The Disappearance of Deacon Blythe
Deacon Blythe had been missing for two days before anyone got concerned. It wasn’t like he’d never done it before — his mother still remembered that time last summer he managed to make it all the way to Dallas without anyone realizing he’d left town. And everyone remembered the weekend he spent up on the mountain because he wanted to track a cougar who was killing livestock.
But this time? This time it was different. Never had Deacon been gone so long without so much a cursory call to his folks, or even to his younger sister. And although he had access to his vehicle, a 1967 Chevrolet Corvette painted black he bought with his winnings from the annual 4A competition, he had left it behind.
But he was nowhere to be found, and after two days, this became a problem.
On the morning of the third day of Deacon’s disappearance, his father, Charles Blythe went straight to the sheriff, a stocky retired Marine Corps sergeant named Owen Silas. Owen and Charles had served together in Vietnam and had been close ever since, and Charles believed that Owen would take his only son being missing as a real problem.
“Well, Charlie,” Sheriff Silas said, finishing his mug of black coffee from the burnt percolator on the stove in the sheriff department’s kitchen, “where you think he’s gone to?”
“Don’t much know,” Charles said, and it was true. Deacon was a good kid, but not particularly open about his various projects. He was a curious boy too, and in that respect he took after his mother. As a matter of fact, if Charles wasn’t talking to his boy about construction or girls, he didn’t know much about his son at all. “Could be anywhere.”
“Hmm.” Sheriff Silas looked at his old friend, knowing that he had no idea where his son had gone to. In fact, the old sheriff was surprised that he had even realized the boy was gone. “How old is he now? Your boy?”
“Turning seventeen at the autumn turn,” Charles said. He dug into his worn jeans for his tin of tobacco, his rough hands digging into the paste, coming up with a wad to put into his mouth. He caught Silas staring. “You want some?”
“Nah,” Silas said, “I’m cutting down.”
“Lisa’s worried something might’ve happened to Deacon,” Charles said, relaxing into his habit. “I told her he’s been gone longer than this, but she’s adamant we look for him.”
“Well, a momma’s intuition,” Silas said, agreeing with Lisa. She wasn’t the worrisome type, so the fact that she had asked Charles to see him was enough for him to take it seriously. “So. You ain’t got a clue where he may have run off to. Girlfriend?”
“We’re a small town, Charles. Any chance he wanted to go see a big city, like he did last summer?” Silas asked. Charles shrugged. “Did he take anything with him when he left?”
Silas buried his frustration. He cared a lot for his old friend, but he had never gotten over the fact that Charles never acted like a father, not to Deacon or Jessa, his daughter. And Owen and his own wife had never been able to conceive, so Charles’ indifference rubbed him the wrong way.
“Like clothes. His laptop. His cell phone. A bag, anything,” Silas said.
“Don’t think so.”
“Well, why don’t I come out to the house to look around his room,” Silas said, standing and rinsing his mug in the sink. Charles murmured an agreement as he also stood, putting on his old cowboy hat, one that had brown stains from years of working in his slaughterhouse.
“That’ll be fine. Come for dinner tonight. Lisa’s making a roast,” Charles said, turning to go. “We’ll see you at seven.”
Lisa took Silas out to the barn after dinner, the twilight sky still cooling down from the hot Texas day. She explained on the way that Deacon liked the privacy of the barn, and had promised his mother that in exchange for letting him live in the barn, he’d look after the horses. She had agreed, and Deacon had been sleeping there for the past six months.
“I haven’t touched his room,” Lisa said, letting him into the barn. It smelled of manure and hay, with the sounds of horses acting like white noise. “If you can call it a room. But he’s happy in here. Anyway. Lock up before you leave, will you? I don’t want anything else getting in here.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Silas said, taking off his hat.
“Come by the kitchen when you’re done,” Lisa said, smiling. “I got a pie for you to take to Maggie.”
“Appreciate the kindness,” he replied. He waited for her to leave, but she was still, just looking around the barn. “Lisa?”
“Seems so empty in here,” Lisa said, talking more to herself than to Silas. “Deacon sure took up a lot of room.”
“What?” Lisa looked like she was shaken out of a dream.
“You said took. You mean takes, right?” Silas asked.
“Right. Sorry. I’m just worried. I’m-I’m not thinking straight,” Lisa said. “ I just don’t know where that kid’s gone to. Anyway. I’ll leave you to it.”
The old sheriff waited until he heard the barn door close before heading up the stairs to the loft area of the barn. The space, generally used for hay, had been swept clean and made into a makeshift bedroom, complete with a small table for a desk, a bed, a bookshelf, and boxes full of clothes.
As the sheriff looked around, he thought back on what he knew about Deacon Blythe. He was a popular kid, did well in school, had lots of pretty girls following him around, went to church every Sunday, and liked by everyone in town.
