Authors: Loren Lockner
This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
“Timberline Trail,” by Loren Lockner. ISBN 1-58939-897-1.
Published 2006 by Virtualbookworm.com Publishing Inc.,
P.O. Box 9949, College Station, TX 77842, US
2006, Loren Lockner. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of Loren Lockner.
Manufactured in the United States of America.
Andrew Carson stumbled blindly through garbage-littered puddles, banging into several overflowing trashcans as he staggered groggily down a dim back alley near the brightly lit streets of Hollywood and Vine, blood streaming from a graze upon his forehead. The attacker approached steadily, the Glock handgun that had been secreted only minutes before in his briefcase now raised at chest level to inflict the final shot needed to silence his too-knowledgeable foe forever. Andrew Carson backed against a huge green trash bin and held his arms up defensively to shield his face from the inevitable bullet.
“Please, please! I promise not to tell anyone about
! Don’t hurt me. Please!”
When the fatal shot made contact, it was a direct blow to the chest, not face
, which caused the fifty-five–year-old executive to drop to his knees, his mouth still open as he tried to continue his desperate plea before his cloudy hazel eyes rolled upward and he dropped face down onto the damp pavement.
His assailant quickly removed all traces
of fingerprints from the still-hot gun with a white linen handkerchief before tossing the weapon into the dumpster. With a gasp of supreme effort the murderer lifted his now lifeless opponent upward with one mighty jerk and heaved the body into the trash bin after the gun, slamming the metal lid down with grim finality. The merriment of the strip continued unabated, as low-riders cruised, short-skirted women strutted, and hawkers tried to encourage the tourists to buy their guides to all the Hollywood sights. Tinsel town remained oblivious to the demise of yet another one of her native sons. A cool dark rain began falling and didn’t cease for another three days, content to delay the discovery of the corpse of one of California’s finest, crumpled within the stinking interior of a dumpster located behind an adult movie theatre. The newspapers had a field day with this one.
To some, Alaska seems a remote, even desolate place, but to Tia Heath the very wildness and absence of others was exactly what she craved. Alaska is a huge vast wilderness comprised of broad leaf evergreens in the south which gradually gives way to the bent and struggling trees of the midlands before finally leveling out to miles of endless tundra whose persistent icy winds sweep down from the Arctic Circle. Tia had traveled all over Alaska; enjoying the charm of Skagway, the incredible wildness of Kodiak Island, and the endless, slightly humid terrain of the northlands where one can become confused as to direction and place names during the short summer, or if one’s truly adventurous, the endless winter. The Alaskan Peninsula, with its long archipelago of islands, illustrated to its new occupant how land and sea often meet with violent confrontation, causing a result truly rugged and spectacular.
prone wilderness exhibited an amazing variety of landscapes. To the north was Seward’s Peninsula, named after the simple-minded politician who dared suggest to the US Congress that they buy the vast wilderness called Alaska from Russia for a mere 7.2 million dollars. Thus, because of his foresight, the richness of this immense land is still to this day called Seward’s Folly. It was at the base of the majestic mountains to the northwest of Anchorage, in the vast open wilderness that separates the Alaska Range from the Wrangell Mountains, that Tia found a peaceful place to recuperate and reflect on the tumultuous events that had made up her life over the past year. Not that far north of her rustic log cabin lay the great reserve of the Denali, where the awesome Mt. McKinley peaked through the clouds, towering over twenty thousand feet.
n this vast land of extremes Tia discovered and accepted that she was only small and insignificant after all, her problems nothing compared to the incredible cycle of nature. At twenty-nine years of age, single, and seemingly free from all those who sought to control and manipulate her, she slowly healed. A successful children’s book author, Tia hid from the modern world, licking her wounds and contemplating a future without duplicitous men or the aimless society of the crowded Los Angeles’ basin where she’d previously been held a voluntary captive.
To aid in her healing transformation
, Tia followed a simple routine each and every morning until the weather restricted her ritual. She dressed in black sweat pants with a matching top, tied her long blonde hair into a tight ponytail and pulled on her stained and well-worn running shoes before adding a short necklace of jangling musical bells for protection. Tia stretched out for fifteen minutes before heading out the sturdy front door of her small cabin, her eyes scanning the forest before starting a slow jog down the trail that wound through the wooded region near her cabin. Tia quickly picked up her pace and for a full thirty minutes ran joyfully through the beautiful forest of her adopted home. Every new day saw a noticeable difference in the season, for the days were getting shorter and the morning air contained a crisp edge, indicating that Tia would soon have to abandon her morning jog. But until the first snow fell, Tia rose like clockwork each morning to greet the day and enjoy the exhilarating freedom of her morning jog as well as the mental rejuvenation it provided.
Tia didn’t notice that both human and non-human eyes watched her movements intently.
It was not her nature to be suspicious or wary in this sanctuary where she’d retreated. Upon the conclusion of this morning’s excellent jog Tia returned and showered, afterward pulling on her normal uniform of warm blue jeans and a red-checked flannel shirt, its sleeves rolled up for comfort and freedom of movement. She finally added brown hiking boots scuffed by the rough terrain and her constant fidgeting, ready to continue her morning routine.
