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with the blowing
of the wind
with the last rays
of the sun
as the moon sets
below the horizon
and the birds
fly to the trees
A Short Story
"Ma says supper will be ready in a few minutes. She says you better clean up or you aren't coming inside."
"She does, huh?" Jack asked as he nailed another fence post. He then replied, "You tell her, clean or dirty – still eating."
The boy ran inside the house and then came out. He said, "She said, if you're covered in dust you aren't coming in, no matter what you say. She says, she might be nice though and throw something out on the porch for you."
Jack laughed and answered, as he started to walk away from the fence, "Fine, fine, clean it is – at least enough so she'll let me in. You better wash too. You don't want to eat on the porch now do you?"
"No Pa," the boy answered as he ran to the water pump.
As Jack started to walk toward the pump, he heard his daughter shout, "Pa, there's a man coming."
He turned and looked and saw a man riding in on a horse. His head was down as he rode.
He walked toward the man and called out, "If you want to water your horse we'll be done with the pump in just a minute. My wife is just finishing supper. You're welcome to a biscuit or two before you go on."
The man rode closer and then stopped about twenty yards away. He looked up and into Jack's eyes.
The man's face was square and tan. He looked like he hadn't shaven in a week and there seemed to be a coating of dust on his face. There was sweat on his brow and his eyes looked as if he was glaring. He had a look of being older than he was.
Looking at the man on the horse, Jack stopped breathing. He felt a weight on himself that he hadn't felt in twenty years. His face became white and he could feel his heart beat in his chest.
His son looked up at him and asked, "You alright, Pa?"
He stood, not being able to speak.
The man looked more intently at him and then asked in a voice that seem quiet but harsh, "You understand?"
He stood and could feel himself shake. Everything came back to his mind. He finally could feel himself breathe. He answered shakily, "Yes."
"Tomorrow morning then, an after hour dawn."
The man then turned his horse and rode away.
Jack stopped. He closed his eyes and tried to swallow. His daughter ran up to him and asked, "Who was that man, Pa?"
He couldn't speak.
"Pa, are you alright?" His son asked.
He could feel himself breathe and said, "Yes son. Everything's fine. Everything's fine."
"Who was that man, Pa? What did he want? What happens tomorrow?"
He said, "He was no one son." He paused and took a breath. "He was just a man."
The boy accepted the answer, and then he and his sister ran toward the house. Jack stood a moment and then walked toward the pump and almost collapsed on it. He couldn't stand. Everything felt weak inside him. He felt himself breathing rapidly and he could feel a lump in his throat.
He tried to stand and put his head under the pump. He pumped water over the back of his head and then stood, ran this hands through his hair and shook the water off. He wiped the water from his face with his hands as he tried to breathe. He then stood against the pump, leaning on it and didn’t move.
"Jack, are you coming inside?" His wife asked from the porch.
He looked up at her.
"Are you alright?" She asked as she walked toward him.
He felt himself pull everything inside and said, "Yes, yes, fine. Just, you know, washing."
"Well come on then, supper is just about ready," she said as she turned and walked inside.
He stood straight and took a breath. He blinked his eyes and then walked toward the house.
During supper, he was quiet. His family talked as they normally did, but he didn't pay much attention. His thoughts kept going to the past and going to the future.
After supper, he went outside and stood on the porch while his family sat inside by the fireplace. After a few moments his wife came out and asked, "Are you alright Jack? You were quiet this evening."
He looked at his wife silently for a moment and said, "There's something that needs taking care of tomorrow. It will take all day away from here."
"What's the matter? What do you have to do tomorrow?"
"There's just something that needs tending to."
"What is it? There's something wrong."
"It's nothing. There's just something that needs doing for someone. An obligation."
"Is it that man who came by? The girl mentioned him."
"Yes. He's …," he thought for a moment and tried to think of words that were truthful, but explained what couldn't be true. "There was a man from a while back. Before we met. There's something that needs doing for him. It will take the day. An obligation."
"You're not speaking clearly," his wife said. She came closer to him and looked at his face. His eyes had a distant look. "What's wrong? What aren't you saying?"
