This was written for a wonderful writer's workshop at the
November 15th, 2005
Bonnecastle shouted over the roar of the helicopter engines as he
produced jerky from his satchel.
Carrick paled noticeably at the sight of food. He hated flying. His
stomach was still twisted from the flight in from Boston and the
small, seemingly flimsy helicopter wasn’t much comfort. Rueben
Bonnecastle smiled a toothy grin as he tossed the jerky into his
mouth and started gnawing on it.
worry, Chief,” Bonnecastle shouted, “I’ve flown in a hundred of
these ‘copters. They’re safer’n that brick we came in on. And we
ain’t even bein’ shot at!”
opened his mouth to speak, but the helicopter suddenly lurched for a
moment and Brian suddenly clamped his mouth shut and grabbed his
seat. Bonnecastle laughed heartily, the jerky protruding from his
mouth bouncing merrily at Carrick. Even Kay, who was sitting next to
Bonnecastle, stifled a smile. Paul just looked on enigmatically.
the pilot called into their headsets. Brian instinctively looked at
the cockpit. He could only see the back of the pilot’s head and the
blue-black sky of dusk through the window beyond. “We’ll be landing
on Snow Mountain here in a couple of minutes. Local temperature’s
going to be about twenty degrees, so bundle up. Once we’re on the
ground, I’ll need to head back to Colfax to refuel. Shouldn’t be
more than a couple of hours.”
pulled the mic on his headset closer to his mouth. “It might take
longer than that,” he said, trying to keep his native Scottish
brogue under control. “Can you stay on call in Colfax and we’ll call
you when we need you?”
pilot nodded and glanced back, giving Brian thumbs up. The
helicopter suddenly lurched again as it descended toward a snowy
peak amidst the Sierra Nevadas. It was unremarkable except for a few
bright spotlights erected in a circle near its peak and the lone
figure that stood under those lights waiting.
helicopter finally landed with a loud thud, Brian was first to
detach himself from his seat and run outside, his head ducked low.
Bonnecastle followed, turning to help Kay step down. Paul, his hood
flapping around his shoulders, was last to leave the chopper. Soon
after stepping off, the pilot waved from the cockpit and the
helicopter roared back into the sky.
inside the thick winter jacket, Brian jogged to the waiting figure.
There were a few black crates scattered about under the lights and a
small canvas shelter that appeared to have been hastily erected. A
small generator hummed nearby. A few of the spotlights were pointing
towards a spot in the snow that had been dug up. The piles of snow
next to the hole were streaked in bright red. Carrick glanced at the
open wound in the mountain, but couldn’t see what was within.
Its good to see you, Merry Christmas,” the figure called out as he
approached, flashing a perfect smile. He wore a heavy black jacket
with a hood pulled up over his head. His eyes were hidden behind
iridescent yellow ski-goggles. He reached out and chook Carrick’s
hand. Carrick involuntarily closed his eyes as he touched the man’s
thin leather glove.
A woman’s scream. People getting in the way.
the hell is that?” he asked as Parr shoved him bodily into the back
seat of the limo.
swung out his arms and caught one in the chest.
was falling, a gaping wound in his head.
him, wild fear in his eyes mixed with rage. I wasn’t the first to
throw myself on top of him, but neither was I the last.
President has been shot,” I heard someone say into my earpiece.
Bonnecastle murmured, smiling wickedly at Kay over his gnawed jerky.
see you too, lad,” Carrick replied, shaking off the vision and
rubbing his arms to acclimate himself to the cold.
didn’t realize you’d be bringing friends…” Mark said, nodding his
head towards the team Carrick had assembled.
wasn’t sure what to expect, Mark,” Brian replied as they moved
towards the shelter, “so I brought some experts in the field. This
is Dr. Kay Summers, a criminal psychologist from Boston U.”
stepped forward gracefully and shook Mark’s hand as they walked.
Even under the heavy winter coat, it was obvious that she had the
lithe form of a dancer. Her dark skin and striking high cheekbones
were more indicative of a highly paid model or African princess than
Jacobson,” he replied, returning her smile.
Paul Aglamark, forensic scientist out of Denver,” Brian said,
indicating his second companion. Paul was the only person wearing
his jacket open and his hood down. His silky, black hair swirled in
the mountain air as he shook Mark’s hand with an enigmatic smile.
Mark asked, noting Paul’s high cheekbones and dark skin.
Paul replied simply. “I was raised in Minnesota.”
this is Reuben Bonnecastle.” Reuben was a huge man, easily a head
taller than the rest of his companions. He carried a ready smile on
his face, but his sparkling eyes still seemed to carry the readiness
of a predatory animal behind them. In addition to his thick coat, he
was also wearing a large knife strapped to his combat boots and a
large backpack on his back.
