Winch-Hunt: Part 18
- Winch-Hunt: Part 17
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 17
Tom awoke somewhat rested even though he lay awake most of the night. Grabbing a glass of orange juice, he turned on the Channel 10 news. A quick flash of a mugshot caught Tom’s eye. It was Richard Banks. The anchor went on to say . . .
“The Cape Elizabeth Police Department make an overdue arrest last night in the case of The Restaurant Smuggler. Richard Banks was taken into custody shortly after he finished his shift at The Lobster Shack last night.
“Banks has been involved in a series of drug smuggling restaurant shifts that began in northern Somerset County and worked its way south.
“One restaurant, one shift at a time, the drugs were smuggled via Banks to supposed restaurant customers. Banks was the little man in a big man operation. Authorities are hoping that Banks’ arrest will lead to others.
This morning Banks sits in the Cumberland County Jail awaiting a preliminary hearing. Bail was set at $50,000.”
Tom had to face the facts. Richard Banks was not the “RB” he was looking for. Even if he was, Tom doubted he was on Richard’s visitor list. Just then there was a knock at the door. Two strangers stood on the stoop waiting for Tom to answer.
Tom, not knowing whether he should answer the door, muttered a quick prayer and opened the door. The older woman spoke first. Very open and forthright she said, “Good morning, I’m Janice McLanahan. This is Patricia Lane. We are missionaries with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.”
Tom knew what this meant as he translated the message. Mormons were here to convert him.
Janice continued. “Is the lady of the house available?”
“No. No, she’s not,” Tom answered not sure what to say next. “ . . . I’m a pastor here in Sandy Hill. If you ladies would like me to answer some of your Bible questions, I’d be glad to do that.”
Patricia spoke up. “No, thank you anyway. We really came to talk to Melan . . . ” she caught herself. “ . . . I mean the lady of the house.”
Tom took notice of the blunder, but didn’t say anything.
“Do you know when she might be available?” Debating on whether to explain that Mel was out of town, he opted to just tell them he didn’t know when she would be back.
As the ladies turned to go, a small piece of paper fell from one of the books Patricia was carrying. In a moment of intuition Tom didn’t say anything, but waited for the ladies to disappear from sight. Then he reached over and picked up the paper. It only contained Mel’s full name, a physical description of her and her street address. Tom concluded they were sent to kill Mel. He was glad she was hundreds of miles away.
If Tom had regrets about getting into this battle with the Bendith Diafol it was that he got Mel involved, and she was seen as colateral damage. Her life was in danger as much as Tom’s. Yet he wasn’t completely sure if she was on the hit list just to avoid possible interference she might cause the night of the sacrifice. In his sixth sense kind of thinking, it almost seemed that they wanted Mel dead for their own reasons, but what the reasons were, he couldn’t tell. He was just glad she was safe in Indiana, and when it was all over, she’d be safe again.
After his usual morning routine, Tom headed to the lighthouse. It was a beautiful New England winter’s day. The blue sky was reflected in the crisp Atlantic waters. A light snow from the night before left a mist of white covering the sand. Each step that Tom took was revealed in the white powder below his feet. This was not good, but the detective work had to continue. Time was running out. In another week it would be December 21, and Tom knew what that meant.
Another set of footprints began to appear beside Tom’s. Someone else had already headed to the lighthouse. This might be good if Tom could find a way to sneak in. This might be bad if he were caught snooping.
Tom left his usual path to the lighthouse and circled around to the west side, being sure to keep low and doing his best to blend in with the scenery. Taking his place behind a large rock, he waited – and watched.
Within a few minutes he saw someone hiding in a thicket of evergreens higher up on the hill. Apparently Tom hadn’t been noticed yet, but it definitely was more advantageous for the other man than for Tom. Tom would have to keep turning around to keep an eye on the man, but the man just needed to look down to see Tom. Tom knew he had to move, but he might draw more attention to himself. He began to formulate his escape plan.
Just then he saw movement in the thicket. The man was moving down the hill quickly, crossing over to the south side of the lighthouse. Tom froze as he continued to watch. It was Jeff. “Oh boy!” Tom thought. “He didn’t see me, but now I can watch him. I know he’s up to something. I know he’s one of them, and I’m going to catch him in the act.”
Tom’s anticipation was short lived as he watched Jeff continue down the beach and out of sight. Then another thought came to Tom’s simple mind. “If Jeff really was one of them, why was he spying, too. He could enter the lighthouse any time he wanted. He has the key, and he has nothing to fear if he were to go inside. He was one of them – or was he? Maybe Mel was right. I should give Jeff another chance . . . No, I’ve gone this far alone. I’ll make it the rest of the way.” Still, the thought wouldn’t leave Tom’s mind easily.
The wind began to kick up a mixture of snow and sand, stinging Tom in the face. He pulled his jacket closer and hid inside the oversized hood. The wind was rustling down the beach, swirling the sand in small tornado-shaped wisps. Over the sound of the wind and waves, Tom could hear the now familiar clicking sound.
