(Just joining us? You may want to start at the beginning.)
JD went down the length of the wall and saw that the basement extended beyond the large concrete monolith standing where he was certain the staircase used to be. He walked around the rim of the huge block, trying to find pull chains to turn more lights on, but more critically, he was looking for a shovel or spade. He had to dig up the section of PVC pipe, hidden from view for so long, from the plant bed just beyond the parlor windows.
He found some typical basement items -- boxes covered with dust and grime, miscellaneous items that over the decades found their way to shelves and cubby holes, a plastic closet stuffed with clothes that stood on weak casters. He didn't find what he wanted.
He wondered, as he passed it on his way toward the furnace aging in the corner under the stairs he'd come down, if that concrete shell hid any other secrets. He wondered how many the house might know, holding close to its ancient heart.
He could see the pilot light flickering blue and soft beneath the furnace before he got too close. Not far to the left the water heater's pilot glowed as well. He turned the water temperature up to something tolerable and the device roared to life. He went up the stairs to try and locate the thermostat. The dampness in his clothes was cooling his skin rapidly and he felt a shiver gently rattle his frame. He couldn't get dry and warm just yet, though. He still had work to do outside, and could hear the rain coming down steadily.
He trotted up the stairs and heard Wendy still moving around upstairs. There was no sign of Dillon, but that was a good thing.
"Wen?" he called up the stairs. "I ... I think we have what we need now. Before I do anything else, the pilot lights are on for both the furnace and water heater, and we should have some hot water in about an hour or so. I'm ... I think I'm going to dig up that pipe."
She popped quickly into view at the top of the stairs. "What?"
"I said I think we have what we need. To dig the pipe up without ... you know, without it looking like we dug it up because we knew it was there."
"What? What do we have?"
"Yeah, dude, what d'we got?"
JD started sharply as Dillon approached him from behind. "Dammit, don't do that!"
"HA! Don't like it, huh? Now y'know how I always feel."
"JD, what do we have?"
"I ... I found a sump pump in the basement that seems to have some sort of blockage in the pipe leading out into the yard. Some water has come back into the basement. It's been happening for a long time, from what I can see. It's not bad at all, but we can use that as an excuse to ... you know."
"Dig up homey's note inna pipe?"
"Wow." Wendy stood still, staring into the middle distance between her and JD. "Wow, that's ... that's big."
"Well ... if the pipe's even still there."
"Dude, where does a pipe hafta go?"
"It could've been dug up anytime between now and when he buried it. For all we know, the police found it. I don't see how they couldn't have found it, frankly. With the disturbance of the earth, the location of the body ... how could they not find it?"
"Nobody was lookin', dunce-cap," Dillon spat. "How many times y'gotta hear that, dumb-ass?"
"As soon as I hear it from someone with a brain, I'll take it."
"Settle down, guys," Wendy said, wagging her head. "How're you going to dig it up? C'mon, Dilly, we need to find some ..."
"No, Wen," JD said. "I don't need help. I've got the keys to the house. I'm sure one of them opens the little garage outside. If there are tools there, I'll use them. If not, I'll have to go buy a shovel. But this is all I really need right now for an excuse to get under the soil there."
"Won't get an argument from me, dude," Dillon said, heading back the way he came. "Didja turn on the heater, man?"
"The furnace is on, but I don't know where the thermostat is. Why don't you look for it while I go outside and see if there's a shovel around here somewhere?"
"Yes, Dillon, you. Who else?"
"Wull ... I mean ... what 'bout the ... dude, the place is haunted, man! I don' wanna be roamin' around in here alone!"
"You won't be alone, you sissy," JD spat, "Wendy will be here to protect you from the big, mean specters, okay? JEEZ."
"Dude! You'd put your GF in front o' some ghosts? You are so a lousy BF!"
"I can't be in two places at once. Wen, if you get a chance and have the inclination, turn the heat up for a while until you're comfortable. I don't think I'll be too long."
She nodded. "You don't want me to come with you?"
