The story culminates in the summer of 1962 in the Peace River Area, in the general area around Chetwynd and Dawson Creek. Kate and Ned have an encounter with "Willis" who has managed to escape his incarceration, and has located Kate for revenge.
When the Cariboo highway changed locations in 1958, the original community in the story lost its school,its store, and its community dance hall. The grocery store and post office burned to the ground in1957, and was immediately replaced with a temporary structure that served for several more years. This little hamlet slowly withered and died on the vine with the relocation of the Cariboo highway between Quesnel and Hixon in 1958.
The second community in the story, the Village of Little Prairie was re-named Chetwynd in the summer of 1958. The Pacific Great Eastern railway had just arrived and the town was a typical construction town during this time period.
The surrounding country side was teeming with deer, moose and wild chickens of several different varieties. A few elk herds were starting to proliferate in this area as well.
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It's Time to Say GoodbyeA novel
By Jack Stubberfield
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Jack Stubberfield
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe summer of -
Ned stood transfixed! The sun was shining and a slight breeze was ruffling the leaves on the cottonwoods. He could hear a salmon moving up the creek to his right as it struggled over the shallows. He had been waiting impatiently for their run to begin and the splashing aroused his atavistic instincts. His ancestors had been hunter gatherers and would have been proud of this small warrior with all his senses on high alert. It was the first week in August and the arrival of the salmon had also brought the resident grizzly; he had seen his tracks the day before. He wasn't afraid of much in the bush, but he was afraid of the bear. He had seen him on the creek last year and he was a monster.
He stared across the little clearing in front of him and thought he saw something move in the foliage, but thinking his eyes were just playing tricks on him, he started slowly forward.
His mind was on the fish, and he wondered if he should have told his mom that he would be late for supper. An uneasy feeling settled over him when he reached the edge of the little meadow and got closer to where he thought he had seen something move. He studied the soft ground looking for deer and bear sign, and began to relax. This was going to be a good day.
Just into the woods the trail was wide and muddy in spots, and as he glanced down he froze, all his senses ready for flight. He felt a painful tightening in his chest and his knees were suddenly a little rubbery. He had almost missed it, a man's fresh boot print in a damp spot of ground. He stood listening and looking for any movement. Had someone been watching him? After several minutes he moved quietly back the way he had come.
He was twelve years old and not much got by him in the bush. He wore a razor sharp belt knife and always carried matches and a salmon snare. He knew with a small head start he could outrun anything in these woods. However, he now had a bad feeling about continuing up the trail along the creek and felt good about his decision to return to the house.
He quickly crossed the small clearing glancing back over his shoulder, and with every step he felt a little better. He crossed the stream that ran into China Creek and looked up at the house that sat on the knoll overlooking the small valley to the west. He wished his dad was home from construction.
He walked in the front door and saw that his mom was home. She said, "Back so soon Ned? I thought we'd have fish for breakfast." He walked past her and said, "Naw, I changed my mind." She gave him a quizzical look. He didn't have to tell her he had gone fishing. She knew him well, and he could tell she knew something wasn't quite right.
Peg was a willowy woman of Scottish and French descent, and had more energy than anyone he knew. He loved to listen to her play the piano, and often wondered at her amazing psychic ability. Looking at the fresh baked bread and honey buns, he marveled once again at how lucky he was to have her as his mom. She set a bowl of soup and a fresh slice of bread in front of him and said, "Ned you must tell me if something is not right. With your dad away I don't want any surprises." She made a pot of tea and gave him another one of her looks.
"I will mom," he said. He didn't want to worry her, and he would check it out tomorrow. A heavy feeling settled in the pit of his stomach and he had no appetite for the soup that sat steaming in front of him. A mile from their nearest neighbours he knew they were easy targets.
Chapter TwoFor a big man, Willis moved quietly in the bush. He had spotted the boy from the road a week earlier, and had twice since parked his car about a mile away and moved on foot to within eyesight of the house. The trail paralleled the road and had made his stalking easy. He would have to be careful. He admired the tattoo on his forearm and knew he did not want to go back to jail. Stalking this boy, however was something that he could not resist; the boy was not the first and he would not be the last.
He stood now behind a clump of brush waiting for his prey to go past him, his mind going back over the past few minutes. He had been about to cross the little meadow to get into position to observe the house when the boy stepped into the clearing on the far side. He had run back up the trail about a hundred yards to where he now waited quietly.
He had seen the woman and little girl two days ago, but no sign of the man. He must get home late. No matter.
