The Bones of Boo: Part Two, A Short Ghost Story by cam
- The Bones of Boo: Part One, A Short Story by cam
Part 1-Ten year old, Jennifer was adventurous enough to almost drown. As a Thirty year old detective, she was determined enough to solve dozens of child abductions. Common factor? A ghost named Boo.
As a detective, Jennifer reopened many cases of children who had gone missing from the area. She also poured over photographs of men who had been suspected or convicted of child abuse or child sexual abuse and who were dead. She had gotten a good view of the man at the lake, both on the shore and in the water. She would never forget that face for as long as she lived. That’s why she recognized his photograph during her investigation. In fact, it nearly leapt off the page and found her.
By the time she had poured over every document and photograph available, she knew Buford Comstock better than anyone ever had. Finding him was both satisfying and traumatizing. It partially fulfilled a lifelong goal but also dredged up old anxieties and fears that she had hoped were gone forever, nightmares of being in the lake, of nearly drowning, of the children, of the ghost of Buford Comstock. If the whole thing weren’t so sick, Buford’s nickname would have struck her as quite funny considering his existence as a ghost the last she saw him. People had referred to Buford Comstock by the shortened version of his name, Bu, pronounced and spelled, Boo.
Buford had been employed by the county, mostly working on roads. That was from 1970 to 1990 when he died. His activities as a child molester were traceable back into his childhood, with county records containing accounts of him abusing siblings, cousins and neighbors’ children. He had spent time in a juvenile home as a teen, receiving counseling aimed at dealing with his twisted thinking and behavior.
As far as Jennifer could deduce, Buford’s avocation as a child abductor began in 1972, and she had pieced together a plausible scenario of his first abduction. Buford had finished filling potholes one day and was headed for home when he saw ten year old Sarah walking alone. He had stopped and talked to her and found out she had just left a neighbor’s house after spending the afternoon playing with a friend. That was the last anyone ever saw little Sarah.
For the next eighteen years, Jennifer estimated Buford had kidnapped twelve children. Some were children of local residents and others of vacationers to the area who rented cabins and rooms in bed and breakfasts. The state forest trails and countless lakes were the main attractions. In 1990, Buford had simply disappeared, much like the children he had abducted. An investigation was started, but was dropped for lack of leads. That should have been the end of a large percentage of child disappearances, but Jennifer found that kidnappings in the state forest remained above the state average to the present day. She was the only person who could have known that this lake was the source of the evil.
Jennifer was being pulled down by the dead children in the lake, and she no longer had the will to fight back. She could see nothing because the muddy bottom had been stirred up by all the activity. Blackness enveloped her, and death drew nearer.
Once again, hands grabbed her from behind and dragged her toward the surface. The face of the ghost of the lake was all her mind could conjure. The vegetation around her legs fought against the upward pull in a tug-of-war with her body. The stringy vines snapped one by one, and Jennifer was free, at least from that threat. Her head broke the surface and she sucked in a renewing breath. She kicked her legs and splashed with her arms, trying to break the grip of her adversary. But a voice penetrated the water in her ears and the fear in her mind.
“Jenni, Jenni stop fighting. It’s me, daddy.” She continued to struggle until exhaustion left her no choice but to surrender to her father’s efforts to save her. She coughed up lake water and wailed as her father swam to shore where they both collapsed in the mud.
“Jenni, what were you doing out there?” cried her father. “You could have drowned….no, the weeds were wrapped around your legs and you were drowning. I thought I had lost you, Jenni.” They held each other until their shaking and sobbing stopped. Her father picked her up like a baby, and she rested her chin on his shoulder, hugging his neck, eyes locked on the lake. The heads of the children of the lake appeared on the surface like balls floating on the water. They called to Jennifer in their child voices, begging her to come back.
“Do you hear them, Daddy?”
“The spring peepers?” said her father as he carried her along the path toward the cabin. “Yes, Jenni, I can hear them.”
