Sexual Content: I prefer Love Content, it's in there, but it is lovemaking (eventually) woven within the story. This is not a story woven within the sex.
Violence / Bad language: Some yes. Yes, but I'm sure you've heard it all before.
Bottom Line: This is a story that contains a loving relationship between two women. If you live in a state where this material is considered illegal, I'm sorry. But you may want to pass on this one. Any comments or criticisms please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you Boo Boo for all the help, support, editing and love. You are my heart. K.
And now on with the show, hope you enjoy it.
Jessica hummed happily as the warm shower washed over her tired body. Music played loudly over the sound of the running water as she rubbed herself with a lavender bath gel. The shower felt so relaxing, heating her skin as it traveled. Her entire body was warm and becoming refreshed, well, almost her entire body. There was an irritating cold spot right in the center of her chest. Jessica attempted to adjust the shower temperature, only to be assailed with even colder water. Suddenly the wonderful shower of water stopped and was replaced by constant dripping that was hitting her right shoulder. Aggravated by the cold drip Jessica tried to move away from it only to have it find a new target, her left eye.
Jessica shot from her dream into a sitting position, rubbing her eye. "Shit, shit, aww shit!! The damn tent's leaking! AGAIN!!" She ran her hands through her short hair, her short wet hair. "I'm drenched." Jessica pulled the head of her damp sleeping pallet, and sleeping bag, out of the incessant leak, and placed the cooking pot under the newly formed hole to catch the spring rain that had invaded her sleeping space. "Great, just great." Now the day's activities would have to be delayed in order to repair the weatherworn tent canvas. Hopefully the rain would stop long enough for the repairs to be made in the dry. She laughed out loud at that thought, "I doubt if I'm that lucky." Jessica flopped back down on the dry section of her camping bed and began repeating her over-used mantra "I will make the most of today, no matter how much it sucks. I will make the most of today, no matter how much it sucks. I will maaaaahhhhhhhh, dammit Chupacabra, stop licking my ear!"
Jessica rolled over to lie face to face with her Golden Retriever/Carolina Dingo canine companion. Chupa stared at his grumpy human companion and huffed a hot blast of dog breath directly into her face, and then licked her from chin to eyebrows. "Thanks Chupa!" she sputtered wiping her face. "I needed a snot and spit bath so much this morning." The sarcasm was not lost on her dog as he bowed the front half of his body toward the ground and wagged his feathery tail erratically above his elevated rump. "I guess you want to play. I can always count on you to be happy while the rest of the world is falling apart. Come here you big lug." Chupa threw himself at his human for his morning scratch and rub, moving his body around to put the part in most need of attention closest to her.
Chupa certainly didn't understand his human's occupation but he knew she certainly was good at doggy massages. He was glad he picked her that day in the shelter. If he hadn't gone to the trouble of jumping and barking incessantly she might have never noticed him and ended up taking that stupid shepardy thing in the next cage. Once he got her attention he followed his high flying up with the fail-proof "saggy-eyed look of love and longing". Chupa had mastered the look at a young age and it had melted the heart of his human. Yerp, he had chosen well.
After he was finished with his morning ritual he bounded out of the tent to grace the forest with his presence. "Don't stay out there too long Your Highness, it's still raining." Jessi said as she watched Chupa's antics. "Damn I'm glad I don't have to run in a circle that many times just to go to the bathroom." Muttering to herself she turned back into the tent to start some much-needed coffee. She loaded her blue enamel coffeepot and started up her camp stove. After a quick face washing, she ran her fingers through her rain dampened hair and calmed the thick mess as best she could. It had always had a mind of its own and lay in a thick, heavy mass on her head. She kept it short, almost as a necessity, to keep from overheating. Her unruly dusty blond hair had started turning silver by eighteen. Now mostly white, she knew by the time she hit 45 mostly would be all.
Her thirty-six year old body was well built, solidly muscular, healthy looking. She stood 5'8 with wide shoulders and a slender waist. Most people described her as good-looking, with a confident way about her. Her oval shaped face was soft, with a scattering of freckles across her delicate nose. She looked at herself in a small travel mirror and saw her bright blue eyes looking back at her through her copper colored glasses. "God I look tired." She thought.
After brushing her teeth Jessica slipped her feet into her untied boots and glanced outside to check the weather. There was just a faint drizzle hitting the forest canopy so she proceeded to go outside to the latrine she had dug fifty feet from camp. After finishing her morning bathroom visit and washing her hands she trotted back to the tent to have her morning jolt of coffee.
The smell of the boiling coffee immediately soothed her soul bringing a contented sigh. "Ahhhh, thank you Juan Valdez." She saluted as she poured the boiling brew into her enamel camp cup. While the molten coffee cooled, Jessica changed out of her cut off sweats and tee-shirt sleeping attire, into a pair of camouflage hunting pants and long sleeved khaki shirt. She belted a survival knife around her waist and slipped her boots back on over thick socks. Grabbing her coffee she plopped down on her bedroll and opened up the tent repair kit. Fortunately the rain had stopped and the sun was creeping through the clouds so the repairs should be pretty quick and easy.
Jessica certainly had plenty of practice repairing the aging tent. It seemed like it needed repairing every time it was pitched anymore. She knew she should buy a new one, but she hated the thoughts of replacing "Ole Faithful". She had spent so many nights in that tent with her parents. Both of her parents loved nature and every vacation was spent somewhere in the deep woods throughout the southeastern United States. Three-day weekends were spent camping, fishing and hiking in the local Appalachian Mountains, while week long vacations were spent in the Smokey Mountains, Blue Ridge Mountains, Florida Everglades, and along the Mississippi River. The family had hiked the Appalachian Trail one spring and got caught in a fluke blizzard. They were snowbound for three days and feared lost, but hiked out into the small southwestern Virginia community of Damascus on the fourth day, no worse for wear. Just another adventure for the Cooper family.
By nine o'clock the repairs were completed and Jessica was finishing up her eggs and fried Spam breakfast. "Spam the breakfast of champions." She laughed as she tossed the last bite to Chupa. He caught the piece mid-air and swallowed it down. "Chupa, chew for God's sake. You'll end up with a Spam blockage, and I don't want to explain that to the vet." Her hairy buddy was known at the vet's office as the canine garbage disposal, having eaten the tongue out of a shoe, part of a rug, stuffing from his favorite plush toy, a hairbrush and one of those silicone packets that keep things dry. The scariest moment came when Jessica actually found him chewing on a piece of broken glass. She knew Chupa had an entire troop of guardian angel pups that kept him from having any serious consequences from any of his strange eating desires.
"Urrrrff." He begged, utilizing his patented eye-plead. "Nope, no more for you my hairy man, you've had enough. Wanna go for a hike Fuzzybutt?" At the word "hike" Chupa jumped up and wiggled from head to foot while panting widely. "I'll take that as a yes." Jessica snickered as she cleaned off her dishes. She then grabbed her backpack and checked it for necessary items. The GPS unit, flashlight, sample collecting kit, rope, camera, binoculars and rain poncho was all accounted for, as well as snacks and some water. "Ok Chupa let's hit it."
The mountains of northeast Tennessee are lush in spring vegetation and that made hiking difficult for Jessica as she headed through a stream valley. The pass was thick with twisted Mountain Laurel and made crawling necessary in some spots. Heavy humidity caused her shirt to stick to her back and she could feel sweat trickling down the back of her legs. Finally Jessica pushed her way through into a clearing along a cool mountain stream. Thankful for a reprieve from the laurel she sank down on her knees at the stream bank and wet her hair and face. The water felt ice cold and wonderfully refreshing to her overheated skin. Chupa was also grateful to see the stream and jumped headlong into the cold flow. "Feels good huh boy?" He dove into an even deeper pool in the creek and lapped generously at the running water.
Jessica sat down to get a GPS reading to determine her location. "Hey Chupa looks like we only need to go about a quarter mile further down stream to get to the contact location. Let's roll buddy." Chupa padded along in the stream following her progress on the creek bank. The terrain gently sloped down hill and the hiking was far less strenuous on the investigator's fit body. The quarter mile was covered rather quickly and she arrived at a wide clearing that showed obvious signs of having been a recent campsite. The forest floor was disturbed in a 30-foot arc from the north side of the eastern side of the stream and the remains of a campfire ring were evident. According to the information she had received a group of four fishermen were camping two days before when they sited an unusual animal on the western side of the creek around 8:30 PM. The large, dark colored creature rose up on its hind legs and made a guttural sound "like a roaring scream". One of the men shot, supposedly hitting it, causing it to run shrieking into the night.
