I walked the perimeter of the clearing until I found a path that entered the woods. I had followed it for a few hundred yards, watching for any sign of life or lodging, when my eye was caught by a large boot print in a patch of drying mud. It wasn’t Benny’s - he was too small to have such large feet. I compared it to the size of my own shoe. I wear a 10½; this print had to be at least a size 12. I skirted the area, taking care not to disturb the impression of the boot in the hardening mud. My pace quickened; a sense of danger prickled the hairs on the back of my neck. The main path curved to the left, while a narrower footpath branched off to the right. I followed the right fork deeper into the woods and found myself facing the blank rear wall of a small cabin.The building - little more than a shack - was constructed out of rough, unpainted planks. The shallow-pitched shake roof was punctuated by a narrow stovepipe near one end. A pile of firewood was stacked neatly against the side of the cabin. My nose caught the characteristic perfume of eau de outhouse - an aroma comprising equal parts of disinfectant and decomposing body waste. I glanced to my right. Sure enough, I could see the source of the odor about 100 feet away. I walked around to the front of the cabin.The front door was open and askew - hanging by a single hinge. I stopped short, automatically reaching for my gun, before I remembered that I wasn’t carrying one. I returned to the woodpile and selected a log that would serve as a weapon of sorts. Gripping it tightly in my right hand, I eased into the cabin and looked around. No sign of life, except for the swarm of flies that were buzzing about a half-eaten bowl of cereal on the kitchen table. The chair was toppled over onto its side, a large rust-brown stain on the floor nearby.I backed away, trying not to disturb anything. As I left the cabin, I noticed a pair of shallow parallel lines etched in the dirt, pointing toward the forest. On a hunch, I followed their track, walking a couple of feet to the side to avoid stepping on them. The lines disappeared once they entered the woods, to be replaced by a trail of torn twigs and mashed mulch. That trail led to another clearing, at the far end of which was a large house. One of Sophia’s well-heeled neighbors, no doubt. Once out of the woods, the trail was harder to follow, but I could see the remnants of parallel lines gouged into the tall grass. I followed the lines to the top of a small mound and found myself standing on top of a buried septic tank. I had reached the end of the trail.I stood for a few minutes, staring at the lid of the tank. I knew what I had to do. I knelt down and used the grip holes to turn the manhole cover counterclockwise. It gave easily. I removed the cover, extracted a penlight flashlight from my pocket, and shone it into the tank. I reeled back, stunned by the stench and by the sight of a pair of unblinking eyes that stared back at me from a familiar face. I had found Benny.
Friday, April 10, 2015
Time For Another Teaser
Here's a snippet from Chapter 16 of THE GREEN PEARL CAPER. Hope you enjoy it.