Monday, November 3, 2014

What Doesn't Kill You.... (the conclusion)

by deceased federal marshal, Zeke Drummond, from SKETCHER IN THE RYE, the fourth book in A Portrait of Crime Mysteries by Sharon Pape

Mighty good to see you all again. As you recall, my young partner, Matt, and I were hot on the trail of the bank robbin’ Grandy brothers. We’d already come upon a man, dead of unknown causes, so when we found the body of Walter Grandy in the exact same state it was more than a little troublin’. He had the same strange holes in his temples. No burn marks that would have pointed to bullets causin’ those holes. And no blood. No sir, they were neat and perfect as could be. Matt looked at me without sayin’ a word, but the fear in his eyes spoke volumes. He wanted to forget about Lester and head back to town. I did too, but we’d taken an oath as federal marshals, and I had no intentions of goin’ back on my word. I wasn’t goin’ home without Lester Grandy.
            “You do whatever you want to,” I told him, “but you need to decide right now, ‘cause I’m not wastin’ another minute.”
Matt set his jaw hard and swung up into his saddle. “We best get movin’ then.” So we left Walter for the buzzards and worms to deal with and picked up Lester’s trail. We could tell by his tracks that he’d taken Walter’s horse and left in a hurry. Could be he’d gotten a look at whatever had done in his brother.
We lost Lester’s trail in the Red Rock country that folks today call Sedona. Mighty pretty up there, but we didn’t have the time to enjoy it. We spent the rest of the day lookin’ for Lester or for anyone who might’ve seen him. With sundown comin’ on fast, I knew we’d have to find a spot to camp for the night. Then Matt caught a glimpse of two horses behind a stand of trees a few hundred feet away. We dismounted and crept up on them. If those were the Grandy horses we didn’t want them to sound the alarm. Turned out they were, but Lester was nowhere around.
“Why would Lester abandon his horses?” Matt asked as we dismounted. “He knows there’s a killer on the loose and that there’s bound to be lawmen on his trail.”
“Beats me,” I said, because it was the truth even if he didn’t want to hear it. “Could be he found himself a cave to hide out in or maybe some giant bird swooped down and carried him off for his dinner.” Matt looked at me as if he thought I’d lost my mind, until I pointed to the ground. Beyond the two horses, there wasn’t a single track made by man or beast anywhere.
“Maybe he went looking to kill himself some dinner,” Matt said, clearly uncomfortable with where the conversation was headed.
I shook my head. “That doesn’t account for the lack of tracks.  Plus, his rifle was still in his saddle.”
“So what do we do?”
“Search a wider circle on foot, before we lose daylight completely,” I said already on the move. Wasn’t long before we heard a man screamin’ in the distance. We broke into a run. Guns drawn, we came around the base of a red rock monolith in time to see Lester and his abductor. They were hoverin’ a good six inches above the ground. We stopped dead in our tracks, stupefied.
The creature holdin' Lester looked almost human, except for the way his nose and chin were drawn forward into somethin’ like a snout. Bein' as how he was a good deal smaller than Lester, I had no idea how he could hold onto him, especially with the way Lester was kickin’ and squirmin’. Before we even had a chance to react, the two of them vanished into thin air.
 “Hey, you saw that too, right?” Matt asked once he had his wits about him.
Words failed me, so I nodded.          
“That thing, that creature - I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.” His voice was quavering.
“Me neither,” I finally managed to say.

“Where did they go? You can’t just vanish. People can’t just vanish.” He was workin’ himself into a good fit of hysteria. Not that I could rightly blame him. That was the moment we made a pact to keep what we’d seen to ourselves. We’d head back to town and say we lost the Grandy’s trail in the Red Rocks. That wasn’t too far from the truth. In any case, the bank robbin’ days of the two brothers was over. No one needed to know more than that.

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