The weather was beginning to change and soon the leaves would follow suit. Cain loved the fall. The brisk air tinged with the smell of wood smoke from someone’s chimney or fire pit was the harbinger that signaled summer was finally at an end.
He was also eager to say goodbye to the mosquitoes and gnats that have always plagued his working life. There was always a downside to any job. Unfortunately, Cain could name a few more unpleasant aspects of being a Fish and Game officer, chief of which were the morons who hunted out of season or ignored the legal limits of the hunting and fishing seasons.
After nineteen years of policing the great outdoors, he had begun to appreciate his last promotion. Becoming Resident Agent In Charge, or RAC, of the Western Pennsylvania Region required that he spend more time behind a desk. It was a good assignment to receive as his thoughts turned to retirement, for which he was eligible in about six years. After twenty-five years his pension would be very attractive. What could go wrong? he thought.
He was about to find out.
Cain looked up from his desk as a visitor walked in dressed in more flannel than what could be considered in good taste. It was Deacon Humboldt, self-proclaimed wildlife expert and local Grizzly Adams look-like. The major qualifications for the last being that he never shaved and only took a shower about once a month. For reference, the local Amish found his personal hygiene disgusting.
Cain and Deke had been friends for years. Not withstanding his smell, Deke was a good man. He was honest, faithful and the funniest man that Cain had ever encountered. He was always welcome because he lightened the mood whenever he arrived.
Looking at his friend, Cain knew this was going to be a different type of encounter.
“What’s wrong, Deke? You look agitated as hell.”
“Yeah, but you could still say hello when you see a body walk in.”
“Hello, Deke,” Cain acquiesced.
“Don’t hello me. I’m too upset for pleasantries.”
Cain immediately barked out a laugh. This was classic Deke.
“Once more. What’s wrong, Deke?” he repeated.
“I don’t know where to start. Should I start with the ghost or the dead deer?”
The RAC didn’t know how to react. As soon as he heard the word ‘ghost’ he began to wonder if Deke was about to string him along with an elaborate joke. The dead deer was what really caused Cain to doubt that there was humor involved. Deke was dead serious about his wildlife.
“Start with the ghost. That sounds intriguing to me.”
“Okay. I’ll start with my trail cam. Here, look,” Deke said as he threw a series of black and white photos on Cain’s desk. Cain picked them up. They were the typical monochrome images from an infrared trail camera. The primary image captured was a beautiful eight point buck with the white glowing eyes that were typical of such images. There was an additional point of interest to the far right in the photo.
“What do you think, Cain? Interesting, ain’t it?”
Cain didn’t answer. He looked more closely at the image on the right. There was no point looking any further at the deer. It was very clear, but the other image looked as if it was glowing.
“C’mon, Cain. What does that look like to you?”
Cain refused to be rushed. Yes, Deke was a good man, but he loved drama. He liked to gossip and spin yarns. Cain didn’t want to start anything. He wanted to examine the photo a moment longer and then choose his words carefully.
“Dammit ranger, tell me what you see. In plain English so I don’t misconstrue anything. You know how I like to be dead nuts accurate about these things.”
“Well first, stop calling me ranger. I am an officer or a warden. And second, I see what appears to be a woman dressed in a light colored garment standing off to the side behind the deer. It is a little indistinct, but she appears to be screaming towards the deer, or maybe the camera.”
“That’s the ghost, Penelope Sutter. She was a bride and on her wedding day, right before the ‘I do’s’ she was accused by two women of being a witch. Right there in the church during the ceremony. People got a might upset. The story goes that a self-appointed vigilante group grabbed her and dragged her into the woods. When the group came back out of the woods, Penelope wasn’t with them. No one ever saw her again. How do you like them apples, Cain?”
“Cute story, Deke. When did this supposedly happen?”
“1817. And right here in Canoe Creek. The forest was a lot bigger back then. I believe it was in September, after the harvest. That’s when they did weddings and such. Always after the harvest, once the work was done. I read all this in a book called, The History of Blair County. That’s a picture of the real Blair witch, not that made up crap from Hollywood.”
