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0 Comments | Aug 12, 2018

Those Who Speak, Ch. 2 – Construction


May 5, 1962


No one on the construction crew had any idea why someone would want to build a new church way the hell out at the far end of Old Parish Road. There were already two churches in Wellington—one Baptist and one Methodist—and neither of those were exactly packed to the rafters on Sunday mornings. Besides, it was a good seven miles from the center of town, and the houses out here were pretty far apart. It was going to be a hell of a thing driving all the way out here in a Connecticut snowstorm on a Sunday morning. Best they could figure was that land was cheap this far out of town and there was plenty of room for parking. In any event, it wasn’t up to the crew to dwell on the reasons for the construction. They were here to do a job, and that job was to dig a large rectangular hole in the center of an open rolling field that comprised about twenty-five acres. They had been given five days.

Early May in New England can be kind of a crapshoot, weather-wise. Could be the early harbinger of spring and eighty degrees. Could be the hanger-on of tenacious winter and twenty-five with a wind blowing straight through your coat. Even though by this time it’s been officially spring for nigh on six weeks, even though the crocus, talisman of winter’s surrender, has already come and gone, an early May snowstorm won’t much more than raise an eyebrow with most northeasterners. In the early spring of 1962, winter was not yet prepared to go quietly into that long dark sleep between April and November. And so the four-man construction crew at the site of the new church bitched a little bit about the temps being in the mid-thirties, but mostly they just zipped their coats up a little higher and set to doing what they had been hired to do.

Which was to get the project started by digging a big hole for the cellar. Any self-respecting building in New England has a cellar—not a basement, mind you, a cellar—and the plans called for this one to be extra deep. No one knew why except maybe the architect, and he was not out here at the construction site, probably instead back in some comfy heated office in town. He certainly wasn’t out here in the middle of a barren twenty-five-acre field with a crew of four and a barely-breathing old back hoe that was expected to dig a hole fifty-five feet long by forty-two feet wide by fourteen feet deep into central Connecticut clay that was pretty much for sure not yet thawed. And just because Conrad Fletcher—a last-minute hire as foreman after the original one had had the temerity to get himself badly injured in a drunken car wreck the week previous—was a stickler for schedules and getting done what he said he was going to get done, he’d brought along two crates of dynamite because, well, you just never knew, did you?

Still, you have to be careful with dynamite. Not so much careful in the obvious sense of not blowing yourself and your coworkers to hell, but rather careful in your selection of when and where to utilize the material. Because blasting a piece of frozen clay through some residential homeowners plate glass living room window was a sure-fire way to get an irate phone call from the general contractor. But out here? Hell, there wasn’t another structure for two hundred yards in any direction, as far as Fletcher could see. Nearest was Ben Mobley’s double-wide trailer just off to the east, and that place was so beat to hell already that one more hole from a piece of flying clay ice might actually do it some good.

And so they had spent the better part of the first morning staking out the edges of the hole, following which they’d commenced to digging with the venerable Caterpillar. The rig belonged to the GC, Bret Simmons, and it was going on twenty-six years old. The main motor was still sound but the hydraulics were getting a bit long in the tooth, so that pushing too hard to break through that frozen clay was a near-certain recipe for blowing a seal, which would mean at least five days delay getting replacement parts from Hartford or, worse, Boston. Reg Pearson, the backhoe operator, had it straight from the GC himself not to let the hydraulic pressure exceed twenty-eight-hundred, even if that meant taking smaller bites and more time. Given how little the crew were being paid for this week of work, Simmons was wagering that an extra day or two of work was a damn site cheaper than redoing the Caterpillar’s hydraulics. Which was just fine as far as Fletcher was concerned. Winter was down time for construction guys in New England and this was his first real job of the new year. If it dragged on for a few extra days, so much the better. The backhoe made it to about four feet deep before the going started getting hard.

Fletcher was a large man—six four and maybe two forty—a bit too large at the moment, coming, as he was, off a long winter spent not doing much other than drinking beer and working half-heartedly on restoring an old Camaro that had been sitting in his garage since, well, since forever. By June, with good luck and steady work, he’d be back in shape and rocking no more than two thirty, a lot more of it muscle than currently. He had a distinct lack of hair, at least on top, that he’d inherited from his father and his father’s father, and he compensated by letting what was on the back and sides grow as it liked, drawn together into a long ponytail that reached the center of his back. If there was anyone on the crew, or in town at all as far as that went, who thought this was anything less than masculine, no one had the stones to say so to his face. He avoided fighting as best he could, believing, probably correctly, that his six years in the Marine Corp greatly increased the odds of him killing someone, particularly if he was under the influence of something.

