The Lizard Men
“Wow!” Zeke ran his hand over the smooth surface of the wall next to the steps.
I stared in amazement.
“These aren’t prehistoric cave drawings,” I half whispered. “They couldn’t be. Look at that triangle shape. It looks like a flying saucer. You can even see a tiny figure at the controls.” My voice quivered with astonishment at the line drawings, crude but obviously depicting space travelers.
Zeke pointed to one figure. “Look at this. The big eyes and head. The dwarfish body. Either this was a prickly poor artist, or he had mighty bad eyesight. Or he was drawing space creatures.”
My eyes widened even more. I’d seen this creature before. That same figure with large eyes and no apparent mouth, showing up again and again in drawings done by dozens of people who claimed they’d seen aliens from space. Another drawing showed a reptilian figure with a lizard-like head. Ugly. Something right out of a horror movie. A lizard-man-beast, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, another of Mom’s old movie classics. The chill running up my backbone had nothing to do with the temperature or my wet clothes.
“Zeke, someone has been using this cave.” I pointed to a plastic box on the ledge half hidden behind a formation of stalactites.
Zeke grabbed the box and removed the lid.
“Acrylic pens. Here’s our artist. Matches! Tins of tuna, a small hatchet, and a hunting knife.” He removed the items one by one. “Come on, gal. We’re gonna build us a fire and dry out.”
I was in no mood to argue, shivering from the chill of November air and dripping wet. The mystery of the cave could wait until later.
Our climb up the flat, rocky steps was easy enough. A couple of the stones had slipped and we had to take a few giant steps, but the rocks had been placed for accessibility. The mouth of the chamber was open to the sun, but hidden from view by large boulders that jutted on either side. Feeling like a prairie dog when I stuck my head out into the sweet mountain air, I wanted to hug a tree. Kiss a pine cone. Do a praise dance in the shimmering ribbons of sunlight weaving down through leafy overhangs. Instead I hugged Zeke.
“We made it out!”
He grinned from ear to ear and praised the Lord, rather enthusiastically.
We took shelter under an outcropping of rocks. Zeke gathered dried leaves, pine cones and fallen limbs and built a crackling fire, using the matches taken from the cave. The welcome warmth soon chased our damp chills away.
Zeke folded his arms across his broad, bare chest. “I’ve got a rain jacket in my bag on the four-wheeler. It’s not far from here. We’ll head out as soon as you’re warm enough.”
He used a knife to open one of the tuna tins, spooned the flaky white meat out with the blade and handed it over. We feasted on canned tuna, savoring every morsel.
“Who do you think did those drawings?” I asked, after sitting back and reveling in the warmth of the orange flames.
“Don’t know. No cave man, that’s for sure. Now you wanna tell me what you were doing up here? This place ain’t exactly on the list of tourist attractions. A few people do come up here. Deer hunters maybe. But you ain’t no hunter. An old Indian woman rides her pony up here once in a while. You weren’t out horseback riding for scenic views, and you weren’t riding no ATV. It’s my guess you weren’t out hiking for the fun of it either. Not this high up.”
“How high are we anyway?”
“Not as high as Tom Sauk Mountain which is over seventeen hundred foot, the highest point in Missouri. But we’re high enough.”
I told him who I was, why I’d come to Adelphia Valley, and the whole story about Lesley. Zeke knew something about him.
“Don’t surprise me none. That Daniels boy has always been a weird one. Talks to things that aren’t there. I guess there’s worse things than talking to space aliens.”
“Talking to Sponge Bob Square Pants maybe? My dad is the preacher at Church on the Rock. He always said Daniels is talking to evil spirits. If he’s takin’ to kidnapping little gals like you, he’s even more dangerous than we thought.”
“Speaking of talking, Zeke, I couldn’t help overhearing your talk with the Lord back there.”
“Yes, Ma’am. When I need to get real serious with God, I usually come up on the mountain to that outcrop of rocks just above the Devil’s Slide. The view from up there is enough to make you sing praises all day long. It’s kinda my special meeting place. Just me and the Lord. You know, like Moses on Mount Sinai.” He chuckled self consciously, “Only I ain’t no Moses.”
I already knew Zeke was a man of deep faith.