Tia scarcely looked into the mirror as she combed out her long blonde hair after her shower, braiding the still damp locks into a simple French braid.
Her eyes were that clear dark gray of poetry, but she would scoff at anyone hinting at their beauty, certain they were being ridiculous or more likely desiring something from her. They were simply a physical attribute she’d inherited from her father, Anthony Heath. His eyes and hair the color of the California sun were the only two things she’d inherited from him in appearance, but Tia had also acquired his no-nonsense attitude toward life, as well as his stubbornness. She’d also managed to inherit his ability, which so many others lack, of enjoying himself and what life has to offer, even while alone. That trait was probably the chief motivation behind Anthony’s decision to build a remote cabin hide-away only a few short years ago. Here, he could retreat from the high-powered corporate life he’d led for so many years and “recharge his batteries,” as Anthony liked to say.
The rest of Tia’s looks had been passed on to her by her gentle mother Tanya.
It was her mother’s slim frame, straight nose, and superb intelligence that dominated her lovely delicate face. She so resembled her mother that people who’d known the deceased Tanya would still gasp when Tia walked into the room, only recovering as they realized the dark-blonde hair and silver eyes belonged to the daughter not the mother. Even her father had difficulty with their incredible resemblance and many times Tia noticed pain flicker over his steel-gray eyes as he gazed at his only daughter. Tanya Heath had been so vibrant and deeply in love with her successful husband that her death of ovarian cancer at age 48 nearly caused the senior Heath to throw away his life and his career.
It had only been Tia’s undying devotion and d
etermination, as well as the turmoil surrounding her brother’s inborn stubbornness and subsequent precarious relationship with his father that had caused Anthony Heath to recover his sanity and innate business sense as he vowed to whip his wayward son, RK, into shape. Tia secretly blessed her obstinate brother, who’d absolutely refused to take over his father’s business, seeking instead to start his own company independent of his successful father. She wisely remained on the sidelines during the bloody fray that followed when her twenty-five-year-old brother announced he was going his own way.
Tia had been barely twenty and immersed in stu
dies and a new beau. She was quickly learning that while many men would flatter and woo her because of her beauty and money, few were truly sincere. So Tia shrugged off her beauty as an unnecessary fact of her life, just as she did the money and unwanted notoriety of being the daughter of a rich man.
Tia Heath simply was and didn’t care if others found her appealing or intellectual.
Their opinions regarding her lifestyle were their problem, not hers. One thing she’d certainly learned from her father was to carefully analyze what information and emotions were absolutely essential for her well-being and to discard the rest just as she had all those problems surrounding her back in LA. Tia had finally regained the confidence she needed to function and was now entirely certain of her abilities and future. The false glamour surrounding the LA social circles were deemed unnecessary and pretentious and she now despised any aspect of her former life that had tarnished the real Tia Heath.
, in this beautiful corner of Alaska, Tia finally healed, at last recognizing she held the key to her own happiness, not someone else. Tia readily admitted she would find it difficult to trust others again, in particular men, but placed this glaring fault of hers at the very bottom of her self-improvement list. She preferred to be wary since the ability to trust had flown right out of her life, just like her ex-fiancé.
Tia devised a routine that suited her and enhanced her creativity and writing and for now she was content and not the least bit lonely or melancholy. Alaska had become her new home and she meant to remain here for a while, basking in the huge state’s majestic beauty and tranquility. Life was finally good again and Tia wasn’t about to let another person take away her newly gained independence and serenity.
not writing Tia often walked, taking photos of the abundant bird and animal life. She enjoyed the simple chatter of the gray squirrel as well as the chase and the scream of the occasional bald eagle which she felt exceptionally privileged to view. The waters were full of trout and occasionally even salmon and on her long walks she wore her bear bells, the warning system of all Alaskans who recognize that the large grizzly and brown bears of the region will avoid confrontation with humans if forewarned, but attack if not.
Still, even wearing her bells, Tia had glimpsed the
huge shaggy beasts many times on her treks into the forest, even snapping a magnificent photo of one large carnivore slapping at a struggling salmon before lying down on his haunches to tear at the tender pink meat inside. During the summer the mosquitoes and flies were a constant annoyance, but now, as summer neared its rapid end, all creatures fed in unrestrained frenzy to store up the additional fat they needed to maintain their strength throughout the long cold winter, making the flying insects wonderful pickings. The mosquitoes were now food for the small birds of the area and Tia blessed their lovely diet as she scratched the annoying bites, thankful that fall was approaching and the flying pests were rapidly disappearing.
Tia planned to
take a short three-day trip to Glacier Bay, just north of the capital city Juneau, in a week or so to view the fantastic blue-white glaciers that grow and recede at their own leisurely pace. Her major goal was to observe and photograph the comical-looking Puffin with its topsy-turvy body and bright red beak. The bird was incredibly clumsy on land, but unlike the equally awkward penguin, had not lost its ability to fly and was also an accomplished swimmer. Tia hoped to make one of these funny birds a friend to her newest hero, a little Inuit boy who traveled the length of Alaska searching for his lost father.