Neewa the wonder dog and.., p.4
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       Neewa the Wonder Dog and the Ghost Hunters, p.4

          John Cerutti / Thrillers & Crime
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Neewa is so fast I can never catch her. If I’m lucky enough to get hold of her toy—she pulls me down onto the ground, yanking it away and leaving me there tied up in a knot. Playing fetch with Neewa is more like playing tug of war.

My only chance to regain possession of her toy is to trick her. To do this I have to convince her that the game is over. Make her believe I’m no longer interested, so she doesn’t need to hold on to the prize.

To do this I turn my back on her, walk away, and act as if I’m no longer interested. She doesn’t want to miss going with me, so she drops the stick and runs after me.

This is the crucial moment. Not a muscle in my body can hesitate—I can’t change the gaze of my eyes or alter my breathing for fear of alerting her to my deception. I must be sure she has taken the bait and wait till the very last second before I sprint back to regain possession of the trophy.

Suddenly, I pivot and sprint for it. Ah ha, now she is on to me. She sees through my guise as we both dash toward it. My body tightens as I extend my arm, diving through the air.

Damn, she gets there first, beating me again.

She looks at me, with the stick clenched tightly in her mouth and barks as if to say, “Hooray I won, throw it again.”

I reply, “I’m tired girl, you win, I’m going to sit and rest.”

Is it over? Neewa watches me intently, on guard for another trick. Following me no matter where I go, she makes sure I don’t double back and grab the stick.

It doesn’t matter if I go for a hike or just lie down in the tent. She is there by my side.

“I love you, Neewa,” I sigh.

Jackie is hanging out by the tent and throws a stick way out into the open desert. Neewa scrambles toward it, running at full gallop down the hill, overshooting her target, she sprints into the valley surrounded by rocky peaks on all sides.

“Wow, look at her run,” Jackie says in awe.

Neewa gallops past large clusters of scrub brush and desert flora dotting the landscape. While passing a tiny lush upland meadow, she sniffs the grasses and flower patches.

Jackie and I watch her cross the valley at full gallop heading up the opposite ridge. I gaze at the rocky crest above her as it disappears into the blue horizon. She darts toward a summit covered in fractured rock and shale, peeled from the heights above after frosts and blistering sunshine. Rising above the tree line, she sprints through the barren moon-like landscape.

We both call her at the same time, “Neewa, Neewa.”

She continues, eyes straight ahead, following a scent, tracking her prey. Her white silhouette moves over a background of dark shadows and gray.

Fear grips me for a moment. Will Neewa run over that summit? My heart beats faster as she approaches the apex. I can feel the blood pumping and the sweat on my brow.

“Neewa! Neewa!” I strain my voice calling before she disappears, “Come, Neewa!”

We watch waiting for her to turn, make a move, and begin her retreat. Finally, she relents her direct ascent upward and circles behind a gigantic boulder, disappearing from sight for several moments. Then she appears from behind the rock and races full speed down the hill straight for us.

Reassured I exhale, “Here she comes.”

Running down the ridge and back across the valley she arrives where we stand and drops the stick on Jackie’s foot. I reach out to cuddle her.

“AHHHHHHHH!” Jackie screams jumping backwards, “That’s not the stick I threw… that’s a leg bone.”

“Don’t touch it,” I step back, then move forward and stoop to examine it.

Looking at the bone on the ground, “If this is a human bone, it’s going to ruin our ghost-hunting trip.”

We are going to have to call the police. They will tell us we found a body—a murder victim. Maybe it’s the bones of someone from the Donner Party who was never recovered?

“The police will have to call the crime scene investigation (CSI) team. Who knows they might have to take all our stuff, tents and all,” I mutter in a hopeless tone.

Jackie looks at me horrified. “What about whoever it is? They deserve better than having their bones scattered all over the mountain?”

Acknowledging Jackie, “You’re right, I’m just thinking of myself and my ghost hunting trip. We’re finally here and I want to catch that ghost so bad, I don’t want to go home now.”

