No one seemed to know exactly where he had come from or even when he got into town for the first time. He was simply known as Job.
No one knew his last name.
He had materialized into the town obscurely like a moving cloud years ago and started doing just that – odd jobs here and there.
At first he didn’t give a name, and seemed to avoid the subject. He would join in conversations around the upstart town, blend in and even seem to know more about the goings on more than other folks did.
He was not employed that they could see, but went about looking for a job of any type. Eventually folks began to call him Job; that’s what he was always asking for. So he earned himself a reputation for doing anything. Job can do this or Job can do that, they’d say. If there was an odd job to do, they simply called Job. Eventually, he felt comfortable with it and began to tell strangers and new customers that his name was Job. And so the name stuck.
He seemed to know a lot, too. He knew the cost of labor and commodities in the far markets, names of new settlers and details of their land deals. He even began to broker deals on parcels of land as a commission agent.
Overtime, as the town grew and the community set roots, Job transformed from the town’s do-it-all artisan and grew with it to the level of an extremely knowledgeable consultant. His knack for knowing current affairs had earned him respect from the community. By the time he began brokering deals and arranging for supplies for merchants and the school, he was already successful and building his own house.
He seemed to appear when he was needed, as though he had a telepathic mind. He had updated information about anything in town, from the school and the business alike on both sides of the road. When folks had disputes, it was not uncommon for one to suggest soliciting the opinion of Job. Job said it costs so much, and that was usually final. Many a time he had helped resolve serious disputes. He knew just about everything. He was the town’s clearinghouse.
The police commander was friends with Job. It had started with information. The town was not a busy crime area, but nevertheless, things always happened, including petty theft. The commander had come to appreciate Job’s ear-on-the-ground and his knack for knowing what was up in any corner of the town or the country. Not that he ever asked Job how he got to know stuff so fast and accurately.
Job had helped the commander piece together information that helped solve more than one crime. The commander had built a lot of respect for Job, and called him secretly once in a while for advice regarding certain issues in the town.
Job was a tall man of about forty, with prematurely stooped shoulders and curious eyes that seemed to suggest a perpetually amused smile. He lived by himself in a three-room house behind the gas station. It had a private fence as high as the steel gate. He was unmarried, and had no real attachments or friends that anyone knew of. He did not entertain visitors at his house. No one from the town claimed to have ever entered there. He was neither antisocial nor considered to be a recluse. He smiled at everyone and said hello to the ladies. He even helped feed hungry folks whenever he found them.
Job had a running mental summary of the town’s daily happenings by sunset each day and he could fairly predict the general atmosphere of business and events in the town the next day. He could even accurately predict the weather. Folks believed him whenever he said that it was going to rain in two days.
By the time he slipped by the gas station and found his gate in the twilight, he already knew that Father Dondus had handed over his car to a stranger, and that Dondus had been out of town on a private errand that had nothing to do with the school. He also knew that Dondus was missing something terribly important to him, which fact had made him return to the school later in the evening, after realizing that the something was not in the car where he had left it.
Dondus had come back because the thing was missing. Someone must have removed it from the car. Job suspected that whoever removed the thing had thwarted Dondus’ important trip, forcing him to come back into town. That was almost certain in Job’s mind. What he was not certain was why Dondus had given his car to a stranger to keep or drive away.
The car was now parked behind the gas station. The stranger was around somewhere. Job was sure the mystery would unravel by noon the next day. He had his eyes peeled and his ear to the ground, as they said. All the time.
He unlocked his outer gate, then an inner one and then locked both from the inside. After entering his house, he commenced in fixing himself a cup of tea, about the only thing he ever cooked in his house. He preferred to eat in the business places where he met people, gathered information and made deals.
Job was thinking as he worked around the sink. He had seen the school gardener, Absalom Tumm, near Father Dondus’ house the day before and again this morning. Now, Tumm had no business hanging around the priest’s house. There was no gardening work that needed doing around there. Come to think of it, Absalom had been prowling around the chapel and the house more frequently than the duties of a gardener required. It was dry season and no leaves needed raking or grass mowing. It was possible that he had been assigned some work around there by one of the priests.
Anyway, Job was sure that he had seen Father Dondus place a briefcase in the back of the Volkswagen earlier at mid morning. Then he walked off to the office block and was gone for a while. Later on, the school had cancelled afternoon classes to hold vigil for the missing boy. Search parties were still out there looking for him.