Cricket tapped at the compass with his index finger and rocked it gently in the palm of his hand before declaring its accuracy. With the police mugshot grasped tightly in her hand, Sapphire followed her brother through the forest in the general direction of Montgomery’s cabin. The aim of the pair was to avoid the road to the cabin, sneak up on the occupant and determine if this individual was the person responsible for Bill and Emma’s death. Cricket was more of a groomed-walking-trail guy and found the bushwhacking difficult, but Sapphire’s enthusiasm for the truth found herself constantly in front of her brother until he finally gave up leading the troupe and handed over the compass.

Slim’s oversized pick-up truck and horse trailer squealed to a painfully slow stop in front of Montgomery’s cabin.  The driver studied a map on his lap, looked intently at the cabin before turning his gaze back to the map. Slim waited for someone to exit the cabin, but when no one showed, he pushed open the driver’s door and abruptly walked up on the porch and slammed his fist against the half opened door.

Not only did Sapphire recognize the clearing behind the cabin, but she also recognized the two brawlers who were throwing themselves up against the cabin wall. It was clear Slim was gaining the upper hand when the other fella slipped from his grasp, jumped on Slim’s blue eyed horse and ran off down the road.


It was the kind of stare-off two kids might make to see which one can hold out the longest. Mrs. B. was determined and dug-in, while Jackson was comfortable laying on his stomach, using his front paws as a pillow and letting his little eyes stalk Mrs. B. until she acquiesced. Seconds grew into minutes, and as the minutes ticked away and Mrs. B. withdrew further from the house, Jackson decided he would be better off with her than without, so he hopped to his feet and happily followed.

Mrs. B. wanted to walk in a different direction on this day, a direction that would see the pair end up at Sullivan’s pond where a wonderous leaping frog had shown up a week earlier, thrilling the neighbours with his long jumps and diving displays. And let it be said, Buck-jimmy did not disappoint. On the return trip home, Jackson let out a blood-curdling yelp just as a sickly, translucent man carrying a small treasure chest type box stumbled out of the forest and on to the road a few feet in front of Mrs. B. With Jackson now in the wind, Mrs. B. studied the odd figure until interrupted by a smallish blue eyed horse who followed the man out of the forest. In a split second, the man shifted himself from the ground to the horse’s back and clutching the treasure chest the two crossed the road and returned to the forest. That was a first for Mrs. B.


blog photo 173 water labdscapeWHAT IT IS

While Smith put a few small pieces of oak in the fireplace to diminish the dampness in the cabin, Graham supervised the breakfast taking shape in the kitchen. Pleased with the aroma of fresh coffee and the sizzling sounds of slow frying bacon, Graham was just about to call out to Smith when the glass coffee pot exploded, the frying pan caught on fire and the toaster shorted out plunging the cabin into total electrical failure and the eerie silence that accompanies it. When the cursing and yelling subsided and the reparations began, Graham’s phone sprang to life with calls from the six other men who were supposed to join them at the cabin.

Johnson and Williams were waylaid outside Ellwood City in the motel parking lot after their car tires were punctured by a bearded dragon while they slept. Jones and Brown were delayed at a gas station on Hwy. 90 when Brown was pumping fuel into the car and a couple of humongous June bugs dropped from the station’s overhang and landed on his neck before slithering beneath his shirt. Stomping and hopping about, slapping himself silly, he dropped the hose causing gas to spill all over the ground. A passing motorist tossed a cigarette butt out his window sending the whole shooting match up in flames. They’d be at the cabin in a couple of days. Still in Canada, Miller and Davis were on the 400 when their car’s radio signal started flipping from FM to AM and the selection dial jumped randomly from station to station. After a few minutes of this, all the electronics went haywire, headlights flashing, wipers going back and forth, seat warmers malfunctioning to the point where their hot asses had to abandon the vehicle and they began walking down the highway. If they saw Leo the teddy bear scurrying across the highway, they did not mention it to one another. They’d be at the cabin in a couple of days.

Graham looked out over Lake Springfield; these delays would postpone but not extinguish INSECTS’s plans for Plot 82.