Dad comes flying down the trail, “What was that? Who screamed? Are you all right?” He takes Jackie by the shoulders and looks her straight in the eye.

Jackie rambles, “I threw a stick for Neewa and she brought back this bone. Look!” She points.

He hugs her saying, “You alright, you're all right.”

Dad hesitates, “It could be anything, where did she get it?”

“Across the valley and up on that ridge,” I motion.

Without hesitation Dad walks out into the valley headed up the hill. On the steep incline he takes shorter steps, working his way over the rocks.

Dad calls me on his cell phone, “Where? Where?” He waves his arm looking at me.

Directing him to the location where Neewa was sniffing around I bellow, “To the left, left. No not that way, the other left.”

“Am I getting closer?” He yells into the phone as he works his way, slowly moving closer and closer. Inspecting the area, kicking rocks and dirt, he stoops down.

Jackie and I hold our breath anticipating identification of the victim.

Dad shouts into the cell phone as if he is yelling across the valley. “Here it is, I don’t see hooves or a skull.” Breathing heavily into the phone, “The skull will tell me if it’s a human.”

Seconds pass like hours, Jackie and I stare, waiting for confirmation that our trip is ruined.

“Here are the hooves!” Sounding relieved, “It’s a deer all right and the skull’s over there, no antlers though—must be a doe.”

“T M I, Dad,” Jackie says after hearing every word.

Jackie shakes her head to get rid of the thought of a dead deer laying a few hundred feet from our campsite.

I hang up and turn away grimacing, wondering how it might have died. Maybe it was thirst or starvation or maybe a coyote attack?

“I’m just glad it isn’t human bones. We probably would have had to go home. And just when we’re about to have some fun.” I hint at my excitement.

“Yeah, real fun Christina, what are we going to discover next?” Jackie raises her eyebrows, “Hope no more dead bodies, no matter if it’s a deer or not.”

Neewa has been following Jackie and I around since she dropped her new found bone, “No more playing fetch, you are going on your chain. That deer could’ve been poisoned. You could die from chewing on that bone.”

Dad returns huffing and puffing.

I question, “Did you set the ghost traps at the exact spot where the settler’s wagon train was stranded, you know—where it happened?”

Dad smiles, “Yup, right where Mrs. Waldo saw that spirit last week too. Everything is on the trail ready to catch that ghost. I have all the equipment set up. One of the motion detectors is connected to the digital camera and the other is attached to the thermal infrared camera. The anemometer is right next to them and the electromagnetic field meter is on the opposite side of the trail.”

“Jackie you keep the light meter and the spectrometer (determines the composition of the object) with you in case that ghoul visits us here at camp. Dad will be carrying the radio frequency field strength meter (detects electrical fields) in his backpack. I’m in charge of the night vision goggles, compliments of Dad’s boss, ha ha.”

“All right, we’re ready,” I continue, “now all we have to do is wait for this phantom to show up. These banshees will do anything to lure a human being into their trap. They want to take over your body and soul and this fiend is no different.”

As we sit around the campfire, Dad begins to tell a scary legend. He always does this especially when we’re in the middle of nowhere.

Neewa lies by my feet, her chain still clipped to her collar. Occasionally she looks up at me with her steel gray eyes. She checks in on me, she always does.

Dad speaks with an eerie shiver in his voice as he begins to tell a story. “People and pets disappear in the desert all the time. Usually they are found dead, near the place where they were last seen.”

“She lived deep in the forest in a tiny cottage and sold herbal remedies for her livelihood. Folks living in the town nearby called her Bloody Mary, and say she was a witch. None dared cross the old crone for fear that their cows would go dry, their food-stores rot away before winter, their children take sick of fever, or any number of terrible things that an angry witch could do to her neighbors.

“Then the children in the village began to disappear, one by one. No one could find out where they had gone. Grief-stricken families searched the woods, the local buildings, and all the houses and barns, but there was no sign of them.

“A few brave souls even went to Bloody Mary's home in the woods to see if the witch had taken the children, but she denied any knowledge of the disappearances. Still, it was noted that her haggard appearance had changed. She looked younger, more attractive.