Tom looked to his right just in time to see the strange figure rise from the sand. Within seconds the figure disappeared in the dusty sunlight. Tom scrambled over to where the figure appeared, but saw nothing; no footprints, no evidence that anyone had ever been there.
Tom expected as much, especially with the wind whipping as it was. He tried to think through the whole scenerio. Every angle he considered made no sense. He considered that perhaps the ghost of Thomas Winch lived on as many believed, but he knew better. He reasoned that if he could figure out this piece of the puzzle, he may very well solve the mystery completely.
Even though most of the pieces of the puzzle were fitting together, there were still some things that didn’t quite fit. But December 21 would soon be here. The culmination of all of Tom’s work would at last be fulfilled.
After spending the afternoon in the cold, December winds Tom decided to call it quits for another day. He still had Sunday’s message to get ready and he needed to prepare his announcement to let the church know the Winch’s would be taking a small vacation over the Christmas holiday and would be “out of town.”
The day was fading fast when there was another knock at the door. In Tom’s mind, things couldn’t get any worse. It was Mrs. Camp. Tom pretended he was glad to see her.
“Hi, Mrs. Camp. It’s so nice of you to stop by.”
“I was just in the neighborhood and thought I’d stop by to say ‘Hello’. Actually Reverend Tom, is the Mrs. here?” Tom had grown accustomed to the Reverend thing although he really didn’t like it. “I wanted to drop this music off for her to practice for my Christmas special this week.”
Tom was between a rock and a hard place. He didn’t want anyone to know that Mel was out of town, and knowing that Mrs. Camp had the gift of gab, he really needed to be careful.
“No. No, Mrs. Camp. She’s not here right now, but I’ll let her know as soon as she comes back. Thank you.” Mrs. Camp excused herself and headed down the road. Tom was surprised, but thankful that she didn’t stay.
Now there was another problem. Mel wouldn’t be able to play the music, but there was no way to explain her absence either – at least in an honest way. Tom had long ago given into the little, white lie from time to time to justify his PI work. He would just have to manufacture another one. Tom was on the phone to Mrs. Camp.
“Hello, Mrs. Camp. This is the preacher.” He so much preferred the word preacher rather than reverend. I forgot that Mel will be visiting relatives over the Christmas holiday. She won’t be available to play for your special. Do you think Sally Andrews could do it?”
“Well, I suppose she could. I was really counting on the Missus. She plays so well, and well you know Sally, she kind of hits and misses.”
“Oh, she doesn’t do that badly, Mrs. Camp. She does her best. Who could ask for anything more?”
“I know you’re right. I’ll give her a call.”
Tom needed to stay one step ahead. It was just like Mrs. Camp to not make the call and then claim that Sally couldn’t play either. “Don’t worry about it, Mrs. Camp. I’ll give her a call and explain. After all it was my mistake.”
“Well, okay. I’ll be on my way. Thank you, Reverend.” Tom knew it would just be a matter of time before word would spread that Mel was out of town. He didn’t want to tip off Mel’s hit men, but given the circumstances, he wasn’t sure what else he could do. Besides, Mel was safe half a nation away – or was she? Tom felt compelled to call her and let her know what had happened just in case.
He knew he’d feel better just to talk to her anyway. This was a good excuse, but yet he had to be careful not to alarm Mel. She just needed to take precautions.
Sunday morning arrived with a packed house for the morning service. The Christmas attenders were out in full force, and Tom felt he had just the right message for the season. There was also a partial sense of relief, knowing the investigation would soon be complete. At the same time a new sense of nervousness covered Tom. He didn’t like being away from Mel, and he also had to realize that even though he served the living God, there was still a certain amount of danger he would face in the next few days.
Tom stepped up to the microphone to give the announcements. Wading through each one, he finally came to the place where he would announce that the Winch’s would be away for the holidays. He thought, “Let the gossip section get a hold of that and the whole town will know the Winch’s are gone.”
“On behalf of myself and Mel, we wish you a very Merry Christmas. We will be going out of town for a few days, but we’ll be back for the Christmas Eve service – just a little breather.
He sat back down as the choir came to sing before the message. Tom’s mind was in another world. It was getting fairly easy for Tom to lie, but this was the first time he lied from the pulpit. His heart was racing faster than ever as he tried to justify what he had done for the protection of Mel and for the glory of God. Somehow though, things didn’t seem to fit.
The service passed quickly and the weight of guilt still clung to him. He stood by the door and shook hands with each member of his congregation, wishing them the best of the holiday season, until he was the only one left.
The church building seemed so quiet, yet so unsettled as Tom dealt with his sin. Even though he knew he was wrong, it was too late in the game to change direction. He would simply have to play it out. It wouldn’t be long. The next day was December 21. The full moon would give forth its brilliant shine, and the Bendith Diafol would be ready for sacrifice.
