Read Along: Paradise Palms: Chapter 17
The line did look suspicious. Sam followed Myra’s finger as she pointed through the woods. The crease in the dirt looked more like someone had trenched with a small shovel, and unless you were really looking for it, would completely miss it. She kept rambling every excruciating detail into her little recorder to document the entire scene.
She’d said she was from some museum, but Sam had forgotten the name already. It didn’t make sense that a person from a museum would be here in northern Minnesota investigating a crime scene. Sam fell back and spoke quietly with Detective Schneider.
“So, what’s she here for?”
“Sam, I’m only allowing you to be included in this because you live here and know the area. That, plus you discovered the body. I want you to understand that I in no way consider you a suspect. No disrespect, but I don’t think you have it in you to do something this obscene, let alone to cover it up so neatly.”
“None taken. But what’s her role in all this? I mean, this is a crime scene, isn’t it?”
They both had to stop as Myra knelt down to the ground and moved some more of the severed leaves.
“It has to do with that head I showed you. I didn’t know what it was, so I started looking for an expert in lizards and reptiles. Turns out, she’s the best in Minnesota, so I called her. She insisted on seeing the area and the head after I sent her the pictures. She drove up from the cities.”
“I know that, but I mean, this is a crime scene. Why did she come out here if the head is back in your morgue?”
“Well, she thinks there might be, how do I say this, a nest of these dinosaurs. Now you can’t say anything to anyone. This is a police matter and an open investigation.”
Myra stood up and turned around and glared at them. “Something I should know gentlemen?”
Sam strode up to her. “You’ve got us out here in the woods looking for a nest of these things?”
Myra cast a hot glare at Detective Schneider. “Yes. I don’t want to see anyone else getting hurt.”
“You’re not only a scientist, but you’re a city slicker. You’ll have to pardon me if I don’t believe you. What are we doing out here in the woods, following some line in the dirt?”
Myra’s glare faltered and she looked up into Sam’s eyes. “Well, the troodon was known to live in hives or communities and hunt in packs. That’s the most common theory. I had to assume that by finding one head, there’d be more.”
“So you’re putting my life and his life in danger by having us stomp around the woods looking for these things? We should have a bunch of armed men out here.”
“I don’t think we’re in any danger. The troodon’s teeth are set to catch and swallow live food. Kind of like a snake would. It wouldn’t see you or me as prey.”
“But they might see us as competition, and it’s survival of the fittest and from what I saw, their teeth are far better weapons than ours.” Sam held up his hands.
“I highly doubt that.”
“All you have are theories to go on. When was the last time you actually saw a dinosaur? These things were supposed to have died out millions of years ago. That head shouldn’t be there and my friend’s legs should. What we need to find out is how did my friend die and what does that head have to do with his death?”
“That’s all well and good,” Myra said. “But we also need to make sure there aren’t any more out here in the woods that could prove a danger to the people in the area. Now it’s my assumption that they must’ve adapted from their original environment to live in the Minnesota environment. The area they lived didn’t have snow, so they wouldn’t have been able to survive the winter. As best as we can tell, they were cold blooded just like modern-day lizards.”
“Wait a minute.” Sam thought about how everything had changed the night before. It’d gotten warmer and the air smelled different. He wondered if that, and the sounds he’d heard the night before, had anything to do with it.
“What?” Myra asked. Andrew stood next to Myra with his pen and notepad ready.
“Would it have been hotter?”
“Would the air have been different?”
“Absolutely. In fact…”
Sam cut her off. “Would the trees and everything be different?”
“Most certainly. Millions of years of evolution.”
Again Sam cut her off. “I think we’re looking in the wrong place for your nest.”
“What makes you say that?”
Sam didn’t answer her question, instead he followed the line in the opposite direction, toward the highway. He’d seen the woods change into thicker, jungle-like trees. It had changed and he could still see the highway. The park hadn’t changed, but everything around it had. He started to trot through the woods along the line. Now the path looked clear to him. It was a lane he could almost run through. He ran faster with the two in tow.
He stopped when he came up to the highway. There was the line. It ran right across the highway. A small, almost insignificant line, but a line all the same. A line that arced across the road and to the other side. Sam looked both ways and ran across the road.
“Where are you going?” Myra called out, almost out of breath.