"It's nothing," he answered. "There's just something that needs taking care of. It's little more than a ride with someone. In a day it will be done and forgotten. Please don't worry."
His wife looked into his eyes. The distant look was still there. She started to speak, but stopped. She kept looking at him for a moment, and tried to understand his face. After a moment she sighed, and went inside the house.
He stood for a moment and then sat on the steps of the porch. He put his face in his hands and then put his head in them. He looked out into the dusk and couldn't find a thought to think.
Jack sat on his horse in the morning light. His eyes were heavy, but he wasn't tired. He felt a sense of emptiness.
In a way, he kept waiting for a sound. The sound of horse hooves. In another way, he wasn't thinking of it at all; he was just sitting in the morning light.
After a few moments, from down the road, the man on the horse came. He rode the horse in a deliberate way. Not slow, like he was just going along. Not fast, like he was in a hurry to get somewhere. Just deliberate. Like he knew where he was going and intended on being there.
He kept riding until he got to the edge of the farm. Then he stopped his horse and just sat. He didn't look around. He didn't really move. He didn't look like he was waiting for something. He just sat.
From his own horse, Jack looked out at the man. He had no words to say. He had no sense of what to do. It wasn't that he was confused, it was just that he had no thought. After a moment, without thinking, he tapped his horse and started to ride toward the man.
As Jack pulled up beside him, the man asked, "How far?"
"About forty miles."
The man on the horse nodded and said, "You lead."
For a moment, Jack wanted to stop, but again without thinking, he tapped his horse and started to ride forward.
Jack and the man left the farm. In a short while they were riding among grassy hills. Jack led the way, going through passes and the man followed.
Jack could feel the man behind him. He wanted to say something, but there were no words. Conversation felt wrong. What would he say? How would he start? There was a whole story, but no words for it.
As Jack's mind wandered, he heard the man speak, "Stop."
Jack became startled, stopped his horse and turned around.
The man was off his horse and was holding one of the horse's legs. He looked for a moment and then took a knife from his pocket and dug a stone from the horse's hoof. He cleaned around the hoof, let the horse's leg down and put his knife away. He then got back on his horse and nodded at Jack.
Jack looked at him for a moment and started to ride. He could hear the man follow.
Inside, he wanted to speak. He wanted to do something to make the time not feel like it did.
Almost like a person jumping from something high into water, Jack forced words to jump from his mouth. "It's been a number of years," Jack said.
"It has," the man replied.
The man spoke like he wasn't there. It was harsh, but not angry. It was like the grinding of an axe blade on a stone wheel. There was something in the sound of his words.
"You seem well," Jack said.
The man didn't respond. Jack was ahead of the man and couldn't see him. He didn't know if the man was ignoring him or if he had nodded. Jack eased on his horse and rode next to the man.
Jack wanted to talk, to speak, to explain. He wanted to tell the story to the man. To let him know what had happened. To find out what had happened. To know why he had waited twenty years and why, after that, he came at all.
Jack wanted to speak, but couldn't. As he looked at the man, who looked forward deliberately, something was wrong. Many things were wrong, but something particular was wrong. Jack had known it right after he saw the man. It had stuck in back of his mind, but he hadn't focused on it until then.
"It couldn't be him." Jack thought. "He looks exactly the same. It couldn't be him."
Trying to reconcile things in his mind, Jack said, "You look well."
The man nodded.
"You don't seem to have changed much," Jack said.
"You're wrong mister," the man replied.
"What?" Jack asked.
"You're wrong mister," the man repeated.
"What do you mean?" Jack asked.
The man slowly turned his face toward Jack and said, "You think you know me, but you don't. You think you're seeing Pete Williams, but you aren't."
Jack stopped his horse in confusion. Nothing made sense.
"Who are you?" Jack asked.
"Not Pete Williams," the man said. "Now keep riding."
Jack kept riding forward with the man behind him. They past the grassy hills and were moving across a rocky desert. There were outcrops and stone hills. Everything was a shade of brown.
As Jack went, he tried to make sense of things in his mind. "This is Pete Williams," he thought. "It is, but it can't be."
Jack thought back to the last time he saw Pete. They were on their horses, outside of Parecido. He held the bag and Pete was slumped in his saddle. He remember looking back as Pete went one way and he went the other. It was twenty years ago.
