Sunday 10 March 2024


A person has no idea of the strange things that are waiting to be discovered, and that those things are something that is totally unexpected. While researching for PIPELINE, a story about bootlegging during the twenties and thirties, I came across a gun collector who had discovered an interesting piece of history from the later 19th Century. He happened upon an abandoned storage shed east of Oilmont, Montana, and in a stack of cast-off scrap iron, saw the lever of an early lever-action rifle. Further investigation revealed the entire rifle. He dragged it out and realized that he was holding an 1876 Winchester 45-75 carbine.

Now the weapon, being a significant find in the first place, really piqued his curiosity because this particular rifle was a special issue, a variation of the 1876 Winchester Centennial, and was spec’d out and ordered by the Canadian Northwest Mounted Police, shortly after the force was organized. The gun was found in Oilmont, about twenty miles south of the border between the United States and Canada.

While the Winchester could be a topic of its own, the story here is something else, probably the last thing one would expect to find on a cattle ranch on the border between Montana and Alberta, Canada. First, a little background.

My grandfather, George L. Stringam, bought the ranch in 1928. Being a cattleman he was far more concerned about raising cattle than looking for artifacts. Another of his concerns was to be self-sufficient. Part of that meant having a garden. He designated a patch of land east of the house and proceeded to set up a place to pump water out of the river to irrigate that piece.

There was a natural shelf, a safe distance above the water level that had become a place to discard rocks and debris from the various riverflats in that valley. It was a major chore but something that a young boy, who would later become my father, was quite adept to. He got to work moving rocks around to form an edge around the shelf that wouldn’t easily wash away during spring runoff.

It was a massive pile of rocks.

Mark pried and worked at the rocks, not really paying a lot of attention to the various patterns and colors until he found a long heavy rusty looking rock. Well, it looked like a rock at first.

He dug the rocks away and exposed more of that odd shape and finally had enough of it exposed to tell that it was not a rock at all. Even with the sand that encrusted it, one could tell that it was none other than the barrel of a small cannon.

With the help of one of the hired hands, a Swiss guy named Hans, they drug that “rock” over to the blacksmith shop and started cleaning it up.

Definitely, a small piece of artillery, it was just over a yard long and had a bore in the neighborhood of an inch and a half. Of course something that small could be deadly if you were in range of the business end.

But, of course, the mystery began, primarily, where the devil it came from in the first place.

Referring to the background, the ranch was once owned by a sheep rancher named “Harvey.” Not much was known about Harvey other than he raised sheep. He pulled out in the early years of the 20th Century and the ranch was sold to one Colonel Mackie, a veteran of several skirmishes, including the Boer War in South Africa.

Now Colonel Mackie could have had access to ownership and transportation of that cannon although it would’ve still been somewhat of a challenge, getting a cannon onto a train and not raising a few warning flags. Of course he could've brought it out in a wagon train.

Like, what do you call it, other than a cannon? It’s too big to be a cigarette holder, and doorstop would be a frail attempt to cover its identity. Whatever the case, it came west sometime between the Boer War and 1928. Whether it was intended to be used as it was originally intended will never be known.

Another theory is that it could’ve been lost during the whiskey traders’ numerous treks north to Fort Whoop-Up. During the latter part of the 1800s there was a lot of whiskey sent north to be sold to the Indians. One of the main alleys was called “Whiskey Gap,” which was about twenty-five miles west of the old ranch.

Unfortunately that theory was disproven many times as, first of all, there was no record of a small cannon ever being in Fort Whoop-Up. And, back in that time period, cannons were cast, many out of bronze while this one was machined.

Well, it was quite a novelty having a vintage cannon barrel on the cattle ranch but that eventually lost its excitement and it was set aside in the garage beside the ranch house. War was approaching and everyone had to either dig in or serve the country. Somewhere during that time, the garage door needed some repairs and Hans realized that the old barrel was the perfect replacement for the counterweight for the garage door.

One day Mark’s cousin, Jay, came out for a visit. Jay was an air force veteran who maintained an interest in old weaponry. He had a good look at the barrel and he immediately contacted a gun collector over in the next town.

After chatting with him it was decided that the barrel had some significant value, even if it was to add to the enthusiast’s collection. Lawrence, the collector, was given stewardship over the old cannon. He went to a great deal of trouble to construct a mount and undercarriage and for many years it greeted visitors at his front gate.

I’m at somewhat of a loss as to what was now used as a counterweight on that garage door.

Today, the cannon’s history remains mostly in the theory department but one thing for certain is that it exists. It has been the object of many stories in the local coffee shop. We may never actually know the entire story but one thing does remain: There are not many ranchers out there who can brag about having their own cannon. 

Sunday 14 March 2021


A good part of the Christian world will always recognize Shrove Tuesday in a religious manner, as it is the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent which is a period of fasting, prayer, and seeking forgiveness. One week before Easter is Palm Sunday which commemorates the day when Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem on a donkey prior to his crucifixion. Now all of this is well and good and my hat is off to all those who regard that period as sacred. But for most of us, Ash Wednesday is the real beginning of the religious tradition, and Shrove Tuesday is simply the day that is also remembered for being none other than 'PANCAKE DAY.'

I remember Pancake Day, first of all, because it was the day the local 4-H club hosted its annual Pancake Supper. The club rented the Elks Hall and all members were required to show up and help out. But I also remember Pancake Day as the day that the local International Harvester agency hosted its annual 'Customer Appreciation Day.' 