His favorite time to come was in the evening, after the work was done and the bustle of the late day meal was over. Once at the water’s edge, Adnan would sit on his haunches for hours looking out over the water, hoping to see him again. In the sixteen hard years he endured on this earth, this was the only white man that saw Adnan, although thousands of European tourists traipsed all over Goa and his village every year, none took an interest in the likes of him.

Adnan saw this man emerge from the water, guided by a small horse. They walked in circles around him and spoke in a language unfamiliar to him but a language Adnan instantly understood as if he had spoken it his entire life. The words found refuge in Adnan’s mind; their meaning gave him an unreliable hope although the concepts behind the words were foreign to his thinking. This burden walked beside Adnan throughout his life; he could share it with no one. In his daily pilgrimage to the water, he dreamt of again seeing this man but by the end of his sixteenth year he remained disappointed.




blog photo 172 dragonWHAT IT IS

He worked the roads around Beaver County for over twenty-five years and in that long span of productive time Ned Doucet never once took a proper vacation.  In fact, he has spent all his vacation days re-working old unsolved cases from around the county. Ned was particularly fascinated by the off beat cases; the witch from Ambridge who police shot seven times after she ran amok in a backhoe smashing into cars parked along the main street…the bullets did not stop her…she just ran away. Or the gym teacher outside Midland who robbed a bank and made a successful getaway on his son’s tricycle. This year Ned decided to poke around an abandoned rail yard and gravel pit near Beaver Falls where Cricket and Sapphire were found after being kidnapped by Wagner and Lehman. Ned always had doubts about this crime, a feeling that there was more to the story than a straight up kidnapping, so to satisfy this hunch he decided to revisit the area.

Ned lowered himself into the steel Costco shipping container via a rope ladder left there by the FBI after they wrapped up the investigation. Walking around the cavernous container listening to the sound of his footsteps bouncing off the walls, along with the shear emptiness of the steel structure, led Ned to believe he would be wasting his time going down this particular rabbit hole.

As he returned to the ladder, his flashlight quit and he was thrust into total darkness, save for a small square of daylight at the top of the ladder. Shuffling toward the daylight, he caught a glimpse of an eyeball in the dark recesses in front of him, then a dry, cold presence brushed up against his leg. Ned froze and the whatever vanished.


They scattered like specks of dust catapulted into a ferocious wind, their tiny tails raised straight up as they bolted toward the closest tree trunks. The chipmunk’s minute claws tore off bits of bark as they ascended the trees and their grey bellies were soon covered in pine sap. Once high in the trees, the branches became a munk’s highway and Stacks McDonald watched as his three liberated mates high-tailed it further into the forest.

Stacks knew the three chipmunks’ near fatal brush with INSECT would create a state of hyper vigilance among them, so he waited a few days before going after them. It is legend in the munk community that the pine cones along the Mattawa River are the best in the country, and after a week of searching, he found the three munks near a gorge not far from the river. It took a few days of clever convincing, but the munks agreed to accompany Stacks back to Beaver County where an entourage of dragons would provide the munks with twenty-four hour protection.


blog photo 171 white crownWHAT IT IS

When Mutt Jefferson rumbled up to the loading docks and saw five eighteen wheelers ahead of him, he knew  he was in for a long wait. The University of Pittsburgh had been on lockdown for two days while campus police scoured every nook and cranny for a gunman students reported roaming around the university’s library. At the end of the second day, Wally Sebastian was found asleep in a student residence with his AR-15 beside him. All this drama lead to a major backlog on campus, meaning Mutt would have an unscheduled delay in his trucking agenda.  Mutt tossed around in the sleeper for an hour, tried reading a Reader’s Digest for the third time, turned on his TV and rolled his eyes at Ellen before finally deciding to go for a walk.

Mutt could see a tall building from where he  was, so he slow walked in its general direction but before getting there he was drawn to an excited crowd of students outside an administration building. White crowned sparrows were hurling themselves against the large glass windows and falling to the ground, most were  dead but some survived. Mutt immediately recognized that these birds were displaying symptoms of pesticide poisoning, often manifested with migrating birds losing their ability to find north resulting in haphazard flight patterns with many birds flying into objects that may be in their way. With the help of the students, Mutt gathered up the live birds to bring them to his sanctuary where an ex-INSECT biologist was working on detoxification techniques for such victims.


