She rubbed her eyes and remained silent.
The professor shook his head. “Let’s visit Abram, then. We’ll see what that yields. Probably not much.”
Moments later, we assembled in the bedroom shared by the Beilers youngest children. It was impossible to interview the boy alone since Abram was so disturbed, but there was little chance Miriam could have coached him. There’s little chance anyone could have. He sat awkwardly in his mother’s lap while Ballard leaned against a wall. The boy was filled with energy — a diffuse vigor that had no home. Even though he wasn’t drawing, he held tight to a few pencils like a talisman and looked everywhere but in our eyes.
“What did you see, Abram?” Ballard asked through a half-lidded gaze.
“Puppets!” The boy rocked and swerved as Miriam held him with both arms around his waist. He would have fallen on the floor were it not for her. “Puppets im busch!”
“In the forest,” Miriam translated. “Show them, Abram. Show these people where they came in.” Abram whinnied and twisted but his mother coaxed him. “I’ll get you some warm milk and honey. Show them. Please.”
Abram burst out of his Miriam’s grasp with a shriek and ran toward a wall across the room where he banged his head repeatedly.
“No, no!” Miriam cried.
Seconds later, Levi had arrived and was pulling his son from the wall and out of the room. “Eyes!” Abram screamed as they disappeared downstairs. “Eyes!”
Ballard had already closed his pad and was shoving it in his briefcase when Miriam made another plea.
“Professor, he saw who took Ruth, I swear it. You must look at those,” she said, pointing at a stack of drawings in the corner.
I got up to fetch them but was immediately interrupted. “Don’t bother, Miss Porter.”
Miriam was distressed. “You need them for your research, yes?”
“No, I don’t. Puppets in the woods came through the wall? Can you even hear yourself? I need facts, not a fairytale from a sick boy. I am going to the police. There is something very wrong here but it is entirely earthly in it’s nature — that, I will guarantee.”
“No, I am begging you, do not do this!” Miriam insisted.
John, her father-in law, entered the room with a slow and heavy gait. Ballard wasn’t the only one who had had enough. “We will take you to the woods. There are marks there. Burning of grasses and dead leaves from where it landed. We have let you into our home and showed you our grief. You owe us some courtesy.”
Ballard gave the old man a hard look. “Mark my words, I won’t be an accessory to some sordid crime out here in the sticks. A missing child is a most serious matter and so far, all you’ve given me is absolute dreck. This had better be worth my time. Come along, Miss Porter.”
I left the room, bewildered and lost. I thought we’d never find out what actually happened to Ruth. But the truth won out in the end; a vindication of sorts. A victory where everyone lost.
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