The rain let up as quickly as it started. Clouds were moving quickly and the beauty of the stars in the sky was becoming visible. The tarps covering the carnival stands were covered in water. It rained a large amount in a short period of time. Much like a tropical storm. Hillsbury, however, was far from the tropics. The only water flowing in Cape’s Side Bay now was whatever had been left over from the rain. A tow truck had loaded the pickup and driven it off, and the last group of divers all returned to their desks to submit their reports.
Victor Marchman took this opportunity to walk down inside the bay and make his way over to the cave high above. Victor slowly walked through the bottom of the bay, his feet covered in three inches of water. Every few steps he would hear a “crackling” sound. He stopped and reached down into the shallow water. Feeling around for several second his fingers touched upon something that was neither rock nor dirt. He lifted it up and stared at it. It was a piece of an eggshell.
Unusual, he thought, though an entire pickup truck found down there was even more unusual, and for all he knew the eggshell could in fact been in the truck. A local chicken farmer took a wrong turn perhaps? He dropped the eggshell back into the water and continued his hike along in the bowels of Cape’s Side Bay.
As Victor reached the edge of the bay where the rock faced down and the cave lived above, he removed his knapsack. Initially he had not intended to bring his climbing gear, but after Henry described the bay and the cave to him he knew he would be foolish to not first investigate the cave. As he removed the gear from his knapsack, memories of the first time he taught Tyson to climb raced through his head.
“You want to properly inspect each piece of equipment before you use it. Got it? Everything you bring with you is valuable to your safety. These aren’t the walls in a gymnasium this is nature. It’s fierce and shows no mercy. Understand?”
Young Tyson looked up at his father and nodded.
“Yup, got it!”
“Good, let’s get inspecting!”
“Yay!” Tyson cheered his father on.
Victor removed a rope from his knapsack.
“Can you tell me what type of rope this is?”
Tyson placed his finger against this lips and thought for a moment.
“Um, Kermit. It’s Kermit.”
Victor chuckled, “Not quite, we’re not climbing a rope made of puppets. It’s Kernmantle.”
Tyson nodded, “Kernmantle, ya ya.”
Tyson was only eleven years of age. Victor knew he would soon want to join him on his hunts and climbs, but his mother would never allow it. Still, to whet the kid’s appetite for such things Victor figured he might as well teach him some of the ins and outs. He moved the rope over to the side.
“Rope looks good. What’s next?”
“Hooks!” Tyson blurted out.
Victor smiled and chuckled, “They’re Karabiner’s.”
He pulled the karabiner out. Tyson stared at what to him appeared to be a hook.
“Aren’t those hooks?” Tyson asked with the innocents of a child.
“Not quite. Well, sort of. Do you know how many types there are?”
Once again Tyson rested his finger against his lips and thought. This one was trickier. Tyson could not think of the answer, and so just shook his head.
“Two.” Victor explained to his son, “There are two types. You have your locking,” he said as he displayed one to his son, “and you have your non-locking.”
He held another up for show.
“Each one as important as the other, each with a specific purpose. You must understand the purpose to successfully use each tool. Make sense?”
It did, Tyson just didn’t know when to use either.
“Now, what else?” Victor looked down at his son, the most important (well to say one piece was more important than the last would be ridiculous as all pieces of equipment when climbing are equal to one another, but this one piece was the glue on which bound the rest of the equipment together).
“The vest… Harnest!”
Victor once again laughed. “HarneSS, not HarneST. But, good, yeah, the harness for sure.”
Victor messed the hair atop his boy’s head in a playful manor. He pulled the harness out of his knapsack and held it up to Tyson.
“Wanna try it on?”
Tyson nodded. He grabbed the harness from his father and began putting it on.
“OK, slow down, slow down.” Victor crawled over and helped his son.
“First, gotta get it around your pelvis like this.” Victor secured the harness around his son’s pelvis. “Then, now, we get it up over your hips like so.” He looked at his son.