Mark said as they entered the enclosure.
call me Bonnecastle, sir,” the large man replied crisply.
nodded at him and glanced back to Carrick. “And his job?”
regarded Bonnecastle with a smirk as the big man dropped his
backpack and pulled off his coat, revealing a large pistol tucked
snugly in a holster under his right arm.
Relations,” Carrick replied with a smile. Bonnecastle smiled a
toothy grin back at him.
leaned back on a small table in the room and removed his goggles.
Even after being in the wind outside, his brown hair fell almost
perfectly into place. Though fit and obviously accustomed to being
paid attention to, Mark was in all ways unremarkable in appearance.
“Well, thank you for coming on such short notice,” Mark said
said it was urgent,” Carrick replied as he removed his hood and
warmed his hands over a small ceramic heater near the center of the
it is,” Mark replied. “Yesterday afternoon, a local amateur pilot
was flying over the area and noticed a patch of red snow up here
with a man sitting nearby. When the local police investigated, they
found what looked like a murder-suicide. One woman killed, one man
frozen to death.”
pretty straightforward, Mark,” Carrick replied. “How did Secret
Service get involved?”
turned and picked up a black and white photograph from the table
behind him. “The police recognized the man as Jacob Worthington,” he
said, handing the photo to Brian. Brian looked blankly at the
picture and shrugged at Mark.
really should pick up a newspaper sometime, Brian,” Kay scolded
smoothly. “Jacob Worthington, son of Democratic Senator John
Worthington… playboy, peace activist, philanthropist and general
media darling. At least recently.”
nodded and smiled admirably at Kay. “Jake came up here for some
hiking with his girlfriend,” he continued. “The kid needed some
peace and quiet; he’d been following Clinton around during the
election with his father for the last year. With the celebrations
after the election and then the holidays, this is the first chance
he got to get away.”
sighed as he took the photograph back from Brian. “The cop knew the
media would be all over this, so he called the Senator. He asked me
to come down here and see if it was Jake or not. He wanted things
we’re being discrete, why call us in?” Bonnecastle asked with his
Mark said, looking for the first time as if he were searching for
the right words. “A few years back I met Brian here while stationed
in Berlin. He once told me that if I ever saw anything I couldn’t
explain to give him a call. Well…” Mark shrugged and stood up. “Let
me show you.”
group reassembled their gear and stepped back outside. Night had
fully fallen and the winds were starting to pick up. Mark led them
towards the open wound. Nearby, Brian noticed a tarp draped over
something in the snow. At the rim of the hole, Mark stopped and
the excavated snow lay a woman’s body, her jacket and clothes
splayed open as if some beast tried to rip them from her. Her skin
seemed an almost translucent soft blue under the harsh spotlights,
except where it was ripped open around her stomach and thigh. An
expression of sheer terror was frozen, literally, on her face.
stepped down into the hole in the crimson snow and knelt next to
her. He pulled out a small cassette recorder and clicked it on.
Mountain Investigation, December twenty-seventh, nineteen
ninety-six,” he murmured into the recorder. “Subject appears to have
been attacked by a wild animal. Has severe lacerations laterally
across the abdomen and right thigh. Tissue appears to be missing.
Likely cause of death extreme trauma and blood loss…” Suddenly, he
stopped speaking as he reached out and slid his gloved finger into
the wound. He clicked off the recorder.
he said without pulling his gaze from the wound. “I don’t think an
animal did this.”
Mark confirmed. “And that’s why I called you, Scotty.”
stepped into the hole and knelt down beside Paul, who was rubbing
his finger across the rim of the wound. He could clearly see the
bite marks in the flesh.
looks like human teeth did that,” Brian murmured. Paul finally
turned to look at him and nodded slowly. The winds howled, as if in
think Worthington did this?” Bonnecastle asked. Even his face had
gone a bit ashen and the smile was gone from his face.
nodded and waved for them to follow. He stepped to the tarp nearby
and pulled it back. Beneath was the figure of a man, sitting naked
almost chest deep in the snow. His skin was dark blue, snow and
frost clung to his hair and face. Dark streaks of frozen blood were
smeared across his chin and crystals of tears were visible on his
cheeks. His face was contorted in a visage of anguish and despair.
gasped and stepped back. Bonnecastle, his features grim, stepped in
front of her, as if to shield her from the thing in the snow.
