Saturday, December 30, 2017
I'm standing on a deck overlooking the great wide Pacific Ocean. Another year has passed but I am not alone. I am surrounded by members of my extended family located in Aptos, California. Although that's not where I am at this moment. We're standing near the famed Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk having just watched a fabulous fireworks display out on the water.
The Cloudfoots have been part of my life since 1999 when I first met Jason, the patriarch of these wonderful people. As their name implies, they are of Native American descent, specifically they are Seneca one of the five original tribes that formed the Iroquois Confederacy.
Together, Jason and I, along with Otto located his missing niece Julie who had run away from home just two days before Christmas. The moment Jason and I locked eyes, I knew there was something different about him and I was right. He was a shaman, one who knew about the Para-Earths, as Otto has named those alternate realities of this world. Jason also knew right away I'd been to one and had come back changed, but he also knew I was still a good man and our friendship formed.
He's here with me tonight enjoying the love and joy of his children and grandchildren. Jason lost his wife two years ago, for which I was very sorry. She had been a wonderful woman, warm and caring. I'd spent that New Year's Eve with him, to make sure he did not face it alone. Not that I had much reason to worry. Julie and her parents were there as well. It was the first time I'd seen her in 1999 and my how she'd grown. From the pudgy little girl I'd help locate, she was now slightly taller than me and still growing. She also had filled out in more ways than one, especially in the muscle department. I feel sorry for any boy who pissed her off. Not that she seems very interested in them. A part of me suspects her yearnings lie elsewhere. I just hope I never have to compete with her for a date.
Not that such a thing is likely. I've kept to myself more since Veronica and I parted company three years ago. I've found myself thinking about her a lot tonight. Probably it's because of all the police officers watching over tonight's festivities. There was one female officer in particular standing near her patrol car that caught my eye. She looked nothing like Veronica, but the way the officer stood there reminded me so much of my red-headed love.
God she was amazing. It's not often you find someone so passionate and dedicated, not only to you but to her work. But I digress...
A new year stands before us all. I have no idea what surprises this one will have in store for me or those I call 'family'. But I know I will not face this new year alone which is a great comfort. I have people like Jason, Otto, Brian, their families and so many others who's lives touch mine. I think that's been the greatest gift of all. Even though I have outlived so many people who I've loved, I am never truly alone. And because I remember, none of them are ever forgotten.
My existence is a strange one, but at least I find it serves so many others.
Jason is proposing another toast to all so I better wrap this up. A promising new year awaits and I for one am looking forward to seeing what it has to offer.
Thursday, June 4, 2015
Another note from the author: For today's installment of the blog, I thought I'd give you all a sneak peak into my current work-in-progress (WIP). "The Door" is the third installment of my Para-Earth Series which has involved Alex Hill, Veronica Ross, Cassandra Elliott, Jason Cloudfoot, and Julie Cloudfoot.
For those who've been reading the blog you may recognize the names of Jason, Julie and Veronica from the novelette I posted on this blog around Christmas of last year. The story took place in 1999 and also starred Nathan. I had done that story to link the two sets of characters so I could do further crossovers with them down the road. Originally I had not planned on having Nathan show up in "The Door" but time and an evolving story changed all that.
The epilogue of "The Door" will help lead directly into "The Vampyre Blogs - Coming Home", while also allowing you all to see Nathan in action among those who have had a history with him, but do NOT know his secret. This will also allow me to introduce you all to other characters who will be starring in their own stories down the road. For now, please enjoy Nathan's first guest appearance in "The Door"...
The recently repaired cottage that had belonged to Julie’s late uncle, stood silent and empty. While nearby, the wide stream that had been the site of the nightmare battle, swiftly rushed past the crumbled remains of the bridge still attached to each bank. Overlooking this quiet scene, the Graham Manor stood like a ghostly sentinel.
From the woods near the cottage a white wolf emerged. The beast silently made its way to the water’s edge and took a drink. Then it gazed up at the manor on the other side of the wide stream. Most of the structure’s dark secrets had been revealed, but not all of them. There were still more to be uncovered, it knew. But that was for another to deal with.
The animal had come here for another reason and lay down to wait.
Overhead, the glaring sun was slowly eclipsed by gathering clouds which eventually cast a dark veil across the landscape. Still the wolf did not move.
