Clark wasn’t sure the old man was his grandpa. He really wanted him to be but he looked a lot older and thinner than the last time he saw him, and it had only been six years. It seemed so much longer.
His grandpa had been his lifeline and he left without saying a word. According to his dad, he went to live up in the hills in a cabin. His grandpa wanted to spend his last years hunting and fishing. Two months later, his dad came home and said he had been up to the cabin to check on the old man and found him deceased. His dad told him he looked like he was sleeping peacefully, but he had gone to the other side.
“Aren’t you going to say anything, Butch?” The old man asked.
“I got nothin to say. I don’t even know if I want to hear what you have to say. Except I’d like to know why you took those poor little kids from their beds in the middle of the night?”
The old man put his head in his hands and Clark could see his shoulders shaking. He and Steve remained silent until he composed himself. Soon he started to talk again.
“Your dad is the meanest man I have ever known. I tried to get you away from him. He didn’t treat anyone in the family like he should have, but he cut you down every chance he got and when you started to grow a little again, he cut you down even closer to the ground. I told him if he hated you so much why didn’t he let you come and live with me. Do you know what he said?”
If Clark knew any of this, he didn’t remember it. He wondered if it was even true.
“He said if he let his old man raise his kid, he would be the laughing stock of the whole town. People would think he had lost control of his family.”
“I couldn’t take watching him do that to you, so I got rid of my house in town and moved into a little cabin in the hills. He told me if I ever came around you again, he would treat you even worse than he had been. He said I was what was causing all the trouble between the two of you.”
Arf: When I went upstairs, I found the picture that I wanted to show Clark, but I was also looking for something else. I wanted to look inside the toolbox. I knew the old man had brought it upstairs, but I couldn’t find it. Pretty soon I heard Annie dragging the coveralls she had buried in the yard up the stairs.
Annie: What are you doing, Arf? You shouldn’t be snooping around in other people’s stuff.
Arf: Oh come on Annie. That’s what dogs do. They snoop around. That old man is downstairs telling Clark a long winded story and I can tell Clark doesn’t remember anything about it. All he knows is that he was really close to his grandpa and he was told he had died. Help me look around. Maybe we can find something…like a clue.
Arf finally found the toolbox clear in the back of the closet. Luckily, it wasn’t locked. Between the two of them he and Annie got it open. They saw all kinds of tools on top, but nothing that you could call a clue. When they pulled on the handle with their teeth, and got the top part out, there was another compartment under it.
Arf: Look…there’s an envelope. Let’s see what’s in it.
Annie: It looks like a letter. We can do a lot of things most dogs can’t but we can’t read.
Arf: You’re right. We’ll just have to give it to Steve. We’ll give the picture to Steve, too and he can decide what to do with it.
Annie: I didn’t dig up the keys I buried. We better go out and uncover them and give them to Steve, too.
They both sneaked down the stairs… Annie with the letter and Arf with the picture. They dug up the keys and put them under the doormat. They would have to get them later. The old man had his back to them so they were able to get the photo and letter to Steve without anyone seeing them.
He briefly looked at them and then got up and went to the kitchen. He came back a short time later. Clark was still talking to the old man.
“Let’s skip to the part where you took our kids,” Steve said.
“Very well,” the old man answered. “You see Butch, I lived alone in that cabin for six long years. I got in touch with your brother and he told me where you were. I came here to get you. I thought you would want to come and live with me, until I saw where you were living. I watched everyone in that mansion for two nights and then I found the disguise and came and got the kids. I told them I was their grandma. I was going to bring them back. I just wanted some company for a while. We were going on a picnic and then it all fell apart. They wanted to go home.”
He looked at his surroundings like it was the first time he had noticed where he was. “I don’t even know who this house belongs to.”
“It must have been really hard for you to live alone like that. How long ago did you lose your wife?” Steve asked.
“I don’t recall the exact year. Do you know when your grandma died, Butch?”
“Two years before you left. I wish I had known why you left. My life might have been different. It was bad enough that my own daddy hated me, but it hurt to know you didn’t think much of me, either. Daddy did have a moment of kindness. He brought your guitar home for me. I learned how to play it, even though he took it away from me everytime he got mad which was often.”
“I blame myself for his bad behavior. His sister, Kathy was always closer to your grandma and Jim was closer to me. That left him with no one.”
“you mean Granny.”
“We never called her grandma. She was Granny to all of us.”
Steve thought this would be a good time to give Clark the letter and picture.
“You might want to read this letter that Arf and Annie found before this goes any further.”
(What do you think? Is this man really Clark’s grandpa or someone pretending to be.?)