The shop was cleaned up and closed for business. Displays of new farm and garden equipment, along with some new trucks were set up, then the huge griddles were brought in, tables and chairs were set up and several rooms were partitioned off and set up for mini theaters where promotional films (and some general entertainment ones) were run for the entire day. For the most part, it was an annual celebration and the locals looked forward to it. It wasn't long before the place was full. Farmers, ranchers, contractors, and many local businessmen sat down to heaping plates of pancakes, sausages, bacon, and eggs and discussed usually things other than the occupations they came from.

My dad was a local rancher and the regional veterinarian. He was good friends with the proprietor of the dealership as well as the people who went in and out through the day. Dad was also a player of practical jokes. On more than one occasion after vaccinating and ear-tagging a herd of cattle an unwary client would venture into his house to discover that his jacket and coveralls had been 'tagged' together. Dad's unbelievable luck with bushing for a bottle of soda pop also had some unlucky guys from the local shops more than willing to get even. Well, this one day some guys at the IH shop decided it was their turn.

Dad lined up with a bunch of friends and acquaintances and was more involved with visiting with the others than paying attention to what the cooks were up to. One--I think it was Vic, the welder--took a couple of napkins, cut them into circles then poured some pancake batter on the grill. He quickly placed one of the circular napkins onto the fresh batter then covered it with more batter to complete the pancake. Three such pancakes were created and kept aside just for Dad. 

He held out his plate and was rewarded with 'special' pancakes, bacon, eggs, and sausages and then found himself a place at one of the tables where he quickly engaged in more conversations. 

Dad always had a good appetite and he attacked the food with the zeal of some starving refugee from Asia. Between mouthfuls of pancakes and trimmings, he discussed politics, livestock, rotten kids, and more politics. He was completely unaware that the cooks were starting to grow concerned.

They thought that Dad would discover the napkin-laced pancakes then return for a better selection but instead, he consumed everything and was debating coming back for more.

Vic decided that maybe they had overstepped their bounds so he slipped away and called the local doctor. After a hasty explanation, Dr. Goertz decided maybe he'd better talk to Dad himself. The nervous cook came over to Dad who was still talking to the Coffee Row gang and said that there was a phone call for him.

Dad went into Paul's office and picked up the phone. Needless to say, he was rather surprised to hear Dr. Goertz on the other end.

"I understand you've been imbibing some cellulose," Dr. Goertz began.

Dad looked around to see Vic and a couple of the cooks looming in the background then turned back to the phone. "Well," he responded, "the way these guys are acting, I wouldn't be surprised."

The good doctor then told Dad the story. He then reassured Dad that there wouldn't be much going wrong. "Maybe take a good laxative before you go to bed tonight and everything should be just fine."

Dad swung around to glare at the guilty parties who quickly dispersed back to their positions at the griddle and after a good laugh, everything was back to normal.

And it really was a good joke. 

However, it would be a good idea to pay attention to what Dad was up to the next time he was in the shop getting some work done. Vic might not notice that Dad had turned the amperage way down on the welder so that the rod would stick as soon as Vic tried to strike an arc. And while he was trying to dial the welder back in there was a chance that the torch got fired up and the handles of his pliers strangely became too hot to handle with bare hands... 

Saturday 13 February 2021



Barbara Mandrel recorded a song some years back that talked about ‘Sleeping Single in a Double Bed.’ It was about a lovers’ quarrel and the aftermath. I never paid much attention to it at the time because back then I was single and slept in a double bed all the time. I used to make jokes about sleeping double in a single bed but never gave much thought to actually experiencing that. For years the song never had any further significance until a short time ago.

My wife is a retired bank manager and I’m a retired auto and diesel mechanic. My wife worked at a branch of the bank on the local Indian Reservation. Being curious about the Native American lifestyle Kenzie talked to her customers about various events and traditions. One thing she found out was that Natives give a lot of blankets as gifts. Since the bank wanted to be part of the community Kenzie persuaded the powers that be to donate blankets as prizes and promotional items. Kenzie found some good sources for those things and eventually found individuals coming in asking if she could bring some blankets in for them.

What Kenzie didn’t realize was that she would be turning that into a small business. While she was still working for the bank she actually stocked blankets for vendors from the reservation who traveled to pow-wows and other Native events and had a successful venture. After Kenzie retired, people still called upon her for blankets but the numbers were down—out of sight, out of mind, so to speak. But she needed something to do so she decided that she would venture out and sell blankets on her own.

Despite coming from an urban background Kenzie became a good transplant for small-town life. She stocked up on blankets and other accessories and began to set up shop at various rodeos, swap meets, Christmas shows, and state fairs. Business grew and soon she expanded from loading the Chevy Tahoe to the rooftop with merchandise, to a small 8x10 cargo trailer.

Actually, though we had considered buying a cargo trailer some time down the road, we were in Albuquerque at one of our suppliers picking out items to fill a large stock order when the husband of the supplier suggested that rather than ship everything home by freight truck we should just go out and buy a small cargo trailer and haul the shipment home in it. A couple of trips like this and it wouldn’t be long before the trailer was paid for.

Well, we left the order in Albuquerque and continued onward to Las Cruces, where my brother lives, then onto El Paso to pick up another order. Kenzie found a trailer sales lot conveniently located nearby and bought an 8x10 cargo trailer.

