Previous Case Files: Adelaide
, Ryan's Addendum
AUTHORITIES HAVE IDENTIFIED ALL 32 BODIES FOUND ON SALT CREEK PROPERTY! the headline read.
I pushed the paper away from me, not wanting to think about that night. It had been almost a month since it happened, but it still felt like yesterday to me. That is why I was currently sitting in a diner, eating breakfast on my way to Camp Curiosity. Paige, the owner of the camp is one of my oldest friends, and every year she tries to get me to come out and join them. When she called and asked if I could fill in for the current camp doctor, who had to leave unexpectedly, I agreed to help, happy to have something to do to distract me from my thoughts.
When I pulled up to the camp’s office an hour later, Paige stepped out with a huge smile on her face, waving her hand in greeting,
“How was the drive?” she asked, walking over to the car as I got out.
“Not too bad,” I replied, returning the smile as best I could.
“I can’t believe you’re finally here after all these years,” she declared, wrapping her arms around me.
“You know how work is,” I started to explain after she released me from the hug, but she cut me off with a wave of your hand.
“It doesn’t matter,” Paige said, “You’re here now.” I could tell she was excited to have me there.
I felt bad that I wasn’t able to share her enthusiasm.
“Grab your stuff,” she pointed at the car, “And I’ll show you where you’re staying.”
After taking my bags out of the trunk, I followed Paige to a small cabin situated at the back of the camp, not far from the lake. A large sign hung above the door, its faded red letters spelling out the word INFIRMARY.
Paige pulled out a set of keys and unlocked the door. “After you,” she said, gesturing for me to enter first.
The room I walked into was set up like an out of date hospital exam room, minus the sterile white walls. Everything in the place looked like it had been pulled out of a time capsule from the ’80s. The only modern thing I saw was the portable AED mounted on the wall by the door.
“Your room is through that door,” she pointed at the door across the infirmary, “Once you get situated, come back to the office and I’ll give you the official tour.” She handed me the set of keys she had used to open the door. “These keys unlock all of the doors in the camp,” she said before releasing the keys, “You and I are the only ones with a set, don’t let them out of your sigh.”
“I won’t,” I promised, closing my hand around the keys.
As Paige was about to walk out of the infirmary, she stopped and turned around, “Thanks again for doing this on such short notice,” she said.
“Anytime,” I replied with a smile.
“See you soon,” she said, closing the door as she left.
My room was about half the size of the infirmary. It reminded me of my dorm room from when I was in college with the exception that my dorm room didn’t smell like mothballs. The thought of moths and other bugs invading my privacy made me decide to leave my clothes packed in the suitcase instead of using the provided dresser.
The only things I removed from the suitcase were a plastic bag full of toiletries and a cloth-wrapped bundle. I tossed the toiletries into the bathroom sink and then carried the bundle over to the dresser where I set it down and unwrapped it, revealing the gimcrack in all its hideous glory.
I don’t know why I brought it with me. I suppose some part of me might have been refusing to let go of what happened that night and bringing the gimcrack was my way of punishing myself.
After I placed the gimcrack on the dresser I sat on the end of the bed and stared at it, recalling the phone call I had made to Father Cooke and Magister Alexander, the priests from opposing doctrines who had warned me about Ryan’s grandmother.
If they hadn’t come out that night and taken charge of the situation, I would have been sitting in the middle of the drive, cradling Carrie’s body in my lap until the sun came up. Snap out of it
, I chided myself, getting up and leaving the room. Being alone was the last thing I needed.
When I went back to the office, I found Paige outside talking to her camp counselors who were spread out across several picnic tables. The kids would be arriving soon and she was handing out their assignments.
“Ellie,” Paige said, waving me over when she saw me approaching the group, “You’re just in time.”
She waited until I had walked over to stand next to her before introducing me to the group of college-age young men and women. I smiled and gave them a quick wave.
“I’ve known Ellie since we were your age,” she gestured at the group, “And I trust her with my life,” she placed her hand on my shoulder. “I expect all of you to show her the same respect you’d show me. If you need something and can’t find me, talk to her.”
“Alright,” Paige clapped her hands together, “You all have your assignments. Hop to it!” she shooed them away. “You ready for that tour?” she asked, turning to face me as the counselors dispersed.
Paige showed me around the grounds, pointing out the various buildings along the way. Everything seemed to be built around a large outdoor amphitheater situated in the center of the camp. The infirmary, mess hall, recreation center, and office were all located on one side of the structure while the boys’ and girls’ cabins were on the opposite side.
“This place is huge,” I remarked as we made our way down to the boathouse.
“It used to be much larger,” Paige said, leading me out onto the dock.
She pointed out across the lake, “See those poles sticking out of the water?”
I squinted my eyes, scanning the opposite shore of the lake until I saw what she was referring to, “Yeah,” I said.
“When my great grandfather built this place, the boys and girls had separate camps. Camp Curiosity was for the boys and Camp Confection was for the girls. Those poles are all that remains of Camp Confection’s boathouse.”
“The eighties,” she laughed.
“All the horror movies?” I asked, mostly joking.
“I’m sure that was part of it,” she replied, “But I think it had more to do with the increase in specialty camps that started popping up at the time. Kids had lost interest in the traditional camp structure and wanted to go to computer camp or sports camp. My grandfather owned the place back then and tried his best to keep up with the changing times, but he was out of touch with what the kids wanted and ended up failing miserably. He wound up having to close Camp Confection, deciding to consolidate all of the girl’s programs into Camp Curiosity in a last-ditch effort to save the camp. As you can see,” she looked back at the camp, “It worked.”
“Is the old camp still over there?” I gestured across the lake with my chin.
“Most of the old buildings are, but they were gutted when my grandfather combined the camp curriculums.”
I stared off into the woods on the other side of the lake, looking for signs of the old camp, but couldn’t see anything beyond the thick wall of trees.
“You ready to head back?” Paige asked.
“Yeah,” I said, following her off the dock and back towards camp. “Do you think you’ll ever reopen the camp?” I asked.
Paige shook her head, “I seriously doubt it. I barely make enough to keep this place running,” she gestured at the surrounding buildings. “I would have sold off that part of the property years ago if I could have.”
“What stopped you?”
“I don’t own it. I just own the camp. The property it sits on is part of a family trust. To sell it, I’d have to get permission from the trustees and they’d never allow it. My great grandfather was adamant that the land stays in the family.”
“Maybe I can lease the land from you,” I blurted out as a crazy idea suddenly sprang into my mind.
