Authors: W.C. Hoffman
While still in the service he was stationed at the Air Force base just a few counties away from Pine Run in Oscoda. While training on a night operation in the nearby national forest he became lost. Having no map or compass, he looked to the stars and moon to guide him. Even in cases of a cloud-covered sky, Ravizza could use the dim brightness of the lingering moon as a guide. Only this evening there were no clouds and the moon had given way to Michigan’s famous Northern Lights.
Ravizza quickly learned afterwards that scientifically speaking the Northern Lights, or
Aurora Borealis, is
a natural light display in the sky particularly in high-latitude regions, caused by the collision of energetic charged particles with atoms in the high-altitude atmosphere. Being from Southern California he knew nothing of this glowing effect that covered she sky in waving streaks of green, purple and red.
That night in northern Michigan was the first time Ravizza had ever felt lost. The first time he had ever succumbed to the power of Mother Nature. Having no clue where he was, what way to go or what to do left Ravizza with a sense of freedom he had never known. The feeling was so profound to him that upon retirement he found the area best known for its Northern Lights and started a new life there. That town just happened to be Pine Run.
A federal grant provided the department with a drug dog not long after the attack on Coleman. The drug runners increasingly traversed through the area from Canada using the old logging roads and game trails. The sheriff chose Ravizza as the recipient of the dog not only because Ravizza was on the take with the sheriff, but the sheriff reasoned, “If the damn mutt runs away, Ravizza is the one who will be able to find it.” When it was time to choose a name for his four-legged partner, he settled on naming her after the reason he was in Pine Run in the first place, the Northern Lights. He had also always liked the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora.
With his team of deputies set to go the sheriff and his crew headed deep into the woods as far as their off road utility vehicles could take them. From there only the sheriff knew that it would be a 17-mile hike through the dense pine, oak and birch forests to the reach the last place the yellow satellite phone had marked its known location. The squad was headed for the twin’s hillside orchard.
s they trudged down a leaf-covered hill in a section of tall oak trees whose fallen acorns resembled marbles under their feet, the deputies grew impatient with the so-called training exercise.
"What the hell?” Coleman complained. “We have been hiking for hours and it is starting to get dark.”
"What’s the matter, big boy? Can’t keep up?" Henderson remarked, strolling past Coleman along the trail as he bent over to catch his breath.
"Oh, I can keep it up, all right,” Coleman sneered back. “Why don't you climb in my sleeping bag and find out tonight sweetie?”
Coleman's relentless sexual harassment continued toward Henderson, as always.
“Sorry, I am not into bestiality. I don't hook up with pigs like you,” Henderson retorted.
“Oink, oink, baby,” Coleman responded, tilting his head back to lift his nose up like a swine.
“Since we are in the woods, it might be the perfect time for some jungle fever, huh, Coleman?” Ravizza chimed in, poking at the fact Henderson was black.
“Mmmm, yeah, a little dark meat might be on the menu,” Coleman offered.
“Why don't you just shut your damn mouth for once and follow orders?” Magee suggested.
“Oh, well, thanks for the suggestion and I will definitely take it into consideration once our fearless Boy Scout leader up there admits that he has not told us jack...”
“Shit?” the sheriff answered from the front of the line.
“Yeah, jack shit,” Coleman replied.
“No... bear shit,” Henderson said, pointing down at the ground under Coleman with a massive smile on her face. “Not jack shit. Bear shit, as in your standing in it.” The group all busted out laughing as Coleman vigorously rubbed the bottoms of his ragged, worn-out boots in the nearby grass. They found enjoyment in the kicking motion he attempted to remove as much of the bear's processed lunch as he could.
“Hey Coleman, if the bear’s name was also Jack, then you’re right. It is Jack shit!” Magee added, piling on to Coleman's boot situation.
“Well I guess that answers that age old question,” Ravizza added.
“What question?” Coleman said, his tone lightening up and now seeing the humor in the situation.
“Bears really do shit in the woods!”
