Chapter 19. Faith

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"It's the truth," he claimed.

Sam carefully hit the baseball bat against the foot of the table.

"Well, you thinking it was a nice enough photo tickle my fancy is quite the coincidence," I remarked. "Seeing as this thing ran after me for half a mile two nights ago."

Charlie's eyes widened; another heavy swallow made his Adam's apple nod at me. I quietly told it not to look at me.

"You saw it?" Charlie asked.

"Yeah, I did. And I really made a run for my life."

"Oh fuck..."

"The girl had a pretty clear question for you," Sam spoke up, sitting down in the chair next to Charlie. "What the hell is this?"

Charlie's fingers anxiously tapped the checkered tablecloth. His body was leaning down on the chair, and his legs spread almost wide enough to catch a glimpse of whatever was under the bathrobe.

"Ok, guys... I don't know what it is," Charlie claimed. "But I didn't tell you everything."

I hated his screeching voice; it was bad enough when I had to hear his George Michael interpretation. The urge to slap his damp face teased me.

"When I was a kid my father used to take me fishing up by Lake Grenada. I'd see a tall, strange figure across the lake, staring at me... but it was always gone when I told Dad, and he said I was just imagining things," Charlie told us, looking down on his fingertips while doing so. "I was scared shitless of going up there after the first time, and my Dad kept insisting my bad eyesight was making it up. But I knew it was real 'cause I heard it, too."

"Yeah, the noise drives you crazy," I confirmed, still sounding hostile, mostly thanks to my annoyance toward Charlie's whole being. "So, did the thing ever attack you, or what?"

"No, I never got up close with it," he answered. "In the years after Dad and I stopped going there, I began to tell myself it wasn't real. But then... well, it came back."

"When?" Sam asked, having put the baseball bat on the table, where he was also resting his elbows. As opposed to Charlie, Sam had an actual stubble in need of shaving, it made him seem slightly more intimidating.

"This spring, outside our house," he revealed. "That's also around the time things in the family got weird."

"What kind of weird?"

"Suddenly Dad got really aggressive. Like, the old man's always been a lot to deal with, but in those last months he'd be ready for a fight anytime," Charlie continued. "I heard him fighting with Scottie a lot... But not with me, though. He kinda just... left me alone."

There were times when part of me really advocated for Charlie's case. While only being a year younger, he was a kid to my standards. A kid who just lost his father, brother, and sense of security. If only the rest of me could bury the far-fetched theories of his ulterior motives, I felt sorry for him.

"Was that the last time you saw... it?" Sam asked.

"Yeah."

Annoyance rose as no one had a name for it.

"Charlie," I said. "Do you think this thing played a role in killing your Dad?"

He built up the courage to stare at me, his lip trembled slightly.

"Yeah."

"Then why didn't you tell me this right off the bat?"

"I thought you'd be too freaked out," he acknowledged. "I was hoping you'd stick with what I told you and go after it if it ever popped up."

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