Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Yellow-Knoll House, Devils Lake, North Dakota

   Claire Barton found him washed up and bloodied on the little beach behind her cozy yellow-knoll house. He was lying face up: aquiline nose, high cheekbones, wide mouth and large eyes; his slender frame sent a forgotten shudder through her.
   She ran to the house and returned with a pail of water and a rag to dab the blood on the side of his face. Claire never thought about the phone. As she bathed his forehead and cleaned the wicked cut along the side of his face, he stirred and opened his eyes. He tried to wave her away, but was too feeble. He struggled to get up and she finally helped him to his feet. He let her take him to the house.
  When his head cleared, he could not tell her of his past, his wallet was missing and his memory gone from the wicked blow to his head. Claire had sutured the cut, thinking it could have been a bullet that grazed the side of his face. Oddly, neither one of them suggested a doctor, or the police.
    Claire let the no-name man with the slender body and dark, wide-set olive eyes stay in the guest room by the kitchen. He offered to fix the back porch and paint it while he oriented himself. He told her he had dreams of two women, a gun shot and then falling into the dark water. Often they sat at night on the front porch staring at the endless acres of North Dakota wheat. She felt the heat of him to her bone.
  One night there was a terrible storm and they retired early, she went upstairs to her bedroom suite. And he disappeared into his small room. After midnight, there was a brilliant strike of lightning, followed by an ear-splitting clap of thunder, which shook the house. He awoke with a start and sat up. It all came back, he knew.
   Claire awoke to a strange sound and found him sitting on the bed. His eyes were glittering as the lightning flashed. "I am from Mississippi." He said, peering down at her. She wanted to rise and tried to speak, but only managed a gurgle.
   "I am Shadow Man, and I am an assassin." He said, then bent down and kissed her cheek. "That sound
that awoke you? That was me cutting your throat."
  A neighbor found Claire a few days later. The event terrorized Devils Lake for many months.
  Today the yellow-knoll house sits abandoned.

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