A lunatic moon
Chapter 3 - Bones, Ugly and Old
Danny sat at the dining room table eating cereal and reading the comics from the newspaper. The paper itself didn't hold much interest for him,but as was his ritual, he scanned the comic strips just to see if any of them were in fact funny. They usually weren't. He drank the remainder of milk from the bowl and went about pushing the sections of newspaper back together, that's when something caught his eye. In the 'Local' section was a headline that read "Gruesome murder at country home". He read the article, which was brief, suggesting the reporter didn't have much information to work with.
"Julie Gifford, a senior student at Henry Paton highschool was killed just feet from the safety of her home..." He knew who Julie Gifford was. She used to take the school bus with the rest of them, until she'd gotten a car for her birthday. He'd never been friends with Julie, she was part of the 'popular' crowd, a tight knit group of preps and jocks. She was pretty, an only child and her parents were wealthy. Danny, his brothers and their friends didn't mix with that crowd much. The story went on to say that Julie had been killed just outside her house, presumably just getting home from her job at the donut shop. Her purse and car keys had been found on the ground beside her, she hadn't made it to the door. The cops didn't have any suspects, but were following every lead available to them. The paper didn't mention anything about sexual assault. Danny thought that was odd. Why exactly was she killed then? The article didn't say if the house had been burglarized either, but then again the story didn't have much detail to it whatsoever. Almost as if the police were trying to keep it quiet. It gave her address as being 1101 Powerline road. Danny knew the area since his school bus took that route on the way to Henry Paton High. Ironically, that part of Powerline road was completely unlit. In fact there were no streetlights for any of the roads out there, except maybe the odd one at a major intersection. Her attacker could have lain in wait without her seeing them until the last second, unless it was a prowler that had been surprised by her coming home. Why wouldn't they just run away into the dark of the night, why stick around and kill someone? Danny read the story through twice more, then shook his head and folded the paper closed. It didn't make any sense, two deaths in just over a month. That was rare for these parts, unless they were traffic fatalities. This was big news and since both victims were from the same highschool, this was going to be all anyone talked about for weeks. He went into the livingroom to tell his twin 14 year old brothers, Bobby and James, Kevin was in his room. He brought the paper that had a picture of Julie Gifford's house above the story. They knew who she was but, didn't care much. They were watching Unsolved Mysteries...
Danny sat in his room on the end of his bed. He was bored and distracted. A few days had passed since Julie Gifford's murder. The cops had no clues and the story had quickly dropped out of sight in the newspaper. The kids at school had pretty much stopped talking about Julie, but Danny was still thinking about his friend Mike. He opened and closed Mike's knife in his hand, over and over again. Absentmindedly he scratched at the blood that still remained around the handle of the knife with his thumbnail. In some parts it was thick and black like tar and when he raised it to his nostrils had a foul smell to it. It smelled like some of the roadkill he'd seen drying in the sun, during summer when he was hitchhiking into town. It never occured to him to try and wash it off. He thought of Mike again, only he and Mike ever hitchhiked into town. In fact it was Danny who'd told Mike how easy it was to stick out your thumb and catch a ride with a neighbour heading into town for groceries, or a farmer heading to the bank to conduct some business. Danny himself had never had any problems catching a lift and when Mike had asked him about the risks, Danny had replied with a laugh, "What risks? Nobody's gonna try and pull anything funny. In a small town like this? And if a stranger tries something, you just grab the steering wheel and put the car in the ditch. Either that, or jump out if you're going slow enough. Me? I'd grab the wheel...that'd give them something to think about and something to try and explain to the cops if they show up." Mike had smiled and said "Ahhh..." nodding sagely, as if Danny had just imparted some sort of all-knowing wisdom of the world. Suddenly Danny felt like crying, but he didn't. He