The story so far:
Darkness had quickly devoured what remained of the day and regurgitated it back up in the form of a rainstorm. Bill and I parked at the dining room table and ate the overcooked meat with some microwave tater tots. The conversation was uncomfortable at first. I don’t think either of us really knew what to say. Since Susan and the kid’s funeral we really hadn’t spoken much. A few phone calls to discuss some of her personal belongings the family requested to have back, but otherwise we kept our distance. Not that we exactly spent a lot of time together before. I liked Bill okay, but he was a little self-absorbed.
Tonight was no different. I just hoped that when the time came, if the time came, I could do what I needed to do without him interfering too much.
I considered telling him about the Preacher, however I wasn’t quite sure how he would take it. Bill had a temper and I didn’t need him going off half cocked. Besides, it would also require discussing Susan and that was a topic we had so far successfully avoided.
I decided to just wait it out. And wait it out is what I did.
That is until the phone rang. I looked at the clock and it was 8:11. The rain outside had continued to intensify since it started earlier and the drops now sounded like little plastic toy gun shots on the roof.
Leaving Bill to his cold beer I retreated to the kitchen to answer it.
A slight pause.
“Who wants to know?”
The annoyed clearing of a throat.
“Mr. Knox this is Sheriff Jacob Tanner, I was by your place earlier regarding the, ah…hypnotist case.”
“Oh, yes sir Sheriff. I apologize for my rudeness, its just been…well, you know.”
“Sure, sure I know. No worries. And listen, I have some good news for you anyways. They caught the son of a bitch.”
“Nope, picked him up an hour or so ago.”
“Owww, that is such a relief Sheriff. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you calling to let me know.”
“Figured you would. Now you try and enjoy the rest of your night ya hear.”
“Yes, okay…thank you again, I will.”
“And remember Mr. Knox…Halloween can be such a sinister time of year. I have a feeling you will probably remember this one.”
“Yes, I believe you are…”
The line went dead.
I figured we must have just been disconnected. I hung up the phone and walked back toward the dining room with a relieved smile…his last words still ringing in my head. ‘Halloween…sinister…remember this one.’
Where had I heard that before?
“You wanna stand there like a statue or you wanna get me a beer so we can talk about whatever it is that’s making you look so happy.”
Bill. I had almost forgotten about him. ****, I didn’t really need him anymore.
Even so, it would feel good to drink a few beers, let loose and tell someone what had happened. Maybe even get a good laugh out of it.
“Your not going to **** believe what happened to me man.”
Lightning sizzled through the sky so closely that the thunder shook the dinning room table where we sat, rattling the long forgotten utensils and the dozen or so empty beer bottles lined up there…mostly next to Bill.
He hardly even noticed. He just kept prattling on about his time in the Navy and how they had traveled to this port and that port. All of the interesting people he had met. This one in particular, from India, who could perform magic tricks…
I half listened. Every since I had told him my story about the Preacher he had been doing his usual: Trying to one up me. And drinking a lot of beer in the process.
I couldn’t concentrate though. My mind was occupied on other things, like the Sheriffs last words to me. They were somehow, haunting.
I glanced up and the clock on the wall indicated it was 10:11 p.m.
Instinct advised me it was time for an acknowledgment so I looked back to Bill and nodded my head at him.
This seemed to appease him as he picked up his pace.
“…I mean, we had twenty guys all willing to pay $100 bucks each right, just to see this guy work his magic on these whores. Of course, afterwards we would all get laid for free! I mean, they would do anything we asked them too. And they never remem…”
A loud banging on the front door snapped me quickly to reality.
Bill was mid sentence and refused to stop even though he raised his eyebrows and shifted in his seat so his face was pointed in the direction of the door.
I looked in the direction of the tackle box, sitting there on a chair in the corner.
When we came in earlier from grilling in the driveway I had placed it on the other side of the dining room wall, on the kitchen counter next to a large cookie jar that Megan had bought Susan for Mothers day. I had unhitched the latch in case I needed access to it quickly. However after the phone call I decided to tell Bill about it. He had a good laugh and then began telling me about a time he snuck a gun into the rodeo.
I suddenly realized the silence in the air and forced myself to look at Bill. He was looking back at me with his arms shrugged.
“Hello…I said Do-You-Want-Me-To-Get-That?”
“NO!” I shot back. Then more calmly: “No, Bill. Thanks. Probably just some trick or treaters. They’ll go away.” I half-heartedly believed it.
“This late?” He slurred.
“Yeah…there are some older kids in the neighborhood that like to go out late and get all the leftovers.”
He shrugged again and grabbed for his beer. Realizing it was empty he pushed himself to his feet. At some point he had undone the top button of his jeans and they were now sagging down his waistline, away from his heaving beer gut. This made him laugh as he reached to pull them back up. He was obviously drunk.
He stumbled toward the kitchen as the pounding began again on the front door, this time much more insistent.
“You sure man? Cause I’ll go…I’ll go see who it is man.”
I didn’t say a word. I stood up and slowly moved across the dining room and into the hallway toward the front door.
I heard Bill mumble something behind me. I hesitated for a moment, thinking about the gun. But then continued on. I figured I would just take a quick peek out the window at the side of the door and see who it was. Probably just kids.
The Preacher was in jail after all. The Sheriff had told me so.
I steeled my nerves, bent down and inched the curtain aside. I placed my eye to the small opening and peered out…