“I think it’s too big.” Tyson frowned.
“Well of course it is! This is my harness; I’m bigger than you! One day when you come with me we’ll get you your own harness that’ll fit proper. For now I’m just showing you.”
Tyson smiled, he couldn’t wait for the day he’d get to go climbing with his father.
Victor was now halfway up on the cliff. He had yet to take Tyson climbing, heck it was only earlier that day he had taken his son out to hunt for the first time. He was a busy man, maybe too busy as of late. He worked in construction, making a good amount of money, but the hours were draining. He looked forward to his summer in Hasaga this year more than ever. Looking forward to relaxing, to hunting, enjoying the lawn bowling tournament. Enjoying how Mrs. Wilson would undoubtedly win, as she always did. A nice woman, but once that tournament starts she puts on her game face and takes no prisoners. As Victor scaled the rocky cliff wall he hoped to return in time for the festivities. Regardless of how he felt over Dean’s cheating.
Deer would be a mighty fine treat right now, he thought.
He entered the cave. Not being from Hillsbury or travelling to the area all that often Victor was not too familiar with the cave at Cape’s Side Bay. Aside from what Henry briefed him on, he had no clue what he was getting in to. Though, technically you could say not a single soul would know. No one, no one on record anyway, had ever ventured into the cave. The scaling of the wall was not a prized adventure like Everest or other such mountains. It was simply a few hundred feet up or so. Not enough for a thrill. And what is a cave besides a hollow hole within the Earth’s surface? Darkness, nothing but darkness as far as the eye could see. Victor removed his flashlight from his belt and lit up the heart of the cave. It was dark, frigid, and dry. Dry for a cave, dry for a desert. Nothing was damp, as you would expect to find in the inside of a cave. As he touched the walls, sand quite easily chipped off and dropped to the ground.
Unusual, he thought. He removed his harness and secured it between a rock and the wall so he could use it upon his descent. He brought with him an additional flashlight, and a gun.
Mustn’t be too cautious.
Victory then made his way into the belly of the cave.
Henry shut the door of his office behind him. Ava sat in the chair across from the desk, her neck turned to face him.
“So, what’d you find out at Trundle’s?” She asked.
Henry walked over to his desk and had a seat, “More questions.”
Not the answer she was hoping to hear.
“The other boys have been accounted for. Mitchell and Chris.” A sigh of relief crossed Ava’s face.
Henry shook his head. “It’d bad, Ava. Real bad.”
“What do you mean?” She was curious, the kids being found was surely good news.
“I mean, what you saw in Vera’s trunk wasn’t an isolated incident.” Henry stopped talking as tears slowly formed in Ava’s eyes; she covered her mouth in both shock and horror. Henry slid a box of tissues over to her.
“The uh – the Mitchell kid had his mouth -” he cut himself off and using his hand covered his mouth, “sown, and the other boy, Chris –“ Henry cleared his throat, “they took his ears, Ava. Someone out there is doing this to local boys.”
Ava was speechless. Her and Henry sat across from each other without saying a word when his phone rang.
“Excuse me.” He reached over to answer it, “you can stay here if you’d like. You don’t have to go out there with those people. But Ava, what I just told you is confidential.”
Ava nodded in understanding as she exited the office. Henry answered his phone.
Ava closed the door quietly. She took a seat next to the water cooler, making no eye contact with anyone. Jeffrey noticed the distraught look on her face; he made his way over to her. He removed a small cup and began filling it with water.
“Everything all right?” Jeffrey asked of his boss.
She looked uncomfortable, not willing nor wanting to say much. She simply shrugged.
“If you need to talk, I’ll be over there getting my heart broken.” Jeffrey walked off.
Ava watched as he walked over to Claudia and had a seat next to her, offering her his water. Without hesitation she took it and drank the cup dry. Henry burst out of his office and straight out the headquarters main doors. Jeffrey glanced over at Ava with a quizzical expression; Ava returned one back to the teenager.