didn't think Mike would want him to. Naw, they way he figured it, is Mike would want Danny to find out the truth. There was no train. Danny didn't know for sure, but he didn't think getting run over by a train would be that messy. Sure you're gonna get messed up bad, maybe cut in two, or splattered like a bug on a windshield, but not all torn up like that. He closed the knife one final time with a snap and went downstairs and pulled on his shoes. He wasn't sure what he was going to do, but his first thoughts went to that creepy old man. I don't know what, how, or why, Danny thought, but that bastard had something to do with Mike's death. Could he picture the old coot attacking someone? Sure, easy. Could he picture the old guy biting someone? Yeah, why not? And could he see that old man tearing someone limb from limb? He sure seemed strong enough, if he wen't entirely apeshit? Maybe...but WHY? That was the big question. Why would some lonely, ugly old man attack and kill an innocent teenager like Mike Vansickle. Unless Mike wasn't innocent. Maybe as he was walking down the tracks and was passing by the old man's house, they saw each other. Maybe Mike said something to him. If Mike was drunk and brave enough, he could'a said something to him, or maybe Mike saw the house and went to investigate and pissed the old man off. Or maybe, just maybe, Mike saw the house and chucked a few rocks at it for sport, thinking it was deserted. That would bring the old guy out for sure and in the middle of the night, he'd be pissed off. Usually out here though, farmers and folk kept shotguns. Danny had heard rumours from the old days about people getting run off with rock salt getting blasted at them. If you got hit in the ass with rock salt, that'd teach you a lesson you wouldn't soon forget. You'd have to be totally psycho to go and tear some kid to shreds for putting a rock through your window, no matter what time of day it was! Danny thought as he walked, not really minding where he was going. He found himself opening and closing Mike's knife in his pocket with one hand. He took it out and looked at it and while it was open he pressed the pad of his thumb against the tip of it. Ouch! It certainly was sharp enough and it drew blood. It also looked like he'd gotten some dirt, (or blood?), from the blade in the wound. He grasped his thumb with his other hand and squeezed, hoping to force out some more blood and the dirt with it. All he did was make it hurt. It was already starting to clot anyway.
He flipped the knife closed and tucked it back in his pocket. Mike had loved this knife and he'd been so proud of how sharp he'd gotten it. When he'd first got it from the store, you could barely open an envelope with it. So he'd found a flat rock, just right for the job and probably spent hours scraping it back and forth, getting it sharper and sharper. Finally it was so sharp, you could slash at the tall weeds with it and it would cut the tops off no problem. Now Danny had sliced his thumb with it. Mike would have laughed at him. "Way to go dummy!" he would have said. "I told you to be careful. It's sharp as hell." Danny stared at his cut thumb while he pictured the exchange, then sucked at his wound thoughtfully and wiped it on his shirt.
"We're like blood brothers now Mike." He said aloud to no one in particular.
It was a truer statement than he could possibly know. He came out of his daydream in a haze. Where the hell was he after all? When he glanced around he realized he was on the tracks. Not quite at the spot where he'd found Mike's body, but far enough back, so that it was pointless to turn around now. Shit, he didn't know where he was going anyway may as well keep on going. So he kept on walking and when he got to 'the spot', he didn't stop, just chugged right on past. Nothing to see there anyhow, all traces of anything had either been collected by the forensics crew or washed away by weather. He started to develop a plan in his mind, half assed at best, but better than sitting on his hands. He wondered what would happen if he tried to make friendly with Mr. Ugly and Old. Guess he'd find out soon enough. If the guy was a killer and he decided to kill Danny for no reason, other than being a meddlesome kid, then have at it buddy. Do your worst, cuz I've got something for you too. And he fingered the knife in his pocket again. At least he'd know for sure what happened to Mike. And if he lived to tell about it, then he was gonna bring those cops back and stroll right up to his door. Good day Mr.Ugly and Old sir. We'd like you to come down to the station with us... or something like that...he hoped.