Suddenly, the animal’s ears perked up as the sound of a train’s whistle echoed in the distance. Had anyone familiar with the area been standing there with the animal, they would have been puzzled by the sound. The nearest rail line in use was on the other side of town and could not be heard from here.
Just then, the whistle cried out again. This time it sounded closer.
Immediately the great wolf stood up and padded away from the stream and past the cottage. Soon the animal reached the road and quickly crossed after making sure no one would see it. Once it reached the far side of the asphalt, the beast slipped into the meadow, disappearing among the tall blades of grass and weeds. Only the occasional ripples with the swath of green told of the wolf’s passing.
Where the meadow ended the animal emerged and moved into the trees that bordered the grassland. The wolf carefully made its way through the tall pines and suddenly found itself in an open space in the middle of the forest. For a moment the animal stood still. It could see the other edge of the forest began again some fifty yards away. But looking left and right, the wolf could see a swathe of dirt and grass, which almost completely obscured an old set of railroad tracks.
Trains carrying lumber, coal and other goods had passed through this way for decades, until the advent of highways and trucking. Then the line was abandoned leaving the steel rails and ties to rot and rust in the dirt.
The wolf could tell from the dull luster of the rails that nothing had passed over them for a number of years. But that was about to change.
Moving to one side the great wolf sat down on his haunches and waited. Once more the sound of the whistle shattered the quiet of the forest, and soon a plume of smoke could be seen above the trees in the distance. In another few moments an old steam locomotive from another time appeared from around the bend. Behind the great iron engine followed a series of railway cars whose like had not been seen since in decades.
They were painted like circus cars, only their colors were muted and almost gray. Words were splayed across each one, but the animal did not bother to look at them. He knew what they said and who would be on board.
The huge engine began to slow as it drew near where the wolf stood, stopping only a few feet beyond where the animal awaited. A great hiss of steam burst forth from beneath the engine and became quiet.
For a moment, time seemed to freeze. Then a lone figure emerged from the nearest car. He had short blonde hair and a youthful face. Looking up into the sky he smiled and turned to the wolf. “Did you do that? Or is it just good timing?” he asked, stepping down from the car.
The wolf made no sound as it approached him.
Slowly, the man’s face fell as the animal reached him. Kneeling down so they could be face to face he whispered, “I’m so sorry. If I had known I would’ve come sooner. Why didn’t he call for me?”
The white beast looked at him and then back to the woods it had come through.
“I think he wants you to follow him,” said a woman’s voice from inside the train.
Turning the young man found his bags had already been unloaded from the rail car.
“Go with him and see what’s happened. We’ll remain here as long as you need us to,” the unseen woman’s voice continued. “Whatever has happened, I have a feeling it’s not over.”
Nodding the man grabbed his bags and followed the wolf back through the woods the animal had come through.
So there you have it my friends. Nathan's arrival. If you wish I may share one or two more scenes from the book, but only if you ask for it. As always, I ask you leave your thoughts and wishes in the comments below.
Friday, January 2, 2015
From the author: I hope everyone enjoyed the first, of what I hope will be many holiday tales shared around Christmastime. It was supposed to be just a quickie short-story that I would put out on Smashwords as a free download for all, but obviously it grew as I continued to write. Also, time was getting away from me due to my workload at my college.
So I wound up releasing the story in pieces here on my blog and over the course of days it continued to grow and grow. In the end I wound up with not a short-story as planned but a novelette (a story between 7,000 and 20,000 words in length). Not quite long enough to be a novella, but much larger than short-story. Also due to the time-crunch what I posted here was basically a first draft, which would explain any editing errors some of you might have noticed as you read.
However, I'm still not quite done with the story. I'm going to release it as a small novelette this coming Christmas. It will basically be the same story that you read, but there will be an epilogue added to the end as well as original pen and ink illustrations created by me. For those who don't know, I'm also an artist and have done the covers for my other novels that have already been published. I'm aiming for pen and ink in the hopes that it will be easier to upload into e-book form as well as in print. Yes, I intend to make a small paperback version for those who'd like to hold the book in their hands if at all possible. I may also try using charcoal (which would simply be black and white, along with shades of grey). Ideally, I'd use my favorite medium soft pastel, but I wouldn't be able to guarantee the quality of the colors in the printed form or on the computer. However, I will be looking into it. If anyone else out there has had some experience in color artwork in an e-book or in print, please tell us about it in the comment section below.