Unlike most grown men, Conrad Fletcher had never quite outgrown his adolescent male fascination with blowing stuff up. The Marine recruiter back in high school had somehow picked up on this quickly and had steered him into a job as an ordnance disposal expert, a position that put him in the ironic position of keeping things from blowing up rather than causing them to do so. Now a civilian for over twenty years, and though in his late forties, he could still be counted on to produce the fireworks on July fourth and New Year’s Eve, and though he couldn’t come right out and say it to the general contractors that he did jobs for, he genuinely looked forward to any situation that looked like it might call for the use of dynamite on a job site. Such situations frequently included excavation work near bedrock or, like now, springtime digging in moist ground that had not quite relinquished the grip of winter freeze, in this case an especially long and especially frigid one. So it was with genuine pleasure that he heard the motor of the Caterpillar shut down and saw Reg climb down out of the cab. Everybody on the crew knew that the time had come to make some noise.

Reg Pearson was, in many ways, the antithesis of Conrad Fletcher, which likely went some way to explaining why the two got on so well. He was wire thin and barely five nine, which worked out well for a guy who spent a good portion of his working life in the cramped cab of one manner of excavation equipment or another, every type of which he was more than expert at. Fletcher’s favorite anecdote about Pearson, with whom he had worked on projects all over central Connecticut for the past ten years, was that he could open a beer bottle with a backhoe. This assertion came up most frequently in bars, and most who heard it dismissed it as construction crew hyperbole. Three times in Pearson’s life, men had gone so far as to actually bet that it was bullshit. All three men had lost those bets, and to this day Pearson had hanging in his garage a bottle opener that he had welded onto the end of a backhoe attachment, just in case he was called upon once more to test his mettle. No new bets had emerged in more than five years, but he broke out the opener and demonstrated the trick every summer at the Fourth of July picnic. It was a damned fun thing to watch when he did it with a Bobcat. When he did it with a twenty-five-ton Caterpillar 323DL, it was like watching ballet.

“Drill’s in the back of the truck,” Fletcher said as Pearson approached. “Lose the bucket and we can just hook it up straight from the bed. No sense aggravating my back lugging that heavy-ass thing around.”

The drill was a cumbersome rig that mounted on the backhoe arm using the same universal bracket as the bucket, and it was a simple matter to unhook the bucket, drive the backhoe over to Fletcher’s pick-up and hang the empty arm over the bed. Once it was in position, Pearson climbed out of the cab and up into the truck bed with Fletcher. The two men then wrestled the drill arm into position on the arm and secured a two-inch diameter, ten-foot-long auger to the end. It ran off the same hydraulic system as the backhoe arm and it was a simple matter of screwing together a couple of fittings and doing a quick bleed of air out of the line.

“Let’s start with three holes up at the top of the frame for starters, maybe eight feet apart.”

Pearson did as Fletcher had said, with the auger making short work of drilling ten feet down into the frozen clay. He parked the backhoe a safe distance away and joined Fletcher and the rest of the crew gathered around the hole on the northeast corner of the staked-out site.

“Let’s see if we can’t loosen things up a bit,” Fletcher said. He handed dynamite sticks and blasting caps to two of his crewmembers, then set to rigging one for himself. Each man lowered the stick by its ignition wire to the bottom of the hole, then Fletcher drew the three cords together, twisting the wire ends tightly along with one end of a wire spool, which he then proceeded to unroll across the grass in the direction of his truck some fifty yards away. The crew stood in rapt anticipation as Fletcher secured the wire ends to the switch box.

“Hardhats on, gents,” he said. “Let’s see how deep that February freeze was this year.” He twisted the switch box T handle. A deep rumble rolled through the ground and the men looked on in satisfaction as the entire upper end of the staked-out excavation plot—about a hundred square feet of earth—rose a foot or so momentarily and then fell back downward, seemingly unchanged from its original state. Faint tendrils of smoke rose from the area of the explosion, but the entire event was remarkably undramatic, all things considered.

“Mister Pearson, kindly fire up your geriatric backhoe there and see if we have successfully loosened up that ground some.”