“You know what? God hears me too. I know now what I’m supposed to do. I’m going to go out to the mountains in Washington or Colorado and become a rescuer. Help stranded climbers get off the peaks and find the lost ones. My dad won’t like it none. He didn’t like it when I quit the university. Course, I only had eight credits toward my paleontology degree, so it didn’t matter. I was wasting time and money. But I know what I’m supposed to do now. A man’s got to be needed and there’s people—people like you—that need rescuing.
I winked at the satisfied resolve I saw in Zeke. “There’s plenty of people that need rescuing, Zeke. Not just on the mountains.”
“I heard about that climber that got stuck on, what’s that mountain? Mount Reindeer? Rain Near? Anyway, he froze to death before anybody could get to him. I had nightmares about it. Now here you are. Could have been months before anyone found you. Nobody comes this way regularly, except maybe them fellas that check their cows over on the south slope. But it’s not likely they’d venture to this side of the mountain.”
“I’m thankful you came, Zeke.”
“Seems to me the Lord answered our prayers back there. I got you out of that hole in the earth and led you through the water. Sure am glad the Lord directed me along when I did.”
For a moment I had an eerie recollection about the woman on the plane. What had she said? I would escape the circle of earth and water. Beware the energy of the third circle.” He flashed a big grin, his white teeth contrasted starkly against dusky skin.
That’s when Lesley Daniels stepped out on the trail, a gun in his hand.
“Hello, Zeke. Miss O’Hare. Glad to see you’re not hurt. I was going to take you back to abbey after the storm because the time was not right yet, so you have nothing to fear.” He kept the gun pointed to the ground.
“Lesley, I think you’d best gimme that gun.” Zeke straightened to his full height with a posture of authority.
“I’m not going to use it. I just keep it handy when I’m in the woods. You know there’s a mountain lion living in these parts.”
We stood there facing each other. I didn’t know what to expect and was very glad I wasn’t alone. Zeke was a head taller than Lesley and powerfully built. His physical strength gave me confidence.
“Will the both of you come along with me? I want to show you something.” Lesley asked politely, shoving the handgun inside the leg of his hiking boot.
“You’ll only believe me if you see it too. I know you think I’m crazy, but here’s your chance to find out.”
Zeke looked at me. I just stood there. He could surely see the mixture of hesitancy and doubt in my eyes. “How far?”
I was suddenly curious to see what he had to show us. “Turn the gun over to Zeke, and we’ll follow.”
Lesley slowly removed the gun and handed it over to Zeke without arguing. “This way.” He turned and started off. We followed.
A pair of men soon joined us, seeming to materialize from out of the trees. I felt a little uneasy at their appearance.
Zeke gave a slight nod. “Hello, Homer.” I was glad he recognized the fellow. My confidence returned. I thought Zeke looked big enough to take on all three if the need arose.
We didn’t walk far. The narrow trail cut into the side of the slope before it widened to a clearing on a relatively flat plain. A small herd of cattle grazed on the meadow behind a fence. Lesley climbed over and held the wire down so we could follow. He headed toward a heap in the grass. I could tell by the foul odor that I wasn’t going to like this.
The dead cow had been mutilated. Its eyeballs and other organs appeared to have been removed with surgical precision. The belly cavity had a perfectly shaped circular opening that no predator’s teeth could have made. There was no blood.
Lesley spoke in a quiet voice. “I’ve found them before. The coyotes don’t bother them and flies aren’t drawn to them. Now look at this thing and tell me there aren’t EBEs performing experiments on these poor animals.”
Zeke and I were speechless. I’d read about cattle mutilations, but this was the first one I’d actually seen. We had no explanation. I looked closely at the animal for signs of a predator’s teeth marks, but was squeamishly unwilling to get too close to the foul-smelling carcass.
“I’m Derek Rowe and them’s my cows. I lost two more before this one, both the same way. Homer here hasn’t had any trouble over at his pasture. Not yet. But we want it stopped. We drove up here to talk to Lesley about it—ask if he’s seen anyone or heard something when he stays up here in his camper. He says it’s space people taking samples from the cows. I don’t know if I believe in UFOs, but what’s been happening lately is mighty strange.”
Zeke introduced me as Miss O’Hare, investigative reporter for Beyond Fantasy, and that seemed to interest the cattlemen. They glanced at me with curiosity.
