Chapter 19: Winford
Dad led the convoy up the steep road as Klara directed him toward the Spell’s house. He turned into a driveway a few houses after the street leveled off. Chris and Theo pulled up along the curb. Headlights off, the vehicles remained running.
Dad’s voice crackled over the radio, “Okay, I want Anna and Klara to join me. No guns.”
I took off my belt and pulled the pistol from the holster. I hid the weapon in an interior coat pocket, just in case. Dad walked over to Klara, put his arm around her and gave her a sympathetic squeeze. Together they waited for me to join them.
“Anna, I want you to do the talking. If they’re still in there, we’re probably frightening them at this very moment. A woman’s voice might not scare them into doing something unfortunate,” Dad said.
A thin stream of light escaped from a curtained window and spilled onto the porch. When we walked closer, the curtain twitched.
We took up positions on both sides of the door. Dad checked to see if we were ready and then knocked on the door. Before I could say anything, a cultured and rather pleasant male voice called out from the other side of the door.
“You folks have thirty seconds to clear off my property or else I will be forced to shoot. Your choice. You have been warned.”
“Mr. Spell, it’s us. We’ve come for you,” I shouted.
After a pause, the voice replied, “You now have twenty seconds to explain whom you mean by us, and what exactly, come for you, involves.”
“The Wallis’s,” I yelled. Try as I might, I could not control the waver in my voice. “Klara Bulger is with us.”
The curtain opened up even further. Candlelight danced on the porch before the curtain fell closed to leave us in darkness.
“All right, this is what’s going to happen. I’m going to open the door. Be fair warned, one wrong move and I will end this. You have my word.”
The door opened and two tall young men barred access to the house. Taken aback, I felt embarrassed by my reaction to their skin color. Never one to partake in the irrational dislike of another human based on the color of their skin, it did nonetheless take me by surprise.
I don’t know what I expected, honestly. The fact they were African-American should have been no surprise at all here in Fishers Creek. Lost in my thoughts, I became startled anew when I realized the taller of the two pointed a pistol out the door.
Klara presented herself in the candlelight and asked, “You Anthony?”
“No. Phillip,” the taller man, the one with the gun said. “He’s Anthony.” He nodded sideways toward the shorter man, the one holding a crowbar.
“You’re Klara?” Anthony asked.
“Oh yes, I’m afraid so,” she replied with a wan smile.
“Move aside children, and let our guests enter,” the cultured voice spoke from another room.
The two men separated and when they did, Phillip lowered his pistol. Anthony led Klara and me, followed by Dad into the next room.
Dad paused to whisper into the walkie-talkie, “It’s okay. We’re headed inside.”
The door squeaked closed like a casket lid. We entered the front room where a rather handsome, middle-aged gentleman greeted us. He sat in a comfortable chair and behind him stood a woman.
A festive multi-colored Christmas blanket draped over the lower portion of the man’s body. Gray along the sides of his otherwise black hair, he sported a neat, short, and well-trimmed haircut. I liked this man the instant I laid eyes on him. Here before me sat one of those special people you meet very seldom in a lifetime. Mr. Spell possessed the magical quality of presence all who come across recognize instantly.
An antique grandfather clock marked time in a corner. Click click, tick. Click click, tick. Click click, tick.
“You, I assume are Mr. Wallis,” the man said as he extended his hand to Dad. Mr. Spell made no attempt to rise.
“Yes, but please call me Dave.” Dad walked across the room to shake the man’s hand.
Absent the muffled effects of distance and the door, Mr. Spell’s voice resonated deep in my memory. Where and when I had heard it before remained a mystery. I could not recall the pleasure of this man’s acquaintance before this evening. Mr. Spell was, to be sure, not the type of individual easy to forget.
The rather severe looking young woman behind Mr. Spell tensed up when Dad drew near. She gripped his shoulder as Dad and he shook hands.
“If that’s how you wish it to be, Dave, then I must ask you to refer to me by my proper Christian name, which is Winford Thaddeus Spell, the third. Winford will serve our needs just fine.”
“Pleased to meet you Mr. -- err, Winford.”
“Please sit down, Dave. We have much to discuss.”
“Sorry, Winford, but we’re in a hurry.”
Winford smiled; a sad, fatalistic smile, which would have melted the heart of the strongest warrior. “I’m well aware of the urgency to the hour. Please indulge me. There are matters I need to explain before -- Well, before we part company.”