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GIANT IN THE SNOW
By Phillip A. Elwood
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Phillip A. Elwood
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe morning sunrise promised a crisp day with bright sunshine. The dark indigo of night gradually lightened to a cloudless golden band on the eastern horizon. A muddy four-by-four gently edged to the side of the road. Its lights slowly dimmed like a drowsy dragon's eyes. The tall lanky man swung out of the truck and reached back in for his weapon. He smiled, enjoying the cool outdoors. He leaned back exposing his nostrils to the wind and sucked in the icy morning air.
He removed seven red shotgun shells from loops on his vest and slid them into the belly of his shotgun. Next, he pulled on his hunting gloves. A slit in the index finger of the right-hand glove would let his trigger finger through. He patted his pocket for the ham and cheese sandwich his wife had packed. Satisfied it was there; he started across the field to the patch of forest beyond. The deep white powder hindered the hunter as he tramped across the open field. He stumbled frequently. Before long, fine white snow clung tightly to his camouflaged jump suit. Even the breast pockets received a dusting.
The hunter's-orange vest glowed in the now brilliant sunlight, which, along with the dark green camo suit, sharply contrasted the whiteness of the snow. Taken together, they defeated the true purpose of camouflage, invisibility.
He carried the long-barreled shotgun safely across his chest, its chamber empty. Its blue steel barrel aimed at the cloudless sky. The brown teakwood stock gleamed with an oily gloss of its own. Sunlight reflected from it with twinkling glimmers.
He seldom hunted alone, for safety's sake. But deer season wouldn't last much longer, and though he was a careful sportsman; he couldn't always wait for his hunting buddies to find a convenient time to come along.
He hurried as well as he could, knowing the buck he had spotted from the road minutes before was still nearby. Its hooves left deep impressions in the snow, making it easy to follow. He knew he'd get a good shot at it if he were careful, and lucky.
He could hear his own panting breath and the crunching of his boots as they punched through the crusty snow. His exhalations vaporized a few inches from his nostrils, surrounding his face with wispy white clouds.
What pilots call a "severe clear" sky let the bright sunlight warm his face against the chill. He crept quietly along, stalking the big mule deer. Deep in concentration, he never noticed the other presence forty yards away.
The huge ape-like thing shadowed the man's every move, but remained hidden among the trees. Step for step, pause for pause, the thing paralleled the man for several minutes. It silently crept, curiously watched. But curiosity diluted the creature's normally instinctive stealth. Carelessly, the thing pressed a huge hairy foot onto a snow-covered twig.
The hunter heard a muffled snap and whirled toward the sound. His eyes nearly bulged from their sockets. His mouth dropped open in astonishment. He started to run, but he recognized the thing for what it truly was. The possibility of fame and fortune quickly suppressed the urge to flee. He'd read the books, the magazines, seen the shows on TV. Now one of THEM stood right in front of him.
It stood erect, like a man, close to nine feet tall, covered with dark brown fur. It silently watched the man, unmoving and wary. At its feet, a snow-dusted pine bough silently rebounded as the creature removed his weight from it. The hunter had surprised it as it stalked him.
Thoughts of a trophy deer fled the man's mind as he envisioned a greater prize. He slowly raised the powerful gun to his shoulder, slowly jacked in a shell, then squinted along the blue-black barrel to the B-B sized sight.
The thing before him had never seen a gun or even a man; it didn't realize it should run for its life. Its innocence would be its destruction.
The man calmed his breathing and steadied his gun. He sighted in on the wide chest and slowly squeezed the trigger. With a loud boom and a puff of gray smoke. The creature fell to the snow-covered ground, as still as a stone.
"Whew-wee!" The man yelled as he struggled through the snow toward the wounded animal. His heart pounded heavily in his chest.
Standing over the giant body, he saw the wounds he'd inflicted. A gaping gash ran along the beast's left temple. As well as a couple of slugs in the beast's shoulder. Luckily for the hunter, at least one pellet had hit the beast in a vital spot.
The huge chest still sucked in air as the creature struggled for life. The man slipped the shotgun into a back-sling and slipped a pistol from its holster. He cocked the hammer and set the barrel against the hairy ear to deliver the fatal coup-de-gras.
But with a flash of brown and an ear-splitting bellow, the creature slapped the gun from the man's casual grip. The startled human backed away in shock as the monster rose from the ground and stepped slowly toward him. Its huge chest heaved. Blood dripped down the side of its head and down its arm.
Fear replaced the man's excitement as he stumbled backward and fell. Somehow, he managed to retrieve the shotgun from its sling and fumbled with jacking in another round. But the thing quickly snatched the gun away.
The giant held the shotgun by the barrel, his huge hand wrapped around the forestock. He paused long enough to bash the offending weapon across a tree, snapping the gun in two.