The men quickly packed and hiked a half-mile, downstream, in the dark, to their ATV's and fled the area. The sketchy report of the incident was left anonymously on the local game warden's answering machine. The game warden, Jeff Hutchinson, a longtime friend of Jessica's, thought that the men were illegally hunting in the National Forest and didn't want to give too much information about the incident. She knew that the men could have very well been protecting themselves to avoid prosecution for out of season hunting or fishing. But she also knew that they could have been protecting themselves from public harassment. After all, very few people believe someone when they claim to have had a cryptozoological encounter with Bigfoot.
She once again got a GPS reading to determine the site's exact location then called for Chupa, "Chupa, find." He immediately began sniffing within the camp perimeters in a systematic search. Jessica had trained Chupa to locate items with, and follow, human scent. Within seconds he began to bark and paw the ground near the base of a small sapling. "Good boy Chupa, whatcha got boy?" Jessi knelt at the base of the tree and found several cigarette butts in the grass. "Good boy, find boy, find." Once again he began sniffing the ground and within fifteen minutes had discovered more cigarette butts, several beer cans, some soda cans, a cheese wrapper, a sock, a leather lace, several plastic sandwich bags, seventy-eight cents and an empty bologna pack. It certainly did seem from the amount of garbage left at the site that the men had indeed left in a hurry.
As Jessica was examining all of Chupa's discoveries the dog started woofing and bouncing in an area of high grass. "Whatcha find boy, hmmm? Good boy Chupa, good find." Jessica praised as she carefully picked a .357 magnum bullet casing up out of the grass by slipping a pencil into the open end. This may very well have been the bullet that was used to shoot at the creature the night in question. She dug into her backpack and found a zip-lock bag and dropped in the casing writing the appropriate information on the bag.
When Chupa was finished searching the area Jessica drew a rough sketch of the camp area, and took several photographs, then collected up the trash. "Ok Chupa let's take a look on the other side of the creek." She picked her way across the stream avoiding the deep holes that would run over the top of her waterproof boots. Her dog of course wallowed in the deepest water enjoying the cool stream. Jessica stepped into the bank of the creek and commanded Chupa to "Stay". He continued to play in the water while she carefully stepped through the grass looking for any signs of blood, hair or footprints. Nothing was found on the edge of the creek, so she began a systematic search working her way further from the creek bank.
When she was approximately ten feet away from the creek she called Chupa from the water and gave him the find command. The canine investigator began nosing along the bank looking for any human traces. Jessica had found out long ago that many curious sightings could be directly linked to human error and hoaxes. By training Chupa to look for evidence of human involvement she was able to search primarily for non-human evidence, and close many cases quickly. As Jessica wound her way through the growth along the creek she suddenly spotted a trampled area that measured approximately four feet in diameter. Directly behind the trampled grasses was a clear breakage of bushes and saplings leading away from the spot. Jessi recorded some information and called for Chupa who had thus far found nothing on this side of the stream. "Ok Chupie, time to work."
Jessica reached into her bag and retrieved a leather lead and snapped it onto Chupa's collar. "Ok Chupa, easy, find." He began to sniff along the trampled area. She held the lead tight and didn't allow him to actually step within the broken grass. When Chupa found nothing of interest she allowed him to sniff along the trail breaking through the vegetation. He finished his olfactory examination of the area and to her delight found nothing. "Good boy, good boy. Time for a break big boy." Jessica reached into the leg pocket of her pants and pulled out a well-chewed rubber chicken. This was Chupa's reward for a job well done. He wiggled and jumped with excitement at the site of his favorite toy. "Playtime Chupa!" She threw the chicken toward the creek and Chupa bounded after. Jessica smiled as she watched her canine partner gallop away, "Goofy dog". She grabbed her bag and lowered herself to her hands and knees in order to examine the trampled area thoroughly.
The thick grass had kept footprints from developing but Jessica was able to find some hazelnut hulls, and some fine dark brown hairs lying within the trampled area. Reaching into her bag she pulled out a collection kit and carefully picked up the nutshells with a pair of tweezers. The location was written on the container and packed away. Under a microscope the shells could be examined for teeth marks. Saliva may also be present that could potentially be DNA tested to determine the animal that was eating the nuts. She knew the possibility was slim but she could always hope. Hairs were collected next, in much the same manner, once again hoping for microscopic or DNA identification. The hairs would be far more useful for identification than the nuts hulls, but nothing could be overlooked.
Forty minutes later Jessica straightened up and cracked her back. "Ohhh, Chupapuppy, I'm not as young as I once was. Jessica Cooper, 36 year old monster chaser, sometimes I wonder about myself." She smiled, knowing in her heart she would be an 86-year-old monster chaser if able. This was her passion; unfortunately it didn't pay much most of the time. Most of the chasing had been saved for the weekends, or the summer, working the adventures around her real job as a university professor.
"Ok Chupa let's take a look at this trail." Chupa brought his chicken over and dropped it in her hand. "Chupa, follow, find." With that command she started through the broken bushes searching for more animal evidence. Her companion followed behind with his nose on the ground searching. Jessica followed the trail for a while and was able to retrieve a few more hairs sticking on the ends of broken brush and branches. They continued through the thick laurel searching the ground and vegetation for any signs or remains that she felt were revealing. Jessica stopped to examine the end of a broken branch that was around shoulder height when a light sprinkle of rain began to fall. "Well Chupa looks like a wet trip back to camp." Peeling off her backpack and plopping it on the ground she knelt to get out her rain gear. As she began to unzip it her eyes traveled up the trail in front of her.
Jessica's quick intake of breath made Chupa jerk to attention and creep up next to his human. Her eyes were wide, and her mouth hung agape as she peered ahead at the sloping path with no vegetation. There, imbedded deeply in the soil, was a well-preserved track of very large, human-like footprints. Jessica stared at the prints, knowing she just found one of the most important pieces of evidence possible. Her entire body tingled from excitement as she uttered the words that best described her overall emotions "Holy Shit."
"Ok, Chupa we got work to do. I need one more favor from you boy." Jessica took the short lead and snapped it to his collar. She gently led him toward the footprints, a total of five whole tracks, and one partial heel mark. "Find Chupa, find." She eased along the edge pressing back into the overgrowth as much as possible, in order to allow Chupa to work and not disturb the tracks. He slowly inched along sniffing the area intently.
Jessica suddenly realized she was holding her breath as Chupa worked, waiting for his expert canine analysis. After they worked their way along several feet she stopped and looked down at Chupa. He gazed up at his human and realized that his work had made her very happy. Jessica was beaming and trying to calm the ten-pound butterflies in her stomach. She eased him back away from the tracks and fell to her knees in front of him. Jessica unsnapped the short lead and rubbed his face and ears "Good boy, Chupa, good boy!" Chupa wasn't sure what he had done, after all he hadn't found anything, but he got a big kiss on the end of his nose anyway. Jessica got Chupa's chicken out of her pocket and gave it a toss back toward the creek. "Quitting time for you my friend, go play."
A lot had to be done, and the continuing rain meant she needed to hurry if the tracks were to be preserved. A quick GPS reading was taken for the location, and then detailed photographs and measurements. She measured the length, width and depth of the prints, as well as several other measurements along the arch, heel, and toes that could provide more information about locomotion. The stride distance between prints was also taken. This could determine the length of the creature's legs, and thus a size estimate could be reached.
Once all the work was done Jessica covered each print with plastic wrap, and laid branches and leaves over them in an attempt to keep them as dry as possible. She would bring the plaster back tomorrow and get casts of the footprints. Jessica had stopped carrying the heavy plaster with her years ago. She had determined that finding no tracks was far more probable than finding some. Hopefully the cover would keep them from being washed out until she could get back tomorrow with all her gear. Fortunately, the forest's canopy with quite thick, and had kept the rain from that morning from damaging the marks.
Jessica took one more look around the area and shouldered her bag smiling to herself, "Come on Chupa, time to head back to camp."
By the time they reached their campsite it was nearly dark and both were drenched from walking in the rain and water soaked bushes. Jessica slipped out of her rain gear just outside the tent and shook it vigorously. After changing her clothes she made a sandwich and started packing up the supplies. She had decided after finding the footprints that they would move to that location. There would more time to work on the prints and all the supplies would be handy. Jessica also decided not to go into the university on Monday and stay an extra day researching the site. Fortunately there were no classes on Monday, but she did have office hours, and several student appointments. She'd have to call to her graduate assistant and reorganize the schedule.
