Excerpt of Village of the Ghost Bears by Stan Jones
(Page 5 of 7)
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Oh, God, she said. Wheres his face? And look at his
hands. The flesh is just . . . gone. What would do that?
I dont know, he said. Ive never seen anything
likewait, didnt Cowboy say something about pike in the
lake back there?
She nodded, and Active moved closer to the head of
the corpse, now lying on its side in the shallow water.
Pike supposedly eat everything. Even their own young.
Grace looked nervously at the water rippling over her
Sorels, then at Active, and edged toward the bank. Are
they in here now?
I dont think this happened to him here, Active said,
feeling himself shift back into work mode. He must have
been in the lake for a while. Thats when the pike would
have gotten at him. Then he drifted into the outlet and
got stuck here in these shallows. He studied what was left
of the mans face. Nothing but grinning bones with a few
shreds of flesh attached, but he still had his ears and most
of his straight black hair, probably because the hood of his
anorak had protected them from the pike. Anything
about him seem familiar?
Grace stepped a little closer and studied everything but
the missing face. Not really. But hes obviously from
Active nodded. The anorak had a duct-tape patch below
one shoulder, and the man wore a faded Nike sweatshirt
underneath, plus insulated Carhartt jeans and Sorels like
their own. Not a stitch of Eddie Bauer or Patagonia on
him. But nobodys been reported missing.
Maybe hes not overdue yet. I wonder how long hes
Active shook his head. Not long, probably. Hes dressed
for cool weather.
But how did he die?
As one, they turned to stare out over One-Way Lake
toward the cliff looming at its upper end.
Beats me. Active scanned the lakeshore for any sign
of a camp or boat, then shook his head. Well, Ill go
through his pockets and pack and see who he was. Lets get
him over to the bank. At Graces look of reluctance, he
added, You can take the feet.
Ten minutes later, Active shook his head in mystification
and began stuffing the hunters belongings back into his
No I.D., huh? Grace said.
Nothing. No wallet, no name on his clothes or tent or
sleeping bag, nothing. Weird, huh?
Not that weird. A lot of guys from the villages dont carry
I.D. when theyre out in the country. Just one more thing
Good point, he said. What do you make of this?
He pulled the soggy remains of a box of two-seventy
ammunition out of the pack and held it up for inspection.
I guess he was hunting, she said. Why else would he
be up here?
Exactly. Caribou, probably, or maybe sheep. So wheres
They looked across the lake again, then at each other.
All right, you take the right bank, Ill take the left, and
well meet at the upper end, he said. Give a shout if you
find his gun, or anything else man-made, or anything that
looks like a recent campsite.
Forty-five minutes later, they were standing together
on the rubble at the foot of the cliff, as puzzled as ever.
Active looked down the lake toward the outlet, then at
the mountain behind them, and swore softly to himself as
he pulled the binoculars hanging around his neck from
the folds of his coat and raised them to his eyes.
You think? Grace said.
He nodded, sweeping the mountainside with the glasses.
There was a relatively gentle slope at the top, where
caribou trails cut through the tundra carpet, then bare gray
and brown rock, steepening to a near-vertical cliff that
ended at the talus fan. There we go, he said finally,
pointing at a spot uphill and to their right, a few yards
above the talus.
Excerpted from Village of the Ghost Bears
by Stan Jones. Copyright © 2009 by Stan Jones.
Excerpted by permission of Soho Press. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.