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Winch-Hunt Part 5

Updated on September 4, 2018

From Part 4

Doctor Warren started off, “Tom, there’s no way that ankle was broken by bumping or even smashing it. And how did you even manage to walk? I’ve seen things like this only once before, and Tom, you’re not going to like the cause . . . .”

“So what is it, Doc? Come on. Tell me!”

“Tell me Tom, what do you know about Voodoo? Have you ever seen the dolls that are used for curses? You know, the pin cushion dolls? Very rarely are they used for revenge, but when they are it’s a very serious matter. Tom, do you have any enemies? Anyone that would want to harm you? I doubt you bumped into anything at all.”

“Wait a second Doc. You’re telling me that my ankle is broken because someone stuck a pin in a doll? That’s ridiculous!”

“Tom, you’ve been targeted. This is only the beginning. Come on, think! Is there anyone that might want to hurt you? Tom, if I’m going to be able to help you, you have to level with me.”

“I don’t have any enemies that I know of . . . wait, Doc.” Tom was leading up to something, but he wasn’t sure he should really go there. “Could one of these dolls remove a part of a body? I mean, I’ve heard of severed hands that were attributed to that kind of activity,” Tom lied. “Is that really possible?”

“Years ago, Tom, I practiced medicine in New Orleans. There were always the stories. Like I said, very rarely was Voodoo used for retaliation or revenge, but on one occasion I remember a person’s hand being crushed much like your ankle. I never saw any body parts completely removed, but I do believe in the power of Voodoo. I believe your ankle is the result of Voodoo. Tom, be careful.” One thing Mel would never know was how Tom really broke his ankle. The second thing Mel would never know was how much danger Tom was facing.


Jeff Hunt was lost on the beach, looking for clues without a clue. Tom Winch couldn’t wait any longer. Broken ankle or not, Tom was determined to get back to his investigation. First thing’s first, the two had to connect.

Tom pulled out his cell and dialed Jeff’s number. “Jeff, this is Tom. I’m sorry for not getting back to you sooner. I broke my ankle and that did me in for a while. Listen, when can we meet?”

“Well, how about right now? I’m down on the beach, but to be honest, I’m not really finding anything. Maybe if we put our heads together?”

“No, I can’t right now. I have to get home and take care of some things. Besides, I had a doctor appointment this afternoon and my ankle really isn’t strong enough to walk. The doc shook it and bent it in every direction it wasn’t supposed to go. How about tomorrow? I’ll meet you at McLaren’s for lunch – say about 12:15?”

“Okay, I’ll see you then!”

Tom would have to figure out a way to get out of the house, He knew Mel would never go for him walking miles on the beach with a broken ankle. Still, he figured honesty was the best policy. He would just have to wait for the right moment to break the news. Supper was served. Mel seemed in a good enough mood. Tom guessed he’d go for it.

“Mel, I have an appointment with Jeff Hunt tomorrow. I’m going to meet him over at McLaren’s Grill for lunch.”

“Okay, whatever.”

Tom thought to himself, “That was too easy. Something’s going on.” Rather than wade into it, he stopped while he was ahead. Tomorrow would be here soon enough. He was sure there would be more challenges on Mel’s part, but there wasn’t.

Tom made the walk to McLaren’s with the use of his crutches. It actually felt good to be out in the fresh air again with the gleaming sun shining down. Tom was working on an appetite, too.

Standing by the door was a short, stubby man with a crew cut and thick, black glasses. His plaid shorts and penny loafers drew the attention of all that passed by. The absence of socks made him all the more conspicuous. Tom excused himself and walked by into the diner. “Hey Cal,” he called back to the line cook. “I’m supposed to meet someone here at 12:15. His name is Jeff Hunt. Have you seen him anywhere?”

“Yeah, Mr. Four-Eyes over by the door. You just walked right past him. He probably didn’t even see you.”

Tom wasn’t ready for this. Tom prided himself of being a good judge of character. This was one time he hoped he was wrong. Tom walked slowly toward the man, not sure what to expect.

“Um, my name is Tom Winch. Are you, um, are you Jeff Hunt?” “Yeah. Hey, how ya doing Bro?”

Tom winced as he forced his hand to shake Jeff’s. Tom’s goals for the day seemed to be going downhill quickly. He just couldn’t see a future in the investigation with this man. Too late. Tom was already in the middle and Jeff had already flown too many miles to turn back now. Tom knew this was do-or-die. The choice scared him.

Tom was more laid back, more private. Jeff, on the other hand, was straight to the point and brash. It was annoying to Tom, especially coming from a short guy with a crew cut – oh, and no socks. Jeff’s voice was whiny and high pitched. Somehow it seemed to suit him. Tom was more the take charge type, but that was good because Jeff had to be led every step of the way. Tom would find this out all too quickly.

Beneath his strange exterior, Jeff was really a pleasant man full of sincerity. His only mission in life was to find his brother. He would stop at nothing to accomplish that, and that did impress Tom. Tom was the impatient one. He had little time for play and light-heartedness. He was all business. So was Jeff but in a different way. He tempered the seriousness of what they both were about to bite off with childish teasing. It was the only way he could keep from getting carried away with the weight of what he had come to do.