Jack slowed his horse a bit and looked back at the man. The man kept his face forward and didn't seem to notice. "This is Pete," Jack thought.
He looked at the man's eyes, the shape of his face, and the way he sat in the saddle. He thought of the man's voice. "This is Pete," he thought, "but from twenty years ago."
Jack couldn't understand.
Jack hadn’t heard from Pete since that night. Each day for years though, he had thought of him. He knew Pete would return. He kept waiting for the day.
Jack thought about the days and weeks that came after that night. He thought about how he couldn't sleep, how he couldn't eat, how he kept waiting for the sound, how he kept waiting for them to come. He thought about waiting for Pete, and when he would knock on his door.
He remembered Pete's labored words, the pain from his wound affecting him, "Go on. In time, you'll see me. Keep it safe until then."
He remembered his own words from before that night. He remember telling Pete he didn't want to be involved. He remembered telling him that he should find someone else. He remembered telling Pete how reluctant he was. He remembered going with Pete that night.
Jack looked back again at the man following him. In the moment he looked, he could feel the man's glare and he turned his face away.
"Has he been thinking of it all these years?" Jack wondered to himself.
Jack thought of the years that had gone by. He thought about the day in the desert when he said he wouldn't look back. He thought about getting married, having children, farming his land, and putting the thoughts of the past out of his mind.
"Pete," Jack said as he turned his horse toward the man.
"That's not my name," the man replied.
Jack stopped his horse and with strain in his voice said, "This doesn't make sense. You are Pete, but you can't be. What's going on? What do you want from me?"
"Listen," the man said as he pulled a gun from his holster and pointed it at Jack, "you need to stop worrying about Pete Williams. You need to stop thinking and stop wondering." He motioned with his gun and said, "You need to turn your horse and keep riding toward the money. Nothing about shooting you will cause me any strain. You understand."
Jack started to sweat and shake in his saddle. He had only had a gun pointed at him once before, on that night twenty years ago. He remembered the terror and felt it now.
The man pulled back on the hammer of the gun and asked, "Are you going to turn and ride?"
Still shaking, Jack nodded. As he felt his heart beat in his chest, he turned his horse and started to ride.
"Stop up there, under that overhang," the man said.
Up ahead was a hill of rocks and boulders. On one side of it there was an alcove under an overhang. It went in a bit and was shaded. Jack saw it and turned his horse and rode ahead.
When they got to the alcove, the man got down and pulled his horse to one side. "Get down," he said to Jack.
Jack wondered if the man was going to shoot him here. It didn't make any sense. The man needed him, he thought, to get the money. Also, he could have just shot him in the sun.
"The horses need to rest," the man said.
Jack breathed out and got off his horse.
The man took a canteen from his saddle and drank some water. He then reached into his saddle bag and pulled out some jerky and started to eat it.
"We'll rest here for fifteen minutes or so," he said.
Jack nodded and took the canteen from his saddle. He drank some water. Unlike the man, he hadn’t thought to bring food.
Jack looked at the man. He leaned against the rock wall and bit his jerky and drank water. He looked out into the desert.
Jack tried to understand the man. He couldn't understand what was going on. This man said he wasn't Pete Williams, but he looked just like him, knew who Jack was, and knew about the money from the bank.
Jack thought about the bank. The small little bank in Parecido. Why had Pete wanted to rob it? Why had Pete wanted him to help? Why hadn't he resisted more? He couldn't answer the questions to himself.
Jack looked at the man and tried to study him. Even the way he stood was like Pete. Nothing made sense to him
"You're thinking again, mister," the man said. "You really shouldn't be doing that."
Jack felt flustered. Nothing made sense in his mind. In exasperation he pleaded, "What's going on here? What do you want? This was all so long ago. Who are you?"
The man pulled his gun again as he pulled away from the wall. He clenched his face, breathed out and said, in a cold steel tone, "Listen to me. You need to stop what's going on in that mind of yours. You need to not think and not speak. You only need to ride your horse and take me to the money. There aren't going to be any games here. If you press me, you're dead. If you take me to the money, you'll live. There isn't any in between. You need to understand. You and Pete Williams have made my life far too difficult for far too long. You are not going to make it difficult now. You understand."
