whole story, partly because I wanted to but also so he would stop talking about his various, and colorful, past experiences.  They were fascinating but inevitably vulgar and over-dramatized.

When I was done, he blew some snot out of his nose, set down a long, black box he had been carrying and spoke for the first time in fifteen minutes.

“You oughta check out that towheaded boy that disappeared last July at that lake a little ways north of here.  People been wondering if he didn’t just get snatched up and taken away instead of drowning.”

I was so shocked by his statement that I tripped over a box and fell, twisting my wrist when it slammed awkwardly into the wet ground.   Getting up rather clumsily, I replied.

“Just last year a boy disappeared around here?  Are you sure?”

He nodded slightly.  “Not exactly here, but up north, maybe thirty miles from here I think.”

“I spent a lot of time at the library and didn’t see it mentioned anywhere there?”
This time he shrugged.  “Thirty miles is a long way in these parts.  It wouldn’t have made the news over here.  Maybe check up in Calabogie.”  With that he moved on, starting up another story, this time about “that god-damned gypsy traitor Fallon.”

 

…to be continued

A Faraway Song (Part 20)

I processed that for a few more seconds and then ducked back around the corner of the building.  I tried to remember exactly when Eyebrows had spoken the words to me, what the context was at the time.  I was fairly sure it had been the last thing she had said to me, right after I asked her if taking kids pictures was taboo because it might steal their souls.  She had fallen asleep after that, peacefully if I remembered right, maybe the sleep of someone who had relieved a burden from themselves.  In that light, this particular clue seemed incredibly important and I decided to investigate further.  Walking slowly back to the eastern wall of the building I scouted the area with my eyes.

There seemed to be quite a collection of things, big and small, that cluttered up much of the land back here in the unkept part of Brown Suit’s property.  Farm equipment displaying varying degrees of rust, old cars, water & oil tanks, barrels, pieces of sheet metal, one odd looking tower with a hose hanging from the top of it, flapping in the breeze.  There were a couple other building also and I knew that somewhere back here was where he parked his car.  There were also several paths cut through the brush and tall grass, ones which were well beaten down and clearly still in regular use.  I checked the sight lines back to Brown Suit’s house and saw that I would be fairly safe back here, at least from any observation from the house.  If he chose to walk out my way though, well I might end up playing a rather tense game of hide-and-seek.  It seemed a good risk to take so I stepped off down the closest path.

It tracked fairly straight for about one hundred feet and then curved off to the south, ending is a small clearing with pieces of garbage strewn about and a rusty barrel that looked like was used to burn trash.  That was a dead-end so I went back and started again at the Red Crow building, talking another path that went in a northeastern direction, cutting under a very tall White Pine and then around a copse of cedar trees.  I could see scattered light and vague shapes of metal poles through the trees as I walked along but was shocked when I finally was able to get a clear view of the mowed-down clearing beyond.  The poles were the tall parts of a swing set, blue and green in color and showing no rust.  There also was an old tractor tire, lying on its side and filled with sand.  I walked over and picked up two of the small trucks that lay on the side of the makeshift sandbox.  They also showed no rust and their paint was bright red.  I knelt down, surveying the area more closely.

The grass here was well-maintained, cut down to about one half inch high and mowed in what looked like a fairy regular circle about forty feet in diameter.  A couple of other toys were scattered around; a blue bouncing ball, a small metal car and a white ladder that looked like it had broken off a toy fire truck.  There also was a dirty sock, small enough for a young child, wadded up under the slide part of the swing set.  A few footprints were visible in the sand within the tire and the area looked like it was used recently.  The path resumed on the north side of the clearing, so I picked up the small car as proof of what I had observed, and continued walking.  Three minutes later I was outside another old building, this one in much better repair than the one with the Red Crow sign.  It had two windows, and looking though one I saw the Colony Park Wagon.  And a small blue bike.

old blue bike

old blue bike

I stood there, peering through the glass but not seeing much else as my mind was scrambling through the clues I had found.  Certainly this was confirmation of what I had suspected, proof that there really was a child being hidden somewhere around Clyde Forks, quite possibly right on this property.  Suddenly I heard some noises, ones that were getting closer, and realized someone was coming back toward the garage.  I crept off into the woods, into the darkness of the trees, and several minutes later Brown Suit drove the car out as I watched, leaving the door open.  Once he was gone I took a look inside.  The bike looked old but taken care of, and certainly had been used recently as the chain was in good shape and the tires were full.  There was nothing else of interest though, just oil cans, a lawn mower and tools, so I resisted the impulse to look around more and walked back through the woods to my truck.

