Busted Axle Road
Chapter 70

Copyright© 1993, 2001, 2010

It had been a long, hard, not very productive day of hogging around in the swamps. As usual, Heather and Pam hadn't seen any Gibson's Water Snakes, and Heather was wondering more and more if it wasn't a wild snake chase, after all.

She was tired and sunburned when Pam dropped her off at her apartment, clothes wet and muddy. She peeled them off, and decided that a dip in the lake would be worth the effort. After all, this far north that wouldn't be an option much longer. With that decision made, Heather took off the rest of her clothes, and then realized that she really ought to access the mainframe at the Defenders, to see if there were any messages. Maybe there would be a message from McMullen and Harper to give up, but there wasn't much hope of that, yet.

She pulled out her laptop, booted it up, and then unplugged the telephone and plugged it into her modem. Rewardingly, there was some E-Mail for her, from Harper: "Dale was contacted by a representative of the funding source for your project yesterday," it said. "They are very pleased with the results so far. Says your report matches closely what was in the local paper, so it looks like you've got the locals on your side, pretty much. Keep up the good work."

That was kind of mixed news. It was good to know that Harper and McMullen appreciated the work she'd done on this project, but apparently, she'd have to keep it up. That wasn't so good.

There were a couple of other messages, none of which were important. She'd been trying to do some work on her whale project, working through the files on the mainframe in California, but nothing concrete had come up. While being able to work with the computer at this distance solved a lot of problems, there was nothing like being there.

She sighed and exited the connection. Harper may have been pleased with her work, but she really hadn't done much besides look for the snake ever since her meeting with Kutzley and the council people. The lousy snake was the weak point in the whole deal, anyway. There had been only the one snake, and there was no proof that it was a Gibson's Water Snake, anyway. They had never found another that resembled it, and sooner or later, someone was going to figure that out and confront the Fish and Wildlife Service with it. The one snake was mighty thin evidence in Federal Court, she knew, but it was all they had to work with.

Right now, it looked like a battle between the Fish and Wildlife Service and the EPA, and there was a good chance that it could indeed wind up in court.

But that was neither here nor there, right then. She sat staring at the empty screen of the laptop, blinking the prompt at her, until finally she shut it off. She pulled on the bikini she'd gotten in Hawaii, grabbed a towel, and headed across the street to the beach.

The beach was only moderately busy this afternoon. As much as she'd been out in the sun, she didn't want to stay in the water long, and it wasn't very warm, anyway. It didn't take her long to get cooled off and feeling refreshed, and all too soon, she found herself needing to get out of the sun, but with nothing in particular to do. As an interim measure, she found a shady spot under a tree along the road, spread her towel out, and sat down on it to look across the lake. Right in front of her, a couple of guys and a couple of girls were tossing a frisbee around, enjoying the warm summer day. The boys were big and tanned and goodlooking; both of the girls had on tiny bikinis, and the long hair on the blonde one flowed with every movement, and for a moment, Heather envied them, wishing she were sixteen or seventeen again, without a care in the world. Looking at them made her feel lonelier than ever; it would have been fun to join them, but she was twice their age, and didn't know them.

"Hi, Heather," she heard a voice behind her say. "How are you doing?"

She turned, to see John Pacobel standing next to her. "Getting along pretty good," she smiled. She'd seen John around a couple of times since that first evening in Spearfish Lake, but they hadn't really stopped to talk. "Things are coming along," she added.

"Good," he said. "Glad to hear it. You're sure making some waves in this town."

"Hey, look," she said. "I'm sorry I didn't know you were the one that first identified the snake," she said. "There wasn't any hint of it in any of the reports I read."

"It doesn't surprise me," John said, sitting down next to her. "Pam doesn't like me, and that creep Gerjevic obviously wants to pick up all the credit."

"I haven't met him," Heather replied. "But Pam seems to think he's some sort of deity, or something."

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