Now as I've told you all before, Nathan's first novel-length story will be coming out around either October or December of this year (2015). Of course, I will have a number of new blog and e-journal entries for him and the other characters to post here. I'll also be releasing another novel before then titled "The Door", which will be the third in my Para-Earth Series. It will star several of the characters you already met in my holiday novelette, (Sergeant Veronica Ross, a grown-up Julie, and Police Chief Roy Petersen). Alas Jason will not appear having joined his ancestors, but not before he passed the mantle of shaman on his niece. If you'd like to read how this all happened, you can check out "The Bridge" and its sequel "The Ship":
NOTE: Both e-books are just $1.49 each for the next two weeks. After that, the price will got back up to $2.99 a piece. You can also sample the first 30 pages of each story for free at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. Just click on the title and start reading. I'm providing the links right here:
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/allan-krummenacker
With all that said, I hope to see more and more of you here as I supply you with more short tales of Nathaniel and his friends. I plan to introduce more characters here as the year goes on, so keep reading and spread the word about this site. Happy New Year to you all, as I step aside and let Nathaniel take the stage...
Nathaniel's Private E-Journal, January 1st, 2005
My existence is a strange one, but at least I find it serves so many others.
Thursday, December 25, 2014
As soon as Veronica ended her chat with Jason, she changed the channel on the radio.
“What are doing?” asked Nathaniel watching her closely.
“Switching to the police frequency, I need to let the others know we’ve found Julie’s trail,” she replied. As soon as she heard the familiar chatter of her fellow officers she hit the button. “Attention all officers, this is Sergeant Ross, I’ve found the girl’s footprints and their fresh.”
A brief round of cheers and congratulations were offered, then one gruff voice burst out of the radio saying, “Good job, Sergeant. I’m with a team of volunteers at the opening in fence where you left the flares. Can you give us your position?”
“We’re deep within the woods off to your left as you look into the field, Chief” she responded.
After a moment Roy’s voice came back saying, “Who’s we?”
“I ran into Jason Cloudfoot and a couple of ‘Bigfoot’ hunters who volunteered their help,” she replied and gave Nathan an apologetic look. He rolled his eyes and shook his head with a smile. Then he mouthed ‘I’m going to try and find her trail again,’ and moved a few yards ahead.
Just then Roy’s voice came over the radio again. “Oh for God’s sake, someone else looking into that damn Yeti or Winter-Beast folks keep talking about.”
Veronica frowned. “You mean there really is some kind of Abominable Snowman around here?” she asked, thinking about the strange howl they’d heard moments before.
“Yeah, it was first seen about thirty years ago. Some big creature covered in white fur that only shows up in winter. Supposedly it caused an accident the year before I took over as Chief of Police. A couple lost control and crashed just about where I’m standing. They were killed in the crash. Their son, along with his dog, apparently had been thrown from the car. Their footprints were found leading into the woods, along with a third set of prints that no one could identify. They were huge and described as ‘monstrous-looking’.”
“Oh really?” she murmured, thinking back to the strange bellow she and Nathan had heard a few moments ago. “Did they find the boy?”
There was a pause before she heard Roy quiet reply, “Not to my knowledge. Look, we ain’t got time for legends. I see another flare and then what looks like some glowing lights leading into the woods. Is that you’re doing?”
“Yeah, we were marking our path so we could find our way back out,” she told him.
“Thank God, for a minute there I’d thought someone had decided to decorate the entire woods for Christmas. I’m seeing some more off to my right, should I be sending any men that way?”
“Those they were left by Jason and another volunteer when we split up. Don’t bother following those, the four of us are heading for a rocky area west of your current position. We think Julie might have headed that way.”
“Copy that. Stay put and we’ll follow the trail you’ve left,” her boss instructed.
“Negative, we’ve just heard a loud roar or bellow a few moments ago. It might have been a bear or something, we’re going to investigate. I’ll be dropping more of glow sticks for you to follow.”
“Understood, but proceed with caution Sergeant. We’ll bring some extra fire power just in case,” Roy instructed, and then added quietly, “And Ronnie, be careful. Don’t do anything foolish. I know how bad you want to find the girl.”