He smiled. "You can see what I'm doing through the parlor window. I won't be too long, and I want you to get warm and dry."
She nodded, numbly. "Okay, lover. I'll be waiting. Be ... be careful, okay?"
He looked at her confused. "Are you ... are you okay, Wen?"
"Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine. Just be careful, okay? Come back to me. We don't know what's in that pipe. That's all."
"It's not a bomb, Wendy. I'll be fine."
"I know. I know ... still. Okay?"
He nodded. "I promise. I may not even find what I need out there. In that case, it's going to have to wait until morning. I'm just too wet and too cold and too tired to work outside in the dark."
She nodded, her face still solemn. "I hope ... just ... hurry back. Okay?"
He nodded again. Marshalling what he had left of his will, he went out the front door with Wendy watching him go the whole way.
A moment later Dillon appeared at the door of the parlor, looking up at her. "You know I ain't gonna letcha do all the work, don'tcha Wen?"
She softened a bit, smiling at him. "I know, Dilly."
"I'm ... gonna go find the thermostat."
"Okay," she said weakly.
"He's gonna be okay, y'know. He's just outside."
"What's ... what's buggin' ya, then?"
"I don't know. I guess it's the way they ... you know. The way they seem to be ... after him. It makes me nervous. I don't want him to be by himself."
"They can't hurt 'im, hon," Dillon said gently, draping himself over the banister of the staircase and watching her eyes. "He tried t'grab one and went right through. You saw."
"I ... I know. I know it's silly, I just ..."
"OH, you guys got it bad, huh?"
"What? What do you mean?"
"Oh, puh-LEEZ, sweetheart," he laughed. "You got it even worse now that he L-worded you back, don'tcha? Now that he said it back, y'can't get over it at all. Wanna be right there wherever he's at all the time, right?"
She dropped her hands on her hips and leveled her eyes at him. "Well, maybe. But is that so wrong?"
Dillon put his hands up defensively. "I'm jus' sayin' is all. He's the same way, y'know. Soon as he said it back, he can't get himself away from ya. You guys just ... just got it bad is all. I'm jus' sayin'."
She drew a long, deep breath and let it out slowly. "I love him. I always have, I guess."
"Uh-huh. And now thatcha know he loves ya back -- 'cause he said it -- you went in even deeper, didn'tcha?"
She nodded slowly.
"It's okay, but ... that usually means best friend's gotta go."
"Don't you dare. I've never given you reason to think I was coming between you. Don't you dare treat me like a shrew now, Dillon. I will so kick your ass for that. I've never come between the two of you, ever."
"No, no ... not you. Him. He's gonna ... be busy now, with you mostly. An' that's cool. I bet he pops the question before too long. I give it three months. Maybe even by Christmas."
"Oh, stop it."
"I'm all sortsa serious, Wen. He's in deep. What's he gonna do without you?"
"Go find the thermostat, goofy."
He smiled and disappeared under the stairs as she went back to gathering towels to dry themselves off with. She also was trying to figure out what to do with their wet clothes. She could hear Dillon shuffling about downstairs, and she quietly padded to a window at the end of the hall. A little, square window looked out over the yard and she saw JD just inside the door of the little single-car garage, converted to a shed sometime in the murky past, looking for the tool he needed to unearth what she was sure would be the last piece of this very old puzzle.
At least, she hoped it was the last piece. The librarian had shown that nothing was certain. Not even in JD's intellectual and rational universe.
She wondered how he was feeling, with his entire existence upended on him. She wondered at his confusion and whether he was in pain from it all. Everything he'd set out to prove had flown in his face. She silently kissed her fingertips and blew it toward him.
"It's okay, lover," she whispered. "I know you're special. And you'll be even more special when this is all over. You'll understand how big the world is, and how small we are in it."
"Wen? I think ... I think I found it. But ... I need help to make sure. Can you come down for a sec?"
"Sure, Dilly, be right there," she called, trying to lift her voice. She was worried about JD though, and wondered if she'd ever be able to be apart from him again.