The entire time we’d been talking, we were also walking towards the camp office, but Paige stopped and stared at me after processing what I had just said, “Seriously?”
“What would you do with it?” she asked.
“I’d reopen the camp,” I replied.
“Why the hell would you want to do that?” Paige looked at me like I was crazy, “You’d just be throwing your money away fixing that place up and it would be years before you started turning a profit if you turned one at all. I can’t let you do something like that.”
“Well, it wouldn’t be a camp,” I clarified, “It’d be more like a retreat. A place I can bring patients to get them out of the city.” And I place I can escape from the city,
I thought to myself.
“That’s actually not a bad idea,” Paige said, “But…we’ll have to talk about it later,” she pointed to the entrance of the camp where the loud rumbling of several diesel engines announced the arrival of the school buses carrying the campers.
Once the kids arrived things got a little crazy and the days flew by. I spent most of my time patching up the occasional skinned elbows and knees or applying anti-itch ointment to mosquito bites. The worst things I had to deal with, besides a few cases of separation anxiety, were a sprained ankle and a mild case of food poisoning.
Paige and I never discussed the retreat during that time, which I was thankful for. It was a half-baked idea that I needed to give more consideration to before I committed to anything.
Before I knew it, the two weeks were almost up and I was feeling more like my old self. I could get used to this
, I thought one evening, jinxing myself and ruining the experience of the previous week and a half.
“Doctor Morrigan! Doctor Morrigan!” I heard someone yell as I was walking past the boathouse on my way back to the infirmary.
Mark, one of the lead counselors came running up to me, “Something’s wrong with Tobie,” he said, trying to catch his breath between words. As he spoke, he pointed at the dock where several campers and Jamie, another camp counselor, were standing around looking at the prone form of a teenage boy lying in the bottom of a canoe.
I ran down to the dock, pushing my way through the group of gawkers, “Jamie,” I said, snapping my fingers in front of the counselor’s face to get her attention. “Get these kids back to their cabins.” When she turned and looked at me, I pointed towards the group of buildings in the distance. “Now,” I demanded.
As Jamie herded the kids off the dock, I stepped into the canoe and began checking Tobie’s vitals, I turned and looked back at Mark who was watching me from the dock, “What happened to him?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” Mark shrugged, “We were on our way back to the dock when he said he felt sick and then suddenly passed out.”
Tobie’s pulse was strong, and he was breathing normally. As far as I could tell he wasn’t in any immediate danger.
“Help me get him to the infirmary,” I said, leaning down to grab Tobie under his arms while Mark grabbed his ankles.
As I lifted the teenager, he stirred a little, mumbled something, and then burped right into my face.
“Did you give him alcohol?” I asked, glaring at Mark. The smell that came out of Tobie’s mouth was unmistakable.
“No!” Mark declared, “Of course not!” He was offended by the suggestion.
I let the matter drop for the time being and instead focused on getting Tobie back to the infirmary without being seen. If word got out that one of the campers was drunk it could be the beginning of the end for Camp Curiosity and I wasn’t about to let that happen to Paige.
“Tell me everything you know,” I said to Mark after we had gotten Tobie into one of the infirmary’s beds. “Starting with what you were doing out on the lake so late with a canoe full of campers.”
Mark hesitated for a moment. I could tell he was trying to come up with a plausible lie to keep himself out of trouble.
“Don’t lie to me,” I said, “I’ll find out the truth one way or another.” That was both a promise and a threat.
Mark looked at me, reading my face, knowing that lying to me wasn’t in his best interest.
He slumped his shoulders and sighed, “They wanted to see what was on the other side of the lake,” he finally admitted.
“You took them to Camp Confection?” It was the perfect place for a group of teenagers to hang out and drink.
He nodded. “We weren’t there very long,” he explained, “We just explored a few buildings and then came right back.”
“Where did Tobie get the alcohol?”
“I don’t know,” Mark replied, raising his hand as if he were taking a pledge. “I swear.”
“Could one of the other campers have given it to him?” I asked.
“Not without Jamie or I noticing,” Mark replied. “We never let them out of our sight.” How does a teenage boy, surrounded by people, get drunk without anyone noticing?
That was the question I needed to answer, and unfortunately, the only person who could answer it right now was passed out.
Not knowing what else to do, I patted Tobie down, looking to see if he might have a flask hidden somewhere on his person. I didn’t think he did, I just wanted to be thorough and didn’t know what else to do at the moment.
As I was rolling him to the side to check his back pockets, I noticed a large red welt on the side of his ankle. It looked like a nasty bug bite.
“Do you know how he got this?” I asked, pointing at the bump.
“No,” Mark replied, “He never mentioned anything about it.”
Inside the infirmary was a desk where I was required to fill out incident reports for every camper who came to see me. I walked over to that desk and began searching through the drawers, looking for the magnifying glass I had seen earlier in the week. When I found it, I sat down on the bed next to Tobie and held it over the bite mark.
“That’s odd,” I whispered.
There were marks around the circumference of the bite that looked like tiny teeth impressions. I’ve seen enough bite marks and been bitten enough times in my line of work to know what a human bite mark looks like. The marks on Tobie’s ankle looked exactly like that. The problem was the size of the marks. The person who made them couldn’t have been more than six inches tall.
There was only one kind of creature I knew of that could make a bite mark like that. A faerie.
“I need you to stay here with Tobie,” I said to Mark, getting up and heading out of the infirmary before he could protest. “Don’t give him anything to eat or drink while I’m gone,” I added before shutting the door.
I was originally going to take a canoe across the lake but then I decided it would be a lot quicker and less of a hassle to just drive over there.
When I approached the gates to Camp Confection, I was happy to see they were exactly like the ones at the entrance to Camp Curiosity which meant they weren’t locked. I just had to unlatch them and push them open before I could continue on my way.
The old road that led into the camp was covered in pine straw and full of potholes, but still functional. When I pulled into the parking lot, I parked my car and turned on the high beams so that my headlights illuminated what was left of the camp’s buildings. From what I could tell, everything was laid out exactly like it was at Camp Curiosity.
I got out of the car and began walking towards what was left of the cabins, thinking that would be a great place to start my search.
“If I were a faerie, where would I hide?” I said to myself, looking from one dilapidated building to the next, but they didn’t look like they had housed anything in decades.
