Part XIII: Billy[Note: Does Billy show up? For the past three chapters I have been assuming he does not. This has caused me many sleepless nights. A teenage boy disappears 'into thin air'. What questions will be asked of Jack and JJ once this is discovered. Suddenly it turns into a murder mystery - or at very least a disappearance -- a run-away? an abduction? How would Red NOT have heard about this before now. The grieving family? The interviews with police. The suspicions of foul play. All that baggage when all I want to talk about is the fascination Red and Jack have with thinking a little outside the box.
Then today, while biking home, the answer hit me. The answer is 'YES'; Billy does turn up in Oakwood. Brilliant! Suddenly the story switches from a federal case to a case of urban legend. Perfect fit for Jimmy, Red, the distrust for the 'train tracks' by Red's Mom; Gwen. It all suddenly everything works - everything fits. I love it.
Okay here we go..... ]
"I could use some coffee." Jack said as he slouched down into the driver's seat.
"I saw a gas station back at the highway. I could use a soda." JJ hinted.
"I hate to leave here in case Billy shows up."
They'd been waiting in the car and watching the old RR crossing for about 20 minutes.
"How long are we gonna wait?" JJ asked. "Mom might start to worry, you know."
"Mmm, I suppose she will." Jack admitted. "Tell you what, why don't you stay here and I'll drive over to that gas station and call your mother. I can get some drinks while I'm there."
"What are you gonna tell Mom?"
"I don't know." Jack sighed. "I'll think of something."
"What are we gonna tell anybody?" JJ whined.
"Let's hope Billy shows up so we don't have to deal with that."
"Nobody's gonna believe the train." JJ says quietly.
"I know that. But that's what really happened and that's what we have to say. We have to tell the truth."
"I suppose." JJ agreed reluctantly. Then he lifted up the milk can lid from the floorboards and said brightly; "And we've got proof."
"I guess we do." Jack said. But then he considered for a moment and added; "But it wouldn't be that hard to find one of those if you wanted to make up a story like this."
"But we didn't make it up." JJ insisted. "We're NOT making it up."
"I know that, JJ. But how do we convince everybody else?"
"I don't know."
"No, let's not worry about that yet. Like I said. Now get out and wait here. I'll go call your Mother."
"Okay." JJ mumbled as he got out of the car. "Hurry up. Okay".
Jack turned around in the lady's driveway and headed back the way they had come. JJ watched him drive away and then started wandering up the tracks towards downtown Oakwood - such as it was. As he walked, he studied the ground around the tracks for any sign of either a train or of Billy. He walked a couple hundred yards and then turned back. He hadn't seen anything out of the ordinary - the tracks looked like they hadn't been used in years. Normal
When he got back to the crossing Jack had just arrived and was getting out of the car with two cups - one coffee and one soda.
"You had me worried a bit." Jack called out; "I didn't see you and I thought maybe you'd disappeared too."
"You thought I'd caught another train?" JJ laughed. "No Dad, I was just checking the other way."
"Good idea. Let's walk for a ways back toward Mayville. We were in a hurry before and maybe we missed something."
They sipped on their drinks as they walked. JJ tried to balance on the rail like a tightrope walker but walking, sipping, and balancing were too many things to do at once so he gave up and settled for trying to walk on the ties - which wasn't that easy either.
"What'd you tell Mom?" JJ asked finally.
"I told her the truth." Jack said; "I told her that we had been out walking the tracks and Billy took off running and said he'd beat us to Oakwood."
"That's close, Dad." JJ laughed.
"I know it's not the whole truth. But I don't want to worry her - yet."
"So you told her that we were too lazy to chase after him on foot and we came back to get the car?"
"Yeah, that's pretty much what I said."
"And she knows Billy enough to believe it?"
"Yes, this sounds like something Billy would do, don't you think?"
"Really!" JJ smiled. "And it was exactly what Billy did do."
"Close enough, Dad."
They walked a hundred yards or so to where the old landing must have been. There was still a definite break in the trees that lined the tracks where the wagons of milk would pull up by the train. But that was the only sign they could find that there was a stop here. As they walked back to the crossing, JJ found an old RR spike laying in the rock ballast but there was nothing else to find.
When they got to the crossing they saw that an Oakwood Police car had pulled up behind their car and the officer had gotten out and was walking around the car. When he saw JJ and Jack approaching he waived and smiled and said; "Hello there. How are you folks?"
"Just fine, officer." Jack said. "Is anything wrong?"
"No sir. We just had a call from a concerned citizen saying there were a couple men acting strangely and I'm here to check it out. That's all."
Both Jack and JJ looked at the house. The lady was gone and they couldn't see anybody in the yard but they were both thinking the same thing. She was probably the 'concerned citizen'.
"You mean us?" JJ asked - looking back at the officer; "We're just sitting here - not doing anything wrong."