The man found his legs and sprinted for his life, faster than he'd ever run before. He legs pumped furiously in the deep drifted snow, making more vertical progress than horizontal. His eyes were wide with fear. The creature staggered behind him in futile pursuit, weakening quickly.
The man, now more afraid than careful, stumbled through the deep snow not daring to look back, nor even to look ahead. He never saw the approaching cliff. His foot snagged a protruding rock, casting him headlong over the side of a deep ravine. His screams echoed through the rocky canyon as his body banged repeatedly against the cliff wall. He crashed to the unyielding ground, crushing his skull on the jagged rocks below.
The wounded monster arrived many seconds later. It peered over the edge as the human took his last shuddering breath. Blood stained the gray rocks beneath the man. Steam rose from its warm wetness.
Blood streamed down the side of the creature's head, staining the brown fur of his neck and shoulders. Then pain began crushing his head like a heavy steel vise. The once-powerful legs quivered as their strength left them, bringing the beast to its knees.
Clamping his huge hands to the sides of his head, the monster staggered backward. He howled his agony into the mountain wind.
* * *
Ricky Thomson stared out the barred window of his maximum-security cell at the black night beyond. He pressed his huge clenched fists against the cool sweating windowpane while he chewed his lower lip. Totally without remorse for the two people he'd killed, he grinned at his own reflection in the glass.
The glare of the security light lent its greenish-white glow to the snow-covered lawn three floors below him. A broad white sign with gleaming brass letters stared back up at him. The words "WASHINGTON STATE HOSPITAL FOR THE CRIMINALLY INSANE" reflected the light from two ice-covered floodlights.
He turned and paced the small room like an angry caged leopard, his hands forming ham-like fists. His cruel lips trembled as he mumbled to himself.
He was three weeks into his "recovery" now and decided he'd had enough. He was tired of this place, tired of the puke doctor that bored him to sleep every day, tired of the whining assholes in his therapy group. This was the moment he'd slowly planned for. He was leaving.
After a final check of the locked door, he dug under the bunk's soggy mattress. He drew out the sharp carving knife he'd stolen from the kitchen the previous day. He slipped it down the side of his huge boot then covered it with the cuff of his jeans.
He strained his ears, fearing the sound of approaching guards. Hearing none, he tiptoed to the barred window and quietly raised the glass. The bars sat in a metal frame that was bolted to the cement walls of the building.
Setting his big wide feet firmly against the adjacent wall, he pushed slowly outward on the bars. His face twisted in straining concentration. Veins bulged at his reddening temples. At first, his efforts seemed futile. But then, incredibly, the bars began to give.
The bolts in the mortar loosened and wobbled in their sockets. Several snapped their heads, surrendering to Ricky's unrelenting pressure. Beads of sweat dripped into the big man's eyes as he continued to push, accomplishing what no normal man could ever do.
Finally, the last of the screws surrendered and let the barred frame pop out of the window. It fell into the snow with a muffled clunk. Hurriedly, Ricky squeezed through and followed it down, dropping the three stories to the ground. The deep snow broke his fall, preventing injury to his six-feet-seven inch, four hundred-pound body.
At the tall chain-link fence, Ricky quickly scaled its ten feet. Being agile for such a huge man, he simply rolled over the barbed wire at its top, snagging his clothes and the flesh of his belly. Ignoring the stinging pain, he hit the ground beyond at a dead run.
He knew he had pulled it off. It would be the morning bed check before anyone knew he was gone. He ran without looking back, an insane giggle escaping his throat.
The black night swallowed the huge bear of a man. The dark forest surrounding the hospital grounds devoured him in seconds. He heard no dogs, no sirens, and no yelling guards. The only sound in the still winter night, was Ricky's mindless giggle.
Chapter TwoThe sky was a cloudless electric blue in the mountains of central Washington. Brilliant sunlight glared onto the sheet of white snow that blanketed the countryside. An old car, its faded paint nearly matching the color of the sky, chugged along the curving mountainside road. Wisps of blue-white smoke followed along behind it, fluttering from the exhaust pipe like a flag of surrender.
Behind the wheel, a tall man bit his lower lip in deep concentration, the slippery road demanding extra care. The man's breath fogged the windshield, the defroster having given up years ago. He continually wiped the moisture away, clearing his vision.
Behind him, the rear seat overflowed with shopping bags from every store in the city's huge mall, the benefits of his first Christmas bonus.
The snowy road held many unseen perils, including the nail-studded board that unluckily found the left rear tire. A roofing nail jammed through the worn treads to the inner tube, releasing its air to the atmosphere.
The old '60 Chevy squatted low in the rear as the driver slowed it to a crunching stop on the desolate mountain road. Deprived of inflation, the tire wobbled flaccidly on its rusty rim, airless, impotent. The balding driver emerged angrily from the car and slammed the squeaking door, swearing vehemently. "Damn retreads," he spat. He tugged a woolen cap over his thinly haired dome and skated to the rear of the car.
