9099 words (36 minute read)

Friday Evening

Bruce Archer was born to a wealthy family. When he was five that wealth was lost forever. His father, as it turned out, had a rather large gambling problem. These were the days before online gambling, and if Bruce’s father Reginald P. Archer were given the opportunity to gamble online he most certainly would have. The issue with Reginald’s gambling problem was that he was in no way any good what so ever at it. He would win the odd game here or there, true, but on a regular basis he would lose. And lose big. So, while Bruce Archer was born into money, he himself had never experienced wealth. His grandfather owned two of the most beautiful cottages on the lake in Hillsbury. They, of course, would eventually be lost due to the gambling addiction; now belonging to two wealthy families who prefer renting them out rather then enjoying the beautiful sunsets and surroundings.

That was none of Bruce’s business, but Reginald’s addiction began to take a toll on Bruce’s mother, Amber. She understood his addiction, and was very helpful and encouraging in his battle of it when they were young. Reginald however allowed the disease to consume him, and over time Amber could no longer take it. The man she married was gone, replaced by this disgusting excuse of a human being. Along with this gambling, his drinking expanded over time as well. This made things all the more difficult. Amber, however, could not bring herself to ever leave her husband. And so, she lived out the rest of her days depressed, lonely, and often times abused both emotionally and physically.

Bruce was only nine years of age when his father’s life was consumed; he had no pure understanding of the situation. He did know one thing to be true: His parents fought.

A lot.

He felt luck was on his side as he entered the school year. He met a fellow he would become best friends with. Peter Epsy. Peter and Bruce had always attended the same school, their paths just had yet to cross. Fate has a way or working even in the smallest of scenarios. One would not consider the meeting of Bruce Archer and Peter Epsy to be fate. They were children of nine years of age, each living an average life. While Bruce’s family was from money and owned property before he was ever of age to enjoy them, Peter’s family had never known wealth. Their summer vacations consisted of staying in Mr. Epsy’s brother’s RV in the trailer park of Hasaga. The life and experience he had each summer in Hasaga would equal that of a trip to Disneyworld for any other child. Peter loved it there. The wave pool, the lawn bowling tournament, (if he were so lucky to be in Hasaga at the end of the summer as his father was only offered two weeks off each year from the factory he spent upwards of twelve hours daily working in) and back then each trip would end with a lovely bonfire. Peter was always a shy boy. Never spoke much to other children. He had a few friends, but they were classmates. Outside of school, he was alone more often than not. Most of his friends lived on the other side of town and their parents, would not allow their child to cross the highway that separated them. The trailer park offered an opportunity for Peter to be a child, and enjoy himself and have fun with other children for a longer period of time than your average school day. One child was able to cross that highway, however, because his mother simply would not notice his absence. Well, to say she wouldn’t notice is not entirely true or fair, but rather she would not ask the question. Bruce Archer would tell his mother he was visiting a friend. Negating which friend he would be seeing would allow his mother to deduce to him visiting one of his friends who lived close by. After all, Amber had never known of Peter, because the two had never interacted before. So, why on Earth would she consider the thought of her son visiting him on the other side of town?

The highway itself was not dangerous to pass if done correctly. There was a tunnel, with a fully paved pathway underneath it, which would allow pedestrians to travel to either side of the highway safely. Most parents were just scared of the thought. All it would take would be for one child to decide to cross the road instead of taking the under pass, and well, all hell would break loose. Crossing the road itself would indeed save you several minutes, but as you grow and mature you learn that several minutes lost is better than lost life.

Over the course of the school year the two boys became the closest of friends. This lead to that following summer, Peter asked his parents if he could invite Bruce to Hasaga with them. Mr. and Mrs. Epsy agreed. They were quite fond of Bruce. He was quiet, and polite when it came to them. They took no issue with him, but they wanted to clear it with his parents first and asked Peter if they could meet Bruce’s mother. Peter didn’t see this to be an obstacle, but Bruce however thought much differently. He knew that if his mother found out he had been visiting Peter on the other side of the highway that things would get bad for him. His mother didn’t want him crossing that road alone, she mentioned it to him numerous times. He tried to justify in his mind, and what he could say to her “I didn’t cross the road, I went under it?” His mother wouldn’t care. Rules are rules and disobeying such rules would get him grounded. Then the thought of Peter’s parents! They liked him - he liked them - but if they were to discover that he had been hanging out with Peter without his parents knowledge: Who knows what they’d think! Bruce was now torn. He very much would love to be away from his argumentative parents for two weeks. Doing this, however, would mean admitting to his mother where he had been going. He was in a “lose lose” situation. Even if he told his mother, she would most definitely say no. And then he’d be grounded. It was best to nip this in the but, make up some excuse for Peter, and tell him he would not be joining his family in Hasaga. Except something unexpected happened. That morning, as he was getting ready for school, his mother helped him tie up his shoes as usual, but then she leaned down and said, “You can tell Peter Epsy you can go to Hasaga with him.”

His heart dropped down into his stomach. He was in shock, at both her mother allowing him to go, and that she knew. How did she know?