Veronica smiled, touched by her old partner’s concern. “I’ll be all right, I’ve got good help with me,” she replied, glancing at Nathan whose head suddenly snapped up. His eyes were closed and his brow furrowed, as if he was in deep concentration.
Curious she drew closer and waited.
After several seconds she reached out a hand and was just about to touch his right shoulder when his eyes snapped open. “I know exactly where she is!” he cried, leaping to his feet.
“How…?” Veronica began but he cut her off with a look and said quietly, “She’s not alone.”
* * * * *
Julie still couldn’t believe what was happening. The huge beast had just finished snuffling her from head to toe and then let out the most piteous bellow she’d ever heard. Now it was trying to curl up around her as if to keep her safe from the cold.
Did it understand that she was lost and upset?
It seemed like that was the case. Uncle Jason had told her before that some animals will respond to the cry of a baby or child as if it had come from one of their own offspring. It seemed to trigger a mothering instinct in them and… a female! This thing, whatever it was, had to be a female. And now it was trying to mother and protect her.
But what was it? She’d never anything like it before. It clearly wasn’t a bear. Plus it was way larger than a grizzly. So what was it? Glancing over at the cave, she could see Michael and his dog standing in the entrance looking confused and uncertain.
Then she heard voices in the distance, a man and a woman’s. She didn’t recognize either of them, and although they were calling out, she didn’t hear her name. Instead it sounded like they were calling for someone else…
Suddenly she spotted movement in the snow. They were small and she couldn’t make them out clearly, but they appeared to be mouse-shaped. There were dozens of them. Their dark forms stood out clearly against the white-snow.
A moment later, more voices could be heard, along with the sound of fast feet crunching through the snow. Then she heard her name being called, “JULIE?”
“I’m over here!” she cried and then noticed the animal holding her seemed to become startled and afraid. “Move slower, your frightening her!” she added loudly and tried to calm her protector by gently stroking its thick fur.
“Don’t be afraid,” she whispered, “I won’t let them hurt you.”
The great beast seemed to respond to her gentle touch and relaxed as two figures emerged from the woods, one tall the other short and bearded.
“Uncle Jason!” she smiled and then quickly said, “Don’t hurt her. She’s protecting me.”
“I can see that,” her relative nodded and smiled staring at the beast.
His companion shook his head in awe and his mouth stretched into a wide grin. “Oh, she is magnificent. You did say it was a ‘she’ right?”
“Definitely from a cold climate,” the stranger muttered as he slowly approached. “No wonder she only appears in winter, she follows the snow. What a clever girl you are,” he added excitedly.
The animal seemed to sniff around in his general direction until it located the man and apparently decided he was not a threat. Then it did the same towards Uncle Jason with similar results.
Otto studied the great beast carefully. It reminded him somewhat of the Giant Sloths that had wandered this Earth during the Ice Age, only this one had other adaptations such as white fur and those massive claws. No doubt they were for bringing down tall tree branches and other hard to reach flora. It didn’t have the snout or teeth for taking down large prey, although it might also indulge in fish from streams.
In any case, it was a magnificent specimen. It also seemed to be...
“Lost,” Jason murmured beside him. “The creature is lost. It’s looking for something, but cannot find it.”
“The way home?” Otto suggested. “That would explain why it keeps coming back here in winter. It knows the doorway is near, but has not been able to find it because it only opens every ten years. The question is why didn’t it find the portal the last time it was open?”
“Look at how it moves. It searches by sound and smell. I do not think it can see,” the shaman replied. Then he called to his niece, “Julianna, can your friend see?”
The dark-haired girl shook her head, “No, she’s blind. I saw her eyes they were pale and milky. She can’t see at all, so she searches by sound and smell.”
“Ah, that explains much,” Otto nodded.
“Yes, Jason agreed, “It will need our help to find the opening so it can go back to being among those who are searching for it.”
Otto was about to ask Jason how he knew this when another great bellow rang out. Only this time it had not come from the creature before them. It had come from elsewhere, unfortunately the sound echoed off the walls of the cliff and seemed to come from all directions.
The animal before them looked up and around as if confused and gave a plaintive cry of its own in response. Soon the creature seemed to become agitated and began moving around, carrying the girl with it.
“NO…” Jason began when a figure appeared out of the woods.
“WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?” Sergeant Ross cried upon spotting the animal and immediately pulled out her weapon. But then a green mist seemed to rise up from the ground and engulfed her, the huge beast, and its precious charge.
Jason stared in awe as the unnatural haze seemed to have a calming effect on those caught within its grasp. The cloud hovered around the trio for several seconds, defiantly resisting all attempts by the wind to push it away. Then it slowly slunk back in among the trees, where Sergeant Ross had emerged. Then the blood-red mice who dotted the snow, followed and a few moments later, Nathan stepped into the clearing and walked right up to the animal.
Stretching out two arms the young man said in a soothing voice, “It’s okay, you’ve done your job. I’ll take her from here, she’ll be safe. You’ve done well, Big Mama.”
The great beast obediently released its charge into Nathan’s waiting arms and even gave a gentle nuzzle to the girl before moving away from the pair.
Then Nathan turned to Sergeant Ross and quietly told her to holster her gun, which she did without question.
“Good, now take Julianna and head back to your boss and the others. You found the girl being protected by a mama grizzly who was all covered in snow. The animal thought she was a cub who needed protecting and was keeping her warm until you and I showed up. Then she got up and took off, it was a Christmas miracle,” he told her.
Unfortunately, the sergeant’s mind was not so easily swayed. “But grizzlies are brown and the thing I saw was white…”
“That was the snow sticking to the bear’s fur. She’d been staying put after curling up around the little girl,” Nathan pointed out casually.
“Oh… yeah, it was amazing,” Sergeant Ross nodded and started to head back the way she’d come. Then she paused and said, “Aren’t you coming?”
“I’m waiting for Jason and Otto to catch up. As soon as they’re here we’ll follow.”
Jason watched the policewoman scan the area and even look right at him. “All right,” she nodded. “But if you don’t show up in ten minutes with the two of them I’m coming right back. I can’t leave you hanging out here in the dark by yourself.”
With that she disappeared into the woods, following the trail of glowing sticks.
Nathan blew a sigh of relief as soon as Veronica and the girl were gone.
‘That was close,’ he thought as he headed over to where Jason and Otto were waiting.
He’d actually been able to hear most of the conversation passing between Otto, Jason and the little girl thanks to his ‘minions’. Since they were actually made up of him, he was able to see through their eyes and hear through their ears. So he knew what to expect when he and Veronica arrived on the scene. But he hadn’t expected her to pull out her weapon so quickly.
Luckily he’d been able to take his mist form which had a calming effect on most beings, especially mammals. It also had the added effect of making them more pliant and easy to suggestion. He’d kept his ‘revision’ of what happened close enough to the truth so that neither Julianna’s nor Veronica’s mind would reject what he’d told them.
Still, the fact that Veronica had questioned him about the animal’s fur was a bit surprising. She obviously had a strong mind and will, but she seemed to accept his explanation. He might need to stick around for a few days to just to make sure his suggestion did wind up sticking.
Of course, if they succeeded in getting the animal home it would be moot point. There would be no way for Veronica to check up on what she really saw. Even if she remembered that Otto and Jason were actually here when she arrived, both would tell her they’d seen a snow covered grizzly bear.
Reaching his friends he sighed, “Okay gentleman, we have ten minutes to get this creature back to her own reality and home in time for Christmas. How are we going to do it?”
TO BE CONCLUDED 'FOR REAL' TOMORROW...
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Veronica was having trouble closing the trunk of her patrol car.
She’d already radioed back to headquarters about her location and that she had reason to believe they’d narrowed down the search area for Julie. Due to the worsening conditions he could only send a few uniforms to help. However, he himself was bringing over a dozen volunteers that Jenkins had rounded up, to aid in the search.
But it would be a while before they got here, she’d popped open the rear of her patrol car to retrieve some blankets, bolt cutters, a first aid kit, roadside flares, and a couple of flashlights. Unfortunately, her arms were now rather full.
Luckily, the professor emerged from the trailer and quickly came to her aid. “Here, let me take a few of those things from you Sergeant…?”
“Ross, Veronica Ross,” she smiled gratefully at him as he took the bolt cutters and flashlights. She noted he’d grabbed some extra jackets along with two sacks that contained small narrow rods that looked like magic markers. “We’re not going to be able to see any markings you make on the trees once it gets darker.” she remarked.