Henry’s foot sunk into the damp mud outside the headquarters. It had only just finished raining an hour ago. He made his way over to a tow truck. The driver and a police officer waited for him.
“Mr. Carter?” The officer asked.
“Follow me, sir.”
The truck driver marched his way to the back of the truck, revealing what his tow was. Henry’s face shook. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing: A blue pickup truck. The same very truck his sister and Marcia went missing in. The plates were the same. The interior, as far as he could remember, was the same.
“I assume you recognize the vehicle?” The officer asked.
“I do, I do.” Henry was in tears.
“Any idea why we’d find it in the bay?”
Henry looked up at the officer and returned to his feet.
“The what?” He was in shock.
“The Bay, Mr. Carter. That’s where we found it.”
“What on Earth was it doing there?” Henry asked, not that he expected an answer.
“Well,” the officer started, “we were kinda hoping you’d have an answer for that.” The officer stared deep into the eyes of Henry Carter.
The moonlight shinning down on Hillsbury was more vibrant than the florescent lights of Las Vegas. The town was silent. No cars on the small streets, the lights in the homes were shut off. The news of the day had a few families packing it in early for the summer. Festival or not, they did not wish to be in Hillsbury during these dark times.
Most visiting families had opted to stay; they spent good money on their cottages and had alarm systems in place to keep them safe. They would show no fear to whoever was responsible for the crimes of the day. After all, most human beings believe themselves to be invincible. After every attack regardless of how great or small, the most common phrase spoken is: “I never thought it could happen to me.”
But know this: to me, is always a possibility.
Bentley had locked his office door for the night. He travelled south towards his house. An old family house once belonging to his great grandfather, though to the naked eye you would not be able to tell. Bentley’s father figured it to be a great idea to renovate the old house and modernize it, twenty years prior. Turned out his father was as much a handy man as he was. The house was never complete and what was left was a half finished heirloom left to Bentley and Elise upon the passing of Bentley’s father. Conversations between the married couple would come up from time to time about finishing the renovations, or beginning anew. Time however was never quite on their side. One summer, not too long ago, perhaps it was four years past now, Bentley did build a dock for their property. It, much to his and Elise’s surprise, was still there to this day. Bentley was very proud of his dock, not so much at first as the site of it looked appears to make it seem as though a child placed the wood, but still afloat after all these years, offerings endless summer nights for he and Elise to sit at the edge with their feet gently hovering over the water, was enough to make him proud.
Elise was already fast asleep when Bentley got home. Not by choice, she had a long day herself and just happened to lie on the couch hoping to enjoy a few pages of the book she had borrowed from a neighbor. That, however, was not to be, Elise fell fast asleep before even opening the book. Bentley took notice at the darkness in the house and closed the door as quietly and carefully as he could. In his right hand was a bag; in the back was a bottle of wine he had picked up from the local liquor store earlier in the day. He was hoping to sit back and have a relaxing night with Elise, enjoy a glass of wine or two, or three for that matter. Coming home at this hour was never part of the plan.
Life finds a way to ruin or plans.
He thought of his father’s words. His father, Gerald Trundle, was never much of a wordsmith, but he did have a few things he said, and said profoundly, most dealt with life ruining something, or getting in the way of something. Gerald was not the most upbeat individual you would meet.
Bentley entered the dining room and placed the bottle of wine on the table. He walked into his kitchen and cracked open a beer. He rested against the counter drinking it. This moment was what he needed. A rest, a beat, something to take his mind off of the horrid mutilations he saw occur to the three boys. And what could possibly have happened to the Liman kid? He shuttered at the thought.
The light turned on temporarily blinding Bentley. He looked over to the far side of the kitchen and saw Elise, messy hair, half awake, standing by the light switch.
“Welcome home” she deliriously smiled at her husband.
“Finally.” He chugged his beer back.
