bear They dumped the garbage in the woods behind the house. Anyone who is from the Poconos knows what can happen. But our bad guys are not from around there and are a bit deficient in local knowledge. The first rule of hiding out is not to draw undue attention to yourself.

From my recently released crime/detective novel, GROUND EFFECT:

Sadie was stretched out on the driveway in the morning sun and JJ had the tractor mowing wet grass down the side of his house. His two acres was mostly woods and he left some of the trees between the front and the street but cleared a wide back yard as far back as the rising mountain would allow. His John Deere rider worked hard on the slope and he had to go parallel for the last few yards at the top. It wasn’t unusual to see the doe and her two fawns at dusk several times a week working the edge of the forest. JJ still hunted every fall but left the local deer alone.

Squirrels were another thing though. He tried every trick imaginable to keep them out of his bird feeder. He lost and the squirrels won. He didn’t like squirrel stew so he bought a wire trap at a garage sale and baited it with peanuts. He caught one nearly every day for the first month and figured the gas to drive them a few miles away for release cost him a lot more than the shotgun shells to whack them on the spot. But the parade slowed down and now he didn’t put the trap out unless he started seeing two or more around the bird feeder.

On the next sweep toward the front, JJ saw Sadie across the street and nosing into the woods downhill on the other side. He wasn’t concerned; she roamed where her nose took her but never very far from the house. There wasn’t much vehicle traffic here now that most of the homes were empty and Sadie seemed to know about cars and roads. JJ turned back up hill for another pass and when he came back down Sadie was not in sight.

Ghali woke to the smell of food cooking. No alarms were sounding, yet, and he thought it actually smelled good. He rolled upright and stretched. His neck was sore and he thought he should have purchased a pillow on his food trip into town.

In the kitchen, Walid was stirring a cooking pot. The fresh air from the open sliding doors mixed with the food smells. Ghali looked in and said, “Try not to burn it.”

Walid said, “Rice and vegetables. There is juice in the refrigerator.”

Ghali went into the living room and found the magazine he brought back with the fresh vegetables. The air still smelled wet and the sun was filtering through the trees. Ghali settled into the chair by the open glass doors and looked outside, the unopened magazine on his lap. He was trying to work the plan for tomorrow in his mind but the quiet noise of the breeze and the leaves distracted him. He gave up and just sat, his eyes still trying to stay open but failing.

JJ finished the side and what he could get with the rider in the front. The rest, he would have to use the push mower. He parked the tractor and wheeled the push mower around to the front. Sadie wasn’t in her usual spot on the driveway. JJ stood for a moment and looked up and down the street for her. The last he’d seen her was when she nosed into the woods; now she was gone.

For a moment he thought he heard her woofing from down the hill and he cocked his head to put his good left ear in that direction. The woof wound into a full throated bark and she kept barking. That set off JJ’s internal alarm. Sadie wasn’t much of a barker unless it was another of those damned skunks. JJ started toward the barking but stopped and grabbed a rake from the side of the garage. At least he could keep the thing a ways off.

Walid stepped around the counter to let Ghali know the food was ready and said, “It’s…”

Ghali was almost awake and smelled something drift over the odor of the food. It was sour and almost metallic. He looked up from the open magazine and into the face of a black bear with a ripped garbage bag hanging from its mouth.

Walid screamed, “Bear!”

The bear stopped with one paw on the sliding door track and dropped the garbage bag when it opened its mouth and let out a hissing and clicking sound. Ghali could not move and tried to get his brain to understand what he was seeing. The bear stood its ground but then Ghali saw another, even bigger bear, step onto the concrete porch just behind the first.

Sadie!” JJ could hear her down below him. The woods were still wet and he was soaked before going twenty-five yards. The rake kept catching on shrubs and branches slowing him down. When he heard the gunshot he got himself stopped and behind a maple.

Walid was now screaming a high pitched wail and Ghali was amazed the smaller bear seemed to be unconcerned about the bullet he’d just put into its chest. The bigger bear on the patio was turning to face a dog that had just appeared behind it barking and snarling. Ghali fired again and the closest bear spun and ran squarely into the bigger one. The dog somehow got between them and took a vicious swat from the bigger bear. Ghali moved closer to the open sliding door and fired twice at the bigger bear but wasn’t sure he’d hit it. The first bear was now down and trying to crawl away from the concrete slab and into the trees. The dog survived the bear punch and was now almost at Ghali’s feet.

Now the bigger bear was backing away and turned to move back into the trees. The smaller bear stopped moving and was lying still half on the patio and half off. Ghali moved into the open door, shot the dog and was ready to shoot the bigger bear again when he was surprised to see an old shirtless man in short pants step past the bear and swing some sort of garden tool at him. The ugly metal teeth of the tool sailed past Ghali’s nose and he moved the pistol up to face the shirtless man and pulled the trigger.

What exploded in JJ’s mind after the big black bear loped past him was some jerkoff shooting at Sadie. Bear be damned, no one was going to hurt his dog. JJ swung the rake at the idiot in the back door of the house and missed. He connected on the back swing with the black gun in the guy’s hand just as he felt the awful burning pain in his side.

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