The summer of ‘94, when I was twelve, I first saw him. It was 10PM. Under the glow of fluorescent street lights he rode a red bicycle through the night. He had lived in the neighborhood my whole life. That was the only time I saw him.
The man, named Spook by locals, never talked. Other than stray appearances neighbors only had hearsay. Rankin, my closest friend, had his thoughts: the man was the Zodiac Killer, the Wandering Jew, one of the Anglin brothers who escaped from Alcatraz or—I think his older brother told him—Bas Jan Ader, a Dutch artist lost at sea performing “In Search of the Miraculous.” Tales went on and became more decorated like a tree at Christmas.
For the summer of ‘95, Rankin’s belief hinged on Spook being D.B. Cooper—airplane hijacker who, with $200,000, parachuted into the wilderness and vanished. “I saw him last night,” he told me. “I looked out the window and he left his place. He carried a large duffel bag that looked like Cooper’s bag.”
Locals talked later that summer that Spook was gone since no one had seen him for months. Even my father, not prone to gossip, had an opinion.
Lightning bugs roamed the early August night as I watched Angry Beavers. Rankin called my house; ten-foot cord tangled around my mother as she handed me the phone. He insisted I come over. When my parents went to sleep I rode my bicycle over. He stood waiting for me in the shadows of his parents’ house.
He spied on Claire, his neighbor, who lived beside Spook—her room faced the backyard and woods. She was eighteen and left her blinds open as she changed at night, tried new outfits. The night before, Rankin saw Spook’s backdoor open, and so it had stayed. “If you don’t come, I’m going in by myself. I have to know.”
We waited for lights in the houses around to go out. Around midnight we crept in, and closed the door behind us. “This is so dull,” Rankin said. “I expected Nazi stuff, a snuff film. This is like our houses.” We turned on lights throughout and found VHS porn stowed in the office. “He’s got some books,” he told me as we browsed, “I’ll give him that. But, these tapes save some respect from me.”
I stopped. “What was that noise?,” I whispered. The backdoor closed. “Keith?,” a female voice asked. “I saw a light and used my key.” I mouthed: “We gotta go.” Rankin nodded, holding tapes. A figure stood in the hallway as we left. It was Claire, topless. She screamed and ran to the backdoor. We ran out the front. When we got to Rankin’s, he still held the tapes.
I dreamt that night. I stood in a field with a full moon and stars. A hole in the ground near the middle of a clearing had a box in it. Without acknowledging me, Spook walked out of the woods. He walked to the hole, stepped in, laid down and closed the lid of the box. Dirt moved onto the box. Grass grew and, soon, flowers came into the reflected light of the moon. I went to the spot, dug the Earth out, found the box and lifted the lid. Like Houdini, nothing was inside.
Will Clingan lives in Seattle. He writes a column for Culture Counter Magazine and has fiction in several great locales.