The entire group continued laughing at the expense of Jack Coleman again and he stood there confused, not familiar with why anyone would ever wonder such a dumb thing.
“Shut up, Air Force boy,” Coleman said. He found something about everyone to use as ammunition when it came to insults and the fact that he was combat infantry and Ravizza was not just added to it.
'You’re not half the cop I am, Ravizza!” Coleman continued.
“Look at your block head and big fat ass, Coleman,” Ravizza struck back. “I am literally... half the cop you are, piggy.”
Coleman had the same comeback for him as he did a few minutes earlier while being called a member of the swine family. While looking at Henderson and Ravizza he gave each of them a distinctive “Oink, oink.”
“All right, it’s time to set camp and debrief,” the sheriff said, dropping his hiking frame pack from his back, effectively killing the moment.
“Do I get to debrief Henderson?” Coleman again tried to focus the target of laughter away from him.
“You are still and never will be my type,” she replied.
“Not without surgery anyway,” the sheriff quipped.
This comment was met with a glaring stare down from Henderson directly at him. There had been many times when he had publicly outed her in this way. As her boss she felt he constantly crossed way over the line. The sheriff knew Henderson was gay and had openly told her behind closed doors that reporting or filing a complaint against him would mean her having to come out to the rest of the world, something she was not yet ready to do at that point in her life.
Most everyone in the small town knew she was gay and did not care. Yet Henderson felt that Pine Run was not like the rest of the world and that is why she had decided to live there away from her family in Fenton in the first place.
“All right, let’s get this fire going, we still have about six miles to cover at first light.”
“Sleeping here, huh?” Ravizza asked.
“This spot is as good as any,” Henderson said, bending over to drop her hiking pack and supply bag.
The motion of her bending over in front of the guys did not go unnoticed and just about every one of them silently enjoyed the view, tilting their heads to the side in relation to the angle at which she bent.
“Lord have mercy,” Coleman said.
“We should probably leave the Lord out of it.” Ravizza replied in a joking tone.
“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” Coleman added.
Magee playing the part of the preacher jumped right in. “And what are these sins you wish to absolve of, my son?”
“Coveting my neighbor’s possessions,” Coleman said.
“That is not exactly what is meant by coveting, my son.” Magee said.
“Well, Father, she possess that booty and I want to possess it!” Coleman replied.
“Anything else, my child?” Magee asked, keeping up the charade.
“Adultery, coveting her possessions and did I mention adultery?” Coleman said still enjoying the view that Henderson was unknowingly presenting him.
“Adultery, huh? And when did you commit these acts?” Father Magee asked.
“I haven’t, yet,” Coleman answered.
Coleman’s frat boy-like confident attitude in regards to actually being able to woo Henderson in anyway whatsoever made the rest of the group roll their eyes. It was about this time that Henderson caught on to exactly what was happening behind her back. Having listened for a brief second she decided that she wanted to ruin the moment for them and Mother Nature had provided her with the perfect opportunity.
Bending back over and running her hands down ward from her lower back in a sensual manner she stopped them on her butt. Henderson turned her head back slowly to look at them and flicked her pony tail up and over the other side of her face. Making eye-to-eye contact, she looked Coleman directly in the eyes, made a kissing gesture with her lips and let loose the biggest fart that any of them had ever heard come out of a woman.
The campsite exploded with laughter and the guys knew they had been had. It was moments like this that kept Henderson from leaving the department. She could handle the harassment and yet was always one step ahead of the men.
“You just shit on me while I was in confession,” Magee said.
“Sorry father, but I guess that makes it a holy shit,” Henderson said, again one step ahead of them even with jokes. The softer mood of their joking carried on while they continued to set the camp and prepare their meals.
With camp set and their stomachs filled to the brim, the topic of conversation turned back into their so-called training mission.
“Now I am sure you are all wondering why the hell I have dragged you out here,” the sheriff said. The group sat, nodding in silence, waiting on what was to follow.
