On the facing page was a drawing of a Giant Pacific Salamander. As a child, Matt remembered finding them in rotting vegetation and shallow pools. As well as biological information, Darshan had meticulously indicated the time, date and location of the sighting and had accurately depicted with crayon the amphibians subtle shades of brown and tan. The kid kept better field notes than he did when on assignment.
“They’re ‘red listed’, Darshan said.
“Endangered. Loss of habitat and pollution is going to kill them all.”
“You’re interested in this stuff?” Matt said.
“Mom says everybody should interested in preserving the environment. Aren’t you?”
Matt turned the page and jerked back. Staring back at him were two penetrating yellow eyes superimposed over bold vertical stripes of earth brown and forest green. Matt felt his scalp prickle. Those were eyes that evoked a waking nightmare from his childhood.
“What’s this?” Matt thrust the book back at Darshan.
The boy looked at him and hesitated. His dark eyes searched Matt’s face, assessing, considering. “Just a picture.”
“Did you actually see those eyes, or copy it from a book?”
“I see them.” It was a child’s response, direct and honest.
“Where?” Matt felt short of breath. The pain in his stomach now took precedence over the one in his head.
“At the river sometimes, maybe in the short cut from school through the woods, sometimes at night...”
“What else do you see. Do you see more than the eyes?” Matt began to sweat. He felt like he did when caught in the middle of a firefight between mercenaries hired by some dictator and bandits posing as freedom fighters – there was no safe place. Information was his weapon, his protection. He needed to know what this boy knew.
Darshan closed his notebook and folded his hands on top of the cover. “Mom says not to talk about it or people will think I’m loonie.”
“Listen, kid –“
A car honked.
“That’s Mom.” Darshan was off the chair and out the door.
The fear of seeing Raminder now superseded that of the terror from his childhood. “Shit.” The dahl churned and the spices burned. He was going to throw up.
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