Less than a week after the party, Caleb and Andrew stood on an old rock fence running alongside the remains of a 150-year-old farmhouse. Janson and Kaylie stood on the other side of the structure, Janson’s arm around Kaylie’s waist, her head on his shoulder. The twenty-acre pond that once watered hundreds of head of cattle was cordoned off. Warrington County deputies manned a wide-bottom jon-boat as divers repeatedly sank beneath the water. A county coroner van waited beside the pond.
“Correct me if I’m wrong,” Caleb asked as he kept his eyes on the bobbing divers, “Janson’s girl gave you an envelope and you twinged on it. And that led you here?”
“In a nutshell, that’s it,” Andrew said. “The second I touched the envelope the trails nearly took me off my feet. I’ve never, ever had one move like that, like a freaking cruise missile. From my porch to here.” Andrew made an arc over the land with his hand. “I’ve had them travel over water, but not into it.” Taking his eyes off the divers, Andrew turned to Caleb, “For a moment I couldn’t breathe like I was drowning. Scared the living shit out of me.”
“I imagine. As bad as the depot?”
Andrew shook his head, the two-decade-old memory still entrenched in his mind. “Close, maybe. The first time I thought I was dreaming and having a nightmare. This time I thought I was dying.”
Wispy clouds parted to let the sunshine down hard. Caleb cupped his eyes to block the glare off the water. “Do you think they’ll find someone?”
Andrew was quiet for a moment, then took a deep breath. “I think they will find something. I’ve never been wrong before. But what, I don’t know. And by the way, nice job getting the Sheriff out here. I figured he’d rebuff you unless you had something solid.”
Caleb took his deputy sheriff’s ballcap off and scratched his close-cropped curly black hair. He laughed. “I’m not going to lie, at first I didn’t think it was going to happen. Kaylie’s mom isn’t even listed as a missing person, not around here that is. Her last known address was up in Fortner County. And by all accounts, she was a bit flighty.”
“And no records of her going missing in the past?”
“Nope, not a one,” Caleb said shaking his head. “A report might have been filed with another municipality, but not with the boys up there or around here.”
“So, all you had to go on was a vision from your best friend?” Andrew asked smiling.
“That’s about it,” Caleb replied. “Not a whole lot to go on. It was a hard sell.”
“I’m surprised you were able to convince him.”
“As they say, timing is everything, brother. Divers needed to have their certifications updated and the county wanted to make sure their equipment wasn’t gathering dust. Even though Sheriff Barnes thought I was nutty as a fruitcake, he’d heard whispers about you.”
“So, what you’re saying is, I’m famous?” Andrew struck his Superman pose.
Caleb laughed hard. “Yeah, right. Maybe one day, if one of your little books goes mainstream, that is.” He curled the bill to his hat, then put it back on. “Think this piqued the good man’s interest, kill two birds with one stone. Prove you’re working some kinda hoodoo-voodoo on your friends and get the divers their necessary…” Caleb stopped mid-sentence and jumped from the wall. He pointed to a diver waving a red flag. “Yo, man something’s up. Could be your twinge paying off, or it could be bones from a dead horse. But the divers are really excited about something!” Caleb jogged toward the shore
Andrew followed suit, sprinting after Caleb. Kaylie and Janson noticed the action, and reversed their path, though their progress was slow and apprehensive.
A sheriff’s deputy was setting his tank on the shore when Andrew and Caleb reached him. “Melvin,” Caleb called out. “What’d y’all find?”
“Don’t know yet,” the deputy answered after unbuckling the last of his equipment. “But about thirty feet offshore there’s a mess of chains wrapped around what looks like a roll of carpet. And it’s all anchored to a chunk of concrete.” Melvin rolled his wetsuit off his solid trunk, the material stretched to the edge of its limits. “Sheriff is calling in a front-end loader to get it off the bottom.”
“What’s the ETA?”
“Should be here soon. We had it on standby.”
Andrew pointed toward a red flag bobbing on the water. “That’s a long way to throw a rolled-up piece of carpet. I wonder how it got all the way out there?”
“There used to be a dock. It was rickety as hell, probably built in the forties,” Deputy Melvin explained. “We used to fish from it as kids.”
“What’s your gut tell you?” Caleb asked.
Melvin snorted. “What does my gut tell me? Why in the hell would you chain up a roll of carpet and sink it to the bottom with concrete? I’d say the odds of a body being all wrapped in it are probably pretty good.” The deputy pulled a tee-shirt from a duffle bag on the shore and pulled it over his head. He nodded toward Kaylie. “Whether it’s your friend’s mom, don’t know. But your partner was spot on, there’s something here that someone didn’t want to be found.” His phone rang. “Sorry guys, big-man’s calling,” Melvin answered the phone and walked forward along the pond’s bank.
Caleb and Andrew followed at a respectful distance. Once they passed the old farmhouse, they could hear a diesel whine as the tractor entered the property. Janson and Kaylie caught up with them by the shore. They watched the county-embossed construction equipment approach.
“What’s going on?” Janson asked quietly.
Caleb turned slightly and motioned for him to follow. When they stepped out of earshot, he filled Janson in.
“What do you think?”
“I think were going to find remains.”
Janson walked back to Kaylie, wrapped his arms around her shoulders, and spoke quietly. Tears began to slide from the woman’s eyes. Andrew and Caleb watched as the tractor approached the water’s edge; driving into in until it was half submerged. A chain draped from the bucket, disappearing into the dark water. A fresh set of divers disappeared beneath the windswept surface. Every few moments a wave of bubbles circled the chain before being swept away.
After a few minutes, one of the divers reappeared and pointed up. The tractor’s engine revved as the bucket lifted. The man descended a second time and the bucket paused. He returned moments later, pointed up and back toward the shore. The diesel revved even higher as the bucket’s height increased and the loader began to reverse. Andrew cut his eyes to Kaylie. She wasn’t watching; she was now facing Janson, her face buried in his shoulder.
The wind calmed as the carpet – which to Andrew resembled a drooping log – broke the surface. The equipment operator gently backed the tractor away from the shoreline, the chain barely swinging. Additional deputies staked down a large tarp by the shore. The coroner’s van joined a cruiser by the tarp; the medical examiner parked, exited and leaned against the front, a hand over his eyes to shield him from the sun’s glare.
The tractor operator turned toward the officers, now joined by the Sheriff who was directing the machine forward as if guiding an airliner to a gate, the carpet log swaying, the chain links rattling. Just as the bucket reached the tarp water poured out the center as the roll split in half. One end dropped from the chain, while the other turned up-right, and a tangle of gray sticks fell from the center.
Except they weren’t sticks, Andrew quickly realized. He turned away in time to see Kaylie sink to her knees.
Caleb took him by the shoulder and turned him his way. “Get them out of here,” he said quietly. “Might be her mom, might not be. Either way, she’s not in a good place mentally. And if a skull bounces out and rolls across the ground, she’s going to have to be medicated.”
Andrew nodded and tapped Caleb’s shoulder with his fist. “No problem. I don’t even want to be here.”
“I hear ya.” Caleb took a deep breath. “The ME is going to set up shop here for a while, make sure we have all the – parts, then we’ll categorize and catalog everything. I’ll stay as long as I can and fill you in later.”
“Thanks, man.” Andrew put his mirrorshades on and walked over to Janson. Before he was halfway, his friend was already guiding Kaylie away from the pond and toward their car. Andrews's phone chimed with a text from Janson, taking Kaylie home, going to stay with her tonight. I’ll call you later. Andrew’s surfer-friend glanced over at him. He gave him a quick thumbs-up and veered off for his own car.
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