Instead of walking on the tracks through the tunnel of trees, the same way he'd gone the other time, he decided to cut across the meadow and past the cow pond on his left. It brought him suddenly to the edge of the forest at the eastern end of the long narrow pond. The ground here was marshy and clogged with rotting branches. A large tree had been uprooted during a windstorm, the soft soil giving little purchase and it's roots formed a small cave. Danny pushed past pricklers and raspberry bushes, seeking higher ground. Finally, he broke out of the brush and started to follow what looked like a small animal trail. It led upward and away from the pond, onto drier ground where the trees were bigger and there was plenty of space between them for walking. He stopped a minute to catch his breath after struggling through the thickets and looked about for a good way to continue. He knew the area well and was in no way worried about getting lost. He'd always had a keen sense of direction anyway. He never understood how people in books and movies got themselves lost in the woods. Sure, maybe in uncharted wilderness that went on and on unchanging for hundreds of miles, but around here there were plenty of landmarks one could use to mark your location. For instance, he had a rough idea of direction just from where the sun hung in the sky and if you compound that with other local landmarks, he wasn't worried. The hydro tower standing like some alien sentinel in the pasture he'd just crossed, told him he was going in the direction of Powerline road. He knew that if he followed a roughly straight path through the woods, he'd come out the other side opening up in a small field behind Ugly and Old's house. That was the plan at least. He'd hang out at the edge of the tree line and spy on the house for a bit. It was still pretty early in the day, so he had plenty of time to do a bit of a stakeout. He walked, casually now, throught the forest, enjoying his hike. The air was fresh and clear, sunlight filtering down through leaves, dappled the firm ground. The high canopy of the trees ensured there was little undergrowth and made the going that much easier. Suddenly at the top of a gentle rise, the trees stopped and a tiny clearing appeared. Almost a perfect circle was made by the border of tree trunks. Overhanging branches still kept most of the sun out and the ground before him was clear. A thin bed of dead leaves lay on the forest floor with a few ferns poking up here and there. And bones. He could see that now. Lots of bones, bleached white with age, were scattered around. Big bones and little bones and as he leaned forward at the waist, he could even see now, tiny bones. His eyes strayed back to the big bones, trying to judge if any of them looked familiar to him. With a growing sense of relief as he looked from ribs to leg bones and finally a skull, they all looked like animal bones. Probably deer. He crept forward cautiously, watching his step. There was enough room between the bones, that he could tip toe between them in a winding path. Stopping in the middle he looked around, slowly turning in a circle. Looking for a pattern of some kind, or were they just scattered randomly? It looked totally random. He picked out three skulls, two small and one large. A mother and her babies? It was quite possible that a mother deer had died during childbirth. Growing up in the country teaches you early that nature can be cruel. Out here there are no second chances. You make it or you don't. At least second chances are few and very far between... So it occured to him that this must have been the case and he felt a sudden pang of sadness for the deer. As he stood over the bones, feeling bad for the deer, other sensations began crawling up his spine. Loneliness, vulnerability and a painful naked feeling, fear and wait, what's this, anger? Anger at the cruelty of nature for dealing a death blow to a beautiful creature of the forest, this creature just trying to do her job by populating it with more baby deer. Wow. Danny was surprised at himself, he wasn't normally affected this deeply, but then again he didn't really feel like himself either right now for some reason. He felt exposed and yes, those other feelings clung to him too, almost like a bad smell can. Exposed and naked. Ashamed and vulnerable. Why shame now? He wondered... Suddenly not so careful, or reverent, he started stumbling backwards, through the bones. Over the bones and on the bones. Ribs staved up through the dirt creaking, cracking under his feet, he pinwheeled his arms and fell backwards on the edge of the clearing. Sitting down hard amongst the leaves, the heels of his hands biting into the ground. Gasping and confused he looked about himself wildly, sensing danger. But there was none. He sensed danger all the same and looked for it, between the leaves and shadows. He looked along the edge of tree trunks, but could see nothing. Why then did he feel afraid? He felt as if he was being watched, even though he seemed to be all by himself. He listened closely and observed with an uneasy feeling that it was dead quiet. No birds, no crickets, nothing. What do they say in movies? It's almost too quiet? Yeah, well that's what Danny was feeling right then...too damn quiet. That's when he knew that he was no longer alone... He knew at that moment, with every fiber of his being, someone was watching him. He knew it was a person too. With absolute certainty, no matter how well they were able to conceal themselves, it was a person watching Danny. Very carefully, very closely. In fact he felt as if his thoughts were being probed and he started feeling the way he felt when he'd been in the prescence of Ugly and