I must have looked like a Boggy Creek monster, my clothes torn and muddy, a lump on my forehead, and wet socks instead of shoes. I’d kicked them off in the pool.
Homer looked doubtful. “You really a reporter?”
Zeke looked them squarely in the eyes. “She fell down the Devil’s Slide. I managed to get her out in one piece, but we had to swim through an underground pool. That’s where I lost my shirt and shoes. I was taking her back to the valley when we ran into Lesley here.”
Homer looked me over. “You’re durned lucky Zeke found you. You came up here to investigate this mystery? That’s good.”
He seemed relieved and started telling his story. “Miss O’Hare, I’ve seen mysterious lights moving over Iron Mountain at night. They weren’t any kind of aircraft that I know of, because they make impossible maneuvers. Things a plane couldn’t do.”
“Like what for instance?” I asked.
“They appear in the sky, then just blip out and reappear in a totally different part of the sky the next instant. I don’t know if the lights have anything to do with this dead animal, but it’s got us concerned.”
I pulled my notepad from a pocket, but it was too soggy to use. “Have you reported this to the sheriff?”
“He’s coming up here later today.” Derek pointed to the ground. “See, there’s no tire tracks and no footprints. It’s like whatever done this just floated in and out of here.”
Lesley eyed us with an I-told-you-so expression.
The whites of Zeke’s eyes grew larger. “God Almighty. The devil’s done been here,”
Lesley started walking away, but glanced back. “If it was the devil, he came in a space ship.”
I turned to Zeke. “Shouldn’t we stop him?”
“And then what? Ride him down the mountain on the back of my four-wheeler, and let you sit on the handlebars? Sheriff Ogilby is coming soon. We’ll let him deal with Lesley Daniels.”
Encouraged that someone was documenting the mutilation, the cattlemen didn’t want me to leave yet. I explained that I wanted to head back down the mountain and get into dry clothes rather than wait for the sheriff’s arrival. Zeke was anxious to get his jacket, so we excused ourselves and headed back along the trail.
My guess was that the stair-stepped cave was Lesley’s hideaway. I remained puzzled by the drawings, wondering where he had seen such things. So many others had claimed to see the same beings. He could have copied what he’d seen from their drawings. Such things appear on websites devoted to the subject. Perhaps Lesley spent much time on those sites, since that was his apparent obsession.
Near the entrance to the Devil’s Slide, Zeke pulled on his jacket and I climbed on the ATV behind him. It took a while to travel the rough trail, switch blading to the foot of Misty Mountain. Then we headed for Adelphia at a speed that defied the machine’s capability. Stopping at Zeke’s house at the edge of the community, we traded the four-wheeler for his Jeep. As we drove into town, Zeke kept talking about the need to file a kidnapping charge against Lesley Daniels.
“The guy’s gone plumb loco, if you ask me. Maybe he did see something strange, but he had no call to grab you like that.”
With a lump on my forehead, scratches and bruises on my neck and legs, and torn, muddied clothes, I was in no mood to see the sheriff.
“Zeke, at the moment, all I want to do is eat a dozen cinnamon rolls, take a long hot shower and sleep. I also need to let a fellow journalist, Dax Larue, know that I’m safe and sound. He will be concerned.”
Dax was away from the abbey when I arrived. I left word at the front desk that I would call his room when I woke and not to disturb me until then.
He didn’t wait.
I picked up the phone on the third ring while wrapping my shampooed hair in a towel.
“Kaytie. Where have you been? Are you okay? I’ve been so worried I haven’t wept a slink.”
I laughed. “You’ve teased me with that silly phrase ever since I fumbled my words in New Orleans due to stress and lack of sleep.”
“Yeah, well that just shows you how stressed and sleep-deprived I’ve been since you vanished. I start saying unreasonable things, such as where have you been? Are you okay? Why didn’t you tell me where you were going? Why aren’t you falling in love with me yet? How silly as that?”
In spite of myself, I laughed. “I’ll explain everything in the morning. I’m safe, and sound and really exhausted. Right now, I need a good night’s slink. See you at breakfast.”
I hung up and clicked off the lamp. Sleep was my first priority. However, it seemed I had just closed my eyes when I heard a timid knocking.
“It’s me, Miss O’Hare. Lizzy Daniels.”
A glance at the clock surprised me. Five in the morning? I climbed out of bed and opened the door.
