Chapter 12: A Game of I Hide and You Won't Find Me
They caught sight of the butterfly as it headed for the opening of the forest just past the Kitchet’s house.
“Let’s stay back a bit. We don’t want to scare it,” Samantha suggested.
Into the woods, small stones off to the sides marked a path leading through to a clearing. A thick layer of snow covered the ground, protected by the trees blocking out the sun. The smell of pine in the air reminded Samantha of the Ponderosa Pines that grew behind the home her family rented in Flagstaff, Arizona. Directly in front of her, she kept her eye on the butterfly as it glided along. Every so often it would stop, spin around to face them, before flying off along the path.
“Get the feeling it’s playing some sort of game with us?” Zen asked
“Yeah I do,” Samantha said, halting in her tracks. The butterfly had stopped again. “What type of butterfly is out this time of the year?”
“I don’t know. That’s why I want to get a closer look at it.”
As they inched nearer to it, the butterfly inched back towards them. Then suddenly, as if changing its mind, it flapped its large wings making a sharp left turn down a row of spruce trees.
“It’s trying to lose us!” Samantha yelled, running after it.
Zigzagging up one way, then down another way, and in-between rows of trees, the butterfly led them deeper into the woods.
“Where’s it going? I’m starting to get whiplash,” Zen said, trying to keep up.
But, keep up they did, darting through areas dense with snow-covered trees, until finally ending up in another clearing, and a dead end, no sign of the butterfly.
“Great, we’ve lost it,” Zen sighed. “That was a big waste of time.”
Samantha took a deep breath too and as she did, she noticed the air in the clearing was different. It felt thinner. They were standing in a ring of trees with hearty green leaves, smooth reddish brown trunks, and roots that grew above ground. To her, the roots resembled large knobby feet. These are different sorts of trees. A funny thought popped into her head. Maybe these trees go on walkabouts, as her dad’s friend, Mr. Jimmy, would say. Wouldn’t it be funny if these trees just up and walked off in search of their true roots!
“Oh well Zen, we better go home.” But Zen had found the trickster butterfly, bobbing between two of the trees. He stood like a, mannequin, just watching it several feet in front of him.
Yes, there it is! Feeling maybe all their running around wasn’t for nothing, Samantha eased over to stand by him. But just as she got close enough, whoosh! It flew through the tree branches, and as it did, she thought she heard laughter. Not wanting to give up the chase, she pushed back the branches to follow in after it, when…“Ahh!” She fell sideways into, Zen.
Heavy panting, warm breath, and a pink tongue washed her face. The tongue belonged to a large hairy beast, who pinned her down with gray hairy paws.
“That is enough, Gypsy girl. Let them up.” From her vantage point on the ground, Samantha spied soft black leather shoes snuggly molded to feet, attached to long legs wearing black pants. Looking up further, she saw Addiwan.
“What was that?” Zen asked, untangling himself from Samantha. Coming to their feet, they saw an Irish wolfhound by Addiwan’s side. “Hey did you call that dog Gypsy?
“Yes.” Addiwan gently placed a hand on Samantha and Zen’s shoulders, leading them back through the way they came in.
“She has the same name my mom’s dog had growing up,” Zen said, stepping out of the trees, followed closely by Gypsy who nudged him onto the ground again.
“Imagine that,” Addiwan said, helping Zen to his feet again. “Zen, do you have food in your pockets?”
“Yeah a biscuit from breakfast, can she have it?”
“Yes, but watch your fingers when you give it to her.”
“Where’d you come from?” Samantha asked, dusting the snow from her clothing after her roll on the ground. Strange, the butterfly disappears and he just appears out of nowhere.
“I live just through those trees, past the clearing where you and Zen were standing.”
“Oh. Well, did you see a rather large black and red spotted butterfly?”
A mischievous look washed across Addiwan’s face as his bright amber eyes twinkled. This led Samantha to believe he wasn’t going to give her a straight answer.
“No,” he said.
“Have you seen one like that before?”
Samantha’s instincts were right. Addiwan was going to make her play twenty questions, while he doled out his responses. “Is it normal for a butterfly to be out this time of the year?”
“Normal to most butterfly species? No.”
“But then, how does this butterfly survive in the cold?” Zen asked, tossing the last bit of his biscuit into Gypsy’s mouth.
“He survives because he is rare unto himself,” Addiwan said, walking off ahead of them. “I will direct you home from here. I was on my way to speak with your parents about, Gypsy. Gypsy roams between my house and the Kitchets. We were hoping you two would give her a permanent home. She is a good girl,” he said, stroking the dog on the head.” From Addiwan’s shift of subject matter, Samantha supposed he was done with answering questions concerning the butterfly.
“She’s huge, that’s what she is!” Zen said. “I’d love to have her, but do you think she’ll stay with us?”
