The Day I Met Vree Erikson:
It was a pleasant sunny Sunday afternoon in September, sixty degrees and the blue sky mottled in places with clouds that looked like white cotton candy shreds. Church was over for most people in Ravenwood when I bobbed my fishing line in Myers Creek beneath Cherry Street’s cement bridge.
A blonde-haired girl in a blue T-shirt and jeans gave me the once over after she slid down the embankment and entered the narrow strip of grassy underside below the steel bridge. I stood far enough away so I didn’t happen to intrude on her favorite fishing spot, if she had one.
“Hey,” she said to me, a friendliness in her voice but edged with a note of suspicion.
I said it back, then left her alone until her hook and bait were submerged in the deep middle of the creek and a few cars had rumbled by overhead.
“Fish here often?” I asked when the disturbed dirt and dust had settled.
“Yeah.” She played her line. “Never seen you around before.”
I considered how to answer her question. “Just visiting,” I said.
She seemed okay with that, so I told her my name. She told me hers: “Vree … Vree Erikson.”
I asked her to repeat it—had I heard it right? Bree?
“V-r-e-e,” she spelled for me in a breath that sounded like an irritated sigh. Thoughts of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Bree and Middle-earth disappeared and we didn’t speak again for several minutes.
I reeled in my hook from the dark creek bed that must have been either occupied by sleeping fish or unoccupied by any fish at all when I heard two boys talking above us. One had a tenor voice, the other baritone. They sounded excited.
“How much do you think we got?” tenor asked. “Think we got a hundred or more?”
“We’ll count it when we get to my place,” baritone said.
“You’ll split it fifty-fifty. Right?”
“Quit whining and come on.”
Something plunked in the water to my right. Someone had thrown a rock from the bridge. The ripples settled and the voices had stopped when Vree said, “Sounds like they stole some money.” She approached and stood at my side. Like me, she had reeled in her hook and sinker.
“And who are they?” I asked, intrigued by the mystery.
“Craig Coleman and Morty Twitchel.”
“Morty Twitchel?” I said and screwed up my nose. “What kind of name is that?”
“Morton the moron. That’s what a lot of kids call him. He has some kind of nasal problem the doctors can’t fix because his dad broke his nose a few times. I used to feel sorry for him until he started hanging around Craig. Craig’s the meanest kid in Ravenwood.”
“I take it you don’t get along with Craig.”
“No one gets along with him. Except for Morty. He and Craig are almost inseparable, which doesn’t make sense.”
Vree removed her wet, lifeless worm and tossed it into the creek. “Craig’s dad stabbed and killed Morty’s dad in a bar fight at the Edge of Town Tavern last summer.”
“So Craig’s dad killed the guy using Morty’s face as a punching bag.”
“And now Craig and Morty are best friends.” Vree shook her head. “Go figure.” She went to her tackle box. I followed.
“So where is this tavern?” I asked. “So I can stay far away from it.”
“On Lake Road toward Alice Lake,” she said, snapping a plastic lid on her coffee can of worms.
“Maybe they should rename the place The Prancing Pony.”
Vree didn’t get my Tolkien reference, so I shuffled to my own tackle box and closed it up. My head was full of thoughts about Hobbits right then.
“Where are you going?” I asked when I caught up to Vree. We were on the bridge by then and heading toward downtown.
“Police station,” she said. “I figure if anyone reports a robbery, the cops should know to question Craig and Morty.”
I followed her to the station house next to the fire station and waited outside the red brick building while she went in and reported what we had overheard. When she came out, I tagged along to a square, yellow house with white rose bushes in the front yard. She invited me in, but I declined her offer. It was suppertime and I would have to get ready for evening church soon.
A brown-haired woman called from the front door. “I just sent Dave and Amy to the store. You’re supposed to wait here for them if your mom comes before they get back.” She was pretty with long, straight hair like Vree’s and a pleasant face. She smiled at me and I smiled back.
“Dave and Amy are my cousins,” Vree said to me when I inquired. “We live on Myers Ridge but they must be visiting my Aunt Addi. She has no kids, so she pays us to do chores for her.” She smiled at me before she went inside. I stopped writing for the day.
To be continued.