Far below her outcrop, the local monster hunters were battling the mountain guardian. She couldn’t quite make out the details, though. From her height, all she saw were ant-like figures circling a much larger pile of moving rock. The scene reminded her of Bosch’s triptychs. Tiny people doing crazy things.
The sun baked her back as Chelsea studied the town. The butte rose high above the pretty mountain municipality, giving her a great view. She squinted, peering past the houses and shops to the green postage stamps of parks that grew along the lake. “This is all really settled. Where can we fight this thing?”
Bright red strawberries of embarrassment stained the pale cream of the girl’s cheeks. “Well, um. That is my aunt and uncle in Seattle knew you from… My cousins told me you’d be out here.”
“And who the hell are you and your family?” Chelsea found her hand on her ax.
The impossible blue of the Columbia River called Chelsea, despite the reddening sky. While she knew the cold of night was coming, right that moment, it was still hot as hell.
Chelsea leaned against the wall of the haunt, Bentley at her feet, ears pricked and legs rigid; both stood ready to bolt.
It was hard to feel claustrophobic in Seattle, with its wide-open spaces and the saltwater wind in the air. Being trapped in a hunt by a hedge doctor managed to make this clean city with its artwork and parks feel tiny and airless.
Chelsea reached greedily for the proffered coffee cup with her uninjured arm. Hot, and somehow both bitter and smooth, she savored the drink. One of the hedge doctors had bought her one from the coffee shop downstairs when she limped in this morning. She was on her third. “I swear this almost doesn’t need sugar.”
Trees and cloud cover made a velvet darkness that hemmed in her flashlight. She couldn’t see much beyond her toes. But that didn’t matter in this well-kept wilderness with it distinctly defined paths.
At first, her brain rejected what she saw, but it was too obvious to dismiss. Tree roots were weaving through the undergrowth.
“Okay, Bent. Unless a cool monster comes up, we’re taking off. The damp is killing me.”
The dog whuffed from behind, sounding more preoccupied with whatever animal had pissed on the towering pine trees the night before.
“Don’t patronize me.”