Turning around, I made my way to the other side of the camp where all of the service buildings were located. All of those structures were in similar disrepair except one, the mess hall. Considering how old it was, and the state of the other buildings in the camp, the mess hall looked pretty. A fresh coat of paint and some new windows and it’d look almost as good as the one over at Camp Curiosity. That wasn’t natural. It should be in the same sad state as the rest of the buildings.
Faeries are inherently magical. They exude the stuff which tends to have several beneficial side-effects on their immediate surroundings. One of those side-effects is a deceleration of the aging process. I was sure that is why the mess hall was in much better shape than the rest of the camp.
When I entered the mess hall, I could see several tracks of footprints in the dust. Further proof that I was in the right place.
I began searching the interior of the building, looking for anything out of the ordinary. Everything looked as I expected it would. It wasn’t until I got to the kitchen that I found what I was looking for.
While searching through the empty cabinets, I noticed that one of the units on the floor wasn’t secured to the wall very well. It wobbled when I pulled open the doors. Wanting to see if there was anything behind it, I grabbed hold of it and tugged it off the wall.
I didn’t have to pull very hard before it fell forward and collapsed in on itself.
“Found you,” I said, kneeling to get a closer look at the faerie hovel built into the wall where the cabinet was.
“You shouldn’t be in here,” a small voice squeaked behind me, “It’s not safe.”
I jumped, at the unexpected sound. “You just scared the shit out of me,” I said, turning to face the diminutive woman standing in the doorway of the kitchen.
She was wearing a simple green dress with a white apron over it. On her head was a matching bonnet.
“You’re a Chaun, aren’t you?” I asked.
Chauns are a type of house fairy that tended to live hidden among humans, usually in rural locations. Having one living inside your house was believed to bring good fortune to the family.
“I am,” she replied, “And you’re a Fay.”
Fay was a faerie term used to denote someone who could see and interact with the fae folk. A side effect of those who’ve been scarred by something supernatural.
“You said it’s not safe in here, what did you mean by that?” I asked, crossing my legs and taking a seat on the floor.
“Do you know what happens when a Chaun goes mad?” she asked, walking over to stand in front of me.
“Sort of,” I admitted, “They change depending on the type of madness inflicting them. I know that a Leprechaun is a Chaun that’s gone insane with greed, right?”
“Everyone knows about the Leprechauns, but have you ever heard of a Clurichaun?”
I shook my head. My faery lore was very limited.
“A Clurichaun is a Chaun that’s become addicted to spirits.”
“Spirits?” I was confused for a second but then I realized that she meant alcohol. “Tobie must have had a run-in with the Clurichaun.”
“Is that the boy that was in here earlier?” the faery asked.
“Yeah,” I nodded my head, “I think the Clurichaun bit him and affected him somehow.”
“He did,” the faery agreed, “That bite cursed the boy to drink like a Clurichaun. He’ll curse you too once he sees what you’ve done to his home.” She pointed at the hovel I had uncovered.
“What does it mean to ‘drink like a Clurichaun’?”
“It means that whatever the boy drinks will turn into spirits.”
That explained why Tobie was drunk. He must have taken a drink from one of the water bottles when they were returning to Camp Curiosity.
“Where is he now?” I asked, looking over at the disheveled hovel then back at the faery. From what I knew about Faeries, I needed the Clurichaun’s help if I was going to remove the curse he put on Tobie.
“There’s a moonshine still hidden at the bottom of the hill behind the camp. Last time I saw him he was heading down there to refill his jug.”
“How long ago was that?” Right after I spoke, I remembered that faeries didn’t measure time the way we did, so she wouldn’t be able to answer the question in a way that would help me. “Forget I asked that,” I said, waving it off with my hand as I tried to think of how best to help Tobie.
“The Clurichaun can’t help you. Not willingly,” the faery said, guessing my thoughts. “If you want to cure the boy, you’ll have to free the Clurichaun from his own curse.”
“How do I do that?” I was prepared to do whatever it took to help Tobie.
“You have to get him to drink something other than the spirits he craves.”
That sounded simple enough. The hard part was going to be catching the Clurichaun, but I already had a plan for that forming in the back of my mind.
“I’ll be right back,” I said, getting up and walking out of the mess hall, being careful to walk around the little Chaun as I left.
While I was walking through the camp, I remembered passing what looked like an old bonfire, around which were a bunch of discarded beer bottles. I was going to need a few of them for my plan to work.
As I gathered the bottles, it was easy to guess how the other Chaun had succumbed to the intoxicating call of the spirits. The abandoned camp was the perfect spot for young people to hide out and get drunk. The Chaun wouldn’t have been able to resist the lure of those gatherings. At some point, someone must have left some alcohol behind and that is all it took to start him on the path to becoming a Clurichaun.
After I had collected a few bottles, I went down to the lake to clean them out and fill them up with water. Once I was done, I returned to the kitchen and waited for the Clurichaun to return.
“You should probably go,” I said to the Chaun, “I don’t want to cause any more trouble for you.”
Faeries were bound by various pacts, and if they broke those pacts, they could be cast out from Fae society, or worse, they could be stripped of their magic. There was a limit to how much help the Chaun was allowed to give me. I just hoped she hadn’t already crossed that line by telling me how to cure the Clurichaun.
“I appreciate your concern and acknowledge your respect for our ways, kind Fay” she replied turning and walking out of the kitchen. “Be careful,” she added and then vanished.
I didn’t have to wait long for the Clurichaun to return. From the noise he was making, he didn’t seem to be concerned about hiding his presence.
Before he entered the kitchen, I positioned myself among the ruins of the broken cabinet and grabbed one of the bottles.
“What have you done to my home?” he demanded, setting the large ceramic jug he was carrying on the floor beside him before pointing an accusing finger at me.
“I must have had too much to drink,” I slurred, pretending to be drunk. “I’m starting to see little people.”
The Clurichaun stopped and cocked his head to the side at the mention of me being drunk. “What’s that you’re drinking,” he said, eyeing the bottle in my hand.
“This,” I pointed at the bottle, moving my hand as if I couldn’t hold it steady. “It’s Beer.”
“Can I have some?” he asked, reaching his hands out to me.
I pulled the bottle closer to myself. “You already have some,” I said, pointing at his jug.
“How about we trade?” he suggested. “I’ll give you some of mine,” he gestured back at his jug, “if you give me some of yours.” Then he gestured at my bottle.
I pretended to think about it for a moment, “Okay,” I shrugged.
“Excellent,” he said, rubbing his hands together. “I’ll get us some cups.”