By nine thirty Jessica had most of the gear packed and was lying on the sleeping pallet looking over some notes from the day. "Chupa my fuzzy fellow, we may have the "big one" here." Chupa, who had been mauling his rubber chicken, stopped and bounced over to his human. He looked lovingly into her bright blue eyes and then collapsed on top of her nearly driving all the air from her lungs. "Thanks Chupa!" Jessica sputtered, trying to catch her breath. "Eighty-five pounds of canine body slam, just what I wanted. Someday when you collapse both of my lungs who are you going to get to feed you, huh?" Chupa laid his head down on her shoulder and she began Chupa's nightly ear and head rub. "You big baby, what would I do without you?" They drifted off to sleep about ten minutes later, Chupa using Jessica's shoulder as a pillow.
In her sleepy state Jessica suddenly became aware she had to pee. She decided just to relax and fall back into her dreamland. Suddenly there was a shift and the pressure in her bladder increased to critical mass. Jessica tried to scramble out from beneath a hefty weight that was holding her down, only to have more pressure mount in the lower extremities. "Let me go for God's sake!" She was suddenly awake, Chupa, however, was asleep and quite comfortable, utilizing her belly as a pillow. "Chupa, get up, get up!" The dog jumped to attention as Jessica jumped up and ran from the tent heading to the shelter of the woods, and much needed relief.
Jessica returned to the tent to find Chupa lying on her sleeping bag, on his back sound asleep. "Oh no bladder squasher, if I'm up you're up. Time to work Chupa." She laughed as a light snore sounded from him. "It scares me how human you are. C'mon Chupa Cooper time for work!" Chupa bounced up and began his morning ritual as Jessica did the same and finished packing up the gear.
By 7:00 am they were riding down the forest road in her old Jeep Wrangler. When new the Jeep was a bright red, but rust or dents now replaced much of the original paint. The passenger side door had been crushed when the vehicle slid into a cliff outcropping and had been replaced with a new one of canary yellow. The hood had fallen victim to a falling tree branch and had also been replaced, with one that was forest green. The Mystery Machine, as Jessica lovingly called it, had over 250 thousand miles and was usually only used for field research.
Jessica drove down the forest access onto the paved secondary road. She pulled into a designated "Scenic Overlook" parking area with a view of the majestic mountain valley and dialed her graduate assistant Kelli Walker. After several rings a very sleepy voice answered the phone, "Who the hell is this?"
"Good morning to you too Ms. Walker, this is Dr. Cooper. How the hell are you this morning?" Jessica smiled as she heard the frustrated response.
"Ohhh, crap Doc, I'm sorry, I wasn't awake yet, I...uhh, didn't realize, I don't usually...you caught me off guard, ahhh shit Doc, what can I do for you?"
Jessica laughed out loud at the scattered ramblings of her normally collected assistant. "I'm sorry to wake you Kelli but I may not be within cell range for the rest of the day. Listen I am on a really big lead out here in the National Forest and I think I need to stay out here one more day. Could you pull up my schedule and call my appointments and reschedule them for me? Tell them they can come any time this week that is convenient for them, morning or evening. And tell them I am very sorry for blowing them off."
"Sure Doc I can do that, but if Dr. Grierson gets wind if this he will probably flip, it's the week before finals."
Kelli knew Dr. Cooper was not one of the Department Head, Dr. Emanuel Grierson's, favorite people. He felt Jessica wasted her time with her "Monster Folly", as he called it, and tried to down the research every chance he got. If Jessica wasn't an excellent professor, and loved by the students and staff, Grierson would have probably tried to have her removed from the position long ago.
"I know Kelli, but I've got to follow this lead. I'm going to call in tomorrow and deal with the wrath then." Jessica said. "I honestly don't think anyone's grades or life will be that awfully affected by me not showing up tomorrow. Thanks for trying to protect your absent minded professor though."
Kelli chuckled, "No problem, you know you're my favorite prof. Good luck out there, hope you find a big one."
"Thanks again Kelli, I'll see you Tuesday morning. Go back to sleep."
"Half way there already, talk to you later Doc, bye."
Jessica put the Jeep in gear and headed toward the forest service road to the new campsite. The site was only two miles off the highway, but travel was slow due to the narrowness and bad condition of the road. She finally reached the new camp area and quickly set up. "Ok Chupa, let's go make some pretty footsie castes." Jessica gathered up the equipment needed and they headed across the creek toward the trail. They reached the tracks and Chupa was told to go play, leaving her to arts and crafts. Jessica removed the cover she had placed on the footprints the day before and found the tracks to be dry. "Excellent," she said to herself as she began rifling through the equipment in preparation of making the plaster castes. Within half an hour the plaster had been prepared and poured into each track.
Deciding to investigate a little further down the trail, and collect any more evidence while the plaster castes dried, she donned her backpack and started scanning the broken branches and the ground. She had worked her way about three hundred feet down the trail when she was stopped by a thick wall of Mountain Laurel, multi-flora rose, and vines. Jessica scanned the area and realized that the trail she was following had just stopped at the wall of overgrowth. Whatever had walked down the trail had turned around and gone back the way it came or gone over the wall. There were multiple trees surrounding the trail so it was possible the creature climbed a tree and dropped down on the other side of the mountain laurel. The lowest branches in the ancient pines were far above her head so she knew she would not be able to reach the other side via aerial assault.
Jessica eyed the mass of overgrowth and wondered if she could work her way through little by little. Exhaling deeply she decided to give it a try and began pushing back the first branches. She eased her body into the mass of bushes and briers and immediately realized it was a bad idea. A multi-flora rose briar caught right between her shoulders and snagged into her flesh. She jerked in response and imbedded the needle sharp thorns even deeper. "Shit, shit ahhh!" Jessica slowly tried to dislodge herself from the thorns when another prickly enemy, green briar, grabbed her ankle. "Oh damn that hurts." She continued to try and wiggle loose, working her back free from the wild roses then bending to free her ankle. With her ankle free Jessica started to stand back up, only to freeze in terror when she felt a gun's barrel pressing against the back of her head and heard the cocking of the weapon.
"What the Hell are you doing on my property?" The low feminine voice growled behind her. Jessica felt the sweat beading up and down her spine, and she swallowed hard to try and clear the sizable lump that had formed in her throat. "Well, you better get talkin'!" The voice demanded as the gun barrel pushed harder against Jessica's skin.
"Ok, don't shoot." Jessica stammered. "I'm Dr. Jessica Cooper; I'm a professor at the university. I was doing research on the National Park land; I didn't realize I was on your property. Please, let me turn around and talk to you." She was shaking from fear and hoped that her plea was successful. Seconds felt like hours as Jessica waited for her captor to decide her fate.
"Turn around real slow, try anything funny and I'll shoot you where you stand." The low voice drawled out.
"Ok, I'm turning, slowly." Jessica said as she slowly began to pivot her body around to face the gun bearer. As the professor finished her extremely slow pirouette she was met with the most intense stare she had ever experienced. The most intense stare, from two of the most beautiful gold ringed, hazel eyes she had ever seen. The eyes were set in a deeply tanned heart shaped face, with a classic nose and beautiful soft lips. The woman had very dark hair sticking out from beneath a faded red baseball cap. She was a little shorter than Jessica, around 5'6, and was dressed in faded, loose fitting blue jeans, and a faded denim shirt. The stranger wore heavy work boots, and wielded the 12-gage shotgun with ease. Jessica suddenly realized she had forgotten about the gun and had been staring at the woman behind it, one of the most beautiful she had ever seen in her life.
"Well, what are you doing creeping around on my property? What are you looking for?" The woman demanded.
Jessica shook herself out of her reverie. "I was following a game trail out of the National Forest and accidentally trespassed on your property Ms…., could I at least get the name of the woman who is still pointing a loaded weapon at me, the innocent researcher?" Jessica asked, flashing her million-dollar smile.
"Well, Ms. Innocent Researcher, I'm Constance Blackhawk, and you still haven't answered my question. What were you tracking when you "accidentally" trespassed onto my land?" Constance questioned again.
"I am a doctor of anthropology at the university and I..." Jessica began.
"Anthropologists study humans, not animals. Were you looking for archeological sites on my property?" Constance inquired, cocking her eyebrow.
"No, like I said I was following a trail. I happen to conduct research on non-human primates and hominids. I received a report..."
"Sooo," Constance began, "does the university pay for you to chase Bigfoot around the woods? If so maybe I can get a grant or something to hunt the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy." Her eyes twinkled as she watched the professor's face drop. She then saw a flash of anger pass over Jessica's face and wondered if she had crossed the line with the intruder.