Carrick stepped forward and knelt before the frozen figure.
long have they been stuck up here?” Carrick called out over the
winds. A few flakes of snow began to swirl around them.
just it, Brian,” Mark replied, looking suspiciously at the sky,
“they set out from Colfax yesterday morning. And the girl had food
in her pack. We still don’t know where Jake’s clothes are.”
pressure of the campaign…” Brian said as he rose to his feet. “The
stress… maybe he just snapped?”
wouldn’t believe that if I hadn’t seen it,” Mark replied, shaking
his head emphatically. “Brian, this guy was the picture of calm.
He’s been arrested a couple of times for non-violent protests… sit
ins, hunger strikes, things like that, but he was as gentle as they
come. Even got nervous just knowing we carried guns around his
father. There wasn’t a violent bone in his body.”
what do you think?” Brian said as he huddled inside his coat.
Kay murmured, her hands wrapped tightly around her.
know,” he began, “that’s why I…”
Kay shouted, crumpling to the ground. Bonnecastle was quickly at her
side, taking his own coat off and wrapping it around her. Paul
furrowed his brow in confusion as he watched.
you sense something?” Brian called out as he also kneeled by her
side. She shook her head violently as she convulsed under
Bonnecastle’s coat. Carrick nodded to Bonnecastle, who quickly
picked her up his massive arms and carried her towards the tent.
Paul, Brian and Mark followed quickly behind.
weather’s supposed to be clear tonight,” Mark shouted over the wind
as the snow continued to whip around them. Cabling between the
spotlights began to clang loudly in the wind. “We’re going to have
to call the chopper back.”
nodded at him as they entered the tent. One corner of the tent was
flapping madly against the wind and Mark bent down to try to secure
it. Bonnecastle sat Kay down on the small table and moved the
ceramic heater closer to her. Paul jogged the few steps to the
corner of the tent and helped Mark wrestle against the wind.
did you mean ‘sense something’?” Mark asked as he looked at Brian.
sighed as he looked into Kay’s eyes. She tried to keep them clamped
shut, but it was obvious that the heater was helping. “She’s a
sensitive,” Carrick finally replied, satisfied that she was
recovering. “She can feel things we can’t.”
mean a psychic, Scotty?” Mark replied incredulously.
Brian replied. He obviously had hoped to avoid this conversation.
“Really more a medium. She can sense and speak with the spirits of
the departed. I think she was just communicating with one them.”
Carrick,” Mark replied angrily. “If I’d wanted the Ghostbusters I
wouldn’t have called you. What the hell is going on?”
know yet, Mark,” Carrick replied calmly, still watching as Kay
recovered. “But you were right to call me. There is something going
this investigation is over,” he replied as he sat down at the small
radio that hummed and buzzed angrily. “The local boys will pick
things up from here tomorrow morning. The Press are going to have a
field day with this.”
the wind roared, ripping the canvas from Paul’s hand and sending a
small tornado of snow into the room. Outside, the cables clamored
even louder. There was a sharp clang of metal against metal, a loud
pop and suddenly everything went dark. The radio stopped buzzing.
the generator,” Mark swore into the darkness. Brian reached for the
tent flap and soon stumbled outside into the wind and snow.
here,” Bonnecastle called out through the wind.
got it,” Paul shouted.
continued to fight his way through the snow to the generator. Even
with the winds, he could smell the lingering scent of ozone in the
air. As he approached the small generator, he could see one of the
spotlights lying across it, a small trail of smoke billowing into
that was our ticket out of here,” Mark called out over wind as he
knelt next to the generator. He gave the pull a quick tug, but it
only whined in protest.
you’ve got any tools, I can try to fix it,” Bonnecastle called out
as shivered against the thin sweater he wore over his muscular
to fix the tent,” Paul called out as he walked up next to them. “The
temperature is dropping fast. It’s going to be a blizzard here in a
the generator is our first priority,” Mark replied firmly. “Without
that, we got no comm., we’ve got no heat.”
body heat,” Paul replied. “Inside an enclosed space, we can…”
Bonnecastle shouted loudly as he looked in the direction of the
tent, which was barely visible through the swirling snow. “Where’s
jumped slightly as a shrill scream emitted from the tent. All four
men suddenly began to bolt towards the scream, the smoking generator
forgotten. Bonnecastle was first inside as he called out for Kay.
Mark brushed past him and fiddled with something on the floor as
Brian came to a stop behind them. Suddenly, the room was illuminated
by the sickly green light of a glow stick Mark had pulled from a
crate. The table Kay had been sitting on was overturned and it
appeared that the loose corner had pulled farther from its moorings,
but there was no sign of their companion.
