“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