|From August 30, 2011|
Three weeks later Warren awoke to a bright sun streaming in through the window of the cabin. He yawned and stretched and then scratched himself for a bit. He bounded out of the room and down into the kitchen. He had spent several days stocking the kitchen and the house with what he knew he would need. Then he had made sure he could get an Internet connection and then promptly put his laptop aside and dragged his heavy manual typewriter up to the desk he had placed near the edge of the loft space.
Warren mostly wrote fiction and he published them himself. They sold moderately well, and he made a decent living with them. However, he really made his money by writing his true crime books. That was why he was really in western Pennsylvania. He was here because of the murders.
The murders happened about twenty years ago. A series of children were abducted from their bedrooms and murdered. They had been horribly violated and butchered. There were five known victims and the killer had sent letters to the local press, taunting them with his brazenness and his ability to commit the crimes. Then, after two years of keeping the small towns in western Pennsylvania in fear, they had suddenly stopped. He had been known simply as the Boogeyman. A name based on the childhood monster that lurked in closets and snuck up on sleeping children.
To Warren that was not a particularly good name. He, however, did appreciate that the killer was not well known outside of the state of Pennsylvania. So, when he was looking for another topic to write about, he found very little written about this string of murders. It was just the kind of thing that his publisher loved.
Like a lot of writers, Warren was a bit eccentric when it came to his writing. He was not a Luddite. He had a laptop with an Internet connection and he had a scanner and a printer and everything else. He just enjoyed writing his first drafts using the large black Underwood typewriter he found at an estate sale when he first started his writing career. Was it tough to get ribbons? Yes, but he found a guy in New York who supplied him and he had dozens of them stock piled. Was it tough to keep it maintained and working? Yes, but the same guy in New York was willing to do repairs at a reasonable price.
There was something about using the ancient machine that he loved. The keys were difficult to work and you had to punch them to get them to type. There was also a certain kind of magic to rolling a piece of paper into the typewriter, hearing the clacking of the keys, and the dinging sound of the return. It was real work using the thing and he liked it.
He rarely used outlines when he was working on his fiction. He preferred to let the words just flow from him. He sometimes had character bibles and he kept a Moleskine notebook with him at all times filled with ideas and characters, but he rarely had outlines. When it came to his non-fiction, though, he outlined everything. He took pages and pages of notes in another Moleskine that he always designated for each project. His desk would become completely buried in papers. At the moment, his desk was only starting to develop a serious case of piles.
He picked up his notebook and thumbed through it. He had lots and lots of papers filled
with clips from the newspaper from years ago. Too many of them were filled with photos of parents in tears and their entire worlds shattered.
He spent the morning working on the outline in his notebook. He sat back, rubbed his eyes, and stretched. Outside, he could hear birds chirping and the wind was blowing gently through the trees. He decided it was time to go for a walk. That, and he wanted to venture down to the local newspaper and see if he could talk to the editor. While it seemed unlikely that the editor who had been running the paper during the days of the Boogeyman was still around, Warren hoped the current editor might have some knowledge of the case or at least know where the paper’s coverage of the events surrounding the killings might be. He had an afternoon of gazing at microfilm ahead of him.
He stood up and heard both of his knees pop. He smiled as he gazed down at the living room and the dining room that he could see from his perch. The sun was streaming in through a window in the kitchen. He watched dust motes drift lazily through the beam of sunlight.
Warren had spent a lot of years working in offices. He could still remember, with a shudder, the days he spent driving to work and working long hours in a cubicle farm. Warren was quite sure that human beings were not meant to work in mazes and in tiny spaces that were smaller than your average prison cell.
He had wanted to write since he sat down at his mother’s electric typewriter way back in the third grade. He pounded out a story that was all of three pages, just one long paragraph, and horribly plotted. However, it had given him a kind of rush that he still felt every time he sat down to write. Even when he was writing non-fiction he still felt the rush of telling a story. Sometimes it was the only time he truly felt in control of things.
College came and he took his father’s advice and studied something he thought would lead to a job. Or, at least, that was what he told his father he was doing. He studied radio and worked on the campus radio station and graduated expecting to take the radio world by storm. Somehow, instead, he stumbled into the world of human resources.
Warren spent eight years in HR hell before his two creative worlds came calling to him again. He got a part-time gig in radio and he wrote his first novel. He eventually gave up the radio work, but he soon had enough clients as a freelancer to write full time. Eventually, he squirreled enough money away to start writing books again.
The air outside was warm and the sky was bright. He took a deep breath. The air smelled differently than it did when he stepped outside of his apartment in Chicago. Most he smelled plants. In Chicago, he smelled engine exhaust. He decided to wander down to Glen’s house, which was not far away, to see if the guy wanted to have lunch with him. So far, Glen was the only local he had really met and befriended.
Glen’s house was about three football fields away from where Warren was currently holed up. He had made the walk several times. The most intense time was when he would walk back after dark. Warren was, inherently, a city person. Walking in the woods in the pitch blackness was something he was not used to. The sounds of wildlife around him was enough to make him nearly wet himself. He was used to the sounds of traffic which could keep other people awake all night. He actually could sleep through a series of fire engines screaming down the street, but the sound of thousands of crickets chirping outside his cabin was enough to keep him awake until the wee hours.
Right now, however, the sun was out and the sky was blue. When Warren looked up he could see wispy clouds moving lazily across the sky. He could also see the contrails of what appeared to be dozens of airplanes. Warren was also used to living near O’Hare International airport where you could almost see the windows and wave to the pilots in the planes. Out here, he was far enough away from the airport that the planes were tiny dots in the sky and the only sign of their passage was the thick white cloud that they left behind.
