Rose stood on the deck waiting for us when we reached the house.
“Hi Rose,” I said, keeping an eye on her mood. “Hope you weren’t waiting too long.”
“Nope, I just got here.”
“Good, let me grab my purse and we’ll head out.” I jogged into the house and returned in a flash.
“What did you tell Bear about me?”
“Only that you’ve had great luck as an investor. I’m taking my own vehicle down so I can visit with him longer. You can follow me.”
“Okay.” I said as we all piled into my Ford.
I dropped Rose off at her rundown blue jeep. Anyone who knew Rose could see her coming from a mile away. The tailgate of her jeep was covered with stickers of fairies frolicking in the woods and she had a small crystal unicorn with a gold horn and hoofs hanging from her rear-view mirror. She pulled onto the dirt road and we carefully maneuvered around the deep ruts toward the paved road.
Within ten minutes we reached the small town Killer and I had passed through the day before. The town consisted of the basics for mountain life, a automotive garage with towing and snow plows, a bed and breakfast, a place that sells fishing supplies along with horse rentals and snowmobiles, a gas station that also sells some winter apparel, and of course a bar and grill. We pulled into the parking lot of Pops Bar and Grill and got out of our vehicles.
“Does Bear own this place?” I asked as my eyes gazed over the exterior of the bar.
“Yep, it’s been in his family for a long time.”
We climbed the steps up to the rectangular building and on to a narrow deck. The only window on this side of the building was on the front door. The sign in the window said closed.
“It’s not open Rose.”
“Not open to the general public right now. Bear put this together special for us before business hours. He wanted to have some extra free time to meet you. We’ll go around back.”
We rounded the side of the building and stepped onto a full deck in the back with high railings. Well placed solid wood picnic tables covered most of the open area. The stunning view off the back deck caught my eye.
The deck stood at least five feet off the ground. A few feet beyond was the same stream by my house, but wider, making it a river. On the other side of the river a rock bed sloped up to the tree line with purple mountains set against the crisp blue sky.
While I was enjoying the view Bear must have come out of the bar, because I heard Rose croon.
I turned around. My first thought was thank goodness this wasn’t a find Montana a man set up. My second thought was, now I understand why everyone calls him Bear.
Bear’s a big guy with more muscle than fat. His demeanor screamed rugged mountain man. At first glance he seemed to be about the same age as Rose, whatever that is, but then I realized he’s probably a bit older. He has shoulder length sandy blond hair, mixed with gray. His beard and mustache was solid gray and his sharp blue eyes were surrounded with laugh lines. He looked like a big bear, but not as hairy. He also adored Rose.
I sat down at one of the picnic tables and waited for them to stop goggle-eying each other. Watching them was both endearing and embarrassing. Endearing because they were kind of old, embarrassing for the same reason.
Bear pulled his eyes away from Rose and noticed me sitting at the table. He interlocked his hand with hers and came over to introduce himself.
“Hi, I’m Tom Tomson,” he said. “You must be Montana.”
“Very nice to meet you,” Tom Tomson I thought, no wonder he liked being called Bear.
“The pleasure’s all mine,” he said smiling, “but call me Bear. I hardly ever answer to Tom.”
“Okay Bear” My eyes wandered back to the mountains. “This is a wonderful place you have. The view is absolutely enchanting and the landscape looks like an oil painting.”
“Thank you,” he glanced at the mountains with a grin. “It’s the reason I moved up here. Follow me and I’ll give you the grand tour. Afterwords you ladies can help me set up for the feast.”
I didn’t want to move from my seat. Natures energy seemed to flow through me, wrapping her lovely hands around me. I could sit on the deck forever with the sun beating warmly down on me.
I took another moment to enjoy the surrealism of the day before entering the bar and grill. I found the interior bigger than I’d imagined. A stage for bands and a dance floor faced the left side of the room. The tall wood tables and chairs were strategically placed along the edge of the dance floor to the center of the restaurant. A good size walkway lay in between the tables and the bar. The bar covered most of the wall. A long mirror was bolted up behind the shelves of glasses and bottles of alcohol. Bar stools sat in a neat row, waiting for costumers to come in and claim them. The kitchen was located behind the bar to the right through some double doors.
I wandered around and scanned over the pictures on the walls while Rose and Bear disappeared into the kitchen. Most of the pictures consisted of a hunter bagging his animal, or a fisherman catching his fish. A few pictures, I assumed, were a younger Bear and his family. When the pictures had circled me back to the bar I started collecting the items they’d put out for our feast. I took them outside and placed them on the picnic table closest to the river. Bear and Rose joined me. We all sat down and dove in. We were starving.
“Ooh, what is the meat? It’s so good!” I asked Bear.
“That’s smoked elk. I shot a big one this year.” He said smiling.