Where is the little prick? He had a hard time standing still, and put his hands around an alder about the size of the boy's neck, squeezing until his hands hurt. He thought about what he was going to do to this slim blond boy, and with a start he realized another ten minutes had gone by. Just then he heard the sound of a twig snapping on the trail.
He felt his throat thicken in anticipation; he had seen the knife and knew the boy would be fast. He was getting fully aroused and fondled himself casually while his imagination went into overtime.
The noise on the trail was getting closer. He was unfamiliar with noises in the bush and wondered what the hell this boy was up to. After several more minutes listening to slight rustling sounds, he couldn't make himself wait any longer and stepped into the trail where he found himself looking into the startled eyes of a small red fox. The fox dived into the bush in a flash of furry red panic.
Willis raced up the trail to the edge of the clearing. The boy was gone, gone like smoke. He felt the rage start to build. He stood for five minutes, had a cigarette and stubbed it out under his foot. He felt cheated and swore that he'd make the boy scream when he got his hands on him.
While he stood and thought about the boy something in his mind went click — click - click. It was the sound of a camera that he had been unable to forget since being forced to endure unspeakable humiliation at an early age.
Willis was a bully and liked to hurt people. He had started early with his little brother's best friend and had found he liked to molest little boys. His jail time had been for misdemeanors and so far he had never been caught for his more heinous activities. He was a monster, devoid of empathy or feelings for others and completely consumed with the self- gratification he got by inflicting pain. He wanted to hurt this boy, and he stood for a long time staring at the little house on the knoll.
Chapter ThreeShe stood in the front yard looking across China Creek and the small valley in front of the house. Peg wished once again that her husband was home. They only had a few weeks to go and they would be moved; she could hardly wait. This had been a great place for the past several years. It had a small school and store, and it was not too far to the next large town. However, things were changing. It was the seventh of August, 1958, and Louis was never home now. He was far away on construction, and last week she had noticed strangers observing the house as they drove by.
This was something new; until recently they had known everyone in a twenty-mile radius and everyone visited.
"Mom, can we walk to the store?" her little girl Rose piped up from the house. "Okay, get your coat," Peg called back and realized the child was quite oblivious to any forebodings that she had been feeling recently. As Rose took her hand and they started down the road to the store her mind went back to yesterday and the strange way her son Ned had acted coming home early and staying around the yard. She would have to talk to him later this evening. He had headed back up the creek about an hour ago, giving her a smile and promising to catch a fish.
Rose loved the store; she chirped incessantly and didn't pay any attention to the tall man smiling at her antics, and almost didn't hear Mike from up the road ask her if Ned knew who owned the old burgundy Plymouth he'd seen parked back in the trees not far from their house. She certainly had no idea that this tall man had stayed here overnight about a year ago and had left a suitcase that he had come back for that same day. Ned had found it and turned it in, not trying to open it to see what was inside. The tall man (Carl) had asked to talk to Ned, and after asking him if he had opened it, looked into his eyes, and made the decision to give him a ten dollar reward. Now he was back: he had stayed again for one night, and was once again leaving.
On the way out to his car, Carl noticed the old burgundy Plymouth they were talking about pull up to the pump. A rather large oafish fellow got out from behind the wheel and started pumping gas. Carl's eyes got hard as he noticed the prison tattoos. Remembering the conversation from inside he realized quickly that this man might be stalking the little girl and her family, and his eyes grew as hard as slate. He had had to kill many times over the years and as he stared at Willis he decided he would stay on for a few more days.
He became lost in thought. It was a man fresh out of prison that had killed his wife and two little girls several years before. He had been on assignment in Europe when he got the news, and by the time he had gotten home it was all over. His beautiful little girls and the love of his life had been savagely butchered by a loathsome creature much like this overweight, furtive-looking fellow pumping gas.
If Willis could have read the thoughts directed his way he would have driven away and not looked back.
Chapter FourLouis glanced at his crew, and let his mind wander once again to his family and their home on the creek, a six hour drive to the south. It had been a beautiful setting, but he could no longer find work close to home and it was time to pull up stakes and move to where he could make a living.
He hated being away from Peg and kids, and worried once again about them all. They had lived with coal oil lights, wood heat and no running water. She had never complained, and when work had been plentiful it had been an idyllic existence. Everyone in the small community were friends and it was sad that they would soon be saying goodbye.
He had introduced the boy to bush lore at six years old and at nine years old Ned had his own rifle. The boy was at home in the bush and had his mother's psychic ability, coupled with an instinctive awareness of his surroundings that never ceased to amaze Louis. He sighed: the boy was now twelve years old and had the responsibility of getting the water from the creek and the wood for the stoves. Not yet a man, he tried his best. The girl was just a baby. He would try to get home two weeks from today.