Jessica took a deep breath to calm herself, and to keep from telling the irritating woman to kiss her ass. Slowly, as if talking to someone less than intelligent, she spoke. "No, the university does not pay me to chase Bigfoot. The university pays me to teach anthropology. I do cryptozoological research in my spare time. And since most people are very close-minded about the subject, I typically do not get paid. Now if you will excuse me Ms. Blackhawk I have work to do. Again, I'm sorry for having trespassed."
She turned and started to stomp back up the trail. "What would you do if you found one?"
Jessica stopped, surprised at the question. "What?"
Constance cleared her throat and asked. "What would you do if you found one? Would you kill it, trap it? Would it be put in a cage somewhere for people to poke and probe?"
Jessica glanced back and was shocked to see the seriousness of the woman's demeanor. "I would do everything in my power to protect the creature's habitat and ensure its survival. This isn't trophy hunting for me; it's about discovery and preservation." Jessica walked on up the trail and disappeared into the woods, leaving Constance to her property.
"Maybe I could get a grant to hunt the Easter Bunny." Jessica snidely repeated to herself. "Can you believe that Chupa. The nerve of that woman!" The researcher was busily extracting the plaster castes from the footprints. "As soon as I get these out of here we're leaving." Chupa sat watching his human. He could tell she was irritated so decided to perform one of his cutest tricks to make her feel better. He rolled over on his back and began wiggling his body, edging closer to her. Jessica looked up and smiled. "Oh I see, I almost get shot and you need the belly rub. Ok, you big lump." She sat down next to her dog and began scratching his belly. Chupa knew he had made his human feel better; they were so easy.
"Yep Chupa, she had a gun pressed into my back. One wrong move and you would be an orphan my fuzzy friend. I wish you had been there; maybe you could have scared her with that wild Chupacabra, G.I. Joe, Kung Fu Grip attack mode of yours. "Maybe I could get a grant to find the Tooth Fairy" Can you believe that crap Chupa?" Jessica took a deep cleansing breath. "Ok Cooper get the beautiful bitchy woman out of your mind, you have work to do." She gave Chupa a good belly-pat and got back up to pack up the castes. She encased each caste carefully in plastic and bubble wrap and placed them into a plastic bin with a snap on lid. "Come on Chupa, let's go, we're done here."
By six-o'clock they were packed and on the road heading home. Jessica would be able to be at work the next day and not bring down the wrath of Dr. Grierson. She had plenty of evidence to examine, even without checking out the rest of the trail because of trespassing on Tooth Fairy's property. Maybe this could be the breakthrough she had been looking for all these years. Maybe she could prove what so many had tried to prove. Maybe.
To be continued……
Monday morning, and Jessica bolted out of bed at the explosive sound of thunder. "Wow, Chupa it is raining buckets out there. Glad we're here and not in Ol' Faithful, we'd probably be washed away by now."
Chupa came and stood next to his human and watched the rain sheet off the driveway. They shared a contemporary style lake house overlooking a Tennessee Valley Authority constructed lake. The house sat on an acre of fenced property, and Chupa had the run of the land. He was thrilled to be able to go out and lope around in the rain, and MUD!! They had arrived home well after dark and Jessica had insisted he come in from outside and not snoop the entire acre. But this morning would be his, and he was anxious to get started. "EEEErrrrrffff!" Chupa stated; his way of telling his human to open the door and let him out for his morning romp.
"Ok hairy man, but please don't roll in every muddy spot you find." Jessica pleaded. She opened the door to the second story deck of the master bedroom. Chupa was down the steps and out to prowl within seconds. Jessica shook her head and smiled at her fuzzy child. She headed into the adjoining master bath to get her day started. After her bathroom time was finished she trotted towel clad into her walk-in closet to get dressed. Her hair was still damp and had been gelled into as much order as she could accomplish. She wore no make-up, simply sported her tanned, flawless complexion. Slipping into a well-worn pair of jeans she selected a deep purple, button-down cotton shirt to wear. She glanced at herself in the full-length mirror and passed self-inspection.
Jessica trotted downstairs and hit the brew button on the coffeepot. Hearing a familiar scratch at the front door she opened it to find a mud-covered beast standing on the front porch. "Chupacabra Cooper, I outta kill you, now you'll need a bath." At the sound of the "B" word Chupa tucked his tail and ran.
Shaking her head and chuckling, Jessica closed the door and went to fetch a travel mug full of coffee and her leather satchel. After pulling on her cowboy boots she headed out the door. In the shade of several maples, near the garage, was Chupa's outdoor kennel. Jessica couldn't stop herself from laughing as she approached the garage. Chupa was lying in his doghouse, inside the kennel waiting for her. He looked at her with his big "I'm sorry" eyes and wagged his tail. She put some food in the automatic feeder; made sure the water dispenser was working for him and closed the kennel door, bolting it into place. "Have fun today Chupa, you could have been inside enjoying a big comfy bed, but no mudpuppies allowed." Jessica attempted to sound stern but she never was real successful. "Later Chupie." Hopping into her Honda truck she headed to the university.
Constance had been awake since four thirty, having tossed and turned most of the night. The big antique bed that had been made by her great-grandfather provided no comfort for her. She had crawled out of bed and plodded to the bathroom determined to be functional. She thought about soaking for a while in her antique claw-footed bathtub but decided against it, no need to coddle herself just because she hadn't slept well. After all, she rarely slept soundly; hadn't since she was young. Stress made it worse. Since her days in college she averaged around four hours of sleep a night.
Constance finished up in the bathroom and proceeded to slip into her farm clothes. The faded overalls hung loosely on her muscular frame, as did the worn denim shirt. She had inherited most of her work gear from her father after he passed away; her mother had taken them in so they wouldn't completely fall off. Sweeping back fine dark hair a slouchy ball cap was slapped on her head. Glancing at her reflection she decided she looked good enough for the cows. She walked across the hall of the old, I-house designed, farmhouse that had been in her family since 1892, and poked her head into her mother's room. The woman's breathing was slow and even. Good, thought Constance, she's still asleep.
Constance tiptoed down the creaky wooden staircase and headed to the rear ell of the first floor. The rear of the house held the kitchen, a bathroom and the mudroom. She opened the door to the mudroom and was greeted by her two closest friends, Ruby and Stiles. Ruby was her oldest friend, a 13-year-old beagle. Stiles, a blue healer, had been with her since she saved him from being euthanized at the vet's office. He had snapped at the owner's child after the kid stomped on his paw, and thus brought in to be put to sleep. He was only four months old. Constance had asked the owner to sign him over to her, and took him home.
The two canines greeted her wiggling from head to foot. "Good morning babies, wanna go out, wanna go out? Tell me Ruby, tell me." She waited for Ruby's response. The beagle sat back on her haunches and yelped "Arrrrttt, Arrrrrttt". Constance loved to hear her girl say "Out", in beagle language of course.
"Ok you all, out you go." Constance opened the outside door and let the dogs go run, or in Ruby's case trot all over the farm. She watched them until they disappeared behind the barn in the predawn gloom of Northeast Tennessee. To the north huge storm clouds were rolling and she could here thunder in the distance. It was going to be a gloomy day, again.
Turning back into the kitchen she hit the brew button on the coffee maker. Within seconds the smell of rich hazelnut flavored coffee filled the kitchen. While she waited for the coffee to finish she made herself busy by planning dinner and figuring out what to take out of the freezer. After rummaging through the frozen lumps she decided to do something special and make a lamb roast. Constance had traded the neighboring farmer a dressed beef for one of his dressed lambs a couple months ago, but had yet to prepare one of the juicy roasts. Maybe a special dinner would make mama feel better, she thought as she plopped the meat into the sink to thaw.
Constance was poking through the pantry for spices for the lamb when she heard her mother, Beatrice's, voice right behind her. "Connie what in God's name are you doin up this early?"
"Damn Ma, you scared the bejesus out of me! I'm sorry did I wake you?" Constance asked as she tried to calm her pounding heart.
"Well who could sleep with that fancy brew you call "coffee" burning down here? I swear Connie can't you just drink normal coffee, out of a can, no beans to grind, no flavor, just coffee?"
Constance took a deep breath and tried not to snap at her mother's usual nagging. "I just like flavored coffee mama; I don't make you drink it. I always brew you regular coffee when you want. Since I was the only one up I thought I'd have the flavored, that's all."