I loaded my plate with smoked elk, potato salad, corn on the cob, and rolls. While I ate I debated on how many pieces of peach cobbler I wanted. And how long it would take me to burn off all of the calories I had already consumed.
Once we were done eating and rearranging our jeans so we could plow into the peach cobbler Bear glanced up at me from his plate, “I have an ulterior motive for feeding you.”
“Really? What’s that?” My eyes drifted to the cobbler.
“Rose says you’re an investor and I wanted to talk to you about investing in my business.”
“Is your business doing badly?”
“No, but me and my son want to add on, were thinking about having a few people invest with us.”
“Hmm…,” my first real day of vacation and already someone wanted to discuss business.
Bear’s grin widened “I actually don’t want to go into detail now. I need to open the bar and I know you’re on vacation, but I’d like to meet with you later. Maybe in a week or two with my son if that’s alright with you?”
“It’s perfect. It gives me a little time to settle in.” I sighed with relief, under my breath.
“Well,” Bear said as he stood up “I have to go to work now.”
“The food was fabulous,” both Rose and I announced together.
“I’ll help you pick up, then Killer and I are going home to for the night.”
“You’re more than welcome to stay for a drink.” Bear said looking at Rose, but speaking to me.
“I brought my own car down, I’ll be staying.” Rose replied, blushing.
“I still need to unpack, but thank you.” I grinned.
“Well, come inside anyway, I have a few elk steaks for you and steak bones for Killer, your horribly vicious looking attack dog.” Bear said laughing.
I started laughing too. Killer hung his head down a notch. I swear his fur turned a blush color as he followed us through the door.
We finished cleaning up then Bear hefted a heavy cooler full of meat and bones into the truck. We all said goodbye and I headed for home. All I could think about was changing into sweats and starting a fire.
My senses pricked as soon as I pulled into my driveway. I was being watched. The hair on the back of my neck and arms stood to attention and a chill crawled up my spine.
I examined the area, nothing seemed out of place, but that didn’t matter. The forest surrounded me, shadows danced as the cool breeze ebbed and flowed through the trees. If something was hidden in the woods watching me it could be hiding behind one of the huge pines, or oak bushes, or anywhere.
I parked and slightly turned my head to glance at Killer. He must be a defect. He wasn’t reacting at all to the unseen vibes floating off the wind. I thought animal’s had a sixth sense about stuff like this and Rose never mentioned being spooked. My nerves shook, panic tried to take over my clear thinking. I inhaled several deep breaths to calm myself and glanced around again. Knowing my doors were unlocked made me feel a little better. I wouldn’t have to mess around with a key, but at the same time someone might have been in my house or might still be.
“Okay Killer we’re getting out, grabbing the meat and running for the door. This is important so you’d better be listening. If anything moves out there I want you to attack. Got it Killer?”
He yawned. I think he was ignoring me, but at least he was ready to get out of the truck. I searched for anything I could use for a weapon. I found absolutely nothing so I threw open the door before I lost my nerve.
“Come on Killer!” I whispered as I hauled out the cooler and booked it up to the deck. I flew into the house with Killer on my heels, slammed and locked the door behind me then raced to the back locking that door too. After sliding down onto the floor and collecting my nerves I realized the spooky sensation had dissipated.
“Ugh, what the hell is wrong with me?” I shook my head. “Nothing, I’ll figure this out.”
As my jitters subsided I walked back into the living room to check on Killer. He stood gazing at the fireplace with such longing I had to start a fire for us or feel guilty for thinking of my own needs first. Once the logs started to burn he settled down on the floor and closed his eyes. I put the meat away and bolted upstairs, time to start unpacking and get on the computer.
I found my smokes in the first box I unpacked and lit one. My 357 Revolver showed up in the fifth box, with the bullets. I loaded bullets into the gun and searched my house, rechecking the doors. Whoever was watching me hadn’t been in the house, at least not that I could tell. I changed into my sweats and fluffy pink socks before kicking back on the couch with my laptop. I thought about calling Rose and telling her, but she would have said something to me if she was having problems. I also had to take into consideration my ability to pick up on strange occurrences and some paranormal activities along with sensing other people and their intentions.
Not saying these episodes were in anyway paranormal. A mad psycho serial killer might be on the loose, on my land.
I spent the rest of the night on the computer, researching escaped convicts and haunted lands, coming up with nothing. I wasn’t any closer to finding out what may be on my property. I set down my computer and fell asleep on my couch, thinking The next morning I woke up so stiff I could barely move.
Mental note buy a bigger couch or make it to my bed.
I stood up, did some yoga stretches, found my gun, made some coffee, and reached the front door with Killer by my side. I hid my gun in my coat pocket and headed for Rose’s house. Her jeep wasn’t in the driveway and she didn’t answer her door. She probably spent the night with Bear, good for her.