A Thing Greatly Feared, Chapter 4

English: Horse and Barn.

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The architectural anchor of the town was a massive block of locally mined granite that loomed over all – a heavy, squatting, immovable giant known as the Foster’s Glen Public Library. Under its broad shoulders, within its dim, quiet recesses, there roamed a figure seemingly as old as the venerable building. Frank T. Wayne had been the town librarian for so long that the padded seat of his chair recognized his backside and no one else’s. When he wasn’t dusting tables or reshelving books, he was ensconced in that chair behind an antique desk that was in a perpetual state of disarray; from certain angles, you couldn’t see him behind the stacks of books, newspapers and folders. When you did get around to spotting him, he had either a pencil or a rubber stamp in his hand, the latter being the case when Wade approached him Monday afternoon.

“Excuse me. Mr. Wayne?”

“Oh, hi there, Wade. What can I help you with?”

“A school project.”

“Another one? They don’t give you much time to breathe, do they?”

“Yeah. This one’s for a different class than before, but you’d think the teachers would get together and space these things out a little better.”

“Perhaps I can make things a bit easier for you. What’s this one about?”

“Local history is the theme, but all the obvious stuff’s been taken. I need to come up with something creative, but I haven’t got a clue where to start.”

“You say the obvious stuff has been taken.” He emphasized “obvious stuff” because it’s a phrase he never would’ve chosen. “You mean things like local industry, notable events in the town’s history?”

“Yeah. If it’s common knowledge, it’s taken already.”

Mr. Wayne nodded as he rose from his chair, and Wade followed him towards the back of the library.

“Alright, well, sounds like you need something obscure but intriguing.”

“Yeah. That’s a good way to put it.”

“And a good way to impress your teacher as well.”

“Excellent. Thanks, Mr. Wayne.”

“You’re very welcome. So, I think that the best thing for you to do is to look through some of our old newspapers on microfilm. The Foster’s Glen Gazette goes back to 1920, so I’m sure you can find something of note.”


“What years do you want to start with – old, or very old?”

“I’ll go with old.”

“A good choice. Better chance that your class – and your teacher – will be able to relate to it. I’ll start you off with 1970, and this set of rolls will take you all the way to 1990. If you need any more when you’re done with these, don’t be afraid to ask.”

Mr. Wayne got Wade set up on a microfilm machine in the back corner of the library, then left him to his work. Wade took his time scrolling through the film – the Gazette was a small weekly paper, so it didn’t take long to wind his way through several years. He found a couple items of mild interest, but most of it was typical small-town fare – meetings, births, deaths, school sports and student accomplishments. He did come across the story about Hank’s bear encounter, which he’d read before (his father had a copy), but he’d been told (by his father) to not ever talk about it, so he figured that his dad wouldn’t want him to write about it, either, though Wade still flirted with the temptation, thinking it was an interesting story and would make for a good history report. Oh well. Moving on.

When he neared the end of the roll, something grabbed him: “Bear Found Mutilated.” It was obscure, alright – in small type at the bottom of an inside page, accompanied by a two-inch story – but what’s more, it was intriguing.

Wait a minute, thought Wade. A bear mutilated? I don’t think bears have any natural predators. He began reading the story. Oh. The local sheriff attributed it to poachers. Wade looked up in thought. He noticed a painting above him on the wall, a depiction of an outdoor scene. A picture. I wonder if there’s a picture of the bear.

He printed off a copy of the story, rewound the roll, put it back in its box, then shut off the machine and returned the film to Mr. Wayne at his desk.

“Find anything good?”

“Yeah. A lead, anyway. I’ve got to check somethin’ out, though, make sure it’s worth a whole report.”

“Obscure and intriguing?”

“Yeah. A bear mutilation back in the mid-eighties.”

“Hm. I’d say that fits the criteria.”

“Well, as long as I can get ten pages out of it; if it boils down to the two-inch story I found in the paper, though, I’m back to the drawin’ board.”

“Let me know how it goes.”

“I will. Thanks for all your help, Mr. Wayne.”

“You’re quite welcome, young man.”

Wade glanced at his watch as he walked out through the heavy library door. Four o’clock. I think the sheriff’s at the station ’til five.

The police station was three blocks away, at the west end of town. Wade decided he had enough time to go to the station and still make it home for supper at 5:30, walking all the way. He sighed.

I wish I had a car.

* * *

The latest edition of the Gazette came out earlier that afternoon, but Wade walked by one of the paper’s vending machines without noticing the new release. The top story: “Horse Found Mutilated.”

* * *


Harvey Danscom looked up from some paperwork and was surprised to see a skinny teenager in the doorway.

“Hi, sheriff.”

“Well hello, Wade. Ain’t seen you for a while. What brings you to my neck of the woods?”

“Funny you should mention woods.” Wade chuckled; Harvey didn’t. “I’m doin’ a research report for Miss Kremshaw’s history class, and it has to be about some part of local history, so I was just down at the library lookin’ around, and I came across this story.”