"Damn city coffee, that's all it is. Soft city coffee. You used to drink regular coffee until you went away and became citified. Of course you used to do a lot of things different before you went off to 'The University'". Beatrice snidely reminded her daughter.
"Actually mama I went to Virginia Tech, 'The University' is the University of Virginia..."
"Don't get smart with me child, I'm still your mother and you have to respect me. If your father were here he wouldn't let you disrespect me. And you know what else Connie? He would agree with me about you and your uppitiness. You got above your raisin' young lady and think you're better than us plain hillbillies don't ya?" Her voice had escalated to a near yell by the time she had finished her speech.
"Mama, please I don't want to fight with you, I just want to have my coffee and get to work on the farm. I'm not trying to disrespect you, I just..., it's early mama, let's not fight. I don't think I'm better than you. I got a degree in veterinary medicine; I didn't go to a finishing school. Come on mama let me make you some breakfast; you could use something to eat." Constance pleaded.
"No, I don't want nothin to eat just hand me a cup of your fancy coffee." The older woman plopped down into one of the kitchen chairs and propped her elbows up on the surface of the old yellow Formica topped table. She looked haggard. Her rat gray hair stuck up in every direction and her dull gray eyes had large dark circles beneath them. Her wrinkled face sagged, looking every bit like a bulldog. Her hunched form was wrapped inside a pink terry cloth robe that had seen its last days about five years ago. The material was thin and snagged, and the entire robe was covered in stains in every color of the rainbow. Constance couldn't believe that the once beautiful woman now looked defeated, deflated and very, very old.
The younger woman placed a cup of coffee on the table in front of her mother and watched as she reached into the ragged robe pocket and retrieved a flask. Constance took a deep breath. "Mama do you have to start this early, can't you try it just one morning..."
Beatrice jolted to her feet jarring the table and splashing the coffee on the yellow Formica. "How dare you tell me what to do!! Who do you think you are, MY MOTHER!?! This is my house and I will damned well do what I want, when I want!" She picked up the coffee cup and walked toward her daughter. "I don't want your prissy-assed coffee nohow!" She stated as she turned the coffee cup upside down and poured the contents on the floor at Constance's feet. "I'm going back to bed, clean this goddamned mess up!" Beatrice whirled around and stormed from the room, leaving Constance to her mess.
"Good morning Dr. Cooper, how are you this morning?" Anna Lefton waved Jessica into her office in the Anthropology Department. "How was your weekend doctor?" Anna asked as she silently beckoned Jessica closer to her with her hand.
"I had a very good weekend Anna, how about you?" Jessica asked as she bent closer to the secretary.
"Oh fine, fine," She said loudly, then lowered her voice so only Dr. Cooper could hear; "Grierson is on the warpath this morning."
"That's good to hear Anna; I'll be in my office all morning if anyone needs me." She said then mouthed the words "Thank you". Jessica turned to leave Anna's office only to be nearly run down by a very agitated Dr. Grierson, Department Head.
"Cooper, there you are, I was just down looking for you in your office. I didn't know if you'd make it back from boogie-man hunting this weekend." Grierson laughed at his own ribbing of his employee.
"Yes sir, I made it back. This is the end of the semester; I wouldn't leave my students high and dry." Jessica silently patted herself on the back for having called all her Monday appointments and rescheduled any of them that preferred their original Monday time. She couldn't imagine any of her students complained to Grierson; most students avoided him if they could.
"Riiiiight." He whined out his signature response. Most of the students and staff called him Dr. Evil behind his back. "I'm sure you are totally dedicated to this department Dr. Cooper."
"I'm sorry I gave you that impression sir, I'm totally dedicated to the students, not the department. Now if you will excuse me I have an appointment in a half hour." Jessica went to move past the head, but he stopped her.
"Dr. Cooper, will you be teaching any classes this summer?"
"No Dr. Grierson, you know I'm not teaching anything this summer, why?"
"I need a volunteer to represent the department on the financial development committee this summer, and I automatically thought of you for the job." Grierson smiled the cheesiest grin ever seen.
"Dr. Grierson you know I'm leaving for Mexico a week after the mini-term is over and not returning until a week before classes start in August. I can't.."
"Now, now Dr. Cooper, this department needs a representative and you're it. You have not sat on any committees or represented this department in some time, and if you plan on continuing your tenure with us you need to participate like your cohort. Besides, this will give you an opportunity to be "dedicated to the department" like I'm sure you'd like to. Now don't you have an appointment with one of the students you're already dedicated to?" The Head sneered as he delivered his speech.
"You know Dr. Grierson this is going to totally throw off my summer research time, time that was scheduled for a purpose." Jessica tried to explain.
Dr. Grierson crossed Anna's office and opened the door to his. "Riiiiiight," he said as he shut the door behind him.
The sun was trying to break through the clouds as Constance made her way out to the barn to load sweet feed for the cattle. The cattle had plenty of new spring grass to eat but the veterinarian liked to supplement their diet during calving to ensure healthy calves and cows. She loaded five, fifty-pound bags of sweet feed, a mixture of grains and molasses, onto the wagon and hopped onto the tractor. She slowly made her way to the back pasture with her two canine friends following along. Constance took a deep cleansing breath of the cool damp air, enjoying the solitude of the early morning. On the trip to the back pasture the time was always used to settle her soul.
She thought a lot about her dad. Martin Blackhawk had been such a proud farmer, taking care of his family's land joyfully. He never considered another life; this mountain land was everything to him. He had watched the original 2000 acres slowly sold away by his alcoholic father, until a mere 300 acres remained. The Blackhawk Family had lived on this land since the time of Native America occupation and had raised horses and dairy cows. Martin's brother and four sisters had left the farm long ago and had no desire to care for the dying land. Her father had decided to invest the money he had made working odd jobs for neighbors into beef cattle, and sold all the cows and dairy equipment that had been used by his family for years. Due to his father's alcoholism the dairy had not been money producing for over five years. Within three years Martin had worked the land back into an income-producing farm.
Seven years later Martin met and married Beatrice and brought her to the farm to live. In the next seven years the Blackhawks welcomed two baby girls to the family, Constance, and five years later Megan. Martin's mother had served as a nursemaid to the girls and assisted Beatrice and Martin on the farm. Constance had been very close to her grandmother, in many ways closer than she was to her mother. Beatrice always seemed to want to spend all her time with Martin and not the girls. Her father on the other hand was completely crazy about the girls, and spent as much time with them as he could. He never wanted the girls to leave the farm, but he knew they wanted a life of their own that probably would not include raising cattle. Had he lived this would have been correct.
Constance dreamed of being a vet and had just started working as an assistant to a veterinarian in Atlanta when the accident happened. Martin had taken the tractor to the back land that was partially wetland. He was steering the tractor along a steep bank when the tractor rolled, pinning him beneath. He fought to free himself for hours, as the heavy tractor pushed his body into the swampy land. Eventually Martin was buried into the wet ground, and suffocated. Constance left her life in Atlanta, and came home to keep the family farm alive after his death.
Constance insured her grandmother, mother and sister were cared for, and the farm continued in its success. She paid for her sister to finish business school, and Meagan left the area to pursue her boyfriend, and career, in upstate New York. Her grandmother had died a year after Martin, and Constance was left as caregiver to the farm and an alcoholic mother. "Oh daddy, how I wish you were here. Mama gets worse every day, and I just don't know if I can stay strong enough to manage. I just hope wherever you are you're happy daddy, you deserve it." Her meandering thoughts ended as she pulled the tractor up to the feed area for the cows. "Ok girls come and get it!!" Constance was quickly surrounded by Angus cows, most of which were pregnant or nursing newborn calves. "Eat up girls, soups on," She spread the sweet feed out on the ground and silently wished that everything in her life was as easy as dealing with the animals. "You need a life Constance. When your closest companions are two dogs and a bunch of cows you're missing out on a few things to say the least." Her attention was drawn back to the animals in question and they all stood looking at her, slowly chewing their feed or cud. "Sorry girls didn't mean to insult you," Constance laughed as the cows went back to ignoring her and consuming breakfast.
Jessica was sitting at her desk in an overcrowded office with her head thrown back, trying to get Grierson off of her mind. The smell of now cold mocha coffee drifted into irritated nostrils and she jerked her head up in defeat. She knew what a jackass Grierson was, but also knew she had work to do, after her coffee was re-heated. She got up and trotted next door to the student's lounge and popped her cup in the microwave. Returning to her office she checked e-mails, responding to two "Red Flag" messages from Grierson, and deleting four others. A timid knock sounded on her door. "Come on in." Jessica said as she looked up from her computer. Her nine o'clock appointment was a shy freshman from her Introduction to Physical Anthropology class. Lindsey Qualls was an excellent student and had never asked for an appointment, so Jessica was a bit surprised with the girl's appearance. "Good morning Lindsey, how was your weekend?" Jessica attempted to put the young girl at ease.
