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Bad Eagle Road
About the Author: John M. Floyd is the author of more than a thousand short stories in publications like AHMM, EQMM, Strand Magazine, Mystery Magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, Best American Mystery Stories, and Best Mystery Stories of the Year. A former Air Force captain and IBM systems engineer, John is an Edgar finalist, a Shamus Award winner, a six-time Derringer Award winner, and the author of nine books. He is also the 2018 recipient of the Short Mystery Fiction Society's lifetime achievement award.

The young woman stood motionless in the thick woods, staring at the partially hidden mouth of a cave just ahead. Beside her was a gray-haired man with thick eyeglasses, and behind them both was a tall young man in a baseball cap. All three wore backpacks and hiking boots. “Ready?” she asked.

“Ready,” said the man behind her.

She turned to face the eye of the camera in his upraised cell phone. “My name is Victoria Hobbs, and I am here today with the distinguished professor of anthropology and anatomy Dr. George Longwood and our videographer James Navarro.”

“Videographer?” Navarro whispered, grinning.

Ignoring him, Hobbs said, “You can see, there ahead of us, what appears to be the entrance to a large cave. Before we proceed, I’ll let Dr. Longwood provide the details.”

The camera shifted to the older man. He adjusted his glasses and said gravely, “Hello, everyone. My two colleagues and I are about to confirm, I hope, a theory that I first envisioned some time ago.” He paused and cleared his throat. “I have come to believe that the elusive creature we refer to as Bigfoot, or Sasquatch, is no imaginary folk legend. He is real. In fact I think there are many such beings, living unseen and undisturbed in this remote area of the Pacific Northwest. Several recent sightings here, in Bad Eagle Valley, have been especially convincing.” He stopped again, then continued: “But how can this be, you might ask, when almost none of our American wilderness remains unexplored? My answer is that I think these fascinating creatures live mostly underground, in a remarkable and extensive cave system similar in some ways to those found in parts of the southern Appalachians.”

He turned and pointed. “There, twenty yards away, is the opening to one of those caves, many of which are hidden year-round behind downed trees and rocks and thick foliage, and in a moment the three of us will enter it and obtain what I believe will be video proof of the solution to one of our nation’s most enduring mysteries.” Another pause. “As a result, I predict that we will soon be celebrating not only the discovery of an amazing new species of wildlife but also the protection and preservation of this entire area as its natural habitat.” Without another word, Longwood spun around and marched toward the cave. His two companions hurried after him.

“Keep an eye out for bad eagles,” Navarro whispered to Hobbs, as he walked beside her, his phone raised and aimed at the professor’s back.

This time she grinned too. “I will. You just keep filming.”

At the cave entrance Dr. Longwood stopped, hitched the straps of his pack higher on his shoulders, took a long breath, and said, dramatically and unnecessarily, “Follow me.”

And follow they did, recording everything. Erratic at times, bumpy at times, the onscreen image moved forward through the opening and into what would’ve been total darkness except for the headlamps on the heads or hats of all three adventurers. A minute passed, then two, then five, as they progressed through winding and rocky tunnels, some small and cramped, some so tall and wide the beams from their lights failed to reach the ceilings and walls. It all looked scary. The only sound was the occasional rasp of labored breathing and the scrape of boots against dirt and stone.

Ten minutes later the three stopped walking. The eye of the camera focused on a strange and enormous shape in the gloom ahead.

James Navarro, still filming, said, “Oh, God.”

“Dr. Longwood?” Hobbs said quietly. “What is that—”

And screamed.

The camera image disappeared. Everything went black and silent.

“Is that it?” A deep voice asked.

“Yes. That’s all we have.” The room lights came on, and the three men in business suits sitting alone at the conference table shifted their gazes from the wall-mounted screen to each other. Douglas Cameron, the man at the head of the table, switched off the cell phone he’d used to airplay the video and pushed his chair back. “We wouldn’t have it at all—we would never even have found them—if the Hobbs woman hadn’t had a tracker app on her phone.”

“And if her husband hadn’t told us about the app,” said the short, pudgy man seated on his left.

“That too. We’re lucky Mr. Hobbs chose to side with us, on this.”

“In other words, we’re lucky he was greedy.”

That got solemn nods of agreement from the other two.

This story appears in our MAY 2024 Issue
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