Tired when I finally made it back, I leaned up against the back bumper and took the toy car out of my pocket.  Who played with this?  Where were they being kept?  And again, why? What did these new clues mean about what was really going on with Brown Suit?

…to be continued

A Faraway Song (Part 19)

I did not want to leave yet as so much still remained unexplained.  I felt like this was my last chance to get any information from Brown Suit; that as soon as I walked out of his house he would never speak with me again.  Up to this point he had, for the most part, told me little although he had certainly been willing to talk about his rabbits and the mysterious evil in which he believed.  I felt that was the real driving force behind the man, his lifelong battle against whatever myth he had created in his head.  I still was not sure if he was trying to protect me from it, feed me to it, or just get me out of the way, but it seemed like the topic most likely to get him talking to me again.

“Do you know what I think about your rabbits?”

He stood silently by the door so I continued.  “I think they are just a symbol of something you yourself are afraid of, some inner fear that you have.  I do not know if it is real or imagined, but I think it exists only inside of you.  You have spent all of these years running from that fear, refusing to face up to it, playing your little rabbit game instead.  What do you say to that?”

His reply was slow and very clearly enunciated, the sound of his voice making the inside of my ears itch.  “We are done.  Get out.”

I stayed in my seat and tried a few more times to get him to talk but to no avail.  Finally I stood up, placed my glass in the sink and walked toward the door.  Just as I stepped outside I turned back.

“Just one more question.  A quick one.  Do you know where the red crow grows?”

He slammed the door in my face which was pretty much what I had expected would happen.  I stood there outside the door, turning around so I could see back up the road.  I was not sure if I considered my questioning of Brown Suit to be a success but I definitely had managed to get him angry again.  Somewhere though, among that anger, a few things had become obvious to me.

First, there was certainly something which had happened, probably personally, to him which had caused this delusion of the evil presence to form in his mind.  It made no rational sense to me that a dark force actually existed and was prowling the area.  What kind of trauma would cause such a myth to take hold of someone?  Was it these missing people that he mentioned? If so, what was his connection to them?

Secondly, the questions he refused to answer, about his name and whether someone lived with him, seemed odd but also possibly attributable to a desire for privacy.  Given that no one else in the area, other that the reverend, had offered or given their name to me, perhaps that kind of privacy was just part of the culture in the area.  But what then to make of his evasion around the presence of a child?  Why would anyone ever want to hide one away?

It seemed my questions to Brown Suit had only led to more puzzles.  I walked toward my truck but looked back as I did so and caught a flash of red back in the woods.  It was the same thing I had seen before, something painted on the side of an old building.  As my question about the red crow was fresh in my mind, it peaked my curiosity and I decided to investigate a little further.  Believing that he might be watching me, I got into my truck and drove back up Cemetery Road, turning left and parking in the church lot.  I sat there and tried to create a map of the area in my head.

I needed to return to Brown Suit’s property, but without going back down the road.  There also were the other properties on the road to consider.  Any hike through the woods was going to take me past those properties also and I had no idea how far back into the forest residents of the area might consider my presence a trespassing violation.  I  definitely felt that this area was a “shoot first” kind of place.  I had fortunately acquired a few hiking and navigating skills in my life and felt I could travel deep in the woods without getting lost.  That should keep me as safe as possible from any possible confrontation with the locals. It would be a little bit harder to navigate directly to that old building I wanted to investigate but I still felt I could pull it off.  Leaving a “Ran Out of Gas” note on my windshield for the reverend in the event that he wondered why I was parked in his lot, I pulled on a jacket and entered the woods.

It quickly became very dark around me but the sun was bright above the forest canopy and I used its presence as a guide.  I also had picked out a very tall, distinct tree, which was located in the approximate direction I needed to travel, as another marker to follow.  I lost sight of it almost immediately but knew that if necessary I could climb up to check my bearings.  It took almost an hour, and three trips up sticky conifers, but finally I was sitting on a small rise in the land looking at the faded old building on Brown Suit’s property.