They are rapidly making Barcelona unlivable, Marseille has become a no man’s land for ordinary people and it’s nearly impossible to find a Venetian anywhere in Venice. The marauding hordes come by airplanes, trains, cruise ships and automobiles and they will not be stopped as they take over every restaurant, hotel, B & B and flophouse up for rent or sale. As these tourists occupy more and more space, the original residents are forced far and away from where they once lived.

This reality was, more or less, what Mark Malloch saw for the future of space tourism and although it was a long way off, Malloch delighted in the knowledge that he may be responsible for sending the earth’s opulent hordes deep into space. Malloch’s occupation with this notion was soon rocketed back to reality when a white crowned sparrow landed on the window sill outside his motel room. Could this be the same bird that he’d seen at this exact location some months earlier? Of course not, he thought! Malloch was back in Canso, Nova Scotia and getting ready for a rocket launch scheduled for the next day. He spent several grueling months revising data compromised  by Butsey and Beersey and believed the launch was now ready to go off without a hitch.




blog photo 170 foxWHAT IT IS

The one man snowshoe trail rambled through thick pine forests, crisscrossing a stream where the muffled sounds of fast flowing water could be heard even in the dead of winter. Two bird feeding stations caused the trail to exist and the trail’s designer would often be greeted by nuthatches, chickadees and finches long before arriving at the stations where the little beggars would demand seed payment before he was allowed to pass. A third reason for Drake Johnstone’s daily trip arose as the cold winter dragged on, that being his discovery of a fox den near the end of the trail.

After breakfast and with the cabin in a reasonable state of cleanliness, Johnstone would take the snowshoes off the cabin wall, don his parka and Sorel boots, fill his pockets with bird seed and bring along a touch of bacon grease for the fox. The trip took a couple of hours, faster now that the trail was well packed down from a winter’s worth of snow shoeing and now on most days the snow shoes could be discarded in favor of just boot walking on the hard surface.

Trail’s end was not far from where Johnstone left Schulz’s brief case and transmitter and he would occasionally find himself overcome by curiosity and venture to the site. As far as he could determine, the transmitter beeped away all winter long no matter how much snow piled up on it. As the month of March began to flex its warming muscle, Johnstone thought he’d have one last look before breakup, and as he closed in on the transmitter he could see a snow machine approach with two people aboard. Training his binoculars on the machine, Johnstone recognized one of them as Schulz and as he further strained to see an advancing helicopter, the pilot looked like his old political partner, Miles Hobbson.


The canoe kissed the smooth round rocks beneath the waters of the French River as Cinder Willoughby maneuvered the craft toward the shoreline so he could get a closer look at the fox den he’d been studying. Willoughby had already collared the female last week but was having difficulty with the reclusive male. His luck was about to change this morning as the male appeared only a few feet from the water’s edge to lap up a bit of water. Willoughby raised the tranquilizer gun and within moments the diazepam took effect, the fox was collared and he drowsily returned to his den.

Miller insisted he could wait no longer, Davis must pull over at the next bathroom, there could be no discussion, no stretching out the inevitable, because the time was now. Davis pointed to the French River Provincial Park sign and decided this would satisfy the twisting agent in the passenger seat. Miller jumped out, Davis popped the trunk, Miller grabbed his man bag and ran for the bathroom.

Willoughby’s radio signal suddenly went haywire, he tapped his laptop with no results, pushed a few buttons but the signal didn’t return to normal. He looked around the parking lot: two cars, a pick up truck, a van and a third car that just arrived, now with its trunk wide open. Willoughby did a double take as he thought he saw a little teddy bear head peaking out of the car’s trunk. Checking it out for himself, he walked over to the car but the trunk contained only what you’d expect, a spare tire, a jack and some personal items. Returning to his vehicle, Willoughby was pleased to find his radio signals had cleared up and he could get on with the business of tracking the foxes.


blog photo 169 spider webWHAT IT IS

Sitting near the moonwalk on a vandal resistant cement bench watching the New Orleans tourists scurry along, Margaret Brookside enjoyed this version of the Big Easy. Tourists are generally an upbeat crowd devoid of busy schedules and deadlines and more intent on showing their tranquil demeanor. Some climbed into double decker buses, others boarded horse drawn carriages, and some just wandered around aimlessly, soaking up the vibe. Margaret chose this place to meet Samantha because the horses reminded her of home where a five minute drive would put you almost anywhere in Beaver County and wonderful horse country. Lost in the visual sea of vibrant colored t-shirts, shorts, hats and shoes, Margaret didn’t notice Samantha and two other women standing behind the bench she was on.