He had kept Elise mostly in the loop throughout the day, save for the gory details about the way the boys were found.
“Anything turn up?” She asked, “About the boy?” She refined her comment. Bentley sipped his beer and shook his head. He hated talking about it, but understood why his wife would want to know. Why anyone in Hillsbury would want to know.
“FBI should be in by sunrise. Then it’ll be out of my hands.”
Elise walked over to him and rubbed his shoulders.
“Frankly I’ll be glad. It’s tough, Elise. It’s real tough.”
“I know.” She didn’t, but what else could she say?
She looked out over to the dining room and noticed the bottle of wine Bentley had brought home.
“What’s that?” She said with a smile, hoping to shift gears in the conversation. She picked the bottle up and examined it.
“Syrah. California. We gonna open it?” She smiled at her husband.
He placed his beer on the counter and walked over to her.
“I bought it to drink…” he started.
“… But the events of day have changed your mind?” She finished for him.
He lowered his head in acknowledgment. He had every intention of drinking that wine with her on the couch watching some terrible romantic comedy, but how could he now?
“It hasn’t been easy.”
“Wanna just go to bed?” She offered.
He nodded. Elise wrapped her arm around her husband and the two walked off to the stairway, making their way to their room for the night.
Not one individual locked up in the Rangers Headquarters was happy about it. Not one of them made a fuss, though. They all understood what was going on, well what they were told was going on, and all wanted to stay clear and allow the police to search Hillsbury Park high and low until the boy, Joel Liman, was found. The truth of course was they were all being questioned and the police were searching for a kidnapper. Jeffrey, Morgan, and Claudia all sat close to the front entrance. They would be the last people interviewed by police. Not that it mattered, once interviewed you would still be expected to sit and wait.
“I gotta pee. Think they’ll let us piss?” Morgan asked.
Claudia rolled her eyes at her brother.
“I’d imagine so, yeah.” Jeffrey answered.
Morgan jumped out of his seat and waddled towards the bathroom. Upon approaching it Jeffrey noticed a police offer stop Morgan. He appeared to ask Morgan a couple yes or no questions, and proceeded to let Morgan use the restroom. Jeffrey looked over at Claudia who was playing a game on her cell phone.
“I don’t think you’re supposed to be on that thing.” Jeffrey informed the once love of his life.
“Well, until they tell me to get off it I’ll do what I want.”
At that moment an officer walked over to Claudia and told her to put her phone away. She gave Jeffrey a stare, a devastatingly angry stare, as if the whole interaction with the officer was some how his fault.
“Don’ look at me.” Jeffrey had no interest in taking the blame for her mistake.
“It’s your fault.” She snarled back at him.
He knew it; of course she’d blame him.
“What do you think’s going on?” She asked.
“You don’t know?” He asked her; surprised she would be unsure as to why the police would be around. Though even he didn’t expect to see them at this time.
“You don’t know? Like you have no idea?” He asked once again.
She only gave Jeffrey a blank stare.
“Joel Liman went missing last night. Remember”
“Yeah, but you said you were looking for him all day. Why all this now? Why so late?”
She had a point. Didn’t make sense that the police would only show up now just before closing, secure all visitors into an isolated room and question them. This should have been done during the day. There was more to this story, more than Jeffrey’s father was willing to tell him. Jeffrey shrugged at Claudia. He didn’t have an answer and didn’t feel like making one up. He was tired. Claudia looked around the office, eagerness rushed through her blood. She looked down at Jeffrey who was slouched down in his chair, the tips of his fingers bridged together. He was visibly tired.
“You know this park better than these cops do, right?” She asked.
He turned to her. “Why?”
Jeffrey was clearly not amused.
“I’m just thinking, you’d have a better shot at finding that boy than these cops do, right?”
She wasn’t right; because there was something more at play here, though he had no clue as to what.
“Not necessarily. Ava over there,” He pointed to the assistant park Ranger as she was helping a young girl purchase a bag of chips from the vending machine, “her and my dad, they know the park better than anyone. And if they couldn’t find him…” He cut himself off.
“Then what?” She grasped on to the end of his sentence.
“Then he’s not out there and there looking for something else.” Claudia said as she stared deep into Jeffrey’s eyes, looking for a tell or any indication that her hunch was correct.
“A ha! There is something else going on. But what is it?” She smiled, in her mind this was all playing out like a old film noir movie she used to watch with her father on Saturday nights.
“More like who.” Jeffrey continued.
The two sat in an awkward silence. The thought of a kidnapper or murderer running around their neck of the woods was enough to make anyone’s skin crawl. When Claudia came back to Earth from her vivid imagination, the idea of a missing child in her hometown terrified her. Especially boy she once knew. Bot Claudia and Morgan, as well as Jeffrey had been living in Hillsbury for their entire lives and had rarely been subjected to violence, let alone a kidnapping or murder. Jeffrey looked at Claudia’s face, the perfectly lush lips, her rosy read cheeks, the shine on her bright blue eyes.
“So....” he started and stopped.
“So, you have a boyfriend?”
She hummed and nodded in response. His stomach was uneasy.
“It’s nothing serious. Maybe it is, I dunno. Who can tell? We’re both so young.”
Not exactly what Jeffrey wanted to hear.
Her eyes gleamed down upon him as if willing him to respond. with“I’m in love with you.”
Instead he mustered up some courage and threw the girl of his dreams a curveball.
“There’s someone I like. I just – I just don’t know how to ask her out. Or how to tell if she even likes me.”
“She probably doesn’t” A cold response from Claudia, but probably a factual one. The girl in question was she, and she clearly had no interest in her younger brothers friend.
“If you can’t tell whether or not she likes you, she probably doesn’t. I’m not trying to be mean about it. It just is what it is. If she liked you, you’d know it.”
Jeffrey sunk back lower in his chair. Morgan marched his way back to the chair and took his seat.
“Line up’s huge! If you gotta go, I’d suggest going now.”
Jeffrey got up and headed towards the restroom. He walked past Ava who grabbed his arm.
“You heard from your father?” she asked, a worried expression filled her face. Jeffrey shook his head.
“Not since earlier, when he left.”
Both were concerned now.
“If you hear anything let me know, OK?”
Jeffrey nodded. “Of course.” And entered the restroom.
Bentley lay in bed wide-awake next to his wife. He watched over her as she laid sound asleep, silent, peaceful. He wished it could be that easy for him on this night. He found himself tossing and turning, one minute too hot, the next too cold. Nothing felt quite right, his head spinning with thoughts of those boys, and the one out there. Still missing. He began questioning his job, his capabilities in being efficient within it. Maybe he was never meant to be a cop. Maybe Walden had never stepped aside and promoted Bentley because maybe Walden knew he was never the right man for the job? Maybe it was time he and Elise left Hillsbury and started life anew somewhere else, somewhere distant?
Visions of Ava entered his thoughts. He couldn’t shake her beauty, her hair, her lips, and her eyes. Those big beautiful eyes of hers; his heart sank within the bowels of his stomach at the thought, like some teenage boy going through his locker in between classes when his crush would pass him for a drink of water.
She was bewitching.
He rolled over in the bed, facing away from his wife, too guilty to lay beside her with thoughts of another woman in his mind. He stared at the window; the curtains shut creating a blockade from the moonlight outside.
The moonlight outside - His thoughts shifted gears yet again. The moon was so bright and vibrant, like he had never seen it before. It was a beautiful sight on this night. Almost too beautiful, he thought. Was it just he, or was it getting brighter by the minute? The moonlight hovered atop the lake behind their house. It was common for the light to shine down and cause a radiant reflection on the calm waters, but this was different. The moonlight seemed to grow. And grow. It appeared to an over tired Bentley that the moon was getting bigger.