It turned out to be a good investment. Besides picking up freight orders we used it to haul our wares to the various events which were adding up at a steady pace. Business got better and within another year we were looking at making some modifications to our situation again.

Hotel rooms were taking an ever-increasing bite out of the profits. True there were some places where we had family and friends who were more than willing to put us up but it was still becoming a strain. I might add that by then I had retired so I went along to be the pack mule to unload and reload while Kenzie organized the booth. She would be the seller and I would lurk behind the scenes and read, write, chat on social media, and do a lot of real live visiting until I was summoned to either bring more merchandise or mind the booth while Kenzie took a break. We noticed a lot of vendors using substantial toy-haulers. They hauled their wares in the garage area and lived in the front. Well, getting a toy hauler plus a larger truck to handle it was pretty much out of the question but Kenzie continued to check out the classifieds to see if something might show up.

It did, in the form of a small 8 x 12 single axle ‘Work And Play’ unit. We could haul our merchandise, unload it, and have the trailer to camp in while the event was on. When the event was over, slide the bed out of the way, load up and it was off to the next event.

The little trailer was actually well set up. It essentially had the kitchen in the front, accessible from the outside under a full-width door and contained a microwave, a gas-fired hot plate, and a cold water sink (I have no idea why they had both a hot and cold water tap because to get hot water you had to heat it over the hot plate). There was even a heater, an A-C unit plus a flat-screen TV. Since the events ran during the summer it was simply camping. If we couldn’t find a place to plug the trailer in, we had a small generator set to at least keep the cellphones charged.

This arrangement went quite well. Since we always had a lot of merchandise in the trailer we still lacked space. We had a larger than normal-sized single bed which was actually quite comfortable for the two of us. And I’ll tell you, we must’ve gotten along quite well because we slept together in it without one argument.

Now, most of the time, our trips were made from our home base during the week. We headed out, set up, took down, and drove home for two or three days R&R before we had to do it all over again. But there were a lot of events that got strung together making any home R&R next to impossible.

We did get a chance to practice the actual camping when we did the annual rodeo at Writing on Stone Park. The park is situated on the International Boundary on a number of riverflats down the Milk River about twenty-six miles east of the I-15. There, under the shadows of the massive sandstone hoodoos, in the most primitive of conditions, is the location of the rodeo. And I mean primitive conditions. There is NO power unless you have a generator and if you want luxuries such as Internet, you need to drive to the top of the bluffs above the park and run your transactions there. It’s still as death and the daytime high can tease triple digits without much difficulty. 


Well, that first weekend in August we loaded up both the cargo trailer and the toy-hauler and headed for Writing on Stone. We got the tents set up and the merchandise displayed then, while Kenzie was busy attending to some of the finer details, I pulled the toy-hauler around to a reasonable camping spot and set up camp. The daytime high that particular day was around 95 but slowly cooled down to the 70s in the evening. If you were lucky you could actually have the interior of the camper down that low and you could get some sleep.

And sleep we did, although it was a practiced ritual. Sleeping on your right side was just fine as long as both of us wanted to do that. When someone wanted to sleep on the left side both had to agree. I might add that nocturnal washroom breaks were postponed either until your back teeth started floating away or the morning time came.

Overall, Writing on Stone was a good experiment and we had to say that it was a grand success. I might add that sales at the rodeo were great and that assured us and everyone else that we would be back for more the following year.


Home for a couple of days then it was time for a major run that would take us from the end of the first full week in August to the end of the second weekend in September.

The Northwest Montana State Fair was a first for us. We got outdoor vendor space for our two tents and were even able to keep the trailer on site. Since we had to take a lot of extra merchandise there wasn’t going to be a lot of space to camp in. But that was okay, as my cousin has a nice cabin in Hungry Horse, just a few miles east toward West Glacier and he is always glad to have us crash there. I might add that on this trip we had a sizeable armoire that we had fixed up for our granddaughter in Wisconsin, our final destination.

So we got into the fairgrounds in Kalispell, set up our tents, got acquainted with our neighbors, one who was selling nice Burl lamps and log furniture, and one across the street who sold beauty and skincare products. We had just finished getting everything set up when the first real monkey wrench got thrown into the works.

Since the western plains and intermountain region is subject to wind and thundershowers we have to do our best to anchor our tents down lest they ‘sail’ away to some prairie port in North Dakota. Since we were on pavement we couldn’t drive stakes in the ground. Anticipating wind and stormy conditions we had several plastic cans that each held around five gallons of water, tied to the metal frame of the tents. However, we were finishing up for the day and hadn’t gotten around to attaching the walls when some ominous dark clouds began to form up at the north end of the valley. They came up fast and we were frantically trying to get the walls in when all hell broke loose.

Wind, rain, debris, and maybe a couple of small children whipped everything into a frenzy. It came in from the northwest and we had just gotten the north wall up and were trying to connect it to one of the sidewalls on the west. But the wind had other ideas and it was doing everything it could despite having to deal with five-hundred pounds of ballast. Fortunately, we had a lot of good people leaving the fair about then and soon we had several bodies holding everything down until we could get the sides all zipped up and attached to the frame.

No real harm done except for about fifteen soaked blankets which we were able to take back to Hungry Horse and use the driers in the laundromat. I might add that for the next four days the weather threatened but never got out of hand. We rolled out of Kalispell on Sunday night with a somewhat lighter trailer and feeling successful both with the fair, and the new friends we had made.