"Fine." Lindsey quietly stated.
"Good, good. Your grades have been excellent this semester Lindsey, I hope you have enjoyed the class."
"Thank you; yes I have enjoyed the class." The freshman stated.
After a pregnant pause Jessica asked "Sooo, what I can I do for you Lindsey?"
"Well, I really liked your class this semester and you made everything so interesting, I thought I might declare Anthropology as my major and concentrate in Physical, and I was wondering if you could be my advisor?" Lindsey blurted out. "If you can't I'll understand, I can ask Dr. Phiser, but since I had you this semester and have never had Dr. Phiser I wanted to ask you, if you can."
Jessica watched as the young girl caught her breath and smiled. "I'd be glad to be your advisor Lindsey. Would you like to talk about classes for next semester?"
Jessica looked at the clock on her desk as the sixth knock of the day sounded at her door. "Come in."
Kelli Walker's simply attractive face popped around the edge of the door, "Hey Doc, how about some lunch, it's 12:30 in case you hadn't noticed."
"As a matter of fact I did loose track of time, where do you want to go?" Jessica asked.
"Already went. One pastrami on rye, barbecued chips, a diet Dr. Pepper and a Moonpie. A lunch fit for an iron-stomached freak such as you." Kelli joked as she laid the deli bag down on Jessica's desk.
"Ahhhh, Ms. Walker, I do declare you are a life saver. But what happens when Grierson finds out you are running lunch for me? He may accuse me of grading you on an unnatural curve." Jessica waggled her eyebrows at the graduate student.
Kelli bent down close to the professor's ear and whispered, "I will tell Grierson to go fuck himself and maybe his attitude would change."
"Now, now Ms. Walker you should behave yourself." She teased and then gave Kelli a toothy grin.
"Please Jessica; he knows we've been friends for years, long before you ever started teaching here." She plopped down in the guest chair across the desk from Jessica.
"Yeah, I know, but he still doesn't like the fact you are my graduate assistant, even though I inherited you from Dr. Haley when he retired. I guess since you have been in the program longer than any other students, and most of the Profs., they can trust you. The same cannot be said for me." Jessica sadly admitted.
They had met as undergraduates at William & Mary in Virginia. Jessica went on to graduate school in California, while Kelli transferred to Tennessee to finish up her undergraduate degree. Now fourteen years later Jessica was a Doctor of Anthropology at the same school where Kelli was attempting to receive a Master's Degree. Attempting being the operative word. She came from an extremely wealthy family and enjoyed being a perpetual student. She had changed her concentration three times, and was basically more educated than most of the professors in the department. Physical Anthropology was her newest concentration, having stuck with it for four years. Jessica had received her, and ten other graduate students, when she started working at the school three years prior.
"Don't worry about it Jessica, Grierson is just a bump in the road."
"Yeah, a bump that ruined my planned trip to Mexico. I have to sit on the Finance Committee for the department. I'm going to have to contact Edmunds and tell him that I can't leave for another three weeks. He is not going to be happy; I will be missing prime breeding season! This might have been the best chance to actually get some valid evidence!" Jessica was getting more irritated as she spoke and Kelli knew she would only get angrier.
"Listen Doc, you know as well as I do that this trip to Mexico was probably going to be a wild goose chase. The last time I checked you were very hesitant to give any credibility to the existence of the thing. I doubt even kookie Edmunds himself believes in it.?"
"No, I don't think so, ahh Hell I don't know. Sir Edmunds seems to think there is something to the stories, or he wouldn't be funding my trip to Mexico. The point is not always to prove existence, but to also prove hoaxes and misidentification if possible. Edmunds believes something strongly enough to put his money behind it, the least I can do is show up." Jessica huffed.
Sir Charles Edmunds was the product of very old money. Money he used freely to finance expeditions throughout the world to look for cryptozoological evidence and specimens. He was one of the most influential researchers for nearly forty years. On his last expedition to Siberia to search for a prehistoric bear he slipped and fell from a cliff; breaking his back in the process. Confined to a wheelchair he longed for his research to continue. He mysteriously contacted Jessica through email asking her to except him as her benefactor. She had no clue why he picked her, or even how he knew about her, but when she started receiving checks from the great man she realized he was legitimate. He had been funding expeditions and research for Jessica for almost two years, providing her opportunities she had only dreamed of experiencing.
"I didn't mean to question you Doc. Maybe someone will volunteer to take your place at the committee meetings." Kelli looked seriously at the irritated doctor, and then they started to laugh at the absurdity of her statement. "Ok maybe not, come on let's eat. Edmunds will forgive you this one time, wait and see. After all, where else is he going to find some nut willing to traipse all over Mexico looking for the Goatsucker?"
Constance finished up with the morning farm work and made her way back to the house for lunch. She kicked out of her boots in the mudroom and quietly proceeded into the living room. Her mother was sprawled out on the couch, having slipped into a deep sleep, effects of her liquid breakfast. She knew Beatrice would probably sleep until dinnertime and wake in a foul mood. However, waking her up now would be beyond Hell, so Constance slipped back into the kitchen and gathered up some lunch items. She was back outside and heading toward the grotto within fifteen minutes.
The grotto was Constance's favorite place on the farm, and one of the most beautiful places she had ever been. The mountain stream emptied onto the Blackhawk property via a magnificent waterfall. The water fell into a deep clear pool that was freezing cold fall through spring, and just right for cooling off in the summer. The pool was surrounded by dense growth, except for the small trail that had been used by the Blackhawks for generations. The lush growth and beautiful pool gave the place a mystical feel. As a child she would go to the grotto to look for fairies and other fairytale creatures. When older she came with her grandmother and listened to the old stories that were told with extreme detail and flourish. In her teen years Constance came to the grotto to brood and ponder life. And as an adult she came here to relax and worship nature. The grotto was Constance's chapel.
She made her way to "her rock", a flat piece of limestone that jutted out over the deep pool, and sat down and began to eat lunch. When she had finished the sandwich, some pretzels and an apple she laid down on the rock to relax. The cool stone felt good on the normally aching back, and the sun was shining, at last, brightly down through a central hole in the canopy. Constance slowly let all her stress fade away and took in the sounds of nature.
She wasn't sure how long she had been asleep but woke when she heard the breaking of the underbrush. Constance slowly turned her head toward the noise waiting to see what was crawling through the dense growth. It sounded large, a little too large in her opinion. Constance rolled over and flattened herself out on the rock as flat as possible. She knew if a bear came through the bushes there would be time to get down the trail and to the truck, so she waited and watched.
The breaking of brush got louder. Then slowly the mountain laurel directly across the pool from Constance parted and a dark hairy animal crawled through. She watched as it crawled closer to the pool and suddenly collapsed at the edge of the water. It didn't seem to be moving or breathing so Constance eased up onto her knees and picked up a loose pebble from on top the limestone shelf. She tossed the stone across the pool near the large lump of fur. Nothing; no movement, no sound. Constance crept from the rock and eased silently around the edge of the pool until she was standing ten feet away from the fallen animal. She tossed another rock, which actually struck the broad back of the beast. Constance crept closer, and was finally looking down at the body when she realized, with certainty, that the Nun Yunu Wi was dead.
"Dr. Cooper you have a call on line two." The department secretary announced over Jessica's intercom. "It's a Constance Blackhawk, she says she needs to speak to you, it's important."
"Broke another heart did you Doc?" Kelli teasingly asked from across the desk.
"Hardly, the woman pulled a gun on me and threatened to kill me for trespassing. I can't imagine what the Easter Bunny hunter wants with me." Jessica mumbled, and then realized Kelli had one eyebrow hiked up in question. "I'll tell you later. Ok, Anna thanks." She poked the line button, "Hello this is Dr. Cooper; how may I help you?"
"Dr. Cooper, this is Constance Blackhawk, I need to see you immediately. I have something out here at my farm you should see. Can you come out here this afternoon? I know this is short notice but you need to see this." She tried to explain without sounding insane.
"Ms. Blackhawk I don't have a lot of free time, what with searching for the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. What could be more important than my current endeavors that I need to come out to your farm this afternoon?" She knew she was being snotty but Blackhawk had completely insulted her research and then had the nerve to call and demand that she come out to her farm. Probably a quack, Jessica thought.
