Agent Helms was called in to investigate when an enormous bear attacked the site if a fracking well, killing the rancher/landowner Don O’Malley. As I understand it, while investigating, Kary Martin had a premonition that the thing would attack the well itself, killing two. The team broke in and shut down the well operation which seemed to avert the attack. Kary evidently had another premonition about another attack and that is when I was called in.
Based on the description, the critter appeared to be some sort of guardian spirit or perhaps a manitou. Whether or not it was an ancient guardian placed here long ago and triggered by the fracking or a new one was hard to say. It was definitely heavy magic in any case.
Based on that, I knew the thing could be disrupted by iron or perhaps salt but really the only thing for it was to find the original shrine it was tied to and destroy it. So I loaded up some iron shot shell, fired up the old Scout, and headed for Cross Fork.
Don O’Malley’s Body
I met Kary and Weston at the Medical Examiner’s office in Dodgeville. The coroner, Luther Rowe, was not happy to see us one bit. He also wondered why a DHS agent and a college professor were so interested in a bear attack.
Bear attack my ass. This thing was the size of two polar bears. There was no way a local black bear did this. Interestingly, the heart had been completely removed while the rest of the torso had been randomly savaged.
Chats with Mayor Eugene Morton and Sheriff William Boone revealed that the petro company that was drilling in Cross Fork had been very good to the town. At least they were good to Morton and O’Malley where the wells were being drilled.
The good times were spoiled a bit by tainted water. The Company “made good” by buying everyone water filters but I am starting to see why this nature spirit is so pissed off.
The mayor was really cagey about just how bad the water was. I mean to follow up with Christie Kelly at the EPA when I get a chance.
Around midnight, after viewing poor Don O’Malley’s remains, we headed out to the fracking well on Mayor Morton’s property. We had no evidence other than Kary’s hunch but he is rarely wrong.
Weston cooked up a cock and bull story about a “credible threat” to the well in order to get the mayor out of his house and to safety.
At this point the local actually believed the attacks were perpetrated by an eco-terrorist with a trained, killer bear. Somehow the idea of a supernatural ghost bear seemed more credible.
The manitou, because that was clearly what we were dealing with, showed up as predicted. It was a horrible thing, solid black yet transparent with glowing eyes.
It did not wast any time coming after us. Weston got up on the top of the Scout with my shotgun. Fortunately, I had remembered to pack some of my iron buckshot shells as those would prove handy.
Good gosh that thing was fast. Weston barely got one shot off before the manitou was on us and tearing at Weston’s hide.
Weston’s one shot had hit though. Some sort of green blood or ichor sprayed from the manitou’s wounds. Wherever this blood landed, flowers and lush vegetation sprang up.
I started up the Scout to put some distance between us and the manitou. Somehow Weston hung on while still hanging on to the shotgun.
I do not really know what Kary got up to while all this was going on. All I know is the manitou kept lurching and tripping like it had forgotten how to manitou. That kind of thing always seems to happen when Kary is around. Correlation is not causation but I will take it.
Weston got enough shots into the manitou to disrupt it and cause it to dissipate. It was gone but not before Weston took two nasty gashes and the Scout blew a radiator hose.
We coasted back down to the road, parked the Scout and then took Weston’s van to Wheeler’s Country Store where Melody Wheeler gave us beau-coup coffee and gauze.
We met up with the mayor. We did not disabuse him of the notion that there was a killer eco-bear-orrist out there but we did talk him out of beating the bushes with two dozen men in a futile, and likely fatal, attempt to kill the thing.
Instead we redirected him to find young Kurt Jones who had been missing for four days. Kary once again had one of his premonitions which told him that Kurt was likely in the nearby forest, dying of exposure if he was not dead already.
Mayor Morton reluctantly agreed but not before securing a promise from us to go after the bear as soon as Weston was fit to move.
Into the Woods
Weston is a tough bugger so we were ready to go again by 2:00 AM, We headed back to the mayor’s property to see if we could pick up the trail from there. It was not hard as the manitou was “bleeding” from several wounds, leaving a trail of lush, new, flowering vegetation. We followed the trail into what I can only describe as the forest as it existed before the Europeans arrived. It was an impossibility but truly a wonder to behold. Sadly, a very dangerous wonder.
It was at this point, and not for the first time on this trip, that Weston and I had a difference of opinion on the ultimate fate of our quarry. Weston, understandably, felt the need to end the life of a killer. I on the other hand, could see why such a creature or manitou or ghost would come out at such a time. White men, as always, were showing complete disregard for the land that sustained them. The forests were being cut down, the hills washed away, and here, in this place, the clear water turned into a poison. It is no wonder to me, that the land was lashing out at her tormentor, using the manitou as her agent.
These philosophical concerns had to be set aside though, as we heard wolves howling very nearby. We barely had time to assess the situation when Kary and I were attacked. Weston put himself between me and my attacker, quickly dispatching it but another took hold of Kary’s leg. The rest was a blur of shooting and stabbing until we were left bloody but not seriously damaged with the bodies of three wolves around us.
Which of course is when the manitou arrived, even angrier than before. This time things were a little different. There was a figure within the manitou, a body in a fetal position suspended inside the being’s translucent torso. I did not recognize him but Kary and Weston claimed it was Kurt Jones. We immediately opened fire on the beast. We did not know Kurt’s role in all this so we did our best not to hit him. Once again we were able to disrupt the beast but not without more blood loss. It is very good that Weston wears body armor.
When the creature dispersed, Kurt’s body remained and was unceremoniously dumped on the ground. We immediately ran to his aid and found him alive, but just barely.
As we labored to remove Kurt from the forest to the ambulance we hoped was waiting by the road, I looked back into the forest. Manitou like caves, dark places where they can hide and heal. Behind us, in the hills rising out of that improbable forest was the most likely place to find such a lair.
I shuddered as I turned back to my efforts. We would need sleep for tomorrow we would have to enter that forest again, travel to its dark heart and come to grips with what we had to do.