“Lizzy? What are you doing here?” I rubbed the sleep from my eyes.
She hurried inside the room, carefully closing the door and locking it behind her. “I’m real sorry about Lesley. He shouldn’t have done it. Are you okay?”
How had she known?
“I’m okay. Did you talk with Lesley?” What story had he told Lizzy?
She shook her head. “No. When you didn’t come back, I figured he took you. He’s been watching you ever since you came to the abbey.”
“I see.” I didn’t see but felt a response was needed.
“Was it Lesley following me in the cemetery?”
“I don’t know. Probably.”
“Why do you think Lesley took me?”
Lizzy dropped her head. It was then that I noticed she carried a file folder. She extended her hand, holding the folder toward me.
I took it and sat down on the bed, opening it and shuffling through some papers. There were drawings. The pages were yellowed, aged in appearance. I recognized the paper and the neatly printed letters. Without doubt, they were the missing pages torn from Ezra’s journal.
What I saw on those pages astounded me. Drawings of the lizard-man—the very same creature sketched on the walls of the cave.
My eyes widened.
“Lizzy, did you tear these pages out of Ezra’s journal?”
She nodded a silent yes. “I was afraid for anyone to see them. Lesley always claimed he’s seen these same creatures. Everyone thought Grandpa Ezra was crazy, but he went to his grave without ever denying what he saw. You found his stone in the old churchyard.”
I held the paper up to the lamp light, examining it to see if the drawings could have been added more recently. Maybe Lesley had used the aged paper and sketched the figures himself. But the faded ink appeared to match what I had seen on the pages of the journal. I recognized the same shade of turquoise blue, a color unavailable today. Without lab testing, I couldn’t be sure, but I’d bet my bottom dollar the drawings were done by old Ezra himself.
“Has Lesley seen these?” I was thinking this was the probable source of inspiration for his cave drawings. He had to have seen them in order to duplicate the creature so exactly. The ugly head that looked like a cross between a lizard and a snake. The reptilian eyes, the thick, club-like fingers, and scaled, clawed feet. A demon as far as I was concerned.
“See, that’s the thing, Miss O’Hare. Nobody has seen this journal but my paw and me. He kept it locked inside a metal box until he passed it on to me. Made me swear never to let anyone look at those pages. That’s why I tore them out. I know how Lesley would react. He’s plumb over the edge about flying saucers and space creatures anyway. But then I reckon they’re not just imaginary, because Grandpa Ezra saw them too. Just like our Paw did.”
Lizzy looked up at me through a fringe of pale bangs, her eyes slightly pleading. She obviously wanted some assurance that I believed her. At the same time, she was also frightened by the possibility that the creatures in the drawings were real. . . and that could mean her brother was not so crazy after all—a frightening thought either way.
I patted her hand. “Lizzy, I think you’re telling me the truth. But isn’t it possible that Lesley got hold of these pages somehow, perhaps when you were out of the house?”
“No Ma’am. Even if he did get hold of the lock box, I keep the key with me on a chain around my neck. That’s cause I keep deeds, insurance papers and a little cash inside it. Lesley would have to force it open somehow, and I’d know if he ever tampered with it.”
For a minute I couldn’t believe her brother had duplicated the figures without having seen the yellowed pages. The implication was chilling.
Lizzy handed over more pages. “I was afraid to give these to you at first. Now I’m afraid not to.” Her eyes were pleading, not desperate, but hopeful and fearful at the same time.
“You want me to read this?”
“Yes, please. I need to know if—if there’s any truth in it. I don’t want to believe. But I can’t deny some of it either.”
“You can bet there’s an explanation for these things.” I assured her with a confidence I did not feel. “I’ll read these pages. We’ll talk again.” I ushered Lizzy to the door.
“Thank you.” She opened the door and glanced down the halls, careful to look both ways before leaving.
I settled back in my narrow bed, pulling the covers up around me, and started reading the journal entries with intense curiosity.
It was the beginning of a tale equal to any close-encounters episode ever filmed. I grabbed my notebook and began copying the most startling things, including a description of a historic battle. I was mystified. Was there truly a paranormal link between what Ezra saw and the fighting?
The Civil War Years
I haven’t kept up this journal with what’s been happening. Too busy on the farm. Missouri finally voted to side with the Union. My boys, Will and Dan, joined up with the army. I’d have signed up too, but the commander thought I was too old and too near-sighted to carry a rifle.
