Sunday, September 23, 2012

Homecoming Queen: Chapter 4

They had been working their way through the woods for just under an hour.  Sheriff Steward had split the assembly of searchers up into groups of three of four and they entered the woods in a fairly close spacing forming a line in hopes that so clue as to Travis Kinkaid's location may be found.  The sound of dogs barking could occasionally be heard as a couple of the searchers had brought their hunting dogs in hopes they might pick up a scent.  So far, there was no luck.  There were still a couple of hours of daylight left, and the searchers were determined to make the most of it.
Gabe and CC had been paired with a couple of men who seemed to know the woods fairly well.  Joshua was a stocky fellow in his twenties who seemed to constantly have a wad of chewing tobacco in his mouth.  Larry was a little older than Gabe and did not seem terribly comfortable stomping through the brush.  The four of them moved through the woods scanning around them with every step for any trace of what might have happened to the young man.  CC had out the EMF detector which was not picking up much of anything.  She was not the only one in the group not completely focused on the task at hand, which she noticed easily enough was Joshua seemed a bit too content staying at the rear of their group.
“You find any clues back there.”  She said as she glanced back at Joshua.  It caught him off guard and she thought for a moment he might swallow the chewing tobacco in his mouth.
“Back where?”  The stout searcher replied.
“On my ass.  Did you find any clues on it?  Because if not, stop looking at it.”
Gabe smirked and Larry rolled his eyes.  Joshua moved forward in the group, and he was slightly flushed with embarrassment.  CC just went back to the search.  The detector was silent to the point that she checked to make sure it was still on.  Gabe stole a glance at her and his eyes darted to the small device.  She shrugged as a reply. 
“Heard you two are from Lazlo U.  Something about some sort of reading?”  Larry offered in hopes some conversation would make stomping through the woods a bit more bearable to him.
“That’s right.  I don’t know if it has anything to do with the young man going missing, but we’re out here anyways, so we might as well help.”  Gabe answered without looking at Larry.  He constantly looked around for anything that could give a clue as to what might be out in the woods.
“Kind of you.  I know his folks will appreciate it.”  Larry pushed a branch out of his way and nearly stumbled over a log.
“You know the family?” 
“Sure.  We all attend church together.  At least we used to.  Travis stopped coming nearly a year ago.  My kids were the same way at that age.  ‘Too cool’ for church.”
“What do his folks say about that?” Gabe asked.
“Not much.  You can’t make someone go to church, and they know that.  I do know that they’re pretty sad about it.”
“What’s that?” Joshua spotted a mark on a tree.  The four of them moved closer to it.  The tree had been slashed with four distinctive marks.  Each parallel to each other and angled downward.  Joshua took a closer look at it.
“What do you think?” Larry asked.
“Pretty big claw marks.  Guess what they said about a bear out here is true.  Must be damn good size to leave marks like this.”  Joshua spit into the bushes as he examined the marks.  “Best be careful, I suppose.”
Larry and Joshua continued forward.  Gabe hung back a little with CC.  CC was visibly agitated.  She did not believe for one second that a bear had made those marks.  She was still very new in her studies of things outside normal human experience, but she had read a bit about creatures.  Reading about them from the comfort of a library, even that musty one in the basement at the university, was a much more comfortable feeling than possibly being in the forest with one.  Gabe rested a hand on her shoulder.
“Any readings?”  He asked in a very business-like tone.
“Um, no.  Nothing.”  She answered looked down at the device.
“OK.  We’re fine.  Stay sharp, and try not to freak out.”
“Why would I freak out?  Because I’m a girl?”  CC shot a nasty look at Gabe.  She thought he was being condescending, and she hated that.
“Because the sane to do would probably be freak out and I need you together.  I damn near crapped myself first time on one of these trips.”
“No kidding?”
“No kidding.  Keep in mind, I didn’t.”
“That military training?”
“Yep.  Basic training includes an exhaustive course on bowel control.”  Gabe’s joke did put CC at ease a bit.  They continued on with the group.  The marks on the tree had looked recent, but the last full moon had been well over a week ago.  Gabe was running through his mind things that could possibly have made those marks.  The bear story was possible, and there was the off chance that Kinkaid had been out in the woods, for whatever reason, and stumbled across the animal.  Unfortunately, Gabe did not buy that.
They were losing daylight.  The cell phones and walkie-talkies the searchers had with them buzzed with chatter of turning back towards their cars.  They had covered well over a square mile worth of forest with no results other than the claw marks which had appeared on a few of the trees.  All the while the detector that CC had been holding was silent. 
“Shit.  Gabe!”  The detector spiked hard.  There had not been even nominal readings, but now the machine was alive.  Gabe hurried over to her.
“What’s that?” Joshua asked, looking at the pair of them.
“Another reading like the one the university picked up.”  Gabe answered, before turning to CC.  “Hold it out and move it around.  See if we can get an idea of a direction of a source.”
CC moved to a small clear spot in the woods and did as she was instructed.  He soft hazel eyes followed the motion of the device and kept a sharp eye on the readings.  She did not have time to ascertain a direction before the sound of gunfire cracked through the air.  The sound of men yelling and screaming joined the sound and the repot of more gunshots were heard.
“It came from that way!  Come on!” Joshua took off in the direction of the noise with Larry following quickly.  Gabe shot a look and CC and they followed their companions.
“Gabe, wait!”  CC called out.
“What is it?”  Gabe froze in his tracks and looked back at her.  The sound of the men yelling was close.  There were a few more gunshots.  Gabe was a little worried about running into the field of fire by accident.
“We’re going the wrong way!”  CC waved the device back the way they had come.  The readings are definitely coming from behind us.  It’s getting fainter.  We’re running away from it!”

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