“Why couldn’t this just be a woman out for a walk?”
“Damn, Cain. You’re a cop…of sorts. Don’t you see the timestamp? Three ought five in the lower left corner. Nobody goes walking in the woods at 3:05 a.m. Nobody.”
“People are strange. What else has you convinced this is a witch or a ghost or whatever?”
“The deer, Cain. The damn deer. Let me show you Exhibit B.”
Cain had to stifle a chuckle. Deke had obviously watched too many episodes of Perry Mason, Matlock, LA Law or any of the recent cheesy lawyer shows. If Deke kept acting like a backwoods lawyer, Cain was going to lose it.
“When I go out in the woods, I am always prepared. I bring my sixteen megapixel Kodak digital camera. And before you say something smart ass, yes, I am a renaissance man. I use computers and everything. Now slip this smart card into your laptop and have a look.”
Cain complied with his friend’s request. Within two minutes he found himself looking at an animal carcass. He saw a deer’s head lying a few feet away from the main trunk, which appeared to be missing its legs.
A few photos later he was staring at the legs. At first he wasn’t sure they were legs because each one had long strands of flesh and fur hanging loosely around them. The carnage was horrendous.
“Holy shit, Deke. Why would somebody do this?”
“It wasn’t a regular somebody, Ranger. It was a pissed off ghost.”
“Why would a ghost butcher a deer out in the woods? And quit calling me Ranger!”
“That deer wasn’t butchered, Cain. It was torn apart. I butcher deer for myself and my friends, and I’m telling you there ain't one blade mark on that deer. Not a pocket knife, a butcher knife, a saw, a machete or hatchet. That poor creature was rend apart limb from limb. And going by the blood spatter, it was alive while it was happening.”
Cain locked up the office and followed Deke. He needed to see this for himself.
Warden Jeremy Cain had never seen anything like the carnage he saw with Deke. In his nineteen year career he had seen victims, both human and animal, of bear and mountain lion attacks. But nothing that he could recall compared to what he had just seen.
He had taken his own camera, which was an old six pixel point and shoot that the state owned. But he didn’t take any pictures of his own. He already had Deke’s photos on his laptop. They were way better than anything he would have captured. And he needed the extreme detail to make the case that the deer had not been butchered by a man.
Of course, it was his job to think about what might have caused the deer’s death. Men were not strong enough to do that. There were no ligature marks present, so mechanical means were eliminated. That leaves only one logical conclusion. It was a beast of some kind. The thought made him shiver. There were no claw marks or discernible bite wounds. Whatever did this grabbed the deer and simply separated the head and legs from the body. What in the hell could do that? he wondered.
More than thirty-five miles away in Rothrock State Park, four hikers and a dog were getting ready to pick a spot to put up their tents and settle in for the evening. Ken and his girlfriend Linda were the couple who instigated the outdoor foray and Ray and his wife Juanita were the willing companions. All four had been friends since college. The dog was named Biscuits and he belonged to Ray and Juanita. Maybe more correctly, they belonged to him.
No one in the group was particularly gifted as an outdoorsman, but that is the beauty of camping. You learn by your mistakes. They were impulsive and full of life. One of them said, “let’s go hiking and camping,” and the others said, “why not?”
There was still forty to fifty minutes of daylight left. The foursome found a clearing and began to pitch their tents. Each couple had invested in a nice two person hiker’s tent. They were easy to set up and extremely lightweight. The night’s accommodations were quickly set up with daylight to spare. The remaining time would be used to gather wood and tinder for a fire.
The men gathered the wood while the ladies found some rocks to make the fire circle. All were anticipating the next thing on their agenda which was to make an edible meal. Not one person in their little foursome was confident that the goal was achievable, but they were going to give it the old college try.