Old. Was he out here right now? Somewhere in the shadows? Watching Danny, slowly closing in on him? He felt his skin starting to crawl, all hot and itchy like a bad rash. Like rapidly spreading poison ivy. He actually had to look at his hands to check that he hadn't sat down on an anthill and they weren't racing up his forearms. It felt that tangible and real. All he saw were goosebumps and traces of soil. Then just as quickly as it had started, it began to recede and the feeling of being watched slowly left him, until he just felt stupid for sitting there in the leaves. He slowly and quietly got to his feet, listening for footsteps in the forest, but heard nothing. then just as gradually, life also began to return to the woods where it belonged. He heard a lone cricket, tentatively chirp, once, then twice and then it was joined by another. As if I signal had been sent out that the coast was clear, more joined in unison and sparrows started chirping, suspiciously at first then louder and bolder, as nature resumed it's normal activity. Whatever had brought those pangs of fear to every living thing within range, had passed. Danny brushed the dirt from his jeans and that's when he saw the boar carcass. It lay at the edge of the clearing, concealed in part by a fallen branch. It was covered by leaves and had been there a long, long time. The skeletal remains were still covered by it's brown, bristly hide and after he moved the branch, it was easier to see what it had once been. It was huge too. Danny had seen pigs before, big pigs and this was bigger than the biggest one he'd seen at any fall fair. This was a wild boar, not your common run of the mill farmer's sow, this thing had long tusks that stuck out dangerously from it's enormous skull. He'd never seen a wild boar before and as far as he knew they didn't even exist around here. Where the hell had this thing come from? He kicked leaves away from it's mummified body, uncovering a black cloven hoof and shuddered. Something didn't add up here and things seemed a little less natural than they first had. He shrugged and poked the cloven hoof with the tip of his sneaker. The moment of panic he'd just experienced hadn't faded entirely and he felt the need to press on. Get away from these bones and this clearing. It had a bad air to it in general.
By the time he was nearing the edge of the woods and the tree line stopped and meadow began, the sun had started to sag a little past high noon. That still left him with plenty of time though for some surveillance and decision making, as to how to approach the house. he crouched down low and crept up circling around the last few trees and into the tall grass at the edge of the woods. He could see the shitbox little house from here. A dilapidated yellow with black shingled roof. There was no sign of life right now. He squatted, waiting for his heart to stop pounding in his ears. He was nervous because he felt like he was doing something wrong. Sneaking around someone's property and spying on what might be an innocent little old man. Though Danny wasn't totally sure just how innocent this guy was. He might want people to think he was old and harmless. He might want people to think he was a lonely, little old man, out here in the country all by himself, just trying to get by. But something about the way he'd looked at Danny, they way he'd grabbed his arm and made it hurt, made Danny suspect...what? Suspect he'd torn Mike up, into PIECES further down the tracks in the middle of night? Gone toe to toe with a younger, stronger and ultimately healthier man and gotten away without so much as a scratch? A strong, young guy with a knife? Danny tried to picture it in his head. He had arm wrestled Mike before and knew that from working every weekend as a mechanic at his dad's car garage, Mike was actually really strong. He'd beaten Danny soundly three times in a row, until his arm had ached from the exertion. Then one by one he'd arm wrestled first Kevin, then James and Bobby each. Winning with little to no effort every time. He wasn't a moose by any means, but he'd stood the same height as Danny, almost six foot and had that sinewy strength with iron forearms. Surely a little old man would be no match for Mike. So what was he doing here? Just checking things out. That's right. There's something wrong with Ugly and Old and he was just here to gather a little more information if he could. His knees and ankles started to ache from squatting and watching, so he sat back on his butt and crossed his legs. Perfect. Now he was nice and comfortable and he could just see over the tops of the weeds and keep an eye on the house. As time passed, Danny took in the property. The house sat on the top of a gentle grassy rise leading from what should be Powerline road. The yard was unmowed and filled with weeds except for a bald patch around the porch. What he guessed was supposed to be a backyard was nothing more than a pile of garbage bags, old lumber, a dead washing machine and assorted broken furniture. Twinkling shards of broken glass littered the whole area, like the remains of highway wreckage. A constellation of destruction and despair. A well worn path led from the long gravel driveway and a beat up Datsun that was practically invisible. The little hatchback was a matte grey that looked like it had been hand painted with a brush. The door and front right quarter panel was dented and it had no hubcaps to speak of. It's antennae was bent and Danny had no doubt that it's interior would smell faintly of what the gloomy house had on the day he'd visited. Mildew, trash and rot. He assumed Ugly and Old lived alone. Not being able to imagine anyone else putting up with that smell.