“His parents called me last night.” She smiled and said, as if reading his mind. He was not sure what was going on anymore. His mother didn’t seem upset. In fact she seemed… fine? She was fine. How could that be?

“I know things at home aren’t great. But we love you, the two of us. Even if it seems we don’t, or it seems we’re mad at you. We both love you unconditionally.” She reached in and hugged her only son.

“I just wish you would have told me where you were going. You know how I feel about that road.” She spoke with a tone he had not heard, it wasn’t upset or disappointed, it was caring. He hugged her as tight as he could. She released Bruce, wiped away a tear, and smiled.

“I love you.”

“I love you to, mum.” Bruce smiled back. He opened the door. “What’s for dinner?” He asked.

Once again Amber smiled “Wanna order a pizza?”

Of course he did! He nodded frantically, his tongue hanging out like a dog. “Pizza it is! Now, don’t miss your bus.”

“I won’t.” And Bruce left the house.


Hasaga was blistering hot that summer. It had never been known to warm up to excessively, after all they are up high on the side of a mountain, but this summer the temperatures rose and rose. The wave pool was at capacity more often than not, much to the dismay of Peter and Bruce. These lines are what caused the Epsy’s to make several day trips to Hillsbury Park. The drive was annoying; mostly dirt roads back then, and limited lights if you happened to return after dark. The beach, however, was great, and the bay was a fantastic place to lounge and enjoy a picnic. Hillsbury Park was also a great place to be if you were a child, specifically a child with a grand imagination. Peter was such a child, Bruce not so much. The miserable life at him one would think would cause Bruce to use his imagination, but his fears always took over. Darkness lurked in the mind of Bruce Archer and he did not for one second enjoy being alone with this thoughts. What was great about Peter, in respect to Bruce, was that he could open Bruce’s mind to possibilities like never before. Peter’s imagination lived in a happy place of space and time, and he could bring all of that to Bruce.

It was Saturday, August 7th, and the Epsy’s were going to Hillsbury Park for the day. They only had three days left on their family vacation and today was to be the final day they spent in Hillsbury. The following day they were going to hang out and play lawn bowling with some of the regulars at the trailer park. The day after that would be mostly spent packing, with a bon fire at night before they left first thing the next morning. These were the days before satellite radio, and finding a strong signal, or depending on where you were located, a signal at all, was often times impossible in Hasaga. It was even more impossible for the first little while of driving to Hillsbury. Mr. Epsy found a station, talk radio, not exactly what a couple of nine year olds were hoping but they accepted it for what it was: better than the silence. After hearing the final baseball scores from the night before the talk program shifted gears and words spread of dead fish popping up all over Cape’s Side Bay earlier that morning. There was an interview with a local fisherman talking about how strange it was to see all of the fish pop up out of the water, dead. The bay, as the news report continued, would be closed for the remainder of the day while geologists inspected the area. Mr. Epsy turned the volume down.

“Well, we can still enjoy the park!” he smiled and looked over at his wife, who was a touch concerned, but was not about to let it ruin her day.

As they arrived at the park caution signs were already up to prevent tourists from going over to Cape’s Side Bay. The closing of the bay was bad news for local business, but great news for the Epsy’s and Bruce. Tables at restaurants would be available, and so the group of them decided (though it ultimately came down to Mr. Epsy) to stay later than usual and enjoy a night out at a restaurant. Mrs. Epsy placed her blanket out on a beautiful patch of green grass in the park. Mr. Epsy unfolded his raggedy lawn chair and whipped out this Walkman. Bruce was in awe; he had never seen one before. And of all the people to own one he was quite surprised to know that Mr. Epsy was a proud owner. And proud he was, Epsy worked hard for his money. He spent the majority of it on his wife and child, and he was happy to do so. The Walkman was something he wanted very much; music was his first love. His wife one day went out and purchased the device for her husband for their anniversary. An anniversary he shamefully forgot all about. It was a rather busy day for him at work; in fact he had to work three hours over time, then was stuck in some of the worst traffic he could remember. When he got home he wanted nothing more than to sit on his recliner, watch the ball game, drink a beer, and sleep. Of course when he got home he found the lights dimmed, candles burning in the kitchen in front of a beautiful home cooked meal, prepared by his loving wife. With the dinner came a present, gift-wrapped at the centre of the table. His eyes welled up. How could he have forgotten? His wife gently walked down the stairs, wearing a brand new piece of lingerie she had picked out just for that night, and wrapped her arms around him. He rested his head on hers and gave her a soft kiss atop her head. “Thank you.” Were the only words needed. So aside from being a possession he always wanted and dreamt of, it carried a special meaning for him because it was a gift from his wife.

A new addition to Hillsbury Park was coming just in time for next summer! Campgrounds! Flyers for the new addition were being handed out and placed on car windshields. The flyer was made to look like a treasure map, with the treasure being the location of the new campgrounds. Peter snatched one up as fast as he could and showed it to Bruce.

“Wanna go look for treasure?”

“That’s for camping.” Bruce wasn’t in the mindset to see what Peter saw in this flyer.