Their meal packs were freeze dried beef stroganoff with additional packs of red beans and rice. Although the meal pairing was not traditional, they were famished and looked forward to eating anything besides the salty beef jerky they had eaten on the trail.
While the humans went about their work, Biscuits occupied himself with sniffing the urine and scat that the local wildlife had left behind. There was more than enough to keep the canine happily sniffing for hours.
A fire was started with the aid of a Zippo lighter. Ken poured the contents of his canteen into a one quart stowaway pan from his backpack. Once the water was heated it would be poured directly into the freeze dried pouches of food. They couldn’t wait.
They sat around their little campfire and reminisced about their old college days, which were only six years behind them. They laughed and argued. The food was prepared and, with the exception of being a touch too salty, it was agreed that it was extremely edible. Ray thought it was delicious, which began a round of making fun of Juanita’s cooking. Juanita was not amused.
Biscuits was given some kibble that Juanita had stored in her backpack. The group’s tummies were full. All was right with the world.
As the night cooled and the fire was stoked into a mighty blaze, Ken suggested that the group share ghost stories from their childhoods. Both women were less than enthusiastic, but Ray and Ken thought it would be great fun.
Ken started with a story about a crazy farmer, whom he said was from the local area, of course, who lost his mind and killed his entire family with a pitchfork. The family was found slaughtered, but the farmer was never caught and brought to justice.
“It is said that he still roams these woods to this very day,” Ken intoned and shouted,“BOO!”
The girls jumped and Juanita screamed that she thought she peed herself. They all laughed uncontrollably for a full three minutes.
“My turn, my turn,” Ray said hurriedly.
They got quiet as Ray began.
“This is a true story. I read it in some ghost book from this area. It was pretty cool.”
The fire crackled and popped.
“A woman named Penelope Sutter was getting married. I mean this happened right in the middle of the ceremony,” Ray emphasized.
“What happened in the middle of the ceremony?” Linda asked.
“The preacher got to the part about anybody objecting to the marriage. All of a sudden three women jump up and accuse poor Penelope of being a witch. A group of men entered the church and grabbed Penelope right then and there and took her out into the woods. They all came back, but Penelope didn’t. How weird is that?”
“Seriously? That’s your idea of a story?” questioned Ken.
“I’m not finished, asshole. So anyway, she is said to haunt these woods seeking revenge.”
“Holy crap, Ray. That story sucked. At least tell us what the men did to her.”
“They killed her. Isn’t that obvious?”
“But how?” Juanita asked.
“I don’t know. The book didn’t say. Who cares? She didn’t come back and was never seen alive again. Use your freaking imaginations.”
“Sucks dude. Just saying,” Ken said.
They sat in silence for about three minutes, just watching the fire. Ken was about to begin a story he remembered from his childhood, but before he could make a sound, a shriek split the night air.
“What the hell was that? Sounded close.” Ken said a little too loudly.
They were all unnerved by the sound. Biscuits began a low guttural growl.
Ray said, “It’s probably a peacock.”
Juanita looked at him in disgust. “A peacock? We just heard a scream, that made me pee my pants a second time by the way, and you think it was a peacock? Honey, sometimes you just amaze me. And not in a good way.”
“No. Listen. Peacocks are said to make a loud noise that sounds like a woman screaming. I saw it on the National Geographic channel. All these peacocks were on some Greek island and screaming their little heads off. It’s true,” Ray insisted.
Just then the shriek sounded again, only closer. And it seemed angrier.
Biscuits was now barking and growling as if he were ready to defend his family. He was facing the woods directly behind the tents.
“Did you see that?” Linda asked.
“What? What did you see?” replied Ken.
“I saw something white move between the trees. Right there,” Linda directed as she pointed at the same spot Biscuits was facing. “It was big. Like a person.”
Ken grabbed a flashlight and walked towards the tree line. He was more than a bit afraid, but someone needed to take action. The sound had really unnerved him. It was very primal and almost human. He had a sinking feeling that this wasn’t going to end well.
“Go with him Ray,” Juanita insisted.
