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First pages

Chapter one

Jenny Williams wondered whether she could trust Alan Stark. He seemed cool. The June night’s sky had come alive with sparkling lights, the pot—simply the best she’d ever smoked. It felt natural and real. Upstate New York lived a world away from reality and the uptight assholes that ran the business of the workaday nine to five.

It’s the seventies, fuck it!

“Come on in, the water’s fine!” Alan called out.

Jenny made her way down the path to the water’s edge and peeled off her clothes. She stood naked out of doors for the first time in her life. It felt weird and exhilarating at the same time. She dipped a toe in the water and exclaimed, “It’s really cold! How are you tolerating it?”

“This lake is fed by an underground river. Top that off with the mountain thaw and it’s cold clear into August. It’s beautiful! Wakes up your whole body. Invigorating! Come on in.”

Jenny steeled herself for the shock she knew lay ahead. “Is it yicky on the bottom?”

“Some rocks and some yick,” he answered and laughed. “Come on in.”

On tip-toes Jenny wobbled her way into the mountain lake. “It’s like ice. This is crazy!”

“Go for it! The coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave but once. Jump in! It’s not bad once you’re all in.”

Naked in the great outdoors, near freezing in a mountain lake, her nipples so hard they hurt, Manhattan a world away; what more could happen to make this worse? “Here I come!”

Alan applauded when she hit the water and kept it up until she swam into his arms. “Did I tell you it was great? Isn’t all of your flesh coming alive? It’s a life-force. It’s renewal and rebirth. Forget about God and His Heaven. It doesn’t exist! It’s Mother Earth, babe. It’s Mother Earth.”

“You aren’t gonna try anything out here, are you?” she asked.

“In this cold water? My bellybutton isn’t the only inny. Kissing and hugging is about

all I got.”

“I sure as shit could use a hug,” said Jenny through her chattering teeth.

“I’m standing on a rock. You can stand here. Not so yucky.” He held her in his arms and said, “See? Not icky.”

“I can’t stay in here. This is beyond crazy.” His skin felt silky and held a bit of warmth. Pressing up close helped the chills but not enough. Certain that her skin would snap and roll up into a crinkled knot of shriveled ex-humanity if she stayed in the water much longer she said, “One more hug and I’m outa here.”

He ran his hands up and down her body and nuzzled her affectionately. He found her lips and they kissed. “That make it better, baby?”

“No offence, but I’m getting out of the water.”

“If you want.”

The night air had seemed warm when Jenny got into the water but on the way out it felt more like December than June. She knew for sure she’d never be warm again. The towel Alan had slung over a bush at the water’s edge was thread-bare and scratchy, but heavenly.

Alan didn’t seem to share her urgency when he stepped out of the lake. She tossed the towel to him and reached for her T-shirt. She pulled it on without checking to see if she’d donned it inside out or not. Who cares? Her wet feet added to her troubles. Slipping into her jeans proved frustrating and she hopped around determinedly pulling them on.

“Who’s there?”

“What?” Alan asked.

“I heard someone coming,” said Jenny.

“You’re dressed. Even if someone else saw you naked, who cares? Just the human body. You need to put that behind you and enjoy the natural life, babe. You have to lose that New York City uptight thing. Just dig nature.”

“It sounded different. It sounded bigger than a person.”

“Chill out. That weed is probably making you a little paranoid. It happens,” said Alan as he pulled up his pants.

Jenny wasn’t convinced and searched frantically in the dark for her sandals. When she found them she put them on and said, “I’m going back to the van. This is creeping me

out.”

Suddenly the woods came alive with guttural sounds, vicious and hungry. The Earth trembled and Jenny screamed, “That’s not people!”

The trees seemed to be toppling and crumbling around the roar of some beast that became a monstrous blackness silhouetted against the darkness natural to the night. Jenny back pedaled toward the shore and Alan caught her in his arms.

“This ain’t funny, man,” Alan shouted.

“What is it?” Jenny cried into his chest.

“Holy shit! Oh my God! Run!”