“Yeah to everyone else. But this leads to a great big treasure chest. Full of gold coins and pearls and other stuff!” Peter was exciting himself!

How great it would be if there really were treasure chests out there! Bruce decided to play along and join Peter on his quest. Mrs. Epsy was fine with the boys leaving, so long as they brought a knapsack with a snack and water. Bruce agreed to carry the backpack.

The flyer, or map, as the boys would refer to it, would lead people to the new campgrounds being built so they could look at the space and, hopefully, book grounds for the following summer. The boys decided to reverse the map and stated that the treasure was on the other side of Hillsbury Park.

Hidden by the waters of Cape’s Side Bay.

The two boys snuck in under the do not trespass and park closed signs. They wandered around through the bay. Peter never moving his eyes from the map. He suddenly felt a force against his chest. He looked down to see Bruce’s hand holding him back.

“What’re you doing? The treasure’s that way!” Peter pointed straight ahead, but when he looked up all he could see were hundreds upon hundreds of dead fish in the bay.

“Holy cow that’s a lot of fish.” Peter’s jaw dropped.

“What do you think happened?” Bruce asked.

Peter took a short step forward, how eyes as wide as they’d ever been. “I dunno.”

“Maybe we should go back.” Bruce wasn’t too sure it was safe here. Something must have caused the death of all these fish. “Don’t be a scaredy pants. We’ve got treasure to find!” Peter insisted.

“What treasure? That’s a map to a campground. We aren’t going to find anything, Peter!” Bruce’s imagination was lost in that moment and Peter’s came crashing down to reality. He knew Bruce was right, there was no treasure, and there would never be a treasure.

“Fine,” he sighed, “we’ll go back.”

He put the map down, folded it up and shoved it into his pocket. The boys began to head back at a much slower pace than the frenzied one they had arrived at the bay in. They walked through the woods that separated the Bay from the Park. As they walked in this slower pace they noticed something. It was quiet. Dead quiet. Not a single bird could be heard. They both stopped and looked up, the realization seem to have hit them at the same time. Even at nine years old the site of dead fish followed by the silence while surrounded by trees would strike you as odd. Just as Peter was about to make a remark regarding the eeriness of it all, the sounds of leaves rustling in the distance could be heard.

“What was that?” Bruce jumped.

“Probably a chipmunk or a squirrel or something.” Peter said, though not even believing the words coming out of his own mouth. Why would there be a chipmunk or a squirrel if there were no other signs of all other wildlife? Bruce didn’t seem to pick up on this plot hole and so they continued to walk. The sound was heard again. Peter looked up over at Bruce who was a few inches taller than he. “C’mon!” Peter called out.

“C’mon what?” Before Bruce could finish the sentence Peter was gone. He rushed off to chase whatever the sound was. Bruce was nervous and upset over this; he started to feel like he was less on vacation and more in the middle of real-life Lord of the Flies!

Peter was small and quick. He had been the fastest student in his class for the past three years. Too bad he was none too interested in sports. Bruce followed as closely behind him as he could. He closed his eyes and took deep breaths as he ran. Upon opening them he could see that Peter had stopped. Standing still, his eyes gazing at something. Bruce did everything he could to stop and not run directly into Peter.

“What is it? Why’d you stop?” Bruce asked.

Peter raised his index finger to his lips and let out a quiet, “shh,” before pointing to a rock.

Bruce stared at the rock for what felt like an eternity before finally, his eyes spotted what Peter had been watching: a lizard. A lizard stepped out from behind the rock.

“What is it?” Bruce whispered.

“A lizard” Peter returned.

Obviously it was a lizard, Bruce thought, but what kind?

“What kind?” he decided to ask his friend.

Peter shrugged, “A dinosaur?”

The lizard was about half a foot long with a long skinny neck. The eyes were large and green, with yellow circles at the centre. Its flesh was green, with some quills coming out from its arm, like whiskers on a man’s chin hours after shaving. The snout of the creature resembled more of a bird than a lizard, but that couldn’t be the case, Bruce thought.

“It’s not a dinosaur!” Bruce’s volume was rising.

Peter shushed him back down before returning with, “it’s probably a dinosaur. Maybe one or two or three survived the meteor shower?” Peter’s imagination was getting the best of him at this point.

“It’s a gecko.” Bruce assured Peter.

“A gecko? It’s not a gecko.”

“Well why not?” Bruce was a little hurt that his friend wouldn’t believe him and speak so crass to him.

“Gecko’s aren’t indigenous to this region.”

“So because it’s not a gecko your next guess is dinosaur?”

Peter nodded, “More or less.”

Bruce was in disbelief. “Dinosaurs have been extinct for millions of years.” Bruce loved dinosaurs, and he knew what they were looking at was not a dinosaur, just a lizard.

“Maybe some survived. I’m sure some survived.”

“None did. It’s fact. We learned about it in school.”

“School might be wrong.”

“It’s not a dinosaur!” Bruce was angered and his volume went right up to a yell, which startled the creature causing it too stare up at them and run off into the woods.

“Great, now it’s gone.” Peter shrugged and walked away.

“Where you going?” Bruce asked, standing still.