Ray, not wanting to be accused of being scared although he was, grabbed his own flashlight and scurried to catch up with Ken. He also had grabbed a short heavy branch from their woodpile. He didn’t believe it would prove too effective, but believed it was better than being completely unarmed.
Ken’s light was piercing and illuminated a fair amount of the treeline. He saw two or three pairs of eyes looking back at him at ground level. Obviously small animals not capable of the sound they had heard. Further into the woods he saw a flash of white between two trees. It confused him. It happened so fast. His first impression was that it was a woman in a white night gown.
Ray said, “I saw it too. It looked human. Right?”
“What would someone be doing out here running around in the woods? It’s freaking dark as shit and there are wild animals and snakes to deal with. That would be insane,” Ken declared.
“Well, we’re out here. Is that insane?” Ray asked.
“I’ve got a 9mm Glock in my pocket. So no, it’s not insane.”
“A freaking Glock? Really?”
“Shhh. Be quiet. If Linda knew, she’d shoot me. And with my own gun,” Ken whispered.
“I’m glad you're armed. All I got is this stupid stick. When I was a kid and I picked up a stick to play with, my mom would scream, ‘drop it or you’ll poke your eye out.’ That woman scared the shit out of me most of the time.”
Ken stopped and looked at Ray and laughed. Ray was the funniest guy he ever knew. He couldn't tell a good ghost story, but his tales about his childhood always made Ken laugh uproariously. “Let’s go into the woods a bit. I’ll pull my Glock to protect us and we’ll get to the bottom of this.”
Just as they began to enter the woods, both girls screamed for the guys to return to them. Biscuits had chosen the better part of valor and stayed with the women. He continued to growl as the men entered the woods. Even the dog knew that it wasn’t a good idea.
The next morning Cain sat alone in his office. Deke’s photos of the deer were open on his computer desktop. He knew the wildlife in this area. Not one creature came to mind that could do what he was viewing on the screen. Definitely not without leaving bite marks or claw marks. Yet, here it was in high definition detail.
The phone rang. He picked it up slowly, as if in a fog. A man’s voice that he recognized from the Centre County Sheriff’s Office was telling him that a group of campers had been attacked in Rothrock State Park. He registered the words fataltities, dog and survivor. He then hung up the phone.
He called Mitch Salas, one of his subordinate wardens to meet him at the south entrance to Rothrock. He also told him to keep the media away if he could. He informed him that the Pennsylvania State Police were already heading to the park. His week just went from weird to worse.
As he hopped into his warden’s SUV which was one of the best perks of his job, he had no idea that this call would relate to Deke’s gruesome discovery. It did and he would find out soon enough.
Mitch Salas was as solid as they come. Smart, good looking, very professional. He had a wife and three little ones. He had been a warden for twelve years. It was his dream job.
He had seen death on the job on several occasions. One man was mauled to death by a bear, three others died of heart attacks during deer season, a hunter fell out of a deer stand and broke his neck and a child had been killed by a mountain lion several years back.
Upon arrival at the park entrance a state policeman stopped him. Mitch was in a marked warden SUV and the state cop wanted to warn him about the carnage.
“What the hell do you guys have out here in these woods? Something just turned three people and a dog into a pile of meat. I was first on the scene after a couple of hikers called it in. I couldn’t even stay back there. What a mess,” the trooper exclaimed.
“I’ll go check it out. My boss is going to show up in a while. Could you tell him I went back? And where exactly is the incident located?” Mitch asked.
“About two hundred yards in on trailhead three. You’ll see several state cars and an ambulance,” the trooper stated.
“Oh, any survivors?” Mitch asked.
“One, but she was messed up mentally. When I got here she was just sitting on the ground rocking herself back and forth babbling something about somebody named Penelope and her monkey. Rocking and murmuring over and over. Penelope must be the name of the dead woman. Sad. Hope that poor girl recovers.”