"Dr. Cooper I know we didn't get off on the right foot, but I really think you need to come out here to my farm. I've found something you would be interested in..."
"Listen Ms. Blackhawk I don't do crop circles, or two headed calves so I am not going to jump up and run out to your farm just because you call an...."
"I am not a kook Dr. Cooper; I am trying to help you with your research from this weekend." Constance's voice softened, "Please Dr. Cooper this is very important, please come out to my farm."
Jessica shook her head in pure irritation. Who the hell did this woman think she was? First she insults a person and then calls and tries to talk them into coming out to her farm using soft, pleading language. She made her decision.
"Okay Ms. Blackhawk, I'll come to your farm." Jessica couldn't believe what she had just said. She actually agreed to go and meet with this crazy woman.
Constance's voice remained low and soothing. "Thank you Dr. Cooper."
Jessica couldn't help but smile at the warm voice coming from a woman who had stuck a gun in her back. "Give me directions to your farm Ms. Blackhawk and I'll be there as soon as I can." She continued to smile as she wrote down the directions. Kelli watched and wondered why her friend was wearing such a goofy grin.
"Cooper you have lost your mind. You are going on a wild goose chase when you should be working. You're going out to Ms. Manners' farm, and she'll probably shoot you and bury your ass in the back forty." Jessica was talking to herself as she drove her old jeep toward the Blackhawk place. She had left the department and went home to change clothes, pick up her gear, and of course her muddy dog. He had, fortunately, lost most of the mud from his fur while he lopped around in his kennel. Now he sat in the passenger seat of the jeep with his shaggy head hanging out the window, his tongue hanging from the side of his mouth.
"You know Chupa you may have to save my life this afternoon. I might have to give you the attack command against Ms. Blackhawk. Don't let her beautiful appearance fool you boy." Jessica rambled on as Chupa looked out the window. He could tell his human was anxious and excited, but he really wasn't paying much attention to her. After all he had tongue surfing to do.
"Yep Chupa, I have found in this business the most beautiful creatures can be the most deadly. She's probably a total nutcase. What do you think Chupie?" Jessica asked as she turned to glance at the dog. His tongue was lolled completely out of his mouth and a bug was actually stuck to the tip. "I don't know what's worse Chup, the fact that I'm asking your opinion, or the fact that you're eating bugs." Chupa shook his head vigorously and the bug flew from his tongue and stuck to her jacket. Then he licked her cheek with his wind-dried tongue. "Thanks boy; thanks a lot." Jessica said as she turned on to the winding gravel road that led to the Blackhawk farm.
"Alright now Chupacabra, best behavior." Jessica reminded her companion as she jumped out of the jeep and proceeded toward the front porch of the old I-house. She knocked on the front door and waited for a response. After several seconds, and no sounds from inside, Jessica knocked louder and longer. After a third knock she was convinced no one was home. Deciding to try around back of the house, she heard some scuffling from inside the dwelling. The heavy front door was swung open and a much harried, older woman stood looking at Jessica with contempt.
Beatrice Blackhawk looked at the woman standing on her porch and stated, "Whatever you're sellin I don't want none." The older woman started to close the door as Jessica blurted.
"No ma'am I'm not a salesperson. I'm looking for Constance Blackhawk. Is she in?"
Beatrice took a long look at the stranger in front of her. "What you want with Connie? If you're here to fuck her she left that life down in the big city. You understand?!?"
Jessica was unsure how to react to this woman, who was obviously drunk, as she smelled like a brewery. "Look ma'am, I don't know what you're talking about. Ms. Blackhawk called me because of my work, my research. Please do you know where she is?"
"Your work? Is she askin for a job, is she tryin to find a job and leave here? I'll kill her if she thinks she can walk away from here and leave this damn farm to me to care for. I tried to tell her father to sell this shithole, but would he listen, nooooo,"
"Ma'am please this is not about a job. Could you please just tell me if Ms. Blackhawk is here somewhere?" Jessica asked once more hoping her question would register with the intoxicated woman.
Beatrice swaggered and leaned heavily against the doorframe. "She's probably out back with those useless animals. That's all she cares about; she's useless most of the time too....." Beatrice slowly closed the door on Jessica leaving her to find Constance.
Jessica was still pondering the confrontation with the drunken woman as she rounded the end of the house and looked out toward the barn. Constance was standing at the rear of an old beat up truck, looking through a bag that was sitting on the open tailgate. As Jessica approached she heard the other woman mumbling, she assumed to herself. But when she got closer she realized a little beagle was lying in the bed of the truck watching her owner with close curiosity. Jessica smiled when she saw that Constance talked to her dog just like she did Chupa. "Ms. Blackhawk," Jessica called, "I was told I'd find you out here."
Constance turned from the rear of the truck as several emotions played across her face. Jessica thought for a split second she looked almost fearful, but then she cleared her throat and calmly asked, "You spoke to my mother?"
"Yes, she told me you'd probably be out here with your animals. Cute beagle by the way." Jessica smiled to try and ease Constance's mind.
"Well, I hope you are no worse for wear from the experience Dr. Cooper. And Ruby thanks you for the compliment, don'tcha Ruby?"
Ruby sat, straight up, and offered her hound hand to the new stranger. Jessica laughed and took the paw and shook it gently. "Nice to meet you Ruby, I'm Dr. Jessica Cooper, you may call me Jessi. And your mommy can too, if she'd like." Jessica said this last line as she looked shyly toward Constance and smiled. "To be honest Ms. Blackhawk we didn't get off to a very good start, and I was a bit fearful of meeting with you. I hope this meeting does not end with a gun being pulled."
"No Dr. Coop..., Jessi, I'm not packin heat today. And I am very glad you came out here, I didn't know who else to contact. And you may call me Constance, by the way."
"Alright Constance by the way, I have someone for you to meet too. Chupacabra come boy!!!" Jessica yelled in the direction of the front of the house where Chupa sat patiently waiting in the Jeep.
Within seconds a flurry of fur came bounding around the house heading directly for them. Chupa came to a screeching halt and sat at his human's feet. "Constance meet Chupacabra, Chupa for short. He's my research assistant." Jessica stated with obvious love and pride.
Constance gently scratched Chupa between the ears, in his favorite spot. As the big dog became limp and began to lean on her leg she laughed and said, "Chupa you are a very pretty boy, and a big sweetie. I'm surprised your mother named you the Spanish name for 'Goatsucker'."
Jessica looked shocked and then tried to explain, "Well you see, the Chupacabra is, well the name was, awww Hell I thought it was cute. Wait a second you know of the Chupacabra?"
"Yes doctor, I know of the Chupacabra, and many more cryptozoological mysteries. That's why I called you; I need to tell you a story. And I hope at the end of that story you'll understand why I held you at gunpoint this weekend." Constance began.
"My father's people, the Cherokee, have lived on this land for generations, as free people. Once Europeans began to infiltrate the area my ancestors managed to keep this land through good relations and dealings with the new settlers. My ancestral grandfather saved the lives of people in the settlement, by providing them food and medicines in the winter of 1814, so settlers petitioned the new government of Tennessee to grant my people their own property. I hope you couldn't detect too much irony in my voice. Anyway, they were allowed to keep their land. My family has a connection with this place, deeper than spiritual connection; it is a part of our very being. We know this land, we live here and we are buried here. We know the plants in the hills, the rocks in the stream and the animals of the woods. Each generation teaches the next the importance of protecting what we have here, and to learn from the wild things as we would our parents or schools. I know I sound as though I'm rambling but I do have a point to all this." Constance looked to Jessica for approval to continue, and was granted it when the other woman nodded for her to go on.
"My people told stories of the Nun Yunu Wi, the Stone Man. The Nun Yunu Wi lived in these mountains, along with the Native people. They co-existed in peace. These Stone People were larger than the ancestors, and lived in a more primitive manner, existing with natural shelter and no fire, or clothing. The Cherokee granted the Nun Yunu Wi much respect, and saw them as the spirits of the forest."
"Occasionally the Native people and the Stone People would interact. My people sometimes provided medicine to the mountain people. The Cherokee would often find large game dead on the edge of camp after assisting the Stone Men. The animals were always killed by having their neck broken."
"As time progressed the Cherokee began interacting more with the White Man, and less with the Stone Man. Eventually the Nun Yunu Wi trekked deeper into the mountains to avoid contact with the Europeans, and were rarely seen by my people. But the stories of the Nun Yunu Wi were passed down through the generations. It is believed that if the Stone Man disappears from the mountain, the mountain will die. The Stone Man is the guardian of this land, the spirit. It must be kept safe."