The Zodiac drifted into the shallows near where Jennifer stood. The divers jumped off with their bulging diving bags and walked in her direction. The bags contained whatever had been found in the mud at the bottom of the lake. Twenty years of telling her story, with disbelief being the only response, came down to this moment.
The stern faces of the two male and one female divers telegraphed the grim news. One of the men opened his bag and held it out for Jennifer to examine. She didn’t reach in and touch the bones. They were appalling to her. Skulls and the bones of arms, legs and feet filled the bag. But it was the hand that horrified her, one of the very hands that had risen out of the water and grabbed her, gripped her, pulled her down and held her until she had nearly drowned.
“Detective,” said the female diver. “When I took on this assignment, I knew we might find the bones of children in the lake. But bones aren’t all we found. There are whole bodies too. One may have been down there for only a few weeks.”
This news sent Jennifer’s mind reeling and she began to sway, nearly losing her balance.
“My god,” said Jennifer. To herself, she thought, I never seriously believed I had been the last child he tried to take, but I never dreamed it might still be happening today. She scanned the lake, seeing it now in an entirely different light.
“And that’s not all,” said one of the male divers. He reached into his diving bag and pulled out a skull. Not a small one, like the others, but a larger one.
The county’s medical examiner was already on site, and Jennifer called him over. He looked at the skull carefully for several minutes then gripped the two incisors and pulled. The teeth were actually removable partial dentures.
“This fella was an adult and he must have been in a fight or a car accident because he not only lost some teeth, he also had a broken nose.” The ME pointed out where the nasal bone had been broken and pressed inward where it had healed.
“I read a newspaper article from 1973 about a local bar fight that ended with a patron breaking the nose and knocking out the front teeth of another man with a beer bottle.” Jennifer looked at the ME.
“Buford Comstock?” He said.
“Bingo,” she replied.
“I want the rest of his skeleton,” said Jennifer to the divers. “We’ll need DNA evidence to prove this, but I’m convinced this is our child abductor.”
“When did Comstock himself go missing?” said the ME.
“In 1990,” said Jennifer.
“And if he went missing because he had died, then how can we attribute the disappearances and deaths of any of these children to him after 1990?
“You’ve heard my story about when I was ten years old, right?” she said.
The ME nodded but said nothing.
Jennifer had always thought that if they found the children’s bones, her ghost story would somehow be believed. Now she realized this would not be the case. The others would put the post 1990 abductions in the cold case file. Only she would know they had actually been solved.
Cigarette smoke invaded her nose. She spun around and saw a man walking toward them. The two held one another’s gazes as he passed by, blowing two jet streams of smoke from his nostrils. He flicked his cigarette into the air, and Jennifer followed its arc until it landed in the water. When she looked back, the man was gone.
“Who’s smoking?” said the ME, looking around.
Jennifer stood in the cemetery where Buford’s family had placed a memorial marker after his bones had been found and buried. The grave marker read:
Born 11 July 1950.
Jennifer rummaged through her purse and extracted a small leather bag. She poured out a few of the colored stones into her hand and placed them in a line across the top of the marker, leaving the bag at the end. She stepped back to the foot of the grave and paused before speaking.
“I have gotten to know more about you than nearly anyone. But one thing I don't know is how you died. You did love your whiskey , didn't you, Boo? Did you fall out of your boat on your own when you were drunk, or did one of the children fight back and knock you overboard into the lake? I’ve followed you through court records, newspaper articles, employer files and personal interviews with your family and friends. You’ve haunted my dreams at night and invaded my thoughts in the daytime. Now that we’ve laid you and your victims to rest in a proper way, maybe you can move on. Whether you rest in peace or not, I’m asking you….no, I’m telling you to leave them alone, Buford Comstock. Leave the children alone.
A gentle breeze blew as she turned from the grave, carrying with it a few dead leaves and the faint smell of cigarette smoke.