Winch-Hunt: Part 7
- Winch-Hunt Part 6
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 6
They stopped and parked along the street and walked the last two blocks to the beach. Approaching the hill brought a sense of nervous anticipation. Climbing behind the rock they could see an orange glow coming from the base of the lighthouse. There it was, and then it was gone.
Left in solid darkness Tom and Mel waited. Clouds passed over the full moon blocking any light that was available to them. Now it was all up to their ears. They could hear a heavy metal door opening and the voices of a few people as they whispered in the night. Slowly they made their way down the hill and into the darkness. The clouds passed and allowed light to return.
The last two men were leaving and locking the old tower. They also headed down the hill. It was then that Mel saw something shining, reflecting moonlight in the dark night. Mel began to furiously dig a hole in the sand under the fence. Ten feet away lay the shining object
Mel shouted a whisper in Tom’s direction. “Tom, it’s the keys to the lighthouse.”
“Mel, I got an idea. Grab ‘em and let’s go!”
Mel scooped them up and crawled back through the same hole. Drenched in sand, she handed the keys to Tom. They were racing for the truck when they saw a shadow disappear behind a small sand dune.
“Mel, stay here. I’m going to go see what’s going on.”
“Tom, don’t be ridiculous. You don’t know who that may be and what they’re up to. He may be the one that’s been following you. Just wait and see wha….”
“Tom, Mel, is that you?”
“Jeff, what are you doing here?”
“I couldn’t sleep. I went home, but I just had the feeling I had to come back and do some more snooping. How long have you been here, Tom?”
“Maybe a half hour. How long have you been here? Did you find anything new while you were snooping?”
“I’ve been here a little longer than that, and yes, there’s a lot more happening than either of us realized. When I got here I saw several people going up to the lighthouse. I couldn’t tell who they were, but there must have been some kind of a meeting or something.
“There was some kind of weird chanting going on. You hear it float out over the water. Very eerie. Then there were the screams.”
“What screams?” Mel chimed in.
“I don’t know what was going on, but it sounded like someone was being tortured or something. Then it got very quiet. I mean very quiet. Spooky quiet! I listened as closely as I could, but there was nothing. There was an orange glow that beamed up from the base of the lighthouse. Shortly after that, people began to leave – slowly, a few at a time. It would be wonderful if we could get in the lighthouse somehow. Got any ideas, Bro?”
“Uh, look Jeff, as a matter of fact I do have an idea, but it’s nothing you can help me with. I have to do this alone.”
“No way, man! We’re in this together, all the way – no exceptions.”
Mel whispered her opinion. “Absolutely, all of us are in this together – no exceptions. Tom, what are we going to do?”
“We are going to do nothing. You’re going home and wait for me. And Jeff is leaving too, right?”
“Look Bro, we have to see this through together. Remember, it’s my brother we’re looking for. And if Mel wants to be involved, why shouldn’t she? At least she has a level head. That’s more than I can say for you sometimes. Now, what’s the plan?”
“Okay. You both win, at least for now. The last two people that left the lighthouse left the keys behind. I know they’ll be back soon when they realize they don’t have them. If they turn up missing, there’s bound to be some questions. They’ll be on guard. I’m going over to Royer’s Locksmithing and get a key made. Then we can return the keys that we borrowed.”
“Bro, you’re not thinking. Royer’s is closed.” “Exactly. We can’t trust anyone. I’ll need to break in and make the key. I know where the key cutter is kept. I’ll be in and out and nobody will know the difference. We’ll be back here in less than half an hour.”
“Tom, listen Bro. You’re a preacher. If you get caught that’s gonna make you look pretty bad. I’ll do the break-in. Besides, I used to work for a locksmith in Indiana. I can get in quicker and I’m probably better at using the key cutter. For once, just agree. I’m doing the dirty work.”
“Okay, let’s go!”
All three were off and running for the truck. Tom guided the truck down the street two blocks and turned left down a side alley. Jeff jumped out and casually walked down the street looking over the situation as he went.
