If it hadn’t been for the splintered clapboard steeple topped with half a copper weather vane, Dalton would have thought he was in the wrong place.
A thicket of trees had swallowed the church itself, and the rest of the town’s buildings were nothing but hunks of wood and rock dotting the landscape like heavy tumbleweeds.
No … Crenshaw was not so much a ghost town as a wooden skeleton scattered on the desert floor there in front of Dalton.
But there was no mistaking the church tower, the same one that had served as his compass as he raced back to town as a boy, late for church, after a Sunday morning fishing trip got the better of him.
No matter how late he was, though, Daddy would always be standing there, ringing the bell and smiling.
“Daddies always wait for their little boys,” David would say, and the two of them would walk in together.
Even when Dalton was nearly a man, his daddy would wait for him. All Dalton had to do was listen for the bell and follow the steeple, and Daddy would be there.
But the day finally came when Dalton decided to set off on his own, to make his life away from Crenshaw. And he never went back, even when his mama died.
Twenty years had passed, and Dalton figured Daddy was gone, too. When his railroad company set up shop within fifty miles of Crenshaw, though, Dalton didn’t expect to find the town had up and died, too.
He shook his head now and turned to cross the little foot bridge that spanned Spinner Creek.
Before he was halfway across, the church bell pealed through the silence behind him.
“Daddies always wait for their little boys,” a voice said, from … somewhere.