“Gypsy would be happy to have children to play with again, and she would be a good guide dog. She knows the woods as well as I do. But we will have to ask your parents to make sure it is okay with them.”
“I know my mom will be thrilled. She said we could get a dog once we’ve settled,” Samantha said. Then thinking of the clearing they just came from she asked, “Addiwan, is there something different about the air back there, among those trees?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, the air felt thin, like being in the mountains.”
“Very observant,” Addiwan smiled. “It is on a slightly different altitude, making the air a little…different.”
“I didn’t feel as if we climbed up any higher. That’s odd,” Samantha said.
To which Addiwan simply said, “Yes, it is.”
They arrived back at the beginning of the forest where Samantha could see her mom and Aunt Sam putting suitcases into their rental car.
“Hey, Mom, look what Addiwan gave us. Can we keep her?” Samantha asked, running behind Gypsy who was barking and wagging her tail like a propeller.
“Gypsy?” Anna looked to Addiwan.
Sam leaned down, smoothing the dog’s ruff coat. “This can’t be our Gypsy? Could it?”
“She is—” Addiwan started to explain.
“Of course it’s not Gypsy after all these years,” Anna said.
“I hope you do not mind, but I asked the children to care for her,” Addiwan said.
“I think it would be great to have a dog around, and I know Craig won’t mind.”
“Craig won’t mind what?” Craig said, coming out of the house. “Oh boy, we have a horse.”
“Dad, we can keep her, right?”
“Just as long as you both clean up whatever that horse puts out. She’s your responsibility.”
“Sweet! Come on Gypsy, you gotta shake on that.” Zen stuck out his hand and the dog responded by licking it.
“I think that means she likes the idea of living with us,” Samantha laughed.
“Or she’s looking for left over crumbs from the biscuit,” Zen said, wiping his hands on his pants.
“Ahem.” They looked up to see Addiwan, with his hands clasped behind his back. “If you two want to go exploring again, call upon me and I would be happy to show you around. It is never a good idea to wander into an area without knowing where you are going, or how to find your way out.” Turning, he walked off, coat flaring out like wings behind him without so much as a goodbye.
“He’s a little odd,” Zen said.
“Yeah he is odd, but in a good way. Hey, follow me upstairs. I need to talk to you before you leave,” said Samantha.
Up in her room, Samantha ran through everything again with Zen. “Now, don’t forget our plan. I will check out the village library, and you will search your computer. You may want to write down the date Grandma and Great-grandma died, like I have.” She pulled a piece of paper out of her nightstand drawer. “It was March 20, 1987.”
“I won’t forget,” Zen said, sitting on the floor hugging Gypsy. “I like this dog. I wish I can take her with me.”
“We can take turns with Gypsy sleeping in our rooms when you get back. Now, also check the dates after the 20th, just in case there was a continuing write-up about the murder, which it should be. It was probably a big deal in a small place like, Hearthshire. I’m sure they don’t have many murders happening around here.”
“You can never tell. Some small towns have just as many murders as big cities. Take for instance the woods surrounding this place. There could be a murderer hiding out in there right now.”
The hair at the base of Samantha’s neck stood on end. “Don’t even joke about something like that.”
“Oh come on! Do you really think someone could be lurking in the woods with Addiwan living back there? I was teasing.”
“That’s the thing, until we find out what really happened to Ameara and Nanna, and what Grandpa found out before he died, we don’t know what’s going on around here. So I hope you’re taking all of this seriously.”
“I am taking this seriously.”
“Zen, time to get going,” his dad called from the bottom of the stairs.
“Coming,” Zen, shouted back. “Look, I wasn’t trying to scare you. And anyway, you got this great new guard dog.” He pointed over to Gypsy, who was fast asleep and snoring loudly. They both burst out laughing. “Well, she looks menacing.”
Walking with Zen to the car, Samantha gave her aunt and uncle a hug and waved good-bye until their car was out of sight.
“How about I take you two out to eat tonight?” Craig offered.
“If I don’t have to do dishes,” Anna said, “it sounds great to me.”
Waiting for her dad to pull Grandpa Innis’s old green station wagon around to the front of the house, Samantha got a sense someone was watching her. She looked towards the Kitchet’s house to see if maybe they were standing in their front yard. No one was there. Shaking the feeling off, she climbed into the backseat and focused on what she wanted for dinner. “Can we have pizza?” she asked.
As the car carrying the, Keen family, disappeared down the hidden driveway, a woman with burnt auburn hair stepped forth from a pine tree.
“You naughty boy, Crimsoner,” the woman said, addressing the large black butterfly with red spots perched on a limb above her head. “Did you truly lead those children into the sacrosanct area of the wood?”
Crimsoner floated down from the branch. “I was just having a bit of fun Ashlynn.”