The gravel of the driveway and gravel road crunched beneath his feet. He could hear insects buzzing in the high grass on either side of the road. He could also hear something that he assumed was farming equipment out in a field in some indeterminate distance. Sounds were funny out here in the country, he discovered. When the wind shifted he could hear the highway which was about ten miles distance, and when it blew the other way he could hear the farm equipment from a large farm about five miles in the other direction.
He could see the roof of Glen’s house as he began to round a bend and down a slight incline. He loved Glen’s house. He could easily fit about three or four of the cabins that Warren was currently renting inside of Glen’s house. The house was three stories tall and had a basement. It also had three bedrooms, two of the upstairs, and two and a half baths. It had a huge front porch that extended across the front of the house and there was a bench on chains that allowed the person sitting to swing pleasantly. There were also chairs and it was the perfect place to sit and drink a beer or an iced tea or some other beverage. It was the kind of place that made Warren think he could get used to living in the country.
He could smell something delicious wafting from Glen’s house. The man was always cooking something. He could also hear something mechanical going inside the home. Warren paused, his brow wrinkled, and realized it was some kind of circular saw or something like that. He had never thought of Glen as being particularly handy or crafty, but he wondered if maybe the guy did carpentry work in his spare time. Someone had to do the repairs on the cabin that Warren was in and the whole thing was made of wood.
Warren kicked at a stone, sending it tumbling into the high grass. He was smiling. Then, he paused. There was something dangling from the blades of the high grass right in font of him. He furrowed his brow again. It was white, fluttering in the breeze like a kind of flag. It wasn’t a flag, however, that much he could tell. It was some piece of clothing.
Warren walked forward and stepped into the high grass. What seemed like a billion tiny insects suddenly exploded from the disturbed grass. Warren coughed, gasped, and blinked his eyes while waving his hands in front of his face to try and disrupt the cloud of gnats. He reached forward and grabbed the piece of fabric. Then he backed away, patting his head and swatting at the air as if he were on fire.
“Goddamn bugs!” He yelled.
When he had gotten far enough away from the cloud insects he paused to look down at what he held in his hands. He gasped. It was a pair of panties. They were definitely the size for an adult, but they were also definitely a pair of female underwear. He blushed. He had taken his share of these off of women, but somehow finding one just fluttering in the breeze out in the middle of nowhere felt like snooping. It was as if he wandered into the grass and stumbled across teenagers making love. For a moment he wondered if maybe there was a couple, just a little further along, inside the grass doing just that.
He paused to listen. He heard nothing. No one had said anything when he stepped into the grass. He hadn’t seen anything. He shrugged. Then he looked down at the panties again. They seemed very white, as if rather new, but there was nothing remarkable about them. It was as if they had simply fluttered here on the wind.
He shrugged again and stuck the panties into his pocket. He had no idea why he decided to do that, but throwing them back into the tall grass just seemed wrong. It wasn’t like he planned on searching for the owner, but it also didn’t seem right to toss them away. It might provide inspiration for a story later on, he figured. Or, he acknowledged to himself, he was just weird, which was also very possible. Most writers were.
He continued on. There was still the sound of a saw going on somewhere within Glen’s house. He approached the house from the back. Something was definitely cooking in the kitchen and his mouth was watering. Glen had already shown himself to be an excellent cook.
“Glen!” He shouted when he got a distance that he reckoned was ear-shot. The hum of the saw continued for a bit. “Stop with the craft project and get some lunch ready!”
He heard the saw stop. He neared the back door. The inner door was open and he peered through the screen into the kitchen. The kitchen had all of the latest and most modern gadgets and cooking utensils you could want. On the stove, which was up against one wall, not far from the sink, was a metal pot and it sounded as if it was filled with some kind of bubbling liquid. That was where the smell was coming from.
“Glen!” He shouted again.
Glen emerged from a door off to the right that Warren couldn’t see from where he stood. The large man suddenly appeared, a pair of goggles up on his head. His hands were dirty and caked with grime.
“Hey, there, Warren,” Glen said. “I thought you were going to be up at the house working all day.”
“How can I stay inside and work all day when the day is this gorgeous?” Warren asked and held out his hands as if to indicate the day.
Glen smiled. “This is true. Well, I was just boiling a pot of stew. It’s my dad’s recipe, handed down from generations before him. I am sure you’ll love it, provided you eat meat.”
“I am definitely a carnivore,” Warren said. “Lead me to the stew.”
Glen unlocked he screen door and pushed it open. Warren stepped inside, the darkness causing his eyes to adjust. His nose was immediately filled with the smell of cooking meat. He could also smell onions and other vegetables.
“What were you working on?” Warren asked.
Glen did not answer. He was staring out the back door, as if he had seen something moving out there behind Warren. Warren turned to look over his shoulder to see if he could see something. He saw nothing. There was just sunlight and grass and the wind.
“Glen?” Warren asked.
Glen shook his head and looked around.
“Yeah?” He asked.
“You kind of zoned out on me there for a moment,” Warren said. “I asked what you were working on.”
Glen’s eyes seemed to regain focus. “Oh, that. I don’t do a lot of woodworking, but I do some. I was putting together this chest of drawers. Sometimes I make furniture and sell it at local craft fairs and stuff like that. It doesn’t make me a lot of money, but every little bit helps.”
Warren nodded. He looked back out the screen door. For just a brief second he thought he had seen something. It was just like a shadow, out of the corner of his eye, moving across the back lawn. He blinked and it was gone.
“Let’s eat,” Warren said.
Glen smiled. “You bet. You want rolls with the stew?”