I watched as he walked over to the cabinets on the opposite wall and retrieved an old tin cup that was almost as big as he was. He dragged it next to my foot then ran into his hovel and returned with a much smaller cup for himself.
“Me first,” he said, holding out his cup and licking his lips in anticipation.
I held out the bottle and poured a drop of the lake water into his cup.
I had hoped in his eagerness to have the beer that he would just chug it down, but he wasn’t that easily fooled. He brought the cup to his nose, sniffed it, and then dumped it out. “That isn’t beer,” he yelled at me.
“And I’m not drunk,” I said, reaching out and grabbing the Clurichaun with my free hand. It was time to go to plan B.
“What? How?” He squirmed in my grasp, trying to escape but unable to. That’s when he bit me.
The bite didn’t hurt as I expected it to. Instead, I felt a kind of tingling sensation where his teeth punctured the skin of my finger. And now I have the curse
, I thought to myself.
Keeping the Clurichaun in my hand, I refilled his cup with my other hand, then held it up to his lips, “Drink!” I demanded.
“Uh-uh,” he said through pursed lips, turning his head to the side.
“We can do this the easy way or the hard way,” I said.
He didn’t reply. He just kept his head turned to the side.
“Fine, have it your way,” I grabbed the cup he had given me and filled it full of water. “Last chance,” I warned, holding him upside down above the cup.
What I was about to do would break one of the faery pacts I was bound by as a Fay, but I didn’t have the time to sit there and wait him out. I would deal with the consequences later.
I began lowering the Clurichaun’s head towards the cup. When his hair touched the water, I heard him take a deep breath.
“It didn’t have to be this way,” I said, dunking his head beneath the surface of the water and holding him there. I counted to thirty seconds before I pulled him out.
Water was flying from his nostrils as he began breathing heavily through his nose, refusing to open his mouth.
“You ready to take that drink?” I asked.
He narrowed his eyes and glared at me. I took that as a no.
I dunked him again, holding him under for a full minute.
That process continued for several minutes until I finally said “Fuck it,” intending to end this one way or another. “I’m not lifting you out until you drink,” I said, raising my voice to make sure he could hear me. “Drink or die. That’s your only option.” I meant what I said.
I wasn’t in the mood to be charitable, not after losing Carrie. I know I was projecting my anger, taking it out on the Clurichaun, but I didn’t care. He was going to suffer the same way she suffered.
I must have zoned out because I didn’t notice the little Chaun until she had climbed up my leg and stood on my knee. “Let him go!” she yelled at me, “He took a drink!”
I looked down at the cup and noticed the torrent of bubbles coming from the drowning Clurichaun’s mouth. “Sorry,” I said, quickly lifting him up and gently laying him on the ground.
He lay there coughing and sputtering.
The Chaun slid down my leg and ran over to him. Did it work
? I asked myself, reaching down and picking up the cup of water. I took a sip and immediately spat it out. It didn’t taste like alcohol, it tasted like the dirty lake water it was supposed to be. I’m glad that’s over
“This isn’t over,” the cured Clurichaun sputtered between coughing fits, “The Court of Seasons is going to hear about this.”
“I’m sorry. I truly am,” I apologized, “But I didn’t know what else to do,” I didn’t want to cry, but the tears came anyway. There was no excuse for what I had done. I deserved the shame I was feeling.
The two faeries sat there, huddled together on the floor. It never occurred to me that the two of them could be a couple but it was obvious to me now, seeing the way little Chaun cared for him.
“I’m not asking you to forgive me,” I said, “I don’t even forgive myself.” I stood up. “I will not plead my case to the Court of Seasons and will accept whatever judgment they pass down on me.”
Neither one of them spoke as I got up and left the mess hall, but I could feel their eyes drilling holes into the back of my head until I was out of sight.
I drove back to Camp Curiosity. When I got back to the infirmary, I found Mark sitting on the bed next to Tobie holding a trash bucket under his head.
“How is he?” I asked.
“Okay, I guess,” Mark replied. “He puked his guts out for about fifteen minutes, but he seems fine now. He’s been asking for water, but you told me not to give him anything to eat or drink.”
I walked over to the sink and filled a glass with water, carrying it over to Tobie.
“You can go, Mark,” I gestured towards the door, “Thanks for watching him.”
Mark got up and started to leave, “Do you know what happened to him?” he asked.
“I do,” I said, sitting down next to Tobie and handing him the glass of water. “Someone hid some liquor in one of the mess hall cabinets. I think Tobie helped himself to a little of it.”
“Sorry,” Mark apologized, “I guess I should have kept a better eye on him.”
Tobie started to shake his head and was about to protest my explanation, but I cut him off by pushing the cup against his lips.
“Drink,” I said to him. To Mark, I said, “Don’t beat yourself up over it. It wasn’t your fault. Go get some rest, its been a long day.”
“Yes, it has,” he agreed, walking out of the infirmary.
When I pressed the glass to Tobie’s lips, he took a hesitant sip and then grabbed the glass out of my hand and started chugging it. “More please,” he said, handing the glass back to me.
His thirst was enough to tell me that he was going to be fine.
I let him stay the night in the infirmary, sleeping off the effects of all the alcohol he had unknowingly ingested because of the curse. Before I tucked him in, I explained what had happened to him, and that he needed to keep it to himself. Talking about it would only cause more trouble for himself.
When I went to check on him in the morning, I found him hiding under his blanket.
“You okay, Tobie?” I asked.
“Is she gone?” he replied, keeping the blanket over his head.
“Is who gone?”
“The ghost lady,” he said reluctantly, thinking I would laugh at him.
Anyone else might have laughed at him, but not me. I knew what he was going through. I went through the same thing.
“She’s not here,” I reassured him, “She only appears at night.”
“You’ve seen her too?” He slid the blanket off his head.
I nodded, “She scared the shit out of me one night when I got up to use the bathroom, but she’s harmless.”
“Who is she?”
I shrugged, “I don’t know,” I sat down on the bed beside him. “I suppose she’s just the remnant of someone who used to work here.”
“What’s a remnant?”
“A remnant is the spiritual energy left behind by someone who has died unexpectedly,” I explained. “It’s a residual presence. Sort of like a psychic imprint.”
“Like a ghost?” he interrupted.
“Not quite,” I said, “A remnant isn’t really a ghost, it’s more like a character in a movie that keeps repeating the same scene over and over again.”
“Oh,” was all he could think of to say in reply.
“You’re going to start seeing a lot more things like that,” I warned him, “But most of them will be harmless.”
