The Shasta Caper
by John Pirillo
Jimbo and Nanny supported Samuel, who was trembling from the energies he had just merged with. He looked around him, still dazed, still seeing the vast monster rising from the pit, then realized where he was again.
"You all right, partner?" Jimbo asked, concerned as always.
"Yeah. I think so. Let's get out of this thing."
They helped him get down to the ground again and he was careful not to touch the train engine again. He didn't stop until he was well away from the train and able to sit on a log. He sat there a long time, saying nothing. They waiting for him to speak, exchanging nervous glances.
Finally, he took a hit from his canteen, then looked up at them, his eyes clear again of the disaster that had happened here.
"Many men died here."
Nanny nodded. "The Indians have legends of a great Snowbeast that guards the mountain against those who are greedy and care not for the earth."
"Well, if what I saw was their Snowbeast, then people had a right to be scared of it." Samuel said, then took another hit of water from his canteen. Finally, he stood up.
"Okay, I think I know the way now." He said.
Nanny looked into his eyes. "How could you do that in that one second?"
Jimbo put a hand on Samuel's shoulder. "Sammie, you sure of what you saw?"
"Damn sure. One second. It seemed like hours."
Jimbo nodded, then looked at Nanny.
She shrugged. "It's your show, I'm just along for the ride."
"What about your job?" He asked her.
"I'm doing it." She responded with a smirk. "Keeping dumb civvies from dropping off cliffs, getting buried under snow avalanches, and stopping them from burning down the woods."
"In other words a babystitter." Samuel said with a grin.
"Pretty much. I cleared it with the Head Ranger before I met with you two this morning. He's as curious as most of us about that secret entrance. He used to be part of a secret society that claimed to know the location, but he never rose high enough in it to find out."
"Well that settles it." Jimbo growled. "We're definitely onto something."
Samuel nodded, then eyed the terrain. "Temperature's going to drop like crazy pretty soon now."
Nanny agreed. "About forty degrees. And there's a new storm on the way too."
"Why didn't you tell us about it earlier?" Jimbo growled.
"What! And ruin your fun?"
"Point taken." Jimbo agreed, then when Samuel started walking up a narrow path past the tracks, he followed with Nanny trailing him.
"Tell me again about my duplicate." Nanny asked.
"Your mother?" Samuel retorted.
"All right, my mother then, though I don't know who the hell that could be, since I was abandoned as a baby and brought up in an orphanage until I was sixteen and went to college to get my degrees."
"Sorry." Samuel said. "I didn't know."
"You didn't ask." She snapped back, a bit tartly.
Jimbo laughed. "She's got you there, Sammie."
Nanny smiled. "I have that affect on men. Get them there. Smack dab in the middle."
Samuel smiled back at her. "And I bet they loved every minute of it."
"Mostly." She replied. "Unless I shot them."
Samuel stopped and looked her in the eyes. "That's the second time now you've said that. Is this something we gotta be worried about?"
"Not unless you're a dishonorable, no down, furry assed sonvua bitch." She snapped at him.
They stared at each other a long time, then she burst into laughter. "Gotcha!"
She looked across at Jimbo, whose mouth was hanging open. "You two are so easy. My fellow Rangers would gobble you two up for breakfast. So now where? We need to find shelter in the next thirty minutes or so, or freeze to death."
Samuel took the point again and they worked further up the path. It got darker and darker, so they got out maglights to illuminate the path. "Should be close now." Samuel said.
They finally broke through a barrier of tall, dried shrubs and a crude home of sorts lay half broken in their path.
"A warm bed and bath awaits our company." Samuel said lightly.
Jimbo snorted. "You mean we're gonna freeze our asses off and stink like hell the next morning."
"Something like that." Samuel acknowledged, then cut ahead and carefully prodded open the door.
He peered inside with his light, then motioned the others to follow him inside.
The interior was stark, but solid. The crude nature of the exterior put a lie to the interior of the place. There was an old wood stove with stacks of cut wood beside it, an antique stove, and a barrel of water, which was fed by a pipe coming down from the roof, and another pipe dropping out of sight through the flooring.
"Nice cistern. Self fills and self empties." Jimbo said, admiring the cleverness and simplicity of it. "Always fresh, always there."
"Long as it rains or snows." Nanny said, shutting the door behind them, then reaching for a hard, rusted bar of wood and iron to shut it tight.
"Wonder why they had that?" Jimbo asked.
"Indians." Samuel replied. "They pissed off a lot of them when they built the railroad and burned down their homes to make their tracks."
Jimbo sighed, dropped his backpack to the floor beside a bunk with metal springs only on top of it. He unzipped his back pack and threw a blanket over the springs. "You can have this, Nanny."
She shook her head. "Too soft for me."
She opened her own pack, looked around the room, found an old broom still usuable, though frayed and swept the floor around the old stove and fireplace. Through she spread a large, rough Indian blanket with beautiful moons and stars woven into it. "My Grannie's."
"I thought you were an orphan." Samuel said.
"Hey! Even orphans have Grannies. Used to call my Head Mother that. She was a cute, lovable and round as a barrel of water type of lady who always made sure every one of us children had a proper story and snack before bed."
Jimbo smiled, then looked at the bunk. Samuel patted his shoulder. "Take it. I don't take well to springs."
"Thanks." Jimbo threw his insulated metallic blanket over the bunk, then set his backpack at its head for a pillow. Before he sat on it, he pulled out some packets of Hostess Twinkies.
Nanny opened her hands and he tossed her one, then Samuel, who immediately opened his to eat, though Nanny set hers down as she settled beside the old stove. She looked into the old stove. I think it's serviceable."
She got on her knees and began plying its interior with wood.
Samuel helped her find some paper from his own bag and Jimbo's, and she used a Bic lighter to light the paper. In a few minutes, after much coaxing, a cheery fire burned in its belly. She shut the door to stop the smoke from coming out. She eyed the roof and a pipe going up from the stove. "It looks tight."
They all waited breathlessly. No smoke came out.
Samuel threw his own sleeping bag down to the left of Nanny and she hers to the right of herself. They put their backpacks between them, then squatted with folded legs and ate their Twinkies.
"Hard to believe I'm eating a Twinkie for dinner." Nanny said. "Thanks, guys, for bringing the height of civilization into my life."
"Oh, it gets better." Jimbo said, finishing up his fifth Twinkie. "Wait until you have some fried grasshoppers and honey dipped worms."
Nanny stopped eating. "Suddenly, my hunger has ceased."
Jimbo and Samuel laughed, then said at the same time. "Gotcha!"
She grinned at them both. "You two really are something!"
The heat was beginning to warm up the old cabin as a wind began to howl outside. Whisks of cold air swept under the door until Samuel crammed the old Twinkie wrappers into it. A few blew back out, so he crammed several pieces of wood against them and the wind stopped blowing inside.
The warmth was making them all drowsy.
"Tomorrow?" Nanny yawned.
"Yeah." Samuel replied, already drifting off to sleep.
Only Jimbo remained awake. He had heard something outside. Something big. He didn't want to wake up his friends just yet, because there shouldn't be anything out there dangerous enough to get inside. Shouldn't be was the catch word. He had learned a long time ago, that should bes, could bes and want to bes were not all the same thing.
Then something big crashed into the front door. Something very, very big!