Not possible, he convinced himself. But there it was, right before his eyes: The moon growing. No, not growing, upon further inspection of the Deputy Sheriff he surmised that the moon was not in fact growing, but rather getting closer. His eyes squinted at the image bursting through the bedroom curtains. He looked over at his wife, still asleep, still silent, still at peace.
The room was now covered in moonlight; Bentley threw on his slippers and made his way down the stairs. He scurried to the back door and opened it quickly. He burst outside and stared up, straight up at the moon, the typical moon on a typical night hovering above the typical lake: Nothing unusual about it. It was not getting larger or coming down after them at all. Most likely this was just an illusion, a trick played on him by his tired eyes. The illusion of the moon getting larger must have manifested itself from its glistening off of the lake water. Bentley stood outside of his house in the heat of the night feeling like a fool.
A penance, he thought. A penance for thinking of another woman while lying in bed with his wife, the true love of his life. He quietly closed the door behind him; tip toed up the stairs back into his bedroom, removed his slippers, lay in bed, and wrapped his arms around his wife. He closed his eyes, hoping to sleep, but was not sure it would come.
The clouds had dissipated in Hillsbury by now. It was a beautiful clear night, and had one not known of the events which occurred that day, they would argue it was one of the most beautiful nights the town had seen that summer. Henry was absent from this night sky. He was sitting in a room he had never been before: An interrogation room. A man, somewhere in his late forties or early fifties entered the room with a briefcase in his hand. He spoke not a word, only placed his briefcase on the table in front of Henry, and opened it. He removed several photographs, Henry couldn’t count tell how many, and spread them across the table. Five photographs, all of Jill’s pick up truck, the one found at the bottom of the bay earlier that evening. Henry looked up at the man; he was a member of the Federal Bureau of Intelligence.
They’re here earlier than Bentley expected, Henry thought.
“Do you recognize these pictures?” The man finally spoke his voice raspy and deep. Henry watched as the agent covered his mouth as he yawned. The man was up later than he wanted to be. Henry could tell he was none too happy over the events in Hillsbury. Henry looked at the pictures. They were of the trucks exterior, interior, the rear, the front, and a duffel bag.
“Sort of?” The agent scoffed, “Either you do or you don’t. Its simple Mr. Carter.”
It wasn’t that simple, Henry thought. He knew the truck, the bag he wasn’t sure, but the pictures of the truck he had never seen before. The truck looked new, not a dent on it. Unusual for something found under over ten feet of water.
“I recognize the truck, the bag I haven’t a clue.”
“But you know the truck?”
“Looks like my sisters. Though I’m not entirely sure how it could possibly be hers, she’s been missing for –“
The agent cut him off.
“Seven years.” The agent said.
“Yes, that’s right.” Henry voice was soft.
“And you don’t know how it ended up at the bottom of the bay? The bay you’re the ranger for?”
Was Henry being accused of something? He already had this conversation with Bentley. He shook his head.
“Doesn’t make any sense to me.”
The agent quietly and softly closed his briefcase.
“Doesn’t make any to me either.” He said before exiting the room.
Once again Henry was left alone in there, no answers, just him and pictures of a truck he hadn’t seen in over seven years.
Finally after what felt like an eternity waiting in the ranger headquarters watching everyone but them be taken in for questioning it was now time for Jeffrey, Morgan, and Claudia. They were taken into Henry’s office, the door locked behind them and guarded by one officer. The blinds drawn shut. Officer Dingwell sat in Henry’s chair and had the three teenagers each take a seat across from him. Dingwell’s hair was thinning, the stubble on his chin, while thin, was from not having shaved for an entire week. He stunk of salami and olives. Jeffrey found him to be quite the sight, and not in a positive way. He was Trundle’s most trusted officer, and this was why he was here. Trundle would have been there himself but he was simply too tired. It was now coming up on two in the morning in Hillsbury, Dingwell and the other officers wanted to get this night over with sooner rather than later. The three teens were the last to be questioned.
