Sitting in his white Lexus, Evans patiently waited for the light to change. Though the early afternoon traffic was heavy, he was in no hurry. It was again another hot day in Dallas and, though the car’s air conditioner worked, Evans did not have it on. All the windows on the car were up, and he was sweating profusely. The red short-sleeve polo shirt he wore was nearly soaked front to back. As he sat waiting for the light to change, he reached for his bottle of water that was sitting in one of the cup holders fixed to the armrest. He rubbed the bottle over his forehead, and along his cheeks, then drank deeply. He replaced the bottle and, as the light changed to green, he accelerated. A block later he turned into the entrance of the Highland Park Cemetery. As usual, there were very few people around at this time of day. He drove past the funeral home, and turned onto the winding paved road that ran through the gravesites. Despite the torrid weather, the grounds were lush. The live oaks looked splendid and healthy against the green carpet of Bermuda grass.
Healthy and well-watered Photinias lined the road. Evans drove over to a small turnout, and parked. He opened the large cooler that had been sitting in the passenger seat, and removed the bouquet of Black-Eyed-Susans that he had bought from the florist. To keep the flowers from wilting in the heat, Evans had partially submerged the bouquet in ice. Closing the cooler lid, he set the bouquet on it. He then removed his shoes and socks, and reached into the glove compartment and pulled out a zip lock baggy containing a pocketknife. Stuffing the baggie in his shirt pocket, Evans grabbed the bouquet and got out of the car. The scalding heat of the asphalt hit his feet immediately. Barely wincing, Evans walked the fifteen feet of pavement until he came to the cool antithesis of freshly watered grass. He smiled and continued until he reached Brittany’s grave.
“Hi Punkin,” Evans said as he reached down to straighten Teddy, who had slumped over to his side. As he did so, he looked at the base of the headstone.
“Hey, what’s this?” It looks like our little caretaker has been sleeping on the job? Look at those runners of grass sticking up on your lovely marble. Those naughty little buggers are out of place. But we can fix that can’t we Punkin.” Evans pulled the baggie out of his shirt and retrieved the pocketknife. Then with care and steadiness of a surgeon he cut the runners even with the base of the marble.
“There,” he remarked. “All better now.” He laid the pocketknife and the baggie down on the grass over Brittany. “Now, how is my little girl today? You know it’s Labor Day weekend Punkin. Remember what we used to do? That’s right, we used to go to the zoo. Remember how you loved the gorillas? Then we would go look at the big cats and take the train ride. Yeah, the cats are great hunters. Daddy’s going hunting this weekend too. That’s right, I have more yard work to do. I have another weed to remove from our lovely lawn. What’s that? How many more weeds are there? I don’t know. I keep thinking no more, but then that big black cloud comes, makes it rain, and then another weed grows. But don’t worry, I’ll be careful and I’ll get that nasty weed. Then I’ll come back and tell you all about it.”
Evans picked up the pocketknife and cut a small divot of grass and carefully placed it into the baggie. He laid the bouquet of flowers against the headstone and walked back to his car. This time he did not even notice the searing heat of the pavement against his feet. He wouldn’t notice the blisters for another two days.
The downtown traffic was light as he headed to the Elm Street parking garage. He took a ticket from the automatic teller and drove to the sixth tier, pulling his Lexus into a parking space next to his Chevy van. After turning off the engine, Evans sat awhile, listening. Only the din of distant traffic and an occasional beeping car horn were audible. Opening the door, he was just about to get out of his car when he heard voices, far to his right. He softly closed the door, heard the click of the door catch, and laid down on the front seat. The voices grew louder. There were two of them, a man and a woman. They were walking toward him from behind. In the echo chamber of the garage he could hear their conversation clearly.
“Well, I don’t see her,” he heard the woman say.
“Me neither,” came the response.
“Think we should check the last tier?” the woman asked.
“Hell, the last one, in that sun up there? No, she wouldn’t be up there,” the man said.
“We have to find her,” she pleaded.
All of a sudden a dog began barking.
“That’s her, Ernie!” the woman exclaimed.
“It’s coming from the stairwell back there,” he replied.
Evans now could hear them running away from him, back the way they came. The woman’s high heels clacked on the pavement, the sound becoming more distant as she ran. He looked, raised himself slowly and peered over the seat and out his back window. He didn’t see anybody. All the action was on the other side of the van.
The voices were distant now, but still audible.
“Here, girl, atta girl, good girl. I’ve got him, baby!” Ernie said.
“Poor Ginger, where did you go? We have been looking all over for you,” the woman said.
“C’mon, let’s go. She must be thirsty. We’re lucky she found us, we could have been searching for hours.”
Evans heard the shuffling of feet and then the echoing sound of footsteps going down the stairwell.
He breathed a sigh of relief as he got out of his car. He walked around to the back of the van and looked toward the stairwell. The footsteps had gone silent. They’re gone, he thought. Looking in the opposite direction, he figured he was alone. He opened the trunk of the Lexus and picked up a toolbox. It contained all the essentials, duct tape, twenty-pound test monofilament fishing line, gloves, scissors, a funnel, a gorilla mask, a copy of a visitor’s brochure from the Dallas Zoo, flashlights, a loaded Colt .45 automatic, and a hammer. Opening the back of the van, Evans placed the toolbox inside. He then went back to the trunk of the Lexus and pulled out two neatly folded blue tarps and a plastic gallon size milk container filled with weed killer. Into the van they went. He shut the door. One more trip to the trunk netted Evans the Pistachio branch he had cut earlier in the day. Opening the glove compartment of the Lexus, he took out his list and put it in his shirt pocket. He locked up the Lexus, got into the van and stared out the front window at the dingy gray wall in front of him.
Evans was tired, nearly drained from the emotional roller coaster he had been on. He bowed his head and rubbed his eyes with the fingers of his left hand. He gave out a heavy sigh, the kind of a sigh that bears the burden of a thousand pounds of heartbreak. Looking up again at the wall, he stared. There was something forming, congealing in that grayness. Like some kind of primordial soup, the apparition began to condense and take on a solid form. The first thing Evans Brinkley saw was the wheelbarrow. Then, he saw a figure condense and form behind it. It was Cotton Mather.
He was smiling at Evans.
“Keep back the Wilderness boy!” he heard Mather say as his apparition floated from side to side. “If it offend thee, pluck it out, and plant thy good seed, plant thy good seed, plant thy…”
The words faded as the apparition disappeared into the grayness from which it came. Evans blinked twice, started the engine, backed out of the parking space and headed down the ramp to the exit. He paid his parking fee to the parking attendant, exited the lot and headed down Elm Street. Passing Dealy Plaza, he got onto the Stemmons Freeway, caught the I-35 connection and headed south. Ten minutes later a burgundy and cream Chevy van pulled into the parking lot of the Dallas Zoo in Oak Cliff.