“The neighbors were suspicious, but they could find no proof that the witch had taken their young ones.

“Then came the night when the daughter of the miller rose from her bed and walked outside, following an enchanted sound no one else could hear.

“The miller's wife had a toothache and was sitting up in the kitchen treating the tooth with an herbal remedy when her daughter left the house. She screamed for her husband and followed the girl out of the door. The miller came running in his nightshirt. Together, they tried to restrain the girl, but she kept breaking away from them and heading out of town.

“The desperate cries of the miller and his wife woke the neighbors. They came to assist the frantic couple.

“Suddenly, a sharp-eyed farmer gave a shout and pointed towards a strange light at the edge of the woods. A few townsmen followed him out into the field and saw Bloody Mary standing beside a large oak tree, holding a magic wand that was pointed towards the miller's house. She was glowing with an unearthly light as she set her evil spell upon the child.

“The townsmen grabbed their guns and their pitchforks and ran toward the witch. When she heard the commotion, Bloody Mary broke off her spell and fled back into the woods.

“The far-sighted farmer had loaded his gun with silver bullets in case the witch ever came after his daughter. Now he took aim and shot at her. The bullet hit Bloody Mary in the hip and she fell to the ground.

“The angry townsmen leapt upon her and carried her back into the field, where they built a huge bonfire and burned her at the stake.

“As she burned, Bloody Mary screamed a curse at the villagers, ’If anyone mentions my name aloud before a mirror, I will send my spirit to revenge myself upon them for my death.’

“When she was dead, the villagers went to her house in the woods and found the missing children the evil witch had kidnapped. She was draining their blood and using it to make herself young again.

“From that day to this, anyone foolish enough to chant Bloody Mary's name three times before a darkened mirror will summon the vengeful spirit of the witch. It is said that she will tear their bodies to pieces and rip their souls from their mutilated bodies. The souls of these unfortunate ones will burn in torment as Bloody Mary once was burned, and they will be trapped forever in the mirror.”

“Thanks Dad, I’m going to sleep in a tent in the middle of nowhere and you tell me this chilling story. Now stop it, I’m not kidding. You’re going to give me nightmares.”

“Come Neewa, you’re staying in the tent with Jackie and me.”

As I lay down all kinds of thoughts run through my head. Thoughts about ghosts and the Donner Party’s terrible tragedy flood my brain. I look through the nylon tent at the glowing fire. Shadows of the campfire flames dance on the tent like a movie screen displaying a slide show. The shapes dwindle and shrink smaller and smaller, it’s the fire’s last dance.

Listening to the quiet, there’s nothing out there. A few crickets, a frog or two but mostly the crackling fire. Drifting into sleep,

I know bodies are discovered in the desert all the time, I’ve heard stories. One time a four-wheeler found a human skeleton near here in an old deserted mine. Imagine that, going into a cave and seeing bones lying there. Now that’s scary. I’d explore an old mine, but I’m not going first.

Sometimes a newspaper reporter will get an anonymous letter telling where a dead body can be found.

Local police receive tips too. People are afraid to come forward, so they call or write anonymous letters, revealing where a corpse is. Usually all that’s left of the carcass are bones. Most of the time no one can figure out who it was. Out of respect, the police give the remains a name—John Doe if it’s a man and Jane Doe if it’s a woman.

Tonight we are going to catch that ghost. Then I can tell all my friends back East. They will think I’m so cool, the most famous ghost hunter ever. But right now I’d better get some rest before we hike up the trail. I need sleep now. My eyes are heavy and begin to close, then open and close again.







Chapter 5 - Dream (Dreaming)

“Dad, I have to go find Neewa’s mother and father.”

“That’s a good idea,” he moans still asleep. “Are they still living in the desert?”

It’s dusk and I’m in the middle of the desert, walking along an endless wall of sand.

I call out to Dad, “Are they dead?” He doesn’t answer.

Maybe they are lost somewhere, or they were killed out here in the middle of nowhere. Does Neewa look like her mom and dad?

