(This is an edited scene from chapter one of Spirit Woman.)
“I’d just stepped away from my rig when I heard a noise behind me.” Lou spread her arms wide as she continued. “Not thirty feet away, a black bear stood on a large boulder. I heard its claws click as it scrabbled across the rock, dropped into the grass on all fours, and lumbered toward me.” She wrinkled her nose. “It was so close, I could smell it. I thought I might be the bear’s main course that night and headlines in tomorrow’s Lockleer Mountain Gazette.” Lou winked at her friend.
“Lulu Jane Shoemaker! Is this a true story, or are you telling tall tales? What happened? Tell me!”
“Obviously the bear didn’t eat me.” Lou folded her arms and leaned back. “It’s true. The bear roared. It gave me the chills. Instead of thinking about how not to be eaten alive, I thought, ‘Think fast or die. Wow! That would look good on a bumper sticker on the back of The Pooper Scooper.’”
“Lou! You’re killing us! Get to the point. What did you do?”
“I slowly stepped back toward my truck. With each step backward, the bear advanced. Me─one step back. Her─one step forward, as if we were playing a game of Bear Eats Camper chess. I pivoted, grabbed the lever on the side of my sewer truck, and flipped the switch. As soon as the pump kicked on, the bear turned and scrambled back into the woods, lickety-split.”
“Lou Shoemaker,” Judy said. “I don’t believe a word of it. I think you made up that whole story to get attention.”
“I did no such thing. It’s the God’s truth, every word.”
“Lou, only you would name your sewer truck business, the Pooper Scooper.” Judy reached across the pub table and patted Lou’s hand. “Honey, why don’t you sell that truck? That’s no business for a beautiful woman like you. It’s too dangerous. That bear could have killed you. How can you pump out septic tanks every day? It’s so nasty.”
“Psst. Don’t look now,” Judy jabbed her finger toward the door. “Look who just walked in. Col. Ralph Ramsey. Is that his wife with him? She used to be on the Animal Rescue Committee with me. About three months ago, she said she was too busy to take a litter of puppies found beside the road. You remember when Nate’s twin sister, Suzanna, went missing? Apparently, she spotted a black garbage bag that looked like something was wiggling inside. She found five puppies inside. She called to see if our rescue group would take them. When she didn’t show up and didn’t answer her phone, I called Nate. He drove down the hill and found her car over an embankment and blood on the window. The pups were in the back seat, but Suzanna couldn’t be found. They don’t know if someone picked her up or if she wandered away.”
“The town swarmed with FBI for days. Offering a reward didn’t do any good. I haven’t heard anything about it for weeks.”
Lou stood and walked past Col. and Mrs. Ramsey’s table.
Col. Ramsey nodded as Lou passed. “Evening.” Lou guessed his septic tank needed service again. Perhaps he hoped she would respond favorably should he give the Pooper Scooper another call. She grinned and promised to think about it…not.
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