Winch-Hunt: Part 16
- Winch-Hunt: Part 15
The centuries old lighthouse holds the secret of the ages, and Tom Winch must solve the mystery before it destroys him. You won't believe the twist!
From Part 15
“Here Mel. Check this out.”
“What in the world are you thinking, Tom Winch? You can’t possibly be entertaining the idea of making this get-up, are you?”
“No, you’re the seamstress. Now listen Mel. I know sometime within the last 36 hours before the solstice, they’ll take me, but we’re taking a Christmas break – out of town. They’ll have no idea where we are or what happened to us. The evening of the solstice I’ll get into the lighthouse dressed in my Prif was y diafol costume. I’ll crank up the sound in the Pit to Hell and appear. They’ll think I’m the real chief servant of the devil. They’ll do whatever I say.”
“No Tom. It’s too risky. I’m all in favor of a Christmas break though.”
“Do you have any better ideas? What does your superior brain tell you?”
“We still have a few weeks before the solstice. Let’s just think about this rationally and realistically. I do like the thought of a Christmas though.
“Now I have an appointment with Doctor Warren in the morning so don’t plan to use the truck. I’ll need it.”
“What’s this all about? What do you have to see the Doc for?”
“Oh, it’s nothing really. Just a little hypotension; one shot and I’ll be fine.”
“What are you talking about? You can’t cure hypotension with a shot.”
“Doc Warren says you can.
”That’s ridiculous. Mel, get a second opinion. Call a doctor in Cape Elizabeth. See what they say. Now how about some supper?”
There was a knock at the door. Tom stepped toward the door to open it. On the other side of the door stood a bloodied Jeff Hunt.
Tom blurted out, “What happened to you?”
“And may I say it’s good to see you, too? What are you doing here?”
At the risk of sounding repetitious, Tom answered, “I live here, remember? Come on in. We’ll get you cleaned up. Just keep your distance. Now, what happened?”
“I could ask you the same thing. I was playing Jeff PI this afternoon. I saw you go into the lighthouse – and those other guys. They came out, but you didn’t. I went into the lighthouse to see if you were okay. You were missing in action, Bro.”
“Knock off the ‘Bro’ stuff, Jeff. Those days are over!”
“I was leaving the lighthouse when those two guys jumped me. Tom, I just want you to know what kind of trouble you’re in. They’re going to kill you, and I’m probably next.”
“Oh come on. You’re the one that always forgets to turn the lights out and lock the doors. I heard those two talking about you. Really now, Jeff. Your story sounds so stupid. You’re one of them.”
Jeff returned home and soaked in a hot tub. It wasn’t just his wounds he was soaking. His ego and his good intentions had been wounded as well, but an early start to bed would take care of that.
Startled by a rattling noise on his porch, Jeff was wide awake. Maybe they were coming back after him. He grabbed his Smith and Wesson and crept slowly and quietly toward the living room window. The curtain moved with the breeze. Taking his time, he carefully peeled back the curtain one inch at a time until he could see the intruder silhouetted in the haze of a distant street light.
Jeff headed for the back door. The quietness with which he moved surprised even him. Coming to the corner of the house, he ducked down coming up behind his assailant. Getting close enough, he jammed the barrel of his revolver in the back of the trespasser.
“Freeze!” He yelled. “Now, turn around very slowly – hands over your head.”
Slowly the prowler turned to face Jeff. “Ronny, you could have gotten yourself killed!” Ronny motioned to go inside.
“Sit down, Bro. You okay?”
He handed Jeff a long hand written note detailing the sacrficial rites of the Bendith Diafol. “Wow, Bro. How’d you get this?”
On a separate sheet of paper Ronny scrawled out with his right hand, “Just listened to Doctor Warren and nurse talk. They tell the whole story.” Ronny pointed out a paragraph. “Doctor Warren is planning to kill Melanie Winch.”
“Yeah, with a shot; right Bro?” Ronny nodded affirmatively.
Ronny held Jeff’s attention by looking hard into his eyes. With much conscious effort Ronny sought control of his speech. He spoke clearly. “Stop him! Stop him!” On the same separate sheet of paper he wrote, “I have to get back before the shift changes. Love you!”
Handing Ronny the piece of paper and a pen, Jeff asked, “How did you get here?”
Ronny began to scribble on the paper again. It became apparent that he stole the night shift security guard’s bicycle.
“You what? . . . You stole his bicycle?”
