Short Story Series 2: Down by the River – Part 6

[…continued from Part 5]

Recovering from my head injury at close to midnight, I recited some facts out loud.

“The Sheriff’s covering up something about the church and the stones. Charlie is somehow involved. Billy was most likely murdered to prevent his evidence, which I now possess, from coming to light. A dangerous book behind it all, the reason for all of this intrigue is, in the hands of probably the only person in town who understands it enough to not end up dead. Yet, the thought of powerful weapons in the hands of someone with so much lust is a danger in itself. I can only imagine he’ll be down at the river at sunset tomorrow. Chances are the others – the Sheriff, Charlie, the priests – will be looking for him, too. I don’t imagine he has a scheme to avoid getting caught unless there is more to using the stones as weapons. Only Joseph knows the procedures for activated the process. The book. Dammit.”

“It stands to reason,” Sarah interjected, “that since the books inception, no one other than Brackman has succeeded in using it, if even he succeeded.”

“How do you figure,” I asked?

“Well, the Rector likely died, from what the news article said, from attempting what the boy, Taggart attempted – trying to dive into the crevice. He likely killed Brackman because his attempt at using the stones failed. He wanted the book and was prepared to kill for it. Tommy probably tried to stop Taggart when Taggart killed him.”

“She’s right,” Barbara said. “That was Billy’s original story that he was silenced for.”

“So, maybe all these years the priests – if they are priests – were trying to find the book with the help of the Sheriff and Charlie,” Sarah added. “And all this time it lay buried by Julia.”

“Let’s not wait until dawn. Let’s go to the church and find a place alongside the river to stake out the boulders,” Sarah said.

“Wait!” I shouted. “What if Joseph said ‘sunset’ to delay us? The base stone is 25 feet under water and will probably not care whether it’s daylight or not. I’m willing to gamble that Joseph was throwing us off his trail before I will accept that the stone is particularly light sensitive.”

“Come to think of it, the kids – whatever ritual they did – they did at dusk. Perhaps darkness is required for the base stone. And, 25 feet under is darker at night than at dawn.”

“Let’s go. Now,” I said.

Barbara drove Sarah and I down to the old quarry at around 1AM. We walked along the river expecting to find Joseph at the boulders or thereabouts, either preparing to dive or already in the process. The river was noisy as usual and it was hard to hear a person splashing around, so, we had aimed to move slowly and deliberately, stopping every few paces to look and listen. We came to the boulders and so nothing. There was no commotion, but I did see a jacket and shoes by shore and I recognized them as belonging to Joseph.

“It’s Joseph,” I said. I’m going in.”

“Blake you, can’t. You’re head injury. You don’t have the strength.”

“Sarah, I’ve the strength for it. It’s only 25 feet and, in case you forgot, I was the 50 meter freestyle champion, senior year in college.”

“Fine, you’ve got one minute and if you don’t resurface before that, I’m diving in.”

“Watch yourself in those currents,” Barbara said. “And watch your back…Joseph is in there.”

I waded into the river to be quiet. It was loud but a person jumping could still be distinguished from the clamor of the white water. There would be no true diving in these rocks, but the fact that I could hold my breath under water for a few minutes meant that I could swim down to the bottom and possible see the so-called base stone. The boulders in the middle of the river were probably three or four meters apart. On the outside of the boulders the river was only 5-10 feet deep depending where along the river you were. As I swam down to about 12 feet between them, I still couldn’t see the bottom with a flashlight. But, it was at that point the crevice began to sharply narrow and I began to see the sides of it in the light. There were actually small holes along the wall of the crevice making it quite easy to navigate downward; they were surprisingly easy to grab. It was a haunting feeling as once I started to descend there was little current in the crevice. The water wasn’t stagnant, but it was like designed a slow-filtration aquarium down there. I thought I was near the bottom when the rocks changed, but what I came across was a huge dam of small boulders on either side of me. For fear of dislodging them or getting stuck, I decided to swim down a little more without touching the crevice and could swear I saw a light source in the bottom. I couldn’t tell if it was a flashlight or some natural luminescence. I really didn’t know what kind of rock I was looking for. It had been about a minute, and I was afraid Sarah would jump in and attempt to find me. Just as I decided to resurface, I felt something swipe my arm. It was Joseph. He was trying to grab me and pull me down. Then I realized he had gotten his feet caught behind a few of the smaller boulders damning up the sides several feet below me. I wanted to save him, but he kept trying to pull me down. I was running out of air. The only thing I could do was to kick in his direction and try swimming away. Without thinking I was also pulling at the dam of small boulders and soon the entirety of the side walls collapsed, burying Joseph and what I believe was the base stone under all of that rubble. As soon as they began to fall on him, he released me and up I went barely squeezing through the collapsing mass of rocks before it all settled. Having also dropped my flashlight in the scuffle, I surfaced in the dark and found my way to the edge of the river gasping for air. The hand that offered to help me out of the river belonged to the Sheriff.

“Hello, Blake,” said the old bastard with a badge. “Don’t try anything or these lovely ladies will drown right here in the river with you.”

The two monks I had seen in the church talking with Charlie had grabbed Sarah and Barbara.

“You son of a…,” I began to yell.

Charlie who was standing to the side with a handgun drawn on the ladies, chambered a bullet.

“Now, hold it right there son. I know you’ve been seeking the book that went missing with those kids 20 years ago. You see, we’ve been looking it for it, too. We’re all going to go over Charlie’s hardware store now and have a talk. You are going to tell me everything you know about the church and the magic stones. If I feel you are holding out, we’ll have a problem to solve. If I believe you, then we’ll talk about how this could go down such that you all may see another sunrise. So, put on your shoes and jacket.”

With his hand, the sheriff was indicating the shoes and jacket which belonged to Joseph. I quickly surmised that they weren’t onto Joseph’s involvement and they didn’t know that I already found the book. Could it be that Joseph left the book in his jacket pocket on the shore before getting into the river? Oh, I hoped as much and my heart began beating faster.

I said, “yes, sir,” then threw the jacket over my shoulders and put those size 11 shoes on my size 12 feet without grimacing. With Charlie guarding me, I walked ahead of the pack. The monks and ladies followed with the Sheriff behind them. I surreptitiously padded the jacket to reveal the book was indeed inside. Why didn’t they check it first? Morons! I felt I had a bargaining chip but I needed to figure out how and when to play it. I also noticed that the Sheriff didn’t have any deputies with him and that gave me a little hope that none of the deputies were corrupted…by him anyway.

To be continued…