Joan shuffled through her pile of BIMS and, Anna noted, in the process managed to turn the photos of her sons so they faced away. "Here it is. Listen to this. 'Big bear. Major, mondo, hippo of a bear. Thousand to twelve hundred pounds.'"
"By half. In Glacier, grizzlies don't reach the size they do in Alaska, where they have access to all that salmon protein. Here an average male weighs in at three-fifty or four hundred pounds, the females a little less. We get a lot of exaggerated reports. I can't say as I blame folks. When you see a bear and you're all alone in the big bad woods, they do have a tendency to double in size."
Joan's jocularity was forced. Equilibrium was not yet reestablished. The ghosts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John still hovered over the scat bottles. Anna wondered whether the situation with the boys was intense or if it was just Joan.
"I got a good one," she offered in the spirit of denial. She paged back till she located a form filled out in lavender ballpoint. "August fifth. No location. No time. No observer name. Species: grizzly. Age: twenty-six. Color: blond - don't know if this means the bear was twenty-six and blond, or the observer was."
"Blond for our bears is rare."
"That's not the rare part. This is." Anna read aloud from the "Comments" box. "'Bear activity: juggling what looked like a hedgehog. Observer activity: standing amazed.'"
Joan laughed and the air was clear again. Tales of visitor silliness could always be counted on to bring back a sense of normalcy to park life. "Reports like that reassure me that Timothy Leary's alive and well and doing drugs with Elvis," the researcher said.
After ten o'clock, in Joan's spare room furnished, as was every spare room in every park service house Anna had ever slept in, with peculiar oddments of furniture heavily representing the 1950s and Wal-Mart, and a closet full of backpacks, coats and sleeping bags good to ten below zero, Anna lay awake. Her book, an old well-read copy of The Wind Chill Factor, was open on her chest. Seeing the shapes of animals in the water stains on the ceiling as she used to do as a child, she contemplated the upcoming backcountry trip.
Months had passed since she'd done anything more strenuous than sit on her posterior in an air-conditioned patrol car. The most weight she'd lifted with any regularity was a citation book and government-issue pen. In desperation, she'd joined an aerobics class at the Baptist Healthplex in Clinton, Mississippi, but she'd only gone twice. One of the requirements for inclusion in this cross-training venture had been the ability to carry a fifty-pound pack. Anna hadn't lied. She could carry fifty pounds. Just how far remained to be seen.
She hoped she wouldn't slow everybody down. She hoped Joan wouldn't have Rory Van Slyke unwittingly bearing, along with the blood of sacrificial cows, the burden of stillborn apostles because of an uncanny likeness to long-absent sons.
She hoped she'd see some grizzly bear cubs.
And that the cubs' momma wouldn't see her.
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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