It seemed this town was trying to win the title for the creepiest town in America. If I were a judge, it would win hands down. Regarding creepy and strange, my conversation with Stubs and the weird white-haired man was just that. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn much from them. With no point talking in riddles any further, I left.
Back to the deserted street, I stood outside Stubs Pub and plotted my next move. I didn’t have one. I had learned almost nothing except, that everyone in this town needed some serious therapy. I decided to walk a little farther north where I remembered seeing Tompkins Hardware store.
I am not a super sleuth nor do I have any supernatural powers, but I do have eyes. When there are no other people on the street and no traffic going by, it is easy to tell when someone is following you. I noticed him when I left the pub, peeking over a parked car across the street. I wondered if this was the intruder I had run into earlier.
I pretended not to notice and continued on my way. I sauntered along, looking through storefront windows, trying to see if I could catch a glimpse of his reflection. He was a tricky one. I caught him slinking between parked cars, hiding behind mailboxes and then using a planter for cover as I stopped outside the hardware store. Whoever was following me, he was no expert, which gave me some hope.
I lingered outside the hardware store, peering in through the dark window. I was half looking through the window and half looking at my follower’s reflection. Next to the hardware store was an alley. Since nothing was moving inside the shop, I figured I would get off the street and see if I could turn the tables on my follower.
The prospect of being in an alley alone with whoever was following me filled me with uneasiness. Well, I was petrified, actually. If this was the same person that was at Becky’s house, he might know what happened to her. Whatever fear I was feeling paled in comparison to my need for finding my sister. I disappeared into the alley and quickened my pace. The alley went straight for about fifty feet before turning right and running alongside the back of the businesses.
I didn’t look back but hoped he would follow me. There was a trash dumpster to the right as I turned the corner. I went to the far end of the dumpster and crouched beside it. The space between the ground and the dumpster gave me a good view of the corner I had just passed. He would be visible to me if he made the turn. I had no weapon and hoped he didn’t either. I am not a fighter, but I do watch a lot of action movies. So in a sense, Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham have been my teachers.
I waited. Either my follower was extremely slow footed, or he wasn’t coming. Then another thought occurred to me. What if he doubled back and was trying to head me off from the opposite direction? If he did, I didn’t have a plan. A surprise attack was my best option. Fortunately for me, I saw feet.
It was a pair of Nike tennis shoes moving slowly around the corner. I couldn’t see anything else from my vantage point. I squatted at the edge of the dumpster tensely. The first sign of movement, I was going to strike. Attack low and get him off balance. Thank you, Jason.
With what seemed like an eternity, I finally heard the scuffling of shoes against the pavement. I saw a flash of blue cross my field of vision, and I lunged. I kept low and tackled hard. He screamed as I knocked him to the ground. I was on top of him in an instant. His head hit the asphalt once. He tried to get up. I moved my knee to his throat.
My follower was no older than I, if not younger by a few years. His eyes were wide open. He made some gagging sounds. I moved my knee away from his throat and pinned both of his arms beneath my legs. Again, Jason Statham, you are the best teacher. I felt my heart pound in my chest. I was breathing hard. My face felt hot. I clenched the top of his shirt with both of hands.
“Who are you?” I screamed.
He grumbled. Gasped. Winced. His eyes darted left to right. He didn’t speak. I remember when Batman was interrogating the Joker in one of the Batman movies. He was looking for his love interest which the Joker had kidnapped, and Batman went crazy. I made my best impression, which I think would have made Christopher Nolan, the director of the movies, proud.
“Where is she? What did you do to her?”
He shook his head and drew a deep breath. His eyes narrowed on me.
“I don’t know. I’m looking for her. You, I thought you, knew something. That’s why I was following you.”
“Why were you in my sister’s house?”
He blinked his eyes a couple of times. He let out a deep breath and then began to laugh.
“You’re Charlie. Ah, thank God. Becky told me about you. I’m glad you’re here.”
I released my grip on his shirt, but I didn’t move my legs. So far, everyone I had met proved to be worthy of a free room at the nearest sanitarium. I was sure that the person beneath me was no exception.
“What’s your name?”
“Trevor. Trevor Moore.”
The name didn’t ring a bell. My sister had never mentioned him before, but my sister didn’t tell me everything. I remained suspicious.
“What kind of trouble is Becky mixed up in? She was telling me some strange things and from what I have seen of this place, strange doesn’t even begin to describe it.”
He motioned for me to let him up. I reluctantly moved off of him. He got to his feet.
“This is going to leave a lump,” he said rubbing the back of his head.
“What happened to my sister?”
Travis looked around nervously for a moment. He bent at the waist and spit. He straightened himself and then looked at me.
“Becky found something one day which sparked her curiosity. The rest, well, just fell into place.”
“What did she find?”
“Me. Listen. We can’t talk here. They’re after me. Just like Becky. We can meet up later.”
There was no way I was letting him out of my sights. He was my first solid connection into where my sister might be, and I wasn’t going to let him go. He tried to move past me but I stepped in front of him.
“Listen. It’s getting late. I’ll meet you back at Becky’s in a little bit. We can talk there. But we need to leave.”