Jack didn't understand. He didn't know this man, even though he thought he did. He wondered how he could have made this man's life difficult. Nothing made sense to him.
The man got back on his horse and said, "Get on your horse."
Jack shook for a moment and then climbed on his horse.
"How much farther?" The man asked.
"About ten miles," Jack said. "There will be an outcrop where the money is."
"No games mister, you understand."
Jack understood the man was giving him an order, not asking a question. Jack said, "Don't worry, there won't be any games."
As Jack rode on, the place became very familiar to him. The rocks and hills and boulders and outcrops. It seemed to him like he was just there.
He knew the place he was looking for. A place with three boulders at the top of an outcrop. They didn't fit. They looked different than the rocks around them. Jack knew he would recognize the place.
With each step of his horse, Jack could feel the man behind him. This man who looked like Pete, but said he wasn't, seemed like a shadow. Jack felt attached to the man as they moved on.
Jack thought of the gun the man had. He, himself, didn't own a handgun. He had a rifle, but had left it at home. There was a moment where he had a sense to take it, but it was only a moment. There was no thought or feeling to it and he left it where it was.
Jack wondered how the man knew he had the money. He could understand the man knowing about the robbery. It was news at the time. He could understand the man knowing that he had had the money twenty years ago. Although no one had seen his face and there was nothing to point to him being involved, the man could have found out. There was Pete Williams.
Jack never learned what had happened to Pete after that day. Inside himself he didn't want to find out. As time went, and Pete didn't return, Jack tried to think that he was just gone. He didn't think that Pete had died after being shot, he just thought he was gone. It was easier than thinking of him being dead or coming back.
Jack couldn't put things together in his mind. Was this just a man who looked like Pete? That could explain the trouble he spoke of. Maybe the man had been arrested for something Pete had done? Maybe he was coming for the money for restitution?
For a moment it made sense in Jack's mind. He stacked his house of cards nicely. The man knew Pete, looked just like him, found out about the robbery, found out Jack had the money, found out Jack hadn't spent it, found out where Jack was, knew Jack would recognize him, … there were just too many cards. It all toppled in his mind. He couldn't make sense of it.
Jack was snapped out of his thoughts by the sound of the horse behind him. It made a noise as it breathed out. Jack looked around. They were close.
"It's not that far," Jack said. "There is an outcrop. There are three boulders at the top that look different. Like they don't belong there. It's hard to miss."
"Just ride," the man said.
Jack rode his horse and wondered. What would the man do once he had the money? Would he bury Jack were the money had been?
In less than an hour they were there. It was like Jack's horse knew the way. Jack hadn't been there in almost twenty years. He remember the moment he was there. He remembered the thoughts he had during that time.
Jack never wanted the money. He never wanted to be in the robbery. When he had the money, he didn't know what to do with it.
At first, he waited for Pete, thinking he would return. He would give Pete his half and then figure out what to do with his share.
Once he realized Pete might not return any time soon, he wasn't sure what he would do.
He thought about returning all the money, but wasn't sure how he would do it, and wasn't sure how Pete would react. He knew Pete would want his share, and he wasn't sure how Pete would react to him giving his part away. He was afraid Pete would think he would turn himself in and Pete also.
He had thought about turning himself in. The thought occurred to him almost constantly at the beginning. It seemed to easiest way. It seemed the most certain way. It seemed the way without worry.
He couldn't do it though.
The thought of prison. The thought of all those years. The thought of his life lost just because he couldn't tell someone no. He couldn't do it.
He had never considered turning Pete in, as he couldn't do it without turning himself in.
He didn't want to spend the money, but was afraid of keeping it with him. What if a sheriff found it? What if an outlaw did? What if anyone did?
He worried about Pete returning. He worried about speaking when he shouldn't. He worried about all sorts of things with the money near him.
There was that moment though. That moment in the shack outside of Parecido. That moment when he took the money, got on his horse and rode.
He knew he couldn't stay. He knew he couldn't keep the money. He knew he couldn't leave the money just anywhere. He thought he would ride.