Mitch drove on to the spot. Rothrock was his main patrol area. If memory served him, there would be a clearing near where the trooper indicated the incident took place. Within eight minutes, he pulled up next to two state police vehicles.
He quickly located the ambulance and saw the EMTs working on a woman who appeared to be in her early thirties. She was bloodied, but seemed to be able to sit upright. She didn’t wince at all the attention she was receiving. She didn’t seem to be in pain. In fact, the look on her face would have to be described as vacant. Like she wasn’t there.
A trooper saw Mitch and called him over.
“Are you taking lead on this?” asked the trooper.
“Either me or my boss. He’ll be here in less than an hour. He was in his office at Canoe Creek when he got the call. So what’s the story?”
The trooper began to walk him through it. They headed through the clearing that Mitch remembered and walked into the woods. Thirty yards in Mitch could see two troopers taking measurements and looking rather disgusted.
Mitch’s guide showed him an arm, then a torso with no head, a leg, another torso. The tour continued in this fashion until Mitch said, “Okay, Trooper Wilkes, I get it. Pieces and parts everywhere. Any sense been made of it?”
“Holy shit, Warden…” The trooper looked at Mitch’s name plate. “Warden Salas, that’s your job, not ours. This isn’t a homicide, it’s an animal attack. Just look around.”
Mitch did look around and was fighting his rising gorge. He saw a mass of flesh off to the side. It wasn’t a limb or a head, so he asked, “what is that bit over there?”
“Oh yes. Let me show you,” the trooper said as he stooped over a small mass of flesh lying on a downed tree trunk. He picked up a stick and used it to turn the object towards Mitch.
“Is that…a nipple?” Mitch asked, not really wanting the answer.
“Yep. And there is another one over there. The dead woman’s breasts were, I dunno, pulled off her torso. Or chewed off or something. That’s where you come in. Tell us what the hell happened.”
Mitch looked at Wilkes. It was a pathetic look. The kind of look that screams you must be freaking kidding me! Bewilderment would have been too tame a word. Mitch hoped Cain had a better handle on this than he did.
Cain pulled up a few minutes later in his SUV. He got out and exchanged a few words with a trooper that was standing by the cars. Mitch watched, wishing he would hurry the hell up. He was eager for Cain to take over because he felt like he was completely out of his element.
“Hey Mitch,” Cain said, “Fill me in.”
Mitch bent over and threw up. He was embarrassed and humiliated by his reaction to this reality, but he had no control. He had been holding it down since Trooper Wilkes began his gory tour of the scene.
Wilkes saw what happened and rushed over.
“Hi. Name is Wilkes, and you are?”
“Chief Game Warden Cain.”
“Your man is about the seventh person here to toss their cookies. I’m surprised he held out this long. Anyway, Chief Warden Cain, we have a bloody mess here and I am talking quite literally. I’ll take you around while Warden Salas gets some fresh air.”
Trooper Wilkes went through his guided tour once more. He pointed out the double mastectomy that was performed by God knows what. And also pointed out that they were missing a leg. Wilkes appeared almost more deeply saddened when he showed Cain the parts of the dead dog.
Cain thought the dog looked to be a fifty to sixty pound German Shepherd. At least that’s what he imagined it would look like reassembled. It wasn’t the people but the dog that made him lock in on the connection to Deke’s deer.
He immediately began to think that the humans would yield better clues than the canine. After all, the dog was covered in fur and made things difficult, but humans bruise and show damage much more clearly. That’s where he would focus.
Mitch caught up with him. “What are you looking at, Warden Cain?”
“Look, Mitch. There’s bruising around the wrist of this arm. Like something was holding it. Obviously not rope or restraints, but something had a grip here. See?”
“Yessir,” the subordinate replied.
They investigated the site for three more hours. Cain’s conclusion was simple. There were no bites, claw marks or deep scratches. No knife or blade marks, neither plain or serrated had been employed to take apart the victims.