"Nobody says you are, Son. ", the officer explained. "I'm just here to check - is all."
Jack gave JJ a quick 'Shut up' look and then smiled at the officer; "That's no problem, officer. How can we help?"
"I'll need to see some ID, if you don't mind."
"Not at all." Jack said as he dug out his billfold. The officer took out his notepad and pen.
"Here you go." Jack handed over his drivers license and the officer inspected it and copied some things into his notes and then handed it back.
"This your Son?" He asked; looking at JJ.
"Yes," JJ inserted.
"That's it?" The officer asked; "JJ?"
"Yeah." JJ said.
"It stands for Jack Junior." Jack explained. "His name is Jack Pynesapp Junior" He gave JJ another stern look while the officer was making more notes in his book.
JJ shrugged and mouthed; "What?"
"So what are you doing here?" The officer continued.
"We're just waiting for a friend of mine. " JJ explained; "He's walking the tracks from Mayville and we're supposed to meet him here but he hasn't shown up yet."
"I see, " the officer said, "and what is this boy's name."
"Also from Mayville?"
"Why is he walking the tracks from Mayville? " The officer said suspiciously.
" We were out walking on the tracks by our house this morning - we like to do that - and Billy took off running and bet us that he could beat us to Oakwood." Jack explained.
"Walking?" The officer asked.
"Running." JJ said. "Billy's like that. He's always doing crazy stuff like this."
"Yes," Jack said, "he's quite a character."
"Must be. " The officer said while writing some more. "So, this Billy took off running and you decided not to run with him?"
"We could never keep up." JJ admitted. "At least, not Dad. Billy's like a cross country track star at school. He can run forever."
"Hmm." The officer smiled.
"Yes," Jack said, "we knew we could never keep up so we went back to the house and got the car."
"You think that was fair?" The officer asked.
Jack explained; "You know, sometimes you just get tired of all the bragging and we thought this might teach him a lesson."
"Yeah," JJ added, "he bet he could beat us but he didn't say we had to run."
"So," the officer said, "you don't really know if Billy kept going or whether he turned around at some point and went back; maybe wondering why you weren't following."
"I guess that could've happened." JJ admitted. "But I don't see why he would've done that. Billy would try to get here as fast as he could just so he could tell us how long he'd waited for us to catch up."
"Yeah, " Jack chipped in, "He's like that."
"So, what time was this when you last saw Billy."
"About 9:00, I suppose." Jack ventured.
"It's about five miles from Mayville, along the tracks, I suppose. How long would it take a good runner to make that trip?" The officer asked JJ.
JJ thought for a moment and then said "A little less than an hour, I'd guess."
"Well it's 10:30 now. He should've made it by now, don't you think?"
"I'd think so." Jack said. "If he ran all the way, I guess."
"Hmm." the officer wrote some more.
"Now, " The officer continued, "the 'citizen' mentioned that you were asking about a train."
Ah-ha! Jack and JJ looked at each other. It was the lady in the house.
Jack fought off a temptation to panic and said; "We did ask the lady in that house to see if she'd seen anyone walking on the tracks."
"Yeah, " JJ added, "but she was the one who brought up the train."
"Oh yeah?" The officer asked.
"Yes," Jack explained, "she said something about hearing a truck go by that seemed to be going so slow, and it was so loud that it almost sounded like a train."
"Yeah," JJ laughed - maybe a little too nervously, "it was her that brought up the train. Not us. "
"I see." The officer wrote some more.
"Yes," Jack continued, "we thought that was kind of silly - there are no trains on these tracks anymore. Maybe sounds like that trigger old memories, you know."
"Yeah, that's probably it." The officer agreed.
The officer was satisfied and he closed his notebook and put it in his pocket.
"Well I hope you find this Billy. Maybe you should call his house and see if he didn't just give up and go home."
"We'll do that." Jack said; "I'm sure that's probably what happened."
"And if he doesn't show up you make sure to call us and we'll put out a missing persons report."
"Oh, I'm sure that won't be necessary." Jack said.
"Yeah," JJ said, "he's probably home waiting for us to call so he can laugh at us. "
"Big joke." The officer said as he climbed into his car. "You folks have a nice day." He closed the door and drove away across the tracks and out of sight.
"Whew." sighed Jack.
"No crap." JJ laughed. "That was close."
"I guess we'd better get outta hear before that lady calls the cops." Jack laughed.
"Too late Dad."
"Oh yeah. But maybe she'll think of some other excuse if we stay around here."
"Let's go and call Billy's Mom. Maybe he did just go home."
"We both know better." Jack said as they got in the car and headed back to Mayville. There was no reason to wait here any longer.
"So when we call Billy's Mom?" JJ asked; "And what do we tell her?"
"If he's there - nothing." Jack sighed.
And they drove away; neither of them sure if that was the best thing to do.