Minot: Chapter 12
Hints & Allegations
SO FAR, NO one in the Falcon's Nest had heard of the new addition. Damien sat at a corner table, Puck across from him. He was deeply involved in demolishing a stack of paper napkins from the dispenser when Puck picked up his ice water and poured it right in the middle of the whole mess.
"Hey--!" Damien exclaimed, snapping back to consciousness.
"I thought we came here to get something done," Puck reminded him, "and so far this is it." He indicated the pile of soggy shreds.
Damien let out his breath. "Yeah, you're right. But how exactly do we go about doing this? Just ask everybody?"
"I've got a better idea," Puck replied. As soon as he said that Damien knew he was going to be sorry; it wasn't until Puck stood up and opened his mouth that he realized just how sorry.
"We're looking for information on something that happened here several years ago," he said loudly, addressing all the Nest's patrons. All heads turned. Phil looked up from taking an order. "A drug raid, we think. There was a man named Sergeant Kincaid who was involved, and he committed suicide some time after. I'm sure you all know his foster son as your friendly neighborhood lieutenant."
"Anyway, if any of you or if anyone you know knows anything of this raid, please let us know. We're staying in rooms 202, 203, 205, and 206 at the Motel 6. Thank you." And with that he sat back down, taking a drink of Damien's water.
Damien's head was buried in his hands. He felt like a complete idiot. "Thanks, Puck," he muttered through clenched teeth. "Now every Satanist north of Bismarck will know where we're staying."
"Think nothing of it." Puck continued sipping from Damien's glass. "I'm sure that'll at least scare them out of the woodwork, but in what direction, who knows."
They both sighed. Everyone else had gone back to eating. After some time the jukebox came on. Randy Travis started to sing.
"God, I hate country," Puck muttered.
They sat there for a long while, Damien trying to clean up the napkin mess with more, dry, napkins while Puck monopolized his water. A waitress stopped by; "Another water, please," Damien muttered, turning away from the napkins and laying his head on the table. Was it just this town? It seemed he'd been more tired than usual lately; he didn't believe in Earth energies or vibes or whatever Psyche called them, but whatever they were this town sure had them. Plenty of them.
He rubbed his eyes. Randy Travis quit singing and a new song began. With a start, he realized the guitar intro wasn't country, and it was strikingly familiar. That's because it was from "Hiding In The Shadows." One of his own songs.
"What the--" he asked, lifting his head. He hadn't heard that song in years.
"Is that one of yours?" Puck asked.
Damien stood up abruptly and looked around. A few faces turned, looked, and turned away. No one was familiar. No one really seemed to know him. So how could his song come up?
It seemed a little too much to shrug off as coincidence.
Feeling a weird fluttering in his stomach he moved out from behind the table and slowly made his way to the jukebox. His own voice blared back at him.
"Somewhere in this world
He reached the machine and bent over it. There was a vase of dried flowers perched on top, and underneath that a piece of paper. He pulled it out and read it:
He looked at the track in question. "Swing Sisters Swing" by Jive Bunny. He slipped in a quarter and punched the numbers. As soon as his song ended a cheery set of horns kicked in and started playing "Chattanooga Choo Choo"; then he waited until a group of bubbly female voices sang,
"Don't sit under the apple tree
Several people turned to stare at him for choosing such an odd song. Damien didn't notice them. He walked up to the counter and put the note down. Phil looked at him.
"Are there any apple trees in Minot?" he asked.
Phil frowned, obviously thinking--or knowing, in his own way--that he was nuts. "Of course."
"Are there any major ones."
"Yeah, in Middleview Park. There's one there that's over a hundred years old."
"Where's Middleview Park?"
"Just get on Main Street and go east two miles from the police station. On the left. You can't miss it."
Without a word, Damien turned, leaving the note like a tip, and disappeared from the counter. Puck watched him go but didn't follow. Phil picked up the note, read it, frowned again, then sighed, shrugged, and poured some more Bud Light for a customer.
It was early afternoon when he reached the park. He pulled up to the curb and peered out the window, looking for a sign. There were several people there--a pair of joggers, a kid studying from a textbook, a man using the phone, and another man in a suit with a dog, seated on a bench under a tree, reading a newspaper. Damien checked; there was a plaque on the bench. It was obviously meant for the tree, which Damien recognized as apple. It wasn't blooming, and there were no apples this late in the year, but he recognized the remaining leaves from pictures of Michigan's state flower. Yahoo, local history prevails again. Steeling himself, he got out of the car and headed for the bench.
"Hi," he greeted amiably as he came up. The man just looked up at him as if to say, "Do I know you?"
"Do I know you?" he asked.
The corner of Damien's mouth twitched. Was this all some big dumb joke after all? "I believe so. After all, you left me a note."
A frown. "I did?"
Damien started to respond, only to find the dog, a huge white German shepherd, nuzzling his hand as if in search of treats. Damien patted its nose and pulled his hand away, but it simply clamped its teeth over his fingers and tugged gently.
"Hey! Stop it, will ya?" he snapped.
"Is this your dog?" the man asked. "Because ever since I sat here he's been staring at me. If I didn't know any better I'd say he wants me to move. Hog the bench for himself. Well, it's a free park, I just came here to read the newspaper, and I believe there's a leash law in effect--"
"Yeah, yeah," Damien said, bending down to look at the dog's collar. Blossom, it read.
This is too weird.
"--Anyway, as I was just saying to my wife this morning--"
"Look, sorry the dog's been buggin' you. I guess I just got you mixed up with someone else. Go ahead and read your newspaper, okay?" He took hold of the dog's collar and let it lead him away while the man stared after them.
The dog, evidently realizing he'd caught on, led him over to the student with her anatomy textbook open in her lap. She was a young woman with brown hair cut just above her ears; she glanced up as he came towards her. Blossom stopped, detached herself from Damien's grip, and sat down. Damien followed suit.
"I thought you said apple tree," he murmured.
"Yeah, but he was already there," the woman answered. "So I sent Blossom to keep an eye out."
Damien glanced at the dog. "You're Damien," the woman continued. "I gave Blossom a napkin of yours from Falcon's."
Damien dimly remembered the "waitress" who hadn't really served them. "Good dog," he replied. Blossom lifted her head and panted. "Hope you keep her indoors at night." He was thinking of the mutilated corpses; if he'd seen the new one, the comparison would have been even closer.
"I can't keep her anywhere else," the woman replied, patting Blossom's head. "I'm scared to death without her nearby." She stuck out her hand. "Juliana. Everybody calls me July. I heard you were looking for anything about that 'raid' some years back."
"You know about it?" Damien asked, sitting forward with renewed interest.
"Yeah," July replied. "I've heard of it."
"How do you know?"
"Because a friend of mine was in it." She didn't elaborate. "And it wasn't a 'drug raid.' It was a cult bust."
The color had drained from Damien's face. He barely managed to find his voice. "Then what's this got to do with the Kincaids?" he whispered.
"Plenty," July replied. "Because Kincaid was in the cult, too."