I surveyed the area, just to make sure that he was not out and about, and then slowly walked over to the building.  I approached from the eastern side, away from the wall where I had seen the flash of red.  Creeping along its faded brown walls and stepping over old farm tools and various piles of miscellaneous junk, I reached the southwest corner and did another quick check.  Seeing no one, I stepped out several feet and turned to look at the wall.

I bit my lip as the image which was there became clear to me.  Although it was faded, it was still discernible.  A bird in flight, with an exaggerated beak, an animal which did not exist in reality.  It was a red crow.

I stood there in shock for several seconds, Eyebrows’ cryptic sentence coning true much too literally for me to believe.  Finally, I shook off my surprise and looked again.  Below the bird, in grey, peeling letters on a dirty white background it said “Red Crow Automotive – Best Service in Clyde Forks”.

…to be continued

A Faraway Song (Part 18)

One of Brown Suit's Rabbits

One of Brown Suit’s Rabbits

I closed my eyes so I could roll them without him seeing me do it, but that did not work.

“You don’t believe me, boy?  You think I am a mad man, some kind of crazy old-timer who believes in cryptic kids of evil you cannot see?  An unbalanced old man?”

“Kind of, yes.  This evil you describe, unseen and mysterious, it seems like a bunch of superstition to me.  What proof do you have that it exists?”

Brown Suit stood up as he replied.  “I have been here many years, more than you probably would believe, and I have seen it hunt down the people around here.  It took me awhile to understand it, how it thinks and what it wants, but I finally did figure it out.  Since then I have tried to protect this place and the people who live here, at least as much as I can.  Sometimes I have failed.”  He stopped talking then, a slight quiver in his jaw which he fixed by clamping his mouth shut.  After a moment he continued.  “I have failed occasionally, terribly, but only a few times.  I have done my best.”  I thought he might be crying as he finished, or about to, as his eyes were glistening but it was hard to be certain.  He turned his head away quickly and I left it alone, asking another question instead.

“What does it want?”

“It wants to feed, to eat people and consume their souls.”

“And rabbits have what to do with that exactly?”

“It’s easily distracted, so eager to feed that it will chase the most obvious thing that it gets a scent for, chase it down until it catches that thing.  I use rabbits to keep it sated as much as I can”

“And then what?  It’s full so it doesn’t go after the people around here?”  I could hear the derision in my voice as I spoke those words and so could Brown Suit.

“See, you are not willing to believe, just as I suspected!  Yes, it feeds on life energy, any life energy.  And yes, rabbits serve that purpose, to fulfill that need so it doesn’t hunt humans.  Laugh all you want to but I am right about it, right about what it wants and how to distract it.”  He sat back down again.

“Based on what?  How do you know you are right?”

“I’ve kept it at bay, for the most part anyway.  That’s all you need to know.”

I waited a minute before replying, taking a long drink of water as I thought through what he had said.  Draining the glass I set it down and spoke.

“You said the mine was dangerous but then went thirty miles away to release that rabbit.  Is the mine dangerous because the presence you think exists is there?  And if so, then again, why go all that way, in the opposite direction, to feed it the rabbit?”

“The mine is dangerous for many reasons, but yes the evil presence is one of them.  It travels through, in a cycle around this area.  I’ve figured out that cycle and I go to the place it will be.”

A bad thought struck me as he spoke and I confronted him with it.  “Is that why you told me the lie about where the mine was?  Did you, I mean, were you trying to get me to go there so this thing could, well, eat me?”  I tried to say it indignantly but I caught a small amount of fear in my own voice.  I mean, if he really believed in this presence and had told me information that might send me toward it, was he actually trying to get me killed?  Brown Suit stayed silent, just looking back at me.  I shrugged off my thought, burying it under my own disbelief in his whole story.

In my mind I was putting a check mark next to the “crazy” box for Brown Suit but still hoped to get some more information out if him.  I tried a different topic.

“Why won’t you tell me your name?”

He stayed silent.