“True, but glow stick placed every so many yards in a tree will remain lit for hours in this cold,” he smiled. Since there are four of us, I grabbed red, blue, yellow and green. This way we’ll know who went in which direction and follow them back if the storm gets too fierce.”
She smiled, gathering up the bolt cutters and flares from the ground where she’d placed them. “Very smart, no wonder you’re a professor.”
“I got the idea from Greek mythology,” he told her. “Consider it an updated version of Theseus’ twine when he entered the labyrinth of the Minotaur.”
“You have a point there,” she replied staring out at the forest in the distance. Suddenly their task seemed even more daunting than before. “We are about to enter one helluva big maze, only there aren’t any walls, just lots and lots of open space that goes on for miles. Poor Julie could be anywhere.”
* * * * *
“Aren’t you cold?” asked the little girl.
“No, Riff here keeps me warm,” said the boy, gesturing at the huge dog next to him. It was the biggest German Shepherd Julie had ever seen.
The boy’s name was Michael and he was about two years older than her.
He’d spotted her wandering around in the woods and had called out, urging her to come join him in the cave before the creature came back. She’d been too upset to watch where she was going that she’d quickly found herself quite lost. At first she tried following her own footsteps back to Uncle Jason’s place, but the wind had blown some of the looser snow across her path, thoroughly erasing it.
Then she’d tried to use some of the other techniques to get her bearings, as both her father and uncle had taught her, but the sun had hidden behind the clouds and there was no moss on the trees to help her find north.
Plus she was getting colder and more frightened. She hadn’t taken notice of any landmarks and every direction started to look like all the others.
So when Michael started calling out to her from his hiding place, she’d quickly joined him. But now she was having her doubts. The place smelled and there was nothing to eat. ‘Not that I really needed to eat, at least that’s what everyone else keeps saying to me,’ she thought miserably.
She knew she wasn’t skinny, but she’d liked being this way. Her two older brothers were so much bigger than her, were always roughhousing together and she loved to join in. They used to tell her she was too little so she started to eat more to get bigger so she could handle getting bounced around by them.
But then everyone started picking on her and that hurt. Even her own cousins had begun teasing her, but Uncle Jason had made them stop.
Not that it mattered anymore. Her brothers were gone, along with her mother and father. She was all alone in the world, except for her Uncle Jason and his family. They were still around and would probably take her in. But…
Somewhere behind her, the big German Shepherd growled making the hair on her neck stand up.
Turning to Michael, she saw his shadowy profile staring intently at the opening of the cave.
“What’s wrong…” she began but he held up a hand and shushed her.
“Don’t make a sound, if it hears us, it’ll come in and get us.”
Obediently Julie closed her mouth and waited, staring at the opening in the distance. For several minutes she saw nothing, just the growing dark. But then a huge head came into view. At first she thought it might be a bear or something, and that they might actually be inside its lair.
But no, the shape of the massive head was all wrong, as was the color of the long thick hair that seemed to completely cover the thing’s eyes as well as the rest of its strange massive form.
* * * * *
“There!” Veronica smiled, as she cut the last of the barbed wire using the bolt cutters from her patrol car.
Professor Hofstadter had already passed out the glow sticks and instructions on how to use them to the other two, along with the spare radios. They were all set to move out, but there was one more thing she needed to do.
Pulling out two roadside flares from her pocket, she lit each one up and placed them on either side of the newly-made opening in the fence.
“What are those for?” asked Nathaniel, breaking his silence.
Neither he nor Jason had said very much since she and the professor had rejoined them. She suspected something had passed between the two men, but neither was being very forthcoming about what it was. Still, they actually seemed more comfortable around one another than they had a few minutes before, so she let it go for now.
“This way the other’s will know this is the entrance and can follow our tracks into the woods when they get here,” she explained and looked out at the expanse of white that led up to the edge of the forest. Even with all their preparations, the task before them was daunting. How would they ever find Julie amidst all those trees?
Looking up she noticed the light was starting to fade.
“It’s starting to get darker, we’d best move out,” Jason announced and led the way into the field, then he paused. “I know we originally planned to spread out, but I think we should remain in pairs.”
“Why?” she asked, surprised about this sudden change of plan.