Within seconds Jeff was inside, but not before a silent alarm was triggered. Unknown to Jeff, two police cruisers were heading down the street in answer to the alarm.
Jeff had just finished cutting the key when flashlights were being shined throughout the store. He ducked behind a shelf just in time to avoid the light. The officers entered the store and slowly walked to the back of the store flashing their lights in every corner.
Jeff was sure the officers could hear his heartbeat. A flash of light just missed Jeff as he ducked for cover. On his knees, he quickly and quietly crawled past the officers and out the front door. Once outside he tore down the street and ran down the alley. Tom and Mel were nowhere to be found. “Hmm,” Jeff thought. “They hung me out to dry.”
The slam of the screen door alerted the police officers to the exit of their suspect. They were in hot pursuit. Jeff could hear them running toward the alley. He noticed a garbage can setting off to the side. Without thinking he looked inside. It was empty, and he jumped in and pulled the cover over his head. He could hear the police run by, but he knew he wasn’t out of the woods yet. He waited till all was again quiet and he carefully lifted the cover of the garbage can enough for one eye to see.
It looked clear. He slowly crawled out looking both ways the whole time. Dusting himself off, he started down the alley.
“Psst. Jeff.” Jeff jumped.
“Jeff, it’s Tom. Up here.”
Jeff looked up to see Tom hanging from a fire escape. He lowered himself to the ground and guided Jeff back to the truck where Mel was waiting. Now it was a race back to the lighthouse. They needed to get the borrowed key back to the lighthouse before it was missed.
They knew the police would be out on the streets looking for answers to the break-in. Tom dropped Mel off two blocks away. Her job was now to travel two blocks to the lighthouse and replace the key as carefully as possible and cover any tracks they may have left while Tom and Jeff kept mobile.
Day was just beginning to break. A faint pink filled the sky over the ocean as Mel hurried down the beach. In the early morning quiet she could hear men talking. She slowed her pace and stayed close to the ground as she listened.
“Someone was here. Look at this hole. Someone invaded our space. Look at these footprints. No keys anywhere. I’ll bet that Tom Winch has something to do with this.
”The other voice could be heard to say, “That’s not Tom’s footprint. That print belongs to a woman.”
As he walked the beach he allowed the waves to splash his shoeless feet. As the waves receded he could see the bubbling of sand crabs in the wet sand. He was also aware that more than sand crabs were bubbling. For the first time Tom had to face reality. He knew he may be in over his head. What he thought he could control had taken a violent turn and began biting back. Tom was now a criminal. He had gotten too close to the fire. The Winch-Hunt was on.
Tom didn’t want to be too obvious as he approached the lighthouse. As he stood staring at the old monument the words In memory of Thomas C. Winch seemed to leap off the rock; so ominous, but yet so telling. What had Tom gotten into? How could he get out? It seemed as if the old worn stone, rubbed smooth by wind, sand, and time was speaking out prophecy . . . In memory of . . . .
Tom had long known that someone was following him, watching his every step, his every movement. He was not alone on the beach. Although he didn’t see anyone, he just knew. He could not go on with his investigation. He would have to wait for a more opportune time. He passed the lighthouse and continued as nonchalantly as he could. At the right time and place he would circle back around and head home. Questions from the night before would remain unanswered, at least for now.
Tom saw the silhouette pass the front window. Mrs. Camp was hurrying across the porch. Tom turned the doorknob before she rang the bell. “Pastor, I have an aunt living over at Shady Rest. Being the kind of institution it is, uh, if you know what I mean, only police and clergy are allowed to visit. Now I could go with you, but I couldn’t go alone. She needs to be saved. Would you go talk to her . . . please?” “
Well Mrs. Camp, would tomorrow afternoon work out okay?”
“Oh yes Pastor. That would be fine. I’ll stop by about 1:30, okay?”
“That will be fine, Mrs. Camp. See you then.”
Short, sweet, and to the point – just the way Tom liked it, but that usually wasn’t the case with Mrs. Camp. Tom took a moment to pen the appointment in his Daytimer, and decided to set out on another excursion to the lighthouse.
