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Last Bigfoot in Dixie

Last Bigfoot in Dixie

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Last Bigfoot in Dixie

Length:
298 pages
4 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Oct 8, 2014
ISBN:
9781611945324
Format:
Book

Description

Killer bear, Appalachian psycho, Yankee gold . . .

He's on the trail of something big . . .

Deep in the Great Smokies, a huge black bear kills a child at a campground, and a hunt begins in a quiet mountain community where such threats are rare. Wade, an outdoorsman and backwoods columnist, is quickly deputized to find and slay the massive beast terrorizing tourists and locals alike.

While on the trail, he is wounded by a pot-grower's booby trap and stalked by Junior, an authentic Appalachian psychopath. Two fellow deputies are gunned down, and rumors of buried Civil War gold surface. Wade gets unexpected assistance from a wannabe writer whose gifts prove helpful even after mushroom trances and spiritual quests--enhanced by a Minnesota Vikings horn-helmet.

The discovery of a mysterious doll ties into grisly murders from the past, and Wade meets a tough, old Marine with a puzzling treasure map. All the while, the looming threat of Junior's lethal lunacy stalks Wade and his colorful allies.

Wally Avett is a semi-retired realtor in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. He lives in the same little town, sometimes compared to Mayberry, where he was editor and chief writer in the 1970s for the weekly newspaper. These days he writes a column, the Hillbilly Ranger, for the hundred-year-old Cherokee Scout newspaper at Murphy. Avett's first novel, Murder in Caney Fork, was published by Bell Bridge Books, 2014.
Publisher:
Released:
Oct 8, 2014
ISBN:
9781611945324
Format:
Book

About the author

Wally Avett is a semi-retired realtor in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. He lives in the same little town, sometimes compared to Mayberry, where he was editor and chief writer in the 1970s for the weekly newspaper. These days he writes a column, the Hillbilly Ranger, for the hundred-year-old Cherokee Scout newspaper at Murphy. Avett's first novel, Murder in Caney Fork, was published by Bell Bridge Books, 2014.


Book Preview

Last Bigfoot in Dixie - Wally Avett

He’s on the trail of something big.

It may not be legendary, but it may be a deadly killer, all the same.

Deep in the Great Smokies, a huge black bear kills a child in a campground, and a hunt begins at a quiet mountain community where such threats are rare. Wade, an outdoorsman and backwoods columnist, is quickly deputized to find and slay the massive beast terrorizing tourists and locals alike.

While on the trail, he is wounded by a pot-grower’s booby trap and stalked by Junior, an authentic Appalachian psychopath. Two fellow deputies are gunned down, and rumors of buried Civil War gold surface. Wade gets unexpected assistance from a wannabe writer whose gifts prove helpful even after mushroom trances and spiritual quests enhanced by a Minnesota Vikings horn-helmet.

The discovery of a mysterious doll ties into grisly murders from the past, and Wade meets a tough old Marine with a puzzling treasure map. All the while, the looming threat of Junior’s lethal lunacy stalks Wade and his colorful allies.

Other Novels by Wally Avett from Bell Bridge Books

Murder in Caney Fork

Last Bigfoot in Dixie

by

Wally Avett

Bell Bridge Books

Copyright

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons (living or dead), events or locations is entirely coincidental.

Bell Bridge Books

PO BOX 300921

Memphis, TN 38130

Ebook ISBN: 978-1-61194-532-4

Print ISBN: 978-1-61194-548-5

Bell Bridge Books is an Imprint of BelleBooks, Inc.

Copyright © 2014 by Wally Avett

Printed and bound in the United States of America.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review.

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Cover design: Debra Dixon

Interior design: Hank Smith

Photo/Art credits:

Photo (manipulated) © Andreiuc88 | Dreamstime.com

:Abld:01:

Dedication

To my dear wife Geraldine, always called only by the last syllable of her name—it lovingly comes out Dean or Deenie—perhaps a Southern thing. Best (and prettiest) cook I ever met, also best Mom, my best friend and partner for over fifty years. Tells me good stories and then listens enthusiastically to mine, over and over again.

Prologue

SHE TRIED TO run, but he grabbed her.

If she screamed at all, none of the other campers heard her.

She could feel him behind her, looming over her, smell his foul breath on her shoulder.

Doing a little shuffle-dance in the muddy trail, she tried hard to escape, but he used his weight to pull her down in her tracks.

In fact, tracks were all we had the next morning to read the scene where she was killed and eaten...

