18. Meeting the Grandparents

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Ken’s voice was resolute. “Tomorrow me and a few of the fellows will go with you back to where you came from. We’ll bring the girl back, and that’ll be the end of it.”

“Yes, of course,” Fisher began. “Lisa belongs with her family. But before you do that, I’d like to tell you about the people she’s with now, and what we’re all about. You might like to know that …”

“No I wouldn’t like to know!” Ken got to his feet and kicked at the ground. “You’ve got your ways and we’ve got ours. It may not be the best there is, but it’s how we’ve done things here for as long as anyone can remember. Tomorrow you’ll be leaving.” He glanced around the woods surrounding his house. “And you won’t be coming back.”

Sandy was still kneeling at Dorothy’s feet. Taking her hands in both of hers, she said softly, “Is that how you feel as well?”

“I … I … I just don’t know.” Sandy could feel that her whole body was trembling. “He’s right. We’ve done things this way all of our lives. We wouldn’t … we couldn’t change. I …”

“Dorothy! Ken!” a voice came from the edge of the woods, and they looked up to see an older man coming toward them. He limped as he walked, but seemed to be moving as quickly as his feet would take him. As he got closer, he called out again, “Ken! I just heard …”

His eyes fell on Fisher and Sandy, and he stopped short, a look of surprise with just a trace of fear on his face. Fisher walked out to meet him, reached out his hand, and when the man took it, he said, “I’m very sorry to have to tell you that Brian and Charlotte are both dead, murdered. But Lisa is well, and in good hands. We’ll see that she gets back to you tomorrow.”

Fisher thought the old man would fall. His head dropped down and his legs seemed to buckle. It was almost as if some superhuman strength was keeping him on his feet. He made a choking sound as he fought back tears, then reached out and put an arm around Fisher’s waist. Fisher took the cue and supported him, leading him over to the steps of the house, where he helped him sit down. They were all silent for what seemed like several minutes, then the old man spoke. “Lisa,” he began, searching for words. “You said she was in good hands. Is she really okay?”

Sandy moved beside him and placed a hand on his shoulder. “She cried a lot at first. But she’s a strong girl. She’s with a family right now who have a daughter; she and Lisa have hit it off wonderfully. April is just like a big sister to her. You’ll be proud when you see her.”

Lisa’s grandfather started to speak, then seemed to change his mind. Instead, he got to his feet and said to Ken, “We’ll be going back to my place now. Anything you folks have in mind can wait until tomorrow.” He motioned to Fisher and Sandy, and after retrieving their backpacks from inside the house, said goodbye to Ken and Dorothy.

They walked in silence to the edge of the clearing. There was no obvious way through the woods, but the old man pointed straight ahead and said simply, “That way.”

They pushed through low-growing tree branches and stepped over rocks and dead trees, moving deeper into the darkness of the forest. Fisher stopped to hold a limb back so that Sandy could duck under. “Not many trails around here,” she commented to no one in particular.

“There’s only one trail in these parts,” the old man interjected. “The one to Bamah.”

“Bamah,” Fisher repeated. “What’s that?”

“Not here,” he said, holding up his hand to silence them and looking around into the surrounding darkness.  “We’ll talk later.”

After about half an hour, they began to notice that the forest was growing lighter. An occasional patch of blue sky was visible ahead, and finally the three stepped out into a cleared field. Like the last one, tilled by Ken and Dorothy, this one also was made up primarily of corn and tomatoes. But very much unlike the other one, this field was in prime condition. The rows of plants were evenly spaced and weeded. Big red tomatoes were secured to sticks driven into the ground, and there was evidence that the plants had been watered recently.

Beyond the field stood a house, and like Ken and Dorothy’s it too was made of timber and grass. But again, the difference between the two was palpable. Flowers grew around the front door, and the yard had been swept clean. A small gazebo stood a short distance from the house, covered in honeysuckle vines. In their shade were two wooden benches, one of which was occupied by a woman whom Fisher and Sandy assumed was Lisa’s grandmother.

“Helen!” the old man called out as they drew closer. She looked up quickly, and even from a distance they could see that she had been crying. Standing to her feet, she looked carefully at the three, then hurried out to meet her husband. He took her in his arms while she sobbed, and as he patted her back said quietly, “It’s true Helen. It’s true. But Lisa’s fine, and being taken care of. We’ll see her soon.”

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