“Hello, hello,” my voice echoes through the vast wasteland. I pick up a newspaper lying on the sand and begin to read aloud.

“A hiker discovered a skeleton in the desert last week. The police are investigating the circumstances of the death. CSI has been called in to analyze the evidence and the coroner performed an autopsy.

“’The victim was last seen a month ago playing cards at a downtown casino,’ Detective Kelly said. ‘Apparently he was followed out of the casino and shot three times in the chest. An ace of hearts was found in the dead man’s pocket.’

“The hiker, who would not give his name, found the remains near the den of a family of coyotes.

“’Animals dug the bones up,’ the hiker said. ‘Oddest thing though, several of the pack looked like white German shepherds.’

“Detective Kelly said, ‘Our detectives also found a Native American Indian tomb near the shallow grave of the gambler. The Native American appears to be over a hundred years old.’

“Kelly added, ‘We have sent for a forensic anthropologist from the University to document the tomb. We will know more when we have that report.’”



Chapter 6 - Ghost Hunt

After running into camp, Dad is out of breath and shakes me, “Wake up, the camera started, wake up. Get your sister, let’s go.”

“Wake up who?” I ask sitting up, startled.

Neewa slides out of the tent opening following Dad as he gathers some stuff and starts up the trail.

My mouth starts to form words, who was the dead gambler? Then I realize it was just a dream.

Shaking Jackie’s shoulder and arm, “Jackie wake up, wake up, the motion detector went off.”

“What time is it?” Rubbing her eyes, she tries to sit up but falls over and back to sleep.

Putting on my boots I reply, “Three AM, and it’s cold out. Get the flashlights.”

In seconds Neewa and I are jogging up the trail with great expectation of what we will find.

By the time I get halfway there I’m out of breath, gasping for air. Neewa circles me as I stop and stand on the side of the path to catch my breath. I wheeze for more thin air. At this altitude my asthma could kick in at any moment. As I catch my breath, Jackie the cross-country runner passes by.

“Meet you up there, Christina,” she huffs.

Neewa runs to her side as she passes, Jackie pats her head. They run together for a few strides, before Neewa turns and comes back to my side.

There’s no one else out on the trail, no barking dogs or roaring car engines speeding by. Other than our flashlights streaking through the air, the stars and a half moon illuminate our path and reveal the dark silhouettes of the mountains around us.

I inhale the scents of the sage and lichen-covered rock moist from the morning dew. Mist hangs over the trail and disappears in the darkness.

I hope that she-devil doesn’t show up now.

A breeze whistles through the dry grasses and rock crevasses nearby.

Neewa and I sprint up the hill and finally arrive at the stakeout. Breathing heavy, I put on the night vision goggles and check for red or purple shapes moving in the sea of darkness around me.

“Yo, Poppy, no heat-emitting bodies giving off infrared thermal energy out here,” I report.

Dad is fidgeting with the cameras. “The digital camera ran for one minute and ten seconds,” he says. “But the infrared camera didn’t even turn on at all?”

“Why didn’t the motion detector turn on the IR camera?” I ask.

He shakes his head. “I don’t know, we have to check it out when we get back home.”

I suggest, “Jackie, check the radio frequency field strength meter.”

Jackie displeased replies, “Dad kept it in his backpack at the camp, it wasn’t even here.”

“My bad,” he says. “Check the other meters.”

“The light meter and the spectrometer are still in the tent in Jackie’s backpack,” I add with a bit of sarcasm.

“We’ll have to put them out next time,” Dad says.

Digital camera in hand, he rewinds the tape back to the beginning. As it plays we all squeeze together to watch the screen. Our faces are motionless, like children peering out of a window watching the first snowfall. Excited we watch, nothing, nothing, nothing.

Whiz! Something flies across the screen at the speed of light. It looked like a giant pair of wings. Losing my balance I fall backwards onto my butt.

“What is it?” Jackie exclaims.

“I don’t know. Neewa, stop licking my face, Yuck!” Her tongue swipes my cheek and eye.
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