When the Sewage Treatment Plant Burned

The look on the deputies face was one of puzzlement, I thought. I recognized him as someone who I had attended high school with, though he was three years older than me.

“Yes, Darby,” I repeated to the deputy as we both stood in the glare emitted from the patrol car’s headlights.

I was holding the top of my head, a faint line of blood trickled its way from under my hand. I offered to show the deputy the injury.

After a quick look the deputy asked, “So where’d this happen?”

Both my girlfriend, Cathy and I pointed to the open field and the half-burned out wood framed shack.

“We saw somebody sneaking around it as we drove up the road,” Cathy offered.

“So how’d you get hit in the head?” the deputy asked as he turned back to look at me.

I looked down at my feet and then back up towards the deputy and replied, “I went over there to confront whoever was sneaking around the place.” I paused to gather my thoughts, then added, “I stepped around the backside of the building and that’s when I got smacked on top of the head.”

The deputy and his partner both turned and aimed their flashlights towards the derelict shack. Then the pair cautiously proceeded across the field to it.

After walking around the building and checked the field, the two wandered back to the patrol car. They explained to us that they couldn’t find any sign of an intruder and that had one been there, he or she were gone now.

“So are you sure you got hit in the head here?” the deputy asked.

“Yeah, I’m sure,” I answered, feeling a little on the indignant side.

Cathy and I glanced at one another, then she asked, “Why?”

She didn’t get an answer, instead her question was met with another, “Where were you coming from?”

“The football game,” I answered, adding, “Look, if you’re not gonna believe us then quit wasting our time, so I can get inside and get a rag to put on top of my head!”

After a few seconds of silence, the deputies partner responded, “Okay then — we can’t really do anymore here anyway.”

The pair then got back the cruiser and backed down the driveway a few yards, turned around and drove back to Lake Earl Drive. Their sudden departure left the night feeling darker than it had before their their arrival.

“What the fuck was that about?” Cathy asked me as we walked towards the main house.

I shook my head and answered, “I don’t know.”

The following day, Cathy got up and headed into work at KPOD. She called me a few minutes after arriving at the station and told me about the sewage treatment plant being destroyed the night before.

It was unusual for her to call me, jus’ to let me know something she knew I’d hear about on the radio as soon as I got around to turning it on. So I felt compelled to ask her, “Why are you telling me this?”

Cathy paused a couple of seconds, then replied, saying, “Your brother’s name has come up in connection with what the cops are calling an arson investigation.”

“Ah, shit!” I exclaimed.

Within hours the news about the arson fire was all over the news, and in the newspapers of Del Norte, Humboldt and Curry Counties. However, Adam’s name was never mentioned in any of the articles.

Yet, less than two-months later, Adam joined the U.S. Army and would never return to the county to live again. The rapid decision to suddenly enlist wasn’t lost on me either.

And while I can only speculate about what actually happened that night, I know the crime has remained officially unsolved since it occurred.

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