Victor was a big man with an even bigger drinking problem. He was a friendly drunk who liked to drink till he passed out and, being 6’8” tall and 275 pounds he was difficult to move. Folks tended to let him lie wherever he landed. That’s what happened on the night of January 15th 1872 and when he woke, sometime late morning of the 16th he was beneath a table in Alice’s Saloon. He opened his eyes and looked around; spotted Rudy cleaning up behind the bar. The smell of whiskey was everywhere. He liked it here. He liked it here till Apple Alice came in and nudged his boot with her foot. He feigned sleep and stayed still. He was happy where he was and didn’t really want to move yet.
“Rudy,” Alice yelled at the cleaning man, “Is Victor awake?”
“Yes ma’am, I believe he is.”
“Come on, Victor,” she pleaded, “ya gotta move. Catherine’s gonna be worrying about you.”
Reluctantly, Victor crawled from beneath the table.
“Morning Alice,” he said, “Morning, Rudy.”
“Good mornin’ to you, Vic.” Rudy sang from behind the bar. Alice glared down at him; trying her best to look stern.
“Ya gotta go.” She said.
He fumbled in his pocket as he wove his way, on wobbly legs, across the room. He tossed a couple of coins on the bar, “Can I get some of whiskey?” he asked.
Alice’s eyes lit up at the sight of the money. She hurried around the bar and pulled out two bottles. Then she handed Victor his rifle and his six-shooter that he had checked the night before.
“Give my best to Catherine,” Alice said and she hustled him to the door.
Vic squinted against the sunlight and turned north. His head hurt and he was still half drunk. It was a long walk through the woods to get home but Victor knew that if he cut across Parson’s Ridge it would save him time.
Halfway up the grade to the ridge, though, it began to rain. The rain turned to sleet and then snow. When he fell, it was like slow motion. He felt every branch, tree trunk, and rock that he hit on the way down. He knew exactly when his leg broke. When his fierce and frantic descent stopped, he couldn’t stand. He dragged himself over and sat leaning against the trunk of the tree that had stopped his fall. Somehow he had held onto his rifle, which he propped against the tree, next to him. The bottle of whiskey he had carried in his right hand coat pocket was gone, lost somewhere in the fall. The other was still there. It would help keep him warm till someone came along. He knew someone would come along, and they did, but not right away.
July 23rd 1996
Hugo Marsh moved up the ravine below Parson’s Ridge. His eyes roaming, searching as he looked for an example of a rare plant or animal. Looking for anything that they could use to stop Hixson Mining Company from destroying this forest. Endangered species were always good for complicating the plans of greedy and ferocious boardroom inhabitants; the men and women who only looked at their bottom line and, never at consequences. They didn’t care as long as their wallets stayed fat.
Hugo froze when he spotted Victor, or what was left of Victor, leaning against the tree. He changed direction and cautiously approached the skeletal remains. With the exception of his boots, belt, and mostly intact hat; Victor’s clothes were tatters and his right leg had been broken. There were no other signs of trauma. Hugo looked around and surmised what had happened. He figured his new friend had fallen from the grade a long time ago. Hugo figured that he had probably frozen to death waiting for a rescue that never happened
There was a rifle leaning against the tree and an empty glass bottle lying on the ground. The knurled handle of a pistol was visible on the ground beneath his legs.
Hugo noted his position on his hand-held GPS and, without disturbing Victor, turned and began hiking out of the woods. This wasn’t an endangered species but if they could find out more about who this was, it might slow down Hixon’s plans. That might buy him some time. His bosses would be pleased, particularly Charlene. She would know how to best leverage this find. She would know what to do.
Moving downhill, Hugo began to whistle.