I’m going to write about the attack on Fort Davidson. I reckon it’s history, but it’s more than that. Matilda knows it too, because that’s when the lights started appearing again.
I hadn’t thought much about her idea that the lights are portents. I’d almost forgot about them, till they showed up every night for a week, just floating over Pilot Knob. Matilda saw them too, this time. She went to praying and holding onto her Bible at night. She was certain something bad was bound to happen, cause the hens had stopped laying.
Here’s what happened. Major General Sterling Price and some 12,000 green Confederate troops marched off the Iron Mountain Railroad cars and decided to take the fort at Pilot Knob.
Price dispatched a group of men to rip up the railroad tracks to the north, so Union reinforcements and supplies couldn’t get to the fort. I know the details cuz Dan was inside with Union Brigadier General Thomas Ewing Jr. and only fifteen-hundred soldiers. They were outnumbered. They had just four siege guns, three howitzers and six field artillery pieces fed by a buried powder magazine. That’s all. Dan reckoned they were in a good deal of trouble.
I could see the battle that morning from the side of Shepherd Mountain, fierce and bloody. The Confederate general divided his troops and sent them in waves from different sides of the fort, but it was poorly timed. The Union army had plenty of time to redirect fire. Only one Rebel brigade managed to get close to the walls. That’s when the Yankees tossed wooden-finned grenades down on them. The Rebs couldn’t stand.
A bloodier, noisier battle has never been fought. The soldiers looked like shadows or phantoms under clouds of sulphurous smoke. It lay thick as a blanket over the field, what with all the cannon and muskets firing. By sunset, the battle ground was bloodied and littered with more’n a thousand dead or dying soldiers. All of ’em Rebels. General Ewing only lost about a hundred Union troops that day.
Danny said the whole company would have been wiped out the next morning after the first attack, cause there wasn’t no ammunition left, but General Ewing come up with a real genius plan that night. He hung a canvas over the gate and put straw down to muffle the horses’ hooves.
It was a bold move. I wouldn’t give him a chance in Hades, but he managed to slip those boys out of the fort. Marched ’em right between two Rebel camps. Poor, tuckered-out Rebs. They didn’t even recognize the same Yankees they’d been fighting all day long. Musta figured they was just more Rebel soldiers moving around to different positions for the night.
At daybreak, General Price charged. I reckon he was plumb confounded to find the fort empty, the powder keg exploded, and not much in the way of supplies. He had to order his troops to start digging a mass grave to bury all them soldiers. So many were dead, or dying, and them that weren’t wounded a crying over their fellows.
Instead of a big victory, he must’a felt the sting of a big defeat. Dan came home with a wound to his arm, nothing serious. Matilda was just glad to have her son back home alive. She’s been taking food to the neighbors who lost their boy Jed, a good lad, fighting on the Rebel side somewheres near Gettysburg.
What a terrible thing is a war that pits a man against his own neighbor. A brother fighting his own brother. Father fighting son. Both sides lose no matter which side wins. But that’s the way with any war I reckon.
Anyways, about a month before the battle, Matilda was worrying over our boys when the lights came back again. And something came with them.
It started with a nightmare. Only it was more real than a dream. I was asleep for the first of it. Dreaming of things coming down from the sky. A powerful fear gripped me, and I jumped myself awake. Must’ve been about three a.m. I could judge by the light of the moon shining on Matilda’s side of the bed. I heard the jar flies singing and frogs hollering. Then the critters got real still. So quiet it was unearthly.
My skin commenced to prickle. There was a low-pitched whirling sound in my head, kinda like a whip being twirled round and round. My stomach felt like it was coming right up in my chest. My heart started racing. The whirling sound picked up, rising and whining. Matilda kept right on sleeping while all this noise was going on.
I tried to rouse her but I couldn’t speak. Thought I must be having a stroke and was sure I was dying. Then I felt my whole body being tugged, sucked down! Like I’d been caught in a whirlpool and pulled under water. I must’ve blacked out.
When I open my eyes again, I can’t begin to put in words the fear that shot through my entire body.
There were beings in the room. I didn’t hear their voices with my ears. It was like I could feel each word in a language I’d never heard, but the amazing thing is that I understood them.