Samantha plunked herself down on the bench and quickly slid over to Margaret, pinning her against the cement edge of the bench. Jaden and Jaclyn, out of uniform and looking nothing like police women, stood behind the bench and studied the crowd, like police are supposed to do when on duty; but today they were not. The four women chatted among themselves while the reason for them all being in the same place showed up a half hour late. Cathy Jennings finally arrived with binders of INSECT memos and e-mails implicating a conspiracy between The Chaps and INSECT to carry out a “limited”extinction of all insects at Plot 82.


Davey Doucet generally does not worry about the why of an investigation.  When someone puts down good money for his services, he’s more than happy to oblige. In a professional sense he wondered why Slim Clemons wanted a complete work up on Miles Hobbson, but he was aware the two men had some arrangements in the past, and assumed additional relationships would exist going forward.

As Doucet dug deeper into Hobbson’s life, he found a number of oddities he was sure Slim would find interesting. There was absolutely no record of Hobbson before the age of twenty one. A house fire on Nevis not only resulted in the deaths of his adopted parents but all his school and church records were destroyed. He attended St. Theresa’s Medical University in St. Kitts at age twenty-three, dropped out after six months, disappeared from the island for several years then re-enrolled at age twenty-seven, only to drop out again. He entered politics shortly thereafter, rose to the position of deputy premier before being forced from office and finally showing up in the United States in his mid forties

Doucet’s next move would be to visit Nevis and find anyone who could remember the young Miles Hobbson.





blog photo 168 forest & roadWHAT IT IS

Sapphire is the envy of the chronically nocturnal, those, like her brother, who prowl around in the post midnight hours looking for things they can’t find, stubbing their toes on living room tables and chairs and making all kinds of racket while still convinced their surreptitious activities are known to no one. On most days the amiable zombie falls asleep a few hours before Sapphire is up for the day and is oblivious to her small photographic adventures that see her scouring the rural roads looking for possibilities.

The locals call it Montgomery’s road because the dilapidated cabin near the dead end belonged to Troy Montgomery, an immigrant, long gone from this earth. On one of her early morning excursions, Sapphire walked the nearly three kilometers of Montgomery’s road and was surprised to see a man trying to persuade well water out of an old pump in front of the cabin. Her offers of help only caused him to turn abruptly and disappear inside the cabin.

Later that same day, Sapphire squinted at the bulletin board behind the glass display case just inside the main entrance of the grocery store. Once a week on grocery day, Sapphire would peruse the notifications before starting on her grocery list. What was for sale? Who would plow your driveway? Tractor for rent! Homemade apple pie contestants required! A photo of a man wanted by the police, the same man Sapphire had seen at Montgomery’s cabin!


Mrs. B and Jackson walked the A line road every day and have been doing so for the last forty years. This is at least true for Mrs. B, but Jackson is only four years old, before him it was Jimmy, before that it was Jenny and before that Jelly. Jackson is a scrappy little mixed breed mutt who’d spend more time scruffing through the woods along the side of the road than actually walking with Mrs. B on the road. He’d been skunked twice, porcupined once and nearly run over by deer on several occasions. During the warm summer days, Mrs. B’s typical morning would start out with Jackson out on the deck, his beady little eyes staring at her through the screen porch door. After being ignored for a few minutes, he’d elevate his front paws, touching the screen itself and a few moments after that, he’d begin to customize the screen material to suit his particular mood on that day.

Soon after, Mrs. B would cave and the two were off down the road leaving the great state of Indiana for beautiful Illinois, as the A line road had the prestigious geographical fact of running across state lines. On today’s adventure, during the return trip home, a great horned owl appeared to attack a seagull, causing the seagull to drop a key it was carrying in it’s bill which then landed on a porcupine walking along the road, this was a first for Mrs. B and Jackson!