****

“I heard there was a bear up at the old campgrounds,” said Ricky Stevens. “Really tore up the place.”

“They always say it’s a bear when they find a mess up there. Probably just some more of those leftover hippies. Since Woodstock there’ve been hippies wandering around these parts that’re too stoned to find their way back where they came from. My dad says they’re scattered around the woods from the Catskills to the Adirondacks,” said Jimmy Peters.

Ricky’s brown eyes widened when he said, “Since that concert last summer you’ve been blaming hippies for just about everything. I think you’re just wishing to see some of the naked hippies again.”

Jimmy straightened up, pushed his mop of curly hair aside and said, “I am not.”

“You’re blushing! That proves it!” said Ricky, pointing and laughing.

“Aw, get out. Hand me that wrench. I want to make sure the mounts are tight before I fire this puppy up and see what she’ll do,” said Jimmy.

Ricky watched as Jimmy gave the motorbike a final checkup. With fifth grade behind them and the summer ahead of them they were anxious to hit the trails without having to pedal their bicycles. The two boys had pooled their efforts and built two motorbikes out of salvaged parts and a pair of rebuilt lawnmower engines. It took all winter and spring but they got it done.

Jimmy stood up, brushed the barn dust off his behind and said, “Let’s give it a rip!”

Ricky put one hand on the seat and the other on the handlebars and said, “Crank it up.”

Jimmy pumped the choke a few times and then yanked the cord to pull start the salvaged lawnmower engine. It took five mighty tugs before it turned over. Blue smoke belched out and had the boys waving their hands to clear the air.

“Push it outside before we choke to death,” Ricky yelled over the noise.

Jimmy eased off the choke before he wheeled the bike into June’s bright sunshine. He then asked, “Where do you feel like going?”

Ricky shrugged and said, “My folks won’t like me on the road with these things so we best stick to the tractor roads and trails.”

“I don’t think these things’ll go fast enough to do much harm one way or the other. Feel like checking out the campgrounds?”

“You just want to check if there’s any skinny-dipping hippies in the lake,” said Ricky.

“Beats looking for Yogi-freakin Bear! We can cut across my place and pick up Mr. Benson’s tractor road and that’ll lead us around the other end of the woods. Loop around the lake and there we are!”

Ricky had some doubts and hesitated.

“You chicken?”

The magic words. Ricky gave the second bike a yank on the starter cord, and they sputtered off around the barn and up a gentle incline following the tractor ruts in the dirt path.

“This is pretty cool!” Jimmy shouted over the two engines.

“Beats the snot out of pedaling or walking.”

The two managed their way around the tractor paths on the Peters’ farm and picked up the next set of tractor tire ruts through Mr. Benson’s spread without a hitch. The wooded stretch to the lake had a natural trail that wasn’t too bad. Years of hikers had beaten down a nice little thruway.

The boys pulled up at a high spot where they could see most of the lake and Jimmy waved, signaled a stop and cut his engine. Ricky pulled up alongside and shut off his bike as well.

“Doesn’t look like anyone is swimming today,” said Ricky.

Jimmy scanned the lake and said, “Looks like.”

Ricky balled up his fist, gave his friend a playful punch in the arm and asked, “See any bears?”

Jimmy gave him a backhand smack in return and said, “Your pal Yogi sleeps till noon, remember? Hippies sleep late, too. Probably all the pot smoking. My dad says they ain’t good for nothing because of all the pot they smoke. My dad says they need baths, haircuts and a hitch in the army to straighten themselves out.”

“Your dad says lots of stuff. So do you. But you also want to see some of them hippie girls with no clothes on.” Ricky laughed and gave his friend another punch.

“So what if I do? Least it proves I ain’t no gay-wad. My dad says lots of hippies are homos, too. Doesn’t make sense with all the pretty women around. He says that peace symbol they all paint on their cars and wear around their neck is really the footprint of a chicken.”

Ricky shook his head and said, “You guys are crazy with this hippie stuff. Where to next?”