While he sat there with his ass starting to go numb, Danny considered lighting up a cigarette, but thought against it for fear of giving himself away with clouds of smoke. He wondered if he had the guts to face the old man with some kind of phony story about needing a glass of water, or maybe needing to use the phone instead.Suss him out a bit. As he was working up the courage to just get up and go knock on the door. Ugly and Old appeared on the porch, letting the screen door snap shut behing him. Danny's heart started to knock against his ribs as the old man slowly and deliberately turned on his heel until he was directly facing Danny's hiding spot in the shade of the woods and tall grass. He stared across the tops of the weeds at Danny, standing motionless on his sloping porch. Danny ducked down staring back. There was no way he'd been seen. Impossible. Danny had been careful to wear clothing that blended in with the natural environment. With his brown ball cap, green T-shirt and khaki shorts Danny should look like any other shadow out here in the field. But the guy kept staring and staring. Danny's heart plodded along bluntly in his chest, making it feel hollowed out and filling with dread. He stared back. The old guy stared too and what's this now? Was he smiling at Danny? Danny resisted the urge to rub his eyes and blinked instead, squinting. Hard to tell, but it sure looked like he was smiling. Yes. He was sure of it now, smiling wider and wider, filling it's face as Danny watched. It's grin gew with each second, until it was from ear to ear. An inhuman grin, filled with sharp teeth and centered around a gaping, infinite, deadly maw. Impossible. Danny thought. It's my imagination. Impossible. He can't even see me! Impossible. That's not real. And as Danny watched, blood rushing in his ears, Ugly and Old, smiling fiercely, slowly but surely raised his bony hand in a friendly wave. "If you get tired of sitting out there in the grass", it seemed to say, "come on in for something to drink, or maybe a bite to eat." Then it lowered it's hand and turned just as slowly, like a doll on a spindle, disappearing into the shitty little house. The screen door slammed shut, like a clap of thunder this time. Danny remained frozen, unsure of what he'd just witnessed and gasping for breath. He struggled to get air, but his throat felt like it was closing and he couldn't fill his lungs quickly enough anyway. The way his heart was racing, surely he needed more oxygen than he was getting. He panted, gulping at the air, swallowing. Bright lights started to flash in front of his eyes, dancing like fireflies. He pawed at his chest trying to suck air into his lungs, mouth clogged with cotton. He fell forward on his face and passed out.
When he woke up, the sun was about an hour lower in the sky. In the first few seconds he couldn't figure out where he was, then gradually he remembered. Everything. Suddenly panicky, he looked towards the house, but there was no one about. Just as quickly, he felt a sense of relief and sighed. Danny gazed around feeling oddly refreshed and energized. The crickets were chirping all around full tilt. The meadow positively buzzed with hundreds of them. As he watched, a fat honeybee landed on a flower in front of him and lazily gathered pollen, then lifted off again, heavy with yellow grains. Danny could see it dropping off it's hairy legs, as it hummed away to another flower. He felt warmed by the sun and his hands tingled. He could breathe easily now, in fact his chest felt full of well being and happiness. He glanced up at the house confidently now and full of wonder. That guy could have easily come and captured me while I was unconscious, but he didn't. I wonder why. Danny thought. Somewhere inside of himself he felt this new surge of confidence growing. Not 'wishy washy', not 'just maybe', but 'for sure' and 'totally'. He felt he could take on the world and win. He felt like he had a secret he couldn't tell, but he didn't know what it was. There was something in his core, he didn't know if it was new, or if it had been there all along and he just hadn't recognized it yet. But it felt good and he felt strong. He felt better than he had since Mike died, since before Mike died even. Danny hadn't felt this good before, this strong in his entire life. Whatever it was, wherever it was coming from, Danny wasn't going to question it and there was no way he could fight it. 