“Ok, how about this one.  Why is it that no one hardly ever moves into or out of Clyde Forks?”

He blinked slowly and shook his head, like he was waking up from some kind of trance.  I thought he was going to stay silent but he spoke.

“I suppose because they like the place.”

“But no one moving in or out?  That seems really strange.  And why have there never been any children here?”

“There have been.  Every place has children.”

“Well, not many that I could tell.  You know there is an old woman, lives up around the corner there off Clyde Forks Road.  She showed me a bunch of pictures and hardly any of them had children in them.  Doesn’t that seem strange to you?”

“I know who you are talking about.  She’s a bit lonely I think, probably talked your ear off and more than likely told you what you wanted to hear.  As for her pictures, well, it’s true that there have never been many children around here.”

“But why?”

“Good question.”

“Damn it!”  I slammed my hand down on the table as I spoke.  “You say you know about this place and then give me cryptic answers, stories about unseen evil and silence when you don’t want to answer a question!  Are you going to help me or not?”

“I’m trying to help you, but you are not getting my message.  The help you need is to understand that this place is not for you.  You need to leave and go away.  Our mysteries are not for you to understand.”

I shook my head, frustrated and mad.  I decided to keep trying.

“I heard a child around here that night, the one where I came over here and spoke to you and you got so mad.  Do you remember?”

“I remember you coming over and talking nonsense.”

“I know what I heard and there is no place near here where it could have carried from as you suggested.  That child is here, in Clyde Forks.  Why are you denying it?  And why is it being hidden?”

Brown Suit rubbed his forehead before replying.  “Children are precious and must be taken very good care of.  Surely you agree?”

“Of course.  And are you admitting that there is a child here?”

“I’m simply telling you that children are very precious.  Now, are we done?”

“I don’t think so.  Tell me about this child.”

He stood up and went over to the door, opening it quickly without having to shake the handle.  “We are done.”

 

…to be continued

A Faraway Song (Part 17)

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

A Faraway Song (Part 16)

It was exactly five minutes later when he returned and I had made what I guess must have been decent progress as he nodded at me and tucked the last few microfiche slides away himself.  He then waved me out of the room with a softly spoken, “You can come back tomorrow if you wish.”

As I walked out past the counter I glanced over at the copier behind the main desk, wishing I had been able to use it.  As I did so I saw several sheets of paper lying on the side nearest to the doorway.  The top page had the headline about the missing local girl which had caught my eye earlier.  The pages were a printout of that article and several more related ones, including a few I had not found during my own search.  They looked just like the newspaper pages but were printed onto regular paper.  I glanced back at the room and the librarian was standing in the doorway.  He smiled and then shrugged.

“We have all of those on microfiche you know.  We just keep the actual papers around because of tradition I suppose.  Film is easier to search through.  Less messy.”  He smiled and rubbed his fingers together.  “You don’t get dirty.”  He turned away and I was not sure if he was mocking me or just trying to be friendly in a strange way.  Grateful anyway, I shouted a, “thank you,” back his way and left the library.

I thought about the situation all the way back to my usual spot on the side of the road in Clyde Forks.  When I arrived though it looked like rain and I retreated to the motel again, ending up with the same room I had vacated earlier that morning.   When I settled in that night, after another satisfying meal, my thoughts turned back to the events of the day.   I read through all of the articles again, making notes as I did so.  The additional articles the librarian had found did provide some more information and added to my list of questions.  This is how my journal entry read from that night:

Jenny Lee Wilson – age 12 – lived on Flower Station Rd with mother, father, grandmother.  Is this near Clyde Forks Rd?

Mom needed some things from store and asked Jenny to go – gave her $5 – this was around 4 pm – several versions of what she was picking up – How far was this store? 