What was apparent were several areas of bruising around wrists, ankles, elbows and necks. Something strong but soft had laid ahold of these people and their dog. Something strong enough to crush bone and pull bones and sinew apart.
The only animal evidence were some hairs found on the victims and caught in the trees and vegetation surrounding the kill zone. They could be from anything. The area also seemed to be trampled and flattened pretty thoroughly, but nothing stood out such as paw prints or boots for that matter.
“You know the strangest thing I see here, Mitch?” Cain asked.
“No sir. The whole damn thing seems strange from start to finish.”
“But think about this. These people have been dead for hours. Fresh meat for all the little forest animals. Yet there is no sign of even a nibble on these corpses. Just a missing leg.”
“Maybe the survivor scared all the other animals away?” Salas offered.
At that moment one of the medical examiner’s crew passed by and said, “look, I got me a fresh bag of titties,” as he held up an evidence bag which obviously held the poor deceased woman’s breasts.
Cain and Salas just shook their heads that someone could be so callous after witnessing this carnage.
More Questions Than Answers
Cain had his hands full. Two days after the scene was cleared and all evidence collected, he called a meeting of all his officers at the headquarters in Canoe Creek. It also served as the park’s welcome center. It was an 18th century cabin. Rather large for the time period. There were four distinct rooms. A small kitchen occupied one, a small room that had been a bedroom, the bathroom and the huge main office. The original cooking area and large stone fireplace were now located in the main office. He would be cramming forty-one people in the main office for their meeting. Five wardens would be absent due to court appearances.
Forty-one men and five women covered the entire western half of Pennsylvania from Potter, Clinton, Centre, Huntingdon and Fulton Counties to the Ohio border, and from the New York border south to Maryland and West Virginia. Thirty-one counties in all.
During certain seasons such as deer season, the budget allowed for additional part-time help. Forty-six full-timers and Cain were simply not enough manpower to patrol those forests. Everyone knew it, even the bad guys who took advantage of the manpower shortage, but unbelievably they still made several hundred arrests and ticketed thousands of folks per annum.
Cain knew he had a great group of wardens. Today he needed to bring them up to speed on the Rothrock situation. He wanted to see if anything about this case was familiar to anyone. He hoped that maybe his people had encountered similar attacks that could help shed some light on what they were dealing with.
He began with Deke’s story and the trail cam photos. Then he followed with the dismembered deer from the photos. And finally he showed his people the gruesome attack scene photos and told them what he knew.
He couldn’t call it a crime scene because he and the state police had agreed that it had to be an animal attack. The most bizarre one he had ever encountered, but an animal attack was the only thing that made sense.
During his presentation, the attack scene photos segment specifically, several of his wardens stepped out. The photos were upsetting. Once all had returned he told them, “those were just photos, folks. The real thing was ten times worse. So my question for you today is, do you know what did this? Any ideas at all would be helpful.”
A few said it had to be a bear. That was quickly explained away by the lack of claw and teeth marks, tracks and scat. No indicators whatsoever except a few hairs.
Some guessed mountain lion and that was dismissed for all the same reasons. Coyotes, feral dogs and humans were eliminated as well.
One warden raised his hand and Cain called on him. He stood and introduced himself, although everyone knew him. He was Donald Denali. Everyone he knew called him Moose Tracks, after the Hershey ice cream flavor. He was one of the older wardens. Cain thought he was in his late forties or early fifties.
“Sir, I seem to recall an incident during the nineties where a couple of backpackers were found torn apart over in Gallitzin. I don’t think it was ever resolved.”
Cain turned to Warden Michael Kelso who patrolled the Gallitzin forests. “Mike, sound familiar?”
“Before my time sir, but I can look it up,” he replied.
“Sir,” continued Denali. “There was also a similar incident in the early eighties in Moshannon. A fisherman was found dismembered and disemboweled. If I remember correctly, it was attributed to a bear attack. The problem with that was the wardens in charge of that investigation were stumped as to why a black bear would have acted so viciously and how there could be no evidence of the bear’s presence other than the dead fisherman.”