Sam didn’t answer, he followed the curved line as it crossed the road and into the opposite ditch. It curved around for thirty feet or more and then back to the road. Sam stood at peak of the curve and looked back into the park. He had to assume that whatever had created this line had to be somewhere in the middle of the park if it were to encompass the entire park, as if they’d circled the entire park with a giant compass. He stood on his toes as he looked to see who might be in the center.
Mr. Graves and Mr. Bell both lived in the middle of the park, but this line extended further, outside the park. Perhaps it’d be someone further back. He’d have to walk the entire line and map it out and find out who lived in the center of the circle.
“Detective, do you have a map of this area?”
“Why?” Andrew searched his pockets.
“Mr. Jeffrey, what is this all about?”
Sam continued to stare at the park and tried to imagine how it’d look from overhead. How large was this circle? What could be in the center? Who would have created this large line and why? To what end?
“Mr. Jeffrey, what are you thinking? This is all quite bizarre.”
“I agree.” He looked at Myra. “You may think me insane, but I think I have an idea as to what might be going on.”
“Really?” asked Andrew. “And what, pray tell, would that be?”
“Well, last night, I went for a walk. Ms. Tolie, you talked about dinosaurs and now what I saw last night seems to make sense. We’re not going to find a nest, because it’s not here. Well, not now. But I think it’ll be here tonight, very late at night.”
“Why? What are you talking about?” asked Myra.
“As I said last night, I went for a walk. It was really late. I’m not even sure what time it was, but it was late, or early in the morning. I couldn’t sleep. I kept thinking about Casper.”
Myra looked puzzled. “Casper?”
“The victim,” responded Andrew.
Sam continued. “When I was walking around through the park, I saw the woods change. The sky changed. The stars moved. The moon grew. The sounds, the smells, the feel of the woods changed.”
“I don’t understand,” Myra said.
“Something had to have caused that change. This line moves in a huge circle. I saw the woods all around change across the road here. Everything changed. It was all different. Like a thick jungle, with sounds I’d never heard before and trees I’d never seen before. It was all different, except the park wasn’t. Everything in the park was the same.”
“Are you suggesting that the park was somehow moved in time?” Detective Schneider asked.
“Or teleported?” Myra asked with a snort of laughter.
“Doesn’t it make sense? I mean, this line, the dinosaur head, my friend cut in half on the line. I think someone teleported this park back in time. Millions of years ago. When a dinosaur could have lived.”
Myra burst into laughter. “I think you’ve seen one too many movies. Honestly, that’s the funniest thing I’ve ever heard.”
“Then how do you explain the dinosaur head you found?”
“And I supposed you think that the Loch Ness Monster is a dinosaur as well? Really, Mr. Jeffrey – “
“Sam, this troodon could very well be something we just had missed.”
“In the woods of Minnesota? How many hunters have gone into these woods and never seen one?”
“And how many have never seen an albino buck? Those exist.”
“This is different.”
“Sam, we could be dealing with a very small population and people here in Aitkin county are spread out. I find it much more likely that there’s a small nest of troodons living in these woods than someone is teleporting a trailer park into the past.”
“How do you explain what I saw last night then? And this line?”
“I think you’re tired and it’s likely hallucination from mental exhaustion.”
If she’d been a man Sam would have laid her out with one solid punch. How dare she dispute what he’d seen? What had nearly scared him to death. What Blue had seen and barked at. Sam relaxed.
“I can prove it.”
Myra looked skeptical, but Andrew stepped in. “How? How can you prove what you’re saying?”
“Well, Casper died at night, after the Sandy Bar closed, and I saw everything change and become weird the next night. Wouldn’t it be safe to assume that it’d change again tonight?”
Andrew rubbed his chin and narrowed his eyes in thought. “You may be onto something. As strange as what you’re saying sounds, I think this is worth looking into.”
“Wait a minute,” Myra said. “You’re suggesting that this line is the demarcation point of where the park was cut off from the outside world, right?”
“Yes,” said Sam.
“Then explain to me how the power lines and phone lines are still intact. Anything running under the ground would be cut, wouldn’t it? How could this park be swept away into another land and dropped right back here without anyone knowing about it?”
Sam struggled for an answer, but none came. “I guess we’ll find out tonight.”
Without another word, Sam turned away from the rude woman and the detective and walked back across the road to the park.