“Let’s take the trail around the lake and see if anything’s going on.”

The boys got their bikes going and began along the dirt road that circled the lake. They neared the campgrounds and Ricky caught the scent of camp fires and charcoal grills over his exhaust fumes. He knew he really wanted to see some naked hippies as much as Jimmy did. He didn’t understand why it embarrassed him to admit to it.

The individual campsites had plenty of trees and shrubs between each of them to allow ample privacy to the campers. The trail forked at several points that led away from the lake and converged at the center of the park where they had a game room, general store and showers and bathrooms. Not quite roughing it all the way, but a nice, civilized escape with plenty of nature thrown in to boot.

Ricky gestured to Jimmy that he wanted to stop. When they did he asked, “Feel like heading to the game room for some pinball? I got a few quarters.”

“I already blew my allowance. There’s another section of campsites along the lake on the trail back to Benson’s. We could check those and then grab lunch. My mom makes hot ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch on Saturdays. You could eat over,” said Jimmy.

“You sure it’d be okay with your mom?” Ricky asked.

“One way to find out,” said Jimmy.

Ricky had eaten at his friend’s house before and his mom was a good cook. “Okay. But check first. I don’t wanna look like no moocher.”

They rounded the far side of the lake, went up the incline that led back toward the Benson farm, and in the clearing for the last campsite along that side of the lake Jimmy skidded to a stop. The van parked in the clearing rested on its side and the campsite lay strewn with shredded clothes and sleeping bags. Jimmy shouted, “Wow! What the hell?”

“Look! The door’s torn off!” said Ricky. He pointed to the side door of the van that nested in a shrub about twenty feet away from the van itself.

“Never saw no bear that could tear apart a van.”

“We should get out of here,” said Ricky.

“This isn’t the bear damage you were talking about. This is something else. Maybe some Hell’s Angels came by and trashed some hippies for the shits and giggles,” said Jimmy.

Ricky couldn’t imagine any real people being mean enough or strong enough to do this. He also knew that bears didn’t tip over vans. If they got inside a car or a van they’d make a mess but this went a lot further than just messy. Plus, the bear story he’d heard earlier concerned some damage by the office and game room. He hadn’t heard about anything like this. “We don’t want to get in trouble. We should get out of here.”

“Nobody’s gonna think we tipped over a van,” said Jimmy. He then got off his motorbike and walked over to the van. He climbed up and looked into the doorless side of the van and said, “Smells funny in here. I’ll bet that’s the pot. People always say that pot has a funny smell. I’ll bet this is it.”

“We should get out of here. I just know we shouldn’t be here. I just know it,” said Ricky.

“Quit the fagatronics. Whatever happened here is over.” Jimmy hopped down and said, “Looks like something crashed down that trail. Maybe some other car slammed this van and rolled into the lake. Let’s check it out.”

“We should get out of here,” said Ricky.

“Are you chicken?”

The magic words.

Ricky leaned his motorbike against a tree and he and Jimmy walked slowly down the recently widened path to the lake. Shrubs, saplings and weeds had been flattened. Pretty recently too, judging by the light green and white showing at the breaks in the vegetation. Some branches higher up had been snapped on the trees along the way.

“If it was another car that hit the van it must’ve been an awfully tall car. Looks more like a two story house crashed through here,” said Ricky.

Jimmy stopped and looked up to assess his pal’s observation and said, “It’s big enough. Don’t think a house would be cruising through a campsite though.” He laughed and added, “If we find Dorothy and Toto I might change my mind.”

Ricky flicked a backhand at his friend and said, “You’re nuts. You know that, right?”

“Just a little,” Jimmy said returning the backhanded jab.

The laughter broke some of the tension and the two picked up their pace to the water’s edge.

“Someone went swimming. There’s a pair of sneakers,” said Ricky, pointing aside at a pair of sneakers and sweat socks.

Jimmy used his right hand to shield his eyes from the sun and scanned the lake. “Maybe someone went in and never came out,” said Jimmy.

