On a walk to the cabin one afternoon, along the edge of the woods, I saw what I thought was a man. I say thought because when I looked again, the figure was gone. “Liam,” I thought. But it can’t be him. He hasn’t been seen since he moved out of the house he had with his family and into a little cabin that he had built in the woods. Only the older folks and the kids that went to school with him at the time remember him. The kids only know the idea of him.
Newcomers were few and far between in the little town of Caerleon. It’s a dreary town surrounded by forest, some streams here and there, and a lake. It rains often, but when the sun shines, you can see the beauty that the town has to offer. There are wildflowers in blues and reds. Colorful birds chirping away at each other, and the smell of fresh earth surrounds the town.
The forest goes on for miles with a thick covering of trees and some sporadic clearings that lets the sunshine in. About five or ten miles in, it depends on who tells the story, there is a lake. Deadman’s Lake it’s called. It’s not a big lake, but it’s not a small lake either. Overgrown grass clings to the edges and the surface is covered in light green algae. Where there isn’t algae, you can see the murky waters below. We don’t know if there is any marine life in the lake, no one is brave enough to find out and no one remembers from before. Next to the lake, there is a single cabin and an outhouse. They both look rather worn down, but still in a livable condition. I take a look around me and reminisce about how this area looked before the tragedy.
Twenty years ago, a family of 4 moved into the neighborhood. They had a little boy, Liam, who was 10 and a little girl, Savannah, who was 6. His family moved in down the street from me and it was like Christmas had come in July! The three of us hung out almost every day that summer and I saw just how close those two were. They were typical siblings, one minute they were best friends and the next they were arguing over anything and everything. But what Liam wouldn’t tell you, is that he would do anything for his little sister.
Senior year of high school, is when everything changed. One day everything was fine, the next, Liam and his sister weren’t in school. That’s when we heard the story. You see, Liam lives in the cabin now because his whole family was murdered. The bodies were dumped in the lake and that’s how it got its name. He moved in there to try and make sure that what happened to his family doesn’t happen to anyone else, but the town just sees it as him being secretive. He was the only survivor. As you well know, that usually makes them a suspect in the eyes of the police. He was injured, but the police believed that they were self-inflicted to make himself look innocent. The investigation went on for 9 months with no new leads, no DNA matches were found, and there were no current matches for the fingerprints at the sc`ene, nothing. Liam was finally let off the hook but now the townspeople view him differently. His 3 closest friends that he has known since the 5th grade believe, without a doubt, that he is innocent.
I am one of those friends. I finally make it to the cabin and am greeted by Liam’s dog, Bear. His tail is wagging like crazy as I give him a well deserved treat for guarding my friend. “Liam, it’s me,” I say as I knock on the wooden door. No response. “He must be sleeping,” I think to myself. I look around for the spare key that he keeps hidden and let myself in. I put the groceries away while Bear follows me around, begging for another treat. I hear the door open and turn to see Liam entering.
“Hey Liam, I brought your groceries over for you,” I say. He nods his head in thanks, he hasn’t said much since the murders happened. I make some small talk even though I know he won’t really reply, but I update him on what has been going on in town. After a few minutes, and a final pat on the head for Bear, I leave to head home.
By the time I make it home, the sun has started to set and the street lights are beginning to turn on. Kids are still outside playing though, under the supervision of a few parents. I hear snippets of the game that the kids are playing, they are coming up with their own story of Liam. “He is 6 feet tall and he’s missing some teeth!,” says one kid. Another disagrees and says that he looks this other way instead. It hurts me to hear him described this way and that the parents don’t do anything to correct them. They watch me carefully as I walk by, making sure that I don’t approach their children as they play.
I take a look around the block, just out of habit. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Bear trotting towards me. It’s unusual as he doesn’t typically leave Liam’s side. He reaches me and as I lean down to pet him, I notice that his fur feels wet and sticky. It’s blood.
At this same moment, a lady from down the street comes out of her house screaming, “My kids! Has anyone seen my kids?” A panic begins. Kids always stay close to home because even though they come up with their own games and ideas about Liam, the threat that they believe he poses keeps them in line. Even if some of the older kids try and sneak off to the cabin to try and catch a look of the supposed killer.
It dawns on me that this may very well be what happened. The game Truth or Dare is very popular with the teenagers and everyone’s favorite dare is to go to Liam’s cabin and try and bring something back from it as proof that they were actually there. It’s a test of bravery.
Bear begins to whine at me and starts to walk away, I follow him with a sense of urgency. From my house, it’s about a fifteen minute walk to the cabin if you know where you’re going. Longer if you don’t. Bear and I make it to the cabin and the door is open and partially off its hinges. I run inside but don’t see the kids or Liam. With the panic inside of me growing, I make my way to Deadman’s Lake. I haven’t been to the lake itself since my family and I went to pick up Liam after he was found alive.
Bear runs towards the lake and I follow closely behind. Breaking through the trees, I see Liam standing over the kids and another person that I don’t recognize is on the ground a few feet away. I check on Liam first. “Are you okay? The kids?” He nods and says, “That’s the man. The one they couldn’t find.” I stare in shock. It’s the most I have heard him say since we brought him home that night. By now, police have showed up and the kids have been loaded into ambulances. They have minor injuries thanks to Liam’s intervention and will be okay.
Liam later fills me in on everything that happened. He was taken into custody and questioned. Until the kids gave their statement, he was the main suspect. No one knew who the other man was, but as it turns out he was Liam’s estranged uncle. The man was finger printed and ID’d, and a potential match was found in the system for a cold case; It was the case of Liam’s family. After years, the killer was finally found and arrested. Liam was pardoned and a public apology was made.
However, with having lived out in the woods for so long, and the townspeople still being wary of him, he couldn’t bring himself to move back into town. So he stayed in his cabin, staying a mystery to all but the children he had saved and their parents. Every once in a while, you can hear a kid telling their friends that they saw Liam in the shadows or out of the corner of their eye. Their friends just laugh and change the subject. He and Bear watch over the kids in town, the silent protectors of Caerleon, staying hidden in the shadows. Now, a new story is told around town. The story of how my best friend saved two kids and is a hero.