Ronny shook his head signifying “No,” then penned the word “borrowed”.
“Oh, okay. You only borrowed his bike. Look, grab it and put it in the trunk. I’ll drive you back. I have some things to do on the way over anyway.”
It was nearly daylight as Jeff headed back from Shady Rest. The bruises from the night before were showing off in deep purple and he needed sleep – but first thing’s first.
He needed to stop at the Winch residence. If Mel didn’t have the sense not to go to Doctor Warren, Jeff would see to it that she couldn’t. Parking down the street, he made his way slowly up to the Winch’s driveway. Tom’s unlocked truck was parked at the other end. Jeff lifted the hood , and methodically began to cut the battery cables. Closing the hood carefully, Jeff walked back down the street to his car; head held high, chest out, proud that he just saved a life.
Meanwhile inside the Winch house, Tom and Mel were preparing to greet another day. Tom wasn’t responding well to the new light that was beginning to stream through the window. Eventually he settled into his morning routine of a shower, a shave, and breakfast with Mel. Mel, at Tom’s request, dutifully called Doctor Warren’s office to cancel her appointment. Then she called Doctor Jefferson in Cape Elizabeth to make an appointment for a second opinion.
She would have to wait three weeks to see the doctor. Rather than making a scene about it, she decided to put up with the discomfort and wait. Besides, she had plans to spend the day with Tom at the lighthouse. She was hoping to get her first glimpse of the inside.
“Mel, I’ll meet you out at the truck,” Tom yelled over his shoulder.
Tom came trampling back into the house. “Mel, someone cut the battery cables. We’re not going anywhere right now.”
“Who would have done that, Tom?”
“I don’t know but here they are.” Tom held up the cables, cut in half.
“I’ll walk down to the store and get some new ones, and we’ll get going – not going to let a little vandalism ruin our day, are we?”
The tide had receded, leaving behind a strip of wet sand. As they walked the beach, a famiilar imprint of a size 13 shoe appeared. The RB on the heel dug deep into the doused beach. Maybe Ronald Barry had been found at last. The footprints led up Sandy Hill, but finally faded away in the dry sand. Tom and Mel took their positions and waited . ..
. . . and waited. The morning was far spent and lunch was calling. Mel and Tom headed off to grab a quick lunch at The Pit Stop. Driving down Conway Boulevard, they passed an outdoor barbeque restaurant. The logo showed flames streaking high off a grill.
“Tom . . . the Barbie Q. Restaurant back there . . . we’ve driven past it hundreds of times. Have you ever noticed the logo?”
“Can’t say that I have. Why?”
“Flames jumping off a grill. The Pit Stop – it’s logo, the car sitting on a grill with flames coming from the tires. Do you think they could be connected in some way?”
“Could be, I suppose. You mean, the same owner? They serve a completely different menu.”
“Maybe not the same owner. Maybe the same group of people.”
“What are you getting at? You’re not making sense.”
“What if the Bedith Diafol owned them both? Think about it. Similar logos, but The Pit Stop. Maybe the Pit to Hell Stop. Maybe there’s some symbolism there we should check into.”
“Mel, sometimes you amaze me. Just let me eat my lunch first. Then we’ll work on that thought.”
As Mel and Tom entered The Pit Stop through the door, a giant of a man exited the dining area and headed for the kitchen. Tom thought to himself, “Could be a size 13 shoe. Could be Ronald Barry.”
Mel and Tom headed for their favorite corner table. Amy, the waitress, was just steps behind. “Hi Tom, Mel. What’ll you have?”
“Just bring us the usual, Amy. . . . Oh, uh, Amy, who’s your new cook?”
“You know, he just started. I don’t even know his name.”
“Do you know what size shoe he wears?”
“No, uh, never mind. I was just thinking out loud – too loud. I’ll let you know what kind of a cook he is though.”
The Winch’s hurried through lunch. Tom had another Sunday sermon that still needed some work, and his last minute preparation was getting the best of him.
Back home Tom tried to focus on his sermon, but the idea of the Pit to Hell Stop kept creeping into his mind. The Pit to Hell in the lighthouse was to stop – stop any resistance to the torture that was to come to the selected sacrifice.
The afternoon was wasted, and Tom left his study just in time to stop Mel from cooking supper. “Mel, get your things put away. We’re going to The Barbie Q. for supper.”
“What? Why? We have plenty to eat here.”