Called back from store phone – wanted gum and chips – Mom said ok but get something for cousins

Mom figured she was heading back directly – told other girls to start going toward store also so they could help carry bags- also said Jenny would have a treat for them

They apparently went (maybe halfway?  a few versions of this seem to exist) but did not see her and just went back to house and played outside – why didn’t they tell someone?  No info on that but also no one in the articles seemed to think it was strange ?  Seems like it to me

Jenny’s mom called from the house that dinner was ready – around 5 pm – when she saw cousins come in but not Jenny they told her about not meeting her on the road

Mom walks up road to, all the way to store, doesn’t see her – asks store worker who verifies Jenny left around 430  – said she was by herself

Mom walks back, calling for Jenny, no luck, calls police from house 

Search conducted, incl. overnight, not found but one empty bag from the store was (had logo on it, looked like it had not been there long)- goes on for several days – dogs used also – dogs had scent on road all the way but police think she walked on same side of road coming and going so not useful – dogs never left road when tracking 

Nothing else ever found 

Other info: only other details collected were two people who police talked to during investigation 

Otto Clements (also reported as Clement) – lives on Cemetery Rd – interesting…I wonder which house? – said he was walking dog that night (Oct 20) – a car drove past him with a girl in the back seat  – he says it was her but also seems a little fuzzy on the details of what he saw – said car was a two-tone paint job – thinks it was a Dodge

Marcie Vaughn – was standing in her driveway on CF Road – lived right where the logging road was – car had to slow down to make turn – she clearly described the girl she saw and it matches the pictures I have seen of Jenny – she also stated with certainty that it was Dodge Lancer – black on top, white on the bottom – driven by a small-framed man wearing glasses 

How close is all of this to Cemetery Road?

Who can I get to talk about this?  

Is this the girl the reverend heard?  Can I find out more about this when the police couldn’t?

I awoke the next morning and read it again as I decided on my plan for the day.  I also realized that I was going to have to figure out a way to make some money.  My funds, the amount I had saved up from my last job so I could take my “abandoned mine adventure,” were close to depletion from the extra time I had already spent in the area.  That could wait until tomorrow though.  For today, I had decided to drive back to Cemetery Road and go knock on Brown Suit’s door.

…to be continued

A Faraway Song (Part 15)

The next morning seemed like a whole new world to me, mostly because I had taken care of my immediate needs.  A roast beef dinner and a hearty breakfast, labeled on the menu as the Frontier Special, had me energized, bright-eyed and in a thoughtful mood.  I even took about thirty minutes to go over what I had been doing and try to determine if I had become obsessed about something that really was not that noteworthy.  Ultimately I determined that whatever it was I had stumbled across in Clyde Forks really was pretty strange and did warrant some further investigation.  I set off for the library and was happy to find it open and a pleasant man at the desk.  He was pale and thin, but had a bright smile and lively green eyes that seemed to take a real interest in me as I told him what I was looking for.  He escorted me to the room where they stored all the older newspapers, both print and on microfiche.  After a brief class on using the microfiche reader, and another on their filing system, he turned to leave after a quick pat on my back.

“Good luck to you son,” he muttered on the way out.

“Any idea where I should start?  Do you remember anything about a missing girl in this area?”

He was gone though, the door to the room clicking behind him softly.

The next four hours were weary work and I had to take breaks every thirty minutes or so to give my eyes some relief.  I had begun with the printed editions, figuring that starting with newspapers from two years ago fit the reverend’s “few years ago” reference closely enough.  I knew it was going to be a sizable task, so decided to go on the principle that a missing child would likely be on the front page of at least one section of the paper, or possibly in the first few pages of the community section.  After flipping through an entire year my hands were grimy and black from the print and I had the beginnings of a nasal issue from the dust that had seeped into the collected news pages.  Giving up on that, I moved onto microfiche which also proved fruitless, although I did learn more about the area as I paused to read interesting articles along the way.  It was two-thirty in the afternoon by then and I wandered out to the desk, telling the librarian I would be back after lunch.  He warned me that they were only open until four, so I wolfed down a sandwich from a nearby deli and had returned to my mission by three o’clock.

I started back in on the printed editions, this time three years back, and was covered in grime, ink and dust again when I pulled the paper from October 22, 1970 out of the stack and was met with the headline, “Local Girl Missing after Trip to Store.”  Slightly to the discredit of my manliness I let out a quick squeak of victory.  Maybe this was it.