Chapter One

I WAS WALKING down the sidewalk on Tennessee Street, minding my own business, intent on finding lunch at my favorite greasy spoon when the siren on a sheriff’s car split my hearing from only six feet away at the curb.

Get y’r ass in here and l’es ride, Chief Deputy Earl Millsaps was snarling at me in his best tough-guy face, but he was laughing at the same time. What did you jump for? he asked, turning to his driver, a moon-faced deputy named Bobby Joe Patterson.

You see him jump, Bobby Joe? Ought to be in the Olympics.

Bobby Joe laughed right on cue. His job was to drive the scar-faced chief deputy and laugh at Earl’s jokes, which were corny and harmless.

Shaking my head, ears still ringing from the siren salute, I climbed into the rear seat of the Crown Vic cruiser knowing I would have to ask them to let me out later because the inside door handles had been removed. Prisoners who usually rode back here had left a stale stink, and I had to look forward through the cage-grill behind their seats, familiar and comfortable.

I don’t know whether I ought to ride with y’all again. Last time I got in this car six months ago, we had to rescue a bird-dog named Cheney from an old well out in the country.

That was a heavy sonuvabitch. Had to haul him up outta that well with a piece of cord; cut my hands bad. We ort to get us a piece of good rope to keep in this car, Bobby Joe.

He is the sheriff’s favorite bird-dog, Earl. We had to get him out, Bobby Joe said patiently, like talking to a child. I’ll buy us some good rope next week at the flea market.

My status at the sheriff’s department has always been somewhat fuzzy. I am not an officer, but I write a regular column for our little weekly newspaper here in this mountain county seat town, and since I am a personal friend of the sheriff, it gives me free run of the department and the adjoining jail.

His deputies and jailers look at me with amusement mostly, but a little respect since I have access to the newspaper. In the last political campaign I wrote some publicity stuff to help him get re-elected, but that’s about as far as it goes. I’m not a reporter; they know it and speak freely in front of me.

By the way, boys, I have not had breakfast yet. I don’t mind being kidnapped if it’s for a good reason. But where in the hell are we going?

You ain’t gonna believe this, Earl said, turning back to face me through the grill. Bobby Joe had the light-bar flashing and the siren moaning; we were in full high-speed response mode. Tires squalled on the two-lane blacktop as we swerved through curves and dips toward the lake.

Got a call that a little girl got killed and eat up by a bear out at the campground.

Well, I’ll be damned.

Sheriff’s coming from home in his own car to meet us out there.

Not a local girl, is she?

Don’t know, have to wait and see.

SHERIFF HARLEY Elliott opened the door for me from the outside, so I didn’t have to ask anybody. He looked worried, not in uniform, wearing jeans and a flannel shirt and a baseball cap. Mumbled something about being called out of a warm bed before breakfast.

Makes two of us, I said. ’Specially that part about before breakfast.

I been out here by myself nearly an hour. Family’s absolute tore up. Damn bear’s eat her legs off; body looks awful. Bring y’r shotguns as it might come back. I ain’t got nothing but this pistol.

We met the mother and father at the campground manager’s office, which was a mobile home permanently installed at the entrance to the place. The office was basically the trailer’s living room, and the woman who ran the place was trying to console the dead girl’s mother.

I’m Sheila, she said, coming over into the kitchen area to whisper to us. I’m the manager this season, but I’m new at the job, and I don’t know what to say to these people. They want to move their daughter to a funeral home, and they’re scared to even go outside this trailer.

As the mom and dad stared bleary-eyed at us, Sheila said the dad had found the girl’s body about dawn and they figured she had left the family tent to go pee when the beast took her. The man made a little smile at us; he seemed comforted by the sight of uniformed deputies with riot guns.

Marla was the only child we had, the woman sobbed, wiping tears away with a red dish towel Sheila handed her. She was all we had. She was just eleven years old, and now she’s gone. I don’t know what to do.

She wrung her hands and continued to wipe at her eyes as the father began to speak slowly and so low we had to strain to listen to him.

We live up in Ohio, he said, "and it’s become a family ritual to come down to North Carolina to camp in a tent in the mountains early in the spring. We all like roughing it, sleeping in the natural setting near our lake.

"My daughter’s school has a spring break each year, and I took vacation time from my factory job and it worked well. It is usually chilly down here in April, but not as cold as Ohio, and we have good down sleeping bags.

"We had talked about getting a regular camping trailer or even a small RV, since we could afford it. I’ve gotta good union job at the plant, and my wife runs her own beauty shop.