“Gonna go back to mum and dad.”

“We can still find that thing. It’s still out there.”

“Probably not. It probably went back to its - ” Peter couldn’t think of the word, “house or whatever it lives in.”

“We found it in the first place didn’t we? No reason why we couldn’t find it again.”

Peter stopped walking. Bruce was right. They found it once after chasing after it; there was no reason why they shouldn’t be able to find it a second time. Peter turned back and smiled at Bruce. The two once again ventured off in search for the dinosaur, or gecko, or whatever it was. They rushed back into the thick of the woods.

They wouldn’t have to search long before they saw it: The lizard perfectly visible in plain sight. It was limped over, its chin resting atop a twig. Bruce took a step forward.

“Don’t scare it!” Peter hissed between his teeth to keep his volume low. Bruce pulled his arm out and opened his palm, using it as a signal to tell his friend Peter to stay put. Peter didn’t budge.

Bruce took three cautious steps towards the lizard, whose eyes were almost entirely shut.

“Hey buddy. Everything alright?”

Each breath taken by the lizard was heavy and slow, Bruce could see the pain within the creature. Bruce took another step cautiously towards the lizard and knelt down beside it.

Bruce slowly slid the backpack from his shoulders and pet the lizard softly on the top of its head.

“What in the heck are you doing, Bruce?” Now Peter was the nervous one. Bruce poured some of their water into the lid of the water bottle. He placed it under the lizard allowing it to sip.

“It’s OK, it’s OK. He’s sick or injured or something. Just needs help.” Bruce assured Peter.

Peter hesitantly took a couple steps towards Bruce, as he continued to pet the lizard. He looked back at his friend and waved him forward. Peter cautiously walked towards Bruce before finally squatting down next to him.

He looked up at Bruce, “What do I do?”

“Be gentle, just rub the top of his head. He likes it.” Bruce demonstrated. Peter reached in closer, the right eye of the lizard opened before slowly returning to just a slit. Peter rubbed the top of the lizards scalp.

“You like animals?” Peter asked.

“Love them. I want a dog but my dad said no. And my mum’s allergic to cats, so can’t have them either.”

“What about a lizard?” Peter laughed.

Bruce joined in as the water on the lid vanquished.

“All done? You want more water? Yeah you do.” Bruce filled the lid with water once again and placed it in front of the lizard to drink.

“Can I do it?” Peter asked. Bruce nodded and handed him the lid. “What do I do?”

“Just slowly put it under his chin, just enough for his tongue to get into it and absorb the water.” Bruce handed the lid over to Peter.

Peter was visibly nervous, shaking the bottle, not enough to spill, but enough for Bruce to see he was nervous.

“It’s OK.” Bruce assured Peter.

Peter took a deep breath and gently placed the water under the lizard. He watched on as the lizard’s tongue whipped out and licked the water. Peter smiled.

“It’s so cool.” Bruce nodded in agreement.

“Should we name it?” Peter looked up at Bruce who was thinking.

“I dunno, you want to?”

“Barnabas” Peter nodded at his own suggestion.

“What kind of name is that?” Bruce was unsure of the choice.

“It’s his name.” Peter said looking directly into the slits of the lizard’s eyes. “Barnabas it is! How’s he doing with the water?”

Peter looked down. The cup was empty. “All done. Should we give him more?”

“I think it’s good. That’s enough.”

“Oh, come on, just one more? It’s fun.” Peter begged.

Bruce reluctantly agreed and filled the lid with more water and handing it over to Peter. This time Peter’s confidence was booming. He held the lid to the lizard’s mouth.

“Not too close.” Bruce warned. Peter didn’t listen; he went close to his mouth and with his right hand lifted the lizard’s neck up slightly.

“Peter, what’re you doing?”

“I’m helping him.” Peter smiled.

The lizards tongue entered the lid once more and licked up the water.

“See, he likes it.”

As Peter continued to supply water to the lizard it began making a gasping sound.

“What’s that?” Peter asked.

“He can’t breath, he’s having trouble breathing. His neck’s too high.” Bruce was becoming a bit panicked. He hated seeing an animal in pain.

“What do I do?” Peter called out, feeling guilty about what was going on.

“Lower his head, rest it back down on the twig.” Bruce explained.

Peter cautiously placed his hand under the jaw of the lizard, swapping it for the rock the injured creature was resting on. As he continued to move the lizard’s head he needed to readjust his footing on the ground below. Shifting his back foot another inch or two, Peter was unaware of the hole a small creature had dug up, and he tripped over it. As he stumbled Peter dropped the lizard’s head; it slammed against the ground and began squealing in pain instantly.

Peter watched on in terror. Bruce went up to grab Peter and help him to his feet, but the lizard, using whatever energy it had left, lunged forward at Peter and using a claw on its foot stabbed Peter in the hand.

Peter screamed out in pain! Bruce didn’t know what to do. The lizard was stuck inside Peter, Bruce couldn’t figure out a way to remove the lizard without the lizard attacking him as well.

“I’m gonna get your dad.” Bruce said.

