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CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE
EVERYONE IN town had b-egun to wonder if David’s murder was ever going to be solved, but no one more-so than Hill and the investigation team. That was probably why, one afternoon, he phoned Scarlett.
“I think it’s time to round up the KOR troops,” he told her.
“I don’t know how it would achieve anything.”
“You may be right, but there has to have been a reason for the four of us to get chosen to have those buttons slyly given to us.”
“Now you make it sound like we’re the golden children who have been chosen to pull off a miracle.”
“I wish. I tried to phone Christian Briggs but there was no answer. Do you have any idea where he might have got to?”
“I spoke with Karyn yesterday and she mentioned that they might go out to his grandfather’s. They’re having a well-witching today.”
“I’d like to see that. Are they out at the old Theo Briggs’ farm?”
“I think so. If not they’ll know where it’s happening.”
“I think I’ll go over there and have a chat with him while I’m at it.”
Hill drove along the Lighthouse Route to Port Mouton, though he would have got there quicker had he taken Highway 103. The old road was a much lovelier drive and the locals had a tendency to slow down and smell the wildflowers instead of whizzing along. It made Hill think that some drivers get behind the wheel and mistakenly assume that speed signs post targets and not limits.
The road followed the old railroad line and hugged the shore. The ocean was seldom out of one’s view. In the old days, before the rail tracks were lifted and the train still made its regular loop along the South Shore of Nova Scotia, it was called the Blueberry Express. He liked to believe that it was because people could often get off and pick blueberries while the overloaded train struggled to climb the steep gradients.
Hill raised his hand and waved to each of the cars as he met them. He liked that. It gave him a good feeling to realize that he knew most of his neighbours. He parked his car near the restaurant at Summerville Beach and got out. The lapping of the sea against the white sand reminded him of when he was a kid. In those days he had his little sand-bucket and shovel and he played on that very beach; which was his favorite. Life was so much easier then. He felt like kicking off his shoes and squeezing the moist sand between his toes. A lone eagle flew overhead and landed on the top of a tall pine. A sea-otter scurried along the water’s edge and sandpipers ran back and forth in time with the surge of the waves. It made Hill feel so nostalgic that he sat on the stone wall and would have liked nothing more than to be a kid again. He thought about David’s death and it made him sad to know that David would never more see the ocean, never act in another play and never see the suspected unborn child that was causing Tiffany’s sickness. Life just did not seem fair somehow.
He got back into his car and drove the short distance to the Briggs farm. Hill parked his car and was surprised to see that there was a huge crowd gathered for the event. He got out and stood among the long line of folks. He nodded at Karyn before his eyes moved in the same direction as the others, to watch Christian. He was holding a Y shaped tree branch, not unlike that of a wish-bone, with his palms turned upwards and was gripping the branch tightly. The bottom of the Y was pointing straight out in front of him. There was not a sound from the crowd as if it was a magic act that would be spoiled if anyone broke the silence. Christian methodically stepped forward, each step planned. He had not gone more than forty feet when the end of the twig started to quiver. Christian slowed his pace, creeping forward. Not ten feet later the branch suddenly tugged downward. He clutched the ends even harder and Hill could almost feel the strain of the bark twisting in his hands. The branch then began an up and down movement, almost like a dance, and Hill could hear the hushed counting coming from the crowd: one, two, three, until they counted to seven, and the rod stilled.
“Good job Christian. I told you that you could do it,” Christian’s grandfather shouted, patting him on the back. “Okay, that’s where we drill. Seventy feet of good clean water. Your Grandma will be right happy. She’s darned tired of skimping on water. She always said it just isn’t fair that we’re surrounded by it and yet we’re short on it. Should have had the last one witched then we wouldn’t have to be spending more money and doing it again.”
When all the excitement had worn down, Hill said to Christian, “I didn’t know that you witched wells.”
“This is my first time. Gramps wanted me to give it a go. He has this notion that there’s a greater chance of finding a good clean stream if a family member does the witching, or divining as some folks call it.”
“Witching I can understand, but divining? How did it come by that name?”
“Lord only knows. I sure hope this works.”
“Did it really pull against your hands like it looked?”
“Sure did, you want to try it?”
“I think I’ll pass. I’m just not in the mood to add anything more associated with witchcraft in my life.”
