With the exception of a nine-week-old Australian shepherd puppy, sniffing and whining as if he'd discovered a treasure chest and sought a way inside, everyone was politely pretending Anna didn't stink.
Under the tutelage of Joan Rand, the biologist overseeing Glacier's groundbreaking bear DNA project, Anna had spent the morning in an activity so vile even garbage men had given her wide berth, holding their noses in awe.
Near Glacier National Park's sewage processing plant, behind an eight-foot chain-link fence sporting two electrified wires, and further protected in an aluminum shed the size of an old two-holer outhouse wrapped in six more strands of electrical fencing, lay the delights the excited black and white pup whiffed: two fifty-gallon drums filled with equal parts cows' blood and fish flotsam, heated and left to steep for two and a half months in what was referred to as the "brew shed."
Joan, apparently born without a gag reflex, had cheerfully taught Anna how to strain fish bits out with one hand while ladling red-black liquid into one-liter plastic bottles with the other.
"Fingers work best," Rand had said. "Pure research; the glamour never stops." With that, she had flashed Anna small, crooked, very white teeth in a grin that, in other circumstances, might have been contagious.
Standing now in the offices of the science lab, the puppy beginning to lick her boot laces, Anna was glad she'd not succumbed to the temptation to smile back. Had she done so, her teeth would probably be permeated with a godawful stench that could only be described as eau decarrion, the quintessential odor of Death on a bender, the Devil's vomit.
"It wears off." A kindly woman with shoulder-length brown hair looked up from a computer console as if Anna's thoughts had been broadcast along with her smell. "It just takes awhile. Have you worked with the skunk lures yet?"
"That's for dessert," Anna replied grimly, and the woman laughed.
"That's the lure of choice. Joan says they roll and play in it like overgrown dogs. That lure is so stinky you've got to pack it in glass jars. Goes right through plastic."
Anna thought about the blood lure, the skunk. Both had been painstakingly researched, other scents tried and discarded, till those most irresistible to grizzly bears had been found. And she was going to be carrying these scents on her back into the heart of bear country in Montana's side of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, nothing between her and the largest omnivores in the lower forty-eight but a can of pepper spray.
The puppy woofed and put portentously large paws on her shins, his black-fringed tail describing short, fat arcs. "You want to roll in me, don't you?" Anna asked. He barked again and she quashed an urge to pick him up, defile his soft new fur with her tainted hands. Turning away from the importuning brown eyes, she studied the color photocopies of Ursus horribilis thumbtacked to a long bulletin board situated over a conference table: the muscular hump between the shoulders developed, it was thought, to aid in the main function of the four-inch claws-digging. Fur was brown, tipped or grizzled with silver, earning the bear its name. Ears were rounded, plump, teddy-bear ears; teeth less sanguine, the canines an inch or so in length, well suited to their feeding habits. Grizzly bears ate carrion, plants, ground squirrels, insects and, sometimes, people.
Anna thought about that. Thought about the olfactory enticements she would carry, handle, sleep beside at night.
Stepping closer, she studied the pictures of massive heads, long jaws, paws that could topple a strong man, claws that could disembowel with ease, and she felt no fear.
Members of the bear team, who monitored bear activities in the park and settled bear/visitor disputes, and the Glacier rangers routinely lamented the fact that the American people were such idiots they thought of these wildest of animals as big cuddly pets. One man had been stopped in the act of smearing ice cream on his five-year-old son's cheek in hopes of photographing a bear licking it off.
Reprinted from Blood Lure by Nevada Barr by permission of Putnam Books, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (c) 2001 Nevada Barr. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
Blood at the Root
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