Deputy Hoskins was using his thumbs on the small Qwerty keypad of a hand-held device.
Alex Russo paced to the opposite end of his front porch. He turned to look at his wife and the young sheriff’s deputy, who were standing next to one another.
Hoskins continued to watch the screen.
Nicole Russo was in shorts and a tank top. She caught her husband’s attention and mimed her anxiety and impatience with a pinched mouth, raised eyebrows, and wide eyes. She immediately assumed a pleasant smile as the deputy abruptly glanced up and stared at her.
Hoskins was becoming uncomfortably hot in his dark uniform. The neck of his shirt seemed too tight. His round face and scalp visible under the stubble of white-blond hair were turning red. He glanced at the blue-black patrol car in the circular driveway a few feet away, then made eye contact with Alex as the older man approached once again. “All I can do is file a report,” he said, trying to sound professional.
Nicole twisted around so she could see the perfect hanging fern behind her that was flanked by wind-chimes tinkling melodiously in a breeze. “See,” she said. “That was about a twenty-mile-per-hour gust.”
Hoskins ran his eyes once more along the entire length of the porch, taking note of the many chimes that dangled on all three sides, leaving only the stoop above the steps free. The metal tubes were all dinging now, but the wind-catchers hardly moved. It was a sweet sound, very relaxing. He sighed, and focused on Nicole Russo once more. “Ma’am, all I can do is take down your story. If someone was on your property last night, this is the best thing to do; make a report, so it’s on record….”
Alex, wearing khaki pants and a polo shirt, stuck his hands in his pockets, closed his eyes briefly. “They sound different now,” he said. “Everything was blowing, it was like a hurricane last night. There were flashes like lightning. It couldn’t have been a prank.”
“Hasn’t anyone else reported the wind?” Nicole asked.
Deputy Hoskins shook his head. “I’m not aware of any other complaints.”
Nicole shrugged. “This is a new housing development. Kind of isolated up here. We’re only the fourth home on top of this hill.”
“It’s nice and peaceful, though,” Hoskins commented, his mouth stretched into a tight smile.
“Uh, yeah,” Alex said. “Until last night.”
“You know, there’s an old cemetery about a hundred yards down your gravel road, off to the left,” Hoskins offered and winked.
Nicole came to her husband’s side and grasped his hand with one of hers. They glanced at one another, then turned stony faces towards the Cabell County sheriff’s deputy. “It wasn’t a ghost,” she said. “It was a storm of some kind. Bursts of light and the chimes went crazy. We saw them. The chimes … they were almost horizontal, the clappers beating!”
“There wasn’t any storm around here last night….” Hoskins started.
“I know!” Alex interrupted. “We know! We checked. I’m a teacher, I don’t believe in superstitious nonsense. There’s high pressure over the Ohio River Valley right now. Not a cloud in the sky. But we know what we saw and heard!”
Hoskins pivoted and faced out towards the front yard. He gazed beyond, at a stand of beautiful, old trees with dancing leaves gleaming an unnatural, luminescent green in the midday sun of a hot Saturday in July. “Where’s the damage? Any broken branches? Any debris on the lawn, on the roof?”
“There’s nothing, we already searched,” Nicole said quietly. She bit her lower lip. “Well, only … that … out there,” she added, swinging her hand in a half-circle towards the right. “Around back of the house. Looks like a perfect circle of dead grass, like something was sitting there for months, about the size of an above-ground pool.”
Hoskins grunted. “Okay,” he said. “I hope you’re not wasting my time….”
“Do I look like someone who’d make a false call to 911 for kicks?” Alex said, his voice loud. “And no, before you ask, we don’t have an above-ground pool and we never did.”
The deputy sighed, hopped down the porch steps, and trotted over to his car. He opened the door, sat for a moment with his knees facing out while he dropped the pad, reported his status to the dispatcher.
Alex and Nicole glanced at one another again. “Is he going to investigate?” Nicole whispered through her clenched teeth. “He has to go look, they told us….”
“Sh-sh-sh,” her husband hissed. “He’s coming back.”
They inhaled and watched the deputy as he stood and pushed the car door until it caught–not all the way closed–then moved casually across the front lawn, heading for the backyard. When he disappeared around the corner, they both let out their breath. “Maybe they’ll let us go now,” Nicole said softly, trying not to cry.