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CHAPTER SIXTEEN

AT EIGHT O’CLOCK on the following Sunday morning Hill was the only one at the office. He rarely went to the office on Sundays, as he was usually on the golf course. He resented that Geoff would be tweaking his golf score and Hill would have lost the edge that he had created early on in the season. They had a long-standing tee-time every Sunday morning as well as every Wednesday and Friday evenings. Hill dreaded the thoughts of playing against Geoff later that season. He sipped his cold coffee as he stared at the board where Golden had entered the details of the investigation. It had been a week since the murder.

Golden had done a fine job in laying out all the evidence. It reflected that there might soon be progress, and that lifted Hill’s mood. But when he saw the loopholes in the case he knew that they still had a long way to go. That realization made him feel downhearted. Since the murder his moods had swung like a pendulum. He stared at the board. The only things not posted on the board were the tattoo and the fact that Mosher’s fatal wound was from a rusty knife and it had a jagged edge. It was simply listed as a fatal knife wound. Golden, as well as Hill, felt that it had been caused from an old knife. But what intrigued him most was Mosher’s tattoo. Because of Vadoma’s mention of the tattoo Hill had decided to keep that off the board for the time being.

He read the coroner’s report again and pondered on the odd shape of the old tattoo. The fact that it was on Mosher’s thigh intrigued him even more. He thought about what Pierce had said, “…a pact between two friends, a tattoo and the sharing of blood.” For the whole of Hill’s childhood he had been driven to be a police officer and little else had mattered to him, including girls and joining the Boy Scouts. As a result of that he had missed out on a lot of the little things associated with youth…possibly even that in the like of tattoos and blood pacts.

 

Thinking about the tattoo, and remembering what Peter Bryce had said about Gerry Tole once belonging to the Boy Scouts, he picked up the phone, “Gerry, its Sergeant Hill here.”

“How can I help you?” Gerry asked nervously, wondering if Hill had heard that he had a little plot of marijuana growing out in the woods.

“Peter Bryce mentioned that he thought that you had once belonged to the Boy Scouts. Is that true?”

“I sure did, that goes a long ways back…the sixties.”

“Mind if I come on out to see you?”

“Not at all, see you soon,” he said, hanging up the phone and opening the windows of his shack. He had just finished smoking a joint and the air was thick with the sweet aroma of cannabis. He fanned the room with an old newspaper in an effort to clear it out. When he realized that it would take more energy than he was willing to exert he decided to meet with Hill outside. He ambled over to the woodshed to wait, favoring his left leg. It had an old injury from a roofing job that he had done twenty years ago. He knew that Hill would be at least a half an hour, if he had phoned from town.

Gerry was glad for his decision to sit outside as the weather was exactly to his liking. His land edged the lake and the air was perfectly still. Lake trout surfaced leaving circles on the placid water and children’s laughter drifted from the neighbouring property. A flock of grosbeak settled in the trees and trilled out a song. Gerry sat on a crudely made bench, took in the view and he smiled. To him there was no nicer place on earth, not that he had really been anywhere beyond the city of Halifax, except for that one time when he went over to Kentville. He turned and looked back towards his shack and saw that it was in dire need of paint and repairs. Knowing that he did not have the money or the ambition to do anything about it he ignored it again and turned back to take in the view of the lake.

At the sound of Hill’s car approaching he looked at the narrow gap in the trees that led down the driveway. It would be another full minute before he would park the car, as Gerry’s driveway was up a steep slope as well as being narrow and rough. Gerry twisted some tobacco into a cigarette paper, lit it and smoked it while he waited. Just as Hill’s car rounded the bend Gerry moved to the other end of the bench so that Hill could sit up-wind from him. He smiled at his own courteous move.

“Get you anything?” Gerry asked, without moving from the bench and before Hill had even slammed his car door.

Hill walked over to sit next to him “Thanks. I don’t think so, aside from allowing me to pick your brain.”

“Not many folks have taken to doing that.” Jerry laughed.

“Boy Scouts,” Hill said, simply.

“That’s what you mentioned earlier. What about them? I don’t know much aside from the fact that they make the news, or at least some scout masters do these days. It’s a toss-up what’ll be the topic of the day, Boy Scout leaders or the priests. They seem to fight for top spot,” he said, followed by another chuckle. “I still have my old scout gear in a box somewhere, though the good Lord only knows why I bother to keep it.”