They found a table and ordered from the menu. Small talk followed. Then the coffee. Tom didn’t want to rush into problems so soon, but he had to ask. “Jeff, a total stranger came up to me the other day and asked me why you were snooping around the old lighthouse at Sandy Hill. I have no idea who this guy is, but he seemed annoyed with you and with me. Jeff, I hadn’t even met you yet. How was I supposed to know what you were doing? Have you been talking?”

“No, I was only at the lighthouse for a short time and no one saw me. Besides, if he talked to you, he suspects you as well. There’s no way a total stranger would approach you about me if he didn’t already think there was a connection, so let’s not be too hard on me. There’s something he knows about you, too. Maybe the first thing we need to do is figure out who this guy is. Maybe he’s a piece of the puzzle. Right now we need all the pieces we can get.

“Tom, I’ll be truthful with you. I was over at the gas station the other day and I heard some guys talking about the lighthouse at Sandy Hill. I didn’t think they knew I was listening, but I think they caught on. That’s when I decided to make the trip to the lighthouse to check things out.”

“What were they saying?”

“Something about the strange things that happen at the lighthouse during the full moon.”

“What strange things?”

“Once they caught on that I was listening they changed the subject. Tom, really, that’s all I know – strange things, the lighthouse, and the full moon.”

“Who were these guys? Do you think you could identify them if you saw them again?”

“No problem, Bro!”

Tom and Jeff hopped in Tom’s truck and headed over to the gas station. The investigative work was about to begin. Tom parked his truck across the street and they watched . . . and watched. Jeff hid behind sunglasses and an old Red Sox ball cap, while he pulled a newspaper in front of his face. Tom slid down in his seat and pretended to sleep. After two hours of watching vehicles come and go, they decided to call it quits for the day. They didn’t want to be too obvious.

The next morning Tom met Jeff on the beach. It was a quiet morning. A light breeze floated inland from the ocean as the early morning sun was warming the sand. They decided to split up to avoid any connection with each other. Maybe someone was watching. Jeff headed over to the pier. Tom wobbled off in the direction of the lighthouse.

Nothing out of the ordinary was found at the pier. Too much time had passed and all, if any, evidence had long ago been destroyed. Not much was seen by Tom at the lighthouse either.

The sun was setting after a long day so Tom took out his cell phone and called Jeff. No sooner had he dialed the number, but he was overcome with the strange sensation that he was being watched. Tom didn’t see anybody. He didn’t hear anything, but the hairs on the back of his neck were unmistakably standing up. He quickly slid the phone into his pocket and tried to act as calm as possible and yet remain on high alert.

He continued to walk down the beach. Everything seemed normal. Nothing seemed out of place. There was not a soul in sight. It was then that he noticed the flash of a shadow to his left. He turned quickly to meet his attacker, but no one was there. Still, Tom somehow knew he was being watched. The only eyes on the beach were that of a seagull strutting along the tide line. Tom kept his pace and walked off toward his truck. Maybe he could sneak Jeff a call once he got safely situated inside the vehicle.

Jeff was already in the truck slumped down, out of sight, when Tom finally got there. Talking out of the side of his mouth he asked Tom, “What did you find out, Bro?”

“Nothing really.” By now Tom overlooked being referred to as “Bro”.

“You mean between the two of us Bro, we spent twenty hours on the beach and . . . not a single clue?”

“Not a single clue, all right! But I couldn’t help but feel that someone was watching. I didn’t see anybody. I just know someone was there on the beach with me. Did you notice anything at the pier?”

“Nope. I’ve never spent a more boring, uneventful day in my life. Why do you always find the excitement?”

“I’d hardly call it excitement, but I do believe someone knows something that they don’t want us to know. No, I didn’t see anyone, but there was definitely a pair of eyes on the beach. We best not be seen together, and let’s just plan to lay low for a couple of days.”

That being settled, Tom continued his church work; one more Sunday and then the first meeting of Webster Cove’s newest church. Time was running out for Tom to adequately prepare and he knew it. He had to get to work on his first message. Every time he tried to start, his mind drew a blank. He couldn’t concentrate long enough to get through a meaningful prayer time. He knew the importance of the ministry to which God had called him. It just wasn’t his priority right now. Nevertheless, there was work to do.

Tom spent the night praying – praying for a break in the Ronald Barry case. Guilt covered him when he realized he had been praying for two hours and never once included the new church in his prayers. It would be another long night of forcing himself to prepare his message for the following Sunday morning. There was one thing he learned that night. His heart wasn’t in the ministry at this time. As a matter of fact, he almost felt like solving the mystery of Mr. Barry was his ministry. He was certainly ministering to Jeff.

Mrs. Camp was so excited. Tom knew he couldn’t fail her. He would be ready for the following Sunday even if his heart wasn’t in it. “How did I ever get to this point?” he wondered. “All I ever wanted to do was to serve God – and now all I care about is that stupid lighthouse. I can’t believe I spent ten hours on the beach walking around with crutches. At least that explains why my ankle is throbbing right now.”

