Playing on "crazy/insane" words,
the history of this series began as a short story
written for a contest.
When that failed, I shelved it till later.
Then the short story became an idea for a series.
Many edits and brainstorming sessions later,
Hog Insane was born.
I've been searching for "crazy/insane" words since.
Hog Insane, Book One
“I know what you said,” I growled. A vision of my wife’s closet back home, filled with rows of shoes—basic colors like black, blue, brown, and white, and a rainbow of colors—intensified my already stretched-to-out-of-bounds nerves.
We strolled toward the campground restaurant. The lights from the office behind us cast weird shadows on the shortcut path. I scowled and opened my mouth to let Alex hear why she didn’t need that eighty-sixth pair of shoes.
An explosive crack split the air around us and blasted my fussing right out of my head. I dropped to the mossy ground and pulled Alex down with me, breathing hard, my eyes searching the shadowy darkness closing in on us.
The throbbing rumble of a fast approaching Hog drowned out the creaks of nightlife, as the bike tore down the road that ran parallel with the path we were on. In a blur of silver and black, the sole rider wove from side to side in an imbecilic pattern. Before I could dwell on it, a small, dark car raced twenty feet or so behind the bike. All the windows were dark except one, and something protruded from that one.
Something long, narrow, and ominous.
I blinked and hugged the edge of the road even tighter. Couldn’t be a gun. Nah. Ludicrous.
The car roared past us, and I turned my head to get another glimpse. No sign of a gun now.
Alex mumbled beneath me.
I scrambled up and helped her to her feet. “Denton Davies. What on earth is the matter with you?” She reached up and ran her fingers through her hair, then grimaced as she slid her hands over her clothes. With a quick glance at me, her eyes revealed sudden concern. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah. I’m fine. You?”
She indicated the hole in her sleeve and stuck out her foot. “What do you think?”
I eyed the long black scratches on the absurd-looking pink things semi-covering her feet, but my mind remained on that bike and car. Could the biker be the guy we were looking for?
Selena Mathias’ worried words from a week ago played like a circus calliope in my mind. He’s in trouble. I know it. I need your help. Please.
“How can you just stand there? Don’t you care that you’ve ruined my shoes and my clothes?” Alex propped a fist on her hip. “Just because you’re angry about the shoes I bought today—”
I took her arm and guided her toward our RV.
“Sorry. I thought someone was shooting at us.”
She gave me one of those looks. “Sounds like you’re trying to live the last mystery book our reading group discussed.”
“Hardly.” Our love affair with mystery books was the furthest thing from my mind. The image of the bike and those morons chasing the guy on it, refused to fade. Had they been a bunch of teens having fun? Like Michael, my favorite, seventeen-year-old nephew, when he died? “Insane biker.” If I never saw another biker, it’d be too soon.
A quiet sigh escaped Alex’s lips, and she muttered, “I’d love to ride a bike.”
How can you say that? You know what happened to my nephew. You know how I blame—
“Denton, stop condemning me with your thoughts.”
I lowered my voice to a menacing growl and repeated the words aloud. “It’s—insane. And dangerous.” Michael. Michael. The son I’d never had. The one I’d taught to ride bike. My jaw clenched. The risks they took, the craziness they engaged in—yep, I’d had my own run-ins with plenty of bikers, and most of them hadn’t improved my opinion. “What about Michael? You know how—”
“Denton, It’s been ten years. It wasn’t your fault then, and it’s certainly not now.”
That didn’t make the guilt go away. “If I’d never taught him—”
“Nonsense. His mother spoiled him rotten and never disciplined him.”
Taffy, our tan and white Jack Russell, jumped in the air, nosed my arm, and I glanced down at the female terrier. I extended my hand so could she lick it, her way of begging for attention, and gave her head a quick rub. “Come on. There’s no sense in letting this ruin our walk.”
Alex gave me the once-over, starting at my shoes and moving up, her lips curling a fraction.
I choked back a retort. I should have never put on that ratty shirt and jeans this morning. Though they were comfortable and great for travel, she hated them. That alone had started a downward spiral all the rest of the day. That was a laugh. She’d been angry ever since she’d given in to my plan. “Alex, you’re the light of my eyes. You know that, don’t you?”
Her lips thinned, but at least she didn’t walk away from me. “You need some time to relax from all that . . . uh, energy.”
“Energy? You’ve always said you admire that. Besides, I couldn’t have built my business without it.”
True. She might be a pint-sized woman, but she was a battle tank when it came to determination. And her determination to stay unhappy drove me bonkers.
I drew in a breath and tried to calm myself. “I can’t stand to see you unhappy.”
She swiveled toward me. “Then you should have thought about that before you ran roughshod over my plans.”
So, she was still driven to show me my plan of traveling wasn’t all I’d painted it to be. I watched her figure sway away from me. Women. Lifting my arms in a man’s universal expression of defeat, I hurried to catch up with Alex.
As we walked up the tree-shaded lane, birds twittered their evening good-nights and rustled the brush as they settled in for the coming night, belying the human violent interruption minutes ago. A whippoorwill whistled its lonesome call, and several quail cooed love notes to each other as we reached our destination.
I tied Taffy to a porch pillar and patted her head. “Stay close.”
When we stepped inside the restaurant, I sniffed at the aroma of fresh bread and something vanilla-scented that wafted toward us. Hmm. Now if the food tasted as good as it smelled . . .