Which indeed they had. The preceding winter had been of the worst possible kind from a frost perspective. The temperatures had been well below average and there had been remarkably little snow to insulate the ground from the severe cold. In a normal New England winter, the ground might freeze to a depth of three or four feet. But half an hour of digging later, Pearson was pulling up large frozen chunks of clay from a depth of over seven feet, testament to the winter’s severity.

Over the course of the next two days, the crew repeated this process until they had removed the top eight feet of clay from the entire fifty-five by forty-two-foot plot. Since the arm of the backhoe could not dig much deeper with the tractor parked at ground level, Pearson took a couple of hours to dig a ramp that would allow him to drive down onto the newly created surface inside the hole. With the backhoe now positioned to begin removing the second half of the material, Pearson offered the recommendation that even though the remaining clay was well below the frost line, it was nonetheless still immensely thick and heavy and would be more easily excavated if first loosened up with a few more judiciously placed charges. Fletcher didn’t need to be asked twice.

This time they started blasting at the side of the plot closest to the road and followed more or less the same procedure they had employed to remove the top half of the clay. Everything was going according to plan and they still had nearly a full day remaining of their five-day time budget. The use of explosives had sped things up a good bit and Fletcher was mentally congratulating himself for a job well done when the first truly interesting thing of the week happened immediately following detonation of what should have been the final three dynamite sticks of the project.

The first odd thing was that the detonation sounded a little different than all of the previous ones had. There was a hollow, almost reverberant character to the blast that was subtle but easily enough discernible to someone with Fletcher’s experience. The second difference couldn’t have been missed by anyone, experienced or not. The final layer of clay rose upward just as all of the others had, but when it subsided it did not return to its original level. Rather, it fell a good bit deeper into the ground, almost as though a significant portion of the loosened clay had fallen into some unseen void beneath. The men stood around the perimeter of the hole looking down.

“Well shit, Reg.” Fletcher was the first to speak. “Where the hell did all your clay disappear to?”

There was a roughly circular depression in the center of the newly blasted section about ten feet across and about five feet deep.

“Round of beers says we found us a sink hole,” Pearson replied. “You suppose the engineers did any geo surveys on this site before they sent us up here?”

“I’m gonna go ahead and assume that the answer to that interesting question is no, Reg. For one thing, churches ain’t exactly wallowing in money and surveys cost money. Besides which, if they had done a survey, they would have found something amiss underneath this piece of land and the four of us wouldn’t be standing here wondering whether or not they did a survey, now would we?”

“You know,” said Pearson, “it’s a damn good thing that void, or whatever the hell it is, is pretty far down into the hole. If that backhoe had fallen into a sink hole, we’d’ve had a bitch of a time getting it out of there.”

“Well, tell you what, gents. We’re not gonna know what we’re dealing with until we dig the last of that clay outta there. No point calling Simmons until we see what the hell is down there.” He turned for his truck but then turned back for one final comment to Pearson. “Take care not to fall into the hole, will you? Bret’s gonna be some kind of pissed if you bury his backhoe.”

Forty-five or so minutes later, Fletcher was sitting in the cab of his pickup when he heard a new sound above the rush of his heater and despite his truck’s windows all being rolled up tightly. Above the background din of the backhoe hoisting buckets of clay from the now nearly completed hole came the crack of the bucket striking solid rock instead of clay. He opened the door and looked in Pearson’s direction in time to see the bucket rise out of the hole and deposit a load of what appeared to be a mix of clay and broken stone. The other two crew members were standing on the side of the hole talking animatedly and pointing downward. Fletcher climbed out, slammed the truck door, and walked toward them. As he neared the hole, he caught Pearson’s eye and drew his hand across his throat, gesturing for the backhoe to be shut down.

Pearson climbed out of the cab and stood looking up at Fletcher.

“What in the almighty hell is going on down there?” Fletcher said. He made his way around to the ramp and walked down into the hole and toward Pearson.

“Well that is a fair question,” Pearson replied, “but there is most definitely more going on down here than just New England clay.

The two men climbed to the top of the remaining pile of rubble near the back of the hole, a mound now comprising a mix of clay and broken stone. Fletcher hefted a big piece of the stone and examined it closely.

“Too coarse for bedrock,” he opined. He tossed the piece to one side and climbed to the peak of the pile. A large opening in the back wall of the excavation greeted his gaze. “This is no sinkhole. We might’ve found us a genuine cave opening.”

“Well I’ll be damned,” Pearson added, joining Fletcher on top of the rubble pile.