The story was short but interesting and full of details.  Jenny Lee Wilson had gone to the grocery store for her mother on the afternoon of October 20th.  She had definitely arrived at the store as she had called back home from there to ask about using the leftover change from the  purchases to buy some snacks for herself.  That was the last anyone had seen of her.  Apparently her cousins, who had been visiting for the week, had run up the road to meet her and assist with carrying the groceries home, but she had not met them.  They had returned to their yard, not immediately informing anyone of this fact, and it was dinnertime before the alarm was raised.  Searches of the area had turned up nothing and the article mentioned that the mother was extremely, and understandably, distraught.  It also mentioned another fact which seemed poignant given my own observations.  It stated that given the lack of children in the area, this incident was especially troubling and had made a significant impact on the community.

Eager to see if more information existed on this story, I flipped rapidly through the following days papers and did come across some additional articles.  It seemed that not much progress had been made on the investigation, and the later articles mostly gave human-interest facts about Jenny, her family and their plans for a memorial to her.  The last article, however, reveled a startling fact.  A report had emerged, from two separate eyewitnesses, stating they had seen Jenny in a two-tone car in the early evening of October 20th. This vehicle had been observed traveling west on Clyde Forks Road and was last seen on what was described as, “the old logging road that cuts across the K&P rail line.”  It seemed like a matter-of-fact statement in the article but it stunned me.  I knew from my walk the day before that this was one way to head to the old mine.

Was it possible that this was the girl the reverend had heard?  It seemed possible but I also knew that although cutting across the old K&P line was one way to head over to the mine, it also was not the only way.  There was obviously a road through that area, a rough two-track which the reverend and I had discussed at the time, but it apparently was in bad repair and not drivable all the way through the forest.  Could there be other roads though, ones which a local might know, ones where you could reach the mine?  That seemed possible, or at least worth looking into.  An abandoned mine did strike me as a place where a person set on harming a kidnapped child might decide to go.  I heard a soft click behind me.

“We’re closing up now son, it’s four o’clock.”

I turned to look and it was the pale man, the smile on his face but a look of insistence in his eyes.

“Could I copy something really quickly?”

He glanced around the room, at the strewn newspapers and scattered collection of microfiche slides on the desk next to the reader.  He gave me another smile, although this time it was rather thin-lipped and his voice was terse.

“And get this place cleaned up properly?  I don’t think so.  I will be back in five minutes and there better be a major transformation in here.”  He waved his hand and finished with, “and I do mean all of this.”

I grimaced, shook my head and started picking things up, carefully placing them back where they had come from.  The librarian’s upcoming inspection did not strike me as something I wanted to fail.

 

…to be continued

A Faraway Song (Part 14)

“What?  Are you sure?”

He nodded his head firmly in reply but I kept questioning him.

“I mean, I can see that this whole thing freaked you out, that’s obvious.  But are you sure you really heard a little girl calling out to you?  Isn’t it way more likely that you just heard some weird effect of the wind?  Or maybe your mind just made it up because it was so silent when you were standing there? You know, the whole idea that your imagination can come up with anything it wants to and convince you that it’s real?”

He just shook his head back and forth and I started in on the questions once again.  I had only uttered a single word though before he stood up and grabbed the front of my shirt.  His hands were cold and his breath smelled like alcohol of course, but also like raisins, which is the thing that stuck in my mind.   His blue eyes were bloodshot but focused as he spoke.

“I know what I heard in there, I know it and swear to it. That voice was clear as a bell, soft but a little worried, like she was just figuring out that she did not know the way back.  There was no wind and no mind tricks.  It was a little girl!”  He spat those last words at me and then sank back into his chair.  I was too shocked to immediately reply, wiping my face off with a handkerchief I pulled from the inside pocket of my denim jacket.  We both sat there, me lost in my thoughts about the reverend’s story, until he took a series of deep breaths and spoke again.

“And I know who it was too.”

I shook myself back into the immediate moment, unsure of what he had said.  “Excuse me?”

“I know whose voice is was, or at least I’m pretty sure I do.”

“You know who the little girl is?  How is that possible?”

“I think it was a girl that went missing from here a few years ago, before I got here obviously, but the previous reverend, well he mentioned it.”

I could hardly believe what I was hearing as it sounded almost too good to be true.  Some actual information was about to be disclosed.

“So, who is she?”

