The Whittler

The Whittler

A Story by Seth Kinle
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Henry and William discuss the truth of the matter.

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     Steam rose in soft tendrils from the rim of Henry’s cup flooding his nose as he sipped the dark coffee. He smiled at the welcome bitterness of the drink and turned his attention back to the day’s issue of The Hollow Howler. The paper made no mention of the investigation taking place in the woods a mere mile from where he sat in his chilly kitchen on Starry Ridge Road. He turned to the crossword and folded the wrinkled pages behind it to allow for less distraction from the surrounding paragraphs. With a pen in hand he began to contemplate the clue for one across.

The mug was twice drained and the puzzle nearly finished when a knock came at the front door. Henry wiped ink stained fingers on his brown slacks and rose from his seat at the table with a groan of protest. He reached for his cane which leaned against the counter in front of the sink to help keep the weight off of his throbbing knee. He filled his cup with coffee and hobbled toward the living room. On the porch stood a police officer in uniform. His head appeared swollen through the curved glass of the peephole, his neck stretched into an elongated tube. The door gave a slow creek as Henry opened it and leaned some of his weight onto the frame. He stood in silence, squinting at the man before him.

“Good morning, sir.” The officer said.

“Henry.”

“Henry, we are conducting an investigation up the road here a ways.”

“Henry Talmitch.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Talmitch. I am Officer Hunde. William Hunde. Do you mind answering a few questions for me?”

“I think I can do that. Do you mind if we sit out here on the porch? I’d like to have a cigarette.”

Officer Hunde looked at the old man in front of him for a moment, taking in the sight of the cane and his hunkered stance. He gave a quick glance into the empty house and felt satisfied of his safety.

“Yeah, I suppose that’d be alright.”

Henry took his jacket from a hook beside the door and put it on with no hurry. The officer stepped back out of Henry’s path and toward the rocking chair that sat near the end of the porch. He leaned against one of the wooden poles that held up the roof and waited until the elder had taken his seat. Henry reached into the pocket on the breast of his shirt and produced a pack of full flavored cigarettes. He broke off the filter before placing it between his lips and put a flame to it with a well practiced hand.

“Now,” he said as he exhaled a thick cloud of smoke and leaned back in his chair, “what can I help you with, Officer?”

“We responded to a call early this morning, there was an abandoned vehicle on the side of the road about a mile from here.”

“Yeah, I heard it come over the scanner.” Henry said and took another drag from his cigarette.

“Well, we took a look around and saw what appeared to be drag marks in the leaves that headed into the woods. We followed them and found the body of a young woman just inside the tree line.”

“Damn shame.” Henry said. “What happened to her?”

“We are still trying to determine that, sir. I’d like to know if you noticed anything out of the ordinary either last night or this morning. She was coming from this way and yours is the closest property in this direction, so anything you might have seen or heard could be a great help to us.”

“I can’t say I recall anything strange. Of course, I’ve been going to bed early the past few nights. Haven’t been feelin’ so well since it turned off cold, you know. My bones ache and my lungs haven’t been thankin’ me none either, but I guess these damn things don’t help much.” Henry said and gave a hint of a smile and a wheezing cough.

He reached next to him and picked up a small block of wood not much bigger than the palm of his hand from a neat stack next to his chair. Holding his cigarette between his yellow teeth he reached into his right pocket and pulled out a traditional folding pocket knife with a bone handle and began to carve away the wood in thin curling strips that fell between his feet on the boards of the porch. William’s eyes were drawn to the blade as it appeared and stayed with it as he watched a practiced hand make graceful motions.

“What are you making there?”

“Ain’t making nothing.” Henry said. “I’m looking for something.”

“How’s that?”

“My Mama used to say I had a gift. She said I could see right to the heart of things, see the truth beneath the surface. I started trying to see it everywhere, in everything. One day I decided to pick up a knife like my Grandpa used to and start cutting away everything that wasn’t the truth. I would look around me and decide what I wanted to take my knife to next. What I found down there inside those objects wasn’t always pretty, but the truth always has a beauty to it, if see what I’m saying.”

“I believe I do.” William said.

“I believe you.”

William couldn’t help but think of the girl in the woods with a ragged gash running across her slender throat, glassy eyes staring into depths unknown. The piece of wood in Henry’s hand was taking a shape as the blade cleared away what wasn’t necessary. William could recognize the head of a hound peaking out from the block.

“There were two purses in the car,” William said, “there was no identification inside but we suspect there may be a second woman.”

“So one got away, huh?” Henry said, ashes falling from his cigarette. “Either that or you’ll find her deeper in those woods. My daddy used to tell me there were monsters out there, just waiting for someone to walk too far among the trees. He had to put the fear in me so I wouldn’t go gettin’ lost, you know.”

“There are things worse than monsters, Mister Talmitch. I’ve seen them.”

“I don’t doubt that. I’ve seen my fair share of horrors as well, enough for a lifetime. All I do now is fritter away my time until God calls me home.”

William pulled a card with his information from his pocket and offered it to Henry.

“If you hear anything I’d like you to give me a call. I hate the thought that there’s still someone out there hiding from a madman.”

Henry took a few last strokes over the figure in his hand and blew away some dust still clinging to the muzzle of the dog. He looked over his work and extended it toward the officer. William traded the card for the hound. He rubbed his thumb over the smooth surface, it was good work. Especially the face. It stared with a fierce intensity, a beast ready to pounce.

“That’s for you, Hunde.” Henry said.

William smiled and slipped the figure into his pocket.

“Thank you for your time, sir.” William said.

“It was no problem at all, I enjoyed the company even under the dark circumstances.” Henry said, standing. “I hope you catch the b*****d.”

“Me too Mister Talmitch.”

With that William turned and walked toward his cruiser. Henry watched the car pull away, the gravel crunching under the tires. He stepped back into his house, he could feel the weight of the knife in his pocket. He went to the kitchen and opened the junk drawer. He took the girl’s wallet out and looked at her driver’s license. “It won’t be long now.” He thought.

When he opened the door to the basement his heart began to rush with excitement. Every step down made him feel younger, more alive. The woman was still where he left her. Her hands were bound and her mouth gagged with a knotted rag. Her eyes were those of prey in their last moments. Henry drew the knife from his pocket.

“Let’s see what I find in you.”

© 2018 Seth Kinle


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This is good. At first I was drawn in by the writing. I felt it moved and flowed with grace. Then when he started talking to the officer and whittled away the wood I became intrigued. Psychic, monsters paranormal this is unexpected and welcome. Towards the end I thought henry was the good guy. you made him seem like the good guy so at the end when he was not I was taken by surprise.
You have talent for story telling and for writing. I hope people see this and give you the credit you deserve.

Posted 4 Months Ago



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Added on June 19, 2018
Last Updated on June 19, 2018

Author

Seth Kinle
Seth Kinle

Clarksville, TN



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