Kay?” Bonnecastle called out, turning back to the tent flap as Mark
handed Brian another glow stick. Brian quickly cracked it and
stepped into the middle of the tent.
we find her,” he called out firmly. Bonnecastle turned, almost
snapping to attention as Mark handed Bonnecastle another glow stick
and a spare jacket. “Bonnecastle, you take west. Paul, north. Mark,
south. I’ll take east. We’re looking for tracks and we need to move
quickly, they’ll disappear fast in this storm. She can’t have gotten
far. Go about fifty paces, then turn to your left and start circling
around the camp. The first one to see the tracks calls out for the
rest of us.”
nodded and quickly jogged out. Mark tossed a glow stick to Paul and
headed out himself. Paul calmly strolled into the storm behind him,
leaning against the wind. Brian stepped to the loose corner of the
tent and crouched down to step outside.
looked around a bit outside, giving the others time to get some
distance between themselves and the tent as he turned and slipped
back inside. He knelt down next to the table, quickly pulled the
glove from his left hand and lightly pressed his fingertips to the
a voice called out over the howl of the wind. “Quickly!”
shook himself back to reality and jogged out of the tent. The voice
was Paul’s, he thought, though the wind was distorting all sound
with its incessant howling. Carrick ran northward, finally coming to
a stop next to Paul, who was standing motionless in the snow, his
glow stick held out in front of him like a lantern.
find her?” Brian called out.
Paul replied as he pointed to a hole in the snow. Brian glanced
around him, trying to get his bearings in the snow and darkness. The
bloody pit was nearby, a few overturned spotlights; the tarp was
tangled around the crates….
body… Jake’s body was gone. Tracks lead away from where the corpse
had been sitting.
Bonnecastle shouted as he jogged up.
Inuit tale!” Paul replied over the storm as Mark appeared in their
midst. “They say that those trapped by the snow who eat of a human
can be inhabited by a dark spirit of the wild. A spirit of
starvation that seeks out human flesh. The Wendigo exists only to
satiate its unending hunger…”
Brian,” Mark called out, glaring angrily at Paul. “We don’t have
time for ghost stories. Your friend is out there and…”
lifted his hand and nodded at Bonnecastle. The huge man reached
inside his jacket and produced his gun, quickly flipping off the
safety and sliding a bullet into the chamber in one quick motion.
Instinctively, Mark also pulled a pistol from inside his jacket and
or the other,” Brian shouted, “I don’t think Kay left of her own
accord… someone took her and someone took Worthington’s body.”
nodded, satisfied by Carrick’s explanation. All three men looked to
Carrick for their next move.
two guns and four of us,” he said firmly. “We continue the search…
those tracks led east, but they could have doubled back.
Bonnecastle, you’re with me, we’ll go east and look for Kay. Mark,
Paul, you stay here and get that generator up, we’re going to need
nodded calmly and jogged back into the darkness, Mark close behind
him. Carrick nodded to Bonnecastle to follow.
started down the steep mountainside, alternately wading through
ever-deeper snow and scrambling across sharp, icy rocks. As they
approached the tree line, they came across the remains of Kay’s coat
hanging from a low branch, flapping in the wind like an old,
tattered flag. Carrick glanced up meaningfully at Bonnecastle, who
carried a grim expression on his face. Without comment, the two
continued down the mountainside.
rounded a large boulder next to a dark precipice, Brian heard the
crack of a tree limb over the roar of the storm. He turned back to
Bonnecastle in time to see a sickly yellowish blur leap at the big
man from the top of the rock.
the-“ Bonnecastle called out as the creature connected with
Bonnecastle’s outstretched arm. Brian could hear the crack of bone
as Bonnecastle bellowed in pain. The two stumbled backwards as
Bonnecastle tried to swing at it with his free hand and the two
suddenly disappeared down the precipice. Brian scrambled to the
ledge, but could only hear the distant cracking of tree limbs in the
darkness and swirling snow below.
looking around, Carrick decided that the best way to get down was to
follow the narrow trail he was on. He quickly hopped through the
snow, over a few strewn boulders, grabbing at pine trees for support
as he descended the mountain. Suddenly, his foot caught on a buried
rock and he went tumbling through the snow, his limbs flailing. He
finally came to a stop, thudding against a small boulder. Brian
stood quickly, intending to move on, when the boulder he had hit was
illuminated by his glow stick.
gods,” he murmured as he realized it wasn’t a boulder that had
stopped his fall, but the still frozen and now mutilated body of
froze as he heard a low growl behind him. Slowly, he turned, holding
his arms wide.
crouched naked in the snow like a wild animal, glaring at him. Her
skin was yellowed and jaundiced, her black hair wild and lined in
frost. Her hands were thin with talon-like claws. Her jaw was
distended unnaturally, as if broken, and her teeth were sharp and
extended. She looked emaciated, as if she hadn’t eaten in days,
though there was fresh blood smeared across her lips and naked
chest. Red eyes glowed at Carrick hungrily.