“The storm,” he answered raising his face to the sky, “It’s going to get worse, it wouldn’t do for any of us to become lost while we search for Julie.”
Veronica wasn’t sure how to feel about this. Yet, if Jason himself thought they should stay in twos then so be it. They had more searchers coming to assist them, plus it might be more reassuring to little Julie to see a familiar face instead of two strangers showing up.
“All right,” she agreed.
“Good,” Jason nodded and turned to Professor Hofstadter. “I would be grateful for your company, my friend.”
Veronica noted the look that passed between the bearded older man and Nathan, who nodded ever so slightly back at him.
Finally, the professor turned back to Jason and smiled, “It would be my pleasure.”
“Thank you,” Jason beamed as the two of them began making their way across the snow. Within moments they seemed to get involved in a deep discussion, complete with gestures and even the occasional laugh.
With a curious look on her face she turned to Nathan and asked, “Okay, I saw the look he gave you. What was up with that?”
“Are you implying that I arranged for the two of us to be paired up together, just because you’re a beautiful woman and I have a weakness for red-heads?” he asked innocently.
Her eyes narrowed dangerously, “Did you?”
“No,” he told her bluntly and began heading out into the field.
Frowning she followed. “Then what was that look all about?”
“Otto and I came here because we heard of a legendary creature that only appears in this area in the wintertime,” her companion replied, keeping to her right. “It’s part of what we do. We investigate sightings of unknown animals to see if there’s any truth behind the story.”
“So you were hoping to find Bigfoot or the Abominable Snow Man?”
“Something like that,” her companion replied without looking at her as he kept moving.
They were almost at the edge of the woods.
It was amazing how fast and sure-footed her companion moved. He didn’t seem to be the least bit tired either. She had been finding the snow a bit difficult to move through.
“Did you ever serve in the military?” she asked after a moment of thought.
Here her companion paused and nodded. “Yes, I did.”
“Is that why you were so willing to help find a little girl you’ve never met?”
For a moment Nathan didn’t say anything. He just stood there staring into the woods before shaking his head. “Not exactly,” he replied, taking her by surprise. “You mentioned the girl was nine years old when we first met, correct?”
“Yes,” she nodded.
“That was how old my little sister was when she passed away.”
“I’m so sorry,” she told him, feeling a little bit guilty. But she quickly squelched the feeling. He could be playing on her affections, yet she doubted it.
“It happened in December, during my second year of serving in the army,” he continued and looked around. “I’d joined in order to protect others but I couldn’t even save my own flesh and blood. A part of me still feels like there should’ve been something I could’ve done to save her, but there wasn’t.”
“And now you found yourself with the chance to save another little girl,” she said quietly, finding both her resolve and suspicious nature crumbling inside.
“Yes, and I’m determined to make sure the outcome is different this time…” he began and then stopped. Turning his head he looked around.
“What is it?” she asked wondering what was going on.
Suddenly, his eyes narrowed and once more she saw those eyebrows narrow with such intensity it almost made her take a step back.
“Over there,” he snapped and took off running towards a section of woods off to their right.
“Hey! Where are you… oh fuck!” she muttered and broke out another flare. After lighting the signal device, she dropped it onto the snow and took off after him.
She’d lost sight of Nathan himself, but his footprints in the snow were easy to follow. She was noticed some dark little figures scurrying ahead of her. ‘Field mice,’ she thought. But what were they doing out at this time of night?
Then she spotted Nathan up ahead kneeling down near a tree which had a light dusting of snow near its base. She slowed her pace and took a closer look at the ground. There seemed to be a series of indentations in the snow that had been only slightly covered up by the new powder that was falling.
“Oh please, let these be hers,” she murmured and joined Nathan who was staring at one small perfectly untouched footprint.
“I’d say it’s safe to say they are,” Nathan smiled turning to her. “Jason told me what kind of boots Julie was wearing and that they had a diamond-shaped pattern on the soles.”
“And there they are,” she breathed and hugged him, forgetting herself for a moment.
Looking ahead, she saw there were more but then the trees began to think and so did the remaining footprints. But at least they knew for sure that Julie had come this way.
Grabbing her shoulder radio she was about to call in to the others when a low booming howl rumbled through the darkness. It seemed to surround them as it echoed and bounced off the trees and hills.
TO BE CONTINUED...