“So,” he took a deep phlegmy breath, “what were y’all doing at the park?”
The three teens answered at the same time, each saying something different. Dingwell raised his right hand, “We’ll start with the lady.”
Claudia took pride in being called a lady.
“I just came to pick up these two.”
“So you haven’t been in the park?”
Claudia shook her head.
“Where have you been all day?” He leaned back in Henry’s chair as far as he could and crossed his arms over one another. He meant to come across intimidating, but he the teenagers thought he looked like a goof.
“I,” as Claudia began her alibi Jeffrey’s heart sank, he had already heard of her adventures with Bobby Rengard and he had no interest in hearing it again, “I was at home with my mother. We were – she was teaching me to bake.”
Jeffrey’s eyes lit up. No Bobby Rengard, no date. Was it all a lie? Or perhaps she was telling the officer a fib?
“So if I call your mother she’ll tell me the same?” Dingwell gave the girl a stern look.
Claudia nodded. “The very.”
Dingwell picked up his pen and scribbled something down on his notepad. He looked over at Morgan. Now, Morgan as stated early was not an imposing figure, in fact quite the opposite. Being questioned by the police made him nervous, any member of authority, or of the opposite sex had that effect on him, as a matter of fact. Dingwell immediately recognized Morgan as the weak link, and if he were to ever get any sort of information out of these three young people he would be the one to extract it from. Dingwell locked eyes with Morgan. A lump immediately grew in the teenagers throat, goose bumps forming on his arms, butterflies blossoming from the cocoon of his stomach. He could feel sweat glisten from atop his brow.
“And what were you doing at the park today?” Dingwell said with an excruciating smile.
“Working, sir.” Morgan some how gathered up the courage to speak to the officer.
Working? Dingwell thought, he flipped through a pile of papers.
“What’s your name, son?” his tone had softened; Jeffrey began to ponder the idea that perhaps Dingwell would never even get to him.
“Morgan Burton, sir.”
Again with the sir, Jeffrey thought.
“And you?” Dingwell turned to Jeffrey.
Now it was his turn to swallow over a lump, and feel the effects of goose bumps, but alas there were none, Jeffrey knew he had nothing to fear. He was a junior ranger at Hillsbury, had been all summer and his father was head ranger.
“Same, sir. Working.”
Dingwell leaned back into his chair.
“Name, I meant.” He explained himself.
“Jeffrey Carter?” Dingwell nodded as he read their names on a piece of paper. The paper itself was a list of staff members working in the park that day. The two boys checked out, but Dingwell had more questions for them.
“So we have here Morgan Burton and Jeffrey Carter?” He rhetorically asked, the boys looked at one another and nodded. Dingwell then fixed his attention on Morgan’s older sister.
“You may go,” he said as he shoed her away with his hand.
Claudia was confused at the situation, the boys perhaps more so, but she did as she was told and got up, just before she opened the door she turned to Morgan.
“What should I tell mum?”
“You can tell her he’ll be home shortly, no worries.” Dingwell promised, and he meant it, and Claudia knew that. She said her goodbyes to her brother, and his friend, and left. Dingwell stood up from Henry’s chair and walked over to the side of the desk, the side closest to Jeffrey. He sat his rump down on the edge of the desk and turned to the boys.
“Tell me what you know about Bruce Archer?”