The next stop was Billings where there was a significant Barrel Racing event going on. We were given a wide place inside a wash-barn, where other vendors and a massage therapist were setting up. It was spacious enough to set up one of our tents and organize it into an attractive store. Our good friend just east of Billings was only too glad to put us up although she was a little concerned as a massive hailstorm the week before had peppered the siding on her house and took out every piece of glass on the south side. They were just addressing the damage when we showed up.

But all was well. We had a good time and a successful event. It was a rather somber experience packing up and moving on.

We stayed on the I-90 from Billings and dipped on down into Wyoming and drove through an awful lot of terrain where you could watch the dog run away for three days. I well remember this route as I had been down it on my two-wheeled conveyance several times in the past to attend the Black Hills Motorcycle Classic. Let me just say that it was different in a truck with air-conditioning, radio playing, and relative quiet. But the bike trips were fun too.

If you’re driving down I-90, even if you’re a vendor at an event down the road, always give yourself some time to stop and see some sights. I saw the Devil’s Tower for the first time in 1969 and at least three times after that. Kenzie had never seen it so she thought it would be a good idea to stop there.

It truly is a sight to behold, that mass of columns pushed up to the height of eight hundred feet pretty much in the middle of nowhere. I remember times when you could simply drive up to it. Well, you still can, but you’ve got to pass through a gate where you have to pay someone to gain access. That’s okay, as I actually agree that you don’t get something for nothing. I also must have looked like a senior citizen and they took pity on us so we got the senior’s discount.

And even though I insist that the word, ‘senior’ refers to real old people who are older than I am, I guess I’m in that category whether I like it or not.

Still having a couple of days to take it easy we also stopped to see Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse. Mount Rushmore still looks the same although they added a lot to the parking and even put up a place to eat and a souvenir shop.

We continued onto the Crazy Horse monument which has seen a lot of progress in the past thirty or so years. You can actually see the warrior’s face coming out of the rock whereas the first time I saw it there was a hole through the mountain where his armpit would eventually be.

It was time for the next event of our tour, the South Dakota State Fair, in the rather small community of Huron. Now, this is an interesting event. It seems like everybody in South Dakota shows up for the fair. Getting unloaded and moved into your booth was a major achievement because there were trucks and trailers, and vans everywhere you could find a space large enough to park. But in the end, everyone got moved in and all was well.

I should say that the campground was something else. To say that the trailers were packed in like sardines would be a gross understatement. We were fortunate enough to have a site on the end of a row and with a somewhat shorter trailer than some of the behemoths that were there, access was a breeze—almost. I have to add that I was so thankful that I didn’t have to jackknife a 30-foot 5th Wheel into a place halfway down the road. But all in all, there were ten thousand people in that campground. There were two sizeable washroom facilities and everyone got along.

I remember being kept awake by some enthusiastic visiting a few trailers down the road. I got up and went over to ask them to tone it down. I was promptly offered a chair and a beer—not necessarily in that order—and we got acquainted. It wasn’t long before we forgot about the annoying noise…

A lot of wonderful, friendly people at the South Dakota State Fair.

Once again it was time to load up and get on the road. We were under somewhat of a crunch this time as we had to make it to our daughter’s place by the following morning. We packed up and I’m sure glad it wasn’t any hotter than eighty degrees out there because the humidity was close to saturated and in no time at all, we were soaked with sweat. On the road again, we headed for Central Wisconsin which meant we would be driving most of the night through Minnesota. With the sun setting on our right side we headed down to Mitchell where we would hopefully hop back onto I-90 and get on our way. That’s when our second monkey wrench hit us.

Driving into Mitchell we somehow missed the interchange to get onto I-90. Looking back it was probably the best because we ended up in town and out of the traffic. One thing I’m extremely careful about is to check the conditions of the wheels and tires on everything especially the trailer. Our toy hauler does run smaller tires than I would like to see and for its size, it’s far from light. Plus we had a pretty good load on it. The trailer was designed to haul a full-sized motorcycle plus a full tank of water and baggage. While we didn’t have a motorcycle on board we had an armoire, filled with clothes and things for the grandkids. Plus, we had ten large plastic tubs filled with merchandise.

I felt the wheel hubs and tires on the trailer every time we stopped from the time we left home. They were always warm to the touch but they weren’t hot, and there was no change all the way from Kalispell to Huron. I really didn’t expect anything to go wrong but, coming into Mitchell, I caught what I thought might be a wisp of smoke from the right wheel. It was after dark and I watched it closely, and also looked for a place to turn off and take a closer look.

I finally realized that the smoke was coming directly out of the hub which told me that a bearing had decided to check out. I felt totally helpless. I pulled into the lot of a repair shop and verified that the wheel hub was almost hot enough to ignite. And it was making some noises that were not conducive to a healthy wheel bearing.

I mentioned before that we were supposed to be at our daughter’s place in the center of Wisconsin the following morning. You see there is a tradition in our family; Papa takes his grandkids to school for their first day. Two years before, I took my granddaughter. Now it was time to take my grandson, the day after Labor Day. And I never fail. And today was Labor Day. And we were some hundreds of miles away, now with a broken-down trailer.