finally regained his senses as he turned and ran down the narrow
path. The creature that was Kay howled angrily behind him and
crashed through the trees after him. The winds joined in its howl in
a cacophony of a dreadful song. Thick trees bent and creaked against
the storm. The thing grabbed at his jacket, which he quickly slipped
off as he scrambled away from it. He stumbled into a low branch and
pulled it back, whipping himself around to face the creature. As it
leapt into the air, certain of its meal, Brian let go of the tree
limb. The supple limb whipped into its face, sending it flailing
back in rage. When it landed, its head cracked against a boulder and
the creature lay still.
took a step toward it and it suddenly lifted itself up in the snow,
shaking its bleeding head groggily. Carrick turned and hurled
himself down the mountainside, thrashing through the trees. As he
ran, he could hear the thing behind him, howling in impotent rage as
its prey escaped. For a seemingly interminable time, Carrick ran,
his lungs exploding within his chest, his legs seared with pain.
eventually stumbled into a clearing next to a large, frozen lake.
The snow had subsided, the winds had calmed. He staggered through
the snow towards the lake and could just make out what seemed like
electric lights on the other side.
howled behind him.
was nowhere to run… He slowly turned around, holding his glow stick
before him like a weapon. It crouched in the snow, slowly crawling
towards him, an eager gleam in its feral eyes. Brian noticed that
the sky had become lighter during his flight through the wood… and
clear. It suddenly faltered in its prowl, its eyes flickering in
confusion. Orange sunlight filtered across the mountain peaks and
the feral red gleam dimmed. He jaw slid back into place and her
teeth retracted as Brian watched. The rage melted from the beast’s
face as it twisted in anguish. She screamed only once, before
curling into a fetal position, naked in the snow.
the world exploded in light. Brian turned around and lifted his arm
to cover his eyes. The headlamps of small truck pierced the soft
glow of the coming dawn.
Are you alright?” a man called as he stepped in front of the truck.
He wore a green jacket and brimmed hat on his head. Brian’s knees
suddenly shook and gave out beneath him. The man stepped forward and
pulled him up out of the snow.
got you buddy,” the man said reassuringly. Brian grabbed at the
man’s jacket as he tried to stand, his hand falling on an
embroidered emblem on the man’s jacket. His eyes grew wide as he
read the lettering on the badge.
Memorial State Park.
Mark and Bonnecastle sat huddled around a small table in the diner,
their coffees cooling on the table in front of them. Bonnecastle
scratched idly at the cast on his arm.
was nothing I could do,” Mark murmured darkly. “She was on him so
fast. Those teeth clamped around his throat and tore him like he was
made of paper. I never got a shot off. Then she looked at me… Brian…
she looked like she was laughing…”
not your fault, lad,” Brian said calmly as he looked out the large,
plate glass window of the diner. “It wasn’t her… it was whatever was
on that mountain.”
Wendigo,” Bonnecastle murmured as a waitress placed a plate of
steaming eggs on the table in front of him.
Brian replied. “It took Jake and got into Kay as well. And it just
may have taken some of the Donner party on that mountain on hundred
and fifty years ago. Or maybe that’s what called it here.”
going to happen to her?” Bonnecastle asked, his eyes almost
been taken to an institution,” Brian replied softly. “I… I think she
remembers everything the Wendigo made her do. I saw the look in her
eyes when it left her… she knew. I’m not sure she’ll ever recover
Mark murmured as he looked up over his coffee. “What am I supposed
to tell the Senator?”
him the truth,” Brian replied calmly. “Tell him that someone killed
them both, then attacked the rescue party. Tell him his son died
trying to fight the attacker, but in the end couldn’t defeat him.”
nodded. “But someone’s got to know… it’s still up there… that
shrugged. “I’ve contacted some of the local Pauites, they’re going
to send some folks to Snow Mountain tomorrow to try and purge the
spirit and encourage the dead to rest.” Brian leveled his gaze at
Mark. “You can never tell anyone what happened up there, Mark. Not
the truth. People aren’t ready for it.”
nodded slowly. He understood secrets. Brian was certain this would
be one secret the man would take to his grave.
think I’m hungry,” Bonnecastle murmured as he pushed his plate away.
“On the twenty-seventh
they took the flesh from the bodies of the dead; and on that, and
the two following days they remained in camp drying the meat, and
preparing to pursue their journey.”
Diary entry of William Eddy,
member of the Donner Party,
Sunday, December 27, 1846