A Faraway Song (Part 23)

“I, I, well…,” my voice trailed off as I fought for an answer.  I felt a little overwhelmed in that moment, and also not completely sure how much of my suspicions to share with this man.  I had spilled my story to my co-worker at the loading dock in Almonte, but that did not seem the same as this current situation.  Here I had a community of people who had indeed lost a small child and seemed to be pretty well spooked by it.  Some version less than the truth seemed to be appropriate.

“It’s that Jenny Wilson girl, have you heard about her?”  Carl shook his head in response and I told him the story, along with the fact that she may have been seen in a car around Clyde Forks after she was reported missing.  My explanation seemed to satisfy Carl, who was telling me he was sorry he could not be of more help to me, when Martha opened the office door and peeked out.

“Don’t let him lie to you Carl.  He asked me about a missing boy, not no missing girl.  He’s up to something, something no good I’ll wager.” She banged the door shut and Carl, forehead wrinkled in thought, turned to me.  Caught in my own rushed lie, I shrugged and quickly walked out of the store.  By the time I was back in my truck and driving down the street back the way I had come in, there were three rather unfriendly looking men standing with Carl outside of the bait shop.  Feeling more afraid than I wanted to admit, I sped off and drove straight back to my spot at the intersection of Clyde Forks and Cemetery Road.

It was mid-afternoon by then and much warmer than it had been in Calabogie.  The woods seemed to keep the heat trapped near the road and there was no breeze present to stir it up or move it along.  It was much too hot to sit around in my truck so I wandered aimlessly down Clyde Forks Road, my mind churning through ideas but not paying much attention to where I was going.  When I finally realized where I was, Reverend Currie was staring back at me from the front steps of the church.  His arms were folded across his chest but he smiled when I looked over at him and then waved a hand, beckoning me forward.  I guess our previous interaction over the bottle of whiskey had not dampened his general hospitality.  I followed him into the church and sat down in a pew, the reverend one row in front of me and turned halfway, his left arm hanging over the back.  I had been in the foyer before and the office, but never all the way into the small main congregation area.  It was brighter than I had expected, an airy feeling accompanied by a quiet, peaceful vibe.  There were not any stained glass windows but there were still some fanciful displays of reflected sunlight on the walls from the skylight over the altar.

“Good to see you again,” he began, “and my apologies for the other day.  Not my best moment.  It’s a bit of a dark side that I have, a personal demon.”

I nodded my forgiveness, although I was not sure if he meant the drinking or the memory of the voice in the mine.  Or maybe it was both.  “I get it and I’ll leave it alone.  Maybe I pushed too hard.  I seem to be getting a little bit obsessed with this whole thing.  I could tell whatever it was that happened in that mine, well, it spooked you pretty good.”

He nodded back slowly, rubbing some light stubble on his face.  “Yeah, it did.”  There was a short pause, his eyes reflective and faraway, but then he was back in the moment.  “So, what have you been doing since then?  I haven’t seen you around in a while and I figured we had all scared you off.”  He gave a rueful smile as he finished.

I hesitated a second but then told him about all of it; the newspaper search and a brief overview of Jenny Wilson, my confrontation with Brown Suit and his belief in the evil presence, the rabbits and their supposed purpose, the child’s toys I had found, working in Almonte and the trip to Calbogie.  I also told him I thought he knew more than he was telling me.

He did not reply for a few moments, staring back intently but silently at me.  He whispered, “I tell you what I can, but you need to be careful,” before falling silent again.  It was not a very satisfying statement but he did not seem inclined to elaborate.  Finally he slapped his hand lightly on the back of the pew and asked me for a few more details on Jenny Wilson.  I told him everything I had been able to find out and when I was done he shook his head.  I waited.

“It wasn’t her.”

“Jenny?  What do you mean?” I asked.

“It wasn’t her I heard in the mine.”

“Why do you think that?”

“You said she was twelve.  That voice I heard, it was much younger, a small child, maybe six or seven years old.”

“Are you sure?”  I could hear the disappointment in my own voice.  I had begun to think of my research into her story as a real piece of detective work, one that would help clear up at least some part of the mystery.

The reverend was sure.  “No way that voice belonged to anyone older than seven years old.”  He sighed and continued.  “It would have been nice though, if it had been, I would have known some more of the story anyway.  And you found a missing girl that, well, it could have been her for sure, except for the age.  Flower Station Road isn’t too far from here…,” his voice trailed off.

“Well, ok then, so I’m back to square one I guess.  What do you think about that evil presence thing?”



“Evil exists, everywhere.”  The reverend’s eyes were very intense as he spoke, his voice climbing a little in volume.  “It takes different forms, acts in different ways, reveals itself at odd times and through strange vehicles. And people perceive all of those manifestations differently, through their own kaleidoscope is how I always put it.  So, I’m sure something evil exists around here.  What do you see?”

His question took me aback for a few seconds as I had not expected to be asked to evaluate the idea of evil myself, or how it might apply to Clyde Forks.  I thought he would be the expert in that area.  I stayed silent and he repeated his question, this time holding his hands in front of his face, twisting an invisible kaleidoscope.  Then he leaned over, squeezed my shoulder and spoke.

“Beware of that image of evil, it shifts and changes, broken apart into small little glimmers of mismatched information.  You need to see what it is before the picture comes into focus.”  With that, he walked out the back door.

…to be continued

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


– 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