I took a warm shower and cleaned all the dirt and grime from my body. I instantly became aware of a few more scrapes and cuts as a firestorm of pain erupted from the soap and water that ran down my body. I gritted my teeth and continued to scrub down as thoroughly as I could. After the shower, I crawled into bed. Trevor took to the couch.
The night was filled with weird dreams of Becky running through the woods with an unseen pursuer behind her. The unearthly growls were all I could hear from the darkness behind her. The dream never ended. Becky never stopped running. And the growling echoed in my subconscious.
I woke up with the sun peeking through the drapes. I rolled over onto my side and instantly felt the throbbing pain that ran up and down my body. I glimpsed at the clock. It was a little after 11 am. I contemplated going back to sleep but there were things that I needed to do.
I eased myself out of bed and glided through the living room. Trevor was gone. I didn’t expect him to still be here. He knew more about what happened to Becky than he was telling. And Ben knew something, although, with all his thoughts jumbled around in his head, he probably wasn’t sure what he knew. Nevertheless, he was suspicious of Trevor as was I but Trevor remained my best chance of finding some answers.
I went to the kitchen and got a glass of water from the tap. It was warm, not very quenching, but it was wet and my mouth was dry as the desert sand. I walked back to the bedroom and thought about what I should do. I wanted to go back to the woods to see if I could find my backpack. I also wanted to talk to Mr. Tompkins, about his dog. And then there was the other thing that was not on my top ten list of stuff I wanted to do today. Visit the old man. That may have to wait.
I got dressed and headed out. My stomach was rumbling but there wasn’t much food in Becky’s kitchen. I hoped Friday was nothing like Thursday. Chances of finding food were increased if all the stores and restaurants were open.
I decided first to head back to the woods. My stomach could wait, I hoped. As I walked to my car, I noticed an older woman walking her dog. She was small, with fuzzy brown hair around the head, droopy ears, and thin tan coat covering the remainder of her little body. I was talking about the dog. The woman had no fuzzy hair around her head or a tan coat.
There was another woman, probably in her mid-thirties, walking with a baby stroller. Birds chirped. Squirrels ran up trees. Kids rode their bikes down the street. It was normal. A far cry from the barren ghost town I arrived in yesterday.
I drove back to the park. I wanted to see if I could get my backpack and then find the cave Trevor led me to last night. There was something about the cave that bugged me all morning. I don’t know what it was but I was hoping to find out. Perhaps the old man’s words were influencing me, to look at Trevor, but I already had my own suspicions about him which didn’t help either. I also wanted to get a look at the tarp he pulled over us to elude the thing in the field. I had a feeling there was more to it than what it appeared to be. It was my nagging imagination at work again. Sometimes, though, you just have to give in and listen to your inner voice.
There were a few people at the park when I pulled up. I checked the time on the dashboard radio which informed me it was exactly noon. No one gave me a second look as I began my trek into the woods. I had opted for cargo shorts and a navy blue tank top. I had hiking boots on and a black baseball cap. My legs were scraped up. My left leg hurt a little which caused me to walk with a slight hitch.
The air was hot and I forgot to bring water. I hoped this wasn’t going to be a long hike. I tried to retrace my steps from last night. I followed the trail and let the canopy of trees block the blistering sun. I saw the point of the trail where it banked off to the right. This was where I had jumped to my left. I looked over the edge. How I didn’t break a leg or worse was beyond me.
The slope leading down was steep. Thinking about climbing down made me nervous. The thought of jumping off the edge in complete darkness as I had last night sent shivers through my entire body. My mind did a quick recap of events. I promised to be more careful this time as my body stiffened at the thought of falling down the embankment again.
I scanned the slope to see if I could locate my backpack. It took me a few minutes but I finally found it about three-quarters of the way down.
I eased down the slope, keeping my feet sideways to avoid losing traction and falling to my death. I used the trees as stopping points, going just as far as the next tree and stopping. This slow pace continued for most of my journey. The dirt was loose at points and my feet slipped on some pebbles. I fell backward but, fortunately, did not slide down the embankment.
I got back on my feet and looked around. My backpack was off to the right, laying in a bush. There were no trees immediately near it and I feared if I moved too fast, I would lose my footing again but this time, slide down and missing my backpack in the process.
I inched my way across, one slow step at a time. The dirt wasn’t loose in this area which helped me keep my footing. I made it to my backpack and sat down. I quickly checked the contents. Everything was there and I was thankful that no snakes decided to find a new home.
I made it the rest of the way down the embankment without any problems. I glanced at the small field Trevor and I had taken shelter last night. It was a little garden with several bushels of plants about waist high. Despite the multitude number of plants, there were a lot of open areas. It was a miracle we got out of there alive.
I needed to remember where Trevor had taken us. It was from this point that I was scared out of my mind, feeling a lot of pain and wasn’t paying much attention to where we were going.