I called Triple-A and was informed that we didn’t have coverage for our trailer. Well, that meant that we needed to find a tow truck. I got on Google and found what I needed, a towing service just out of Mitchell. I called the number and got an answer right away. It turned out that Paul, the driver/owner was in town with another job and there was no problem. He did repairs at his place and he would take the trailer there, fix the wheel and we could come back to retrieve it.

“Just pull it into the bank’s parking lot across the street,” he said. “I’ll be back to get it in the morning.”

Kenzie immediately quizzed him: “What about if the bank sees it and wants it towed away?”

“I’m the one they’ll call,” Paul said with a grin.

“Well, we dodged a bullet there.” We parked the trailer and continued on our journey. And we made it to the kids’ place around four in the morning. A couple of hours of shut-eye and I was in as good a shape as I could be in.

And Papa took his grandson to school for his first day.

Of course we had to drive back to Mitchell to retrieve the trailer, which we pulled back to the kids’ place so we could unload the armoire and other things we had brought for the kids. A few days to unwind and especially to enjoy the kids and grandkids and, though it was all too soon, it was time to head for home.

The trip home was largely uneventful. Lots of rain in Western North Dakota and Eastern Montana, some mud-bogging through some road construction, which we saw a poor motorcyclist have to navigate (I did that myself more than once. Even had some Wisconsin red mud plastered to the cylinders.). Just over five weeks on the road and we were home to a badly neglected lawn that almost needed to be swathed.

But it was a fun trip. However, I do have to say that I’m not all that enthusiastic about repeating it like that. But if we have to, I guess we’ll have to drag out that single bed one more time.

Wednesday 7 October 2020


Driscoll drove straight home. It was late and he couldn’t think of anything else he could do at the time. Charlie Scheels’ rifle that Stan had so willingly turned over for the lab to check out, had fired the bullet that blew the front tire of the car, no doubt causing the driver to lose control and crash into the lake where he subsequently drowned. That made it a case of murder. It could be argued many ways in court but Driscoll’s hands would be tied. The prime suspect would be anyone who had access to that rifle. It could’ve been Charlie’s brother, Stan’s Uncle Artie, but what would the motive be? That left Stan. It happened before he and Wendy were even dating. The only thing that bothered the sheriff was that the motive was still weak. But for the time being, Stan was a suspect and could only be treated as such. Driscoll decided to give it a couple of days so he could check into it further.

This was one of those times when Driscoll hated his job. 

A new day found Driscoll at his desk at the office. It was fairly routine, mostly reviewing some notices of wanted people, who were several states away. Hinkley was running the front desk today, giving Larson a chance to go out on patrol. He had two rookies out on patrol too. Five officers to staff a county sheriff’s department that normally ran eight. But so far there wasn’t a lot of trouble; the worst thing was the state enforcing a vehicle emission law regarding diesel trucks that the owners had chipped so high that they poured black smoke out of their tailpipes—they called it ‘rolling coal.’ First one busted was the son of the county commissioner. Driscoll wanted a full staff but as much as that, he just wanted to call it quits and turn the job over to someone else.

It was back a few years now, when he allowed himself to get talked into this job. He’d managed to get the staff up to speed and things went well. Then things went south. Scheffer moved over to Flathead County to run for sheriff there; Davis went into the border patrol; Jessop had retired, only to become incapacitated from a stroke less than a year later.

The door opened and footsteps could be heard. A typical curt greeting from Hinkely and the visitors headed for Driscoll’s office. First one through the door was Stan Scheels, who was followed by Munson Beals, a very sharp attorney, whose services had been retained by Driscoll, himself, not very long ago.

“So, what’s happening, Mooney?” Driscoll asked although he was sure what the answer was.

“My client wishes to make a statement,” the lawyer said.

“What about?” Again Driscoll knew the answer but there was a protocol.

“I’m the one who shot at Jacob Weiss’ car back in 1972,” Stan said. He looked like he hadn’t slept at all the night before.

Mark leaned forward. “Are you sure you want to own up to that?” he asked. “You know that there haven’t been any charges drawn up yet.”

“I’ve lived with it since high school.”

Driscoll glanced at Mooney and got the nod of assent. “OK,” he said, then raised his voice to get Hinkley’s attention. “Hey Gator, can you get these guys set up in the interview room?”

Hinkley promptly gathered up the video camera and carried it into the special room with the one-way glass and set the equipment up. Mooney and Scheels followed. Driscoll entered the room and closed the door. After everyone was seated, Driscoll started the camera, introduced himself, then getting it on record that this concerned the car with the body of Jacob Weiss that was found at the bottom of Francis Lake. He then introduced Stanley Madison Scheels, and got it on record that Stan had come in, voluntarily with his attorney. He then turned the mike around toward Stan so he could begin his statement.

“It was June 22nd, 1972. We had graduated high school a week before and a bunch of us were partying it up at the ‘HooDoos,’ between Sunburst and Sweetgrass. Jacob Weiss was there with Becky Clark. He was drunk and mean as a snake; he treated her like crap. Jacob used to date Wendy Peterson, as she was known back then. Wendy came to the party and told Jacob that she was carrying his baby. Jacob got violent with her and threw her on the ground—told her to get an abortion.

“I always liked Wendy and thought Jacob had gone way too far. We got into a fistfight and then Jacob grabbed Becky and took off.”

“Did Becky resist?”

“She begged everyone else to give her a ride. Terry Barnes was there and I thought she was going to get a ride with him. Next thing any of us knew, Jacob and Becky took off.