“But I don’t want to see them,” he blurted out.
“Sorry kiddo, but you don’t have a choice in the matter,” I replied,
“It’s because of that bite,” I pointed at his ankle. “Anyone who becomes scarred by something supernatural gains a special kind of sense, one that allows them to see and interact with things that most people don’t know or don’t believe exists.”
“Well, how will I know if they’re harmless or not?” he asked.
“You’ll know,” I said, getting up and walking over to the desk so I could grab a pen and a piece of paper, “When that happens,” I wrote my phone number on the paper and handed it to him, “I want you to call me as soon as you can.”
I felt bad for Tobie, knowing how drastically his life was going to change now that the veil had been lifted from his eyes. But at least he had someone to talk to if things got out of hand. I didn’t have anyone to talk to when I received my scar. Next case file.
If you’re reading this, it’s probably because, like me, you’ve got a lot of time on your hands. Three months ago I got the word from my airline that I won’t be returning to work. I’m turning 65 in a month, so it’s safe to say I won’t sit in the Captain’s seat again. Airlines have a rule about old men flying in the left seat, and I’m not going to take a spot from a younger man with kids or a spouse to feed. So after 25 years at a big airline, I decided to put myself out to pasture. It’s a bad time to be selling a house, but to hell with it; I’m doing it anyway. My wife and I still own a small cottage north of Nipigon, a little town far, far up in Northern Ontario. We figured we’ve got enough time left in reserve to enjoy some time being close to nature. We’ve been up here for a while now, settling back in, and it’s amazing how quickly you get over living in a big city when you’re in the Real North.
Now if you’re not familiar with Ontario, there’s a tiny little town with a metal goose at the city limits called Wawa. It’s a small former mining town, and anything north of it is nothing but a wide, beautiful, and scarily desolate place. When I say desolate, I don’t mean barren. The environment is vibrant and powerful, but there’s a harshness to its beauty. The rocks are smoothed down, the trees are sharp, and the weather is known to be cruel up here. Lake Superior has claimed its share of people, and when people think of the north, they usually mention that Edward Lightfoot ballad. When I think of it up here, I always think of how many dead pilots we’ve had up here in the bush. You may not hear about it in the big towns, but if you Google it, you’ll know I’m right. It’s a scenic cemetery. I think when I left here too I hoped that I would forget that little detail. Then I remembered how much I really forgot. All it takes is something familiar to bring all that trauma back.
It was a summer squall coming off of Superior that took me sliding back to one of my first flying jobs. My wife Claire and I were day tripping out on a beach near Neys Provincial Park. The park’s a treasure, with stacks of driftwood sitting on the beach like bleached corpses. On hot days, it’s perfect for beach combing, as the wind coming off the cold water puts a chill right into your bones, no matter how hot it is. On our beach combing day it was a scorcher, and on the drive down the radio had listed the possibility of some bad thunderstorms, another common feature of the area.
Claire and I were having lunch on the beach when the weather changed. The sunlight dimmed and on the horizon of the lake, rolling clouds spilled toward us. A storm was coming. We were packing up our things when it happened. The clouds turned green, and I seized up and started shaking. A jolt of memories hit me like lightning—a body bag, a green glow, some creature in the trees. I felt like the whole world was collapsing on me and drilling into my skull.
I came to with Claire, my wife, screaming in my face, “Sam! Sam! This is tornado weather. Sam, we gotta get back to the car, now!” The lightning was pulsing faster and faster now, flickering like a strobe. My wife is a calm person by nature, but the panic in her whole body made me shake off the daze. She took my hand as the sound of hail started to come down, and the sky started to turn bottle green. We made it back to the car, got in, and huddled down as the hail whacked the car. I grabbed Claire and started groaning. I’m sure she thought I was getting old and losing my nerve, but it was Petawanga lake that I couldn’t get out of my head. I finally let go and cried the whole time that squall was pounding on the windshield of our Volvo. It passed after half an hour, and Claire had to drive us back to the cabin. I got in the door, went to our bedroom, and passed out.
I woke up in the middle of the night and looked at the nightstand. It was 02:03. Claire was fast asleep beside me. I got up, paced for a while, and then went to my study. I knew I had to get this down on paper, or it’d slowly turn in my head till I went insane. The whole things is insane, really. It doesn’t look good on me, but fuck it. I’m hanging up my wings, and I might come out with some integrity. So I’m going to tell you all about Petawanga Lake in the spring and summer of 1980, and I hope I’ll never have to think of this damn thing again.
Petawanga Lake was my first real job as a pilot. For a 25 year old who loved fishing and hunting—who also wasn’t a huge fan of people—it was the perfect place to work. The area is pristine, and float planes still land there for rich American hunters looking to hunt game. But there isn’t an airport there anymore. There isn’t even a town. It’s all gone, and no one ever talks about it. I’m sure the government would love to tell you that most of the people relocated to Fort Hope, just a little east of there. The government also doesn’t mention that half the people from that town are still missing. I’m sure they’d downplay that as, ‘That’s just what happens to small towns’. The reality is much, much worse.
Things started changing there on an unseasonably sweaty night at the airstrip. The telephone started ringing on our nightstand in the company trailers. I’d drifted off with the help of a half bottle of whiskey sometime in the evening. I unstuck my eyes and stared at the phone. The on-call pilot should be at the hangars already, and our other pilots were on layovers away from town. I was the only person in the bunks, and I sure as shit I wasn’t on call. Sure enough, the voice on the other end was Otto Hollingen, the owner of the airline and shag carpeted trailer I called home.
‘Sam…Sam I…’ he started, but I cut him right off.
‘Look, Otto. I’m half in the bag, so you better tell that greenhorn Jim that he’s going out or he’s sleeping with the deer flies tonight.’ Otto was a man who would try to talk you into doing anything; he once asked Malcom, one of our pilots, if he was absolutely sure he couldn’t carry TWO canoes on the floats, and I’m thankful it was Malcom assigned to fly that day or there would’ve certainly been an accident.
I braced myself for the pitch, but there was only silence on the other end of the phone. I was close to hanging up, but a weak voice came through. ‘Jim says no. He won’t do it. Bill told me to fuck off and went hunting, and Malcom is still in Marathon.’ Another pause. ‘Sam. You must come to Hangar Two. Please.’
I started to grumble, but something in his voice raised the hairs on my neck. Pilots have a good sense of something that’s just not right. It can mean realizing that you may have entered a spin in IFR conditions, or maybe you feel you dialled in the wrong frequency on an approach. Small things can have deadly results when you fly.