Peter’s eyes filled with fear, “My dad? He’s so far away.”

“I don’t know what to do?” Bruce cried out.

“Get it off me! Get it off me!” The pain was clearly agonizing.

Bruce looked around and saw a large rock. He picked it up and threw it at the lizard, which now turned to Bruce and hissed. Bruce scurried about looking for more rocks to throw at the lizard. Finally Bruce threw one with enough force it propelled the lizard off of Peter. The claw remained in his hand. Peter walked over to the lizard in excruciating pain, and with his good hand picked up and rock and beat down on the lizard with all of his might, crying and screaming the entire time until finally the lizard became loose and ran off.

“He’s… he’s gone.” Bruce said calmly.

“Good” Peter screamed “That mother fucker!” Using words he was never allowed to call out before.

Bruce walked over to Peter and helped him up.

“You OK?”

Peter wasn’t sure. He looked down at his right hand it was throbbing in pain. A purple and blue tinge was appearing around the claw.

“Help me get it out.”

“We should get outta here before the thing come’s back.” Bruce said in a panic.

“What about my hand? If my parents see it they’ll never let us out here again. We need to think of something.”

Peter was right and Bruce knew it. Bruce reached over and with all of his might pulled the claw out of Peter’s hand. Peter immediately put pressure on his hand. Five quills from the claw were still sticking out, but Peter was mostly concerned with the claw being removed.

“Thanks.” Peter said between heavy breaths.

He looked down at his hand and saw the purple and blue tings growing bigger.

“What do we tell my parents?”

“Maybe a rock fell on it?” Bruce thought out loud.

“A rock? Are you kidding me? Look at this thing; looks like some Indian’s spear stabbed me. Keep thinking.”

Before Bruce could even begin to think of an answer for Peter’s hand, Peter spoke up.

“A bee. A bee! I got stung. Simple.”

Bruce wasn’t sure that was a great lie. “I dunno.”

“Well why not? Look at that thing, looks like a bee stinger. Doesn’t it?” Bruce thought about it, and noticed that a bump was beginning to form on his hand where the quills were.

“Bee’s only have one stinger, you’ve got a bunch in you.” Bruce explained. “Help me pull.” Peter began to pull at quills, the pain exploded on his face.

Sweat began to drip from his forehead. Bruce leant a hand and before long each quill had been removed. Peter looked at one of them. It was just over an inch in length, but the tips were curved. Clearly meant to stay in whatever prey the lizard stabbed for a long period of time.

“Let’s go!” Peter marched off holding his hand, his eyes bloodshot and full of tears.

Bruce looked down at the quills then to where the lizard had been.

“Come on!” Peter called out. Bruce followed after him.

As Bruce and Peter made their way back to Mr. and Mrs. Epsy Peter noticed something strange about his hand.

“Bruce, look.” He said as he held his hand up for Bruce to see. The impossibility of what Bruce saw, combined with what he had just experienced made him feel as though he was stuck in some damned dream he was having. This, however, was no dream. It was real, all of it. From the strange lizard to the wound - having in the five minutes it took to walk from the woods to the park where Peter’s parents relaxed at – healed.

The wound had been healed.

The blue purple tinge that surrounded the gaping hole where the lizard had stabbed him was gone. Vanished. Not only had it disappeared but it left no markings, no scar, nothing. To Peter this was a blessing, it meant not having to deal with explaining what had happened to his parents and then hearing the lesson they’d undoubtedly give him after. This meant he could keep quiet and let it be between him and Bruce. Bruce was a bit more skeptical. His mother was very religious and his father was a drunk. He heard a lot of tall tales in his house. This was more than just a tall tale though this was reality.

“This is great!” Peter smiled at his friend.

Bruce tried to smile back. Peter turned his hand over and over to see if it really was gone.

“Dude!” Peter smiled and laughed.

The nervous feeling Bruce had was fading. Peter was so delighted and relieved that Bruce almost felt guilty to not feel the same. Maybe, perhaps, the stab wasn’t as bad as it seemed? Maybe the boys were just over reacting? Who knows? Certainly not Bruce, or Peter for that matter. The wound had healed. That was all that mattered.

As the sun began to set the Epsy’s took the boys out for fine Italian food. Mr. Epsy devoured four Cannelloni with a minestrone soup to start, while his wife enjoyed a stuffed pepper with mixed greens. The boys enjoyed pizza and Shirley temples.

The following day they packed their bags and relaxed, played lawn bowling and cards in the trailer park. That night they sat side by side as the bon fire burned. Mr. Epsy pulled his wife over to him and wrapped his arm around him. They kissed passionately. Peter looked over at Bruce and stuck out his tongue.

At the crack of dawn the following day the car was all packed and Bruce and the Epsy’s left Hasaga. Bruce had fond memories of his trip, especially the part of not being near his argumentative parents.