They didn’t want no camper, he said, the small smile again. So I let them out-vote me. They liked the big canvas tent and sleeping bags on the ground. We cooked on a wood fire, and if one of us had to pee in the night we took a little flashlight—each one of us had one—and went to the woods or down the path to the outdoor toilet.

Had any of y’all seen a bear around here? the sheriff asked, looking at the couple and then Sheila. Maybe heard a bear trying to get in the garbage can? Anything like that? Bears come around campgrounds sometimes.

No, they said, all three shaking their heads.

The man continued to talk in a low voice, the mother nodding bleakly in support.

"We took a long hike along the lake the previous day on a marked trail system and ended up very tired. We celebrated with a fast-food meal in town, came back out here, and sat around the fire a little. Went to bed early and slept like a log.

I woke up just before daylight, he said, choosing his words carefully. Her sleeping bag was empty and cold, so I knew she had got up to pee and had been gone for some time. I lay there for about five minutes, giving her time to come back, but she didn’t. So I went looking for her.

He said he went first to the toilet that served the campground, but she was not there so with his flashlight he searched the open woods near the tent. Returning to the tent for a stronger light he began the search again, calling for the child in a low voice which became louder minute by minute.

I figured she had got out in the woods with that little light and got turned around, he said. My wife was standing at the tent hollering for Marla, and I was out in the woods with my big flashlight calling for her. We figured she was lost but not far away, and we’d get her in a few minutes.

Then he got to the part where he had stumbled across her ravaged body about fifty yards from the tent and his voice broke. An involuntary sob shook his entire body, and out of the convulsion he moaned, a loud sound that reminded us of an animal.

Lord, help us! he cried, and the wife wrapped her arms around him, her face buried in his shoulder.

There was silence in the room for nearly a minute; none of us could speak to their loss. We could only hear their shallow breathing as they wept. The sheriff grimaced and looked at me, shaking his head and reaching out to pat the man’s shoulder.

The spell was broken when another cruiser rolled up outside, followed closely by a county emergency medical unit and the coroner, who was actually a local funeral director elected to the part-time job.

We want to do a full investigation on the scene, the sheriff said quietly. We’ll be as quick as we can, and then you can have your little girl back. We’re sorry this has happened, so sorry it has happened here in our county. It’s gonna take us most of the morning, but you can have the body by lunchtime.

Outside, in the yard of the manager’s trailer, he gathered us all together and made a little speech.

Men, this is a tragic thing here today, and I want you to help me look it over real quick and real good. We’ve always had bears in these mountains, but in all my life I’ve never known of a damn bear killing anybody—never—have you?

No one answered, only the shaking of heads. It was a mystery.

"We’re all going to the scene now, out here in these woods. I’ve already looked at it. Be careful, stay off the tracks, look for clothing or pieces of the body that might be laying around.

Noland, you and Charlie go to the barber shop and get the king of the bear hunters.

Nervous laughter. I reckon he’s the king; says he is. Bring him back, along with anybody he wants with him, and we’ll let these hunters look at the tracks. They brag about how good they are, so let’s put’em to good use.

The two deputies headed for their car, and the rest of us were just leaving the yard when the dead girl’s mom came out on the porch of the trailer and motioned for the sheriff to come to her.

I was standing next to him when she told him.

Sheriff, I don’t know whether it’s important or not, but there’s something you might want to know. Our little girl was becoming a woman.

He looked puzzled, first at her and then at me.

She was bleeding, and it bothered her. She was having her first period.

He nodded that he had heard and turned without a word. No further conversation, we hit the woods behind the official party.

THE WOODS IN THE Smokies are pretty the last week of April, and early morning is a special time. Sarvis and dogwood are blooming white, like starbursts of fireworks in the new pale-green foliage. It was warm; you could tell the weather was changing, rain coming.

During the winter months the sheriff and I had often bird hunted together. We both liked bird-hunting, liked to watch the dogs work to find quail or the bigger mountain grouse. Fast-shooting shotguns, briar britches, and the thrill of hitting birds on the wing made it all a great game to us.

You ever hunt bears?

No, Sheriff, not much anyway. They took me a time or two, had to loan me a rifle. Walked all day and never saw a thing.

Well, the exercise shouldn’t hurt you. You and me walk all day following bird-dogs, don’t we?

Yeah, but it’s not as bad, and it’s not the same. We walk about thirty minutes at a time and then ride some and walk a little at the next place. Bear hunters walk for hours at a time and have to lead their dogs until it’s time to turn’em loose. Dogs try to trip you and bump into the back of your legs and go around the wrong side of every tree you see, dragging you along.