“Tell you what,” Fletcher said, turning and descending the pile. “Scoop the rest of this shit out of here and we’ll give it a closer look after you’re done.”

Removing the remaining clay and rock took no more than an hour, at the end of which the job was, at least technically speaking, complete, except that instead of a massive rectangular hole in the ground, they were looking at a rectangular hole with a rough black opening in the center of the back wall that was maybe five feet at its highest point and no more than four feet wide.

Once Pearson had moved the backhoe back up the ramp and out of the hole, the four men stood together at the bottom and considered the opening. For a long while no one said a thing. It was getting late in the day and the sun was low enough in the sky to cast the entire western half of the newly dug cellar in deep shade.

“It’s a fine piece of work, gentlemen,” Fletcher offered with mock gravity. “But this,” he said, gesturing toward the yawning black opening, “this bears investigating.

“Jesus, Fletch,” one of the men said, “it’s a damned hole in the ground. I hope you ain’t thinking of doing something stupid now.”

Fletcher smiled in reply. “Now you see, Jim, that’s the sort of negativity that will limit your options in life. How any man can encounter a thing like this and not feel positively compelled to explore it is beyond me.”

“You mean as opposed to, say, going home, showering off all this clay, having a hot supper and watching Jeopardy with the wife and kids?”

“Hell, it probably ain’t nothing but a weep hole anyway,” Pearson said. “Likely as not you’ll get in there and crack your head on a rock. Then I’m gonna have to go explain to your wife why you’re laying up in the ER at Connecticut General instead of home cleaning the garage or whatever.”

“Look,” said Fletcher, “I understand if you guys got stuff to do. If you want to go ahead and bug off, it’s no big deal. Be back in the morning. Should be a light day—just a bunch of cleaning up. I’m gonna just do a little poking around is all. Who knows? Maybe I’ll find Blackbeard’s treasure.”

“Aw shit,” said Pearson, “guess I’ll stick around too. Somebody’s gotta be here to drag your dumb ass out of there if the roof caves in on you. Besides, Carol’s at her mom’s for the next three days, so nothing waiting at home for me but Netflix and TV dinners anyway. But if I stay, we’re going for steaks afterward and you’re buying.”

The other crewmen waved dismissively and began their climb back up the ramp. As they neared the top, Fletcher shouted after them, “JIM! Do me a favor and grab the lantern out of the back seat of my truck, would you.”

A moment later, the man reappeared at the top of the hole and leaned down as far as he could with a large square flashlight. As high as he could reach, Fletcher was a good five feet below the man’s downward stretched arms.

“Let it go,” Fletcher said. “I got it.” Jim did as asked and Fletcher caught the lantern and offered a salute upward. “Have a good evening.”

“You too,” Jim offered, turning to walk away.

“What do you say, Mister Pearson? You ready to see what there is to see?”

“You understand,” Pearson said, “that if we do find Blackbeard’s treasure, I get half. After all, I’m the one dug it up.”

“Sounds more than fair,” Fletcher replied, smiling broadly as the two men made their way to the black opening. With Fletcher leading the way, they stepped to the edge of the opening. He raised the lantern, aiming it inside. The beam penetrated a good fifty feet inside but disappeared into pure blackness. He turned momentarily toward Pearson.

“Don’t look like no weep hole I ever saw,” Pearson said.

“That treasure ain’t gonna find itself,” Fletcher replied, offering a smile that was slightly less than certain.

The ceiling of the cave opening was barely high enough for Fletcher to walk through without needing to bend down, but it was soon apparent that there were plenty of places inside where the height dropped a good bit, so that they had to pay close attention. Forty or so feet in, Pearson looked back over his shoulder at the receding opening, now poorly lit in the fast setting sun.

“We okay, Fletch?” he asked, turning back to where the older man was making his way to the cave’s first turning point, a gradual left that required squeezing through a tight spot where the cave walls came close together.

“Can you believe this?” Fletcher said, ignoring Pearson’s question. “Who the hell knew there was anything like this in Connecticut? Worst case this’ll end up being a tourist attraction and they’ll have to name it after us.”

Fletcher squirted through the narrow opening and Pearson followed close behind, not wanting to get too far from what was now their only source of light.