My beating heart began to slow down a little. These beings tried to make me understand they meant me no physical harm. Or maybe that’s what they wanted me to think. But I was not comfortable with them. I yelled for them to get out of there and leave me alone. One of them touched me on the hands and I felt a burning sensation. Then I blacked out once more.
When I woke up, I was still in the bedroom, lying flat out on the floor. I thought it musta been a bad dream, and I’d been walking in my sleep. That’s when I saw the tiny little burn marks on my hands.
And I knew it warn’t no nightmare.
Matilda didn’t notice the marks, and I didn’t want to tell her. They disappeared in a few hours anyhow.
Three weeks later. I walked out to the north pasture to check on a heifer ready to calve. Before I found her, I saw the lights over Iron Mountain. This time they were hovering like a humming bird in a single spot. I’ve seen a kite do that, but there wasn’t a breath of wind. They moved toward me, coming real fast. I wanted to run. My heart started racing, just like in the dream.
All the birds and critters got still. Old Blue tucked his tail, whined and wrapped hisself around my boots.
Then I saw one of them same creatures standing in the path.
I could feel the words. He was telling me that I had been chosen. That I had a message to tell the world. The War between the states had to end or the world would be destroyed. I asked him, why me?
While I was standing there, the creature just faded into a beam of light. I don’t know where he came from or where he went.
I woke up on the ground with old Blue licking my face and barking and whining carrying on something fierce. Don’t know how long I laid there. Don’t know if I’d fallen asleep and had a nightmare. I found the heifer. The calf was gone. I don’t know if it was stillborn and the wolves drug it off. But there warn’t no sign of varmints. No blood. No tracks. Nothing. Later I got to thinking that the things in that air ship maybe took it.
After that, I started carrying my shotgun wherever I went. I wanted to talk to somebody powerful bad, tell what I seen.
I talked to Matilda about the things that have been coming at me. She says we should just pray the Lord to show us what they are. She’s heard rumors about a bunch of folks meeting in the woods and dancing around a fire. Sacrificing animals and trying to cast evil spells on President Lincoln so that he will die in office. I wouldn’t doubt it. Old Queen Bevers has been dead a few years now, but she had her followers. There’s always a few misguided folks who turn to witchcraft when they can’t find answers to their problems any other way.
A few days later, the things showed up again. I was out in the woods to hunt for that pesky fox that’s been stealing the chickens. Suddenly I was standing in the middle of a whole ring of them. The most peculiar thing about them was this. They looked like they were made out of fog. Like the fluff of a dandelion. Not solid.
This time I saluted in soldier fashion like I’d seen them doing. They wanted me to know they had come to save the earth and that I had to help them.
You are the light bearer. The living flame, they told me.
Save the earth from what? Sure, we got wars and droughts and scrofula and fevers, but I can’t do nothing about them. I asked why they would care what happens to the earth anyway?
I heard in my mind that the creatures want to protect earth’s people because we are their experiment. Their children.
That really threw me.
I answered with my own thoughts. Show me who you are.
One of the beings spoke. “You couldn’t stand it if we showed you our faces without our masks.”
I was willing to work with them to protect the world, but only if they would show themselves in solid form.
After a few minutes, the fog over their faces began to disappear. They looked like lizards standing upright. Eyes like snakes, and scales on their bodies.
I wished I hadn’t seen what they were. I couldn’t stand it. My whole body began to shake and I fell to the ground. “Jesus!” I cried out. “Lord, save me!”
When I looked up, the things had disappeared. I got home quick as greased lightning and wrote it all down. Then I drew pictures of the things on these pages. Nobody will believe what I seen, unless they see it too. I’ll keep these drawings locked away for that day. If someone describes the same things as I seen, I’ll know he’s telling the truth.
About a month after the attack on the fort, I went to meeting house with Matilda on Sunday. She looked mighty pretty in her new bonnet. Something the preacher said stuck in my mind. About how the name of Jesus makes even devils tremble and flee. I remembered how those lizard things had all disappeared when I called out the name of the Lord. They durned shore looked like devils, ceptin’ they didn’t carry pitchforks.
I decided if they come back for me again I’ll call out that Name that’s above all names. I’ll resist them.
I’m going to talk to the preacher about it.
* * *
Ezra’s narrative stopped with that line. I shivered, especially when I read the words “light bearer” and “living flame.”
