Many hours had passed since having heard his daughter’s story. The clouds had blown in from the north, carried by the bitter winds that had preceded it, and now blanketed the sky. What little remained of the light dwindled as the coming storm choked out its life, making way for the inevitable darkness to come.
John sat quietly in his den, but he was not alone. There were three other men in the room, all listening as he recounted the morning’s events, all looking at the grim evidence that backed his story. Where there was normally a chip dispenser, which they used for their monthly card games, was a soiled pair of girl’s panties.
In any other circumstance, there might have been excitement in the air. They may have had a bead of sweat on the tops of their brows, and many possible scenarios would have already been dreamt of, or spoken about. Any other time, there would have been the sharing of sexual tales, of conquests real and imagined, and nervous laughter would have filled the air.
This wasn’t like any other time.
The mood in the room was somber, the air; thick with tension. The panties weren’t of the kind belonging to a grown woman. They weren’t one of the many styles of lingerie used to ‘raise’ the interest of a potential lover, either. These were nothing more than the simple cotton underwear that might come in packs of three to five, of which no man was ever meant to see.
They belonged to his daughter.
“Y-you’re sure about this,” a nervous Rob Hammond cautiously asked. “There’s no way she could have accidentally…”
John shook his head back and forth, angrily, pounding a clenched fist on the table to interrupt his friend’s line of thinking.
“She wouldn’t lie to me, Rob,” he growled through clenched teeth.
One of the other men in the room, who had been pacing back and forth in thought until up to this moment, stopped behind John and put a comforting hand on his shoulder.
“Easy buddy,” the new voice said from behind him. “It’s not that we don’t believe you, the evidence is plain to see! I think that Rob, like the rest of us, wants to be sure on this before we do anything.”
“Donnie, if you had been there…”
John choked as his emotions reached a boiling point. He was furious, but, when he began to recall the look on her face, he was hurt beyond comprehension. Grief struck him as acutely as if her life had been taken from her, rather than just her innocence.
Donnie, John’s older brother and the only person who didn’t live on Bryer Street, leaned forward and embraced his sibling, wrapping one arm around his chest and placing his left cheek against his brother’s right. Rob stood, quietly, and walked around the table to place a supporting hand over his friend’s.
The remaining person in the room, and the only one who had yet to say anything, slowly leaned forward until the light revealed his haggard face.
“Whatever you want to do, John,” he said slowly for emphasis, “we’ll stand behind you one hundred percent.”