By ten the following morning the work site was once again abuzz with activity. But this time the activity was comprised of primarily law enforcement. The two members of Fletcher’s excavation crew from the previous day were back at the site, but instead of working, they were being vigorously interviewed by a pair of local police officers. When had they last seen Fletcher and Pearson? What circumstances had attended discovery of the cave entrance? What had motivated the two men to go exploring? By this time, the workers knew only what the police knew—that neither Fletcher nor Pearson had returned home the preceding night, that Fletcher’s wife had called the police around 11:00 p.m. expressing concern over her husband’s absence. They had been initially dismissive of the reported absence, but had taken it a good bit more seriously when the sun had risen and there was still no sign of either man.

At 8:00 the following morning, the two coworkers had reappeared at the site per Fletcher’s instructions the previous evening, surprised to see both of their colleagues’ trucks still parked in their original locations from the day before. Their initial reaction had been to assume that Fletcher and Pearson had decided to show up early, but then a quick survey of the worksite had revealed the presence of neither man. Shortly after their arrival, a police cruiser from the Wellington department had come bouncing up the uneven dirt road that led from the main road to the construction site. There had been no sirens or other indications of urgency, and the single officer who emerged from the cruiser had approached the two construction workers wearing a broad smile and looking to be in no particular hurry.

“Morning, gentlemen,” the cop offered, extending a hand to each. “Officer Butler. You happen to know a …” he glanced briefly at a notepad, “Conrad Fletcher or Reginald Pearson?”

“Indeed we do,” replied Jim Keenan, the taller of the two men. “Fletch is our foreman and Reg is our backhoe operator. We’ve been working here with them all week.”

It didn’t take much more discussion to get to the heart of the matter. The two men had left the worksite the previous evening around six, and the last thing they had seen was Pearson and Fletcher preparing to enter the cave, presumably for exploratory purposes.

“And you’ve heard nothing since last evening from either man?”

“No sir, we only just showed up here about five minutes before you did,” Keenan said. “You ain’t supposing they went in there and got themselves lost?” He gestured toward the cave.

“I’m not supposing anything yet, Mister Keenan,” the officer said. “We’re simply investigating a call about a missing person—two of them, sounds like. We never did get any calls about Mister Pearson though. Any ideas on why that might be?”

“Reg said something about his wife being out of town through the weekend, so I guess there wasn’t anybody home to notice him being gone. Say, you try ringing Fletch’s cell phone?”

“I did,” said Butler, “but it went to voicemail.”

Keenan turned to Favreau, his companion. “Bud, give Pearson a call. See if he don’t answer.” The man did as requested, but only shook his head a moment later. “Voicemail.”

“I don’t imagine either of you has Mister Pearson’s wife’s number?” Both heads shook simultaneously.

“Well, Officer,” Keenan said, “if they are down there, I don’t guess their phones’d be working too well.”

“No, sir, I don’t expect they would either,” the officer agreed. He hesitated a long moment. “And so you think best bet is they’re down in there someplace?”

“Well, that was about fourteen hours ago, but seeing as how their trucks are right here where we left them last night, that’d seem like your best bet to me.”

“It’s damp clay,” said Favreau. “Be easy enough thing to just go have a look and see if there’s any tracks coming out.”

“Well, ain’t you a damn genius,” Keenan offered.

The three walked down the ramp and into the bottom of the newly excavated hole.

“What you boys building way out here?” asked Butler.

“New church, according to Fletch,” Keenan said.

“Now why in the hell would somebody want to put a church way in the hell out here, do you suppose?” Butler wondered.

“We were kinda wondering that ourselves, Officer, only we don’t get paid to wonder. We only get paid to dig holes in the ground.”

“Well,” Butler said with a smile, “you boys’ve certainly dug you a good one here.”

The three men approached the cave entrance, but the officer stopped them well shy of the mouth itself.

“Hold off back here, fellas, if you would,” he said. “If this situation turns into something like it’s looking like it might, we don’t want to be contaminating the scene.”

Butler approached the cave opening from one side, extracting his cell phone as he walked. He tapped the screen a few times and then raised the phone to his eye, snapping off a few photos of the entrance and the ground around it. He approached as close as he could to one side of the entrance and leaned forward, looking closely at the ground. Again he raised the cell phone and took a few more shots. He promptly turned and walked back to where Keenan and Favreau were waiting.

“Mister Favreau,” Butler said, “we might need to make a detective out of you yet. There are two sets of very clear prints entering the cave mouth and none whatsoever coming out.”

Favreau smiled with a bit of self satisfaction before realizing that this did not connote good news after all.

“What do you suppose that means, Officer?” Keenan said.

