Death Lives In The Water – Snippet 08

Martin blushed deeply.

“He thought I was too pickled to understand,” finished Ben.

Martin nodded.

“Fear does things to you,” said Ben. “It makes you do things like drink yourself half to death, or gamble, or just run. At least that’s my experience. Me, I fell into a bottle. William was right. But I’m fine now. You tell those mill folks I’ll sell the land to them. After what I’m about to tell you, you’ll understand why I don’t ever want to set foot on there again.”

He paused for a moment, pulled a candy bar out of a pocket, and took a long drink of water.

“You mind if I eat this? I’m powerful hungry.”

“Go ahead,” said Martin.

“So,” said Arthur. “Start wherever you want, Ben. We can all wait, yes?”

Jim and Martin both nodded, mouths too full to respond.

“It was about what, Jim? A year ago?”

Jim nodded.

“I went out to the pump house to see if the doors were locked. I wanted to be sure the cover over the well was secure, in case some kids broke in. Used to be a favorite smooch spot after the farm shut down. Anyway, I didn’t want to be responsible for any kids getting hurt. I was living in the farmhouse by myself. William didn’t want to ever come back.

“I found the door to the pump house open and without a lock. So, I went to the house and came back and attached the hasp lock to the door. But before I locked up, I decided to check inside. There are no lights in the pump house. Come to think of it, that place is almost big enough to call a small barn. There were windows high up that gave a little light, and with the doors wide open I could see well enough.

“The pump was gone, sure enough, and in its place was a large circular metal plate. It had grooves in the top, presumably for fitting handles to turn and lift it if the need ever came to go down into the well.”

Ben was now sweating profusely and shaking more than a bit. He asked for a drink of water, took another bite of the candy, and sat quietly, chewing and visibly attempting to calm himself.

“Jim, you remember what I told you when you picked me up on the road? About the eyes?”

Jim nodded.

“I figured you thought I was always a drunk, but up until that day the most I’d ever had was a beer or two at the Happy Time or an occasional glass of wine at a family dinner.”

He took a deep breath and resumed his narrative.

“You remember Sparks, my dog?”

Jim and Arthur nodded.

“He was a big fella, part Berner, part coonhound. I had him with me that day. He jumped out of my truck and ran into the pump house with me. I was busy looking around, checking the shelves, counting Harve’s fertilizer bags while Sparks kept whining and walking towards and away from where the pump used to sit. Finally, I walked over to see what had him so bothered. As I approached I heard quacking, like a duck had got stuck down there somehow. When I bent down to listen, Sparks grabbed my pant leg and pulled me away. He never done anything like that before. I was about to yell at him when I heard singing. Clear, beautiful singing. I ordered Sparks to sit, and he did–but not without protest and whining at me. I found the metal hooks meant for lifting the well cover hanging beside the door and started pulling the cover off. I had it about halfway off, when…”

He suddenly bolted for the bathroom door at the back of Martin’s office, where he was violently ill. After a few minutes he returned, shaking and white, and again sat, although this time on the couch next to Arthur. The other three men waited silently, and finally Ben continued his story.

“I had the cover about half off when I saw them eyes. Big, bulging eyes, and a mouth that seemed to take up half the face. It was huge, green, and evil. And it was reaching out of that well, for me. Sparks leaped up, pushed me back, and that thing grabbed him by the hind leg. Sparks jumped and bit and pulled, but he couldn’t get away. I grabbed hold of his collar, and the two of us — monster and me — pulled and pulled. But it was too strong for me, and he went straight down into that well. His screams . . . well, they still haunt me. And that sound, that god-awful crunch, crunch, crunch.

“I slammed that lid down and ran back to the house; didn’t know where else to go. Didn’t have a cell, so I grabbed the phone in the house and called you. But just as I hung up, I knocked over the oil lantern I’d been using as light. And well, you know the rest. It was pretty much gone by the time you got there. Me too, come to think of it. Gone, that is.”

The silence in Martin’s office was palpable. Jim was impassive, his cop’s brain refusing to believe what he had just heard, searching for a more plausible explanation. Martin was just chilled, not knowing what to think, and wondering if Ben was sane enough to be signing the sale papers to the farm. Arthur was wracking his memory for any legends or folktales he might have encountered about such a creature, at the same time saying a small prayer for his new friend’s soul, and for an ease to the pain he felt radiating from him. Ben sat bent forward, elbows on his thighs, his face buried in his hands.

Finally Jim spoke, gently but forcefully.

“I’m sorry about Sparks. He was a good dog. Ben, I’m damn sure there’s a reasonable explanation for all of this.”

“I knew you wouldn’t believe me.”

“Oh, I believe you that something happened out there. I’m just not sure about monsters. There’s something going on, and we are going to get to the bottom of it. First Sparks, and now Rory, both missing and both last known to be at the pump house. Could be they’re related, or maybe not. We are going to find out. I promise you that.

“As for what you saw, you said it was dark in that pump house, so maybe you did see something, just not what your mind interpreted it to be. If there’s something down there, we’ll find it. Meantime, I think you should stay with Arthur here, if he’ll have you.”

Arthur nodded enthusiastically.

“If you’re willing, we will just go to your place together, gather up your stuff, and move you in now. I agree with Jim. I don’t think you should be alone for a while.”

Jim sat quietly for a few minutes, and then looked directly at Arthur. “I want to deputize you,” he said.

Arthur looked puzzled.

“Don’t you already have a deputy?”

“Yes,” replied Jim. “And Harry’s a good guy, dependable and smart. I don’t want you full-time, but I want to be able to call you into action when needed. Given what we’ve all heard here today, I think you need to be what the legal eagles call ‘an officer of the court.’ “

Arthur agreed, and the oath of office was delivered immediately with Ben and Martin as witnesses.

“You’ll be paid for the time you are on the clock, when I call you into action,” said Ben.

“I don’t need pay.”

“Maybe not, but we need to keep this as legal and straightforward as possible. So, you’re on the payroll when I say so, and I want records of your time turned in regularly.”

Arthur reluctantly agreed.

“Before you leave,” said Martin, “here’s the paper you need to sign, Ben. If you’re sure you want to do this. They are offering you $75,000. That will last you a long time. I could manage the money for you if you like, until you feel more on your feet.”

“I like that idea,” said Ben, and hastily scribbled his signature on the bottom of the deed of sale and again on the paper allowing Martin Rutledge, Esq., to handle the sale and the money transfer to his client account.