He handed the photocopy to the sheriff. Harvey adjusted his reading glasses.

“Ohh, yeah. I remember this. But this doesn’t seem like much to do a whole report on.”

“Well that’s what I’m tryin’ to figure out. I didn’t know if maybe it was part of a big poachin’ ring you busted, or somethin’ like that.”

“No, no. Nothing like that. Just an isolated incident, far as I can remember. But I can double-check the case file if you want, just to be sure. If I can find it, that is.”

“Sure. That’d be good. I was hopin’ to see a photo at least, if you had one.”

“I believe I do … or did.” He stood and turned to the file cabinets behind him. “Like I said, let’s see if I can find the file.”

He fingered his way through scads of manila folders, first in one drawer and then another, and when he exhausted every possible option there, he told Wade to follow him out back to the archives. After a few more minutes, Harvey found the file. He opened it on a nearby table and scanned through it.

“Yuh, it’s all here, just what I told you. My deputy at the time was James Morgan – he’s moved out of town since.” And here Harvey quoted from the report: “ ‘And after investigating we concluded this to be the work of one, perhaps two or three, individuals committing an illegal act of poaching, but we found no evidence showing who specifically did it, and we believe the incident to be an isolated act, as there have been no other reported poachings recently.’ And there is a picture here; nice color one.”

He handed it to Wade.

“I presume all the meat was gone?” said Wade.


Wade looked at it just a moment longer.

“Bears don’t have any natural predators, do they, sheriff?”

“No. Why?”

“Just double-checkin’ my facts.” Wade gave a polite smile as he handed the photo back, and Harvey nodded.

“Well, I don’t know as there’s much here to help you, Wade,” said Harvey as he picked up the file and returned it to the cabinet, “but I hope it goes well. If it doesn’t pan out, you could always write about the history of the police department; I’d be willing to sit down and talk to you about it.”

“I’ll keep that in mind. See you, sheriff. Thanks for your help.”


Wade left the station, and had already decided that there was no way he was going to write about the history of the town’s police … not after what he’d seen in that photo.

* * *

Hank puttered along the little-used dirt road that led to his out-of-the-way house, a log home he’d put up with his own hands in a remote corner of Foster’s Glen. Foot-high grass lined both sides of the road, and the leafy arms of raspberry bushes reached out and brushed his truck as he passed; they’d produce fruit later in the summer, and he looked forward to reaping the harvest.

He pulled up to his mailbox, emptied it, then turned into his driveway and parked in front of his garage. He entered his house through the back door – the front was rarely used – kicked off his boots and grabbed a beer out of the fridge. He plopped into the leather easy chair in his living room and leaned his head back, sighing, beer in one hand, mail in the other. After a hard day at the sawmill, he didn’t want to get up for at least an hour.

He twisted the cap off the bottle, took a swig, then set it down on the stand next to the chair. He leafed through the mail, which he gave but a cursory glance to when he pulled it from the box, and decided that the only thing worth looking at right then was the new Gazette. It was upside-down and backwards in his lap, so he turned it around and flipped it over.

“Horse Found Mutilated” stared him in the face. A lump rose in his throat. He read on:

“A terrible thing happened this week, as one of Clyde Pullen’s prized farmhorses was found dead Sunday morning, the victim of a vicious bear attack.

“ ‘It was all torn to pieces,’ said the distraught Pullen. ‘Two thousand dollars I paid for that horse, and now it’s gone.’

“ ‘This definitely looks like a case of a bear attack,’ said Sheriff Harvey Danscom. ‘First one in a long time, but they do happen occasionally.’

“Sheriff Danscom and Mr. Pullen both confirmed that the barn door had been left unlocked, and that consequently there were no signs of forced entry.

“ ‘No, no scratch marks on the door or anything like that,’ said Mr. Pullen, ‘and no prints, but it had to have been a bear.’

No prints? thought Hank.

“ ‘I can’t imagine a person doin’ somethin’ like that, an’ if they did, they’d do a cleaner job, I ’magine. An’ there ain’t no animal except a bear that could do somethin’ like that.’ ”


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. rainbowheartlove
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 19:00:45

    I am enjoying this story so far. It reminds me of Frank Peretti’s PIercing the Darkness. Is there an easier way to get to the next chapter without clicking through every entry though? I wish you had a separate chatagory for long stories to make it easier to go from one chapter to the next.


  2. jasondrexler
    Mar 30, 2012 @ 09:25:00

    Thank you so much for those kind words—I never thought I’d be compared to Frank Peretti (whose stories I enjoy, by the way)! And there is an easy way to get the next chapter: Under “categories” on the right-hand side of the page, click on “serials,” which contains all the chapters to my novel, in order. Thanks again, and enjoy! And please feel free to leave more feedback, positive or constructive.


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