A Thing Greatly Feared, Chapter 9

English: Sheep in a Pen At Low Carlingill

Max McDougall's sheep, looking a little terrified after what happened to some of their penmates. ... Image via Wikipedia

Hank returned the next morning, and Darrell was waiting for him on the porch.

“Hey,” said Darrell.

“Hey. How’s she doin’?”

“Better. Sleeping right now.”

“She stayin’ home today?”

“Yeah. I called the school already and told them she still wasn’t feeling well. I’m sure that by noon the whole town will have heard the rumor that she has a live-in beau.”

“Wait’ll they find out she’s got three of ’em.”

“Wade should be just about ready. Let me go and grab– ” The door opened and Wade came out. “Good, you’re ready. Let’s get going, then.”

“You think she’ll be alright wakin’ up by herself?” said Hank.

“I left her a note right by her bed; should see it as soon as she wakes up. I told her we’d be back around suppertime. … You don’t have to come if you don’t want, but me and– ”

“Oh, I’ll come. That’s no problem.”

“Alright. Well we’ll get Wade to school now, then you can drop me off and head to work.”

***

Before Darrell knew it, the morning and half the afternoon had passed.

Three o’clock. I’d better get going.

He got up from the desk in his home office, got a drink of water in the kitchen, and ten minutes later he was clambering down the quarter-mile-long dirt road that was the driveway to Max McDougall’s farm. With few trees between the farmhouse and the end of the driveway, McDougall saw him coming long before he got there.

“Hm,” said McDougall as he leaned on his pitchfork in the shade of the barn doorway.

McDougall was still leaning on his pitchfork when Darrell pulled up and stepped out of his truck.

“Good afternoon, Mr. McDougall.”

McDougall nodded. “Sure is. What brings you out today?”

“Well, I heard about what happened to your sheep, and I was just wondering if I could talk to you about it.”

“You could,” said McDougall, “but if you got questions to ask, be just as easy to talk to your brother.”

“Hank?”

McDougall nodded. “Yup. No offense intended – just an observation, mind you – but you Daleys are a nosey bunch.”

“Hank’s been out to see you too?”

“Yup, on his noon hour today. And Clyde Pullen said he was out to see him the other day too, checkin’ out what happened with his horse. … You guys in the investigatin’ business now or somethin’?”

Darrell chuckled. “No, we, uh … we’re just curious about these attacks, that’s all, and I imagine we aren’t the only ones.”

“Nope, nope, that’s true, that’s true.”

“Well, I guess I will talk to Hank later, but is it okay if I still ask you a question?”

McDougall shrugged – his shoulders and his lips: “Don’t see why not.”

“Your sheep that got killed – was most of the meat taken from them?”

“Yup.”

“And were there scratches – like cut marks – on their face and back?”

“Yup. Thing was all clawed to heck, gashes everywhere.”

Darrell nodded. “Alright. … Well, thanks, Mr. McDougall. I hope nothing else like this happens to you.” Darrell climbed into his truck. “Have a good day.”

“Same to you.”

Darrell drove off, headed for home. Max McDougall continued to lean on his pitchfork until the pickup was out of sight and the dust had settled.

* * *

Darrell got home before Wade, as he’d hoped, but he didn’t say anything to him about going to McDougall’s. He didn’t say anything about bears or animals being attacked. Instead he kept the conversation on school, Miss Kremshaw and school, and since they’d be spending the evening, if not the night, at Miss Kremshaw’s, Darrell made Wade do his homework while he, Darrell, prepared supper. Darrell had just finished when Hank pulled into the driveway; he glanced out the window and spotted Hank getting out of his truck.

“Hey, Wade, why don’t you go get washed up?”

“Alright.”

Wade left the room, and Darrell wiped his hands on a towel as he stepped outside, meeting Hank on the walkway.

“Hey, Hank.”

“How’s it goin’?”

“Listen, I wanted to talk to you about something.”

“What about?”

“You hear all the details yet about Max McDougall’s sheep?”

“Yeah, the guys at work told me this morning.”

“Well I went out to McDougall’s today, to talk to him about it.”

Hank nodded but said nothing.

“He told me some interesting things.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. He said the meat was taken and the head and back were all clawed up – that’s just what Clyde said happened to his horse.”

“Yeah, yeah, I read that in the Gazette.”

“Well, um, he also told me that you’d been out to see him.”

Hank looked at the ground.

“Is this something you want to talk about, Hank?”

“Umm, no, not really.”

“Alright, well, there’s something I feel like I’ve gotta tell you.” Hank looked at him. “I know that what happened nineteen years ago was a rough experience for you, and I don’t claim to be able to understand it, because it didn’t happen to me, but I just don’t want you going around trying to get revenge on a bear that might not even be the right one. I– ” He sighed. “I just want you to be able to get past it, to get over it, that’s all.”

Hank nodded. Darrell hoped his brother wasn’t going to get ticked off and run.

“I’m thankful for your concern, Darrell, but I’m not tryin’ to get revenge on any bear.”

“No?”

“No.”

“Then what were you doing out at McDougall’s, and Clyde’s?”

“I thought the attacks were kinda strange. They didn’t seem like bear attacks to me.”

“Wade and I have been talking about that too. Doesn’t seem like a bear attack to me, either.”

“You’d better be careful about getting Wade involved in this.”

“Wade got himself involved with this through that school report. And of course I’m being careful – he doesn’t go off to the woods unless you or I are with him; I’m certainly not gonna let him go chasing a bear.”

“You know, I’ve been meanin’ to talk to you about that report.”

“Listen, Hank, I’m sorry he picked something that hits so close to home, but it didn’t start out that way.”

“It’s okay, Darrell, I … I know he’s just tryin’ to do his best in school. I can handle it; I’m okay.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah. And I know I wasn’t feelin’ the best at the time, so I might not’ve been seein’ things straight, but it seemed like you cut him off last night right in the middle of him talkin’ about it.”

“I did. He was about to mention what he and I have talked about, and what you and I are talking about now – conspiracy theories about these attacks. You and I and Wade all know something seems funny, and we can talk about it amongst ourselves, but I don’t want it getting all over town unless we have something solid to stand on, and I especially didn’t want to say anything in front of Sara, a girl living by herself in the boonies. And that turned out to be a wise decision, since she’d had her own encounter – dog or bear, whatever, doesn’t matter: Our ideas only would’ve scared her more.”

“Yeah.” Her own encounter. “So what do you think it is, if not a bear?”

“I haven’t a clue, and neither does Wade. What– ”

“And something else about that report: That bear he mentioned, the one that was found mutilated back in the eighties – did it have those same funny cuts on it?”

Darrell nodded.

“And the sheriff chalked it up to poachin’?”

“Yeah.”

“Hm.”

“Yeah – hm.”

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