'It' was that strong, whatever 'It' was. And while he smiled to himself, thinking about his new bright and powerful feeling...Yes that's what it was! A bright power...while he was digging this new feeling, he heard a car approaching on the driveway. He heard it clearly too. Over top of all the crickets even, like he had his ear next to the tires as it bumped up the gravel driveway. Danny swiftly ducked lower watching. In disbelief, a police cruiser slowly jostled over some potholes and cruised up the slope to the house. He dipensed with the notion that Ugly and Old had called the cops on him, because somehow he knew he hadn't. No Danny was safe for now. The cop was here to ask questions. It came to Danny in a concise and certain stream of knowledge. The cop was here to ask questions about Julie Gifford's death. Why? Because there was something seriously wrong about the crime scene. Danny didn't know what that 'wrong' was, but it was 'something' that's for sure and Ugly and Old lived so close to the Gifford's house. The cop wanted to 'squeeze' him for some info. From his hiding place, Danny watched with glee as not just one, but two cops got out of the big shiny cruiser and he had to clap his hand to his mouth so he wouldn't laugh out loud. It was Seargent Cliff Bell and officer Sam! Oh this was so much better than Danny having to knock on the door himself, pretending to be lost and thirsty. So much better cuz they were cops, who were used to spotting liars and they had guns. Danny wondered with joy if Ugly and Old would try something funny, causing the cops to have to shoot him in the leg or something. He watched with bated breath as Sam hung back, hand resting casually on the butt of his gun, while Bell mounted the crooked porch and rapped on the warped frame of the screen door. From where he hid, he could clearly hear Sam ask, "He home? His car's here... Nice wheels buddy." And chuckled softly. Bell looked around, craning his neck to look beside the house, then knocked again. This time Danny heard a muffled thud from inside the house and Bell took one step back from the door, his hand on the butt of his gun now. Danny saw the screen door quiver and open a crack.
"Hello. Yes, can I help you?" he heard the old guy speaking in a wizened voice, with just the hint of an accent. Danny could tell he was putting on a show for the cops. He didn't sound anything like that talking to Danny.
"Afternoon." Bell started, "We're with the police department and we're out talking to a few of the people in the area today. We'd like to ask you a couple questions if you have a minute?"
"Oh dear, what's this about?" Feeble and weak. Danny could see the screen door quivering. What a faker! He thought.
"There was a murder the other day, a couple miles down the road and we want to know if you heard anything, or saw anything that might help us in our investigation." Bell produced a note pad and stood poised with a pen.
"I'll do my best, I don't know if I'll be any use..." That accent again and Danny decided that it sounded French just from what he'd seen on TV.
"First of all, could I have your full name please?" Sergeant Bell asked.
This time, the old guy opened the screen door fully and hobbled out to stand on the porch. Bell made room for him and stepped backwards off the porch and onto the bare patch of grass. The smell visibly forcing him away from the door.
"Yes. My name is Jean Duhamel." And he glanced over his shoulder at Danny. Really quickly, like a bird, but it was clearly towards Danny.
"How do you spell that? With an 'S'? 'Shawn'? or...?" Bell asked.
"With a 'J', Jean Duhamel. Jean." he repeated.
"Oh, with a J. Jean, but not pronounced Gene, like blue jeans..." And Bell started writing.
As Jean Duhamel spelled his last name for them, Danny could see officer Sam looking about, then he strolled to the right side of the house, glancing around in the grass. Kicking at something. This seemed to make Jean nervous. He kept looking over at Sam, getting all shifty.
Bell looked up at him and asked, "Has anyone been by here lately? Have you seen any strangers or unfamiliar vehicles?"
"No, not at all. I haven't seen anybody here in months. Not since my grandchildren visited at Christmas." he lied.
Sam kept poking about. He walked behind the house and stood shocked, shaking his head at the junk pile. Danny heard him chuckle again and Sam walked around front again. Standing with his head cocked to the side, cop-like, watching the exchange.
"How about kids?" Bell asked. "You seen any kids around here? On your property, or walking down the railroad tracks?"
This seemed to catch Jean off guard a little and he stammered.
"No...noooo...why? What night did this girl die?" he curled his arm around the porch post, leaning into it.
Bell paused, then made a show of flipping back a few pages in his notepad. "Uhhh... Looks like late, last Thursday night, early Friday morning..."
