Raven’s Run 121

I had to proceed three quarters of a mile up the dry ravine and then go over the right bank. I did that. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t crossing the Rhine, either. When I left the ravine, not much light remained. Two hundred yards on my belly put me in sight of the house. Shack, really. There was light; not the cold light of electricity, but the rich amber of a kerosene lantern. It showed one window clearly in the dark mass of the house, and the crack of a half open door. Nothing moved in the yard. I glassed the place as thoroughly as I could while some light remained; then I waited. Several times, someone walked between the light and the window. Once I heard what sounded like a whine. It was a sound I had been listening for.

Twenty minutes later, a gaunt figure came to the door and set something on the porch. From two places in the yard, heavy shadows lifted themselves up and glided over to eat. I couldn’t tell the breed, but they were dogs, and they were big.

I didn’t need much from this place. I wasn’t gathering evidence for a grand jury. This was Skinny Alan’s property; if they were growing a significant amount of pot here, then I was on the right track. What I didn’t want was to wander around in the dark running into booby traps. Most of the stories about trip wires and shotguns in the California north woods were probably not true. Probably not. But I didn’t want to test the assumption, so I stayed where I was and prepared to wait out the night.

Mosquitoes moved in. They tried their best, but compared to the kind I knew as a child, they were a joke. A Wisconsin mosquito would have eaten them alive. I put on my jacket, ate a No-doze and waited. And waited. The moon came up late and thin and mostly hidden by trees. The dogs down below ate and went back to sleep. Occasionally one of them would snarl low and quick out of reflex. About two AM the inhabitant of the shack came out with a flashlight, stirred them up and cussed them out as she walked to a small building behind the shack. I saw that it was a woman and the building was an outhouse. Five minutes later she went back inside, and that was the high point of the night.

The sky began to lighten about five. By six there was color in the sky and she had a light on inside. About that time I smelled bacon, so I ate another candy bar. At seven fifteen, she came out, lean and hard, dressed in ragged denim and plaid flannel. She was about forty-five, with skin like leather and a graying hair that she had cut short. She gathered up a hose and a bucket, called the dogs, and set off uphill toward the ravine.

I gave her a good start, then followed. Once I had established that she was following a trail, I cut out into the woods so I wouldn’t leave a scent on the ground. The buck brush and manzanita were more than head high, but I could catch a glimpse of her from time to time. It was an easy stalk. more tomorrow


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