chapter 24 -- home moviesMr. Karras led Jack from the kitchen, through a very comfortable looking living room, and into a study with a big desk and large bookcases. Outside the windows of the study, the season’s first snowstorm swept in with great force, bending the fir trees that could barely be seen through the blizzard. Jack felt warm and safe inside the house.
On a clear afternoon, the windows would have provided more than enough light for the room, but the storm brought an early and eerie twilight to the mountain home. Mr. Karras impatiently flicked on a light switch, and the study glowed with warmth.
Jack’s eyes roamed from the books and photos on the walls, to . . .
. . . a white Bell cycling helmet on a shelf and an old typewriter at the desk. The most unusual part of the room was an entire wall of bookcases to the right of the desk, covered with a large bed sheet, where various notes, maps, pictures, and newspaper clippings were pinned up and connected to each other with string.
Meanwhile, Mr. Karras was busily rummaging around in a tall cabinet. “Yes, here it is!” he exclaimed and brought out two small reels of movie film and . . .
. . . a movie projector. In just a few moments, Mr. Karras had one of the film reels threaded through the projector. He motioned to Jack to cut the lights while he pulled down a movie screen attached across the top of some of the bookcases.
The clackety-clackety sound of the projector filled the room as a beam of bright light cut across the study and cast its moving picture on the screen.
At first, it was difficult for Jack to understand what he was seeing. The film was out of focus and very jumpy, but gradually,
. . . a wooded Ragbrai campsite came into view, and Jack could see a lone figure lumbering his way across the screen from left to right. The creature was covered in hair and seemed both ape-like and human-like at the same time. His massive arms swung in wide arcs as he walked, and at one point he turned to look straight at the camera, as if he sensed he was being filmed. Then, the beast turned away and continued walking across the campsite and out of view.
The same clip repeated a few more times with closer looks at the creature before the film had spooled its way through the projector, leaving a big rectangle of bright white light on the screen.
Mr. Karras spoke in a hushed voice as he turned off the projector lamp and began to rewind the film. “That footage was taken on Ragbray this year by a man named
. . . Patterson. He was also able to make some plaster casts of the footprints left behind. The film came to me through someone known only as tiagopsc. It reveals some strange things that happened on this year’s ride. This is one of the puzzle pieces I need to figure out.”
“Could we watch it the film one more time?” asked Jack.
“Certainly,” replied Mr. Karras. “Any clues you can provide will be of the utmost importance if I am to unravel the conspiracy.”
The film was rewound and carefully threaded through the projector. Then the clackety-clackety sound of the machine started once again and . . .
. . . Jack focused his attention on the screen. This time, he knew what to expect and he studied the large, hairy figure lurching across the campsite.
When the movie had spooled all the way through the projector for a second time, Mr. Karras turned off the projector, flicked the lights on, and turned to Jack. “Amazing isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is,” replied Jack.
“Well, kid, I’ve had paleontologists and anthropologists study this film, but no one knows what it is. Can you help me decipher this?” asked Mr. Karras earnestly.
“Yes, I can,” replied Jack.
“What did you see?” whispered Mr. Karras.
“That’s easy,” answered Jack. “That is footage of Randy Dickson heading toward the showers after a day on Ragbrai.”
to be continued...
[a serial by little orphan dbax]