The smoke cleared as Sarah walked toward the head of the mine. She had only been out here the one time before, shortly after her father had died and she had gotten the job of sheriff. She had ridden out to the mine but it was severely boarded up and those boards had been very secure. She had been satisfied that there would be no sneaking into the mine, not even by curious little children. She had no idea why anybody would try to blow the thing open. Everyone had told her that the thing had dried up a long time ago, longer than anybody could remember. At that point, the town had all but withered but somehow the smaller population thrived without it.
The mine was still smoking as Sarah approached but the smoke was not stinging her eyes anymore and she could breathe easy again. There were wood shards all over the ground and Sarah kicked them aside. If there were nails, she sure as hell did not want them going through her boots. She looked up as the smoke cleared and she saw that the boards had all been broken away like ribs broken away when gutting a deer. Sarah thought there should have been an opening in the rock. There was no such opening. The rock face was dark and glossy. She looked back and Simmons was standing there, his rifle still in hand. He gave her a sheepish smile.
“I’m sorry, Sheriff Redcross. I got curious and had to see what the fuss was all about.” Simmons said, taking some round-framed glasses from his pocket and putting them on.
“Careful of the debris, Preacher,” Sarah said. He had already left his post, he might as well see what there was to see.
“Have you ever seen anything like this, Mr. Simmons?” Sarah asked. She brushed some soot and dust from the surface of the wall. It fell away in a little cloud.
“No, I definitely have not. Am I mistaken or is there some sort of writing here?” He asked.
“What?” Sarah asked. She looked closer at the black, glossy surface and there was definitely something carved there. Actually, the whole thing was carved with something that was not writing or at least was not writing that Sarah recognized. She found herself shaking her head in confusion but realized that might be confusing. “There is something carved there but it’s not English. I don’t know what it is, Preacher.”
“It’s a mystery, Sheriff. I wish I knew which language it is. I could try and find out for you if you want.” Simmons said. He got even closer to squint at the carvings.
“What do you mean? How would you do it, Pastor Simmons?” Sarah asked. She was intrigued. She had never really seen Simmons do anything besides drink and attend to his ministerial duties. She had no idea what his qualifications for translating mysterious writings.
“I have a couple trunks full of books. I can order more. I have plenty of time between services.” Simmons said with a smile. “I love a good mystery too.”
“You’re just full of surprises today, Preacher. First, you prove yourself a crack shot and now a scholar. Are you sure you’re just a simple pastor from Lochiel?”
“Last I checked. Though I have been many places before there and though I am still young, I have lived quite a life.” He replied.
“Roy Simmons, I’ll have to keep my eye on you,” Sarah said with a smile. Though she wondered if she wasn’t missing something about him. “I would appreciate your help with this. They wanted this for some reason and we have to find out why.”
“Well, I guess I’m at your service, Sheriff,” Simmons said. He had shouldered his rifle and was scribbling a few notes in a small pad of paper.
“Listen, Roy, can I count on you keeping this a secret?” Sarah asked.
“Why, Sheriff Redcross, I thought you swore to fight for truth and justice,” Simmons said with a mocking smile.
“Don’t sermonize me, Preacher. Sometimes truth takes a backseat to justice when I have to worry about keeping my town safe,” Sarah said. She walked past Roy and headed toward the gap in the rocks. Simmons followed behind her, putting his little notebook away.
As they turned the corner, the first thing they noticed was that the body was gone. Sarah cursed and spit on the ground with feeling. She had not heard a single sound from the area around the area of the body. She looked over at Simmons who looked embarrassed.
“I’m sorry, Sheriff. My curiosity lost us a large piece of evidence,” He said.
“Don’t worry, Preacher. I’ll solve this one way or another. Let’s just get back to town before something else tries to kill us.” Sarah said. She headed for her horse with a really bad feeling in her stomach.