Then a still, small voice spoke to Tom’s spirit. “Tom, for now, you must carry on with the ministry I’ve given you. You must be wholeheartedly prepared for your opening service next Sunday. You must do the work. But don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s not by accident you’ve found yourself in the middle of this mystery. I put you there. You’re right! It is at least part of your ministry. I’ll lead you to the truth. Just keep things in perspective. Now, get some sleep.”

Tom slept like a baby. The morning sun of yet another day brought a new desire for Tom to prepare his message and do some visiting. He stopped by to see Mrs. Camp and remind her about the service. When Tom arrived, she and three other friends were discussing how nice it was going to be to have their very own church. They informed Tom that several others were planning to come and thanked Tom for taking the time to be interested in them. The hypocritical side of Tom came out as he pretended to truly have the ladies interest as a top priority. Little did they know the lighthouse at Sandy Hill was Tom’s first priority.

Tom was able to let the crutches go for short periods of time. The ankle didn’t need to be babied as much, but there was still a fair amount of swelling from time to time. Tom’s thoughts turned back to the beach and the lighthouse. Twice he felt as if he was being followed on the beach. He had a broken ankle probably due to someone not wanting him to get involved. Even though that didn’t slow him down, he didn’t know what else might be in store for Jeff and him.

Jeff didn’t seem to have any problems while investigating the boat crash that left his step-brother missing. Jeff had two healthy ankles and never felt as if he was being followed. All the mild attacks seemed to be aimed at Tom, but why? Maybe Tom was right. He couldn’t trust Jeff. Maybe Jeff was just in this to throw Tom off track. Maybe the investigation would be better off if Tom went it alone.

No, if Jeff was part of the cover-up, Tom had to find out. Working with him on a daily basis would be necessary to see where Jeff really stood. It would be harder now that Tom had some doubts.

The morning sun was shining brightly. Tom headed to the lighthouse and Mel went into town to do some grocery shopping. She had just finished putting the groceries in the car when she noticed something on the windshield. Lifting the wiper blade she pulled the folded piece of paper out and read it. “Tell your husband to BACK OFF! You are both in danger, so BACK OFF!”

Mel glanced around but saw nothing to cause alarm. She hopped in her car and drove home to put the groceries away, and then she hurried up the coast to find Tom.

She found him sitting on a rock looking out to sea. “Tom! Tom! Read this!”

“Mel, what are you doing here? Listen – I don’t want you to come up here.”

“Why?” Because you’re in more danger than you realize! Tom, read this.” Tom had seen the message before. It was nothing new to him, but Mel was seeing it for the first time. Now it was more than Tom. Mel was in danger as well – and there they sat together reading the note. The hairs on the back of Tom’s neck were raised again. He knew someone was watching. Someone was out to get both of them.

“Mel, we’ll get you some self-defense training. It’s one thing for me to deal with this. It’s quite another to have you involved. I’ll check into it as soon as we get home. Come on!”

Back home, Tom began going through the yellow pages looking for self-defense classes for Mel. “Here’s one,” Tom called for Mel. Li Jing’s Self-Defense. Let’s give him a call.”

Tom dialed the number. “Li Jing’s Self-Defense. Li Jing speaking” said a woman’s voice on the other end with an Americanized Chinese accent. “A woman,” Tom thought. We need someone rough and tough to teach this stuff.”

“Hello. Hello.,” came the voice on the other end. “Um, yes. This is Tom Winch. I’m looking for a self-defense class for my wife. Do you have any male teachers?”

"No, I the only one, but I very good. Your satisfaction is guaranteed, sir.”

“Okay. Okay. When can you schedule my wife’s lesson?”

“How about tomorrow, three o’clock?”

“Okay, that will be fine. Satisfaction guaranteed, right?”

“Right. I see you then.”

It wasn’t exactly what Tom was hoping for, but it would have to do – at least for now.

It was 2:50 and time for Mel to leave for her first lesson in self-defense. She pulled up to Li Jing’s and went through the door. A small, frail-looking Chinese woman met her there.

“Hello, I Li Jing, You Melanie Witch?”

“Uh, no. It’s Winch – Winch, W-I-N-C-H.”

“Oh, so sorry, Mrs. Witch. Please forgive me.”

Mel rolled her eyes and followed Li Jing to the mat.

“I give you demonstration before we begin. Please watch.”

A young man seemingly in excellent health sat on a bench near the mat. Li Jing motioned for him to come and join her. Li Jing turned her back on the man, and the man approached from behind. He grabbed her around the throat. Li Jing promptly sunk her heel into the soft part of the man’s foot, then quickly turned and placed her hands on the man’s shoulders. Another quick move; she kicked her knee into his groin and the man fell over.

“Not worry, Mrs. Witch. It only for show. I not hurt him. I call it hitting below belt. Work every time. See, I told you – satisfaction guaranteed.”

“Li Jing, I don’t think this is really something I’m interested in. Thank you anyway,” and Mel politely went her way

© 2015 William Kovacic


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