“Maybe they just forgot their shoes. Come on, let’s get out of here,” said Ricky.

“Why? We didn’t do nothing.”

“It feels wrong. I don’t know. It just feels wrong.”

Jimmy slipped but caught his balance. Before he straightened up he caught sight of a sandal and said, “More than one of them forgot their shoes. Look there.”

Ricky looked aside where his friend pointed and spotted the sandal.

“Looks like a girl’s sandal. No doubt a couple of hippies went swimming,” said Jimmy.

“Do you figure they might’ve drowned?” Ricky asked.

“I hope not. I don’t think much of hippies but that’s not cool.”

“You got that right,” said Ricky.

Jimmy walked over to the sandal and said, “It’s a girl’s sandal okay.” He then bent over to pick it up. He tugged on it and said, “Feels like it’s nailed to the ground.” He put

both his hands to work and pulled the sandal free.

Ricky watched as his friend brought up the sandal and he let out a scream when he saw it come free of the weeds and wet soil. A bloody foot still occupied the sandal and it had a piece of denuded leg bone jutting out of it. The bone had been pressed into the muddy ground and that had been what held the sandal in place.

Jimmy dropped the foot and stumbled backwards, screaming, trying to get his legs under him to get the hell out of there. Ricky had tears streaming down his face when he helped his friend up and cried, “I told you! I told you! Let’s go!”

Chapter Two

John Peters, Jimmy’s dad, managed to calm his son and Ricky enough to get them to make sense of the story they had to tell. John explained to the trooper that he didn’t know what to make of it beside the fact that both boys were scared to death. “I know my son wouldn’t lie to me and the Stevens kid’s a good boy, too. So that’s when I called the police.”

John Peters and the state trooper convinced Jimmy and Ricky that they’d be safe returning to the campgrounds. The boys’ thoughts came out in such a jumble of emotion that making sense of the directions through the woods would have been difficult otherwise.

John knelt in front of the boys with the trooper standing behind him and said, “There may be someone out there who needs help. It’s your duty as good citizens to help out your neighbors whenever you can. This trooper will keep us safe.”

Jimmy nodded and Ricky followed suit.

Ten minutes later Ted Masters pulled his patrol car to a stop at the campsite that he’d been directed to by Ricky and Jimmy.

Jimmy didn’t let go of his father’s hand when he popped up and pointed out the side window of the backseat of the vehicle and stated, “Down there! That’s where it is! Right by the water.”

The trooper shut off the engine and said, “Stay here and I’ll check it out.” He didn’t get an objection.

Ted Masters got out of the car and walked toward the overturned van. He noticed the door that had been torn off and wondered what could make a bear that crazy. Has to be a bear. He checked for signs of impact elsewhere and saw none. He noted the smell of marijuana when he looked into the van and scanned for signs of anything that might explain what had happened to the occupants.

When he’d seen all that could be seen without a magnifying glass he walked down the slope toward the lake. What the hell flattened this path? He spotted the sneakers and socks near the water’s edge and then saw the foot in the sandal, just as the kids had

described. He felt his stomach lurch as he stepped up for a closer look.

“Never saw a bear do this before,” he mumbled.

Flies had begun to gather around the foot and he’d seen enough. He straightened up and stepped closer to the water’s edge to scan the surface for the body that belonged to the foot. The midday sun played tricks with his eyes and he couldn’t see anything that resembled a floating corpse.

He walked the span of trampled vegetation and another group of flies caught his eye. He swallowed hard and moved in for a closer look. He waved away the flies and bent over the site of their interest. A mat of hair fluttered slightly in the breeze and it took a second before he realized that he was looking at a flattened human head. Hair, blood and splinters of bone mashed amidst the muck and flattened weeds. He turned away quickly and heaved his breakfast into the lake.

When Ted Masters finally stood up he dripped sweat that had nothing to do with the June day’s heat. In his eleven years on the force he’d seen a lot of things but he’d never seen anything like this. Foraging bears, female bears with their cubs, bears startled by hikers and attacking out of instinct never resulted in anything like this. They could be vicious and sometimes deadly, but this was different.