With vaporous clouds erupting from his nostrils, he shoved a screwdriver into the lockless trunk lid and undid the catch. The lid rose, sliding a six-inch slab of wet snow off the car and onto the ground.
Digging through a greasy-smelling heap of accumulated rubbish, he reached the treadless spare tire in its trash-filled well. Removing it, he bounced it on the snow-covered road. Surprisingly, it still held air. He propped it against the rust-scarred fender then returned to the trunk for the lug wrench. Kneeling in the wet snow, he loosened the lug nuts with quick squeaky jerks then rose again to remove the jack. He shoved it under the bumper and pumped the handle rapidly to bring the aging auto's wheel off the ground. He returned to the flat tire, and began spinning the loosened nuts off with his fingers.
As he snatched the flat off the hub, a huge shadow fell across the snow beside him. Before he could react, something suddenly jerked him backward off his feet, dumping him into the roadside drift. When he finally saw his assailant, he gasped in horrified astonishment. Warm liquid spread down his pants as his bladder expressed the fear his voice could not.
Panic-stricken, he rolled to his hands and knees in a futile attempt at escape. Skittering through the snow like a startled roach, his voice returned in whimpering whines and gasps. He slipped and slid down the roadside slope, his befouled trousers cooling quickly between his legs.
Sobbing like a terrified child, mucus bubbled from his nose and saliva dripped from his grimacing mouth. He frantically sought refuge amidst the underbrush but it was no use. The thing had him.
His screams echoed unheard and unheeded as the murderous assault began.
The attacker took his time. He pinned the bald man down with a hand to his throat. He swung his fist like a sledgehammer. He broke bones, popped ribs. Tendons snapped as his attacker ripped the man's shoulders from their sockets. With a powerful twist of the balding head, the screams dwindled to silence.
The attacker casually dragged the bald man's body back to the road and tossed it beside the old rust-eaten car, the man as limp and lifeless as the flat tire. Unremorseful, the killer turned and slowly rambled back the way he had come. He left nothing behind but his victim, and his footprints.
* * *
Late that afternoon, thick clouds moved in, heavily laden with new snow. Large flakes drifted gently down from the solid gray sky like thousands of tiny invaders borne on parachutes of frozen rain. A thick blanket of white covered the front lawn, hiding the faded brown grass. Slowly transforming the world from late fall's ugliness to winter's crisp beauty.
The two-story log house stood far from the road atop a gentle slope surrounded by tall pines. The light breeze buoyed thick smoke into the sky from the stone chimney on the roof. Snow draped itself like a thick comforter atop the shingles. A winding tree-lined driveway curved down the western edge of the yard. It abruptly ended at the blacktop and the open gate of the long wooden fence.
Jackie Mason stood gazing out the broad bay window of her darkened den, a dreamy look in her dark wide-set eyes. She hugged herself in contented reverie as she watched the snowfall. Her long black hair hung straight and loose down her back. Her white sweater contrasted sharply with the bronze of her flawless skin.
The French Canadian genes of her father only slightly tempered her Native American features. The fireplace crackled and popped behind her, lending reddish light to the dark room. Above the fireplace, a heavy oak mantel supported no fewer than seven trophies. Her husband's horses won six of them at various shows in the area. The tiny bowling trophy belonged to her. Although it didn't stand nearly as tall as the others, she was proud of it, as proud as he was about his.
Western and Native American artifacts decorated the other walls of the wide, high-ceilinged room. Genuine Yakima artwork reflected the woman's Indian heritage.
Two one-hundred-year-old Winchester rifles hung crossed on the log wall, ammo belts dangling from the barrels. A black, silver-trimmed saddle sat atop its wooden stand. Firelight glimmered off the polished trim, rivaled only by the shine of the glossy leather.
She saw her husband Dale drive through the gate and stop at the mailbox before continuing up to the garage. The fog lights on his four-wheel-drive Suburban blazed through the crystalline downpour, casting harsh beams toward the house. She heard the garage door rumble open and the truck roll inside to a squeaky stop. The brakes had always squeaked, a constant source of aggravation.
Dale entered the back door and pulled off his red plaid jacket. Stuffing his gloves into one pocket, his wool cap into the other, he noticed his wife standing at the window. He slowly crept up behind her. She knew he was there, but pretended she didn't. She let him come close to slip his strong arms around her. She leaned back against him, savoring the affection as he stooped to kiss the back of her neck. Then he slipped a frigid hand inside her sweater to cup a warm braless breast, nearly taking her breath away.
"I oughta kick your ass," she told him huskily as she spun around, swatting him on the shoulder. He gently wrapped his arms around her and kissed her deeply on the lips.
Excerpted from GIANT IN THE SNOW by Phillip A. Elwood Copyright © 2012 by Phillip A. Elwood. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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