Pine Brook Falls - The Charlie Noble Chronicles Book 1

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Chapter Nine

In all of my twenty-four years on this planet, I had never had a night like this. To add to the weirdness was the lanky, white-haired, crazy-eyed, old man with the bushy beard and mustache that reminded me of a chia pet. He sat on the couch. One of his eyes was three-quarters of the way closed while the other one was open wide and darting from side to side. He was a thin man, but not entirely frail. He wore khaki pants and a blue tee shirt. On the front of the shirt was a bottle of Budweiser beer with the words captions under it, ‘This Buds for me.’ His feet were covered by an old battered pair of faded brown boots.

Trevor sat on the other side of the couch. I examined myself in a wall mirror. My face was caked with dirt. A small cut on my chin and scratches on my right cheek made it appear that I had just returned home from a battle. In a sense, though, that was true. I couldn’t worry about my appearance. My cuts would have to wait. The old man had come here for a reason and I was going to find out what it was.

I limped over to the kitchen and opened the fridge.

“To the left, on the bottom shelf,” Trevor called out from the other room.

I was shocked to find the beer. Since when did my sister drink beer? I retrieved three of them and closed the fridge door. After popping the tops off the Heineken’s, I carefully carried them back to the front room. I don’t know what disturbed me more, that my sister had beer in her fridge or that Trevor knew exactly where they were.

With each of us courting a beer in our hand, I took a seat on the recliner. I saw the old man lick his lips a couple of times before tilting his head back and swallowing half the bottle. He came up for air, foaming suds visible on his beard, and he put the beer down on the table.

I waited in angst for the man to tell his tale. He seemed like the talking type, with a word or story to say about anything, so I waited for it to develop. What did he have to say? Did he know where Becky was?

“That is mighty tasty. I always thought Heineken was a German beer. Did you know that it is actually made in Holland? Holland! Who knew?”

“Mister,” I said.

“Mister Ben Santangelo. But most people just call me Santa.”

There was no way I was going to call him Santa.

“Mr. Santangelo, why did you come here tonight? What do you know about what’s been going on?”

He reached over and picked up the bottle of beer but didn’t raise it to his lips. He held it in both hands as if it was a prop he was going to use to tell his tale. I gave a quick glance over to Trevor, who offered a shrug of his shoulders.

Ben’s voice was deeper than one would have expected to come from such a diminutive frame. I found myself staring at his bad eye. He caught me looking at it and I quickly averted my eyes to my feet.

“Call me Ben. Or Santa. Just don’t call me old,” he snorted and let out a loud belly laugh.

I looked up and waited impatiently.

“Sorry, it’s an old joke. Get it?”

“Ben?” I interrupted. “What do you know about the woods or about my sister?”

Ben’s smile quickly faded. He took a swig of his beer. He looked over at Trevor before leaning forward and directed his attention to me.

“There is death in those woods. Comes and goes. Comes and goes. Just comes more now than goes.”

Yup. He was crazy. What did I expect? The guy lets people call him Santa. My hope of finding Becky alive just crumpled with the rambling of this old man. He stared at me for a moment. I tried to keep my growing anger in check as an uncomfortable silence overcame the room.

“This is a waste of time,” Trevor chimed in to break our silent stare-off.

I got up and Ben’s eyes followed me. He didn’t say a word as his eyes tracked my movements. His good eye looked one way while his bad eye, halfway shut, peeked a little to the left. I was beginning to feel a little freaked out. His mouth hung open. Drool bubbled between his lips and he was humming under his breath. It was a tune to a song that I wasn’t familiar with.

I returned to the recliner. I leaned forward to put down my beer. His eyes followed my hands. When I left the beer on the table, he eyes stayed locked on the green bottle.

“Are you going to drink that?” he asked.

“I think you should go. Take the beer with you. But just leave.”

He stopped in mid-reach and looked up.

“But, I haven’t told you about your sister,” he said as he reached for the beer.

“Don’t touch that beer until you say what you need to say.”

His hand hovered over the bottle and seemed to think it over. Then he leaned back, leaving the beer untouched. He crossed his thin legs and held tight to the empty bottle in his hands.

“She left. I think she found out where the thing lurked and went there, though, I don’t believe she did it with any intent. She knew it wasn’t from here. All she was hoping for was a picture. Maybe a quick video.”

“What are you talking about? Here. There. What does that mean? Where is my sister?”

I could feel the heat growing in my face. My voice was cracking and my hands were closed in fists. I felt like I was a hurricane getting ready to make landfall.

“He knows. He’s been there.” Ben said pointing at Trevor.

I shot Trevor a quick glance. He shrugged his shoulders. I turned back to Ben, who looked up at me with one eye.

“Listen. I don’t have time for your games. I am slow, okay, so spell it out for me, in terms that I can understand.”

“Your sister saw the beast. Knew it wasn’t from this Earth and wanted a picture or video. She went to find it and saw where it came from. Now she is where it was.”

This talk went on for a little while longer but I quickly grew tired of the science fiction nonsense. When I asked him where the beast was from, all he would say was it was not from around here. When I asked again where I could find Becky, he said where the beast was from. I finally told Ben that I was tired and needed rest.

I walked Ben to the door and opened it. With beer number three in his hand, Ben leaned over to me and whispered in my ear.

“Trevor showed Becky how to find the beast. Think about that.”

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