Three Months Before
Davidson saw the body every time he closed his eyes. It had been almost a week, but every time he tried to sleep all he could see was the bloody red of torn flesh contrasting the stark white of bone and green-brown world of the woods. The body had been face-down, but it was obvious from its size that it was just a child.
The third child to be found that way within a mile of the campground. The third child in as many weeks.
Davidson trudged up his porch steps to collapse on the chair there. He ground his knuckles into his eyelids and wished that his father was still alive. Davidson Stonem Sr., more often known as Stonem or Old Stonem, had been arrogant and cranky, not to mention a little crazy, but he had always known what to do.
The Stonem family had owned the campground for generations. Once it had been frontier property, populated by Davidson’s great-greats. It was still wilderness, far out of the way and untouched aside from the cluster of cabins and rusty trailer that marked the spot of the original homestead. It was not much to look at – not much of a place to live in; close enough to a river that mosquitoes were torture in the summer and at a high enough altitude that it was snowed in for a solid three months during the winter. The generator was only kept on for eight hours in every twenty-four, but despite its quaint flaws, Old Stonem had been relentlessly proud of the place.
Old Stonem had protected the property from any and all prospective buyers who might have turned the wilderness area into a place that was actually profitable, convinced that his ancestors would have been ashamed of the world’s obsession with money. As a result, the cabins were out-of-date and rundown, and Davidson Jr. had grown up in a rusty trailer, but the woods were pristine. And though they were never full even to capacity, they had enough campers during the summer and fall to lift them above subsistence.
But Davidson’s mother had left during one particularly mosquito-ridden summer in a cloud of profanity directed at the limited electricity and decimated living conditions. Old Stonem had taken Davidson out of school at the age of thirteen and their entire lives had focused on the campground and the surrounding woods. Though the district had objected to Davidson’s lack of public education, guests had complained about the limited generator use and the sheriff had taken a dislike to Old Stonem and treated every accident on the property as an intentional murder attempt, Old Stonem had always known how to respond.
Davidson was sure that if his father had been there the old geezer would have known just how to keep Sheriff Cheval from shutting down the campground and to keep the guests around despite the trail of deaths in the woods. But Old Stonem was gone and all he had left Davidson was the half-condemned campground, the ancient trailer that had been his childhood home, and a collection of campfire stories colored by the dementia Stonem had suffered during the last few months of his life.