I feel like I’m mathematically still in the wild card race. It would take some doing, but I could still reach 666 followers by Halloween. I’ve made great strides, but it’s looking like a long shot. If you enjoy this story, please feel free to re-blog it. It might help me reach my goal.
I explained to the third visitor today that Gillydoc wasn’t real. He was a silly story made up by a shopkeeper outside the park to make sure all the tourists stopped by his store. They decided their kids needed a photo with the statue outside the store anyway. Most of them do.
I clocked off and headed down the canyon toward my assigned cabin. The radio call got my attention, but it broke up. All I managed to hear was “missing tourist.”
It was easier to take the main highway around than the narrow winding road directly through the park. I made my way to a high point and checked in. Janice said a young woman was missing, and she would check the cliffs to see whether any climbers were stranded. James was at the campground interviewing the other campers.
“Got it, Jan. I’ll go around to the west entrance and check Beech Creek. Those gravel sifters have been back. Maybe she’s one of them.”
I merged into the line of heavy Saturday traffic and headed past Crowsey’s store. It was your typical rubber tomahawk shop if there ever was one. Old Crowsey had a Gillydoc story for all occasions. Families waited in line for a chance to get a picture with his wooden statue.
It’s ridiculous how intelligent people buy into some kind of monster story. Now Beech Creek, that was real. Millions of dollars in star gems, almost like sapphires, came from those gravels. The ground was littered with them, but only a rare few were good enough to make into a gem. The rest crumbled under the grinding required. It’s a good thing too, or the park would have become a pit mine before it was ever established. Some tourist was always washing through the gravel, hoping to pay for his vacation. I made six arrests last month.
The Beech Creek Campground was packed. I slowed down, but didn’t notice anything unusual. Just before the bridge I spotted tire tracks in the mud of a closed road. I turned off and headed down the ridge.
A small red coupe was parked near an old trailhead to the hot springs. No one was around, and I called the plates in. This would take some time, we aren’t exactly metropolitan out here.
A college girl probably met someone in the park and decided to go skinny dipping. I grabbed my flashlight and headed up the trail.
There was only one set of tracks, and they were small. If she wasn’t our missing camper, she was in a closed area and at least I could get a ticket out of the deal.
The tracks veered off toward Beech Creek before they got near the hot springs. It was getting dark so I turned on my light. A sandy spot in the trees Showed where she’d kicked around in some crumbled stones. Yeah, one good one would put you through college. Is that what’s up tonight? Hell a good one would get me my masters and a post at Yellowstone or Denali.
Tracking got tougher in the mossy parts of the forest. I lost the trail completely for a while. It was because her strides lengthened. She must have been in a hurry to get to the creek, or so I thought. She turned upstream before she ever got to the water.
I lost the trail at a big rock outcrop, and circled looking for tracks. There was more gem gravel, but she hadn’t dug here. I nearly sprained my ankle in an ancient pit. These were from the old days where miners tried to find the source of the gems in the creek.
I sat on a rock to rub out my ankle, and spied a few broken branches from my lower vantage point. Blood painted one of the twigs. I moved the branches around and found a bit more blood. I admit feeling for my pistol before moving forward. There were bears in the park, but it had been years since anyone had a problem.
That’s when I saw it. An actual gemstone secure in the outcrop. People looked all around these rocks for a hundred years and managed to miss it.
It wasn’t just any stone either. This one was as big as a grapefruit. Even the Smithsonian didn’t have one this big. I stared at it for a long time. The center of the star drew my eye, and golden rays spread to the edges along a field of midnight blue. Tiny golden flecks sparkled at the outer edges.
Hell, I wouldn’t need a masters with a stone like this. I could pick up a mansion in Miami and live well for the rest of my life.
It was just as illegal for me to steal it as the missing tourist. Still, I knew where it was. I could come back after getting the tourist off the ridge.
I raised my flashlight for one last look. It was the most gorgeous arrangement of blue and gold I’d ever seen.
Then, it blinked.