Turning Cronos

The next day I slept in till check-out time before heading east again, over the Pearl River and onto Poscataw, catching Highway 98 on the way into the city.  I noticed as I entered town that Fuco’s banner was gone.  I found some relief in this.

I took the way I had come to know so well, twisting out of town and through the pines toward the house that had become something resembling a home.  The mailboxes passed in familiar sequence until a lone box with the Calvert name stamped in red letters prompted me to slow for the turn.  I drove slowly down the driveway.  The shocks on my new LeBaron were shot and it didn’t take well to the potholes, dips, and rises.  As I approached the house I could see movement out in front—dark shapes through the trees.  The shapes came into focus and I saw Helen and Mitchell.  Helen wore a conservative gray dress and despaired in a hopeless smile when she saw me.  Mitchell wore his pressed uniform and stood rigid, watching me park the LeBaron.  Faye emerged from the house and began to shake her head in anger.  I quit the engine.  They stared at me without saying a word.

‘What’s going on?’ I said as I got out of the car.  Helen ran to me and gave me a long hug.  She pulled back and held me at arm’s length.  Her brown eyes watered at first before hinting at relief.

‘What’s going on?’ I said again.

‘He doesn’t know,’ Helen said over her shoulder, challenging my aunt and cousin.

‘Know?’

Mitchell delivered the news.

‘Your father has disappeared.  Someone ransacked his house four days ago and no one has seen him since then.’

What an awful joke. But Mitchell was looking at me with such fury.

‘What are you talking about?’ I said.   ‘I just saw him a few days ago?’

Mitchell stepped toward me.

‘So you admit it.  Where else have you been?  Where’d you get the car?’

‘I…I went up to see my dad.  I took a few days on the way back.  I bought the car.’

‘Where’d you get enough money for that?’

‘That’s a long story.’

‘You’ll have plenty of time to tell me.  What were you doing in Mud City?’

‘I showed Dad some letters.’

Mitchell cursed and looked down at the gravel drive.  He took a moment to right himself before growling back a response: ‘We found those at the scene.  You are aware, I’m sure, that your fingerprints are all over the room.’

I heard him but nothing registered.  I walked past him and into the house, straight back to the room Helen and I had shared.  I looked down at the wooden floor, my hand on the bureau to balance myself.  In a panicked moment I hailed back to the hallucinations of three nights before: Gabe throttling my father.

Helen came up behind me; I felt her cool fingers touch my arm.

‘I’ve spent the last few days arguing with Mitchell,’ she said.  I nodded without looking at her.  I raised my hand to my mouth and bit into it.  The pain was real.  ‘They all think you abducted him…or…or worse.’  I recalled the stricken expression on my father’s face as I drove away and wondered if I’d driven him to do something dire.

I found my way outside.  Mitchell was waiting for me.

‘We need to take a little trip.’

‘Let me guess,’ I said.  ‘Down to the station.’

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