I threw on some clothes and my work boots and marched down the loose gravel to the main buildings. Hangar Two was a great name, because there was no Hangar One. The only buildings on the gravel strip were a small building that served as a terminal, a trailer that was our dispatch office and hangout area, and Hangar Two. It was a large quonset hut built recently by the Hydro company to help Otto keep his planes running. In return, he’d help get engineers in and out for building the dam. The whole town of Petawanga Lake was a mix of low shacks, rustic cabins, and trailers, but Hangar Two was an ode to us taking one more step in conquering nature up north. I stopped for a smoke outside the hangar door. I checked the time on my watch. It was 02:30 in the morning. I savoured the smoke, taking my time and hoping to sober up a bit.
I entered the hangar and the overhead lights were out. A glow came from the red emergency bulbs mounted on the walls. A kerosene lantern was also being used in the corner; someone wasn’t thinking about safety. It wasn’t hard to make out four figures whispering around the lantern. A black bag was on the floor in front of them. The metal door behind me slammed shut. All four figures jumped and one picked up the lantern and pointed it my way.
‘Who’s there!?’ one of them snapped, his voice so low it sounded like a carburetor. I recognized it immediately as Hugh Deluce, the de-facto ‘mayor’ of Petawanga Lake, if a collection of 250 people could be called a village. His voice wavered. Otto immediately shushed him, and Jimmy spoke next. Jim was a fresh hire, only a few months out of training on Cessna 172s in Thunder Bay. Otto liked him because he was cheap. I knew he was a liability, but he started ribbing the crew and called me ‘old-timer’. I took a liking to the little shit immediately. Jim was a confident pilot, and even though he didn’t have many hours, I could tell he wasn’t a coward. I started walking closer to them.
‘Look, Sam. I’m not flying. I’m half in the bag righ—’
‘This body needs to leave.’
The voice stopped me in my tracks. The sound of it grated my ears.
‘Now. Right. Now…’
I turned to look at the speaker. A man dressed head to toe in black, almost like a Jesuit, but he had no collar or rosary. His features were buried in the shadows from the lamp, but I know I’d never seen him before. For a town that small, not knowing someone’s face is a big deal. I tried to get a closer look at his face, but every time I tried to focus, I felt my stomach turning over. In the moment, I dismissed it as the whiskey turning on me, but now I think it was that looking at him made me feel physically ill.
I tried to say something, but Otto cut me off.
‘Look Sam. I know you’re reliable.’
I need this favour. Something bad happened, and this body needs to be delivered back as soon as possible to Thunder Bay. It’s a religious thing.’
‘What happened?’ I asked. I looked at the body bag on the floor.
‘There was an accident.’ He turned away and looked at the Jesuit. ‘At the dam survey site. One of the engineers. We need to get him out now.’
I stared at the body. It was laid out, perfectly prone, the thick plastic fabric crinkled like leathery skin. I’d seen a lot of cadaver bags during my first few years flying. Things happen up north; people fall through the ice on their ski-doos; a chainsaw breaks and the chain shreds the poor operator; once I even had some poor bastard that drank hard and passed out in a snowbank near the edge of town. The crows had pecked out his eyes before someone found him the next morning. A pilot hauling body bags from some remote place down to family was just part of the job.
I knew what I was going to say in that moment mattered—that I was making some monumental decision by giving in and taking the flight. There was something so wrong in there, standing in that hangar under the red-light, with Jim pacing nervously. I knew it was his ass going back to Thunder Bay on the next plane if he said no to this. He’d have a hard time finding a job after losing this one in a month; unless I said yes.
‘All right,’ I said. ‘I’ll do it. Have the plane gassed up and load the cadaver bag. I’ll go back to brush my teeth and make a weather call.’
I felt the relief fall in the hangar. The shoulders seemed to drop off on everyone, except for the Jesuit in the corner; his body stayed unnaturally still, and I felt the hairs on my neck stand up.
‘Jim, you owe me big time,’ I said. I wanted to tear into him, but the poor kid looked like he was going to cry. Things were awkward, so I turned and left the hangar as fast as I could.
Back at the trailer, I changed into some fresher clothes, cleaned my teeth, and then made my call to the weather service. The weather was low ceilings, high humidity, and a thirty percent chance of some storms along the way. It didn’t set off any alarm bells, and I wondered what the hell had Jim so spooked about flying. The route was short. In hindsight, I should have asked all of them more questions, but I was young and dumb. I was also a little drunk.
When I got back to the hangar, Jim had already taxied the plane out onto the apron. I gave him a nod as I stowed my flight bag and took one last look at the black mummy bag in the back. Someone had secured it with ratchet straps. I did my pre-flight in that cramped DHC-2 cabin and I wondered if the damn corpse was gonna leak out onto the carpet. Jim was going to spend the morning back at base scrubbing insides off of the interior if that became fact; it wouldn’t be the first time a pilot had to scrub blood,shit, and piss out of the cargo hold. I lined up on the runway, took note of the calm wind, and took off.
I saw a cannonade of lightning off in the distance as soon as I took off. It wasn’t clear where it was in the distance, but I was feeling tired and cocky. I double checked everything was properly stowed in the cabin, and turned to make sure the body wasn’t moving.
Now I want to state that it was a different time, 40 years ago. I want to be clear; I shouldn’t have been flying that plane with half a bottle of whiskey in me. Even now, I can hear my ego telling me ‘There were no other passengers. There’s no one to kill but yourself up there..’ Well, that’s all bullshit. I still carry that shame. I’m not sure if anything would’ve been different if I was sober; maybe I wouldn’t have flown into that storm. But I made that decision, and that’s when things took a dark turn for all of us at Petawanga Lake.
Things got bad around twenty minutes into the flight. I wasn’t paying much attention to the clouds in front of me, to be honest. I lit up a cigarette and searched the cockpit for some advil; hungover pilots were a fact of life. I’d just found a bottle stowed in the co-pilot door when the green light flooded the plane. I looked up to see the plane fly right into a bright mass of clouds, all gleaming like emeralds. My first thought was ‘how the hell the Aurora Borealis was getting through the clouds in front’ but the storm updraft hit the plane like a hammer. The plane dropped hard, and if I hadn’t remembered to strap in, I would have broken my neck on the ceiling. I stared as the yoke jerked left and right for a second or two. The plane was out of control and all I could think of was ‘What the hell is happening? Why is everything green?’.