A tall white-haired woman greeted us and led us to a table by a large window overlooking the lake. Yellow checked placemats and wild flowers sat in the middle of each of the wooden square tables. Nice. Well, at least the campground manager hadn’t exaggerated. When the waitress approached for our orders, I knew what I wanted. “A T-bone, medium, baked potato with lots of real butter. And some of that homemade bread I smell.” I pointed at the words on the menu.
Alex laid down her menu and leaned forward. “I thought we decided to change our eating habits on this trip. Steak and all that butter isn’t good for you. Why don’t you try . . .” Alex picked up her menu. “. . . grilled chicken with stir-fried vegetables and a salad with light dressing?” She looked up at the waitress who scribbled on her pad. “I’ll have the same, and let’s try some of those homemade wheat crackers.”
When the waitress walked away, she gave me a smile. “You did promise, remember? One of the conditions of this—trip.”
I growled a little, but what could I say? I had promised in a moment of weakness, and she was right, even though I didn’t want to admit it. Grilled chicken was far better for my health, but it wasn’t what I craved, unfortunately.
That gentle voice of hers though weakened my insides. Married as long as we were, her voice still caused my bones to melt. Even when she was angry.
The door slammed, and a young man rushed up to the hostess. If I’d ever seen a case of nervousness, this young man had it. Even from where I sat I could observe his heaving chest, the sweat-beaded brow. The hostess led him to a table by a window, but he shook his head and pointed to a corner table.
I bent toward Alex and kept my voice low. “Hey, look at that guy. See the leather chaps and jacket?”
She shifted to study the young man. “Could he be Selena’s nephew, you think?”
“Why would you think that?” Exasperation threaded my tone. “But it could be that insane biker we saw awhile ago. What’s the matter with him?”
Alex smiled in the man’s direction.
His darting glance skimmed her face, then returned to rest there, eyes narrowed. After a moment of study, he returned her smile. His haunted eyes glowed with questions. Uncertainty. Terror.
Her left eyebrow lifted, and an amused chuckle escaped her lips. “The one that tore down the road while we were getting shot at?”
“Quit laughing,” I motioned at her to cool it. “Yeah, that one. I told you, we weren’t the target. I think he was.”
The waitress set down our salads, and Alex picked up her fork and stabbed at a bit of lettuce. “A car probably backfired.”
Was she right? I kept my eye on the young man.
He ordered coffee and pie, but after one bite, he laid down his fork and sat with his hands cupping the mug. Ten minutes later he left.
When we finally headed back to our RV, the night had settled down in earnest. Taffy needed her nightly walk, so we strolled on one of the paths that led around the lake.
Alex breathed in, then puffed out a little. “It seems strange to be on our very first vacation after our retirement.” Her voice held an edge of tension that I wished wasn’t there.
“Not strange at all. I’m glad to retire early. It’s what we’ve worked for.” I stopped walking and looked at Taffy, who stood stiff, her head cocked to one side. “Come on, ole girl. Let’s keep walking.” I tugged on her leash, and she trotted beside me for a few feet then stopped again. I frowned. “What’s the matter with you?”
Taffy ignored me and pulled on her leash, her hackles raised, a low growl rumbling inside her throat.
“Denton, what’s wrong with her? Something’s bothering her.” Alex squatted and smoothed Taffy’s head.
Our small dog glanced over her shoulder and growled. “Do you think it’s a bear? Or is someone out there watching us?”
“Why on earth would they do that? Let’s unleash her and see what happens.” I really didn’t like to let her off her leash in unfamiliar territory, but I bent to unhook her anyway. As soon as I loosened her, she took off.
We scurried to follow.
Taffy loped about fifty feet, then disappeared into some underbrush.
Alex bent to crawl after her, but I gripped her arm. “Wait. There’s a narrow path snaking its way through the brush which will be an easier way.” I whistled softly, and Taffy whined in response.
I jerked my head to the left. “Over here. Sounds as if she’s found something.”
We hurried to catch up with her and came upon a small clearing. In the center a firepit had been dug and several picnic tables sat scattered around. A couple of large trash bins stood on either end. We’d left the lights of the campground behind. The round, bright moon illuminated the field until it almost looked like daylight.
Taffy ran back to us, her bark a shrill call for attention.
I hushed her and moved forward, but something caught my eye.
At the opposite end of the clearing, an object protruded from the woods line. Long. Dark. Could it be the bear Alex had mentioned? I held out my arm. “Stop. I want you to stay here. There’s something over there, Alex.”
She must have read my mind. “What if it is a bear? You can’t go over there with no weapon.”
What to do?
Taffy ran twenty feet or so and looked back. When I didn’t come after her, she turned and scampered to us. “She wants me to see what she’s found.”
“Well, that thing—whatever it is—hasn’t moved. Maybe it’s waiting there for us to approach.” Alex joked, but her voice quivered.
Courage exploded inside me, and I picked up a large stick. “I don’t think Taffy would tackle a bear. I’ll be back in a sec.”
As I approached the dark object, I realized that it couldn’t be a bear. Too narrow. But maybe a wild cat? Nope. Too dark. I squinted. I stopped walking. Was that a foot? That looked like . . .
I stared for a minute then hurried forward.
Taffy stood stiff-legged beside a man’s body that sprawled half in the clearing, half in the brush. Bike gloves covered his hands. His black leather jacket had scrunched up a little on his back and showed a bit of his belt. His booted feet lay toe down, as if his feet had dug into the ground.
I squatted and pressed two fingers alongside his neck. No pulse.
But I had known there wouldn’t be. The bullet hole in his head said it all.