He would ride and ride and ride more. He would ride as far as he thought a person would ride if they wanted to leave Parecido and then he would ride that twice more. He did.
He was by the rocks out in a place that seemed the end of a desert. He knew there was life ahead. A town and farms. In his mind it seemed good.
He could start over. He could be just like he was. No one knew him. No one knew he had robbed the bank. He could be himself, but be different.
It seemed like the right place. He could hide the money. It would be far away from Parecido. It would be far from him. But it would be close.
It would be close enough, that if Pete came, he could make the ride he made today. It would be close enough, that if the law came, he could do the same.
It would be far though. Far enough that he wouldn't have to see it. Far enough that he wouldn't have to think of it. Far enough that it wouldn't be a monster lurking behind him ready to pounce. It would be far enough.
"There it is," Jack said, "the outcrop, with the three boulders."
Jack looked at the formation ahead and turned his horse.
"The money is under rocks about ten feet down from the boulder on the right. It should be alright. It is in bag, wrapped in a blanket, wrapped in a rain coat and inside of saddle bags. It should be alright."
As they rode up to the outcrop, the man pulled a rifle from a scabbard on his saddle and said, "Get off your horse."
Jack paused a moment and stepped down off his horse.
The man got off his horse carrying his rifle and walked toward the base of the outcrop. He said to Jack, "Climb up to where it is."
Jack looked at the man and at his rifle, closed his eyes a moment and then walked toward the outcrop.
Jack was underneath where the boulder was. It was a couple of hundred feet up and the money was a little below that. The outcrop was steep enough that moving up it was difficult, but not so steep that a person had to actually climb. It was more of a steep walk. The outcrop was made of many large rocks and places with rubble. A person could go up with some effort but not too much difficulty if they took their time and thought about how they would move.
Jack started to go up the side. As he did the man stayed to his left about fifty feet and went up with him. The man moved at an angle, keeping himself, and his rifle, pointed in Jack's direction.
Jack could hear the sound of the rocks and rubble under his feet. There was a strange sensation in each step. He could feel the rubble grind under his shoes and he could hear the sound of the rocks with each step.
As Jack went, he could sense the man moving with him. He could feel the man there. He tried not to look in his direction. All he could feel was that he wanted this time to end.
As Jack went up, he tried to look and see exactly where the money would be. He remembered that when he put it there, he climbed down from the boulder two body lengths. He tried to think where that would be. He was afraid if he climbed to the boulder, the man might question what he did.
As Jack went up, he looked at the rocks. There was a natural crevasse where he put the money. It went in a few feet and curved. When Jack found it, he thought it would be good spot. He thought that even if someone happened to find the crevasse, they would see it was empty if they didn't think to check for a curve. When he had placed the money there, he covered the opening with rocks. He tried at the time to make it look as natural as he could.
Jack was about fifty feet below the boulder when he thought he saw the spot. There were rocks there that looked like they were packed in. He wasn't sure, but thought it was the place. He paused for a moment and looked at the man. The man was still watching him, his rifle pointed.
"Keep going," the man said, "you said it was about ten feet down. Keep going."
Jack paused a moment more and continued up. When he got to the place he stopped and knelt beside it. He said, "This might be the place. It's been many years."
The man didn't speak, but just glared at Jack.
Jack looked at him, and wanted to speak, but couldn’t find the words. He looked again at the place and started to move the rocks.
Some of the rocks were heavy and it took Jack about five minutes to clear the opening. The man kept staring at him while he worked.
When Jack had the hole open enough, laid down and reach his arm in. He felt inside and tried to reach to his left. He moved his arm and hand searching blindly. Then he felt it.
Jack pulled the saddle bags out. They were covered in dust, but looked the same. He started to have difficulty breathing when he held it. He almost wanted to cry. He never thought he would hold it again. It felt so odd in his hands.
"Open it," the man said.
Jack set the saddle bags down. He untied one side and reached inside. He pulled out a rain coat that was in a ball. He set it down and untied the knot that was in it. When a opened it, there was a blanket inside. He untied the blanket and there was the bag.
Jack looked at it there on the ground. It was small but looked to him like it weighed a ton. It was all that was wrong with his past in a small little ball.
