In a remote mountain cabin along the Continental Divide, a disabled veteran known only as ‘Radio’ closed the chat room on his computer and rolled his wheelchair across the room to the scanner. Rotating the frequency knob, he rubbed his eyes and glanced at the weather station mounted on the window outside.
3:05 PM, 20 degrees below zero.
A garbled voice crackled on his police scanner between the bursts of static.
“Sir, we’ve got another dead body. Well at least part of one.”
“Crap,” he shivered, thinking about the bone-chilling cold outside. “Damn idiots, can’t even get the frickin’ time right.”
Something didn’t add up; the dispatcher timestamp was 6:05 PM, not 3:05 PM. He glanced at the digital readout on the scanner and blinked.
“Government bureaucrats,” he mumbled, “wasting my tax money; ought to fire the lot of them. Sheriff’s Department? Department of frickin’ idiots, that’s what they are.”
Noting the time discrepancy and the contents of the call in his log, Radio tightened the tattered fatigue jacket draped across his shoulders. He slumped down into his wheelchair, closed his eyes and tried to doze off.
“Dead body… at least part of one,” he muttered. “Frickin’ morons.”
Chapter 01: Kill Me Again
Winter along the Continental Divide can be harsh and unforgiving for a trained outdoorsman; for the untrained, it often proves deadly. Many a backcountry adventurer has become disoriented in whiteout conditions and wandered off the trail only to have their body recovered in the spring thaw.
It was almost dark when two hikers with snowshoes from the Bear Lake Trailhead stumbled upon a torn backpack at a remote campsite near Spirit Lake. While one hiker was rummaging through the backpack, the other called out nervously after scanning the area for signs of life.
“I’ve got a creepy feeling about this…”
“Me too,” the second hiker echoed. “Over there!” He pointed at drag marks in the snow leading into the woods. “Bad karma, man.”
As the hiker turned away from the trail, he tripped over something, landing a face plant in a snowdrift. He reached down and picked up an object under his boot, let out a shriek, and pitched it into the air.
“What the hell was that?”
“A foot! A frickin’ human foot!”
Panicked, the hikers scrambled back down the mountain to find cell service. Retracing their steps in the snow, they staggered back to the trailhead, got a few bars on their cell phone and managed to reach the authorities at 6:01 PM, relaying their frantic story.
“I’ll call the sheriff; stay there until she arrives,” the dispatcher instructed. “She will need to take your statements.”
“OK, OK. How long?”
“She’s thirty minutes out.”
“Jesus! That thing is still out there, man! What if…”
“Stay calm, sir. You’re in the warming hut at the trail head, right?”
“That old log cabin was built by the Park Service a hundred years ago. You’ll be safe inside, just keep the door barred. I’ll message our CSi; he’s not that far away.”
“And we’ll need that foot for evidence. Do you have it with you?”
“No frickin’ way, man!” the hiker screamed. “I tossed that thing and ran like a bat out of hell! I’m never going back to that creep show.”
Chapter 02: Dark Talk
Logan Lone Bear Tuu’awta pushed back from his ‘Dark Talk’ chat room, a late-night cyber hangout for local conspiracy theorists, ghost hunters and insomniacs. He peered out the window and rubbed his mug; it was as cold as the icy wind howling outside, clanging the broken shutters of the Timberline Tea Haus.
“Need a warm up, love?” the waitress sighed as she brushed against his shoulder.
The hour was late and they were alone, as they were most winter nights in the deserted tourist town of Deadraven nestled high in the Rocky Mountains.
“Thanks, I’m almost done,” Logan said as he hit the Enter key. “Off you go.”
He glanced up and once again fell into the most beautiful brown eyes he’d ever seen in his life. Holding eye contact for a moment, he clumsily slid his mug along the table for a refill and tapped three times on the teapot the waitress held next to her apron.
“They say that ‘eyes are the windows to the soul’. A man could fall into yours and never return… and never want to.”
“A man could,” the waitress shot back playfully as she pulled away. “But a boy shouldn’t.”
She paused a moment, smiled, and then leaned in close over Logan’s shoulder, scanning his words of wisdom.
“Hmm… what deep spiritual enigma do you have for your loyal minions of the blogosphere this evening?”
She tapped an icon on the screen, and the computer read Logan’s latest missives aloud.
‘Most people live their lives wishing, hoping, fearing what the future will bring. Someone once said that the ‘only thing known about the future is that it’s unknown.’ But what if it wasn’t… unknown, that is? What if you were granted a brief glimpse into the future, would you take it?’
