* Please e-mail ScullySloan@juno.com with questions, comments, theories, complaints, or words of wisdom.
Thursday, 3:45 P.M.
A bird flew overhead, chirping her merry song, as a sweet zephyr whispered through the trees. Dilapidated benches, devoid of people, dotted the trail that spiraled around the park. Taking in a breath of spring air, Mark turned to his friends.
"Steve called a little before seven," Mark informed them. Mark pointed to the clock tower that stood before them and said: "While we were talking, this clock struck seven. The sound was so loud that Steve couldn't hear something that I'd said. He had to have been in this park.
Glancing around, Jesse noticed trash barrels lying on their sides, garbage spilled over the sidewalk. Graffiti covered the cement walkway. They passed a birdbath; it had once been white, but now it was caked with dirt. Its once cool and inviting waters now had a neon green tinge, and three birds lay beside it in rigor mortis.
"Ugh!" Jesse exclaimed. "Who would be mean enough to put Prestone in a birdbath?" He crossed the grass to the birdbath and knocked it over.
Mark sighed. Looking into the distance, he said, "This park wasn't always like this. I used to take Steve here when he was learning how to ride his bike." Mark smirked. "I remember trying to get him to stay on the path. But he kept riding out into the parking lot." Mark gestured toward the tower. "You know, I remember how that clock sounds when it strikes the hour. It doesn't have a tinny quality to it, like so many of the modern ones do. It has its own clear, distinct sound. It's a shame that this park has gone to waste.
"So do we want to split up?" Amanda asked. "Each search for clues around a different part of the park?"
"Yeah," Jesse nodded. "I can take the volleyball court."
Mark shook his head. "Steve couldn't have called from there. It's too far from the clock. I think we should check the area closest to the clock tower first. And I don't think we need to split up. Steve couldn't have been too far from here, and he was most likely on this walkway."
They were searching the path for a while when Jesse exclaimed, "Whoa!"
Mark and Amanda raced to his side.
"What? What?" Amanda looked down at where Jesse was pointing.
"That is an excellent drawing of Bugs Bunny!"
Amanda slapped Jesse offside [upside] the head. Mark just stared closer at the ground.
"You may be onto something, Jesse," Mark said as he reached into his pocket.
"Mark, you can't be serious!" Amanda replied. "Steve most definitely did not draw that!"
"No, he didn't," Mark put on his glasses and pointed to a patch of red over the picture. "But that might be his."
"Is that blood?" Jesse asked, getting down on his hands and knees. Amanda stooped down beside him.
"I think it is," she nodded. She studied the dull brownish copper stain before scanning the area around it. She gasped. "Look!" she exclaimed.
Following her extended finger, Mark saw letters spelled out in the rust-coloured liquid:
BL Jim 7
"B L Jim Seven!?" Jesse raised an eyebrow. "What does that mean?"
"It might be a name," Mark suggested. "Maybe B and L are initials."
"Or maybe they stand for the word black," Amanda thought aloud. "Black Jim."