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  • [This is a short story with multiple episodes. The seed of this one is That Anxious Sound.]

    Everybody in Wellconomy Village was edgy since the drug raid this morning. Conversing in front of the common house, Annie and I sensed it in Marjorie's we-need-to-talk manner and cohort Jim's evasive responses when I tried to recap recent events he had witnessed. Much different behavior since early this morning.

    Marjorie, Pete and Jim had seen Trevor and Iris run up with the dirty gym bag, but seemed unaware of the significance of that object. Tammy seized the awkward moment to tell the kids, "You two are too filthy to go in there. Let's go to our place and get you cleaned up." The youngsters seemed to sense the delicacy of the situation and followed her down the path without saying anything.

    Ted said to Annie and I, "Well it looks like you've got a lunch date, so I'll go back home. When we come back, I'll look after Iris at lunch. Let us know if you need us to back you up. You might be on the hot seat for a while, but I'm sure you'll handle it OK. Just try not to mention what you now know about Pete's background."

    "Thanks, Ted," I replied, "but I'm not sure I can avoid discussing what the kids did last night."

    "Well, better that the kids take some heat than you get labeled as bad guys. See you."

    As Ted departed, it suddenly dawned on me that some people might believe that we were somehow complicit in the drug raid. With a shiver I whispered to Annie "Let's be prepared to be under suspicion." She whispered back "I just got it myself – some folks might wonder if our showing up here yesterday was not entirely coincidental."

    We entered the common house, put some burgers, quinoa salad, lemonade and cookies on our trays, took deep breaths, knocked on the library door and went in.

    A little over an hour later, Annie and I left Marjorie & Co. in the library feeling a little less like suspected perps. Lunch was over and the cleanup crew was just finishing up. Out on the porch, Ted was sitting in a rocker. He told us that Tammy had taken the kids for a walk in the woods.

    "What about the bag?" I wanted to know. Ted said they had stashed it in a woodpile near their unit for the time being. Nobody had opened it.

    Naturally, Ted wanted us to brief him on our little meeting, which we did as the three of us walked in the direction Tammy had gone with the kids. I told him that we did get grilled. They wanted us to describe again how we happened to come to the village, and pretty much everything that had happened to us in the weeks and months before that. They asked me about my work and Annie's, and whether we had ever had any run-ins with the law. They even wanted to see some ID, so I showed him my driver's license (Annie wasn't carrying hers).

    After it looked like the third degree was about over, Annie kind of huffed up and told them we had nothing to hide. In fact, we had almost nothing to our names. She pointed out that they know a lot more about us than we do about all of them, but we were quite sure Wellconomy had been the victim of a sting operation. That got their attention.

    "Um, how much did you tell them?" Ted wanted to know.

    "All I said was that on the evening before the raid, a community member whose name wasn't up to me to reveal had stumbled upon a container of what he thought were illegal drugs very close to the common house and had removed them. My informant couldn't definitely say what kind of drugs they were, but it seemed as though they had been planted there and probably would have been found by the DEA had this person not removed them."

    "And what was their reaction to that?"

    "They looked at us and each other, and nobody said anything for maybe half a minute. Then Pete wanted to know where the drugs had gone to. I told him I honestly didn't know – which was true at the moment – but they were probably concealed on the property somewhere, maybe in the woods."

    Ted replied, "I guess it had to come out sooner or later. It sounds like you two handled it pretty well."

    "Well," Annie interjected, "The bad news is that we agreed to talk to the 'finder' to convince him to tell them everything. They are waiting in the library for someone to come forward before the town meeting takes place."

    "That's less than two hours away," said Ted. "We better hustle and find Tammy and the kids. This could be pretty tough for Trevor and Iris, but we need to do it so everyone can move on."

    At the bridge arching over the brook we saw no sign of them. We decided to split up and look for them on the trails that led off from the bridge and assemble there again in 20 minutes.

    After walking not very far, Annie heard Tammy shouting: "Trevor! Iris! Where are you? Come here!" She ran toward the sound to find Tammy coming toward her.

    Tammy was distraught. "I've been trying to find them for half an hour! They just disappeared! Did they come back to the village?" Annie said she did not believe so, so they both started hollering.

    I heard our wives' raised voices and circled back toward them. We all converged on the bridge, where Tammy let us know that the kids had been missing for half an hour. We decided to go to the T's house to see if they might be there.

    "I'll go by the common house to see if they went there," I volunteered. I was about to run off when I noticed something that stopped me cold. Our canoe, which we had tied up at the quay last night, was missing.

    Continued in That Waterborne Sound

    [The original seed of this series is On Sustainable Power, May 31, 2012.
    To identify all the stories in the series, click the tag That Sound beneath the map.]

    @image: The Scream by Edvard Munch, 1893. Oil, tempera, and pastel on cardboard, 91 cm × 73.5 cm (36 in × 28.9 in). Collection of National Gallery, Oslo, Norway (cropped)
    @audio: no-panic.mp3 (CC) 2012 Max Entropy Productions
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