Floyd saw the car and knew it would turn in long before it began trundling up his gravel driveway. He pretended not to notice. Brim of his straw hat pulled low to block the sun, he took his time locking up the big barn doors as the car idled to a stop beside the house.
Floyd glanced up to see a young man emerging from the black sedan, its paint now covered with a thin sheet of dust. “Evening,” he drawled back. “Help ya?”
“Yeah, actually. If you’re not busy.”
“Fixin’ to feed the hogs,” Floyd said, indicating the mammoth pigs milling about the barn yard. “But they ain’t hurtin’ for food. What can I do for ya?”
“I’m trying to get to this town, Brighton. Missed an exit a little way back, and then some road work sent me on a detour. Guess I’ve gotten turned around without a signal for the GPS.”
Floyd smiled. “Well, lucky thing, you’re not too far off. Say, if you have a minute, we could step out of the heat. I could get you a drink and write down some directions.”
The man smiled. “Sure, I’d appreciate that.”
Floyd gave the young man a glass of lemonade and scratched on a notepad at the counter with a pencil stub. “Why you tryin’ to get to Brighton? If’n you don’t mind me askin’. Not exactly a happin’ place these days.”
“I’m looking for someone. Maybe you’ve seen her?”
The man pulled up an image of a young dark haired girl on his phone.
Floyd shook his head. “Sorry. Don’t recognize her. She lost?”
“Last heard from in this area. Driving a green Civic. Parents think she went on the run.”
“You a cop?”
Floyd offered him the scrawled directions. “Real sorry, but I don’t see much anybody out here.”
The P.I. nodded, pulled out a card. “Thanks anyway. If you catch wind of something, give me a ring.”
“And thanks for the help.”
“Anytime. Hope your search goes well. You find that little girl now, you hear?”
“I’ll do my best,” the young man said, his smile matching Floyd’s. “Thanks for the lemonade.”
Floyd continued smiling brightly as they walked out, and the young man left with a puff of dust. With a whistling, he sauntered back to the barn and unlocked the heavy chains. By the dim daylight infiltrating the wooden slats of the structure, he made his way past farm equipment and a green car half covered by a tarp until he reached another door, this one also locked.
She lay slumped against the wooden post to which she had been tied. She didn’t even raise her head as Floyd entered, but he supposed that was to be expected. She’d had her lemonade like a good girl.
He reckoned the P.I. would end up in a ditch give or take twenty minutes. With any luck, the crash would do for him, but if not, Floyd would pay him a visit just make sure things were kept quiet-like. Now he had other matters to attend to. After all, the hogs weren’t going to feed themselves.
A.G. Hilton is a new voice in the world of dark fiction. His work seeks to weave the horrors into the rural backdrop of his youth. When not dreaming up little nightmares, he spends his daylight hours as a technical writer in Charlotte, NC. You can keep up with his work on Twitter @nightsidetales.