“I’d just had my dad’s guns appraised and they were in the truck. I was drunk and in a blind rage but I didn’t think about pulling a gun on him; none of us did. I just wanted to have it out, hand to hand, with Jacob and stomp him into a bloody mess, so I followed him, all the way to Choteau. They pulled up to the Circle K and then Becky got out and took off. I watched Jacob drive off, looking for her. I decided to forget about it all and headed for home; I was leaving for Camp Pendleton in a couple of days but as I was driving home I got to thinking about Jacob again and decided that this was going to end; he wasn’t going to do this to another woman again. So I headed to the lake and parked over by the tavern. It was closed for the night and everything was dark. I took Dad’s rifle and hid behind the berm.

“I dozed off and almost missed him but I heard the blast of his open headers. I saw him come around the corner, way too fast, and I aimed and fired.”

“Where did you hit him?” Driscoll asked carefully.

“The first shot hit the tire; I don’t know where the other one went.”

“Just two shots?”

“I think so; I was still really drunk.”

“So what happened after that?” Driscoll asked reasonably.

“The car went straight off the road, down the boat launch and into the lake; it went out a couple hundred yards then went under, pretty fast.

“I just stood there, I don’t remember how long, then I got into the truck and took the backroads to Cutbank then back home through Galahad and Devon.”

“What did you do with your dad’s guns?”

“I just took them all and put them away. Next morning, I cleaned the M-1 then packed my bags and got ready to ship out.”

“Did you intend to kill Weiss?”

“Hell no! I just wanted to scare him.”

The interview ended shortly after that. Stan Scheels was formally charged with Second Degree Murder and placed under arrest. He appeared in court to answer the charges and was released on bail, pending a hearing and resulting trial. The likelihood of Stan spending much time behind bars, although up to the judge, was fairly slim. Stan was a well-respected man in the community; he showed remorse but his record since had been nothing short of stellar. He had honorably served his country, then come home to run a successful ranching operation and raise a good family. It could be reasonably proven that none of the shots fired had hit Weiss. Witnesses had come forward to corroborate that Weiss was intoxicated and agitated the night he was last seen. Still, shots had been fired and Weiss had lost control of his car; Stan could be facing some severe penalties. Hopefully, the judge would show some mercy.

Sheriff Driscoll was putting the last of the reports into a file when Deputy Larson entered his office. “Cased closed yet?” she asked.

Driscoll shook his head. “Well, our end of it is pretty well done; it’s up to Scheels and the judge.”

Larson detected a hesitation in the sheriff’s tone. “Something tells me you’re not satisfied,” she observed.

“No, I’m not.” Driscoll picked up the printed copy of the statement the Stan had given, then he looked at his service record. Then he looked at the statement again. Then he re-read the statement from former cashier at the Circle K. He checked the dates, then he dropped them back on the desk and stood up.

“Dammit!” he shouted as he punched the wall, leaving a large indentation in the sheet-rock.

“What’s wrong, sheriff?”

Mark donned his official baseball cap and headed for the door. “The dates don’t match; he was already deployed!” He paused for a moment. “Get your gun, and come with me.”

Dusk was gathering when the sheriff’s Yukon pulled into the yard of the Scheels ranch. Driscoll stopped the SUV in front of the gate to the house and got out. Stan was already out the front door of the house and was halfway across the yard when the sheriff got out.

“What can I do for you now?” Scheels asked. Then he saw the look on Driscoll’s face. Stan shook his head. “No, Sheriff, please don’t—”

“I have to; I haven’t got a choice; if I don’t, someone else will.”

“Come on, Mark, one marine to another—please—Wendy’s got cancer for God’s sake.”

Driscoll stopped abruptly. He gazed at Stan. He could see that his friend was desperate. “Yes, I know, and I’m sorry. But Stan, I’ve still got to do this.”

“No!” Stan’s pleading voice was almost a wail. “There’s got to be a way around this.”

“It’s Okay!” Wendy’s voice interrupted from behind. “Stan, I’ve lived with this—we’ve lived with this—for over forty years.” She turned to the sheriff. “I was pregnant; I was carrying Jacob’s baby. He told me to get lost—have an abortion—then he tossed me aside and started tomcatting around with that Becky Clark from Choteau. I was so messed up; I just wanted to make him suffer—feel the pain. I knew where the rifle was, so I drove out to the ranch, got the rifle, and followed Jacob.

“I just waited beside the berm, just like Stan’s mother told me she did all those years before. I saw that car—I knew the sound of that motor—it came around the bend and I just lost it; I emptied the gun! I watched him drive straight into the lake! And I’d do it to that bastard again—in a heartbeat!”

Larson handcuffed Wendy Scheels and put her into the caged rear seat of the Yukon. Driscoll turned to his friend who was completely devastated by this time. He felt sorry for Stan and wished there was another way. But there wasn’t; the law was clear. At times like this Driscoll hated his job; hated being the one to tear a man’s life—his family’s life—in two. An act of passion from the distant past, never to happen again but this was still a nation of laws. Stan went up to the SUV and put his hand on the rear glass. His wife of forty years looked out at him. “Be strong,” she said as her eyes filled with tears. “I love you.”

Sheriff Driscoll felt a strong tug at his own heartstrings. He couldn’t imagine what it would be like if Tammy was taken away from him like this. He desperately tried to think of a way to help them out of this but his hands were tied; he’d just end up in a jam too. He opened the door and slid in behind the wheel then he turned to Stan.

