Read Along: Paradise Palms: Chapter 19
“Can you believe him? I mean, teleported back in time? I think he’s seen one too many movies.” Myra laughed at herself. She’d heard a lot of stories: Bigfoot, Loch Ness, Ogopogo. The stories were numerous regarding strange monsters that weren’t supposed to exist. Only in movies did dinosaurs walk on undiscovered islands and swim in the seas. They didn’t exist. It’d been proven again and again that their environment couldn’t support them. It just wasn’t possible.
But a small nest of troodons was possible. They could have adapted to live in the cold of Minnesota, and so much of the woods was undiscovered that a small number of them could go completely unnoticed. Maybe they recently moved nearer civilization as their food source diminished.
“Actually, it does sounds plausible,” the detective said.
“Well, both your theories have some merit, but it’s hard to say which is right. There’s very limited evidence. Yours is based on the disbelief in science’s ability to move through time and his is based on first hand experience. It’s hard to say which of you is correct and which is wrong. How does your theory handle this line in the dirt, and the severed body and dinosaur head? His seems to sum all that up pretty neatly.”
That caused Myra to pause. She had been rather quick to dismiss Sam’s theory, but time travel was an unproven theory. “A force field could fill in the gap. Perhaps he got caught under it.”
“A force field? Isn’t that as far fetched as time travel?”
“It’s a lot more possible. I mean, time travel would require technology that doesn’t exist.”
“How do you know that?”
“Well,” she started, but had to think on that one. She didn’t. She honestly couldn’t say for a fact that it didn’t. “What are you suggesting?”
“I’m suggesting that we cross the street, go into that café there and get something to eat. If Sam is there, we buy him lunch and get him to talk to us some more and see if there’s anything else he wants to tell us. There’re still a lot of unknowns in this, and we need to fill in those holes.”
“You may be right. Okay, but I want to record our conversation with him. Can I do that?”
“Sure. I’ll need a copy of that recording though, for police records. As well as everything else you recorded about the crime scene. Either a recording or a transcript, either one that I can file away.”
“I can burn it to a CD for you when I get back home or I can e-mail it to you. Take your pick.”
“Either. Let’s catch up with Sam. I want to ask him a few more questions.”
Detective Schneider looked up and down the road as he walked across. Myra took a bit longer to start walking. She’d finally caught her breath after chasing Sam through the woods. She pulled her iPhone out of her pocket and checked the space remaining. She had enough left over for at least two hours of recording, and more than enough battery life as well.
Looking up, she saw Andrew waving down Sam, who’d turned around. Andrew motioned to the café. Sam took off his hat and ran a hand across his head and shook his head no, but followed him into the café. Myra smiled. She’d have to be a little more open-minded if they were to get anything out of this man.
Andrew looked back to Myra and motioned for her to follow them. She looked both ways and walked across the street. She hadn’t dressed properly for stamping through the woods and now that the sun was coming up, it’d gotten far too hot to be wearing a coat. She removed it and dropped it off in her car’s trunk before going into the café.
Sam and Andrew were seated in a booth and motioned for her to sit with them. Two older men, a black man and a shorter white man, sat at the bar drinking coffee.
“Getcha anything honey?” a woman with a pink uniform and a white apron asked.
“Oh, tomato juice please. With lemon.”
“We don’t have no lemons. That alright?”
“Oh, sure. That’ll be fine.”
“You want to see a menu or do you know what you want to eat?”
Myra’s stomach grumbled at the prospect of food. She’d only eaten a small amount on her way up from the cities. She noticed that Andrew was looking over a menu and Sam had only a cup of coffee. They were sitting across from each other.
“Let me have a menu please.”
The waitress handed her a menu.
She sat next to Andrew in the narrow booth — they would be bumping elbows the entire meal — as she wanted to be able to see Sam and his reactions to questions, and how he spoke. She wasn’t a police officer, but she was pretty sure she’d be able to tell if he was lying. She set the iPhone on the table.
“Do you mind if I record this?”
Sam grimaced. “I really don’t care. I mean, you already rejected the concept of what I’ve got to say. What difference will recording it make? I thought I was finally onto something and you shoot it down.”
Sam sat up and placed his elbows on the table and starting using his hands while he spoke. Myra pressed the record button.
“I mean, I was outside last night when it happened. I can only imagine what Casper was thinking. If one of those things dragged him into the woods.”
“Oh, I don’t think…” Myra paused and chose her words better. “It’s more likely that more than one dragged him as they would only be about a hundred and fifty pounds.”
Sam shook his head and kept on talking. “If more than one of those things dragged him into the woods. I mean, they had to take him by the legs, right? He didn’t have any teeth marks on him. They didn’t try to eat him. So what were they doing? He would have just been heading home after the bar closed down.”
“Perhaps we need to speak with Julie Branford. She’s on my list to speak with as she was the last one to see him, and you were the first to see him after that,” Andrew said.
“She couldn’t do anything like that,” Sam defended.
