mysteries and motorcycles

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Turn Left at September

Here is the first chapter of "Turn Left at September."


All of the stars were present tonight, none absent, none tardy. It was New Year’s Eve, eleven forty-five to be exact, only fifteen minutes left in the year. The northern Michigan winter had been colder than normal and tonight in this remote timberland it seemed to be the clearest and coldest so far. Michael O'Conner stood outside his ‘fortress’ in his thermal underwear, pissing in the snow. He was taking advantage of the holiday season for a vacation from his private detective business, a little well deserved time to himself. Tonight was his night to drink beer and watch the giant screen as the big red ball in Times Square descended to welcome in the new year. In a few minutes all of the horses in the world would be celebrating their birthdays.
It would have been a little more enjoyable if McCoy and Otis, his two good friends from the Detroit Police Department could have been here, but Michael had spent other New Year’s Eves alone, he could handle this one too.
With the moon reflecting off the snow, the beauty of this pristine hideaway never ceased to stir a sensation of awe in Michael. And it was all his, the deed inherited from his father but the soul of this land chose its own partners and Michael knew that he belonged here. The concrete block building behind him may have looked out of place when the Army first built it as part of the war effort back in the forties, but nature has a way of overwhelming and absorbing intruders. The ivy had done it’s job, slowly climbing the sheer concrete walls until the building had lost it’s harsh shape and surrendered to the power of the forest.
Any mechanical sound in this desolate woodland has to be considered unusual and the faint hum that Michael was hearing was definitely a man-made noise. At first he thought it might be the mammoth Pelton-wheel hydroelectric generator that magically converted the fast-moving river into enough electricity to power a small village. But after listening for a few seconds, it became obvious that the ringety-bang sound in the distance was that of a two cycle gasoline engine and it was getting closer. Michael was beginning to feel the bite of the five degree temperature through his long johns and turned toward his lodge. He was thinking that he would illuminate the place with the floodlights in case the snowmobiler, or whoever it was, needed a beacon to follow. It might be Harley Charley. Charlie Whitepigeon, the Chippewa biker lived over in that direction, but Charlie’s not the type to go joyriding on his snowmobile in the dark. Michael concluded that it must be someone lost or confused, probably from the new casino/ski club resort six miles away on the other side of the hills. Nobody would come this far off the groomed trails on purpose, especially at night. As he reached for the door, he heard the pitch of the engine change. It was gasping, sucking in air devoid of any fuel. The machine was running out of gas. He looked in the direction of the asthmatic sound and saw the hesitant, uncertain flicker of a dimming headlight among the naked trees at the top of a hill about a half a mile away. The scene reminded him of an old movie, like the flame in a lantern dancing as some spirit carried it through an obscure and forgotten graveyard. He hurried back to his ‘fortress.’
It took the rest of the year for him to wiggle into his snowmobile suit and get the cutter hooked up behind his Polaris. Clancy, the two year old Llewellin setter was already sitting in the cutter in anticipation of one of his favorite activities, a moonlight ride through the jack pines, birch, and scrub oaks, his big tail wagging so hard that it rocked the sled.
The search took almost three hours. There were no real roads or trails in the area and choices could get quite random when all the terrain looks the same, even with the bright moonlight.
He found the abandoned Ski-Doo midway through the second hour but there were no footprints leading away from it. Maybe they faded into the deep track left by the snowmobile. Michael had criss-crossed the same general area four times, stopping every few hundred feet to sweep the landscape with his powerful flashlight. Finally, he parked the snow machine and shut off the engine so that he could hear any sounds of distress or calls for help in the still night air. Clancy got up off his haunches and sniffed all the points of the compass, as if wishing for even a slight breeze to bring him a scent. After a few moments, he seemed to get excited and jumped out of the cutter. The big dog doubled back down the path , following his nose and ignoring the meaningless tracks. He stopped suddenly about fifty yards back, his head moving rapidly in frantic, jerky motions as he sniffed the pockmarked snow for a few seconds then disappeared into the trees. It took Michael at least five long minutes to get his rig turned around and by that time he could hear the dog barking and yelping as if he had a coon treed, or was in some kind of pain.
