He handed her the glasses and she scanned the slope. I dontoh, yeah, I see it. What
Water bottle, maybe.
Umm-hmm. She handed the glasses back to him.
You wait here, he said. Ill go up and have a look.
Careful. You dont want to end up like him.
He grunted, handed her his rifle, and started up the slope. The going was rough enough on the talus fan, and it became impossible when he reached the cliff itself. He glassed the object again, now much closer, determined that it really was a water bottleactually, a plastic Coke bottleand started back down.
He was halfway to the lake when he spotted the twoseventy Winchester, wedged muzzle-down in a crevice between two rocks. He pulled it out and studied it. The scope was gone, the barrel was bent slightly, and deep gouges scarred the weathered wooden stock. The sling, if the rifle had ever had one, was also gone.
He picked his way back to where Grace was waiting and showed her the gun. He must have been crossing the slope on those caribou trails and lost his footing, Active said. Looks like he bounced all the way into the water. That would explain the broken neck.
Grace gazed at the slope, then down the lake to where the brush concealed the hunters body. Poor guy. Can you trace the gun and figure out who he is?
Not likely. Theres a million of these Winchesters around, and most of them were bought before there was any kind of gun registration. Well put the word out to the villages and wait for somebody to realize they havent heard from this guy in a while.
What now? she asked as they started back to camp. He sighed. We set off the EPIRB and wait for somebody to show up to see what the problem is.
She shivered. We have to stay on this lake with him? Fraid so, he said.
A dead man for a neighbor, they discovered, didnt affect their appetites. So, after Active found the EPIRB in one of their bags and set it off, they reheated breakfast and began wolfing it down on the lakeshore.
How long does that thing take to work? Grace waved at the bright yellow EPIRB hanging from a spruce tree. It looked like a walkie-talkie.
Im not sure, he said. Never had to set one off before. A satellite picks up the signal, then it tells the Rescue Coordination Center, then they have to decide if the signal is for real and where you are . . . several hours, probably. A day, maybe.
I thought it could tell the satellite exactly where you are.
Some do, he said. The newer ones.
But they cost more.
So you kept that one. And here we sit.
So cheap. She shook her head and took a swallow of coffee.
We probably should wrap him up, Active said.
You should, Grace said. While I clean up here. And we should stop calling him him. He needs a name.
Its disrespectful if he doesnt have one. Also, it might jinx him in the afterlife.
I didnt know we Inupiat believed in the afterlife.
When it suits us.
All right, he said. A name. How about Henry?
She grimaced and stirred her coffee with a spruce twig.
How about One-Way? In honor of the place of his demise.
Why not? Whats wrong with One-Way?
No, I mean how about No-Way for the name?
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.
Blood at the Root
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