I grabbed the yoke back and started to fight with the plane. The Beaver is a small plane built in the forties, and it isn’t designed to fly through any ice. There can be a whole lot of ice in a thunderstorm at nine thousand feet. I felt the engine noise change, and realized that the rime sticking to the plane was getting bad. It was growing on the wings and propeller really fast, with no way to get rid of it. I tried to concentrate and look at the instruments and get the plane flying straight. I was on the worst roller coaster ride of my life. The plane felt like it was ripping apart. I felt my hands cramping from gripping the yoke hard.
I couldn’t see anything out the window except the storm, still illuminated by a green light, and as I felt the fear start to well up I swear something called my name. I can’t describe it and it doesn’t make sense, but it sounded like it came from inside plane and out in the storm. My bladder started to feel weak. My heart hit my stomach, and I could feel tears welling in my eyes. I looked at my instruments. I had gotten the Beaver under control, but it wouldn’t matter in a minute or two, when the wings would be so icy that I’d stall and never recover. I didn’t have time to think. The plane vibrated from the stresses now, and I could hear something creaking in the back. I dove the plane down, and hope that the storm wasn’t as bad near the ground. It was the shittiest option I had. I focused on the altimeter, hoping that the change in pressure wasn’t too far off from Petawanga Lake. If it was, I would find out real soon.
I white-knuckled the way down until I finally made out some of the airport lights through the torrent on the windshield. The green light started to fade, and I brought that plane coming fast onto the runway in a shaky and unstable approach. I heard the wheels crunch as I made contact with the tarmac. I’m sure I caused some damage, but I was alive. I ripped off my headset and gasped for air. I could hear the rain beating on the windscreen, and my shirt was soaked through with sweat. I took a moment, then taxied the plane up to the hangar we used in Thunder Bay, my hands rattling on the yoke. I took a deep breath, and took in the fact that I just survived something I shouldn’t. That’s when I turned to see that the body back was upright in the cargo hold, hunched inches from the back of my chair. I tried jumping out of the seat, but I slammed my knee on the yoke and screamed in both pain and terror.
The ratchet straps that were holding down the upper part were snapped, and the body was sitting up right, right behind my seat. If I pushed my seat back, we would’ve touched. I couldn’t see anything through the plastic, but I swear it was staring right at me, maybe even smiling. It was so weirdly intimate, as if it propped up to give me a final kiss. I didn’t take my eyes off of it as I taxied to meet the coroner at the hangar. I must’ve looked right drunk when I pulled up. I killed the engine and got out in the rain. I couldn’t process left from right. What the hell happened?
Chuck, one of the coroners working in Thunder Bay walked up, hiding his large frame under his umbrella.
‘Hey. You look like shit,’ he said.
‘Yeah. Bad flight,’ I replied. ‘Look. Do you and your guys mind unloading? I…I need a minute.’
Chuck rolled his eyes, but gave a slight nod.
I rushed out of the rain and into the hangar toward the bathroom. I keeled over and let my guts spill out. We’d been taught that it’s always when we’re least expecting to be in trouble that it comes and looks for us. I just didn’t expect it to hit me in such a strange way. I stayed hunched over on the toilet seat, my head resting in my elbows. When I regained my composure, I washed out my mouth and headed back to the plane. The storm had cleared, and the coroner team was nowhere to be seen. The sky had opened up, and the first hints of dawn were appearing on the horizon. I phoned my flight plan in and made it back just after sunrise.
Things seemed calm for a month after it happened, and I kind of brushed aside the whole night as some weird fever dream. Jim hadn’t mentioned anything else about the night when I got back, and it was for the best. I was eager to forget the whole thing. I hadn’t seen the dark Jesuit since, and asking Otto about it now just seemed out of place. Otto was back to harping on pilots for carrying too much fuel or saying no to an overloaded plane. I got on with my summer, and ended up getting pretty chatty with our town nurse, Debra. She was stern, assertive, and didn’t take shit from any of the creepy engineers up in the bush; I took a liking to her almost immediately. It was sometime around the Solstice I asked her to come hang out at our ‘dispatch station’, which is just a fancy name for the shack with a desk, a few couches, and a radio for keeping in touch with our pilots on runs. It also had the benefit of being the only private place for pilots to hang out. The town was officially dry, and we were only supposed to be in the dispatch station on ‘official business’. Jim had some night runs to Timmins, so I had a bright idea and offered to man the radio during his night run. He asked why I’d do The smirk I got from him told me that my generosity wasn’t fooling anyone.
Deb and I settled in with a bottle of rum, some warm coke, and the static hiss from the radio.
‘So is this where you bring all your dates?’ she said.
‘Of course. It’s either here or the Hydroelectric mess hall, so I think I know what you’d prefer.’ I said, pouring her another sticky drink. I could hear Jim starting up the plane outside, setting up for the milk run. Deb and I both leaned over to see him fight something into the cargo hold. She laughed.
‘Poor guy. You think Jimmy won’t hold a grudge at you for beating him to the punch?’ She took a sip from her glass, a smile starting to spread across her lips.
‘What do you mean,’ I asked.
‘Oh, wow. I’m surprised he didn’t mention anything during your group bunking sessions. He was real sweet on me about a week ago, just after you asked me to this little shindig. Said he wanted to take me on a nice swim and “show me his tattoo”,’ she said.
I almost spit out my drink on the radio, and let out a big laugh.
‘Did he, now?’ I said.
‘Any idea what that tattoo might be of? Was it his mother’s name? A flower, maybe? Do you think he might’ve had other intentions,’ I said, and followed it up with some raised eyebrows.
Deb grinned and moved her curly brown hair out of her face. ‘He mentioned it was a beautifully drawn crescent moon, but I think it was a ruse. And as for intentions— Well, I don’t know, skip. I’m beginning to get the feeling you invited me here for other intentions.’
At that, we both laughed. I opened my mouth in surprise and did my best to look downright offended. She shook her head, but she smiled. I turned to look back out the window and take a look at Jim starting up the plane.
‘That dog. I never knew he had it in him,’ I said. ‘He seemed scared shitless that night I had to move that dead worker because he was too scared to fly.’
Deb’s face turned sour. ‘What dead worker?’ She asked.
I turned, feeling a little puzzled.
‘The body that Otto our esteemed mayor, Mr. Deluce decided was important enough to shuttle out in the middle of the night.’
Her face looked intensely serious now. The radio chimed up with Jim’s voice.
‘Petawanga Lake UNICOM, this is G-ERB requesting a radio check.’