“Heavy thoughts before bedtime,” the waitress observed.
As she watched the return comments fill the computer screen, she glanced down at Logan closing his eyes.
“Looks like you hit a nerve. Is it always like this?”
“Yeah,” Logan sighed. “Seems there’s always someone that wants my advice, wants me to tell them what they should do.”
“And do you? Give them advice, I mean?”
“No. I have enough trouble navigating my own thoughts. I can’t see into someone else’s future.”
The waitress studied Logan’s face as his head lay peacefully on the table.
“Well, I’ve looked into your future, and it doesn’t included any more tea tonight.” She batted her eyes as Logan glanced up at her. “But a boy with your talents already knew that, didn’t you?”
Before Logan could mount a defense to his manhood, the distinct sound of a police dispatch message on his computer blurted out an interruption to his protest.
“11-44 @ N 40° 18' 47.5'' W 105° 38' 53.6'' . 11-98 L Bear Lake Trailhead ASAP.”
Logan snapped out of his momentary infatuation.
“10-4,” he responded, taking a last sip of tea. “OK if I leave this here?” Logan asked, sliding his computer behind the bar.
“No problem. I’ll keep an eye on it.”
“Thanks, I’m traveling light.”
“By the way, are you still bird-dogging for Search and Rescue?” the waitress asked.
“Sometimes, I’m more recovery than rescue these days,” Logan quipped as he scanned the empty room and dug into his pocket for a crinkled dollar bill. “I’ve got a new gig with po po. Someone’s got to keep the lights on around here.” He smiled and yawned.
“Ah, and thank you, kind sir,” the waitress retorted, sliding the tip into her apron. “Your generosity is only exceeded by your… intellect. Come back any night; I’m always open for you.”
“I’m counting on that.” Logan smiled.
Chapter 03: Bad Karma
Logan arrived at the Bear Lake Trailhead warming hut to meet the hysterical hikers. He identified himself as a CSi liaison with the Sheriff’s Department and tried to calm them down, assuring them they would be safe now. After listening to their story, he asked them to wait inside for the sheriff and set out up the rocky terrain in the direction of the campsite the hikers had described.
Scrambling along the trail as fast as he could, he knew that what was left of the hiker’s footprints would disappear quickly in the wind-driven snow. In thirty minutes, the trail would be gone.
Reaching the remote campsite, Logan scanned the scene with his flashlight. The chaotic combination of random tracks on the ground and the severed foot dangling from a tree branch gave him an eerie feeling.
“This is… bad medicine” he exhaled as he grabbed a stick and poked the frozen body part above his head in the tree until it dislodged and fell to the ground.
Logan knelt down, shined his flashlight on the severed foot and studied the dried blood on the jagged lacerations. He stood and panned the surroundings. Illuminating the snow-covered drag marks near the tree line, he followed them fifty yards into the thick brush.
“Bad,” he shook his head, “would be an understatement.”
Between Search and Rescue and his stint as an alcoholic coroner’s unofficial assistant, Logan had seen some gruesome crime scenes in his young life; cliff divers, stabbings, car crashes, self-immolation and all varieties of gunshots, but this scene was beyond horrific. In a small clearing across a rocky crevice, there were scattered parts of a body, a body that had been ripped apart, strewn about and partially consumed. He bent down and touched a mangled torso where a beating heart had once been, offering a prayer.
“Go with the creator, my friend. Your suffering in this world is over.”
Sensing something was out of balance, Logan stood and slowly rotated. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply as he sought to absorb this place of death into his mind.
The forest became a snowy blur, a chaotic view of broken branches, overturned rocks and scattered limbs. A hungry animal sniffed the air and smelled blood; drool dripping down its fangs. Following the scent, the animal followed the kill through the woods, soon to claim it for its own. On a windy snow-driven rocky outcrop just ahead, there was a low growl, a mad rush, and the carnage ensued.
A cold breeze sent the screech of an owl echoing down the canyon as it startled Logan back to reality. He exhaled, opened his eyes, and a shiver ran down his spine.
Something dark and unnatural had been here—something evil. It was an evil Logan had felt once before, long ago. He blinked his eyes and the bone-chilling feeling dissipated—it was gone. Taking a deep breath, he refocused and resumed cataloging the rest of the crime scene in his mind. There was more forensic evidence to be examined, but he’d seen enough; it was time to report in.
‘You’re late to the party, Sheriff,’ Logan messaged on his police radio.