I looked at him for a few moments. I am not a human lie detector. I don’t know if I can safely spot when someone is lying, but the look in his eyes told me that he was afraid of something. Truth or not, I wasn’t letting him go.
“We’re going there together. Now!”
I grabbed him by the collar of his shirt and led him back down the alley.
“If they find me, they are going to take me. I don’t know if they took Becky, but we had pissed off some people, I think.”
I stopped and turned toward him. My grip on his collar tightened.
“What did you do to piss people off? What trouble did you get my sister in?”
“Asking questions. That’s all. I swear.”
“Asking questions isn’t a crime. What were you asking?”
He looked away. His eyes looked over my shoulder, up to the sky, then down to the ground. I shook him with both hands, drawing his eyes back to me.
“The animals. They’re disappearing. In the woods surrounding the town, there is something out there. People in this town know what’s out there and they are protecting whatever it is.”
I loved watching the X-Files. If there were ever a mysterious beast or ancient alien, Mulder and Scully would get to the bottom of it. I was neither Mulder nor Scully, and this was not an episode of the X-Files. This was real life.
“A wolf? A bear? What are you saying?”
He shook his head.
“You know something. Tell me.”
“Becky thought that there was something in the woods. Not human and not any animal we had ever seen. We found dead animals. Dogs. Cats. All piled up, out in the woods, a stockpile of food waiting for something to find it. We told the Sheriff, but he didn’t believe us. The next day, we went back to the place we saw the dogs and cats, and we found the Sheriff cleaning up the mess. Never said a word about it. That was about two weeks ago. Now, Becky is missing.”
Did the Sheriff have anything to do with what happened to Becky? I looked at Trevor for a moment. The look in his eyes told me that he was telling the truth. Again, I am not the world’s top expert in detecting if someone is lying but I do have a gut, and it was telling me that he was just as concerned about Becky’s welfare as I was. Despite my gut siding with him about what he claims to have seen, I still didn’t want to take a chance of letting him out of my sight.
“We’re going back to my sister’s house to sort this out,” I said as I grabbed a hold of his arm. I led him out of the alley.
He tried to pull away, but my grip was too tight. I held on to him as if he was the lap bar of a roller coaster and I was about to plummet down a hundred foot drop. He argued with me all the way until we reached the street. I was looking back at him as we reached the mouth of the alley. I saw the look of fear creep across his face, and he instantly fell silent. He was looking over my shoulder, which told me, things were about to get worse.
I turned around to find that things had gotten worse. My heart thumped rapidly against my chest. Sheriff Becket, leaning against his cruiser, with his arms folded across his chest, stared back at us with is dark sunglasses, smiling. I had a strong grip on Trevor’s arm when the Sheriff pushed off the cruiser and took a couple of steps in our direction.
“I see you are doing my job for me.”
Trevor tried to pull away. He began pleading with me to let him loose. If he went with the Sheriff, would he disappear like Becky did? I tried not to think about what Trevor had told me. Then again, there could be some truth to it.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You nabbed my suspect. I have been looking for him. He is wanted in connection with a series of home break-ins over the past few weeks. I need to bring him in for questioning.”
I looked back at Trevor. He was shaking his head feverishly. His eyes never left Sheriff Becket. True terror took hold of his face. His mouth hung open, but he didn’t say a word.
“What are you going to do with him after you question him?”
The Sheriff peeled off his glasses and slipped them in his front breast pocket. He licked his bottom lip and rested his hands on his gun belt. I believe he did that to bring attention to the gun he had holstered on his hip. I also noticed that the strap on the holster was unfastened.
“That isn’t any of your concern. Unless you want to be charged with aiding and abetting a suspect and interfering with a police investigation, I suggest that you hand Mr. Moore over to me, so I can take him in.”
I don’t know what took over me. I have always had the highest respect for law enforcement, but at the moment, all I could do was release my grip on Trevor’s arm. He nearly fell to the ground as he pulled away. He dropped to a knee but quickly straightened up and headed down the alley. He looked back at me for a moment as he made it to the corner and then disappeared around the bend.
I felt something cold and hard slap on my wrist. Then I heard the clicking sound that accompanied it. I tried to turn around, but the sheriff had a hold of my arm and swung it behind my back. Sheriff Becket demanded my other arm, but I stood motionless. He reached over and pulled my other arm behind my back. He forced me to the hood of his cruiser. My face met hard metal. He snapped a cuff around my other wrist.
I had never been arrested before, and my mind was racing with all kinds of crazy thoughts. I was going to be sent up north. I was going to have a cell mate named Crazy Eyes and end up with ten tattoos. Like I said before, my imagination can be my worst enemy at times.
“Guess you’re going to be spending some time locked up. Maybe you can use that time to think about what you just did.”
I didn’t know Trevor, and he was the one who broke into my sister’s house. The sheriff could be right about him. Perhaps, I am the fool for putting my trust into someone I just met. On the other hand, if Trevor was right, and I did turn him over to the Sheriff, he could disappear like my sister.
Another thought occurred to me that I hadn’t realized. I was the one in handcuffs. If the Sheriff had anything to do with Becky’s disappearance, did that mean I would share the same fate? On the other hand, I didn’t know anything about what Becky was involved in, so I was probably safe. Then he found Becky’s notebook tucked in my waistband.