Constance took a deep breath and continued, "So you see doctor, when I caught you on my land I was simply protecting the mountain spirits. The creature you search for, that you call the Bigfoot or Sasquatch, my people know as the Nun Yunu Wi, and it is to be guarded from discovery. Exploitation could lead to extinction of this ancient; it is my duty to protect it, and this land. I must."
Jessica wrapped her brain around what she had just been told and then asked, "Why am I here then? If you are trying to protect the creature, why bring me out here and tell me all about the thing you don't want me to know about? No offense Ms. Blackhawk, but this makes me very skeptical. Why am I here?"
"Because Jessi, someone else has been hunting the Nun Yunu Wi, and I thought you could help me find out who it is and help me stop them. I know you came to the forest looking for answers, and I maybe able to help you with some of those, if you can help me stop the predators that stalk the Stone Man." Constance explained.
"How do you know someone is hunting the creatures?"
"Because I went to the forest today to look for answers and I saw the Nun Yunu Wi, for the first time. But it was not the sacred experience I had always hoped for. The Stone Man fell dead, and left the mountain with one less spirit."
Jessica stared at Constance, not truly understanding what she had just been told. After several seconds she stammered, "Constance, you, you are trying to tell me that ....you, saw a Sasquatch, earlier today. And then you saw it die. Are you sure of what you saw? Where were you? How do you know for sure it was dead, or could it have been a bear? I mean it could have been some other animal don't you think? Well?"
Constance smiled at the researcher's obvious excitement and curiosity. "If you'll give me a minute I'll answer all your questions. I'm positive of what I saw; I touched the body and checked for signs of life. I'm a veterinarian, I know when something is dead, and I also know the difference between what is laying in the woods dead and any other forest animal. And as for where I saw it, I have all intentions of taking you there on one condition."
"What's the condition?" Jessica asked
"You cannot tell anyone about this place or ever let anyone know what you see or discover. Not in detail anyway. I know this is your research but you must respect my wishes or I will not show you the body. I'm sure you can gather enough information for a credible report, without giving away the location. I must protect this land. Do you understand?" Constance's hazel eyes silently pleaded, and Jessica found herself wanting to comply. She knew this could be the biggest breakthrough of her life, or the biggest wild goose hunt in the history of science. She had to find out the truth, even if it meant losing out in the end.
"Ok, Constance, show me."
Jessica threw her bag in the cab of Constance's truck. "Would it be ok if Chupa rode in the back of the truck? I really need him to come along if you don't mind."
"Sure, I think Ruby will share her space. Hear that Ruby be polite."
Ruby cocked her head at her human. She was always polite, what was that supposed to mean?
"Chupa, up boy." Jessica patted the bed of the truck and Chupa bounced up next to Ruby. Then Ruby knew why she had been asked to be polite. She simply huffed and flopped down on the floor of the truck, deciding to ignore the breathing shag carpet.
"I'm not sure she likes you Chupie, so don't bother her." Jessica gave Chupa a pat and hopped into the cab of the truck. Constance settled herself behind the wheel of the truck and looked over. "Thank you for coming out here Jessica, I know you are probably skeptical about all this."
"You don't have to thank me. I'm hoping I get to apologize to you for being skeptical, but I have to be with this type of research. You can only imagine the folks I've dealt with."
Constance laughed. "I know anytime eyewitness types are on television they appear to have just finished their morning case of beer, while sitting in the kiddie pool out behind the trailer. Most of time they don't come across as credible. I suppose you've dealt with many of those, huh?"
"Uhhh, yeah. And many other interesting characters as well. Maybe I can tell you about some of my adventures, sometime. But right now let's discuss this adventure. Where are we headed exactly?"
"We are going to a place my family calls the grotto. It is a hidden waterfall and pool, completely surrounded by dense forest. It lies just on the other side of the thicket I found you stuck in yesterday. You were trying to get into the western side of the thicket, we will be coming from the south, and there's a trail into the area."
"Wait a minute," Jessica interjected. "You mean the wall of laurel I followed those tracks to surrounds the area where you saw a dead Bigfoot?"
Constance shook her head. "Yes, why?"
"I was following the trail of a large biped that had possibly been shot a few nights ago by some hunters, over in the National Forest. The report was pretty sketchy but I found some very legitimate evidence near the site, and a trail leading from the area. I followed the trail right up to that wall of laurel and the trail just disappeared." Jessica was quiet for a moment or two and then asked, "How long will it take to get to the grotto?"
"About twenty minutes. The farm road is pretty rough so we will have to drive kinda slowly."
"Would it be ok if I we get started on an interview? And would you mind if I tape it?"
Jessica rummaged around in her bag and pulled out a handheld recorder. She made sure there was a clean tape in the machine and then started the interview. "Ok, I am following up a report of an unidentified biped on the property of Ms. Constance Blackhawk. Constance could you state your full name, age, and occupation please."
"Constance Beauty Blackhawk, I'm 33 years old and I am a licensed veterinarian. I am currently running my family's farm." Constance glanced over and realized Jessica was giving her a very odd look. "What's wrong?"
"Your middle name is Beauty?"
"Yeeeees, I was named after my grandmother her Cherokee name meant Constant Beauty. Why, is there a problem?"
Jessica stammered. "Ahh, no, no problem. It's just that, your name is… very nice. I mean it's…….very appropriate." She blushed as she finished her rambling.
Constance noticed her companions discomfort and smiled. "Ok then. I thought I was going to be given a hard time by someone who named their dog Goatsucker."
Jessica chuckled, "Touché. Anyway, Constance can you please tell me about your encounter."
After navigating the rough farm road Constance brought the truck to a stop outside the thickly forested grotto. Jessica got out of the truck and wondered if she would have to get down and crawl through the jumble of overgrowth. The dense thicket seemed impenetrable and she was readying herself for another bout with briars and thorns when the other woman motioned for her to follow, and disappeared around the edge of the growth. Jessica followed around the corner of vegetation and found herself in a forested tunnel. The temperature within the confined tunnel was quite cooler than outside and she felt a chill run through her. Constance noticed Jessica's shiver and asked, "Are you cold Jessi? The air is cooler within the tunnel but will warm up again within the grotto."
"Actually I'm not really cold. It's all this, if this is true. I mean, I don't mean to sound skeptical. This is really exciting for me."
"What you are about to see doctor, I'm not sure people should even be privy too. This is a very humbling experience for me. Knowing that within these trees an ancient spirit lies dead. A part of this land died with it. I understand your skepticism, but I know what I experienced. I am honored, do you understand?" Constance looked at Jessica searching for understanding, acceptance. Jessica gazed into her eyes and at that moment knew the other woman believed what she had experienced. She knew Constance was telling the truth. Jessica found herself falling into those truthful eyes and felt as if she could see Constance's very soul. She saw fire, anger, sadness, strength, passion and knowledge. Knowledge of the ages concealed within those soulful eyes. Involuntarily a shiver ran up her spine and she could not control the quake that followed throughout her body.
Constance reached out and took Jessica's sleeve. "Come on; let's get you out in the sunlight before you chill to death. I would feel awful if you got sick."
As she turned to lead them from the tunnel Jessica replied. "Yeah, can't get sick, not now. My whole life could be changing; I mean I could be witnessing something I've been waiting for all my life." Then to herself she said, "Cooper shut up, you're rambling like a fool. Get a grip, do your work. Get a grip!"
Constance stepped out of the forested tunnel followed closely by Jessica. The professor blinked her eyes to adjust to the sudden change from dark to bright sunshine. She slowly looked around at the sunlit pool of water surrounded by the dense forest. "Wow, this place is…magical. So beautiful."
"I have to correct you Jessi, this place is mystical. A temple to nature. A sacred place." Constance glanced at Jessica and smiled. "See that rock jutting over the pool, that's where I was laying when the Stone Man came out of the bushes. He fell behind that pile of rocks and logs over there." She pointed toward the far side of the pool. "Come on, I'll show you."
The two women crept toward the pile of debris as Constance continued. "I got up from the rock and walked along the other side of the pool and threw rocks in the direction of the fallen creature. It never moved. I actually touched and checked for any signs of life but it was dead." By this time they had reached the pile of debris and Constance stepped around the end and peered down at the ground. A range of emotions flashed across her face, shock, curiosity, and finally anger.
"What is it Constance, what's wrong?" Jessica asked as she stepped around the edge of the debris. Then she understood the other woman's reaction because there, behind the pile of rocks, was absolutely nothing.
To be continued
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