‘Almost there,’ Sheriff Billie Sue Martin responded from the trailhead. ‘Paperwork.’
The sheriff finished taking statements from the hikers at the trailhead and made her way up the mountain to the campsite. She looked around as she following the snow-covered trail of peeled tree bark marked by Logan into the brush, meeting him in the rocky clearing.
“Damn it,” she exhaled, scanning the body parts on the ground. “I’ve seen picnics gone wrong, but this one takes the cake. What the hell happened here?”
“Wallet identifies the victim as one Dr. Malcolm Kennedy. At first glance, it looks like he was alone, surprised a bear and got the worst of it.”
The sheriff bent down to examine what was left of the figure on the ground. She poked a mound of human flesh with a stick, stood up and scanned the clearing.
“OK, when Yogi snatches a pic-a-nic basket from a camper, that’s funny. When Yogi eats a camper, that’s not so funny. Poor son of a bitch, I had a bad feeling on this one, so I called the Park Service.
“You’re a team player, Sheriff.”
“Their jurisdiction. Besides, we’ve got new regulations with the Park Service. Any deaths that might be ‘wildlife related’, we get assigned a ‘bear buddy.’ Don’t want to spook the tourists, you know.”
Another flashlight flickered from the campsite below. It was the park ranger alerted by the sheriff.
“Over here!” Billie Sue waved her lamp and called from the crime scene.
The ranger made her way from the darkness into the rocky clearing, scanned the bloody corpse in the snow, and let out a whistle.
“Looks like we’re going to need your… cooperation on this one, Ranger,” the sheriff stated calmly. “On the down low.”
“You can count on me, Sheriff. What do you think happened here?”
The sheriff turned to Logan.
“You said, ‘looks like a hiker surprised a bear at first glance.’ What did you mean by that?”
“The bear wasn’t the first guest at the party, that’s what I mean. This guy was already dead before the organs in his chest were eaten and his arms removed.”
“If the bear didn’t kill him, how did he die?” the ranger asked.
“Suicide,” Logan responded.
“What leads you to that conclusion?” The sheriff scratched her head.
“Simple,” Logan answered, bending down to the body. “If you were being eaten alive, Sheriff, you’d have fought back, wouldn’t you?” Logan pointed to the severed limbs on the ground with a stick.
“Like a son of a bitch.”
“Exactly. But our victim has no defensive wounds on the arms or hands. No teeth marks on the limbs, only on the torso.”
“What about the foot?”
“I’m guessing that was the consolation prize to the loser in this tug of war.”
“Really? Anything else?” the sheriff queried.
“Yes, he died somewhere else. The body was moved here.” Logan stood up, wielding his stick around the crime scene.
“The drag marks from the campsite through the woods to here are mostly over rocks,” the ranger observed. “I can’t get a track off them. You sure a bear didn’t kill him?”
“Quite sure,” Logan answered.
“And it wasn’t a heart attack?” Sheriff Martin questioned. “We get a lot of those at this altitude, you know.”
“This was a suicide,” Logan stated, “he hanged himself. And not here; the original crime scene is somewhere else on the mountain.”
“Hanged himself?” The sheriff scratched her head again. “Before the bear ate him?”
“Without a doubt. He’s got rope burns on his neck,” Logan said, bending down to point out the marks with his stick.
“Yeah, now I see them,” the sheriff sighed. She leaned over and picked up a piece of flesh, placing it in an evidence bag. “That sure appears to be what happened, all right. Case solved, tag it and bag it. Let’s call it a night.”
Logan glanced over at the ranger as she nodded her agreement with the sheriff.
As they made their way back to the campsite, the sheriff caught up with the ranger.
“For the record, you got any more observations, bear buddy?”
“Yeah,” the ranger articulated. “Another flatlander climbs the mountain to get close to nature. Well, he did, all right.”
“What is it they say to attract tourists to this town?” Logan asked.
“It’s a wonderful day here at the Deadraven Winter Festival,” Sheriff Martin repeated robotically as she switched into marketing mode. “A place where you can relax, listen to the voice of the mountain, enjoy nature, and discover your inner self.”
“Discover your inner self,” Logan countered. “Or kill it. Enjoy a Rocky Mountain holiday—it’s to die for.”
“They should add that to the travel brochure!” the ranger laughed.
“Yes, I think I’ll suggest that… not!” the sheriff stopped for a moment on the trail. “You know, all joking aside, there’s one thing that still bothers me.”
