Winch-Hunt Part 1
This story was written a few years ago. I have two other books to come shortly (One fiction, one non-fiction), so I decided to put this one out on HP. Stay with me chapter by chapter or just get the book from Amazon. Hope you enjoy it as much I did writing it!
SANDY HILL, MAINE, 1863 – The wind whipped the waves into a frenzy. One after another they crashed against the rocks and receded only to pound the beach again. Over the deafening roar of the storm, no one heard the cries. No one noticed the faint orange light that glowed up and out from the base of the lighthouse. Another winter storm, like so many others, but . . . .
SANDY HILL, MAINE, 2013 – Thomas Winch stood before the Monument; an old worn stone rubbed smooth by wind, sand, and time. The writing was barely visible. It read, In memory of Thomas C. Winch who fell to his death from this lighthouse while serving his community and sea as keeper of the light, December 21, 1863.
Intrigued only by the likeness of the name, Tom Winch stood looking up the hill to where the lonely lighthouse stood. Time and weather had taken its toll on the old lighthouse as well. Anyway, he didn’t have to be concerned. He could come back any time he wanted to explore further if he chose.
Tom had just moved his family from the Midwest to a small town just south of Sandy Hill. Maine. His mission was to plant a church to reach the inhabitants of the town and surrounding area. Sandy Hill was just part of that area. Much of his time was spent making preparation to launch his ministry. There were no meetings scheduled. There was no congregation – just the assurance of his God that he was at the right place at the right time.
Although most people acknowledged Tom’s presence, he found the people of Sandy Hill a bit cold. There didn’t seem to be any interest in spiritual things at all. Tom was thankful for his home in Webster’s Cove. Although spiritual interest wasn’t especially high there either, at least the people of the Cove were friendly and he was quickly adapting to New England life.
Tom spent the days in the village traveling to different areas in search of the perfect place to start his ministry. He enjoyed the beauty of Sandy Hill, but he certainly didn’t feel comfortable planting a church in the town. In time, he could reach Sandy Hill from the location God would show him.
He loved to travel the beaches and take in God’s handiwork. Much of his prayer time was given to long walks on the beach; the sea breeze rustling through his short cropped hair, the fresh smell of salt water, and the golden sun dancing on the waves. He almost felt as if he were in Heaven when he was in the presence of God and His creation. It was during these times that he specifically would plead with God to do a great work and soak him with His power. Without knowing the particulars, Tom felt sure that God had a special plan for his life and he knew he had to be ready when the pieces began to fall into place. It was during one of these meetings with God that he stumbled upon The Sandy Hill Lighthouse.
The original lighthouse still stood after nearly two centuries. The sandy hill rose to a gradual height of some forty feet, and the lighthouse that stood atop the hill reached another four stories into the New England salt air. The Lighthouse, once a brilliant white, had now faded to an ashen pale. The nearly square base tapered to the top with windows at each story. Above sat the old light, inoperable for over a century. The fence around the house made it clear that there were to be no visitors. It looked more like a state prison than a piece of New England charm, and there in front was the stone memorial that recognized the death of Thomas C. Winch.
More than anything else, it was the memorial that caught Tom’s eye. It wasn’t just the name. It wasn’t just a piece of history. It seemed to Tom that the stone represented something more, but he didn’t know what. There seemed to be an unexplained link between the stone memorial and Tom. Something held him captive when he was in its presence. The curiosity of days gone by began to inhabit Tom’s mind.
The nearest Gospel church was located forty-two miles south and west of Sandy Hill. There were many areas in between, but why did Tom feel led – no, drawn to Sandy Hill? With its coldness, he knew that the area in and around Sandy Hill would be difficult. He knew too, that spiritual fruit might be very hard to come by. Was he wasting his time in this area? But yet, he could not pull himself away. It wasn’t just the call of God that was on his life. It was so much more, but he didn’t recognize what.
Night came quickly. Tom had been praying on the beach near Sandy Hill. Time slipped away and now Tom realized he had to leave. No one was allowed on the beach after sunset. The sun had already been down about fifteen minutes before the realization of night registered in Tom’s mind. He headed home.
He also noticed that the wind began to pick up. The waves were higher and reaching further as the tides changed. Storm clouds were moving in quickly, making the night even darker. Then the first drops of rain began to fall.
