The entrance to Eagles Park off Highway 99 was a speedometer distance of seven miles from Pinkerton. The entire park was approximately a thousand acres including a lake, three major campgrounds, and hiking trails. Open except for during the deep freeze of winter when the snow levels could reach over four feet and the wind chill factor dropped the temperature gauge below zero degrees, this time of year, two weeks before school started, the park was available to hikers, campers and those who wanted a cool dip to take off the heat.
Boggs hadn’t been out this way since Deputy Wilcox’s death. The deputy was found with his knife stuck bolster-deep into his chest like a Japanese warrior committing Hari Kari. The medical examiner called it the exact way it appeared, suicide. However, suicide still didn’t set well with Boggs. Wilcox was up for a pay raise and planning to get married in the Fall. Not the type of events that would plague a man to take his own life.
Boggs had kept this part of the park closed until he closed the investigation. He knew he wouldn’t be able to keep it closed much longer. So far, the evidence couldn’t be disputed. And Boggs was a man who respected evidence. The only fingerprints and DNA discovered were Wilcox’s.
Boggs slowed by the parked patrol car situated to keep people out of the lake area. He found the park deputy’s head thrown back, his mouth wide open. Boggs honked. The deputy jumped as if a bullet had whizzed past his ear.
“I take it that it’s been quiet,” Bogg’s shouted.
Park Deputy Mike Corner rolled down his window. “I was just resting my eyes,” he grinned.
“There hasn’t been a peep since I took patrol,” Corner remarked. “Not even a fucking deer walking up the road.”
“Keep your eyes open,” Boggs returned. “A report came in tonight. Two kids are missing.”
“What kids?” Corner said.
“Oliver Pitts and Jake Cahill.”
“Who reported them missing?”
Deputy Corner gave a grunt. “Are we putting a search out for them?”
“We’ll give it until morning. But, if you spot them, call my dispatch and take their butts home. Tell them I’ll expect them in my office first thing tomorrow morning.”
“What’d they do?” Corner asked.
“Hopefully nothing more than being teenagers with too much time on their hands.” And he hoped he was right.
Walter said the boys took the Summit Trail from the camping and RV park, but it was too late at night to wake up those campers without a sufficient reason. Plus, if the other two boys weren’t already home in bed, his best bet would be finding them down around the lake getting a good laugh out of their hoax. Or taking a cool midnight swim. Hell, he thought, with Deputy Corner snoozing on the job, they could have walked right past him.
He considered calling the Pitts house to see if the boys had shown up. But, he thought he’d take a look around, first. No reason to get them out of a good night’s sleep if it wasn’t necessary. He could always call them tomorrow and let them know what the boys had been up to.
He kept his eyes open for movement as he looped around the picnic area and on down to the lake. He desired a long, cool swim, and if it wasn’t for the thought of being caught in his birthday suit by two boys who wouldn’t be able to keep that story to themselves, he would have jumped in.
He parked where he could overlook the dock and lake. He scrutinized the surface. No heads of boys swimming. Maybe they hadn’t made their way here, yet.
He switched off his headlights and rolled down the window. He’d wait. Opening the cubby, he pulled a cigarette out of the package kept there. Lighting up, he inhaled deeply.
Tired. He needed sleep. His days lately had been getting longer, not shorter, yet winter was just around the bend. Soon everyone would be complaining how cold it was instead of putting up with the muggy air.
It’d already been a week since the tornado hit Pinkerton, and people were still at a loss on how to pick up their lives and move on. People had been displaced out of their homes. Some services were still out. And storms threatened all of Circlegold County. Boggs's phone hadn’t stopped ringing for days.
A three-quarter moon muted by clouds caused an inky blurring of lines between space and shadow, river and shore. Boggs knew this area of the park beyond his job. As a kid, he’d played in the playground. Picnicked with his family at the wooden tables. On weekends, he and his dad went out to catch Walpole. And one moon-filled night, parked after a night at the movies, he got Connie Lou Miller to go to third base.
He drew in another lungful. Exhaled. Considered. Maybe all three boys were in on the alien story. Maybe the boys craved some fun before school started. Until the tornado struck, it had been a quiet summer. Not that he minded quiet. He was only five years away from an early retirement, and the quieter the better. And since the tornado, fun was not a consideration. People were living in survival mode.
Park Manager Deputy Elizabeth Warner mentioned to him those in the area who had lost their homes came to the park to cam p until they could get their lives together. Tried and true hikers undaunted by the storm or tornado warnings were drawn back to the trails. In fact, Elizabeth just called him yesterday asking when he planned to open the lake again.
“I thought the medical examiner said Denver’s death was a suicide?” She said.
“He did,” Boggs affirmed.
“Then, why are we keeping the lake closed?”
“I just want to follow up with a few things, first. The Wilcox’s say Denver wasn’t depressed. And Katy, his fiancé, says he was looking forward to his bachelor party. His death came as a shock.”
“Of course, it did, Roger,” Elizabeth said. “It came as a shock to all of us. But, suicide is like that. No one can really know what’s going on in another person’s mind.”
He knew she was right. And he promised her to close the area of any criminal investigation in twenty-four hours. That meant she would be expecting his call this morning telling her deputy was cleared and the lake available again for public use.
Tomorrow, I need to pay a visit to all three families, he decided, drawing on his cigarette, the end burning red in the darkness of the SUV’s cab. Maybe I should throw them in the brig for a day or two. Or get Moore to charge them with public nuisance. Everyone liked a good prank, but timing was everything. Stirring up a story like Walter told him wasn’t what anyone needed right now.
He recalled Walter mentioning Teddy Templeton. Boggs glanced across the lake. Hadn’t he seen Teddy sitting on the opposite bank when they’d found Deputy Wilcox? There was no confusing Teddy with someone else. He was older than the other boys by about two years. And, he was cursed with early balding. He usually wore a baseball cap, but he wasn’t wearing a cap that day.
Catching sight of him was a surprise but not atypical. In fact, Boggs was surprised it was only Teddy Templeton lookie-looing.
Was Teddy somehow involved in Jake and Oliver’s prank on Walter? Walter thought Teddy had been following them. Had the boys talked him into pretending to kidnap them?
Teddy was physically challenged. Those long arms of his. And his weird fingers. But,Teddy was almost as tall as Boggs. And Walter had said the person playing the alien was small.
Drops of rain hit his windshield.
He gave his cigarette another couple of hits and then tossed it out the window. “Hell,” he thought. “I’m a fool to be sitting here waiting for those boys to show up. And, I’m no fool.”
He punched on the headlights and gave the surface of the lake and the area another examination. He continued to keep an eye out as he backed up and left.