Michael’s flashlight lit up a bright blue snowmobile suit curled up at the base of an old sugar maple. There was no response when Michael called to the body in the snow so he grabbed the shoulder of the snowmobile suit and rolled the lifeless torso onto its back. It looked like a young boy, small and frail. The heat generated by the beam of the five cell Maglight, produced diminutive vapor at the nostrils of the victim. At least he was still breathing. Speaking to nobody, Michael said aloud, “What’s a kid doing all alone in a place like this?” Michael picked up the small body and struggled through the knee deep snow to deposit him in the cutter. The dog instinctively jumped in with the slight figure and curled around him in order to share his body heat. Michael fired up the snowmobile and cut a trail for home, he didn't want to waste any time.
Inside the lodge, Michael had an easier time handling the limp body. He carried it up the stairs from the garage and laid it on the guest room bed. The first order of business was to turn on the electric blanket and crank the heat control all the way to the ten. As he surveyed the scene, Michael realized that the insulated snowmobile suit would slow the warming process. He pulled off the boots and was surprised to see pink socks. For the first time he took a good look at the person in his guest room. It wasn't a young boy at all. It was a girl! More accurately, a young woman. He was a little more gentle now, stripping off the outer clothing but carefully leaving the expensive looking, Victoria’s Secret, undergarments untouched. There wasn't any evidence of frostbite that he could see and though the breathing was still shallow, it seemed to be regular, as if she were just asleep. He pulled the covers up around her chin and hurried back downstairs to his living room to look up hypothermia in his medical encyclopedia.
The book wasn't as much help as he had hoped it would be... The body temperature is lowered, metabolism is slowed, and the blood flow to the brain can be interrupted. One statement caught his attention. "Internal warming may be necessary. How the hell do you do that? Chicken soup?” He considered trying to get her into town where a real doctor could treat her but the only ways out of here this time of year were snowmobile or down the river in the inflatable boat. Neither option seemed desirable.
Michael was wishing that his buddies, McCoy and Springfield, could have accepted his invitation to join him on this New Year’s, but it seems that holidays are a particularly busy time for cops, especially in Detroit. Those two would know what to do, or at least be able to figure it out.
Tonight though, Michael was on his own. Perhaps he could call Harley Charlie, that ex-marine seemed to always have the answers, ever cool under fire. Michael had met Charlie quite a few years ago, back when Michael was young and his father had just bought this place. They hit it off as friends right away, explored the woods, caught fish, hunted partridge, the way that unburdened teenagers do. As with most childhood chums, they eventually pushed on in different directions, Michael enrolling in college while Charlie enlisted in the Marines. It was only a year or two ago that they renewed their friendship. Charlie had developed a passion for motorcycling and had become, “Harley Charley”.
“Hell, it was a natural, the long hair, the leather fringe, the headband, they were all already a part of my culture. All I needed was the bike.” The hearty smile made his huge size seem less threatening.
Charley was also probably the best electrician in the county, running a very successful contracting business. He had made some very wise educational choices while serving in the Marine Corps.
But it wouldn’t be fair to burden him with a medical emergency. Charlie was probably getting ready for his New Year’s Day appearance at the big celebration at the community center, all dressed up in his traditional Tribal gear. Charlie’s muscular six foot, seven inch frame and classic chiseled native features could be quite imposing in warpaint and feathers.
Maybe Michael could get a doctor to come out here. He picked up the cellular phone and tried to dial the sheriff’s number but nothing happened. The battery indicator told him that he was running on empty. Michael couldn’t remember when he last charged it and he didn’t have a backup battery with him. He jammed the telephone into the charger on the kitchen counter. But for now, he was out of business and completely cut off from the outside world. Happy New Year.

Posted by The Unreal McCoy :: 7:10 PM :: 1 Comments:

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