“I’m not sure of her name or anything like that.  He never told me, just mentioned it as an event in the community that I should be aware of.  He also cautioned me never to bring it up on my own, which I thought sounded a bit paranoid.  That was before I knew the people here of course, or the culture.  It makes perfect sense now.”

I sighed in disappointment.  “So, you really have not idea who she is?”

“Not specifically, no.”

“Wait a minute.  Someone tells you that a young girl has gone missing from a place but you don’t ask any questions about it?  You don’t get any other information?”

“I tried but he wouldn’t say anything else.  And once he had said it, I think he regretted it, mostly because I did ask so many questions.  In the end he just gave me that warning and said that he was leaving.”  He poured the last of the whiskey and stood up, waving the bottle at me.  “I suppose I should have asked if you wanted some, but then there would have been less for me.  Now leave me alone.”  He started walking back toward what I assumed was the entrance to the apartment he had mentioned.  I called after him.

“Can I still take a shower here?”

“No.”
“I thought you never used that apartment?”

“Well, I’m using it today.  Leave.”  After that he stepped through a green door and closed it behind him.  I heard a deadbolt being thrown and was not sure if this was because he thought I really would follow him, or just because he did not want anyone else finding him passed out drunk later.  I left the church and started to walk back toward my truck, the new information I had obtained jumping around in my mind.  Despite the lack of specifics about the girl I really felt like I was getting somewhere.

What to do next though was unclear to me.  I thought about going to the local police and seeing if they had any information about this missing girl, but was not sure if they would be willing to help me.  I also worried about what they might think of why I was so interested.  Then the idea struck me that it must have been reported in the newspaper and a search at some library in the area might uncover some information.  It could some time but I had plenty of that to spare. There was of course also the option of trying to get more information out of the Clyde Forks locals.  I laughed a bit at myself as I considered that.  I had not proven to be very good at extracting information so far, at least not without voluntary binge drinking being involved.  The library seemed like the best option and I decided to try it out the next day, which was Saturday.  Hopefully they would be open.  I jumped into my truck and moved it so that I was parked on the side of Cemetery Road, right at the intersection with Clyde Forks Road, and resolved to sit there for the remainder of the evening and just observe the activity.  I was also hoping to hear a repeat of the child-like noises I had heard the evening before so I rolled my window down and settled in.

An hour rolled past without anything happening, then two hours, a general weariness creeping over me.  I also realized how very hungry I felt, and also that I had not eaten very well since my arrival in the area.  My limited trip food, which I had packed into two coolers, was either eaten or spoiled and I had not done anything about replacing it.  In addition, I smelled truly terrible and knew that the solution to all of these problems was to find a motel.  Grabbing a pamphlet of information I had picked up before my trip I located the nearest one that had a restaurant nearby.  Reluctantly, but also with a great sense of anticipation about being clean, full and rested, I put my truck in gear and headed out.

…to be continued

A Faraway Song (Part 13)

He stood up and retuned the flask to it’s hiding place within his jacket.  I remained sitting, looking up at him as he started to walk away.  He did not look back, content it seemed to leave it at that, so I challenged him with a question.

“Why did you agree to take me out here?  I mean, if you are so afraid of this place, so afraid of whatever it is you think you heard, why come out here with me?”

He stopped and turned around, standing there with his hair backlit by the sunlight.  Before replying he rubbed his face a few times, seeming to be considering what to say.  He was looking past me, back at the mine entrance, when he finally spoke.

“I think I was hoping that someone, you, could confirm it for me.  Or maybe not, I mean, not confirm it.  I think I just wanted someone else to come out here and see if they heard it too.  Then I would know if I was just crazy or if all of the stories about this place are actually true.  Checking on my own sanity I suppose.   And that’s all I can say.”  He turned back away from me, heading up the small incline.  I sat for a few more minutes before my brain had processed his last few comments.  Then I took off after him at a run, catching up and pulling at his arm.

“What stories are you talking about?  I thought you didn’t know anything about this place, or its history?  You told me that you knew nothing about this mine expect its location.  What did you mean back there?”