“What?” the ranger asked.
“Who moved the body?”
“That’s easy,” the ranger offered. “A mountain lion probably found the hanging dead guy and carried him up here to hide her meal. Bear shows up, steals the kill. A black bear can smell blood up to twenty-five miles away. When the bear found the body, he chased away the mountain lion.”
“That would explain the lack of drag marks,” Logan added. “A lion would carry her meal, not drag it. And the puncture wounds on the back of the neck, I’d say the lion got to him first.”
“Missed that,” Sheriff Martin confessed. “You never see lions coming because they always attack from behind, don’t they?”
“Exactly,” the ranger agreed. “Those canines clamped on the back of your neck? That’s the first clue they’re stalking you.”
“What’s the second clue?”
“Doesn’t matter, you’re dead.”
“Predators and scavengers, thinning the human herd,” Sheriff Martin stated.
“It’s nature’s way,” Logan added.
The ranger pointed at a stand of dead lodgepole pines.
“Circle of life, Sheriff; animals need protein. With the beetle kill, drought and wildfires, there’s a lot less prey up here to support the predators. They’ve all got to eat.”
The ranger whipped out her logbook.
“So, for the official paperwork, Sheriff, how do we want to record tonight’s adventure?”
“Let’s see, either a tourist committed suicide, was partially eaten by a lion and then a finished off by a bear. Or… a hiker fell down in the woods. Let’s go with the clumsy hiker for the report, unless the family requests an autopsy. This one’s a closed casket anyway, best to let sleeping dogs lie. Now help me get what’s left of Dr. Kennedy here bagged up before we get any more scavengers looking for a meal. I’ll call Search and Rescue in the morning for a sweep of the nearby trails to see if we can find where this guy punched out, but in this weather, I’m betting we’ll never know.”
“Works for me,” the ranger closed her logbook and studied Logan’s face.
“Have we ever met before?” she asked. “You seem familiar to me.”
“Can’t say that we have,” Logan replied casually. “Unless you’ve been in juvie.”
“We’ve all got a past,” the ranger laughed. “I’m not here to judge.”
“You keep an eye on Yogi for me,” the sheriff interrupted. “He’s a big boy, and I don’t need him helping any more hikers fall down, not even frozen dead guys. Bad for tourism, you know.”
“Will do, Sheriff.”
Back at the trailhead, Logan waved as the ranger drove away. In addition to the strange feeling he’d experienced at the crime scene, his mind was still processing some other inconsistencies.
“Something doesn’t add up here.”
“The torn hiker’s backpack at the campsite?” the sheriff interrupted.
“I didn’t find one.”
“Neither did I,” the sheriff echoed. “And the second?”
“From the size of those paw prints, that was no black bear.”
“Yeah, he’s bigger than any bear I’ve ever seen up here,” the sheriff nodded, “as big as a Kodiak.”
“And the way it ripped apart the body…” Logan paused, shaking a memory from his head. “It wasn’t his first trip to the buffet.”
“No, it wasn’t,” the sheriff acknowledged as she added a note in her unofficial log for the coroner.
‘Potential man-eater, handle code red.’
Chapter 04: Truth Detector
Slumped into an overstuffed sofa in the garage lounge of High Country Cycles, Logan’s mind was still tumbling over the brutal crime scene he’d witnessed in the National Park at Bear Lake. Parsing the comments from last night’s webcast of his Truth Detector blog, a one-line entry caught his attention. Buried amidst the usual expletive rants, late night confessions and Bigfoot sightings, this one hit him like a punch in the gut.
‘I know what happened at Bear Lake last night.’
Logan sat up as he reread the comment from a visitor to his blog labeled only as ‘Radio.’ His heartbeat accelerated as he clicked a return message.
‘What do you know?’
After several seconds, an answer appeared.
‘A hiker fell down in the woods, the end. Not.’
‘How do you know that?’ Logan messaged.
‘Not here, too many eyes. Meet at these coordinates: 40° 15' 16.9'' W 105° 36' 57'', IRL.’
Logan paused for a moment to reflect on the conversation. How could this anonymous stranger named Radio know what happened at Bear Lake? Probably another whacko lurking around his chat room, seeking attention… there was no shortage of them these days. He shrugged and rummaged between the pizza boxes and beer bottles on the coffee table to dig out a video game controller. Clicking on the big screen, he was immediately catapulted into the pilot seat of a Longbow Apache assault helicopter, dodging buildings and anti-aircraft fire on a mission to rescue a fallen soldier behind enemy lines. Just as he navigated the chopper down through a smoke-filled landing zone, the metal clang of a wrench hitting the concrete floor abruptly broke his train of thought.
