WHAT IT IS
Cinder Willoughby knew Mutt Jefferson had an unusual rapport with the world of birds, so when he suggested they hike into the back country south of the Devil’s Backbone in the Mark Twain National Forest, Willoughby was more than agreeable. Not only would this separate them from the hordes of scientists and bird watchers that descended on the area, but Mutt truly believed they’d have a better chance finding the elusive junco many had been looking for.
They packed light, too light perhaps, as the torrential rains over the next three days soaked the tent, the sleeping bags, their clothes, boots, socks, hats and virtually everything in their possession. Sleep did not come at night; food was impossible to prepare by day and the hunt for the bird was useless as every living creature in the forest seemed hold up somewhere waiting for the skies to clear. The one exception to this was the venomous copperhead snake that took a chunk out of Willoughby’s calf while he rooted about the campsite in a futile attempt to find dry kindling.
On the morning of the fourth day, the boys were greeted by the irregular chopping sounds of a pileated woodpecker with a particular interest in an old telephone post near their swamped campsite. Mutt unzipped the tent door, stuck his dishevelled head outside. It was a pileated alright, and just below it in a rock crevice, a junco kicked at the ground looking for breakfast
WHAT IT IS NOT
The only thing left in the sinkhole after Slim’s horse was rescued was a legal size plastic envelope which Cricket was asked to retrieve by his sister Sapphire. The contents were not entirely unfamiliar to Sapphire. The name Drake Johnstone was scribbled at the top of the mostly blank piece of paper alongside the words Devil’s Mountain, A rough hand drawn map of a lake and some side roads filled the rest of the page. The map displayed two prominent X’s, one on a road and the other at the far end of the lake. Sapphire had met Johnstone years back at a ceremony in Beaver Falls when he was a city councillor and wondered why his name would be associated with Slim’s horse thief.
Doucet shut the window. The telephone pole outside his motel room was a beacon for every woodpecker in the county, and the pileates seemed to like it the most. He was explaining to Sapphire that while looking into Hobbson, Johnstone’s name and reputation came up several times around the time Hobbson was mayor of Beaver Falls. Johnstone was once an Interpol investigator in Germany during the same time Lehman and Wagner were with the Stasi, but he could not find a link between the three men. He immigrated to the US, settled in Pennsylvania and eventually became a councillor for Beaver Falls. He left that position abruptly, some say pushed out by Hobbson while others believe his unsavory past was about to be revealed. At any rate, Doucet didn’t have much else as he wasn’t being paid to investigate Johnstone.
Upon hearing all this information, Cricket and Sapphire loaded up the car and were on their way to Devil’s Mountain.