He walked through the door just in time. A tremendous storm was sweeping through Webster’s Cove. Tom felt safe to be home again. Dinner was on the table and Tom’s wife, Melanie handed him a hot cup of coffee to warm him.
“Mel, I was up at the lighthouse again. I know this sounds strange, and maybe even unreasonable, but there’s something about that lighthouse I can’t figure out. It’s more than just an old, out of commission lighthouse. There’s something there. I can sense it, but I don’t know what it is.”
“Tom, you’ve let all this old history stuff get to you. That lighthouse hasn’t been in use for over a hundred and fifty years. There’s nothing there that has any purpose today. Yes, in years gone by, maybe – but not now. It’s best if you just forget about it and concentrate on your ministry, don’t you think?”
“Yeah, I suppose you’re right, but . . . ”
“No, Tom. I don’t want to talk about it anymore!”
The storm passed as quickly as it came. The chill in the damp, night air dictated that Tom wear a sweater as he sat on the front porch thinking and praying. Tom was sure that God was moving him to do some investigating. Despite what Melanie said, Tom knew there was more to the old lighthouse than he could see – something he had to know for the benefit of his ministry.
“Mel, the rain stopped. I’m going out for a little bit. I’ll be back.” The fewer details the better, Melanie just didn’t share his developing interest in history.
Tom could not have possibly known what was about to happen in the weeks and months to follow. If he had, he certainly would not have made the choices he was making now. But with the Pandora’s Box about to be opened, there would be no turning back.
He pulled the car off to the side of the road and crawled under the blockade at Sandy Hill Beach. Yes, the sun had set. Yes, Tom was not supposed to be there, but he was. He knew from this moment on there would be no turning back until he got to the bottom of the mystery.
Pulling out his flashlight, he scanned the beach in front of him as he walked. As the waves rolled back, they revealed an oversize footprint, maybe a size 12 . . . or 13. The footprint had been placed there recently because the waves had not yet completely washed it away. Someone else was on the beach just seconds in front of Tom, but he saw no one. Out went the flashlight! Tom did not want to be detected.
He edged his way closer to the water; the further away from the village lights, the better. He took a moment to allow his eyes to adjust to the darkness, then as quietly as possible he inched his way forward along the tide line – listening; looking. He could only hear the sound of his pounding heart.
The morning found Tom with a cup of coffee, thumbing through the newspaper. Nothing, in particular, was on his mind when his eyes hit the front page. The headlines read Fishing Vessel Found Crushed on Rocks. As Tom continued to read the story, the night before began to come together – one piece of the puzzle.
Had the footprints on the beach been that of a survivor? The front page story seemed to indicate that all the dead aboard had been accounted for. There was but one survivor. Tom was sure that the size 13 footprint belonged to the only survivor of the wreck. Tom couldn’t help but think that had the lighthouse been in operation, maybe the fishing boat would have been able to avoid the rocks. Anyway, for now, it was time to investigate a size 13 footprint.
Back on the beach, Tom looked for traces of evidence left over from the night before. Nothing! As he looked out to sea, he could see in the distance the wreck and the attempted cleanup. Tom thought about those fishermen and where they might be now. Realizing the road is narrow, he thought that most on board the boat were presently facing the horrors of Hell.
The boating accident was just the beginning of the men died without Christ. That gave Tom more incentive to try to track down the size 13 shoe. Maybe he could lead him to the Lord. The Lord saw fit to spare him for some reason. Maybe that reason was his eternal destiny. Tom just had to find him.
The Webster Cove Barber Shop was buzzing with news of the fishing accident. Although the men on board the vessel were not known to Tom, it seemed that everyone else in town knew them. The close-knit community would certainly miss these men.
Not much was mentioned of the survivor. Apparently, his name was Ronald Barry from Cape Elizabeth. The thought suddenly creased the edge of Tom’s mind. Ronald Barry was not found. How did they know that he was a survivor? How did they know he wasn’t just lost at sea? Of course, Tom made the same assumption, but the Barber Shop group spoke with authority. Tom was now even more sure that the size 13 footprint was that of Ronald Barry.
- Winch-Hunt Part 2
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!
© 2015 William Kovacic