After a long night of tossing and turning, Tom couldn’t be still. He had to see what, if anything had been discovered from the night before. He knew that they knew, but just what they knew, he didn’t know.
“Tom, Mrs. Camp is at the door. Are you ready to take her to Shady Rest?”
“Yes, tell her I’ll be right there.”
“It’s been two nights now since the break-in and nothing to show for it.” Tom was thinking to himself. “Two nights with very little sleep and now I have to spend an afternoon with Mrs. Camp. Lord, have mercy. Okay, Tom. Put on your shoes and the smile and let’s get it over with.”
“Hi Mrs. Camp. I see you’re all ready to go.”
“All ready, Preacher! Let’s get to it. Now you are going to tell Aunt Sophie about Jesus, right?”
“Oh yes Mrs. Camp.” Again Tom was thinking to himself that was the only reason he would be going anywhere with Mrs. Camp. He cared about her just like the others in his small flock, but he had to admit that sometimes – most of the time – Mrs. Camp was annoying. Her constant chatter about what Tom saw as trivial matters rubbed him the wrong way; and the way she would lecture him about the Sunday sermons was more than he could take without God’s grace. Tom felt that even God’s grace was stretched at times. Nevertheless, here he was on the way to Shady Rest to visit with Mrs. Camp’s aunt.
Shady Rest, a facility for those hampered by emotional problems lay off the main highway. Turning down a small, one lane road, the building sat straight ahead. The road lined with beautiful Eastern Hemlocks ended in a circle bringing the road back to the highway. The 19th century style brick building held all the appeal of a New England of yesteryear.
Tom and Mrs. Camp entered the building and stopped at the reception desk to their left. “I’m Pastor Tom Winch and this is Mrs. Camp. We’re here to see Sophie Brachston.”
“You’ll need to be escorted. She’s in the red wing. Room 326. I’ll page someone to take you there.”
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After what seemed like an eternity to Tom, a plump, middle-aged man wearing the official uniform of Shady Rest Security waddled over to Tom. “You here to see Sophie Brachston?”
“Yes we are.”
“Come with me.”
That was all that was said as the trio made their way to the elevator. After reaching the third floor Mr. Shady Rest Security pointed to the left as they continued down the hall to room 326.
“Hello, Aunt Sophie”, Mrs. Camp squealed, obviously glad to see her aunt. This is my pastor, Tom Winch. He wanted to meet you.”
“Oh how nice. I’ve heard much about you Reverend.”
“Well, I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not, but please call me Tom.”
Those were to be the last words Tom was able to speak. Mrs. Camp and Sophie dominated the conversation. At the appointed time the plump, middle-aged man wearing the official uniform of Shady Rest Security waddled in.
“Your time is up. I’ll show you the way out.”
As they traveled back down the hall to the elevator, Tom noticed a man in a room jumping up and down and waving his arms as if he was trying to get Tom’s attention. Tom stopped, but was quickly pulled away by the security guard.
“You’re only here to see Sophie. You will have to sign in at the desk if you want to see anyone else.”
Mrs. Camp went on to say, “Oh Tom. You don’t need to waste your time on Mumbles. He wants everybody to come see him.”
“Mumbles . . . Mrs. Camp? His name is Mumbles?”
“Yes. He can’t speak. He mumbles all the time. Everyone calls him Mumbles.”
“Why? What happened?”
“Oh I don’t know. I do know he can be very annoying so don’t waste your time.”
Tom could only think, “Now who is being annoying?”
On the drive home, Tom’s head was filled with scattered thoughts; everything from not being able to talk with Aunt Sophie, to the plump security guard, to Mumbles, but in the end his thoughts always came back to the lighthouse. He knew he was headed for another restless night of sleep. He needed answers and he needed them now. He would take Mrs. Camp home and head over to the lighthouse. And with that, he noticed the first drops of rain tap on the windshield.
The storm lasted for several hours washing away any hope that Tom had of doing more investigative work at the lighthouse. He knew he would be relegated to the recliner for the rest of the evening. He prayed for a restful night of sleep.
