Night came quickly to Three Oaks. A sleepy little town, sitting in its own little patch of nowhere. No one had anything to do or anywhere to go to do it. Doors closed, lights dimmed, televisions and radios murmured softly in the warm stillness. Crickets chirped, and frogs croaked out in the woods and fields, the noises only making the silence seem deeper. In town, the only sign of life was faint music drifting out from a dingy bar on the corner, its neon light flickering off more than it was on.
Headlights suddenly flashed up out of the horizon. The faint wail of a siren grew steadily louder and louder as three state patrol cars came speeding down the highway. The night's quiet shattered as they roared by. Shutters rolled up, doors opened, people emerged from their homes to stare. The cars shot into Three Oaks and through the only stoplight without slowing down, and went flying off into the distance, the harsh cry of their sirens following them. The sound slowly faded as they disappeared from sight.
After a long pause, a man's head emerged from a bush along the highway right at the edge of town. It turned left and right slowly, scanning the dark for any sign of life. Finding none, it pulled back inside the bush, which began to shake and emit various other body parts. Finally, and with considerable difficulty, a man extricated himself completely. He brushed twigs and leaves off of himself, then reached down into the bush and pulled out a battered fedora hat. Setting it on his head at a rakish angle, he turned to look down the road, past Three Oaks, to where the police cars had disappeared.
"Bother," said Parker. "This is going to be more difficult than I thought."