Lost and Found

“What the eff is that?” I mumble to myself as I continue to trudge up the game trail. I can’t help but scout around to see if there’s anybody – or perhaps, simply a body, dead — anywhere about.

Thankfully, there isn’t. And I can’t help wonder aloud, “How in the hell do you lose something like this out in the middle of nowhere?”

Puzzled, I scan the horizon in all directions back to where I’m standing. There’s absolutely nothing out in the vastness of this shadow-cast landscape, besides a few wild Mustang and a couple of Pronghorn Antelope, that says ‘man has been here.’

My mind quickly recalls the scene of the empty coke bottle, found by the hunter, after being tossed from an airplane in the 1980 movie, “The Gods Must Be Crazy,” as I look towards the wide-open blue sky above me. “Candid Camera,” also flashes into my thoughts, yet I doubt anyone would go to such extreme lengths to try a capture a person’s reaction to such a sight some 40 miles from civilization.

Besides, the desert’s too damned hot this time of year to spend a bunch of time and money hoping someone will traipse up a singular trail, one that looks and feels like so many others in the nearby canyons. So, after picking it up (its heavier than it looks) and reviewing it for any identification, I head back the half-mile or so to my truck, parked at the trail-head, with the awful knowledge that I’m going to have to explain how and where it was found, to people who are by nature, skeptical of such odd discoveries.

“Damn it,” I complain, “I never seem to find anything good — it’s always weird shit like this prosthetic leg.



Death in a Single Swallow

Sleep never came easily to Manny. To combat it, he could often be found taking lonely walks at all hours of the night or morning.

Oddly, one of the more comforting places he would visit in the dark was the century-and-a-half old Hebrew Cemetery, nearby on Angel Street above the University of Nevada, Reno. There was something about the place that calmed his soul.

Other times, he could be seen wandering the sidewalks of Virginia Street. Where and when he walked, he let his body decide, allowing his mind the pleasure of following along.

One late evening as he slipped quietly between the headstones of the cemetery,  a large, ungainly figure accosted him. Without a word of warning, he picked the smaller man up and tossed him, as one would a rag-doll over the wrought-iron fencing, before disappearing into the shadows.

Shaken, but uninjured, Manny quickly got to his feet and rushed around the outside of the cemetery and re-entered, intent on challenging whoever it was that had manhandled him. Angry, he shouted, “Come and face me fairly, you cowardly son-of-a-bitch!”

A long shadow cast itself over the headstones and came to rest at Manny’s feet. He followed it with his eyes, until he saw the man-shaped thing standing slightly outside the light of the overhead street lamp.

Frightened, Manny backed out of the cemetery and retreated to his apartment hoping for safety. Over the next two nights, he refused to go out after dark and often saw the large thing, looming in the darkened distance, watching him, waiting.

After some Internet research, Manny realized what he’d encountered and now he had to devise a way to defeat it. That morning, he rushed to the grocery store and purchased two large, red apples.

Come the evening of that third night, Manny acted on his knowledge; he slipped out his bedroom window and down to the street. He knew of a vacant building being renovated on South Virginia, where a face-off could take place.

It was an elderly building, built during the early years of Reno, once used as a car dealership for the Dodge Brothers. Long abandoned, it was soon to become a restaurant and anchor location for the up-and-coming Midtown district of the ‘Biggest Little City.’

Manny applied pressure to the backdoor of the building, pushing it in to make entry. There, he found a cardboard box and set it on end, placing the two apples on it.

He waited for darkness to fall, knowing the man-thing would eventually track him down. It wasn’t a long wait.

Though very large and heavy, the figure moved both quietly and quickly through the doorway and stood before Manny, his upturned box and the apples. “Because this building has the sign of the Hebrew on it, it will not stop me,” it whispered in a gravelly voice.

Surprised, Manny said, “I had know idea you could speak. And the sign is only symbolic.”

“There is much I can do, that you would not know about,” the man replied.

“So why are you following me?”

“You have trespassed where you are not wanted.”

“I’ve walked around that cemetery many times, so why now?”

“I do not care for ‘why,’ only that I obey my master. You must obey, too.”