“Stan,” he said, “Call Mooney, then come in and be with Wendy. She needs you now—more than ever…” Driscoll closed the door and started the engine.

                                                       THE END 

Thursday 24 September 2020


 The chores were well underway at the Scheels ranch the next morning. Driscoll found Stan and Wendy in the barn treating a sick calf. He said good-morning to them.

“Stan, they’re pretty sure it’s your dad in that old car; they want to wait for the DNA test to come back before they’re completely positive, but the dental records match.”

“That’s good news,” Stan said, then he frowned, “well maybe not good news, but at least we can get some closure.” He looked at the sheriff. “That isn’t everything is it?”

Driscoll looked grim. “We believe he was murdered. They found a thirty caliber bullet in the left front tire of the car and another one lodged in the back of his jaw on the left side. It was powerful enough to penetrate the windshield and still hit him, travel along his jaw and embed itself on the jaw hinge. It wouldn’t have killed him immediately but it could’ve caused him to lose control of the vehicle and drive straight into the lake.”

Stan nodded then looked away for a moment.

“I realize that this happened more than fifty years ago so there’s not a lot to go on. I’ve looked at motive and opportunity; two people had motive: your mother, and Hunter Walker, the husband of the woman your dad was seeing. Walker lived in Dupuyer and could have easily snuck away and waited for his wife and your dad to come around that corner, shoot them and quickly run home.”

“That’s not what you think happened though.” 

“From what I learned, Hunter and his wife had been on the skids for some time, and a divorce was on the way. However, your mom wasn’t that amicable.”

Stan swung around and gazed at Driscoll. “I agree with you,” he said with a surprising amount of conviction. “Mom was off-kilter. She spent a lot of time in the psychiatric facility. She was convinced that Dad was beating her up and was going to kill her. Dad caught her many times hoarding ammo and playing with his old M-1 Garand. She used to tell me how easy it would be to knock him off; she even mentioned that if it was planned and done properly, the evidence could disappear forever.

“I just dug up a couple of shell cases behind the berm beside the boat launch. They look like thirty-aught-six to me. I just dropped them off at the lab.

“When I was in Sixth Grade,” Stan continued, “Mom came into the school, flipped out on the teacher and attacked her, accusing her of sleeping with my Dad, and causing all the trouble in our family; the teacher would’ve been in middle school when Dad disappeared. Mom was arrested and sent to the ‘bin,’ never to come out again.” Stan led the sheriff over to the house where he brought out his father’s old service rifle and gave it to him. “Check this out and see if it’s the one,” he said. “It will at least give me some closure.”

The summer wore on. The cars in the lake were down to occasional chats in the coffee shop and business was easing back to normal. Unfortunately this left Driscoll quite unsettled from time to time. The bullets they had recovered from Scheel’s body and his car had been run through ballistics and compared with fresh shots from the M-1 carbine that Stan had turned over. The results were a ninety percent match. Maybe if the suspects were still alive a case might have grown out of it but there wasn’t much sense pursuing it any further; the case of Charlie Scheels, Doug Bond, and Beth Walker was about to be officially closed. It appeared that the prime suspect would have been Roberta Scheels; she had the motive and the opportunity, and, from what those who knew her said, she was lopsided enough to actually carry something like that out.

But that still left the case of the Camaro and the demise of Jacob Weiss. Jacob had been positively identified and a surprising number of people had come forward to offer information about the night Weiss disappeared. It was right after high school graduation. There had been a party in the sandstone hoodoos just south and west of Sweetgrass. Jacob had gotten quite drunk and was being a total jerk, in addition to driving his car very hard. His girlfriend, a girl from the Choteau area, was there and was very reluctant to go home with him but Jacob had gotten belligerent, and all but forced her to ride with him. It was a hot night, and Becky managed to persuade Jacob to stop at the Circle K back in Choteau to pick up a soda. They had gotten into a big argument right after that and Becky ran off on foot. She managed to elude Jacob but still watched him patrol the town for close to an hour before he lit out like a scared rabbit. Becky Clark, now Becky Prentiss, was officially the last person to see Weiss alive.

Driscoll had been to the forensic lab in the city and had gone over the Z-28 with the lab crew and they all agreed that the hole in the driver’s door could have been caused by a gun shot. The car had been checked from one end to the other but there was no slug to be found. He was missing something.

He thought about the driver’s door and the angled hole in the skin next to the upper hinge. He mentioned it to the technician who took a probe and followed the path of trajectory, but there was nothing at the end of it. The skin was removed and the inside cavity was examined, to no avail.

The inner door panel was mostly plastic. It wouldn’t offer much resistance to a bullet coming through but it could possibly cause a deflection and alter its course.

Another week went past and they were almost ready to put the case of the Camaro and Jacob Weiss into the cold files. Driscoll was in his office dealing with a truck accident about six miles out of town. His cellphone chirped its usual tone.

“Driscoll,” was the usual greeting. He paused while the caller filled him in. He then killed the call and headed out to his vehicle. “I’m headed for the lab,” he told Larson as the door closed behind him.

In the lab, Driscoll could see that the front of the Camaro had been jacked up. Both front wheels had been removed and one of them was on a work table nearby; the tire had been separated from the rim. The technician directed Driscoll to the rim itself.