“What do you mean acted so viciously?” someone in the group called out.
Denali responded, “Black bears are lazy buggers. They don’t expend any more energy than necessary to complete a task. The fisherman would have died, or been incapacitated quickly. So why did the bear continue to, quite literally, tear him limb from limb? It doesn’t make sense.”
Warden Jane Doreemer was heard by all saying, “this is freaking me out.”
The room broke into laughter. It was what was needed to lighten the mood for at least a few moments. The psychological impact of the photos was palpable. Cain could see signs of strain, fear and revulsion as he looked around the room, yet these good people weren’t on the scene. Being there was so much worse.
A warden stood up. He was relatively new to the group. His name was Tony Landolfi.
“I have a question, sir,” Tony said. “Where does the screaming woman in the photo figure into all this? We’ve talked about the damage to the deer and the people and their dog, but we’ve skipped over the significance of her appearance.”
“You’re right, Tony. She’s our mystery guest. And the other creepy factoid is the survivor’s words when we got on scene. What we got out of her was Penelope and her monkey. And since the dead woman was named Juanita, we are at a loss as to who Penelope is. It could be another victim for all we know,” Cain answered.
“One more thing,” Landolfi went on. “You said a few hairs were found. What kind?”
“I talked to the wildlife zoologist/biologist at Penn State who does this sort of work for us and he’s stumped. He believes the hairs are primate, but not like any he’s seen before. He’s still doing tests. That could be Penelope’s monkey’s hair. Which would lead us to, once again, entertain that we have a missing victim and her pet.”
Landolfi pressed on, “Warden Cain, you still haven't really explained the creepy looking woman in the trail pictures.”
“That’s because I can’t Tony. I do not have a single clue where she fits in. Any ideas?”
The room was silent as Landolfi sat down.
“Dammit, Cain. Have you forgotten what I told you the other day?”
Every head whipped around as well as Cain’s.
The group found themselves staring at Deke Humboldt. He had snuck in the side door of the room when the questions were being asked.
“Meet Deke Humboldt, our answer to Daniel Boone in these parts,” Cain explained.
“Aww, hell no! Daniel Boone’s a faggot. I’m more like Davy Crockett. Now there’s a frontiersman. Glad to make your acquaintance,” Deke said to the group.
A few wardens laughed or smiled knowingly. It seems every area has a Deke.
Cain explained, “Deke has a theory, which makes sense to him and, coincidentally, ties into our survivor’s comments. Go ahead, Deke.”
Deke weaved his ghostly tale for the group to enjoy and identified himself as the source of the trail cam photos and the chronicler of the dismembered eight point buck. When he was done, you could have heard a pin drop. Deke had the ability to enthrall an audience.
“So you see, the survivor is telling us who to look for. Good ol’ Penelope is up to no good,” Deke concluded.
Cain reclaimed control of the meeting. “Any questions?”
“Not a question sir, but a point of information,” Warden Salas spoke up. “Once word of this incident got out over in Centre County, several people called me to tell me of incidents from years back with similar circumstances. They have always been called bear attacks, but anyone with the truthful accounts of what occurred have always been doubtful. I think we should revisit all the bear attacks, say for the last one hundred years and see if we have a pattern.”
A murmur coursed through the crowd.
Warden Miller stood up. “Excuse me, but certainly the creature isn’t one hundred years old. Why go back that far?”
Salas defended his point. “Maybe not a single individual, but a thriving population may have existed for years. We are encroaching on different species’ habitats with alarming frequency. Maybe we did with these creatures. Whatever they are.”
Warden Harold Muncy stood. “Come on folks. We keep saying creature like this is some damn sci-fi movie. It has to be a familiar animal were dealing with. And most certainly a bear. Why are we making this out to be a mystery? It’s the only logical answer. And sorry old timer,” he said looking at Deke, “it sure as hell ain’t a ghost.” Then he sat down feeling content that he had had his say.