“Whose’s your master?”

“He is dead. I can no longer speak his name. I do his bidding.”

“Maybe you can explain this as we share some these apples I brought as a peace-offering.”

“I will gladly eat, but it will bring no peace.”

“And why’s that?”

“It has been so directed and I must obey.”

“What must you do.”

“Put trespassers to death.”

“Very well, but first, eat.”

Manny could feel the fear pulsing through his entire body as he handed one of the apples to the man-thing. Next, he picked up the remaining apple and took a bite of it, encouraging the other to do the same.

To his astonishment, the man-thing placed the entire fruit in his mouth and swallowed. Meanwhile, Manny quietly chewed his bite.

“You have tricked me!” the figured growled a second before crumbling to dust.

Amid the dust was the uneaten apple. On one side of it, the Hebrew letters, aleph, mem and tav were neatly carved, with a slash struck through the letter ‘aleph.’

As Manny swept up the remains, taking it to the dumpster outside, he reviewed his findings: the three letters together mean ‘truth,’ but without ‘aleph,’ the word became ‘death.’  And while he knew some Golem could speak, he could find nothing in the Torah or other related manuscripts that showed the mud figure was overly intelligent.

As Manny walked towards home, he concluded that nearby or not, he’d have to find another place to frequent besides his favorite cemetery. “Too dangerous.”


When he first entered the opening, Aaron surely knew which way was up. He also had a certainty that he could find his way back, especially after he located the stairwell leading downward.

Somehow though, between the heaviness of the air and the extreme darkness, Aaron realized he was confused. He stopped, trying to gather his senses, and to make a decision: continue down or head upward.

Finally, decision made, Aaron turned back the way he had come, and yet he felt he was still going deeper into the hole. “This is what becomes of chasing white rabbits,” he complained.


The Clever Herr Duerr

The clever Herr Johann Duerr had the art of the sale down to a science; wait a day after the latest attack and show up in town with the remedy. In this case, Vampire Killing Kits.

Not only did his kit come with Holy Water, a Bible, a large crucifix and smaller rosary bead set, it included a thick pre-sharpened wooden stake, and cloves of Eastern European garlic, with seeds for starting one’s own garlic patch on the kitchen window sill.  It was also portable, making it even more desirable to a potential buyer.

“Das trick ist to arrive at der highest point ov fear, und offer ein solution,” he once told a fellow door-to-door salesman, who specialized in Fuller Brushes. “In dis line ov verk, das must find ein gimmick to help sell das goots, ja?”

From town to town he moved, seeming to know where the next ‘gruesome and unholy’ death would take place. Then Herr Duerr would go about the neighborhood and ply his trade with ease.

Then came the Internet — and then came the change in sales tactics. Gone were the day’s of Herr Duerr’s knocking door-to-door; now all he needed do was take world-wide sales request’s from vampire enthusiasts and email fear-filled household’s with targeted campaigns featuring pictures, descriptions and the prices of his line of six ‘life saving’ kits, which all came with a 90-day satisfaction ‘or your money back’ guarantee.

“Tank you, Mister Bram for das help,” he’d often snicker as he counted the day’s receipts, which included names and addresses. “You haff created a myth das ist so untrue das ist laughable und zoon ein vill prove miene point.”

He knew that the fear of another attack, a young woman, dead, drained of her life-essence, would add to the value of his personalized Vampire Killing Kit. This, and the fact that he was also the cause of these fears, meant that the clever Herr Johann Duerr – a vampire by night and intrepid Internet entrepreneur by day – never once failed to meet his personal quota in over 120-years.

Wooden Wing Frame

A few weeks before the tearing down of the Nevada Hereford Ranch barn and other outbuildings in Spanish Springs, Nevada, I decided to go exploring the buildings that weren’t locked. In one of the outbuildings I found the remains of a wooden wing frame, a throwback to when the National Reno Air Races were held in the area and not at the airport in Stead, Nevada. I don’t think anyone thought to salvage the wing for history’s sake.