“What do you mean witchcraft? This is hardly witchcraft.”
Hill pointed to the twig that Christian still held in his hand and asked, “By the way what kind of tree is that?”
“Hazelnut, they grow wild out here. Most water-well-witchers use a willow or apple tree but Gramps has other ideas. He always has other ideas,” Christian said, smiling. “But thankfully not all bad.”
“Interesting, wouldn’t have known one if I had tripped over it. Would you mind pointing one out to me?” he asked, remembering that Jerry said the tattooing for making pacts and promises was done with a hazelnut tree branch.
They walked to the edge of the clearing and Briggs grabbed a branch. “Right here,” he said. It was a small tree but clearly the leaves were different than the more common trees.
“Nothing much special to look at is it?”
“I suppose it depends what it’s for.”
Hill had no interest in going down that road and said, “I also wanted to know if you could get together with the New Order of King’s Rangers tonight.”
“Is that our official name now?” he asked, puzzled but amused. “Scarlett mentioned to me that there are four of us with those old buttons.”
Hill nodded and said, “We’ve got to call ourselves something.”
“You can count on me,” Christian said, knowing that earlier on he, like everyone else, was a murder suspect. Now with their new order he had hoped that that had all changed. “What time?”
“Seven o’clock okay for you?”
Hill enjoyed the return drive into town as much or more as the drive out because it gave him a chance to see the scenery from a different angle. The well-witching was an interesting experience though he really could not imagine how such a cockamamie thing could work. He thought about what Tiffany had said about David not getting the promotion that he deserved and decided to stop over at the hardware store when he got to town. With all those thoughts merging into one, he now had a headache.
He strolled into the hardware store, where David Mosher used to work. All eyes were upon him and he knew that they were wondering if the murder was solved, or worse, that Hill was there to arrest someone. Likely due to that thought they all turned away, except for Darren, the new guy, the new assistant manager who had been given the promotion that Tiffany said that David had needed and deserved.
“Could I help you sir?” Darren asked confidently.
“I’d like to have a word with the manager if he’s in.”
“Let me check to see if Gloria’s available,” he stated, knowing that she actually was in her office. He wanted to be sure that she was prepared for Hill’s visit.
Within half a minute Darren was back out at the cashier desk with Gloria at his heels. He stood behind Gloria, as if protecting her, ‘or was he eavesdropping?’ Hill wondered.
She said, “Good afternoon Sergeant, please come into my office.”
They walked away, leaving Darren standing there, his eyes following their every move.
She closed the door to her office and they sat. “How can I help you,” she asked.
“I guess I might as well come right out with it. That new guy…what’s his name?”
“Darren Morton, our new assistant manager,” she said.
“Yes, Darren,” he said, thoughtfully, noting down the name. “How long has he been here now?”
“Two and a bit months.”
“And how is that working out?”
“Very well actually. He’s from Toronto, you know,” she said, as if that were praise-worthy. “He moved here recently to be near his Aunt Betty, Betty Morton. He was a lucky find, and one of the best employees that we’ve had in years. He’s already introduced some good ideas.”
“I was wondering if any of the old employees were considered for promotion before you hired Darren.”
“Absolutely,” she said, surprised that he would ask such a question. “The job was posted on the board even before Lance quit and moved back to Montreal. We had a few internal applicants and I personally approached David thinking that he would be the most likely candidate, even though he had not applied.”
“He didn’t apply…? Didn’t you find that strange? Tiffany said that they could have used the money.”
“I would have thought so too. We always consider our staff first. It keeps the morale up. David said that he didn’t want the extra responsibility right now. He said that he had too much on the go…whatever that meant.”
“Either way, you’re saying he didn’t want the promotion?” Hill said, as he got out of his chair and turned to leave.
“That’s the way I took it,” she said.
“And how did David get on with Darren?”
“Really well,” said Gloria.
Feeling that there was little more to discuss, he turned the door handle and Darren practically fell inside the room, startling all three of them.
“I’m sorry Gloria, but we have a small problem out front and I’m not sure how we should handle it,” Darren said. Hill wondered if that was true, for to him it appeared more likely that Darren was snooping in on their conversation.
When they walked back out to the service desk there was quite a commotion. He heard the word refund that was being shouted very loudly. Hill stepped outside, happy not to have to deal with it.
END OF CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE
“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.”