But he was also a little strange. Although he was popular at the high school, he was never known for dating any particular person. He was rarely seen hanging out with friends on the weekends or during school vacations.
And he spent most of his time up on Canyon Mountain, or in the lake that sat at the foot of the mountain. He’d seen him there himself many times, walking off the trails. He was known for being passionate about animal conservation and wanted to be a vet, so he spent as much time in the wild as possible.
Sheriff Silas sighed, looking around the loft area. Aside from schoolbooks, clothes, a fishing rod, and a stereo, there was nothing up to here to tell him where Deacon Blythe had gone to.
But there was enough evidence to show him that wherever he went, he didn’t take anything with him. Nothing. His keys, his cellphone, his backpack, everything was still in his room, left in various places, like Deacon had just walked in and set his stuff down after a long day at school.
Silas went over what Charles and Lisa had told him about the last day they saw their son. It had been an ordinary day — Deacon was up with the sun feeding the animals, went to school, came home, and went to sleep. There had been a discussion about him going to work at Blythe Construction for the summer to help save up money for college, but other than that, everything had been normal.
Except the next morning when Lisa went to check on the horses in the barn, Deacon wasn’t there. And that was a little odd. It was Saturday, the only day he ever slept in, and he was gone.
At first Lisa thought he’d gone to Canyon Lake to go fishing or on one of his nature “expeditions” — a nice way of saying he went in to collect dead animals to then dissect at home for research reasons — and assumed he’d be home for lunch or supper, but he never showed. Not Saturday, not Sunday, and not today.
No phone call either, which both parents claimed was very strange. Silas could see now that one of the reasons Deacon hadn’t been in touch was his cell phone, one of those large smartphones you get in the city, was still lying on his bed.
“Where’d you get to, boy,” Sheriff Silas said aloud to himself in the loft space. He sat down at the boy’s table, which was clear except for a mounted magnifying glass and a lamp. It was set up right in front of a large window that looked down to the gravel drive against the side of the barn, the one used to back up the horse trailer to the building. Parked right outside the window was Deacon’s car.
Sheriff Silas went back downstairs, walking past the horses and out to the gravel driveway, where the Corvette sat. As he approached it, the motion detector lights came on, bathing the car and Silas in light.
“Beautiful,” Silas muttered, admiring the work on the old car. Charles had told him that Deacon worked part-time for a year with Billy Samuels at the mechanic’s depot down on Route 30 in order to get the parts and learn how to build the car himself. The frame and engine itself was a gift from his parents, and he was very proud of it.
Silas circled the car, looking for anything that may be a link to Deacon or where he may have gone, but he found nothing. Not a scratch, not a note, nothing. The car hadn’t been cleaned, but it didn’t leave clues either.
The old man leaned against the barn, scratching his head. He’d only met Deacon a couple of times. He was a personable kid, head a bit in the clouds, but still with it. He didn’t seem like he’d just run off without telling anyone.
And then he heard it. It was subtle, then got louder. The first bars of a song. From the sound of it, it sounded like a Morrissey song, Irish Blood, English Heart. And it was coming from Deacon’s room.
Silas hustled back up to the loft area to find that the phone had gone quiet, and he cursed himself for being too late. In the middle of cursing himself, the phone rang again, and he was quick to grab it.
It was a text message, not a phone call, and Silas fumbled around with the glasses he kept in his pocket so he could see the message.
Hey did you get out okay?
Silas reread the message when another one came through.
I waited but you never showed. Call me when you get this so I know you’re okay.
I’m at the docks at the lake by the boat.
He searched for a name or a phone number, but saw that the message was sent by “Unknown” and there was no phone number listed. The damn phone was locked, too, and he didn’t have the code.
Silas wrote down what the messages said after putting down the phone, noticing the messages had disappeared from the locked screen. He put his note pad back on the bed when he heard a voice behind him.
“Find anything, Owen?” Charles Blythe was behind him, holding a pitchfork. Owen started, but managed to keep his surprise to himself for the most part.
“Nothing,” Silas said, smoothing his uniform down. “Feeding the horses?”
“Got to. It’s normally Deacon’s job,” Charles said, half-smiling. He looked around the barn, which Silas had never noticed in detail before. “Seems larger now that he’s not in here listening to his music. Well.”
“Well.” Silas put his hat back on, fixing it just so, looking at Charles. “I’ll be off. Tomorrow I’ll do a tour of the town and see what I can find out, alright?”
“That’ll be fine,” Charles said, following behind Silas as he left. “Thanks for looking into this.”
Silas and Charles walked in silence to his patrol car, and as he climbed in and started the engine, Silas waved to Charles, smiling. Charles waved, but didn’t smile back.
When Silas got to the main road, he looked in his rearview mirror to see if Charles was still in the drive, watching him. When he saw that he was gone, Silas turned right, taking the road straight to the lake.
TO BE CONTINUED…