Cuz of Ginny, Wes was out here by the lake. What’d happened last week. They’d been drinking and dancing at the Blue Spot, mixing it up with friends, like most Friday nights. When the large stranger emerged by the bar, hadn’t seen him walk in. Wes knew, moment he saw her look at him, things were going to be different. Like in one flicker of an eye a pact had been made. He’d tried to bring up the episode, but each time he got swatted away like a skeeter buzzing round her head.

Wes came out here by the lake for the calm, from time to time. This evening, he was wary of driving too close in. It had rained recently, water had risen, and ground softened up so’s the wheels on his F-150 might sink down, couldn’t tell because of the pine needles covering the ground. That, and there wasn’t a tree big enough in these stick pines to hook a cable to and wrench himself out. So, he stopped a good hundred yards out and walked down. Something didn’t seem right. Water was usually green, or right after a rain, muddy brown; but not like this, black, pitch black and beaten. Couldn’t quite get himself around how water could look like it’d been whooped and smashed on. No wind around to cause it, make the water move, but there it was, trembling, vibes of trouble. He turned back toward where he’d parked. He’d been right about not bringing the pick-up any closer. Got sucked in half-way up to his knee, not watching where he was going. Damn soppy mess, jeans filthy, gunk down his boot, clammy, shit. Pulled out, kept moving, but stopped when he saw vapor start rising off the water like a patch of cold air decided to drop in and hug it.

Getting a bit creepy. But holding him. It was something he’d tell the guys at the station. No chance they’d believe him. Sure Wes, sure it was. Whacha been smoking?

The sun was not clearing the trees anymore but falling down through them, so it was a half-lit orange and green sky and water looked like venetian blind shadows. Cooling down, and Wes in a T-shirt, chilly, climbed back in the cab. Waited for the lake to go through its evening ritual where the Jesus bugs walking and the skeeters flying low seeing who can move faster than the big-mouths lurking down under the surface. Whip of their tails and they’re six inches off the water with bugs for an appetizer. Not tonight. Not a move out there. Just vibrating water. Pines circling the lake in tune. Not swaying in a breeze; shaking, like they were fearful. And working up a fear in Wes. He was used to knowing what was going on. Like with Ginny. Knowing what she was up to.

They’d been together six months before that night at the Blue Spot. Living together the last two. Place he’d fixed up out on the edge of town. Pretty much of a shack when he moved in but spent all his off-duty time on it. Ginny’d been impressed first time he brought her home. Story was that she’d come down from New York City, born, grew up and went to school there. Was here in Sharpsburg doing an AmeriCorps stint at the elementary school. Though more he was with her, less she was like those other teachers, like an agenda going, but never figured it. Unlike Ginny, Wes wasn’t new to western Maryland, but had been away for some ten years, was just back, off doing things that when asked would just say, “Straightening out some messes that the government didn’t want anybody to hear much about.”

He’d met her the afternoon he noticed a red Miata, wheels halfway down in the mud, shoulder of the road leading out to the battlefield. County wasn’t very careful about keeping the roads up, claiming they didn’t have the money. From what Wes could figure, for anything but commissioners’ salaries.

He pulled over, hooked the toy car to his Crown Vic and pulled her out. Next time he ran into her was at Captain Bender’s where she was having a beer with some fellow teachers. She saw him, scooted out of the booth, went right up to him.

“Sergeant Miller, can I buy you a drink now you’re off duty? To thank you properly for getting me out of the mud.”

Ginny was the kind of girl, hard to talk about any one outstanding feature—hair, eyes, body—but put all together, cute with a dash of class about her.

* * *
On the far shore Wes saw something move. The way it clambered over the big rock told him it wasn’t an ordinary animal. Least ways, not one from around here. Could only see a shape, blurry edges, gray. Stopped at the edge of the water and then slipped from view. Wes picked it up again about halfway across the lake. It was moving more human, skating-like over top of the water, like gliding on inflated feet. Features still indistinct. He didn’t want to stick around to find out more. This lake was outside his jurisdiction anyhow. Turned the key. Engine coughed. Turned the key again. Sputter. Damn it to hell.

He got out of the truck, half hidden from the lake by a copse of pines, to check under the hood. The figure was now on the near shore moving towards him. A football field away, now the figure emerged as a large man in camo hunting garb, blackened face and a Winchester thirty-aught-six raised to his shoulder, scoping the area. Wes went back inside the truck for his service revolver, Glock 22, loaded a cartridge, shielded behind the truck door. Scanned the area behind him, for what the hunter might be looking for. Saw nothing. Waited. Not that he had a choice.

Townsend Walker draws inspiration from cemeteries, foreign places, violence and strong women. A collection of short stories, “3 Women, 4 Towns, 5 Bodies & other stories” was published by Deeds Publishing in 2018. A novella, “La Ronde” was published by Truth Serum Press in 2015. He is published in several journals and anthologies.