It was Cody Winston, the owner of the motorcycle shop and arguably the best two-wheel grease monkey and video game chopper pilot west of the Mississippi. Rumor had it she’d been in every jail from here to Juarez, riding a tricked-out Indian and fronting her punk rock band. The wrench that bounced past his foot confirmed why, other than internal combustion engines, her knack for bad timing was renowned.
“Sorry about that, man,” Cody apologized, noticing the apprehension on Logan’s face. “What’s got your panties in a knot?”
“‘Strange things done beneath the midnight sun…’ up at Bear Lake last night,” Logan began quoting a poem from his youth.
“Stranger than finding a ’36 Knucklehead in the river at the bottom of Devil’s Backbone?” Cody snapped back, pulling a tarp off a crashed motorcycle in her workshop.
“What the hell?” Logan gasped, leaping up to view the prized Harley.
“Tell me about it,” Cody sighed. “I’ve always wanted to feel my legs around a Knucklehead. Thought I’d won the lottery fishing this baby out of the river until some weekend warrior flyboy shows up to claim it. Said he ditched on Dead Man’s Curve last week; now he wants it back. After I risked life and limb crawling down those cliffs to bring this carcass back from the dead.”
“Well, technically, it is his,” Logan counseled.
“Maybe it is… and maybe it isn’t. I told him it’s mine under maritime salvage law.”
“Maritime salvage… from a river?”
“There’s legal precedent.”
“Where did you come up with that?”
“The Internet. They can’t put anything that’s not true on the Internet.”
“What did he say to that?”
“That my creative claim was bogus, and he still wants his bike back. Oh, and he wants to go out with me.”
“Really? Is he hot?”
“Yeah, he’s stone cold, brother, but that’s not the point.”
“So what is the point?”
“It’s all about the dance, my friend. The thrill of the chase—the push and shove of… amore. Flyboy wants? Flyboy’s got to give. Nobody wraps their legs around my Knucklehead for free.”
“So you’re holding his bike hostage?”
“Damn straight I am. At least until I get a little something for my trouble.”
Before the romantic salvage argument could continue, the garage door flung open and in strode Raven Thunder Sky. She was a young, slender, beautiful Indian girl with two long braids of black hair drooping over her shoulders.
“We’ve been looking for you,” Raven announced as she wedged herself onto the sofa between Cody and Logan. Glancing over at the crumpled motorcycle that seemed to hold everyone’s attention, she locked eyes with Logan for a second.
“The bike can wait,” Raven announced. “We want to hear what happened at Bear Lake last night.”
Logan held her gaze for a moment, and then broke it off.
“It seems we’ve got a new predator roaming the high country.”
“And that’s a problem because…?”
“Because this one seems to have acquired a taste for human flesh.”
Cody and Raven listened intently as Logan recounted the events of the night, and the recent contact with the shadowy connection known only as ‘Radio.’
“What do you think this shadow knows?” Cody inquired.
“I don’t know, but I intend to find out.”
Cody slid over to her desk of computer screens and did a quick geo-location on Radio’s coordinates from the blog post.
“This dude is high, man,” she whistled. “His transmitter beacon clocks in above 14,000 feet.”
“I’m coming with you,” Raven pronounced as she stood up. “There’s a storm blowing in, and you’ll never make it up there on foot. Besides, my horses know every trail on the mountain.”
Logan started to protest but realized that hiking alone to the rim of the world in the dead of winter was a bad idea. Raven had grown up riding bareback along the Continental Divide with her grandfather, and she did know the terrain up there like the back of her hand. Yes, he needed her, and she knew it.
“OK, princess, let’s saddle up,” he relented. “Let’s go see what the ‘Radio’ knows.”
Chapter 05: Timberline
After loading the horses, Raven and Logan started the slow, windy climb up the one-lane gravel road into the Continental Divide National Park. The icy trail was treacherous in winter; one slip could lead to a thousand-foot plunge over the edge of the ridgeline to the jagged rocks below. They rode in silence as the diesel engine of the 4x4 chugged away under the weight of the horse trailer carrying Raven’s two black Percherons, finally arriving after several hours at the Wild River Gorge trailhead.
“End of the line, boys,” Raven announced. She dropped the tailgate and backed the horses out of the trailer. “Time to go to work.”