I went to the radio and grabbed to reply. Out the window, I could see Jim starting to do his checks on the edge of the apron. A thick mist started to roll onto the field.
‘G-ERB you are five by five. Please note you have some localized fog rolling through.’
‘Roger, Sam. I’ve got my eyes on it.’ The radio returned to a quiet hiss.
Debra was standing nose to nose when I started back, her brow furrowed.
‘Sam…What do you mean dead body? No one’s died up here. My contract is with the hydro company first, then it’s to the rest of you here at Petawanga. Who did you move?’
I didn’t know what to say. I’m not one usually at a loss for words. I didn’t know what to say.
‘I don’t know. I…I mean someone had to have…Maybe it wasn’t from the dam.’ I felt dizzy. The rum and coke felt like it coated my mouth. I needed to sit down.
Debra grabbed me by the arm and got my attention. She spoke firmly. ‘Look, Sam. I need to know. Who was there that night?’
I tried to avoid eye contact with her, suddenly feeling like I was part of some crime. I looked outside; the fog had rolled in heavily. I could still hear the beaver doing a run-up. The sky was turning crimson as sundown was coming.
‘It was Otto, Jim, Hugh…and,’ I suddenly felt sick again, but I continued, ‘…and some other person. Someone I hadn’t seen around before. There was something…so off about him. Nobody would look at him, but he demanded that the damn body be moved as soon as possible.’
The radio crackled, and Jim’s voice came again.
‘Roger, Sam. I hear you. I’ll wait it out. Go keep your date company or I’ll do it for you.’
Confusion came over me. Did Jim just hear me talk to him over the radio? A slow charge started to crawl up my spine. I felt my chest tightening a bit.
‘That’s just crazy,’ Debra said. ‘There’s no one up here like that Sam. You know it. I know it. There’s not even a church or..or a mission or anything like that close. You’re the only way in or out of this town, barring a few days crawling through the bush. Nobody else mentioned who he was?’ She was starting to gather her things.
The light outside was almost gone. I could still hear the Beaver’s engine idling outside. The diffuse glow from its taxi lights made a pair of glowing eyes out in the fog. Jim would be taxiing back any moment now, if he could manage it; the fog was so thick I couldn’t make anything out the window.
I realized that Debra was grabbing her purse. ‘Where are you headed in this weather?’ I asked. I realized date night was over, but I was worried about her getting lost in this fog. Something didn’t feel right, like the feeling you get walking through the bush and a bear is nearby.
‘I’m going to talk to Hugh, and find out what the hell’s happening with corpses going on behind the back of the only medical personnel in town. Night Sam,’ She said, and went out into the fog. I was going to offer to walk with her, but I remembered Jim. The radio was quiet. I picked it up and squawked at him.
‘G-ERB, this is Sam. Jim, are you taxiing back?’ I asked. Silence.
Worried that he might be thinking about a takeoff in the fog, I radioed him again. ‘Jim. Don’t you dare think about taking off in this.’
I put the radio back, turned to leave, and then something screamed at me through the radio. Now I don’t want you to be confused here; it wasn’t a scream coming from the radio, or that it was Jim screaming at me. There was a deep, guttural howl that made my shoulders jump and my knees quiver. I’ve been hunting all my life, and I never heard a sound like that before. It was like it was coming from right in the room, right in my direction. That’s how much it was ringing through my body. Outside the windows, a faint green glow started to rise. I could feel the fear pushing from the back of my skull. My hands started to shake. I thought about Jim and that night heading to Thunder Bay.
The company kept .357 revolver in a safe under the dispatch desk. Otto bought one for us after a bear gave him a scare on a fishing charter a few years back. I wanted it in case it had something to do with that damn man in a black frock. I opened the safe, checked it was loaded, and then I headed out into the mist.
The green light grew stronger now, once again diffusing from every direction. There was no way to pinpoint where it was coming from. It seeped through the fog like a beacon. I bared my teeth, took a deep breath, and headed to the plane. I could still spot the two glowing bulbs that were it’s taxi lights. The good thing about an aerodrome is that it’s usually clear all around the runway, so I beelined across the gravel and the grass to try to reach Jim as soon as possible. I felt something watching me in the fog, and my instinct told me to pull out the gun. I had to laugh at myself, but I pulled it out anyway. The sound of the plane idling rang in my ears. I felt my feet touch gravel as I made out the shape of the plane. I slowly edged around the Beaver, as if it was some wild animal ready to tear me apart. That’s when I noticed that the pilot’s door was wide open. I immediately put the gun down and rushed to the cockpit. Jim’s headset was dangling out the bottom of the door, the cord still plugged into the Beaver radio. Jim was nowhere to be seen.
‘Jim? Jim!’ I yelled.
The green hue started to fade again, but this time my fear increased as it faded. I reached into the plane and killed the engine. The floodlights were still on. I felt naked as the sound died away, like a mouse caught in the middle of a barren field. The field was silent. I looked harder at the door and the pilot seat.
A jumble of visual flying maps and swiftly jotted schematics littered the cockpit. Cigarette butts were stuffed in a coke can, and the smell of a fresh smoke wafted through the plane. Where the hell did he go? I closed the door, and my heart jumped when I saw the marks on the side of the pilot door. Three parallel lines running across the aluminium skin below the window. The deep scarring looked like a giant claw had swiped at the door. But it was three large marks, and black bears had only been a problem for drunks out here. There’s no animal for a few hundred kilometres that could make marks like that, and even then I’m not sure anything could do that. I felt very cold and nervous. A lump started to form in the back of my throat.
‘JIM!’ I yelled.
Panic started to set in, and I walked away from the plane and looked around. I crossed the gravel, and took it slow. The aerodrome was nested right between the lake and the deep woods, so if I didn’t pay too much attention, I’d be taking a dip.
A nice dip to join Jim with his new friend, I thought. I started shivering.
Then I noticed Jim’s T-shirt at the edge of the reeds. I could barely make out the Sturgeon Air logo on the front. It was ripped to shreds. Nearby, what looked like claw marks were in the ground, digging furrows toward the lake. Only later did I realize they were probably from Jim’s hands, not some creature. I found his jeans next, then a sock, then a shoe, all torn up as if he was mauled by some animal. But there wasn’t a drop of blood. Not one drop of blood. I found his other shoe just before the edge of the water, and that’s where the tracks ended. No more claw marks. There was nothing but the shoreline. I grabbed the shoe in my arms, cradled it to my chest, and started screaming.