"Toss it here," the man said.
Jack lifted the bag and swung it back and to the man. It landed about fifteen feet away from him, rolled a bit and stopped behind a rock.
"Back up," the man said.
Jack started to back away. As he did, the man moved toward the bag.
When the man got to the bag he said, "Stop where you are."
Jack stopped and stood still.
The man knelt down, held the rifle in one hand and started to loosen the tie that held the bag closed with the other.
"All of the money is there," Jack said. "None of it was spent."
The man looked at Jack for a moment and then went back to the bag.
When he had it opened, he pulled the contents out. There was money in bundles and two sacks of gold. The man looked at it for a moment, put it back in the bag and tied it closed.
"Climb down," the man said.
Jack looked at the man for a moment. He wondered what would happen now. Would the man shoot him? Would the man let him go? Would the man go with him? Would the man leave him alone? He wasn't sure.
Jack asked, "What happens now?"
"You stop asking questions and climb down," the man replied.
Jack made his way down the outcrop while the man followed. The man stayed above him, with his rifle in Jack's direction, the whole time Jack moved down.
As Jack got near the bottom, where his horse was, the man called out, "Stop! Don't get down there. Move back ten yards."
Jack moved back.
The man climbed down off the outcrop and climbed onto his horse. He turned in his saddle and pointed his rifle at Jack.
"Now climb on your horse," the man said.
Jack moved slowly and got on his horse.
"You see that spire there, in the distance, the way we came? You ride toward that. You don't go left. You don't go right. You don't turn around. You don't stop. You go toward that. You move one way wrong and you're dead. You understand."
Jack looked at the man. He wanted to ask him what was happening. He wanted to ask what would happen. He knew though the man wouldn't listen.
Jack started to ride. He could feel himself breathe. Everything felt quiet. He never noticed himself more in his life.
As he went on, he wondered if the man was following him. He couldn't hear the man behind him, but wasn't sure. Somehow his senses didn't feel right to him. He wanted to turn and look, but didn't know how the man would react to it.
Inside he felt – he knew for sure – the man would shoot him in the back. It seemed like what was next. It seemed like it would be his end. The man got him there, got the money, and now this was it.
For some reason though, something about it didn't seem right. The man seemed so stern, so focused, and so empty of thought. He didn't seem like the kind of man who would need to shoot a man in the back because he couldn't face him to do it. Jack just didn't know.
In the distance he saw the spire. It seemed there alone. It seemed like it was placed there. He kept moving toward it. He kept waiting for the sound of the rifle.
As Jack neared the spire, he realized the man hadn't told him what to do when he got there. Would the man be behind him? Would the man shout something from a distance?
Jack got to the spire, stopped his horse and waited. He sat in his saddle, like a defendant in court waiting for a verdict. He waited to know what his sentence would be.
Nothing happened. Jack didn't hear the man behind him and he didn't shout. Jack sat a moment more, and then carefully turned in his saddle.
There was no one there. The man wasn't behind him. He looked out toward the outcrop and didn't see the man there. He looked at all the landscape and saw no one.
He could feel his heart quicken in his chest. He looked completely around him and up and at angles. He looked and searched until he finally realized he was alone.
"Hello Andrew. How are things?"
"Oh, can't complain. My wife hurt her foot, but she should be better in a few days."
"Hopefully she will feel better. Do you have my order?"
"Yes, Jack, it's right in the back. Everything on your list is there, except for the saws. Those will have to come later. Don't worry though, after they're ordered it shouldn't be more than a couple of weeks."
"Oh yes, you have a letter here too. Fred brought me my mail. We talked a spell and when he knew you would be coming by later, he asked if he might drop your letter here. He wasn't sure if you would think to go by the office since you don't get many letters, and he wasn't sure when he would be going by your place."
"That was nice of him."
"Fred is a thoughtful fellow. Here's the letter here. You just wait a moment and Al will have those things loaded on your wagon. Hey, Al."
"Thank you Andrew."
Jack glanced at the letter. It was addressed to him but had no return address. He didn't know who it might be from. He wasn't expecting anything. He put the letter in his vest pocket and went to go help Al load the wagon.