Peter and Bruce rarely saw each other after that trip. Shortly after school began Peter complained about headaches. One day in early October his teacher sent him home after he was seen repeatedly bumping into doorways when leaving the class. He would later be diagnosed with a brain tumor and would pass away less than a year from their trip to Hasaga. Bruce was devastated. He spent hours in his room weeping at the loss of his friend - bast friend. He considered Peter a brother. They made a pact to go to the same college and be roommates. Bruce had kept the events of that fateful day in Cape’s Side Bay a secret from everyone. He knew the lizard, the one Peter named “Barnabas,” was what killed Peter, he also knew he had no way of proving it. Bruce returned to the park every summer once he became and adult, he had never spoken a word of the lizard to anyone, and had never seen anything quite like the lizard.

Until now.

Bruce stood against a tree trunk as storm clouds began to circle above him. Hillsbury had secrets and his entire life he had hoped to expose them. Not for pleasure, but for closure. Whatever happened there that day caused his friend’s passing, of that he was sure. Who would believe such a story? It would be coughed up to childhood nonsense. Peter Epsy died of a brain tumor: End of discussion. He had never told anyone about the strange lizard before. As he watched the police drain Cape’s Side Bay, as he watched them tow an empty pickup truck out of the pit that was once swamp water, which was once a beautiful Bay full of fish, fish he once saw dead, he knew things were about to change.

***


The Mayor’s fist slammed down against his desk. His eyes were filled with a rage neither Henry nor Ava had ever seen.

“I will not close down Hillsbury Park. Not this weekend!” He stood up from his chair and looked out his window. The sun was just beginning to set and clouds were moving in from the East.

Henry looked over at Ava then back at the Mayor.

“Mr. Mayor with all due respect…” he was cut off immediately.

“No with all due respect to you and your crew: This is a police matter now. So, when the police come in here, or call me, or e-mail me, or text me, or snapchat or whatever goddamn else they can do to get my attention, I’ll listen. You, Henry are a park ranger. Your duty is to the park –“ This time Henry cut him off.

“And I’m telling you the park isn’t safe!”

“Then make it safe.” The Mayor growled between his teeth.

At that moment the Mayor’s phone rang. He waved to Henry and Ava to leave his office and answered his phone.

Henry shut the door behind him and pulled out a pack of cigarettes.

“I can’t believe that guy.” Ava said, stunned, her eyes still burning red from the child in the truck of his mother’s car.

“Believe. Tremblay worries about one thing this time of year and one thing only: Reelection.”

“And he thinks he’ll get it with a missing boy and another kids eyes sown shut?” As Henry was about to answer Tremblay opened the door. His face was pale white, like a ghost. He lowered his head admitting defeat.

“Hillsbury Park will be closed until further notice. No camper on the grounds will be allowed to leave or enter the park until further notice.” He softly shut the door behind him.

Ava looked up at Henry who was placing a cigarette into his mouth.

“I’m gonna visit Trundle. You head over to the park. No one in or out. We’re in lock down.”

Ava nodded at Henry, who began to speak again, “And Ava, make sure my boy’s OK.” Ava once again nodded and the two left City Hall.

As Ava drove back to the Park from City Hall she could hear and see the sirens from the police catching up to her. They were no doubt on their way to block any and all incoming traffic to the park. A Park that was only an hour away from closing. A park that had reached capacity earlier that day. A park with hundreds of visitors still packing up from their picnics and barbecues.

This was a mess, she thought as the cop cars raced past her. Still the image of the boy’s eyes sown shut haunted her. So cruel, so vile, so – a deer jumped out in front of her. She spun the steering wheel hard and swerved on the road. Her car came to a complete stop. She got out of her car and watched as the deer pranced off into the forest. A deer? She wasn’t too far off from Hasaga where she heard rumblings of limited wild life. Hillsbury didn’t have many deer. And never once on her drive down this road had she seen a deer. It was unusual to be sure, but today, she thought, today was the day for unusual.


***


The sun beamed down on what little was left of the swamp water in Cape’s Side Bay, with it’s final push on the Friday evening before letting the night sky take over. A cloud was coming in from the distance. Rain. Victor Marchman watched as trucks strolled in one by one with the equipment to drain the bay of its once luscious water. Just to his left he could see the carnival workers setting up tents, placing tarps over their games, and preparing for the rain to come.

Bentley Trundle had been at the head of the draining of the bay. He received a call on his radio and was forced to leave. Another officer took his stead, stood over and helped escort the divers out of the water to make way for the trucks. Huge pieces of tubing placed in the water. The sound of this one particular truck, the one in which was to do the sucking of the water, was so monstrously loud that Victor felt bad for the campers near by. The business of the police, the divers, or the campers were not his concern, however, he had been hired – asked - to hunt out a bear or person responsible for this. After the discovery of the young boy, Henry Carter informed Victor that his aid would no longer be needed. The case had changed; it went from a wild creature (though realistically a human) to a lunatic. No common citizen, hunter - or not - need be involved in such a case. Victor had a son, and morals. And if he could in any way help find the person responsible for the geusome mulilisation of a young boy in Hillsbury he would do so. Rain began to slowly sprinkle down on Victor. He looked up at the cave and wandered off.


Bentley Trundle stood at his desk with the windows and night sky looking down on him over his shoulder. He was staring at two photographs, his eyes swelling. He tossed them down on his desk and sat at his chair. He slammed his head into the palms of his hands and began to weep.

