Authors: Judith E. French
Judith E. French
Chesapeake Bay Country
Ears pricked, the fox stepped out of the tangle of tall
phragmites and sniffed the air. Only the whisper of
swaying marsh grass, the drone of insects, and the
mournful cry of a dove broke the stillness of the misty
morning. The vixen was young and her sleek red-gold
coat glistened in the ribbons of dappled sunlight that
filtered through the wisps of remaining fog.
The fox froze, coiled muscles tensed, inquisitive
eyes scanning the beach. From a pine bough overhead, a squirrel chattered, but the vixen gave no indication that she heard. She leaped gracefully over a
mossy log and trotted down the slope to the narrow
strip of beach framing the salt water pond.
The fox raised her head, inhaling the sweet stench
of carrion. She crossed the damp sand, her gaze locked
on the prize that her keen nose had already located.
A few yards off the shore, the body of a grotesquely
swollen man bobbed in the shallow brackish water. He
floated face down and naked, except for the monstrous garment formed of multitudes of feeding crabs.
Above and below the surface of the brackish water,
Chesapeake Blue Claws feasted on the sun-baked
Craters gaped in the ruined flesh. Crabs gnawed at
the pale, bloated buttocks. White bone gleamed
through the ruins of the left shoulder. The dead man's
hair had been close-cropped, and the back of his head
and neck was a squirming mass of crustaceans.
The fox stood quivering at the water's edge, waves
lapping her dainty front paws. Her nostrils flared as
each breath brought her the delicious scent of ripe
flesh. Every instinct urged her to leap into the water
and partake of the bounty, but she hesitated.
Something troubled her.
Her hackles rose and her ears flicked nervously.
Somewhere over the salt marsh an osprey shrieked,
but the vixen never turned her gaze toward the sky.
Glancing back at the body, she salivated, and licked
her lips. The cloying odor of decaying flesh hung
heavy on the air.
The vixen lifted her head and sniffed the salt breeze
drifting off the marsh. Abruptly, she whirled and fled
across the beach, vanishing into the trees. The crabs
continued to feast, oblivious to the watching eyes.
Unaware of the human watching ... unaware of the
presence of pure evil.
Emma Parks stood with her hands on her hips and her
mouth open as the candy-apple-red helicopter circled
the open field, swooped, and hovered over her mother's
cow pasture before landing. The pilot gradually reduced the engine speed and shut it down. Once the rotors came to a full stop, the pilot and sole occupant,
female, climbed out onto the field. She wore jeans and a
tank top, canvas athletic shoes with a green leaf design,
and dark sunglasses. Slung over one shoulder was a
worn leather backpack.
"That your girl?" Emma asked the woman standing
Karen Knight grinned and waved. "Abigail Chingwe
Night Horse, soon to be Dr. Night Horse. Sounds pretentious, doesn't it?"
"Chingwe. It means bobcat in the Lenape. Her grandfather named her. He still spoke a little of the old
language. He's dead now, but he was insistent that she
carry his mother's name."