"Like I said officer, I haven't seen anyone here since my grandchildren at Christmas."
Sam shifted his weight uneasily and Jean glanced over at him again. Danny perceived a change in the atmosphere and even though the sun was shining, it seemed to grow darker. The crickets had stopped chirping and every word seemed to hang in the air now. Like bitter fruit.
"Since Christmas?" Bell asked. "Wow. It must get lonely up here by yourself." He looked hard at the old guy on his porch, as if he was changing his mind about something.
"Oh I'm okay. I do just fine here." Jean said. I do just fine..." This time it was his turn to chuckle.
Danny had that picture in his mind's eye again of bloody bone, clotting in a blender and he shuddered. Bell took an involuntary step back from the porch and flipped his pad shut, clicking his pen repeatedly. 'click. click. click. click.' Danny could hear it clearly. Bell stood straight gazing at Jean Duhamel, thinking and nobody moved. Danny held his breath. 'click. click. click. click.' Ticking off the seconds. Danny counted, 'click. click.' Ten.
"Alrighty then." Bell said and swung towards his cruiser. Sticking the pen in his jacket pocket, he opened the door and nodded at Sam. Sam jumped into action and whipped out a card and strode up to the porch handing it to Jean. Ugly and Old shrank away briefly, then slowly reached out for the business card.
Sam pulled it back though. "If you think of anything. Anything at all. I'd like for you to call us. Alright?" And he waited for Jean to reply.
"Yes. Yes of course!" Jean said hurriedly and reached for the card again.
This time Sam went to hand him the card, but let it fall just before Jean's fingertips touched it. It seemed a deliberate act to Danny and it worked like a charm, because before the card had a chance to flutter to the floor of the porch, Jean snapped it out of mid air as quick as a wink. Danny thought he heard Sam gasp, then recover. "Thank you sir. Call us if you think of anything at all." Danny watched as Sam walked backward to the cruiser and opened the door without taking his eyes off Ugly and Old. The whole time his hand on the butt of his gun. Sam may seem easy going, Danny thought to himself, but he is one hundred percent cop. And he smiled at the thought. Sam looked at the junk pile and shaking his head again with a chuckle, he got in and pulled the door shut. Bell fired up the cruiser and gunned the engine, then shifting into reverse swung the big car around. Revving, he popped the clutch in first gear and the tires spun, digging into the loose gravel, flinging stones into the air. Danny watched Jean Duhamel cringe as a few pinged off the side of the house. Then slowly he let go of the porch post and standing taller, raised his hand in a wave to the police car, as it sped down his driveway in a cloud of dust. The old man stood stock still for a few seconds before turning to face the field where he hid. Jean Duhamel scanned the field, using his hand to shade his eyes. Danny felt that skin crawling sensation, just briefly, as Jean's gaze passed over him. Apparently he couldn't see him anymore. The old guy turned around and looked in the direction of the railroad tracks, then came down off the porch and made a slow circuit going around his house. Looking here and there, past the junk pile and the far side, then around the front again. He scanned the fields and looked down the driveway, then seemingly satisfied nobody was around, back up on the porch again. Then Ugly and Old ducked inside the house, only to reappear seconds later with an object in his hand. Whatever it was, it was brown with a bit of white and red stripes. Jean swung it in a wide underhand arc and flung it into the field far to the left of where Danny was hiding. He heard it swish through the weeds and hit the ground with a soft thud. It was an amazing throw for a little old man. The object travelled a couple hundred feet at least. Ugly and Old opened the screen door, went into his house and then closed the inner door to his sanctum. Danny heard the deadbolt snap shut. Whatever it was, the old man Jean seemed to have something to hide. He'd accomplished more than just removing something from his house, that he didn't want the cops to find though. He'd just aroused Danny's suspicion to a maddening level. Danny was desperate to find out what that object was, but he wasn't sure he wanted to find out at the risk of losing his life. He thought maybe he should come back when it was dark.
Maybe it would be safer in the dark.
About the Creator
Jim E. Beer
I was raised outside of Ancaster, Ont. I write about what I know and what I've survived. I hope you enjoy what you read. Leave a comment and feel free to tip. There is an option to do so at the end of each story if you feel so inclined. Jim
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