I tried to explain myself, but Tina interrupted her own question.
“Come in. Come in.”
I almost laughed when the smell of fresh-baked scones and fresh-roasted coffee greeted my nostrils. Tina was like something out of the fictional Leave It To Beaver universe plunked down in the dark country fields of rural Tennessee. I took a seat at the little wooden breakfast table and was presented with a blueberry scone and heavily-creamed coffee before I could even get my first word out.
“It’s so nice of you to come by and say hi. Sorry Ronnie isn’t around. He’s down at the church.”
I finished my first sip of searing-hot coffee.
“That’s okay. I was actually looking to talk with you.”
“With me? You gotta be kidding me. Levi Green came all the way from the big city of Denver, to talk to me?”
I gave a courtesy laugh.
“I’m visiting my dad and I thought of a few things I wanted to ask you, if you don’t mind.”
“Well of course.”
“You remember what happened with my cousin, Chase Lucas?”
Tina paused chewing the scone she had previously been gulping down like a pelican.
“Of course. It was probably the worst thing that ever happened around here.”
“I was talking about it with my dad last night and we were wondering about something and we thought you might be a good person to talk to, being so connected to the community and all.”
“You can go ahead and say because I’m the town gossip.”
I let out a genuine laugh.
“Well okay. We were thinking about what happened to Chase all those years ago and were wondering… did you ever hear anybody talking about that maybe Chase didn’t really kill himself?”
Tina paused her chewing again. Took in a deep breath.
“I heard that. I didn’t think much about it at the time, but I did hear it. It’s something you have to really think about though. That little boy decided to kill himself and do it by jumping in with a bunch of hogs?”
“That’s what me and my dad were talking about.”
“I think the thing was that no one really had anything else that made sense either. You can’t make a conviction without any kind of evidence. I tried to talk to Ronnie about it, but he didn’t seem to know anything either.”
I had never once heard anything about Ronnie and Chase even knowing each other.
“Ronnie knew Chase pretty well through Crave. He talked about him quite a bit before he died. He was pretty broken up when it all happened.”
“It’s a network of churches around here. They’re the ones which aimed at having kids get involved in church. They had the church which looked like Noah’s ark up in Martin all the kids loved. Ronnie still goes to them. He’s actually at a meet-up thing in Union City right now.”
The idea of Crave Churches vaguely came back to me. I remembered them recruiting a lot of kids in my middle school. They tried desperately to make church cool in a way to attract teenagers to hopefully someday replace their aging congregation. Suddenly even kids who were smoking behind the gym at lunch and stealing their parents’ peppermint schnapps were going to youth group. Once I thought about it, Ronnie was exactly one of those kids.
“Do you know when Ronnie gets back?”