Henry Carter entered at a frantic pace.

“Bentley!” he shouted as he made his way towards the Deputy Sheriff’s desk. Bentley didn’t move, didn’t react. He simply slid the two photographs towards Henry.

“What’re these?” Henry asked.

“Take them!” Bentley cried.

Henry slowly picked the two pictures up. He looked at the first one, his mouth dropped open. He covered it with his free hand. The picture was of Chris Randall.

Both ears cut off. Clean cut. Henry flipped to the next picture; Mitchell Rooney. This picture was far more gruesome to look at. Two knife wounds to the cheeks, much like David Curtis, but his eyes were not sown shut. In Mitchell Rooney’s case it was his mouth.

His mouth had been sown shut.

“These the other two boys? The ones with Joel Liman and David Curtis?” Henry asked, Bentley nodded, his face still hidden within the palm of his hands.

“I thought they were accounted for? Spent the night at the other ones house?” Bentley finally lifted his head from his palms.

“The kids lied, Henry. Kids lie all the time. If you want to sneak out of your house what do you do? You lie. Each kid told their parents they were going to the other one’s house for the night. Neither parent was the wiser. It wasn’t until we put two and two together that we realized what had happened. We sent one of our guys over - good guy with two kids of his own- and this is what he found.” Bentley wiped a tear from his eye.

“No parent should have to endure this.”

Henry took notice of the material used to close Mitchell’s mouth and secure the wound around Chris’ ears. He flipped back to Chris’ picture. He looked closely at the ears. It was tough to tell but from what he could see it appeared that both ears were sown shut as well.

“What’s this?” Henry spun around the desk and shoved the pictures in front of Bentley’s face. “What’s this?” Henry pointed directly at the sowing jobs.

Bentley shook his head, “We’re not entirely sure yet. We think it’s some sort of copper or something.”

“Copper?” Henry was in disbelief. “Copper? What sorta copper has that hue to it?”

Again Bentley did not know what to say.

“They’re running tests, it’s nothing I’ve seen.” He was clearly devastated.

“So what happens now?” Henry asked.

“Park’s closed. We begin our investigation.”

“A manhunt in Hillsbury. Never thought I’d see the day.”

The two sat across from each other speechless for what felt like an eternity before Bentley broke the ice and stood to his feet, still shaking from the pictures.

“Coffee?” He asked Henry, who nodded.

Both men knew they would be getting little to no sleep this night. Bentley poured two cups and passed a mug over to Henry.

“I’m guessing you don’t have any suspects?” Henry asked as he sipped his coffee. Bentley shook his head, of course not; no one in this town was likely to do any of this.

“As of now I would tell you no. But, also, Henry, yes.” Henry looked up with a renewed interest.

“Not one single person, man woman or child, is not a suspect in this case. Not one. Hillsbury, Hasaga, all surrounding counties. The problem,” he sipped his coffee before continuing, “is if this was an isolated incident. If this all happened Thursday evening well beyond the closing of the park and the majority of campers were at their sites enjoying a late night fire, some hot dogs, marshmallows – what have you – the suspect could be long gone. Or, the suspect could be right here. Right now.” Henry looked at Bentley with a quizzical expression upon his brow.

“Bentley, if you’re insinuating that I, or Ava for that matter –“

Bentley cut Henry off, “No insinuating. The reality of the situation is it could be anyone. I’m hoping I can trust you.”

“You can.” Henry assured him.

Bentley nodded “I was hoping you’d say that. And I hope you don’t take this as an insult when I tell you, I can’t. I can’t trust you as much as you can’t trust me.”

Henry understood what Bentley was saying.

“I better get back to the park.” Henry stood from his seat.

Bentley sipped his coffee. “Good luck, Henry.”

Henry nodded, “You too.” He walked out of the office. As soon as Henry was out of Bentley’s sight he threw his coffee mug as hard as he could against the wall. His diploma shifted, a picture of him and his wife falling. It was not a good time to be in Hillsbury.


Jeffrey and Morgan sat in the ranger office waiting. Headlights were seen coming in through the window by Jeffrey who immediately shrugged Morgan on the arm and got up. Henry had Morgan call his family for a ride. The boys left the office and ran up to the car, neither could wait to get home after the emotional day they each had. The passenger window rolled down and driving the car was Claudia. Jeffrey couldn’t help but allow a smile to cross his face. There she was, the girl he had been waiting all summer to see. Oh how he missed her.

“You want shotgun?” Morgan asked of Jeffrey, the obvious answer being yes, and he responded with:

“Yes.”

This was not a moment to be generous and allow Morgan to ride shotgun, which he probably should have. Jeffrey wanted to sit next to Claudia, to stare into her eyes, to watch her smile. The events of the day vanished from his mind for a brief moment as he pictured the car ride home with Claudia. Claudia unlocked the passenger door; Jeffrey gripped the handle tight and opened it. He jumped in beside her.

“You look taller.” She observed of Jeffrey.

His heart sank, his cheeks turned bright red. An easy blusher he was, his biggest weakness when it came to dealing with the opposite gender.