“Now, I will admit I have not been honest with you guys,” the sheriff started. “This is not a training mission, it is a manhunt. Well, a boy hunt,” he said, removing the yellow satellite phone from his frame pack.
“My daughter found this phone and it has four pictures on it. One of them is the last known picture taken of the Senator's sons who went missing last year.”
Flipping through the images one by one, he gave them the play by play of what they were seeing.
“Here is a nice buck one of them must have shot...”
Henderson being the biggest hunter in the group was the most interested in this one.
“And here is one of the brothers dead... with a fucking arrow through his skull.”
The sheriff spoke with little emotion while showing the picture and passing the phone around to the task force he had assembled.
Each party member examined the phone’s photos and the mood around the campfire suddenly transformed. Before tonight they all had enough sense to know that the twin hunters were most likely dead. Not a single one of them ever imagined they one day would be looking at picture showing one of the brothers murdered.
“So we are looking for a dead man and his missing brother?” Magee asked.
“No, we are looking for a dead man, his missing brother and whoever the hell this teenage kid covered in blood is!” Ravizza added, clicking over to the next image.
Magee being the highest seniority deputy behind the sheriff looked at the picture and immediately recognized the face.
“Holy hell, its Mowgli!”
The nickname was given to Drake upon his stay in the hospital all those years ago in reference to Rudyard Kipling’s
The Jungle Book
, where a child is raised in the wild by animals. Though the picture was of Tomek and not Drake, no one knew back in the hospital days just as they did not know now that there are actually two Mowglis.
“That is exactly what I am thinking,” the sheriff agreed.
“Wait, that is all true?” Coleman again seemed confused. “I thought that was all just some story you all told to cover up losing the kid.”
With a defensive tone, his boss replied, “Of course it is true. What is it about me that makes you think I would ever just make something like that up and use it as a cover-up?”
“Well, if the boot fits...” Coleman had gone out on an accusatory limb but after all the sheriff had lied to get them all out there in the first place.
“Well, the boot may fit in your eyes but at least my boot ain’t got bear shit on it!”
The mood was again lightened and the group went into the plans for the remainder of the hike. Sheriff sat with Ravizza going over the GPS data and the maps as Coleman cleaned his boots off, again.
“Damn it. This bear crap soaked through and it’s on my socks,” Coleman said, tossing a crusty shit-soaked sock into the fire, much to the displeasure of the noses belonging to those around him.
The group refocused one more time as the sheriff and Ravizza informed them of the general route they would take in the morning and at what time they would be leaving. They tucked into their bags around the warm, flickering glow of the fire. The snaps and pops of the boiling sap inside the pieces of pine mixed with the distant drone of the running river made for a perfect night to be in the woods.
Ravizza rolled over, pulling Aurora close to him. Looking up he enjoyed being away from the city lights and used the moment to take in the bounty of stars that only northern Michigan can supply. Glancing to the south he became uneasy, as a large swath of Northern Lights was headed their way and would soon cover them for most of the night. Aurora sensed his uneasiness and whimpered.
“Shhhh, lay down girl,” he comforted her, again rubbing the back of her neck and around her rib cage. Within minutes, the crickets mixed with the sounds of the fire and roaring of Coleman's giant-sized nostrils filling with air were the only things to be heard.
Though they were quiet now, the damage had been done. The deputies’ earlier chorus of laughs and trudging throughout the woods had carried straight down the river valley and alerted the twins that they again were not alone in the woods. Drake was hesitant to go on the offensive, wanting to wait them out hoping they were just hikers passing through the area. That was until he smelt the burning of Coleman's sock on the air. Drake immediately smirked, thinking back on the times Uncle said, “Campfires are often ignored but trash burn piles never are.”
Now Drake knew that was truer than ever.
The twins estimated the approximate location of the fire and knew they had to hike a good amount through the dark. Gathering supplies quickly, they loaded the backpack that had been scavenged off of the hunters and headed out. Three hours later, the twins found the group. With just embers glowing in the fire, the twins climbed a nearby oak tree for a better observation point.