Pulling his arm away he stalked off, muttering, “Damn, I said too damn much,” to himself.  Those were the last words he spoke all the way back, although he did manage to drain the flask along the way.  I followed along, asking questions to his back for awhile before finally giving up and then spent the remainder of the time trying to puzzle out whatever lessons I had learned from the day’s adventure.  I also resolved to not let the reverend off easily.  We reached the driveway for the church and he turned in without offering a goodbye or even a glance back at me.  I suppose he thought I was going to keep on going down Clyde Forks Road toward my truck, but I turned into the driveway right behind him.  When he realized this he turned around.

“Don’t follow me in here.  I’m done for the day.”  His words were spoken with just a little bit of heaviness, the edges of the alcohol showing through.

“I want an answer to what I asked you.”

“We already talked about this.”

“No we didn’t.  You walked off and haven’t said a word since then.”

“I meant before that.  I told you what I knew before and that’s all I know.”

“I don’t think so.  I think you know more than that.  You were talking before about how secretive everyone here is, and it turns out you are too.  I just want to figure out what is going on in this place.”

He smiled at me, in a sad and condescending way.  “No you don’t.”

“I do.”

“You aren’t even from anywhere around here.  You’re just a kid on a temporary adventure.  This place will mean nothing to you when you leave.  So go now, and just forget about it.”  He turned and walked away again.  I followed him and a minute later we were standing in the small office area of the church, the reverend staring up at the ceiling in exasperation and me standing resolutely right inside the doorway.

“How about you just tell me what you heard in the mine?”

He waved me toward a chair.  “Fine.  I’ll be back in a minute.”

I was excited as I sat there waiting for him, hoping that this was where I actually started to learn something about the place.  Maybe this one story would lead to another, or to some actual fact that I could check, or maybe to a piece of information I could use in my investigation.  When he came back the reverend was carrying a bottle of whiskey.  He sat down with a long sigh, then opened the bottle and poured a rocks glass halfway full.  After taking a long drink he started talking.

“Ok, so here you go.  Take it for whatever you will and then leave  me alone.  It was the third time I hiked out there, the other two times I had just poked around the entrance a little bit, pulling back the branches, not going in.  Like I said, I’m not much of an adventurous type.  I prefer things normal and easy.  So, that third time I kind of dared myself to go deeper, to step into the mine itself.  I guess it was a self-improvement kind of thing, overcoming my fears.”

He took a small drink of his whiskey and then resumed talking.  “So I did it, I had those branches pulled back just like the other two times, but then I stepped in and let them drop behind me.  My heart was racing, I mean it too, it was beating like a hammer in my chest so hard that it almost hurt.  I just stood there, right up against the branches, sticking my fingers back through them toward the outside.  It made me feel just a little bit better you know, like I could escape easily if I had to.  It seemed so quiet in there and dark.  I mean, it was darker than outside of course, but I could see things scattered around on the ground, although I couldn’t remember any of the details later.”

He stopped talking again and finished off the remaining whiskey in one large gulp, pouring another half glass right away.  He traced his left index finger around the rim of the glass for a moment before continuing.  “After a couple of minutes my heart had calmed down and I was about to step out, figuring I had conquered it, that I had stood there and nothing bad had happened.”  He ran his right hand slowly though his hair, his voice dropping to a murmur.   “It was like a whisper, just a really faint whisper.”

He stopped talking then, for several long minutes, sipping slowly from the glass which he kept held up to his mouth.  Finally I prompted him.  “What whisper?”

A sigh escaped his lips before he spoke.  “The voice, her voice, it was just the faintest whisper.  There was no wind outside, and the mine was still, but that voice came from inside there, from somewhere deep inside there.  I’m coming, that’s all it said, maybe four or five times just repeating itself, like she was calling to someone.  I’m coming.  I was so scared that I ran for the outside.  I didn’t even pull the branches back, I just ran through them, and I kept running until I couldn’t go anymore.  I must have covered a mile or more through that forest, face all scratched up from the branches I ran through, knee banged up when I tripped over some roots, I kept going though until I couldn’t hardly breathe.  Then I just collapsed in a small clearing and I was still shaking in fear as I recovered.”  He poured and drained another glass of whiskey and then just stared at me.  My skin was tingling from the story, the hair on my neck raised up and my mind racing.

“That voice you heard, who was it?  Could you tell?”

The reverend blinked a few times and then answered.  “It was a little girl.”

…to be continued