“Yeah. Maybe. I dunno.” He said as confident and suave as he knew how too. Morgan shut the door behind him in the back of the car and rolled his eyes. Claudia shifted the car into drive and rolled off. She enjoyed driving, though had little experience at it.

Her father was a miner; he worked two hours outside of town. The drive cost him four hours of his life each day; something neither Claudia nor Morgan could ever fathom doing. It was what it was however, he needed to make a life not only for him but also for his wife and two children, and so he did what he must. Claudia turned the radio up. Some generic pop track was playing and she just loved it.

“I hate to admit it, cause I don’t love being a fan girl. But I love this song. Is that bad?” She giggled.

Jeffrey didn’t care. He couldn’t even hear the music his mind was swirling with thoughts of Claudia, their future together; their life after the car ride. How they would live happily ever after. All of this was strung along in his mind to the wondrous tune of the Beach Boys, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.” Ah, it would be nice, wouldn’t it? He would eventually take over as park ranger from his father, not his ideal job, but frankly, it wouldn’t matter, not if he were married to Claudia. The smile on his face slowly faded as he the realization that speaking to her would be necessary in order to make these fantasies of his a reality. He looked over at Claudia, but what he saw instead were an exceptional number of police cruisers speeding down the road towards them. Both lanes of the dirt entrance full of cruisers. Claudia stopped the car.

“What the hell is this?” She asked.

“You don’t know?” Morgan started, “It’s been an overly eventful day to say the least. Joel Liman went missing.”

Joel Liman, Claudia thought. She babysat him just three years earlier. He was a good

kid; he would say the most random things at times. She couldn’t believe it.

“You serious?” Morgan nodded.

“Think they found something?” Claudia asked.

“Highly doubt it. There’s been no sign of him anywhere.”

“Just the other boy.” Jeffrey spoke.

“What other boy?” Claudia’s voice was somber and soft.

“David Curtis.”

“Holy shit, he was missing too?”

“No…” Jeffrey started but then cut himself off after the realization that neither he

nor Morgan had any information as to what happened with David Curtis.

“His mother brought him in. That’s all we know. That’s when we called for a ride. Which by the way took you long enough.” Morgan snarled at his sister.

“Yeah well I was on a date with Bobby Rengard!”

“Who the hell is Bobby Rengard?”

“My boyfriend!”

“You don’t have a boyfriend.”

She didn’t, Morgan knew that she didn’t. Unless of course it was someone she met at camp. A queasy feeling crossed over Jeffrey’s stomach.

“We just started going out.” Claudia lashed out at her brother.

A police officer tapped the driver’s side window. Claudia was reluctant to lower it as it was raining, but ultimately did so.

“Yes?” She asked, still a bit perturbed at her brother.

“We’re going to have to ask you to turn around.”

“What for?” She asked.

The officer flashed his light around the interior of the car. He held it for a moment on each of the boy’s faces.

“Who’re these two?” he questioned.

“The one in the back’s my annoying brother and this is his friend. They work at the park, I’m just driving them home.”

“Not anymore you’re not.” The officer stated.

“You serious?” For whatever reason Claudia was not believing what was going on in front of her very eyes.

“ ’Fraid so. If you could turn around please, officer Brennan will escort you back to the Ranger’s office.” He turned off his flashlight and walked away.

Without saying a word Claudia started her car and spun it around. She followed the police cruiser back to the Ranger’s Office. When she parked she stayed in her seat a moment to take it all in.

What was going on here?

Officer Brennan opened her door and helped her out. He escorted her and the two boys inside. Jeffrey noticed Ava entering to his left from the side door with three small children at her side. Behind her came dozens more. Men, women, children, dogs, everyone and everything that was visiting the park that day and had yet to leave was entering the Ranger headquarters. Jeffrey ran over to Ava,

“What’s going on?”

Ava shook her head, “Not now.”

Ava continued walking, allowing the visitors to fill the headquarters.

Not now? Jeffrey thought, when?


Police cruisers pulled up onto the various trails in Hillsbury Park blocking any and all entrances. The campers were all in a state of panic. Henry drove his jeep right up to a cruiser. He furiously slammed the door to his jeep as he walked up to the officer on duty.

“Just what in the hell is going on here?” He demanded.

“Forming a blockade. No one in or out.”

“But coming this close to the sites, you’re gonna cause a panic.”

The officer had nothing to say after that. Henry marched in to the campgrounds and walked around the sites. Families approached him asking him what was going on. He explained to them the amber alert for the missing child, and how he had yet to be found. He assured them that everything would be all right and they would find the boy.

“Just stay in your sites, get some rest. Everything is going to be fine.” The words became second nature to Henry as he got to the end of the campsites.

All lies, he thought, or maybe not. He wasn’t sure of anything anymore. He knew one thing was for sure: Refunds would be given. The Mayor was not going to be too happy with that little piece of information. Henry looked up at the sky. Darkness was setting in. He was going to have a long night ahead of him. Better get back to headquarters. He could only imagine the chaos ensuing over there.


Next Chapter: Friday Night