I longed to know how Ezra’s talk with the preacher had gone. I hardly knew what to think about his story, especially since I’d seen the cave drawings, the mutilated cow, and had talked with the cattlemen who’d been seeing strange lights.
The eeriest thing about Ezra’s description was that I had seen something too. The UFO I saw hanging over the treetops of my own yard—it had the same appearance of not being solid. Ezra described the beings as appearing “like dandelion fluff.” Of course, he wouldn’t have known what static looked like on a 1950s television screen. I wouldn’t have known either if Mom hadn’t kept hers around. Amazing how that old RCA still worked when I was a little girl. They built things to last in those days.
I read the pages again and was struck by another thought. Ezra and Matilda had asked the Lord to show them what the creatures really were. When he called on the name of the Lord, they disappeared. Certainly, the beings had a message that was not truth. I knew at once that whatever they were, they had lied. We are God’s creation, not some alien experiment.
I also knew that they looked and acted like demonic entities. Their deceptive message, a chosen one to save the world, is repeated in so-called alien encounters, over and over again. It’s there on any website where interviews with “contactees” are recorded.
* * *
I was glad to see the morning sun peer through my window. Time to meet Dax. I cringed at the thought of his reaction to my most recent misadventure.
Immediately upon seeing me he exclaimed, “What happened to you?” He touched a finger to my forehead with a look of consternation on his handsome face.
I had hoped to cover the greenish-yellowing bruise with powder.
Okay, here goes.
I tried to downplay Lesley’s insane notions when I spoke of being his captive for a brief moment and how he had promised to drive me back to the abbey. Dax listened to my story with growing alarm.
“Blazes!” He slapped the table, (only Dax used a stronger term). His hand balled into a tight fist and a muscle clinched in his jaw. “You could have been killed on that mountain. That man is a lunatic!” His expression turned to accusation. “What were you thinking, walking through town without a guardian after what happened in the cemetery? Didn’t I warn you? I really am going to chain you to myself for your own protection.”
I cast my eyes downward, ashamed to admit he was right. I had no right to tempt circumstances. I should have heeded the warning.
Dax took his chin in one hand and studied me thoughtfully. “Ummm. Maybe angels do watch over you. If it hadn’t been for that Zeke fellow coming along when he did, you’d still be there in that cave. How long do you think you could have lasted without food and water?”
“Not long. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Zeke just happened along. I did a lot of praying while I was stuck in that hole.”
He muttered something barely audible. It sounded rather like, “Thank You, Lord.” Inwardly, I smiled.
“I want to go up on Misty Mountain and photograph that cow’s carcass before any more deterioration occurs. But first, we’re going to the sheriff’s office and file charges against Daniels. I want Zeke there too as a witness.”
* * *
The November clouds looked low and mean. I buttoned a warm jacket over an emerald green sweater and jeans before heading to the sheriff’s office with Dax. Green is one of my favorite colors since people always tell me it brings out the color of my eyes. I really wasn’t trying to impress anyone, but I would be meeting the local sheriff as a reporter for Beyond Fantasy. I wanted to look sane and credible. Some people mistake my magazine for one of the wacky, weird-news tabloids. They eye me with skepticism until I explain it’s my job to expose fraudulent claims of deceptive paranormal happenings.
Sheriff Tom Ogilby, a rugged, youthful, forty-something, greeted me from behind his desk with interest. His craggy and well-defined jaw made his face look stern, but the crinkles around his eyes implied good-natured humor.
“Miss Kaytie O’Hare. Not the scholarly Kaytie we’ve been reading about in Beyond Fantasy?” He pulled a worn copy of my magazine from a drawer and laid it on the desk’s surface. I was pleased by the compliment. He stood up and I almost gasped at the height of the man. He seemed taller even than Zeke, but not as muscular. His lanky form made me think of Mom’s old western-movie-hero, John Wayne.
“Well if you aren’t as pretty as your stories are fascinating. Pleased to meet you, Ma’am.” He extended a hand in greeting, totally unaware of Dax standing behind me.
Dax stepped forward to stand at my side and extended a hand. “Dax Larue from The Supernatural Seeker. His posture and manner seemed to indicate he was there with me, not just accompanying me.
