The Chamber of Commerce had an information booth in one of the hardware stores. Between hip boots and manure scoops, I picked up a city map, and bought topographic maps of the surrounding countryside.
This was the valley of the Eel River, and topography dictated the crescent shape of the town. The river itself was across the valley, on the other side of the freeway, and the town filled the remaining space between the ranges of low brown hills. No one was adventurous enough to build houses up where they could overlook the valley, probably because there wasn’t that much to see. I had driven through some pretty country to get here, but Garberville itself was nothing to brag about.
The Thunderbird Motel was just seedy enough for my needs. It looked like a place where fishermen would stay when the steelhead were running. That definitely wasn’t now. By one o’clock the sun was blistering. The motel room air conditioner was tired and noisy; I turned it on high and spread my maps on the bed. Comparing topographic maps to the plat descriptions was no easy task. They operated out of different ways of thinking. I finally found a description of the intersection of two roads on one of the plat descriptions that I could match up with the topo; after that I could locate myself and find some of the properties I had come to see.
Then I used the phone book to check addresses. Only William Johnson was listed. I checked out the location of his house, and of Jim Davis’. Skinny Alan lived in Redway, and I didn’t have a map for it.
I found food, ate, showered, set the alarm, and slept. At six that evening, I was dressed and driving. I figured I had about two hours of useable light left.
Ninety minutes later, I was afoot with the shotgun hanging across my back and the .44 on my belt, hiking up a ravine toward the nearest piece of suspicious property.
The Pinto was stashed out of sight up a dirt road. If anyone saw it, and cared enough to notice, it looked pretty much like an abandoned car. If I left it there long enough, someone would steal the tires. Otherwise, I wasn’t worried about it giving me away.
Remember, this was 1989. There were no Google maps. No Google, in fact, and barely anything resembling the internet. Just topographic maps.
I had studied the topo map with great care. The ravine I was hiking in ran up through the scrub oak and manzanita in the general direction of the only building that showed. Of course, the topo had last been revised fifteen years earlier. There could have been a small town up ahead, and I wouldn’t know it. At least the contours of the land would be the same, barring bulldozers. I had to proceed three quarters of a mile up the dry ravine and then go over the right bank. 750 double steps of a Roman legionnaire. The way I was weaving about to avoid the brush, I would call it a thousand. If I went too far, the ravine cut sharply to the left, and I could backtrack a couple of dozen yards. more tomorrow