He grinned, and I knew he was rubbing it in. We had a wonderful system for birds, and he knew it. He had enlisted every Democrat school bus driver and mailman in the county, and they all cooperated fully with our system. If they saw a covey of quail crossing the road or a grouse, they called and reported it to him. He wrote it down in the little notebook we called the Covey Book, arranged by road names. So to find birds for an afternoon’s sort we drove to Big Meadow Road or Smith Top, looking where birds had been spotted, and started hunting.

Sheriff was a good wing shot and a pleasant companion. And hunting in an official car, we were never chased away by irate landowners. My only complaint was that he was also an excellent politician and had a habit of never terminating a conversation with anybody.

People like to talk to you, I had told him more than once, but it doesn’t have to take the whole day. Tell them you have pressing business or an appointment or whatever, but let’s go on and not stand here all day.

They are voters, he said sheepishly, and they are all related to each other. Next election ain’t far off, let’em talk.

It was frustrating for me. Sometimes we would walk together from the courthouse down to the drugstore to get coffee, and it would take two hours to go just the one block. Folks would see him and come up to tell some of the longest stories about their son in the Army or their father’s cancer operation or how they grew Irish potatoes in the family garden or some such. He never hurried them to get to the point, if there even was one.

By the way, Sheriff, this morning I was noticing that scar on Earl’s face. He didn’t always have that, did he?

"Naw, happened last fall, I think. Him and Bobby Joe had to take a crazy woman to the state mental hospital, the loony bin down at Morganton. She kicked out a side glass in their car, and I think she musta scratched ol’ Earl with her fingernails.

Insane people can fight like a wildcat, and they’ll scratch ya and bite, and you can end up with a bad infection from their germs. I think that’s what happened to’em. Bobby Joe had some bad bruises, too, outta that deal, best I recall. Don’t allow my men to use their sticks and blackjacks too freely, he added.

I’d heard that particular sermon a hundred times before; it’s part decency and part pure politics.

If a deputy beats a man unmercifully for no good reason, he said, it may come back to haunt all of us in the next election. That man’s kinfolks may make ever’ one vote against me. I could get turned out of office and that bad deputy lose his job, too.

This looks like your place, I said, and we caught up with the rest of the men, standing along a narrow trail through the laurel and looking down at what appeared to be a pile of scattered rags.

Chapter Two

THE OHIO PRE-TEEN had died hard, mauled by a large and vicious black bear. Her body lay on its back, what was left of it, in leaves that had apparently been raked over it by the animal. Her face was turned to the side at an odd angle, blonde hair in a tangle, gash on her cheek now black with dried blood, with one eye knocked loose from impact and hanging on a stem against her nose.

See, he ate her legs, the sheriff said, pawing at the leaves to uncover the rest of the body, and then he covered her up, probably planning to come back and eat up the rest of her. Keep a close look out with those shotguns; this bastard just might come back.

The deputies looked around nervously, and the coroner stepped in closer for a better view. Didn’t have a chance, poor little girl. Looks like a broke neck and, look at that, that arm’s broke, too.

Her pink pajamas hung on the stump of the body in bloody tatters, both legs missing. Skull’s crushed, too, the coroner said. Probably have to be a closed-casket service. We’ll do what we can, but the funeral home up in Ohio is gonna have a real doozy here. Hope they’ve got a good school picture of her they can use sitting on the casket.

Professional funeral matters bored the sheriff, who was looking back down the trail where the killing had taken place.

Boys, le’s go back down here where it happened and leave the coroner to take his pictures, but be careful, and for God’s sake don’t step on no tracks. Where he got her it’s a little bit muddy, and maybe we can do some good.

Bobby Joe stayed behind to guard the coroner, who busily snapped pictures with a digital camera as we walked away. The kill scene was ninety feet away on the same trail, where it crossed a damp ravine.

Look how far he dragged her body, Sheriff said, and I betcha she was going to pee by the light of her little flashlight and saw this muddy place, slowed down to pick her way through the mud, and that’s when he grabbed her.

You don’t know for sure it was a ‘he’ bear, Earl said. Mighta been an ol’ sow-bear with cubs...

Yeah, maybe. Mighta been one o’ them campground bears that’s always hanging around to get food scraps and bust open the garbage cans.

This campground here does a good job with their garbage, don’t have cans they can get into and never has much of a problem here. We don’t get called out here much, Earl said. I recollect me and Bobby Joe been called out here for a bear problem only once in the past four er five years.

In the distance we could hear a siren approaching at speed. The sheriff grimaced; Earl shook his head and grinned. The deputies dispatched to

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