That was not to be the case. Morning arrived too soon, and Tom was still sleeping when Mel shouted up the stairs, “Tom, I’m going out to do some shopping. Do you need anything?”
Rolling over with the pillow clamped over his ears he shouted back, “No.”
There was no use fighting it. It was late in the morning and Tom knew it was past time to get up and do some visiting on behalf of the church. The rain had long ago stopped and a beautiful New England sun was spreading light and warmth over the landscape. As Tom pulled back the curtain, he saw the shadow of someone standing on the front porch. He ran down to the door just in time to see the shadow turn and go behind the house.
“This is no time to be playing games”, Tom thought to himself as he circled around the yard heading in the opposite direction. If his calculations were right, he would meet the shadow head-on just as he got to the next corner. His calculations were right as he ran head to chest into Officer Moore.
This was not a good thing. There was no chance to avoid meeting him now, and Charlie Moore was definitely not on Tom’s favorites list; especially after the break-in at Royer’s.
“Oh, I’m so sorry Officer. I thought you . . . well, never mind. It’s too complicated and it really doesn’t matter anyway. Can I help you wi . . . .”
“Enough chit-chat, preacher. I’m investigating a break-in over at the . . . .”
“Oh, I can expla . . . .”
“Please Preacher, don’t interrupt me again. I have important work to do.”
Tom was thinking, “Oh yeah, this is real important. Lord, get me out of this!”
“Now Preacher – I have some pictures taken from the surveillance video. I’m canvassing the area asking if anyone recognizes this man. How about you, Preacher? Recognize him?”
Tom thumbed through three pictures, and fortunately the lighting was too dark. Although Tom could make out a figure by the key cutter, he honestly couldn’t tell if it was Jeff.
“Nope – nope Officer Moore. I can’t make out who it might be. Do you have any thoughts?”
“This is an official criminal investigation. I can’t give out any information on the case. But just between you and me, Preacher, you won’t tell anybody will, you? I think it looks like Lester Cravitz. Take another look. If you can positively identify him, it may get me a promotion. Ya know, I’m long overdue.”
“No, it may look like him, but I don’t think that’s who it is. I wish I could be of more help, but I need to get on with some important work. If you’ll excuse me . . . . Have a nice day, Officer.”
Tom went back into the house and splashed some cold water on his face. He knew there was work to do at the lighthouse, but he also knew things were heating up and getting too close. He was torn between the beach and his church work. For safety’s sake, Tom decided it would be best to skip the beach for a few days. He headed off to his study.
Mel was back from her shopping excursion. “Tom, did you see Officer Moore? He’s going down the street knocking on everyone’s door. Did he stop here?”
“They have video surveillance of the break-in the other night. He wanted me to identify Jeff.”
“Oh no, Tom! What did you tell him?”
“I could honestly say I couldn’t recognize who it was. You know those pictures are always so bad anyway, and then you add the poor quality camera that Mr. Royer has, and well . . . I couldn’t recognize him.” I didn’t lie.
“Charlie said he thought it looked like Lester Cravitz. He’s looking for a promotion and he thinks this case will give it to him. I certainly don’t want Lester doing time for something he didn’t do, but I don’t think Charlie’s going to stop until he gets to the bottom of it; and when he gets to the bottom, you know who will be there. I guess the good thing is that Charlie is kind of a bumble-brain. It may take him a while to dig all the way to the bottom. Maybe by then, I can put all the pieces of this puzzle together.”
Would you drop the case?
“Tom, maybe we should just let it go!”
“You have got to be kidding! Let what go?”
“The lighthouse – the mystery – Ronald Barry – the severed hand, the constant spying – everything, everything! You gave it your best shot. No one can fault you for that, but Tom, Tom, I love you. It’s too dangerous.”
“I love you too, but there’s evil out there and it has to be stopped.”
“Tom, don’t you think God can take care of the evil without you?”
“I think He wants to take care of the evil through me, Mel. Please just trust me. It will all work out.”
- Winch-Hunt: Part 8
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!
© 2016 William Kovacic