“Yeah, I know, but I gotta see something. You know, that logo. After all it was your idea.”
“No, it was your idea! I was getting ready to cook supper here. You’re the one that stopped me.”
“No, your idea about the Pit to Hell Stop – or is it the Pit Stop to Hell? Anyway, we have to check it out. Come on!”
The long outdoor grill was smoking. The smell triggered Tom’s salivary glands as they were led to a table across the stone patio. Unlike The Pit Stop,Tom knew the Barbie Q. would be closing soon for the season. All the cooking was done over an open fire outdoors. A long, green awning overshadowed the eight foot grill. Even in rain the dining continued inside, although the food was always prepared over the open flame under the awning.
The Barbie Q. had already been open longer than usual. The fall quickly was turning to winter. Even on this evening, coats were a necessity.
Tom ordered a juicy prime sirloin and a tossed salad. Mel ordered a grilled chicken breast with mashed potatoes and corn. Only the meats were prepared outdoors. Everything else came from the little kitchen inside the main building.
Tom just happened to look up. The same giant of a man that he saw working at The Pit Stop handed the waitress some cups filled with ice. Then he quickly disappeared back into the kitchen.
“Mel! Did you see that guy? He’s the same one that was working over at The Pit Stop. Maybe there’s a bigger connection than we realized. Here comes our food. It’s time to ask questions.”
“Here you go, sir. Would you like to cut into your steak and see if it’s okay?”
“It looks delicious. Say, uh, that rather large man in the kitchen – his name wouldn’t happen to be Ronald Barry, would it?”
“Well, to be honest with you . . .”
“Yes, please be.”
“I don’t know his name. This is his first night.”
“Well, do you think you could find out for me? I’ll see that it’s reflected in your tip.”
“Sure, who shall I say wants to know?”
“Look, just leave me out of this. Just befriend him as the new kid on the block. Then let me know.”
“And, it’s reflected in my tip?”
The waitress turned and left for the kitchen. Tom could see her approach the man. Within minutes she returned with the information.
“He said his name is Richard Banks. Mean anything to you?”
“You think I can believe him?”
“I don’t know. What do you think?”
“I don’t know. Right now the only name that means something is Ronald Barry. Sound familiar at all?”
“Nope. Hope you enjoy your meal.”
Mel struggled with the idea of telling Tom that Ronald Barry had been found. In the long run it might help Tom. But in the short run, if he knew she had been talking to Jeff, it would cause more problems than it was worth. This wasn’t the time. Tom placed a twenty dollar bill under his plate and left.
“Mel, I think we need to tail this guy – see what he’s up to. I think we’ve found Ronald Barry. Maybe just to be nice, I’ll let Jeff know – not that I owe him or anything.”
“I don’t think so,” Mel slurred, still struggling with the choice to tell Tom about Jeff finding his brother.
“What do you mean? This could break the case.”
“No it couldn’t, Tom. Jeff might have found his brother, but you’re still on the menu at the Solstice. Nothing will change that. I better get to work on your . . . what is it? . . . your prif was y diafol outfit.”
“Thanks Mel. It will be the 21st before we know it.”
“You’re not serious about that silly costume, are you?”
“Of course I am. It’s the perfect plan. There will be a showdown between the fake prif was y diafol and the real one – me!” They’ll be so scared. They’ll have no idea what’s going on.”
“Tom, you’re the real one? I don’t think so, and I don’t think it’s anything to play around with. Calling yourself a real servant of the devil? I thought you were a real servant of Jesus Christ.”
“I know. I know. I didn’t mean it that way. I just meant . . .”
“I know what you meant. I still don’t feel comfortable with it. Isn’t there another way?”
“Not that I know of. Never mind. I’ll take the costume into town tomorrow and have the seamstress work on it. It’ll save you the aggravation and the time.”
“Impossible, Tom! If you can’t trust Jeff, you surely can’t trust the seamstress. You don’t even know her. I’ll do it – but like I said, I still don’t feel comfortable.”
The dim glare of blue light fell on Tom’s face from across the hall. He rolled over and covered his head with a pillow. Then he reached over for Mel, but she was gone. He jumped up and checked the time on the alarm clock – 2:38 a.m.
Awakened by her disappearance, he ran out of the bedroom and down the hall. The blue light came from Tom’s study, the last room before the stairs. He quietly began to crawl on all fours toward the room. As he edged up to the open doorway, he was startled.
© 2016 William Kovacic