This story is by Kevin Richards and was part of our 2023 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
It was a crisp fall morning; the colored falling leaves lined the streets. A prelude to the coming winter. Young Liam Nelson, aged ten, vanished precisely a decade ago. The small town where Liam lived was both stunned and horrified. To this day, they have not found him. It has baffled authorities that there have been no clues or sightings of the boy since then.
The last sightings of the Nelson boy were at a local convenience store where he went to purchase some candy. They found his bicycle in the middle of a dirt road where he was heading back home. Despite an extensive search, authorities found nothing. The Nelson boy’s case is still open and unsolved. Townspeople still give out hope that he will be found someday.
Liam Nelson’s parents still grieve to this day and are both not giving up hope that he is still alive. Law enforcement is not giving up, either. They thoroughly check every resource or tip that they receive, though the tips have dwindled immensely over the years. One tip that has emerged in the past few weeks is from a town resident, Whistler, a recluse. The townspeople gave him that name because he was whistling on the rare occasions they saw him.
The townspeople consider him odd and strange, but nobody, including the authorities, considers him credible. The strange young man called the Whistler has repeatedly claimed that he has seen a wild man. He told the local sheriff that he had seen this man numerous times when hunting in the mountains and in the heavily wooded area behind his house. The sheriff took his statement and passed it on to federal officials. One local citizen, a retired detective Sydney Appleton, began probing the case. The former detective decided to meet with the strange young man.
On a clear early morning day, Sydney Appleton approached the Whistler’s reclusive home. The strange young man had no phone, and the retired detective could not contact him. Mr. Appleton crept up to the Whistler’s home. He knocks a couple of times on the door. A voice shouts out! “Who is it?” Mr. Appleton takes a step back. “Hi, my name is Sydney Appleton. I live in the town. I would like to talk to you.” The retired detective shouts back through the door. “About what?” The voice bellows back. “Well, it’s about an old missing person’s case.” Mr. Appleton replies. Several seconds elapse, and silence fills the air. “Please… please, I just want to talk to you; I assure you my attentions are admirable.” The retired detective replies, this time his voice lower and reassuring. Footsteps can be heard coming towards the door. It opens. A tall, young, bearded man stands holding a can of beer. He stares at the retired detective.
“Can we talk?” Mr…. I don’t know your name.” Mr. Applenton asks as he sizes up the strange man. “Just call me the Whistler; hell, everybody else does,” he replies as he sips his beer. “Let’s talk outside on the porch,” the Whistler replies as he closes the door and steps outside. It surprised the retired detective at how cooperative the strange man was. The two of them sit on two chairs. Mr. Appleton tries to break the ice first. “Looks like you were expecting someone. You have two chairs. The retired detective laughs as he speaks. The Whistler glares at Mr Appleton; his face is expressionless. “The Whistler, people call you the Whistler.” Mr. Appleton asks. “You must have a real name. I’m curious. What is it?” The strange young man is silent for a few seconds. He glances down at the ground. “It’s just the Whistler that has always been my name.” He replies. The retired detective thoroughly scrutinizes him, finding it odd that he didn’t have a legitimate name. “You were going to ask me about a missing person’s case?” The Whistler asks. He takes another sip of his beer.
“You have claimed to have seen a wild man several times. Is that correct?” Mr. Appleton asks. “I’m curious as to why you are here, Mr. Appleton.” The Whistler replies as he leans forward in his chair. “I guess you can say I am just trying to find out who this wild man is that you have seen.” Mr. Appleton replies. Mr. Appleton suggests this wild man could be the missing Nelson boy. The Whistler gazes at the sky. “Hmmm… interesting, because I think he is, too.” He replies. “I have thought that for a while now. I am glad someone else thinks like I do.” The Whistler says as he looks over at Mr. Appleton. “Do you know the Nelsons?” Mr. Appleton asks. “Yes, I met them once; you could say I don’t know them well. It was a shame what happened to their son.” The Whistler replies as a slight grin appears on his face.
Mr. Appleton gazes at the young bearded man with a puzzled expression. “About this wild man you have been seeing. Do you really think he is the missing Nelson boy?” Appleton asks.”The Whistler rises from his chair; he strokes his long beard. “Yes, I sincerely do believe he is.” Mr. Appleton scratches his head as he looks at his bright red car. He centers his attention back at the Whistler. “I’m curious. Why do you think this wild man you have seen is the Nelson boy? I know why I believe he is, but I’d like to know why you do?” The retired detective reclines back in his chair with a look of confidence. “Well… it’s… Because of talking to him,” the Whistler plops down in his chair. “You have spoken to this wild man?” His voice raised,” Mr. Appleton asks. There’s yet to be an answer from The Whistler. The two men jump from their chairs as a sheriff’s car and an unmarked vehicle approaches the house.
The sheriff and two plain-clothes men exit their vehicles and walk towards the Whistler and Mr. Appleton. They focus their eyes on the Whistler as they step onto the porch. “Mr. Whistler,” the sheriff asks as he walks towards him. “Please come with me and these two FBI agents. We would like to question you.” The sheriff stops next to Mr. Appleton as he stares at the Whistler. “What have I done!” The Whistler replies, his voice high-pitched. “Nothing, son. We just want to question you about a few things.” The sheriff responds as he moves towards the young man. “We would like you to come with us too, Mr Appleton. We have a few questions for you,” the sheriff asks, as he looks at the two FBI agents. Mr. Appleton nods as he walks off the porch with the Whistler and the sheriff. The FBI agents took the Whistler into their car. The sheriff and Mr. Appleton followed them in their cars back to the office for questioning.
Mr. Appleton and the sheriff reached the office at the exact same time. Appleton exited his vehicle and began walking towards the office. He noticed the sheriff was still in his patrol car. The lights on the sheriff’s car began to light up. The siren started to blare. “Appleton! Appleton! Stay here! Don’t go anywhere. I just got a call. The FBI agent’s car has crashed, and the Whistler has disappeared!” The sheriff began backing up his vehicle. “I sure hope you are somehow not involved with what is happening!” he shouted as he started to drive away. “I’m not sheriff! I’m not!” Mr. Appleton replied back. Hollering as the sheriff raced out down the road.
Several authorities from different jurisdictions descended upon the crash scene. The sheriff was at the site first. The two FBI agents were not hurt. Their car hit a tree off the main road. The agents were combing nearby in the wooded area. The Whistler was nowhere to be seen. The sheriff and the FBI agents interviewed Mr. Appleton on two occasions. Their conclusion was that they believed he had nothing to do with the disappearance of the Whistler.
There were suspicions that Mr. Appleton may have had some knowledge of the Nelson boy’s case. Because of his association with the Whistler. The authorities could never prove Mr. Appleton had anything to do with the missing boys’ case. Sydney Appleton never told the authorities what the Whistler told him about the wild man being the lost Nelson boy. Mr. Appleton’s view on that changed after the Whistler escaped. Why did he firmly suspect that the wild man was Liam Nelson? He never said. Sadly, Mr. Appleton passed away weeks after the incident. The FBI and local authorities went on a massive manhunt for the Whistler. To this day, they have not found either of them. The cases remain open. Was the Whistler the Nelson boy? Or was the wild man that the Whistler talked about indeed Liam Nelson? To this day, the townspeople remain divided. Half believe that the Whistler was Liam Nelson. The other half think that the story of the wild man is true. That the wild man is the Nelson boy. Someday someone may reveal the truth. To this day, there have been occasional sightings of a wild man roaming the wilderness.
The mystery continues.