I wish I would have paid closer attention. There was the small trail leading up. After I had reached the top, I followed the only path I saw but it began to drive me down again, back to where I was. I looked around but nothing seemed familiar to me. I looked at the rock formations to see if I could find the crack I slipped through to get into the cave. None existed.
The rumbling in my stomach reminded me that I had forgone food for this search and I now regretted that decision. The air was thick and hot and my mouth was parched. If I continued looking, I might pass out from heat exhaustion or hunger. Perhaps, I would become so hungry that I may attempt to eat anything that walked along my path. I like my steak medium well with grilled onions and a ton of steak sauce. Steak tartar was not going to be on the menu today.
I felt like I was walking around in circles for what seemed like hours. One path led up while another path down. I retraced my steps and found myself back down by the field. I started up the path again in hopes of finding a different one. Each path I took seemed to loop me around and back to where I started from. Finally, the objection of my grumbling stomach told me that it was time to leave the search for the cave and begin a search for food.
I walked up a small incline and around a thick bristle of shrubbery I had passed a few times before. Instead of making a left toward the hillside, I went right, turning away from it. This led me down another winding path which eventually dumped me off at the park.
At a quarter past three, I was back in my car. I was famished. I drove back to town and found a small coffee shop. Mom and pop coffee shops were the best. They usually served big portions of food for cheap. I couldn’t park fast enough for my stomach’s satisfaction.
The instant I opened the door I was greeted by a heavenly aroma. No hostess was waiting to greet me so I helped myself to a seat. A waitress dropped off a menu and asked if I wanted anything to drink. Water. I was dying of thirst. The waitress came back and I snatched the glass off the table the moment she set it down. I drank nearly the entire glass in four gulps.
“Save some for the fishes, honey.” The waitress spoke with a southern charm that seemed out of place in northern California.
She refilled my glass and took my order. Pot Roast with Garlic Toast and a side salad. The hairs on the back of my neck rose suddenly as if a gust of cold wind passed through the diner. I understood when I heard a familiar voice from behind calling my name.
“What happened to you?” The sheriff asked as he came around and looked at the scratches on my face.
“I fell out of bed.”
“Must have been a pretty high bed,” he said as he sat down across from me in the booth. I didn’t remember inviting him to sit down. Isn’t that how it worked, people stand at your table and wait to be asked to sit down? I didn’t ask. He didn’t wait.
“How can I help you, sheriff?”
He looked around the coffee shop. The whiskers on his face were abundant. The soft purple skin beneath his eyes made me wonder when he had last slept. It didn’t take a detective to figure out that something was bothering him. I just didn’t know if I was part of his worry.
“Have you seen our friend, Trevor, lately?”
He spoke with a hushed tone. This was not like the man I had met yesterday. Something changed. Did he know what happened last night?
“I saw him last night. He slept on the couch and he was gone when I woke up this morning. Is he still wanted for questioning in your burglary investigation?”
His eyes narrowed on me. He was about to say something when the waitress brought over my food.
“Sheriff, so nice of you to stop in. Can I get something for you, honey?”
He declined her offer. He made small talk with her as I dug into my pot roast. I was in mid-chew when I noticed that he was no longer talking. The waitress had left and his eyes were solely on me.
“I know you are worried about your sister, so I will cut you some slack. I have a town to run. I won’t let a snot nose bugger like you get in the way of me doing my job.”
I was thrown off by the word bugger. I have heard that word used in many British movies, but as far as I knew, the Sheriff wasn’t British, and without the appropriate accent, the word bugger just didn’t sound the same.
I swallowed my food as fast as I could. He seemed to be getting angrier with every chew. I wiped my mouth with a napkin and chugged some water. He waited for me to put down my napkin.
“I am not in your way. If you want Trevor, go get him. He will be at my sister’s house tonight. I don’t really care. But, I get a feeling that is not why you’re here. Is it?”
I was shocked when I heard the words escape my mouth. I had never been a bold, in-your-face type of person. Before returning to Pine Brook Falls, I was more the type to avoid confrontation and keep quiet. Judging by the sheriff’s reaction, he was just as shocked by my response as I was. He leaned back from the table and glared at me for a long minute before exhaling.
“I may see you tonight,” he said and rose to his feet. He looked down at me and adjusted his gun belt. Satisfied it was all good, he gave me a nod and walked out of the coffee shop.
I wasn’t sure what had just happened. Was he going to come by tonight to arrest Trevor or to tell me something? Or maybe both. I didn’t know. I looked down at my neglected Pot Roast. I pushed all thoughts except food out of my mind. It sounded like tonight was going to be just as interesting as the last. Something was bothering the sheriff and I was afraid to know what it was. I feared he had some news about Becky but he wanted a more private place to tell me.