“I wouldn’t have driven all this way out here to see you except that the local Boy Scouts Club hasn’t been active around here for years.”

“Not enough kids I suppose.”

Hill went on, “I also wanted to hear it from someone who knows about that stuff.”

“What kind of stuff are you looking to learn about?” Gerry asked, though he suspected he had a good idea.

“I’m interested to learn more about their rituals and ceremonials.”

“Like their alleged secret handshakes, codes and all that?”

“That and anything more you’d be willing to share.” Hill wanted Gerry to spell it out.

“I suppose you mean pacts and pledges? Well, they sure enough did that back then alright, but I’m not sure that it’s a Boy Scout thing. It’s just what boys do. I was party to a kind of pact, a silent pact, which required you to give up something to the other person. It had to be something special and personally belonging to you. If I can recall correctly I really didn’t have much to give up, poor as we were. In the end I gave up a medallion that I had had for years. My Grand-pappy gave it to me. Stupidest thing I’ve ever done, giving that thing away. Wish now I had kept it. Such foolishness…all that pact crap….”

Hill nodded and silently agreed.

“And of course there’s also the discernible, the outward sign,” Gerry said.

“You mean like tattoos?”

“Yes, that’s a popular one, but that’s not a Boy Scout thing either. It’s just what boys are likely to get up to. That one is more dangerous and it scared me off a bit.”

Hill was surprised at all of that kind of talk and recalled what Vadoma had said about David wearing the tattoo and he wondered if and who had an identical one. He wanted to learn more. “And how does that go hand in hand with all this outward sign stuff?”

Gerry raised his eyebrows as if there was a lot more to it than he would ever tell but he continued, hoping that Hill would not expect him to reveal the whole pledging thing. Even at his age he felt like a traitor for sharing secrets from childhood but he went on anyway after deciding that he would rather talk about pacts and pledges than to have Hill wander into the woods and to find his little agricultural enterprise. “Well, after the boys have determined to make a pact they have to plan the ceremony. It has to begin in the evening, precisely when the sun touches the horizon. That’s when they take a good sharp knife and cut a rod of wild hazelnut tree with it. Yup, the timing is crucial and that rod must not ever have borne fruit. In the fading light one can easily make a mistake. I’ve heard tell some kids find the rod in the daylight and mark it with a ribbon so that there is no slip-up when it’s time to cut. The same knife is then used to cut the skin where the ink is then applied. For that procedure the same tree branch is used to make the tattoo.”

“Would that knife possibly be kept as a symbol of their pact?”

“You got me there, I wouldn’t know.”

Hill asked, “Do you have such a tattoo?” suddenly wondering if he had by chance found the murderer.

“No way. Not me. I wasn’t into that hocus-pocus foolishness. Truthfully it scared the hell out of me. I gave up my Grand-pappy’s medallion and that’s as far as I went.”

“Have you ever heard of a boy and girl doing that pact thing?”

“Not personally but to me that made a whole lot more sense than two boys doing it. With a girl it would open up a whole new world of experiences I’d say,” Gerry said, smiling as he thought about what else they may do. “But if I had ah guess…it’s likely that no girls would never do something so foolish. In all my years I’ve never heard of them doing such stuff.”

Hill began to wonder why all of a sudden he seemed to be inundated with pacts, fortune cookies, clairvoyants and beliefs that he had never really thought that much about before. He shivered in the hot afternoon sun. Just as he got up to leave he turned back and asked, “Do you know anyone around here who would have made such a pact?”

Gerry thought about that for a moment before shaking his head. “I once heard tell of a case that went awry, they used a rod that had borne fruit, though I don’t recall if it was even in Canada, most likely in the States. Everything happens in the States; too many crazy people,” he said. “I bet you half the guys in school made a pact with somebody or another way back when. But most likely it’s a secret, except to the two involved. I like your idea of doing it with girls,” he added, grinning.

END OF CHAPTER SIXTEEN 

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“Linda has published fifteen books. She blogs about the publishing world, posts useful tips on the challenges a writer faces, including marketing and promoting your work, how to build your online platform, how to get reviews and how to self-publish.”