Trooper Masters did his best to wipe away the beads of sweat from his face before he returned to his patrol car. He didn’t want to alarm the civilians and he especially didn’t want to scare the kids further. Nevertheless three pairs of eyes had him fixed in their gaze as he approached the vehicle. He didn’t know whether to nod and confirm that he had found the body part the kids had described or shake his head to acknowledge that someone had died.

He flipped his hat onto the hood of the car and reached in for the handset to his radio without saying a word. He hoped his expression appeared calm.

He called dispatch and after the formalities he said, “Going to need the coroner. I think we will need to search…” He hesitated. He wanted to spare the civilians as much grief as he could, but he needed to get the investigation going. “I’ve got a disembodied foot and what I believe is a human head. We’re going to need to search for the rest of the corpse and possible survivors. I’d suggest a K-9 unit and a crime scene crew. We may need to drag the lake as well.”

The dispatcher came back, “Is this a bear attack or what?”

“I’ve never seen a bear do anything like this. I have civilians with me and I’d prefer not to say anything else. Over.”

“Understood. Secure the site. Backup is on the way and the M.E. and K-9 are being notified. Dispatch over and out.”

“Masters, over and out.”

The absolute silence told the trooper that the civilians had heard more than enough. He flipped the handset onto the driver’s seat without looking into the car. He didn’t want to see their faces. He turned his back to the vehicle and stared down the path toward the lake. He wondered what in the world had flattened out the swath of land in such a manner. He closed his eyes but the images of the body parts replayed in his mind forcing his eyelids to snap open again.

He needed to say or do something and finally he turned and leaned into the vehicle. He said, “We’ll make sure you folks are taken home. Don’t worry.”

“Is there anything I can do to help?” asked John Peters.

“No, sir. But thank you just the same.”

John Peters leaned toward the window and said, “We could walk home from here.”

The trooper thought that might ease his conscience some but he also figured that homicide would have more questions to ask the boys. “Kind of a long walk.”

“We’d cut across the fields. Only about a mile or so,” said John.

The trooper scanned the faces of the two boys and he felt as if he might be sick again. He said, “If you’re sure. But stay close to home. There will probably be some more questions for the boys.”

“I’ve got chores to do and not likely to go far anyway,” said John.

The trooper opened the back door and after taking down contact info from Ricky Stevens he said, “You’re sure you don’t mind the walk?”

“It’s a lot shorter than driving the roads around to the camp entrance.” John pointed and said, “Over that ridge is the Benson farm and my land is just after. You can catch a glimpse of my barn from the high spots. It’s no trouble, officer.”

The trooper hesitated. “Okay then. We appreciate your cooperation.”

He watched the three of them walking up the road toward the ridge and wondered if

he’d made a mistake. The sounds of police sirens took his thoughts away from the civilians and he reached into his squad car and switched on his emergency lights. Over the next ten minutes the Heavenly Woods Campgrounds would be teeming with law enforcement personnel. And twenty minutes later Ted Masters would feel guilty about letting three unarmed civilians walk home while, evidently, something pretty dangerous remained at large.

****

John Peters felt the boys beginning to relax a little about halfway across Mr. Benson’s property. Jimmy let go of his hand in any case. He’d been lost in his own thoughts and seeing the look on that trooper’s face worried him more than a little. He had to say something. “You boys did a good job helping that trooper. I’m proud of you both.”

Neither boy responded.

John knew he needed to be supportive and positive and so he added, “It takes a real man to face up to trouble and see that the authorities are given the help they need. We all carry the responsibility to be good citizens.”

“Dad?”

“Yes.”

“What do you think it was?”

“I figure it was a bear.” John didn’t believe that but he needed to try.

“That trooper didn’t seem too sure about that,” said Jimmy.

John Peters had no other answers. “They’ll sort it out and then we’ll know.”

John looked aside at Ricky and asked, “You okay?”

“Yes, sir.”

