Resurrection 8Posted: November 5, 2016
This is a chapter of the book I am writing for NaNoWriMo. If you want to read it from the start, click here for the chapter index.
J.W. instinctively crouched down at the sound of the shots. It wasn’t unusual to hear gunshots while hiking The Trail, but these sounded close and startled him.
While hiking The Appalachian Trail is a dream for many an outdoors’ person, The Trail is a bane to many who live nearby. Years of careless campers have left trash, graffiti and more than occasionally an out of control fire. In addition, in many of these remote “hollars,” people who live here are suspicious of any stranger.
They have been known to harass hikers, string fishing line barbed with hooks across the trail at eye level, demolish lean tos.
But the real danger is often other hikers.
J.W. was particularly familiar with one grisly story. One he, of course, never shared it with Suzanna, she worried too much about his annual trek already. But at this moment, Geoff and Molly’s tragedy flashed into his mind.
Geoffrey Hood, 26, and Molly LaRue, 25, dreamed of hiking the entire Trail. Geoff was an avid hiker and climber and taught rock climbing in New Mexico. Molly provided wilderness therapy to kids in the Arizona desert. When they both got laid off, they set out to make their dream come true.
On June 4, 1990, they set off together beginning in Maine, planning to take six months to cover the arduous 2,000 trek. As they went, they added to the log books in the lean tos and shelters they encountered. It was obvious they were having a great time with each other, in love, and doing what they loved.
Geoff and Molly were not fast hikers. They regularly stopped to closely examine plants, take pictures, enjoy the moment. They were so slow that Molly wrote in one of the log books “If you’re behind us you will pass us.”
Paul David Crews was a wanted man, on the run from a gruesome murder he committed in 1986. A woman had offered him a ride. Her body was discovered, nearly decapitated, near an abandoned railroad bed in Bartow, Florida.
By September 11, 1990, he was on The Trail, carrying a .22 revolver, 50 bullets and a nine-inch knife. Sometime during the evening of September 12, Crews met Geoff and Molly at the Thelma Mark’s shelter. Sometime between 5am and 7am the next morning, he killed them, stealing some of their gear.*
That story flashed into J.W.’s mind as he made himself as small as possible. The shots were too close. Four shots in rapid succession, with the higher pitched sound of a small caliber. Probably a handgun, semi-auto.
Hunters, sometimes poachers, frequented the forests surrounding The Trail. He was worried someone was hunting nearby and possibly didn’t see him. His clothes were dirty from several days of hiking and it’s possible he blended in too well.
But hunters typically didn’t use pistols. Maybe someone was just shooting at bottles.
Thinking through his options, he decided to yell, let them know he was there.
“HEY! I’M DOWN HERE BY THE CREEK! HEY!” He stood up, waving his arms, “HELLO! HEY! I’M DOWN HERE BY THE CREEK!”
J.W. heard rustling coming from upstream, to his left. He turned facing that direction, still waving his arms, “HEY! HEY!”
Two men emerged in front of him. The older of the two looked to J.W. to be in his late 50s. He was wearing an oily International Harvester hat, holely grey T under a short sleeved blue unbuttoned work shirt, matching work pants. The younger looked to be around 30, jeans with a black “Mötley Crüe” T tucked in.
J.W. quickly noted the rifle slung over the older one’s shoulder and the holstered pistol on the younger’s hip.
“I guess we skeered ya, huh?” said the younger as he chuckled. “We ain’t gonna hurt nobody don’t need hurtin'”
“Yeah, well, when I heard the shots they sounded close. Wanted to make sure you knew I was here.” J.W. tried to sound friendly despite his growing apprehension.
“Oh, we know’d you was here…we saw ya walk down to the crick.” said Motley.
Now the elder spoke up: “You one-a them hikers I suppose?”
“Yeah, I’m just doing a week. Going to end up in Townsend by Saturday.” J.W. replied as the older one hooked his thumb under the rifle strap.
“My name’s J.W.” he put out his hand to the elder.
“Mine’s Bobby, this here’s ‘Speed.’ We call him that ’cause he’s the laziest sumbitch you ever meet.” Bobby ignored J.W.’s hand. J.W. awkwardly retracted it.
“That’s some fancy stuff you got there.” Speed eyed J.W.’s gear.
“Yeah, it’s OK.” The last thing J.W. wanted to do now was make them think he had valuables on him.
Speed walked over and squatted down next to J.W.’s pack, he had taken it off to retrieve his water bottles. “Purty fancy….”
“How much a pack like this set a feller back?” Speed didn’t sound threatening, but J.W. still felt threatened.
“Oh, I don’t know. Had that forever. New it might be worth $50.” He lied.
Speed picked through the pack, throwing the contents onto the ground.
“What’s this thing?” he asked, pulling out J.W.’s solar charger, “Some kinda radio?”
Before J.W. could answer, Bobby barked at Speed: “Leave that man’s shit alone, you got no cause to be pickin’ through it. Leave it be.”
“Jesus, I was just lookin’.” Speed stood, crossed his arms and continued looking down at the gear.
“Where you from?” Bobby asked.
“I’m from Kentucky, born and raised.” J.W. was trying his best to be folksy. He didn’t like the odds here. It would be easy for them to shoot him, steal his gear and no one would ever know.
“Kentucky, huh? Well I guess that’s alright.” Bobby was hard to read. “Speed, do you reckon we oughta let this boy get about his business?”
“Yeah, I guess.” Speed replied. “We sure skeered ya, didn’t we?”
“Yeah, you did.” J.W. felt relieved.
The two disappeared into the woods and the rustling sound of their footsteps soon faded. J.W. filled his water bottles, repacked his gear and decided bum knee or not, he was going to put a couple miles between him and them.
The fear stayed with J.W. as he hiked. He kept feeling as if maybe they were following him, hidden by the brush. Every sound from the woods – sounds that are always there – gave him a start.
The sun had not yet set when he reached the next shelter. A group of four were already unpacked and eating.
“You by yourself?” asked a young 20-something with a full blonde beard and a broad smile.
“Not any more,” replied J.W.
*While this book is fiction, this particular section is a true story. You can read it here: