“I know what you need. Carl sent me to give you the key to the cabin,” said the woman in black, her voice cracking as though she hadn’t spoken in years. She handed him a key and a map drawn on a paper napkin. Her fingers brushing against him were cold.


“I hope you enjoy your stay in my cabin,” said the woman in black. “I’ll come by later to see how you’ve settled in. I’m looking forward to meeting that wife of yours.”

“That won’t be necessary—”

“No bother,” said the woman in black. “I insist.”

Wake didn’t intend to argue the point. Her laugh echoing in his ears, he started back down the corridor, back into the light of the diner. He turned around, but the lady in black was gone. He was glad that she wasn’t watching him behind that veil anymore, but it was almost as though she had disappeared.

The lady he had seen earlier raised the lamp high as he passed her. “You’re a lucky man.”

“That’s me,” said Wake.

“You got lucky this time,” called the lady of the lamp. “You can hurt yourself in the dark.”

Wake looked into the dead eyes of the trophy heads as he headed toward the front door of the diner. One elk had a piece of its antler broken off, and someone had stuck a cigarette into the mouth of one of the deer.

The jukebox was playing the coconut song while one of old coots, Tor, bounced and bobbed along to the music. The other one, Odin, rested his head on the table of the booth.

Odin jerked slightly as Wake passed, then grabbed for him. “Tommy! Hey, you wouldn’t happen to have a bottle on you, would you?” he said, speech slurred. “Tommy, you get back here and pour me a drink!”

“Me too,” mumbled Tor. He pounded a fist on the table. “Barkeep! Set ’em up for me and my baby brother!”

“Can’t see what’s in front of your nose without a few drinks,” said Odin.

“Easy, boys,” chided Rusty. “Save it for Dr. Hartman.”

“Can I get you a cup of coffee, Mr. Wake?” called Rose. “On the house!”

“No, thanks,” said Wake, heading for the door. His cardboard standup seemed to watch him as he approached. Wake was tempted to draw glasses and a handlebar moustache on the damned thing.

“Making a big mistake, Mr. Wake,” said Rusty, slurping his coffee. “Rose here serves only a hundred percent pure Colombian.”

Wake stepped outside and immediately felt better. A cool breeze rolled off the water and he just stood there for a few minutes catching his breath.

Alice pulled up in the car, giving a happy beep of the horn.

Wake quickly got in.

“You get the key?” said Alice.

Wake nodded.

“Everything okay?”

“Just happy to see you.”


“YOU SURE ABOUT this?” said Wake, trailing her as they pressed deeper into the forest, trees soaring above them. He was committed now, his shoes filthy, his pants rasped by thorns. Ten miles out of town, Alice had suddenly pulled over, parked the car on the shoulder of the road, and started into the woods with barely any explanation. None that made any sense at least. “Alice, this thing you think you saw… you’re sure it’s not just a mirage or something?”

“I know what I saw,” said Alice, striding through a spider web shimmering with moisture, the web like a strand of pearls falling to the forest floor. She kept walking, a leaf caught in her hair, cheeks flushed; nature girl in jeans and a light jacket. She turned, evidently sensing his gaze. “What?”

“You look beautiful, that’s all,” said Wake. “Nobody would guess you’ve perfected the two-finger whistle that brings cabs screeching to the curb.”

“I wasn’t always a New Yorker,” said Alice, tramping across a carpet of stunted berries. She peered through the thick underbrush. “I think I see it up ahead.”

Wake led the way in the direction she had pointed, hurrying now, not because he was so eager to see what she alone was convinced was there—it was ridiculous, after all—but because it was getting dark, and he wanted to get to the cabin before the sun went down.

Alice blew right past him, head low to avoid a thick cedar bough. “Yes! I was right!”

Wake stared, shaking his head, stunned. In the middle of a small clearing stood a wrecked car. A mid- eighties Ford convertible, windshield cracked, its ragtop mildewed and tattered. The undercarriage must have split because a fir sapling grew up from the center, right through the shredded top like a small green umbrella. “That… is weird.”

“You think?” said Alice, slowly circling the car as she snapped photographs.

“There must be an explanation.” Wake ran a fingertip across one of the side panels. It came up mossy.

“Well, it wasn’t driven here,” said Alice. “It’s surrounded by trees… trees that have been here long before it was built.”

“Might have been a prank,” said Wake. “High school kids disassembled it and put it back together in here.”

Alice opened the driver-side door, hinges creaking. “Only eleven thousand miles on the odometer. If it was a prank, somebody would have wanted it back. No way it was just abandoned.”

Wake checked the back seat. He kicked one of the flattened tires, bent down and examined it, then stood up. “Alice… this car… I think it was dropped here.”

She gingerly touched the branches of the small fir tree sprouting in the car.

“I thought the tires had rotted from time and weather, but they didn’t rot. They burst.” Wake pointed at the long tear in the sidewall of the tire. “Burst upon impact. That’s only going to happen if the car was dropped from a great height.” He ran a hand through his hair. “Do they have tornadoes around here?”

“Not in the Pacific Northwest,” said Alice. “At least I never heard of one.” Tiny yellow mushrooms sprouted on the leather seats. Mold had reduced the upholstery to mush. “Maybe… maybe it fell from an airplane. Maybe it was being transported—”

“It’s still in gear,” said Wake. “Key’s still in the ignition. This car was being driven at the time…” The wind stirred in the trees and he shivered. “We should head back.”

“How did the car get here, Alan?”

Wake shook his head.

“Aren’t you curious?”

The trees rustled, louder now, the shadows in the woods lengthening.

Alice seemed to notice the growing darkness for the first time. “We should go.”

Wake took her hand, led her back toward the road. “Tomorrow we can drive back to town and ask around.”

Alice walked ahead of him now, hurrying.

Wake glanced back at the car, already swallowed up by the forest. “You know what else is weird?”

Alice glanced back, but kept walking.

“If it was a tornado, or something like that… what happened to the driver?”

Alice stopped.

Somebody was driving the car when it landed in the woods.” Wake spread his hands. “So, what happened to the driver?”

“Maybe… maybe he walked away from the fall.”

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