The sheriff heard my story and jotted a few notes. “We’ve had our eye on that Daniels boy for a long time, but we could never prove anything. Looks like we’ve got him on a kidnapping attempt. Let’s see him weasel out of this one.”
He dispatched a pair of deputies to bring in Lesley. Then he turned his attention to me.
“Miss O’Hare, I don’t want you to leave town until we get Daniels arraigned. If he pleads not guilty, I’d also like you to be here for the trial.”
When he finally got my signature on the complaint, he hesitated only a moment before asking me to have dinner with him that evening, “Just to go over a few more things.”
“I suppose I could do that.” I smiled.
“If you don’t mind, Sheriff Ogilby, I’d like to come along. I’m writing a feature story. Anything that’s happened here is likely going to be good background information.”
I picked up an instant current of tension between the two men.
“Okay. I’ll meet you at Charlie’s Place on the west side. It’s home cooking. Nothing fancy, but better than the chain-restaurant fare. Shall we say six-thirty?”
We agreed. The sheriff walked out with us to the parking area, his hand lingering on my shoulder until I climbed inside the Explorer with Dax.
With a wave at the Sheriff I turned to Dax. “We need to get hold of Zeke to guide us out to the meadow on Misty Mountain. I’d never find that dead cow again without his help, Dax. Fortunately, I know where Zeke lives since I stopped there with him to exchange his four-wheeler for the Jeep. Turn here.”
Dax followed my directions.
When we pulled up, Zeke waved from the porch.
“Miss Kaytie. And you must be the other journalist I heard was in town. Mr. Larue is it?”
The pair shook hands.
“I just had a call from Sheriff Ogilby. He wants me to come in and make a witness statement. He’s charging Daniels with a kidnapping attempt.”
“Tell him you’ll stop by later, Zeke. We need you to show us that cow’s
“Can’t do it till tomorrow morning. I’ve got business to take care of. I’ll drive you and Kaytie up there in my Jeep first thing.”
Try as he might, Dax couldn’t persuade Zeke to be our guide at the moment, so we finally agreed to meet him the next day.
That was that.
Dax and I spent the afternoon going over the surveillance tapes from the Potts’ farm with the same boring results. I finally excused myself and returned to my narrow room to go over my notes.
As the hour approached, I felt rather pleased. A dinner date with a good-looking sheriff and the devastating Dax Larue. Both together. What an interesting evening this could be. Fortunately, I had packed a few items besides jeans and pullovers. I chose a simple white skirt and sweater, tied an emerald-green scarf around my neck and wore my grandmother’s emerald ring. Just a touch of blush and a smudge of smoky eye shadow, and I was ready. When I saw the look in Dax’s eyes, I knew I’d made the right choice. His admiring stare made me feel positively devastating, at least for the moment. I’d be the envy of every woman from Chicago to New Orleans.
“Well, well, well, Mrs. Larue. You do look stunning.” He teased.
“Dax you’ve got to stop that. You know very well that I don’t want you using that title.”
He laughed and escorted me to the Explorer. “The sheriff couldn’t keep from staring at you this afternoon. He won’t be able to take his eyes off you tonight in that outfit. We should do him a favor and tell him you’re already taken.”
“Nonsense. We’ll do no such thing.”
“Like it or not, my sweet, I’m staking a claim on you. I know your requirements. I’ll go to church and pray. I’ve even tossed out my cigarettes.” He spoke with good-humored acquiescence.
Inwardly, I grinned. Outwardly I quipped, “You’ll be a whole lot healthier, smoke-free. By all means, go to church. I’ll be pleased to see you do that. But do it for yourself, Dax. Not for me.”
“Hmmm. I think I’ve heard that line somewhere before. Let me see. It was in New Orleans at dinner with an auburn-haired, green eyed beauty who stomped away, leaving me heartbroken.”
“Yes, we’ve had this conversation before. We decided to keep things strictly professional, remember? That’s just what we’re going to do.”
He took my hand in his and touched his lips to my palm, leaving a little tingle of fire behind. I withdrew it at once.
“Kisses of any kind are not considered professional manners in my book.”
“Not even holy greetings?”
“We’re not in church now, Dax. A handshake will do.”
His eyes filled with a challenge, a just-wait-and-see expression, devilish and promising. He was not going to be easily dissuaded. I wasn’t having such an easy time resisting the thought of those tempting lips either.
That concerned me.