Hair of Man

“We gotta do something about this,” Maggie Winslow complained as she held up a wad of hair larger than a softball which she’d pulled from the dryer’s lint trap. “And I don’t even wanna think about what it’s doing to the washer.”

Her husband, took the hair from his wife and sighed, “I’ll do a better job. I promise.”

She wrapped her arms around Harm, “I know it’s not really your fault. I’m jus’ frustrated with it, that’s all.”

“Well, I’ll do a better job about not making a mess with all this hair,” Harm responded.

He stepped into the garage and dropped the mass into the garbage can. Harm reflected back, realizing that he couldn’t remember a time in his adult life where it hadn’t been this way.

Each month, he readied himself for the hunt, purchasing used-up clothing from various second-hand stores, placing clean clothes in a gym bag, tucked behind his trucks’ seat. Each month, he returned home with a dozen or more coyote hides to be prepped, cured and set for sale in Southern Oregon and Idaho.

The next morning Harm kissed Maggie as she lay in bed, “I’ll be back in a couple of days.”

“Okay,” she smiled. “Be careful. I love you.”

“Love you, too.” Less than two minutes later, he backed out of their driveway, pointing the truck north and east towards his hunting ground.

“Let’s see what this bird can do,” the Nevada Army National Guard pilot stated to the other four men over the CH-47F Chinook helicopter’s internal audio system. It was a few minutes after sunset as the aircraft lifted off from the Reid Army National Guard Training Center near the Stead Airport, north of Reno, proceeding north-east over the open terrain of the high desert.

Night time training was nothing new to these men a they’d done it several times before. In fact, training at night was a particular thrill as the two side-door mini-gun operators and the rear-door gunner could firing their weapons.

Twenty-minutes later, and far from known civilization, the first request came from the rear-door operator, “Permission to get wet.”

“Roger,” came the response, followed by a sudden burst and slight shudder through the craft.

Below, racing to avoid the rotor wash and heavy thumping sound, three packs of coyote’s sprinted towards the nearest hillside. Each gunner took turns blasting away at the frightened animals as soon as they came into sight.

“Holy crap!” shouted the gunner on the port-side of the craft, “Did you see the size of that one?!”

“No,” responded the other operators. Someone then asked, “Did you get’em?”

“I think so – led him for a burst before he tumbled out of sight.”

The pilot, listening in on the conversation, moved the helicopter closer to the ground and passed over the area in which the animal went down. After the third fly over, they continued on mission, completing a full shakedown of the Chinook before returning to the training center.

Day four since her husband, Harm had left for his monthly coyote hunt and Maggie began to worry. The full moon had long since lost a sliver of it’s once bright self in the night-time sky.

“It’s not like him to disappear like this,” she cried to the Washoe County deputy taking her report. She had given him a note Harm had written a couple of years before, explaining where he like to go hunting and where to look if something happened.

Two days later, a local resident walking her dog along Hungry Mountain Road noticed a blue truck parked along County 165. It had been there over a week and suspicious, she called the sheriff’s office to report it.

Within half-an-hour, two deputies pulled up near the vehicle to check it out. After radioing in the license plate, they confirmed it belonged to the missing Harm Winslow.

Though no one suspected foul-play, a full-out search began. It was two men, searching, driving an off-road-vehicle that first noticed the chewed up ground and the strewn about and decaying carcasses of coyotes and called it in.

Less than an hour later search crews discovered the naked, torn up body of Harm Winslow. He’s been raked by a large-caliber weapon, but had somehow managed to crawl under a creosote bush before curling up and dying.

“Naked and shot to death?” was the resounding question of anyone who viewed the scene, followed by, “It doesn’t make any sense.” In the distance and out of sight of searchers and investigators, a group of coyote’s howled in raucous unison from the base of a nearby hillside.

When the deputy and the chaplain came to Maggie’s front door to tell her that they’d found Harm deceased, they thought her response strange when she half-laughed, half-cried, “And to think, he promised to take care of the hair problem.”

Suspecting, Mrs. Winslow was not handling the news very well, “Can I call someone for you?” the chaplain offered.

“Yes, Harm’s niece,” Maggie said. “Her name is Alycn. Here’s my cellphone.”