After the wagon was loaded, Jack drove it home. He and his son then unloaded the items into the house and the barn as they needed. He then went back to the field to work.
In the evening, he sat on the porch with his wife.
"How was town?" She asked.
"It was alright. They rebuilt that store that burned down. There'll be an election for sheriff soon."
"You see anyone?"
"Just Andrew and Al at the store. Andrew said his wife hurt her foot but should be better soon."
"Oh, that's good she'll be better soon."
"Oh," Jack said as he reached in his vest, "there was a letter too."
"We don't get much mail. Who is it from?"
"It doesn't say," Jack said as he showed his wife the letter.
"Well, open it and see what it is. It's probably nothing, but it's nice to get mail all the same."
Jack loosened the envelope with his finger and pulled out a piece of paper.
"It's a newspaper clipping," Jack said.
"That's odd, why would anyone send us one of those?"
"Maybe there's an announcement or something. You know, like someone getting married or having a baby."
"It could be. Move the lantern and read it."
Jack stood up and grabbed the lantern from a hook. He held it with one hand and the clipping in another. "It's from the capital paper," he said. "It's dated three weeks ago."
Jack started to read the clipping aloud. It said,
"In the small town of Parecido an unusual event has taken place."
Jack stopped reading.
"What's the matter? Keep reading. What happened at Parecido?"
Jack paused a moment, took a breath and started reading again.
"According to Mr. J. W. Wilkins, President of The First Bank of Parecido, money from a bank robbery there, that occurred over twenty years ago, has been returned."
Jack paused again. He felt himself shake a moment, but then he went on.
"The money was brought to the bank by five of the town's citizens: Jeff Edgerton, the Mayor, Paul Keller, the Sheriff, Nathan Minch, the Editor of The Parecido Times, Ms. Sarah Hoff, the town's school teacher, and Mrs. Beth Mallory, one of the town's civic leaders.
According to Mr. Wilkins, each person received a package along with a letter. The letters all stated the names of those to whom packages were sent and that each package contained equal amounts of money for the bank. Each letter instructed the recipient to bring their package to the bank unopened on this past Thursday at 10:00 am.
The recipients all complied with the letters.
Mr. Wilkins also stated that he too had received a letter indicating what was to occur.
When the recipients arrived, the packages were opened and were each found to contain $4000 in cash and gold, for a total of $20,000.
One package, the one delivered to Sheriff Keller, also had a note. The note stated that the money was from the bank robbery that occurred on July 21, 1871. It stated that the packages contained the entire amount from the robbery. It further stated that, concerning the two unidentified men that held up the bank, that one was dead, and that the other was simply described as being gone.
A search of The Parecido Times records indicated that the facts of the situation were correct. The bank was robbed on July 21, 1871 of $20,000 by two unidentified men. Both got away, but one was reported as possibly having been shot. Neither of the men were ever found. Up until this remarkable occurrence, the money was assumed unrecoverable.
No one concerned was able to explain the situation. Who were the robbers? What happened to them after the robbery? The money was checked and none of it was dated after 1871. Does that mean the money was never spent? Why? Where was it all these years? Why was it returned? Who returned it?
The editor of The Parecido Times indicated that he would try to look into the case and answer these questions, but as it was so long ago, and the robbers were either dead or whatever "gone" refers to, he wasn't sure what he would be able to find.
The sheriff indicated that since the money was returned, no one was killed in the robbery, the statute of limitations had passed and the robbers were either presumed dead or "gone" that he would not be looking into the case.
This is a most unusual occurrence for any town, much less a small, sleepy one like Parecido. This is the biggest thing to happen to the town since the robbery occurred all those years ago.
Even here in the capital, many are talking about the strange case of the returned bank money. Many a parlor discussion has been about the case these last few days. The mysterious nature of it all has intrigued many. The answers to all the questions about it many never be known."
As Jack finished the clip he stood silently.
"Well, that's something unusual. It is all very interesting and mysterious. Why would someone send you the clip though?"
Jack paused a moment and then said, "Maybe someone thought it would just be interesting to me." He tried to think of something else to say, but as his wife seemed to be reflecting more on the story than on what he had said, he simply folded the clip, put it in his vest pocket and walked inside the house.