“Damn it,” Butler replied. “What it means is it looks like we got us a hell of a situation shaping up here. It means me and some of my associates are likely going to spend the rest of today searching around down there for your friends.”

Butler gestured for the two men to join him in walking away from the cave opening. “I’m awful sorry, but I’m gonna have to ask you two gentlemen to wait up by your cars. There’s gonna be a bunch more guys here shortly, and one of them’s likely to want to ask you some more questions. Meantime, we want to keep this area clear ‘til we get a better sense of what we’re dealing with.”

The three walked back up the ramp and toward the vehicles. As they walked Butler spoke into his shoulder mounted radio microphone. As he had predicted, within half an hour, three more vehicles had arrived at the scene—two cruisers and a large van with “Emergency Medical Services” emblazoned on the side.

Within an hour and a half, an additional two police cruisers had arrived at the construction site and the opening of the cave had been marked off with yellow police tape in a semicircle that extended about thirty feet out from the opening. By now, Favreau and Keenan had been interviewed four times and been asked pretty much the same set of questions by each person doing the interviewing. No, they had not seen Fletcher or Pearson since leaving the work site around six the previous evening. No, they had had no previous knowledge of the cave entrance before the backhoe operated by Pearson had broken through the clay and found it, entirely by accident. And no, neither Fletcher nor Pearson had made any statements prior to entering the cave concerning how long they expected to be inside. In fact, technically speaking, neither Keenan nor Favreau had even seen their two coworkers enter the cave, since they had been walking toward their cars by the time the two men would have actually entered the cave opening.

The police sent the two men home with instructions to stay close to their phones in case any additional questions came up or in case the police found anything. By ten, there were four officers inside, searching what had turned out to be a dizzying maze of twists, turns, intersections, and dead ends, punctuated by several sections that were impassable either because of narrowness or water. The men took extreme care to mark their paths with spray paint. Two officers had spent an hour inside and recently returned, conservatively estimating that they had ventured inside at least half a mile. More disturbingly, they also estimated that during their exploration, they had descended several hundred feet downward.

It was nearly ten thirty before the second set of searchers emerged from the cave. The two exited about thirty seconds apart, each looking haggard and drenched in sweat despite the chill day outside. The men had entered wearing lighted helmets and utility belts that contained all manner of useful items, including sample bags for carrying anything of interest that they might find. As they exited the cave opening, the others speaking outside could see that each of the men bore a sample bag containing something substantial. They wasted no time making their way to the police captain who had been designated the on-site lead investigator. The men with the bags bore grim looks and the captain gestured them to a spot at the rear of the EMS van. They placed the white plastic bags on the floor at the rear of the van with heavy thuds and removed their helmets.

“I’m going to guess,” said the captain, “that this does not end well.”

One of the men reached for a bag and opened it. He extracted a heavy battery powdered lantern, its lens shattered, the plastic case scratched and cracked in several places.

“Keenan said Fletcher went in with a battery lantern last night,” the captain said. “He said he was the one handed it to him. We’ll need to get him back here to ID this.” He leaned his head to one side and spoke briefly into his shoulder mike.

He returned his gaze to the second unopened bag. “Is this gonna get worse?” he asked, already knowing the answer.

“I’m afraid so, sir,” the other searcher said. He grasped the second bag and slid it heavily across the van floor, toward the captain. He did not make a move to open it, but only exchanged troubled looks with the captain.

“Okay…” the captain said quietly. “Okay.” He grasped the top of the bag and drew it open, peering inside without reaching in. He continued looking for maybe five seconds before resealing the top of the bag. “Aw, Jesus…” was all he offered. He maintained his composure as best he could, but there is a limit to what small-town police officers see in the course of their daily work, and the contents of the second bag were well beyond those limits.

“Tag these both and make damn sure no one gets near them, okay?” he said to the searchers. He rose and walked toward where Butler was standing next to his cruiser.

“We find something, Captain?” he said.

“Oh yeah,” the captain replied. “We found something. You need to get both Keenan and Favreau back over here now.” As Butler reached for his cell phone, reached out and touched his arm.

“And one more thing. You need to get with the wives and find out, as sensitively as you can manage, what size work boot each man wears.”

Butler’s eyes widened at this last request, and the Captain turned to return to the van. Based on the information already provided by the workers earlier that morning, there was little question which of the missing men belonged to the enormous boot…and foot… the searchers had brought out of the cave.

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