Chapter FiveThis overweight, unkempt looking stranger paying for his gas smelled bad and asked too many questions.
Gerti was a Welsh lady and normally took to strangers. However, this fellow made her feel skittish about having extra money in the store to cash cheques for the regulars at the end of the month. She always cashed their paycheques and gave them the balance in cash after they paid their accounts. This system had always worked well and it kept most of their grocery business in her store.
She wished all strangers were like Carl. He had decided moments before to keep his room for a few days to try the fly fishing in China Creek. He was on holidays, and an amateur geologist at that; an interesting and rather refined man in her opinion. That face, though - even smiling - wouldn't win any beauty contests.
Gerti liked to think she knew everything going on in her neck of the woods, and with the only phone in the community (she charged a flat rate plus time and charges), she usually overheard enough that this was true. She made change for the gas purchase and made a mental note to phone the RCMP and have Ben make the short drive to China Creek for cake and coffee.
The last question about the old safe that stood in the corner of the store had set off a mental alarm bell, and she wanted this guy checked out.
Chapter SixNed walked softly along the trail and his thoughts were not on the creek or the salmon lurking in the deep pools under the log jams. That would come later. He had no idea how close he had come to terror yesterday. However, he spotted the cigarette butt and knew he had made a good decision to turn back. He quickly realized that he could have another adversary every bit as dangerous as the resident grizzly that he had avoided every salmon season on the creek.
It wasn't long before he spotted where someone had walked the deer trail from the road to where he now stood on the main trail. He carefully walked the two hundred yards to where the car had been parked, just out of sight of the road. More cigarette butts and chocolate bar wrappers littered the ground.
A cold chill ran up his spine as he surveyed the area and saw that the car had been here on several occasions. The footprints were the same as the one in the clearing.
This guy had stalked his family at least three times in the last week.
A cold resolve settled over him as he started back the way he had come. The beaver trap that he had grabbed from the shed when he left swung from his right hand. He had agonized over what his pop would think about him setting it for a man. Now that was not a hard decision, knowing that this bastard had been stalking his family.
He found the right place, just over a log where you squeezed between two alders and your foot came down in the same spot every time. He quickly set the trap and camouflaged it with leaves. It wouldn't kill anyone but it would sure as hell hurt, and it would probably break an ankle.
He stepped away and took a quick look. Satisfied with his work he slipped quietly and quickly back down the deer trail. It was another beautiful summer day and he could not suppress the urge to continue up the main trail and slide down the bank to the creek.
Walking down stream and cutting back and forth across the creek from gravel bar to gravel bar he studied the pools. The water was crystal clear and he knew that with a hook and line he could easily catch a few trout from most of the pools he passed. He was aware of a large black bear watching him from the top of a bank about two hundred yards from the creek, it was curious and not a threat; a good sign the grizzly was not in this area today. At last, a small pool where he spotted the shapes of several salmon.
Gripping his snare pole lightly he moved like a shadow to within reach and slowly, slowly brought the copper loop back over the salmon's head. He jerked the loop tight and pulled the fish quickly onto the bank, where it flopped wildly before he clubbed it on the back of the head. It was a small sockeye, about five pounds. Stripping the snare wire from the pole he put it in his pocket. He picked up the fish by the gills and started for home. Travelling the creek, he avoided the trail completely.
What he had seen on the very next bend of the creek had astonished him, he could hardly believe his eyes and wasn't sure if he would even tell anyone. They would probably think he was a liar if he did, and wouldn't believe him anyway. Maybe he would tell pop. What he had seen in the wet sand were bare footprints, and they were enormous, about twenty inches long and six inches wide. He followed them tentatively from where they left the sandbar and disappeared into the bush, and after setting his salmon down and with the hair standing up on the back of his neck he couldn't force himself to go more than a few yards into the dense foliage beside the creek. The thorns on the devils club on the rich ground next to the gravel bar could rip your pants if you weren't careful, and he plucked a long strand of hair that this creature had lost when it passed through a daunting patch of heavy nettles.
Something else disconcerting had entered this lovely valley, probably drawn by the smell of spawning salmon.
When he got below the house he cleaned the fish and climbed the trail up the bank to the front yard. A voice made him jump and his mother laughed and said, "It's not like you to not notice me sitting here." He smiled sheepishly and showed her the salmon.
Excerpted from It's Time to Say Goodbye by Jack Stubberfield Copyright © 2010 by Jack Stubberfield. 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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