Samuel Light, Spiritual Detective: The Shasta Affair, Chapter Twenty Three is now posted on www.johnpirillo.com
Samuel Light, Spiritual Detective: The Shasta Affair
by John Pirillo
They continued the drive for about a dozen more miles, climbing higher and higher along the winding, dirt road. Once they had to stop and get out, so Jimbo could get the truck up and out of a pothole almost large enough to swallow the whole truck, but with a little push and shove, they got it out. And the help of a large broken tree branch under each pair of rear wheels.
They rode on about another mile, still no one talking to each other, other than for directions, which Nanny almost seemed to have etched into her brain. She knew where every hidden branch of the road was.
"Firepaths." She called them.
"When the fires break out, we need alternate routes to get to the affected areas."
"Do you have many of them?" Samuel asked, intrigued by the complexity of the paths.
"Too many. Usually because some dumbass smoker flipped his cigarette into the dry brush, or one of those family picnics turns into a burnfest."
They were quiet again, until they reached an end of the last branch they took. It stopped before a wall of logs rolled across the road.
"Why's it blocked?" Jimbo asked, as they climbed out to look.
"Yeah." Samuel answered, almost ready to put a hand on the logs.
"Bears and cats."
Samuel withdrew his hand.
"Unofficially then?" Jimbo asked, taking out his smoker as he called it, to check its chambers quickly for bullets, then safed it and flipped it back into its holster with a series of neat spins.
Nanny watched. "That' s neat. You a real cowboy?"
Samuel almost laughed at the look on Jimbo's face, but he didn't want to steal his thunder..
"Mostly rodeo." Jimbo answered.
Samuel snapped a look at him. Jimbo shrugged. "Gotta do something when we're down on cases."
Samuel nodded. Jimbo was a first class daredevil on top of being a great rancher, mechanic, gunshot and professional detective partner."
"Hopefully that won't be too often." Samuel laughed. "We need to build up a retirement fund."
"Only retirement either of us will ever get is six feet under, I suspect." Jimbo answered cheerfully.
Samuel's attention snapped to his right where Al was clapping his hands.
Jimbo looked that way. "Don't tell me. They're applausing."
"That's just....sick." Jimbo drawled, then went to the nearest log and peeked through. "I can see some kind of rocky path that heads further up the mountain, right to where the snow edges it."
"Then we better get our equipment." Samuel said.
He and Nanny threw everything out of the back of the truck and Jimbo caught the goods and set them down, including his big snack box.
"You're not really bringing that huge box up the mountain?" Nanny demanded.
Jimbo gave her a hurt look. "You can separate the snacks from a man, but not the man from his snacks."
"Then that's a no?" She replied.
"Yup!" Jimbo answered, and proceeded to make it so by shoving every single candy bar and snack cake he could carefully into his backpack, leaving only room for a single insulated blanket. He snapped the backpack shut, then filled its pockets with extra cartridges, and several hand grenades.
"Aren't those illegal?" Nanny asked.
"Nah." Jimbo replied. "Bought them from a local Marine who sells them from surplus."
"Isn't that illegal too?" She asked.
"Never asked him. The General was too busy giving them away when he wasn't selling them."
She looked over at Samuel, as if he would say it was a joke. He shook his head. "Another story. Legit. A case we helped the Marines with."
"A little flying disc with tiny gray men." Jimbo drawled really slow, savoring the sound of tiny gray men.
She laughed. "You two have got to be the biggest jokers this planet's ever seen, or its greatest heroes."
"I'll take the latter." Jimbo drawled, then hefted his backpack onto his broad shoulders, cinched its straps under each arm and headed to the left. "I think we can get through this way."
Samuel locked up the truck and left a note saying they'd be back on the windshield.
"No one will ever see that." Nanny warned him.
Samuel grinned. "I think so."
He pressed his hand to the note and the letters on the note blazed white hot a moment. He wrenched the paper away and the letters were still blazing on the windshield. They didn't diminish.
"How'd you do that?"
" A little something I picked up from a friend in Chicago." Samuel said mysteriously, a quick glance from Jimbo making her realize he was already revealing more than he should.
"Ah. A friend in high places." She said.
"More like magic places." Jimbo added, then swept to their left and passed through two bushes, squeezing noisily out of view.
Samuel hefted his own backpack, and threw the last one to Nanny, who caught it and had it over her shoulders and strapped before Samuel could finish doing his.
"That's great." He said as she finished.
"Not really. I've had lots of practice." She followed Jimbo out of view.
Samuel looked back at the truck's windshield where the glowing note brightened the hood, then went through the break of shrubbery as well.
When he got on the other side he gasped. There was an antique wood burning trail parked on rusted rails that dead-ended next to the stack of logs.
Jimbo stood on top the old train engine, waving at Samuel. "This is great!" He yelled.
Samuel climbed across the last logs blocking his path and went to the train engine. Nanny was leaning against it, waiting for him. "Used to be a lot of logging at one time, as well as prospecting before the Rangers put a stop to it."
Samuel nodded, then looked at the beauty rusting there in front of him. He loved such marvels of engineering, even if he would never condone such machinery in this age of climate change. He put a hand on it, stroking its rusty fender. "It's beautiful!"
He walked along it, admiring its mechanics, until he spotted a kind of smudge on the steps climbing up into the engine itself, where a burner door was open for fuel. He jumped up and caught hold of the grip there, and hefted himself inside. He eyed the floor before him. It was dark with soot, rust and something else.
Ignoring caution and Al who appeared to warn him off, he stooped low and placed a hand on the smudge on the floor.
Screams. Flashes of light. Men running in terror, their mouths open to scream, but unable to. Others who were, ripping at their clothing, as if the clothing were attacking them, causing the skin on their chests to be clawed open. Bleeding and mortified, the old timers ran like rabbits for their lives from something they had seen. Something coming. Something large. Scary. Monstrous.
He turned to look in that direction, hefting his Winchester to sight along its barrel. That's when he saw it!
A graveyard with a leering piece of the architecture of an old church, but there was something wrong about it, something sinister and dark, foreboding and horrible. Something made its home there something that was rising slowly from the mists of the high snowy plateau and making its way towards him and the others who still dared to stand their ground.
Well, he was afraid of no ghosts, was he?
He aimed his rifle for the heart of the monstrous creature as it continued to climb from whatever hellhole had been made there, then fired.