This serial story is posted one chapter per week on Fridays, in unedited (draft) form. It may contain adult situations that might not be suitable for children. Thanks for reading, and enjoy!
No, I still haven’t decided on the title. One should come to me eventually. Just gotta keep writing….
Rattlesnake Falls Book 1
Two hours later, Shelley tapped the location for ‘Rattlesnake Falls Lodge and Resort’ into the GPS in her car and watched the suggested route show up on the screen. Tabby gave her crap for not just using her cell phone like everyone else, but she liked the GPS unit. It was simple, didn’t drain her cell batteries, and it had been the last Christmas gift her dad had given her before he died. He’d loved to take road trips, and often told her she should get out more, so using the GPS on the rare occasions she went out of town made her feel like he was traveling with her.
After she checked the route for potential problems and road construction, she drove to the nearest convenience store to fill up the gas tank and stock up with a couple bottles of juice drinks and some trail mix packets. Cranking up the tunes and settling her sunglasses on the bridge of her nose, she merged onto the highway and headed for the hills.
Four hours later, she pulled into the tiniest, grungiest gas station she’d ever seen, cursing her GPS, lack of cell service and Tabby too, for not at least driving with her so they could share the pain of being hopelessly lost in rural Montana. A big Closed sign mocked her from the front door of the shop when she walked up, and so did the rack of Montana highway maps that sat near the lonely front counter. Why they were closed at four in the afternoon was anyone’s guess.
At least the pumps accepted credit cards, or she’d be lost and stranded with an empty tank.
Several small run-down houses dotted the landscape around the station – a town of sorts, though there hadn’t been a sign on the road. Hoping that it wasn’t completely abandoned, Shelley finished filling the gas tank and went across the road to knock on a door she wasn’t sure would hold up to the abuse. Something scuttled around inside, but no one answered. She tried another door, and a third before she finally noticed a house two buildings down from the gas station with a flag in the yard and a small, wood-burned sign that said “U.S. Postal Service” hanging by the door. There was a light on in the window, and Shelley hurried over and pulled the door open, thankful it was still unlocked.
The front counter was flanked on either side by a wall of mailboxes, and on the ceiling beam above the counter there was another painted sign that read, “US Postal Service, Rattlesnake Falls, MT.” Maybe she wasn’t as lost as she’d thought.
An elderly, hunched-over woman leaning heavily on a thick branch carved into a cane came out of a room in the back and ever-so-slowly moved toward the counter. Her gray hair was pinned in a loose bun on top of her head, but not a single strand seemed out of place.
“I was just getting supper on – don’t usually see anyone this late in the day,” she said, her voice surprisingly strong given her physical state. “You the one who bought the old Burnstead place? I suppose you’ll be wanting a room for the night if you did. Place is infested with all sorts of vermin, I hear. Maybe a ghost or two, too. My son wanted to buy it, but I told him not to bother. He’s got enough going on without a project like that to deal with.” She cackled, and Shelley had a hard time keeping a straight face because the sound was so very ‘quintessential witch’.
“No, I’m just passing through,” Shelley said with a smile. “I was wondering if you could give me some directions. The gas station is closed, and I’m afraid I got lost looking for a camp – The Rattlesnake Falls Lodge and Resort. Dillon Riley is one of the owners – do you know him?” Everyone tended to know everyone in these small communities, so she figured there was at least a chance.
“Well of course I do – Dillon is the son I talked out of buying the Burnstead place. I don’t know why he put such a hoity-toity name on that camp of his, but he claims it gets the city folk out and spendin’ money.” The old woman leaned heavily on the counter and looked Shelley up and down. “I suppose you’re one o’them, though, so I shouldn’t be spoutin’ off. That’s what Dillon always says.”
Shelley chuckled. Her dark jeans and tangerine fitted t-shirt did look at little too polished for the boondocks.
“I am from the city – Billings, to be exact. But I like to think I’m not too hoity-toity. Can you tell me how to find your son’s camp? Like I said, I’m a little lost.”
The woman looked out the window and frowned. “It’ll be gettin’ dark soon – sure you want to go driving out there so late? It’s still a good jaunt down the road, most of it gravel and some steep. Might be safer to stay here in town for the night.”
Considering what most of the buildings here in town looked like, Shelley figured she’d be camping either way.
“I really do need to get there tonight, if possible. A friend of mine is waiting – she drove up earlier with Dillon’s partner. So if you could just point me in the right direction…”
Shaking her head and clicking her tongue, the woman – Mrs. Riley, Shelley supposed – got a piece of paper from under the counter and held up a pen with a shaky hand.
“Follow the road through town past here and out about five miles. There’s a turn to the right – it’s just a gravel road, but you’ll see a big sign for the camp pointing up that road. Take that, and it’s about twenty miles back. There’s another big sign at the entrance, which will be on your left. You won’t see ‘nuthin else out there – can’t see the buildings or anything until you get back a ways on the property. Just keep goin’ until you see lights.” She drew a rudimentary map with the instructions on the paper, and slid it across the counter to Shelley.
“There ain’t no cell service out there, so if you get stuck, you’ll have ta walk either in or out, whichever is closer. So I hope you have good shoes and a coat. Follow the road and make noise so the bears don’t bother you.”
“Bears. Right. Are there a lot of them around?” Once again, Shelley was reminded of how long it had been since she left the city. Even longer since she’d been out in the wild. She glanced at the paper before slipping it in her purse.
“A few. Some black bears and a few grizzlies, though they tend to be better behaved in these parts than some farther north.” The woman smiled. “Don’t you worry, dear. There’s plenty of food this year, so unless you get between a mama and her cubs, they’re not gonna bother you.”
Shelley returned the smile, though she suspected the woman was just trying to make her feel better.
“I’d better get going, I guess. Thank you for all your help – I really appreciate it. I’ll let you get back to your dinner now.” She tried to ignore the smell of cooked beef wafting from somewhere in the back, but her stomach growled, traitor that it was.
“You should stay for dinner, dear. I’ve got more than I need, as usual. Let me just fix you up a plate.”
Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 5!
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