He knew the boy was lying, but he’d accept a manly lie and let it stand. He picked up the pace. He knew his wife would be better at the soft-soap and soothing. The sooner he could pass the boys off to her the better.

Helen Peters stood on the back porch waving as the three of them came toward the house. She’d probably spotted them from the kitchen window. John figured she must have been worried when she came back from the market and he and Jimmy were

nowhere in sight. He waved back and hoped that eased her fears. He’d need to brief her ahead of getting the story from Jimmy and his friend.

When they reached the edge of the backyard John said, “You boys get those bikes back in the barn. Then come in and wash up for lunch. You feel like having lunch with us, Rick?”

“Yes, thank you.”

He nudged the boys toward the two motorbikes and he trotted up the back steps to give his wife the news.

Helen took one look at her husband and her face tensed for bad news. “What’d they do?”

“The boys aren’t in trouble. There was something terrible up at the campgrounds. Nasty business. The boys were pretty upset. They found a woman’s foot.”

“Oh my god! What happened?” she asked.

He explained that he called the police and about them going with the state trooper. He talked as fast as he could so that his wife would be up to speed before the boys came in for lunch. “The trooper found the foot and he also found a head. He went down that slope looking like a spit-and-polish trooper and came back looking sick as a dog.”

“Was it a bear?” she asked.

“I’d guess, but the trooper wasn’t convinced. The campsite looked like it had been steam-rolled. Jimmy and Ricky were pretty shaken up. I figured to warn you before they came in.”

“Do they know who got killed?” she asked.

“I don’t think so. I’d guess whoever was camping in that slot. I doubt it was a local,” he answered.

Helen didn’t have time for another question. Jimmy and Ricky came through the door. She said, “You boys need to wash up good. I’ll have lunch ready in a few minutes.”

Ricky nodded and Jimmy said, “Okay, mom.”

John heard the dread still straining his son’s voice and he said, “You’d have been very proud of these boys if you’d seen how they helped out that lawman. They acted more like men than boys.”

Helen seemed to understand her husband’s tone and intent. She picked it up with, “I’m

always proud of my Jimmy. He’s my good boy, for sure. And Ricky, I’ll make sure your mother hears what a good job you did. You can count on that.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Peters,” said Ricky.

****

Ted Masters had thought that the detectives and higher-ups would treat this case as something more than an animal attack, but it seemed they all would rather have ignored things about the case that they couldn’t explain. The flattened vegetation couldn’t be explained by blaming a bear. A decapitation and a disembodied foot and leg bone certainly didn’t fit any bear attacks that he’d ever heard of. They treated the officer from Fish and Game like he was a kook who was checking out a flying saucer when he said the evidence wasn’t consistent with a bear attack.

The owners of the campsite, Clyde and Betsey Owens, didn’t make matters any better. They just accepted and fed on the bear story, driving it home to make sure that their business stayed open. “Camping in the woods and the possibility of bears is just natural. Not common in these parts, but nothing that should be a great shock to anybody,” they both said. They might have looked like hippies but they sure sounded like business owners.

Ted had argued the disparities and got hushed by all. He’d been made to feel like the boy who cried wolf for the third time, but he hadn’t been believed even once to get there. By the time he was relieved and got into his car to go back to the barracks and check out he felt like he’d lived a bad dream. He rationalized that he’d done his best and drove off. What else could he do?

After he checked out, changed out of his uniform and got into his own car he started for home but knew that wouldn’t work. He needed a drink and didn’t want to do it alone. Also, he hadn’t eaten since breakfast and he’d tossed that breakfast into a lake. Drinking and drinking alone both seemed like bad ideas. But he aimed toward Skipper’s. They served drinks and made a respectable burger. Maybe he could stomach one of the choices.

Even on a Saturday more than four or five patrons before sunset had to be considered

a rush by Skipper’s standards. The place stood off the beaten path and only locals knew about the bar. The owner discouraged kids from the college crowd who’d happened upon the place by refusing to serve anyone under twenty-one, even though New York State thought eighteen acceptable. Skipper and his bartenders vigilantly checked ID on pretty much anyone they didn’t know personally. How the place stayed in business would remain a mystery no one cared to solve.