Tom turned out the lights and headed for home. Mel was on his mind more than usual and he looked forward to seeing her Tuesday night at the airport. In the meantime, there was spiritual warfare to take care of.
Tom’s plan was to grab a quick lunch, get a few things together, and set off for a motel somewhere out of town until the morning. At that point he’d be ready to stake out the lighthouse and wait for an opportunity to sneak in. He was sure God would open the door for him somehow. He just had to be ready.
He poured a cup of coffee and sat on the couch, still tending to his wounds of guilt. He tried to reconcile the life of a Gospel minister with that of a self-proclaimed private eye; the Gospel minister breaking into hardware stores; the Gospel minister trespassing on private property; the Gospel minister constantly lying to conceal or get information. He was worn out, and he knew it, but just a little while longer and it would be over.
A TV dinner was hastily thrown into the microwave as he went to pack a few things. He needed to pack as lightly as possible since he would be going straight to the lighthouse from his motel room. He yanked his backpack out of the closet and began neatly packing his few essentials. Above all, he needed room for his prif was y diafol costume. He had gone over his plan so many times in his mind, he was sure the Bendith Diafol would scatter in fear, never to assemble again; or at the very least they might have to regroup buying some time for the next sacrifice.
The microwave began to buzz just as Tom packed the last of the items. “Ah, perfect timing,” he muttered to himself as he headed for the kitchen. As he passed the living room window he saw a shadow near the front porch. Then the doorbell rang.
Tom quietly closed the back door behind him and stole around the side of the house. Two men in black overcoats, and of course, a pile of Watchtowers in each hand. Tom carefully reversed his path back to the kitchen. This was not a good time for unwanted guests. From the corner of the room he watched as the two shadows crept off the stoop and headed down the sidewalk.
It was getting later than Tom planned. He hurried his dinner and grabbed a water bottle out of the refrigerator, and headed for the door.
His nerves were beginning to get the best of him. His hand visibly shook as he picked up his backpack and fumbled for his keys. Small beads of sweat were beginning to form on his brow. A sick feeling overcame him for a moment, and he sat down to gain his composure.
After a few minutes, he was ready. He made sure the front door was locked before going to his truck. Throwing the backpack in first he slid over and started the ignition. As always, just before he put the truck into reverse he looked in the rear view mirror. There stood the two “Jehovah’s Witnesses” blocking his exit path.
One came to each side of the truck; each one pointing a revolver at Tom’s face.
“Get out!” yelled the one by the driver’s side.
“Who, me?” Tom quipped. The one on the passenger side slid in beside Tom. “This is not a good time to try to be funny, cute, or anything else. Now, give me your complete cooperation and nobody gets hurt.”
Tom was amazed at how the mind works in times of extreme stress. His first thought was, “Boy! What a liar!” Then his thoughts went back to the fact that he had just hours earlier lied from the pulpit. He also knew that he would not be done away with until the sacrifice. He had some time to play with – and he could afford to be a little cocky if need be. He knew that’s what all the TV detectives do.
“Okay, okay. What do you want me to do?”
“Get out of the truck very, very slowly. Walk between us, and don’t try anything stupid. Remember there’s two of us – or maybe more.”
Tom very slowly opened the door and climbed down. The one on the driver’s side moved in close. The other one slid across the seat behind Tom. At precisely the right moment Tom threw his foot back against the door crushing his assailant’s hand in between the door and the truck frame. Then he swung the door wide open striking the other one in the face.
Tom was able to get about two steps when he was grabbed by his coat collar from behind, and flung to the ground. A third man rested his foot firmly on the back of Tom’s neck.
He barked, “Never . . . never try something like that again or someone will get hurt, and it won’t be who you want. Now get up slow. Keep your eyes straight ahead. Walk toward the car parked by the curb.”
It didn’t take long for Tom to realize that this was for real. It wasn’t playing out like he had imagined. He kept walking toward the car. When he got within a few yards the door opened. Out stepped another man in Jehovah’s Witness gear. He reached back into the car and pulled out – Mel.
“Mel, are you all right?”
With his forearm tightly around her throat he ordered, “Now do exactly what you’re told or something’s going to happen to your wife. Either way, we have you for the sacrifice.”
Tom reached for his only hope. “Oh, now that’s really hitting below the belt.”
Mel’s mind raced back to her one and only self-defense class. With that Mel slammed the point of her heel hard and quickly into her aggressor’s shin. As he released, she immediately turned and jammed her knee sharply below the belt. He fell to the pavement. While Tom wrestled with his man, Mel was off and running. Neither Tom nor she knew where. While the minister of peace was battling one man, the other lay in Tom’s truck with a broken hand, and the other lay writhing in pain on the sidewalk. In the distance a police siren was heard.
- Winch-Hunt: Part 19
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!