“So, to finish?”
“That group kept the items, kept good track of them, poked around some more in the Two Harbors area and the place where Tom grounded the Castle. As a matter of fact, they were up in that area, asking around and telling what parts of the story they knew when three men, Norwegian fishermen, decided to set up a small settlement on that land, the land Tom must have seen from his boat that morning. They had set up for themselves in a small round hut built down close to the water. The crew that scuttled the Castle had set up a warning marker on the sandbar, and those fishermen asked two men from the Old Settlers Association if they knew anything about it. Of course they did, and that’s how the place got its name.”
I realized that the late hour and the cold had not completely dampened Vann’s efforts to test my patience. I tried to wait him out but I was really tired.
“The name, what’s the name of the place?”
I was not sure if that was anti-climatic or amazing, so I just sat there thinking back over the entire story I had heard. I had these amazing images in my head, all of the troubles Tom had been through, the railroad thugs, the murders, his strange pit and the unexplained disappearance after the boat grounded. In some ways I felt as though I had been transported back to that time, gained some of the pioneer spirit Tom must have possessed, tasted the combination of the fresh wilderness air mixed with the creeping grimy intrusion of railroad smoke and coal dust. I wanted to march back into his story and ask the questions that should have been asked, watch the moments that had not been observed for history, grab some part of Tom’s collection and hold onto it to be examined with today’s technology. I suddenly felt even colder and realized that I had stretched out on the cold cement pad, laying back with my hands behind my head. I rolled over on one side and saw Vann had adopted a similar position although he was still awake.
“Do you really think Tom died?”
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure he did. They looked, the historian and those folks from the settlers association, but no real info ever turned up, none that was reliable anyway, which would indicate he survived. I figure he swam for it and drown, body carried away before that first boat came by Castle.”
“Yeah, I guess that makes sense. No Elvis sightings then?”
Vann chuckled and then yawned. “No, nothing like that.”
I yawned back, cracking my neck as I did so and realized that for now, we really were at the end. “Thanks for the story. It was pretty interesting.”
“Think nothing of it,” he replied with a poorly executed British accent.
I could feel sleep coming on quickly and realized I needed to get up and go to my truck before I passed out on the cement. I was still thinking about it when I asked Vann another question.
“So, in the morning you just…wander on?”
“Yeah, I need to get moving.”
“Chandler or Oro Valley way?”
“No man, moving on…it’s been a year.”
But I hardly heard him as I was slipping off to sleep, trying to leave my headache behind.
When I awoke in the morning Vann was gone, although he had covered me at some point with his Army jacket. I rolled over, painfully cramped, bitterly cold and still with a pounding headache. My mouth tasted like sand and backwash although I quickly realized I still had those two pieces of gum, very stale now, in my mouth. How I had managed not to swallow, or choke, on that during the night I never will figure out. I also realized that as cold as I was, and had been, sleeping under that Army jacket, Vann must be far worse off than me without it. I felt pretty badly about that as I stumbled over to my truck, managing to arrive only a few minutes before a county sheriff cruised by on the road. I gave a half wave and hoped to look as though I had just stopped to check something out on my truck. He drove on and I climbed in, wearily settling into the nicely padded seats. I drove the short distance to a gas station, purchasing an absurd amount of food and water, some of which I wolfed down in my truck while writing down everything I could remember of Vann’s story. I checked my phone, almost afraid that those pictures of the journal hadn’t saved, or that they would look terrible in the light of day. They were not great, but they would do. As I finished up writing and prepared to drive on and find a place to take a day long nap, I realized that questions remained, questions that had nothing to do with the story of Tom Sexton.
Who was Vann? And how did he know so much about this story?
Author’s note: There may be more of this story to tell, although for now I have to step away from Vann, Tom Sexton and all of the questions about Two Harbors and Castle Danger. Other stories are calling. Please check back next week for a preview of the upcoming “Spiritual Destruction of Anna Marie”