Ted parked himself at the end of the bar. The bartender, Josh, made his way over and asked, “What can I get you, Trooper?”

“Hey, Josh. Burger and a beer. Make the burger well.”

“You look like hell. You gonna bust me for serving you?” asked Josh.

“I might shoot you if you don’t,” said Ted.

“No, seriously. You okay?”

“Long day. Thanks, Josh. Just a long day,” said Ted.

Josh walked the length of the bar, shouted toward the kitchen for the burger and walked back to Ted with a bottle of Bud. He said when he got there, “Heard there was a bear up at the campgrounds the other day and that someone got hurt last night. Heard things were tied up getting in for a while. A few out-of-towners found their way in here for lunch. They get it sorted out?”

Ted wanted to talk about it but couldn’t. He said, “I heard.”

“Not common to have bears around here. Picking trash cans at night is one thing but I can’t recollect the last time we had anyone hurt by no bear,” said Josh. “Usually just rattle some pots and pans and they skedaddle.”

“Usually.”

“Could be a bear with a cub. They rile easily. No telling what a mother bear will do. That can be tricky,” said Josh.

“Uh huh.”

“Mac was in this afternoon spoutin’ off to some of the tourists that the Great Spirit was angry and out for blood. It’s been a while since he started in on his Indian rants. Not sure where he got the bourbon, but he must have been full of it. He didn’t even try to weasel me for a drink. If he was talkin’ Jesus instead of the Great Spirit we might have been able to pass the plate and get some alms. He was all fired up.” Josh laughed and

turned to answer a wave from another thirsty customer.

Ted knew Mac. Colorful character. Career soldier and he knew he did a few tours in Vietnam and moved to the area in 1968. He claimed to be descended from an Iroquoian chief. He told people he had moved to this locale to reconnect with his roots. He looked white as white could be, but he assured anyone who’d listen that he was a Redman. He drew a disability check from the Marine Corp, but he seemed to be getting around okay. Probably a Section 8 psycho.

Ted began to feel a bit better by the second beer and when the burger came he wolfed it down. He hadn’t ordered French fries but he was glad to get them. He still leaned toward less than one hundred percent but he felt an improvement.

He stuck to beer and by the time the sun had set he’d been in and out of various conversations with Josh and a few of the regulars. He avoided commenting on the bear or bears at the campgrounds. He just listened to the various versions. His only comments remained the same with each; “I heard,” or “I haven’t heard that.” The latter came out when he knew someone added a little something extra. The real story didn’t require any embellishment, but these folks couldn’t know that.

At 9:30 pm, Mac came stumbling in looking quite disheveled and unnerved. He stepped up to the bar a few feet away from Ted and said, “It’s all stirred up, man. We’ve really done it this time. The Great Spirit is seriously pissed. We really did it, man.”

Ted watched for trouble with his policeman’s eye.

Josh said, “Mac, if you don’t have cash I can’t serve you. You stiffed me last time.”


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Born in Tacoma Washington and raised in New York City, R.E. Wood has been writing for a long time, and Endangered Spirits is his ninth book. Writing fiction from the horror, science fiction and mainstream genres, he has been with a number of publishers before turning all Indie. Happily married and currently residing in Pennsylvania with his wife Jill, a 24 year-old African gray parrot named Elvis, and an aquarium happily bubbling away in his office as he writes, he has no intention of stopping.

Q. What was the hardest part of writing this book?
A.
I wanted to write a story about an unstoppable monster, the type of thing that truly scared me. It seemed I found the hook. But searching for motivation I also found some facts about conservation and endangered species that provided an undercurrent for this plot.
Q. What did you learn while writing this book?
A.
My research led me to the government’s efforts to protect our environment and wildlife. I learned about the Forest Service, the Department of Environmental Control and what led to the Endangered Species Act, beyond our current politics. I also dug into some Native American lore, and their beliefs.

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