I sat in a cell. My life of crime had officially begun. I watched as the sheriff paged through Becky’s notebook. His office window was directly across from the cell I now occupied. No one else was in the small police station. It was an uncomfortable hour, as I sat in the small jail cell.
I thought about my mom. I remember how much she pleaded with me not to leave. She was right. I wondered if I would ever see her again. I feared Becky was dead and I would soon join her.
I stood up when I heard the door to the Sheriff’s office open. He had Becky’s notebook in his left hand. He stopped just in front of my cell. He stared at me without saying a word. I wondered if this is how zoo animals felt. It was really uncomfortable. I did my best not to look away, but to meet his eyes straight on. He smiled. Then unlocked the cell.
I stood there baffled for a moment. Was he letting me go? He walked away and put Becky’s notebook on the desk, just outside the cell. I took a couple cautious steps forward and stopped. Sheriff Becket turned around.
“Becky has quite the collection of notes there. Her notes beat my own. Hell, I guess I should have offered her a job.”
I was confused by this conversation. I looked over at her notebook before looking back at him.
Was this his way of justifying shooting me, by letting me out of the cell? Was he going to say I tried to escape and he had to kill me?
“Charlie, despite what you may think, I don’t know where your sister is? The fact is, I have been looking for her myself.”
I walked over to the desk and picked up her notebook. I quickly paged through it. I turned around and was greatly relieved not to see a gun pointed at me.
“She came to you and told you about the animals? Becky and Trevor saw you cleaning up the animals. You never said anything about it? Like you were covering it up.”
He ran his hands through his thinning brown hair.
“They came to me with this wild story. Dead animals. Weird noises in the woods. It all sounded a little made up. Then I found the animals they were talking about, all piled up, in the woods, but I don’t believe it is some sort of conspiracy.”
Was this his way of trying to throw me off? Was he attempting to align himself with me so I would let my guard down?
“What happened to Becky? Is she dead? Just tell me?”
I felt myself begin to lose it. The thought of her dying alone, terrified, with no one to protect her, hit me hard. I tried to hold back my tears. I couldn’t give in to my pain in front of the Sheriff. If he was the one who killed her, I would kill him. My respect for authority stopped at murder. I felt my anger rise. My hands were clenched. Sheriff Becket moved closer.
“I don’t know what happened to her. She came to see me a week ago, Wednesday, telling me that I knew more than I was letting on. She thought that there was something in the woods and that I was too afraid to investigate.”
The sheriff continued, “The fact is, I did go up in those woods, for two straight nights, and didn’t see a single thing. No evidence of anything. I think a pack of Coyotes are running wild up there and those animals your sister found in the woods were probably left there by someone to feed the coyotes for some reason.”
“You think Becky ran into Coyotes? That she is lying dead somewhere up in the woods?”
“Unfortunately, that thought did cross my mind. She was determined to find something. If she wandered up in those hills alone, at night, chances are likely, that she ran into something. But if she did, I haven’t found any trace of her.”
I didn’t know what to believe. Could Becky’s wild investigation be nothing more than a pack of wild Coyotes killing some animals? Was she killed by a coyote or perhaps a bear? The thought of never seeing her smiling face again crushed me. I had to know for sure.
“Do you know where she was going last Wednesday?”
Sheriff Becket objected. He said the woods were too dangerous. I would probably get lost or come across a bear or some other animal and have no chance to fend it off.
“That is my decision. Am I under arrest?”
“You are free to go, Charlie. But I warn you. Do not go up there. You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into.”
I started for the door. A question had been nagging at me all day since I arrived which I had to ask. I stopped before reaching the door and turned around.
“What is the deal with Thursday? Why does everyone stay indoors?”
“The mayor’s request. Everyone gets compensated for staying in on Thursday. Only town officials venture out.”
“Why Thursday? Why not Friday?”
“Thursday is the day our town here was founded, back in 1821. It was on a Thursday.”
Becky never mentioned this in any of her letters. I lived in this town until I was 14 and I don’t recall this weird town observance for the day of the week the place was founded. I have heard of celebrations for years or months, but a day of the week seemed crazy.
“How long has the town been doing this? I didn’t remember this tradition when I was younger.”
Sheriff Becket laughed.
“All traditions need to start at some point. The mayor is getting the town back to its roots. It started ten years ago. I’m surprised your sister never mentioned it to you. I’m not all that fond of it myself, but makes the day easier for me when there are no disputes or traffic violations to write up.”
I scratched my head. It didn’t make any sense. I wanted to ask the Sheriff about Trevor, but something nagged me not to. Either the sheriff had no clue about what was going on in Pine Brook Falls, or he was hiding something a lot more than missing animals.
I didn’t know if he had anything to do with Becky’s disappearance but I didn’t trust him. Until proven otherwise, I had to believe that Becky was still alive. I could not accept that she was dead because that would mean I failed her, and that I would never see her again. Both thoughts were unacceptable.
I left the police station. My watch confirmed that it was shortly after 7 pm. I figured Sheriff Becket let me go so he could follow me. He probably wanted to see what I knew. I was okay with that for now, as the only place I was going to go, was back to Becky’s house.
I was starving. I hadn’t eaten a thing all day and my stomach was arguing its case for a steak sandwich or chicken club or just about anything of substance. As I turned the corner and walked up Becky’s street, I felt eyes on me again.
I was a block away from her house and it seemed like every house I passed, every closed window I glanced at, concealed watchful eyes. Pine Brook Falls was watching me.