A leaf, already teasing the sight of fall with a red hue upon it, escaped from a branch high above the grounds of Hillsbury and softly made its way fifty feet down to the dirt path which sat below. Bruce Archer stepped over the leaf, leaving a muddy trail behind him. Something evil lurked deep within this park; whatever it was laid low throughout the years but was now ready to reveal itself. Bruce regularly attended Hillsbury Park during the summer, always a camper, never for fun, always to find the lizard he discovered as a child with his late friend Peter Epsy. He had always been weary of traveling to the park alone, for if he ever came within contact with the lizard again he would most certainly need assistance in killing it. And so, he would gather four or five of his biggest friends, the nasty ones with no manners and should rarely be seen in public, and the ones he could trust with his life. None knew of his secret however. They only knew Bruce invited them camping once a year, typically the end of summer for the long weekend. He almost told his friend Josh of the lizard after divulging in one too many pints on a rainy evening, but he bit his tongue and acted as though he forgot what he was going to say. These trips where always a good time. As the years went on the purpose in these camping trips almost became lost on Bruce. Never once was there ever anything even close to sighting a lizard of any kind in the park. But now, they found a claw.
The claw: The colour, the texture, the shape, and the quills. Those horribly unapologetic quills, they insert themselves into your skin and latch on for dear life. The pain in which ensues upon releasing each quill is unbearable. Peter’s cry haunted Bruce. Perhaps he should have spoken up and made his knowledge of the origin of that claw known to both Ava and Henry? Most likely he would be branded a fool, and it would be simply coughed up to a silly fib, and folklore much like they do with Patty Liman’s stories of the bear. On this night Bruce left his friends at the campsite, no excuses he just up and left. His friends became curious as to where he went and in turn informed the officer guarding their portion of the park, that piece of information was not known to Bruce.
The park was eerily quiet, no birds, and no wind brushing against the leaves, only silence. He held onto the grip of his boot knife tightly. The knife belonged to his father, one of the few things he kept after his passing. The blade was approximately five inches in length, the grip over the years had begun wearing thin and so Bruce would wrap it almost annually with paracord. It wasn’t a particularly sharp knife; mostly it could be used to strike fear in the hearts of whoever was unlucky enough to come face to face with it. If Bruce had ever the opportunity to use it on the lizard he was not even sure it would be able to pierce its scaly skin. He sat under a large oak tree, and waited. He was certain he was in the spot he visited all those years ago, and he was certain the creature would return. He looked up at the night sky. Beautiful, the complete opposite of the night before, the night before! Had only he gone out, perhaps that boy wouldn’t be missing? How could he have known? He couldn’t, he never could. All the same, a chill of guilt rushed through his veins. He sat under the comfort of the tarp from a carnival game. A man and his knife. His day hadn’t been too busy, but the one downfall to being on a campsite with the company he kept was their ability to drink alcoholic beverages at an alarming pace. By sunrise they would be up, whipping up some eggs and bacon, oh the bacon! He could smell the grill now. Not to mention the sausage, asparagus, home fries, everything anyone could ever ask for in the morning those men of his would whip up! These guys came to play, and play hard they did. Fill your stomach with a full and complete breakfast, and by eleven have at least three tall boys under their belts. As his oldest friend Marco would say, “It’s five o’clock somewhere.”
Bruce’s eyes grew heavy, the lids opening and closing, the speed in which they would do so grew increasingly slower until his mind shifted from thoughts to fantasy, and he was asleep.
His rest would last only a moment when he was awoken by a rustling coming from the west of the park, from where Cape’s Side Bay. He perched himself up and held the knife up in his right hand. He waited as the sound began to get increasingly louder. His eyes focused. Years of anticipation built up, he waited for this moment: He alone in the park with the lizard. It drew closer. Suddenly, another sound could be heard coming from the East this time. Two directions. He turned his head, then back to look over where the original sound had come from. What was this trickery? He braced himself. Squatting down ready to pounce, his knife firmly grasped in his hand, his eyes fixated on the trees to each of his sides. As sounds of the creature, or creatures, grew louder and louder, they abruptly stopped. Both directions at the same time became silent.
What was this? He thought, the calm before the storm, perhaps? He braced himself for what was to come, but found himself unprepared as a barrage of police officers swarmed him. He was tackled from behind, and flung to the ground.
The next thing Bruce Archer knew was he was being read his writes and handcuffed, eventually finding himself in the back of a police cruiser.