“I’m not saying she did, just like I didn’t say you had anything to do with it. Just procedure. I need to know if there’s any more information she can give us regarding the last moments of his life that might help us find out what really happened.”
“Well, I told you what I think happened. I’ve been in those woods a lot during my life and I’ve never seen a line like that.”
The waitress showed up and set the glass of tomato juice on the table. Her name tag read “Mrs. Kowalski.” It seemed odd a waitress would be addressed so formally in such a casual place.
“Thank you.” Myra held up her hand to Sam so she could ask a question. “How long have you lived here?”
“All my life. I grew up near here on the other side of the lake. I never went very far from home.”
“So you’ve been in these woods a lot?”
“Yeah. Played in them as a kid, building tree forts and stuff. Swam in the lake and the other two lakes near by. Hunted with my dad. I’ve been on nearly every square inch of these woods, be it on my quad or dirt bike or snowmobile or on foot. That’s why I find your statement about a hidden nest dumb. If they lived in these woods all these years, I’d have seen them.”
“You must see my perspective though. I mean, time travel. It just sounds too far fetched.”
“Then how do you explain the woods changing? The sounds I heard and all of that.” Sam’s tone bordered on anger.
She wasn’t doing a good job with this. She had to give his story more credit. Perhaps there was something to what he was saying. As Detective Schneider had pointed out, his story did fill in a lot of holes. But it was just too extreme.
“Hey Sam. Who are your friends?” one of the men at the bar asked.
“I’ll tell you later, Leroy. I’m a little busy.”
The man shrugged and turned back to his friend and they continued talking.
“So Sam, you say that things changed. Can you explain in more detail what exactly happened?”
Sam repeated the story as he had before. “I also noticed that smell the morning I found Casper. That’s why I think, since we followed that line from his body and across the road, that somehow he must’ve been lying across that line and was cut in half.”
“But time travel.”
“Look, call it what you want, but it explains how a dinosaur would be there. Like I said, I’ve lived in these woods all my life. I’ve seen and heard pretty much everything that could make sound in these woods. What I heard last night defied anything natural that should be able to make a noise. Knowing that the head that was found is a dinosaur, it makes more sense to me that what I was seeing was some prehistoric jungle or something, and the weird howls and growls were dinosaurs.”
The two men from the bar got up, put their hats on, and left. The waitress returned.
“You two know what you want? Sammie, you want anything, it’s on me.”
“I’m good, thanks. Just the coffee.”
“So what can I get for the two of you?”
Myra finally looked at the menu. “Um, I’ll just have eggs and hash with whole wheat toast. Over easy.”
“Waffles. Thank you.”
Mrs. Kowalski took the menus and hung the ticket for the cook. This little community was so strange. Myra couldn’t imagine living in a place where everyone knew everyone and interacted with each other every day. It was so odd to her. She barely talked to her boss on a daily basis, she couldn’t imagine talking with her neighbors every day.
“Sam,” Andrew said. “I’ll need to interview your girlfriend. What’s her name?”
“Right, what’s her name?”
“Girlfriend is her name. Her parents were from Russia. They didn’t know exactly what they named her.”
“And how do you know Julie Branford?”
“She’s worked there at the Sandy Bar for years now. I know she didn’t have anything to do with Casper.”
“Is there anyone who might have?”
“You know, I’m tired of this.” Sam started to get up, then turned back to them both. “I’m telling you, this isn’t some weird murder mystery, no matter how much you want it to be, and I’m going to have to prove that. This was an accident and nothing more. I’m going to find who caused this accident and make sure it doesn’t happen again. If you’re convinced that I’m innocent, come back here tonight with floodlights, flashlights, guns, and nets. We’ll find out what happened. If you think I’m some weirded-out whack job, then leave me alone and I’ll find the answer on my own. Now, I’ve got a long day ahead of me that’ll turn into a late night. I’m going to get ready getting some sleep. If you’re smart, you’d do the same thing.”
With that, Sam got up and slapped money on the bar and left. The bell on the door dinged his departure.
Myra looked nervously at Andrew, then realized that the seat across was empty, and moved. They sat in silence for several long moments before she realized that she could turn off the voice recording app. Once it was off, Andrew spoke up.
“What do you think?”
“Do you think he’s a weirded-out whack job, or do you think we should get a map of this location and trace out the remainder of that circle?”
That gave Myra pause. Sam seemed very committed to what he said, but didn’t crazy people always believe what they were saying was true? Maybe he was on drugs, but he didn’t look like a drug addict. In fact, quite the opposite. He looked very sane. He also spoke with such passion about finding out what had happened to his friend. Myra felt like a horse’s ass.
“What else did he say we should get?” Andrew pulled out his little notebook and starting writing.
They ate their food in silence. Myra had to contend with the possibility that Sam was right and that night she’d be looking into the woods of a past that no longer existed except in a fossil record. It excited her and terrified her. No, it excited her – unlike anything she’d ever experienced before.