Chapter 5

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Central Pennsylvania weather was typical for November,  raw and rainy. Barlow pulled into the parking lot of The Inn of The Dancing Bear located near Loysville. He remembered the place from his childhood. His father drove him by it many times during trips to and from a sawmill in the town of Blain, but they never stopped. His father didn't approve of places that served alcohol. The old man was in no way religious, he just didn't approve of drinking or smoking or anything that fit his definition of squandering time. To him, every waking moment had to be productive.

He recalled one particular incident that always stuck with him. The Hennings invited Barlow to Pet's tenth birthday party. He knew better than to ask permission. His mother would've let him go, but she had no say in the matter. No wonder she eventually divorced his father after Barlow had joined the Marines.

Barlow lied to his parents, telling them he needed extra schooling and would stay after hours for science tutoring. Instead, he rode the bus as usual and got off, walking with Pet to attend her afternoon party.

It would've worked except his father happened to drive by and see them. The old man pulled over and asked Barlow for an explanation. Barlow had no choice but to tell him the truth.

His father pulled the belt from his pant loops. "Extra schooling? I'll give you extra schooling right across your backside for lying."

And he did. Right in front of Pet. He still remembered the look of horror on his little friend's face.

Barlow gripped the steering wheel. "The bastard should have died a long time ago." He sat in the parking spot, wipers on low. The inn was located a half-hour drive from his childhood home. Close enough. He waited until the rain eased to a steady drizzle. He shut off the motor to his van and climbed out.

The gravel lot crunched beneath his work boots as he walked toward the entrance. Why did he feel so nervous? Barlow chalked it up to being close to home. The old man may be dead, but his aura still infected the atmosphere. He grabbed the door handle and pulled. The heavy old door swung open easily on smooth hinges. The workmanship impressed him.

He paused after entering to allow his eyes to adjust. No one manned the greeting station and a sign read:

 No one manned the greeting station and a sign read:

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Bad Moon Rising  played on the jukebox. The song fit his mood.

He checked the time, a few minutes past two. Too late for lunch and too early for the dinner crowd. Probably explained why the place wasn't busy.

A long bar ran against the far wall. He headed that way and took a seat. Two guys wearing Carhartt overalls sat a few stools away discussing the weather. An old-timer wearing a dirty hunting coat sat at the end of the bar, beer mug in hand.

The old-timer looked at him with suspicion. He had a weird facial tick that made it look as if he couldn't stop winking.

The bartender appeared from the kitchen carrying a rack of glasses. He glanced at the old-timer. "You ready for another one, Twitchy?"

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