In the previous episode, aging Rivertown resident Mark Skandersen has decided the small Western Pennsylvania town has kept its secrets long enough. He told us it all started with a phone call and readers decided the call was from the sheriff.
“Mark!” Ma hollered. I tucked my comic book between the couch cushions where my brothers’ perpetually jellied fingers wouldn’t find it.
“Coming, Ma.” I pushed through the saloon-style doors to the kitchen. She had already turned back to her pie crusts.
“Phone’s for you. Sheriff calling.” She gestured at the counter where the phone lay.
“Hey, Sheriff!” I took the phone into the hallway by the side door so I could hear him over Ma’s radio.
I loved it when my uncle called. His own kids had grown and moved from Rivertown. Dad was in the mines most days, so Uncle Will called me when the need to go fishing or hunting struck him.
“Mark?” That was my first cue something was wrong. He never called me Mark. “Deputy,” he’d say, or just “Dep,” more often than not.
“Uhh, yeah… Somethin’ wrong, Uncle Will?”
I heard the sheriff sigh.
“Well, I’m hoping no, but I wonder if maybe Tim Flynn spent the night there at your house?”
“Nope,” I answered. “Haven’t seen him.” My throat tightened a bit. Tim was a friend since first grade; didn’t get along so well with his mother’s new husband. Many days he stayed at our house rather than go home. But this was not one of those times.
It had gotten worse lately. Teenager-hood had sped up Tim’s mouth and he sassed-back before he could stop himself. He’d missed more than a few days of school back in the spring due to bruises I don’t care to remember.
Now, I wondered if Tim had gotten himself in some trouble and was maybe waiting it out under a porch somewhere until his mother’s husband drank enough to forget why he’d been mad in the first place.
“Hmmm,” Uncle Will didn’t seem finished with me, yet. We both hung on in silence. “See, the thing is, it’s been almost three days since he was home. His Ma’s gettin’ awful worried. A night away from home is one thing for a boy his age…” He trailed off, leaving it to me to finish his thoughts for him. “Any idea where he might be?”
“You think maybe he ran away for good? You think something happened to him?” Wasn’t like Tim not to get word to me somehow.
“Well, that’s it. We just don’t know. I wish she’d ha’ called me sooner. But three days,” Uncle Will breathed a helpless sound like “whoosh.”
“How ‘bout this, Dep,” he appealed to me on our own level, in case I knew something I wasn’t telling. “How about you let me know if you hear anything from him? Even if it’s just that he’s taking a break from home for a bit. Maybe think about where he might go. It’d set my mind at ease. Can you do that for me?”
“Yes, sir, Sheriff.”
And, hanging up the phone, I really meant to do that. But then I had a thought. Vote below on what will happen next or if reading in email click Take our Poll.