Just before sunset, the snow was falling gently on the narrow trail as they made their way deep into the woods, the rhythmic clopping of the horses’ hooves on the loose rocks echoing down the ravine. A cold wind swirled in the pine trees, and the temperature dropped quickly as night fell, reminding Logan and Raven of a time when they had been alone on this mountain before as children, an adventure that neither of them would ever forget.
“He’s not mad at you,” Raven blurted out.
Logan didn’t answer.
“He knows you’re back and he wants to see you… correction, he needs to see you.” Raven stopped her mount squarely in the trail, turned and faced Logan, determined to make her point.
“Why would I do that?”
“Because I promised him you would.”
“You shouldn’t make promises you can’t keep,” Logan said softly as he guided his horse around her and headed up the trail. “You know I can’t change the past.”
As they rode on in silence, Logan leaned back in his saddle and gazed up at the last rays of light streaming over the mountain peaks; it would be dark soon. For a brief moment, his mind drifted back to another time; a time he had desperately tried to forget. A cold wind ruffled Logan’s oilskin duster, snapping him back to reality.
“We’re almost there,” he announced as he checked the coordinates on his GPS.
Up ahead, the deep forest trail ended abruptly as they emerged into the moonlight above the broken clouds. They’d reached the alpine tree line, a rocky windswept tundra under snowpack that was inhospitable in summer and nearly impassable in winter.
Logan and Raven dismounted, giving the Percherons a rest. Going any higher on horseback would be impossible; they would need to lead the horses from this point to avoid stumbling on the frozen trail and plunging to their deaths on the sharp rocks below.
Raven squinted as she scanned the rocky outcroppings along the tree line.
“Over there, five hundred yards… looks like an old cabin wedged into the cliff face.”
Logan released the lead rope for the horses and scrambled over the icy rocks toward the cabin.
“OK, shadow man, let’s hear what you’ve got to say.”
Following the careful footsteps Logan left in the snow, Raven led the Percherons single file along the narrow rock scrabble trail. One of the horses stumbled and sent a rockslide cascading down the mountain, echoing through the winds.
“Easy, boys.” Raven hugged the crag’s edge as she assured the horses. “Don’t look down; we’re almost there.”
“Over here,” Logan called out, waving his hand. “There’s a run in up here where we can tie up the horses.”
As Raven rounded the last curve of the narrow trail, she found Logan stroking the nose of a fuzzy mule munching some hay, wedged inside a rocky crevice beneath a makeshift roof of pine branches.
“Well it’s not as cozy as their barn stall,” Raven said as she led the horses in, “but they’ll be warm enough huddled together out of the wind.”
Logan and Raven made their way between the boulders to the cabin, climbed onto the rough-hewn log porch and banged on the door until a flicker of light appeared through the window. They heard a creaking sound slowly approaching across the old wooden floor, and then the door swung open wide. There in front of them was a disheveled man in a wheelchair. He was wearing a tattered military uniform and holding a double-barrel shotgun on his lap with a beer.
“About time you got here,” the man scolded as he adjusted his headphones and rolled back into the cabin. “Any later and I was locking down for the night.”
Logan stepped into the cabin, but Raven was frozen on the threshold, staring at the crusty man in the wheelchair.
“Don’t get many visitors up here,” the man called from across the room, spinning his wheelchair around to lock eyes on Raven. “Well, look here. Who is this lovely young lady?”
Realizing that her eyes were fixated on the wheelchair, Raven broke her awkward gaze, entered the cabin and closed the door.
“What happened to my legs? That what’s eating you?” Radio offered in response to the quickly hidden expression on Raven’s face.
“I didn’t mean to… stare,” Raven blushed.
The man known as ‘Radio’ rolled over to study her face in the dim light of the fire.
“IED. Falusha,” he laughed as he circled her. “Blew off most of my right leg. So what the hell? Government just issued me a new one.”
“Then how did you get… up here?”
“On my beast of burden, just like you. ‘Chip’ I call him. He’s part mule, part mountain goat.”
“OK…” Raven paused. “Why are you here?”
“None of our business,” Logan interrupted. “We’re just here to…”
“At ease, soldier!” Radio snapped back. “I don’t mind sharing; that’s why I contacted you.”
The man rolled over to the fire and poked it, sending sparks up the chimney. After chugging what was left of his beer, he crushed the can and tossed it into a barrel of empties by the fire. Radio stared into the fire for a moment, seeming to reflect on some distant memory.