“The bullet went through the tire where the side wall joins the tread, right here,” he indicated with a plastic straw. “Now this is freaky. This is a tubeless tire, typical of what cars ran back in the 70s. But the stem was missing. I pulled the tire off the rim, and of course, it was half filled with sludge from the lake. But we washed that through the screen and found the inside part of the rubber stem. The bullet caught that at the perfect point and not only severed the stem but lodged itself—crossways—in the inner lip. Whoever shot this should’ve gone out and bought lottery tickets. We’ve got a slug.”

“What about those cases I gave you?”

“Thirty-Aught-six, but too rough to get a good match. Fifty percent at best. I’ve sent them to Washington to let the FBI have a go at them.”

“And the slug?”

“They’re just setting it up now.”

Driscoll followed the technician into the ballistics lab where the slug was being set up under the microscope. The technician made a final adjustment then let the sheriff examine it.

“The one on the right is from the jaw of the driver of the old car; the one on the left is the one that just came from the valve stem.”

“I’ll be damned!” Driscoll said.

The sheriff didn’t bother to check the time when he drove into the Scheel’s yard. He knew it must have been after eleven but not much later because he could see the flash from the television, indicating that Stan, or Wendy, or both, were watching the nightly news. Through the curtains, Driscoll noticed two figures stand up as soon as he rang the doorbell. They both looked quite tired when they opened the door.

“Sheriff,” Wendy said, “come in.”

“You picked one heck of a time for a visit,” Stan added.

They sat at the kitchen table and Mark readily accepted a cup of coffee. He gazed at his host and hostess. He never saw it before but Wendy looked awfully tired. Driscoll told her so.

“We just got some bad news today, Sheriff,” Wendy said. “Looks like I’m going to be headed for Great Falls again—St. Jude’s.”

When someone talked about places like St Jude’s that meant one thing and one thing only: the Big-C. “Sorry to hear that.” Mark was truly sympathetic.

Wendy sighed. “I’m not giving up. They took a breast from me ten years ago; looks like they’ll be taking the other one now.”

“We’re praying that it hasn’t gone malignant,” Stan added.

“I’ve got friends in Conrad,” Mark said, “she got sick about five years ago; had to lose one. But she’s doing really good now.”

“Well, I hope she continues to test negative,” Wendy said. “It’s a terrible disease.”

“I can’t imagine. My mother smoked like a factory for most of her life; no physical problems whatsoever; got an infection from a knee injury, and died from it at eighty-nine. My stepfather—Mac—developed prostate cancer when he was in his eighties. When they opened him up, they just closed him up again and gave him three months to live. He fooled them though; he lasted just over six.”

“So, there’s got to be an official reason you’re driving all the way up here in the middle of the night,” Scheels said.

Mark nodded and sipped his coffee. “I might as well tell you; they found a bullet in the tire of the Camaro; it’s from the same rifle—.”


Sunday 30 August 2020


 Cole Musgrove was outside of the blacksmith shop, performing an almost lost art with saddle horses: shoeing. Driscoll watched as Musgrove stood close to the horse’s hindquarters, reached down, picked up the horse’s hind foot, then, holding it up with one hand, maneuvered around and placed the foot between his leather-clad legs. He checked the fit of a new shoe. Satisfied that everything was right with the world, he expertly nailed it in place. A quick trim with a file and the job was done.

“You know I watched Uncle Frank do that countless times,” Driscoll said.

“I don’t need to do it as often as I used to,” Cole said. “We still use horses but the quad is a lot faster.”

“Yeah, but a quad is no match for a pissed-off bull.”

“Roger that; it takes a real good horse to handle a mean bull; a quad is no match.” Musgrove paused to remove the heavy leather apron. “What can I help you with, Sheriff?”

“Well, I’m sure you heard about the cars we found in Francis Lake yesterday; trying to figure out what happened. We got a good idea of who was driving the older car; at least it was registered to Charlie Scheels, whom you know has been missing for over fifty years. The other two, I’m not clear. One of the bodies is a woman.” Mark paused and retrieved the leather chaps which had dried and responded to a good cleaning. He pointed to a set of elaborately tooled initials. “You wouldn’t happen to know who “DB is?”

“Doug Bond,” Musgrove replied without hesitation. “One of the best bull riders I ever saw. Of course, I was pretty young at the time; I was—hell—six years old when he disappeared. Headed for Cheyenne—National Finals—got to be 1959. Doug worked for Elroy Haige, out toward the South Butte.”

“Elroy Haige.” Mark paused for a moment. “He was on that old Roy Parks spread, part of the George Grainger ranch. Dad and Uncle Frank knew him.”

“That’s him,” Musgrove said. “Course we all got a pretty good idea who Roy Parks was.”

Driscoll nodded.

“I remember that old Chevy car that Charlie had,” Cole continued, “kind of a gun-metal silver, it was. I was told Charlie bought it just before he went to Korea and just kept driving it after he got back.

“Charlie was a rodeo cowboy too—saddle bronc. Skirt chaser when he wasn’t riding; a real philanderer. He’d get on the rodeo circuit and I’m sure he had a girlfriend in every town, and probably at least three in every city. His wife was a psychotic boot; I don’t know if he chased around because his wife was psycho or his wife was psycho because he chased around. Whatever he chased around.”

“I remember Charlie’s wife,” Driscoll said. “She used to pour drinks at Dutch’s Bar in Sunburst; she and that huge lady, uh, Dorothy Popp, only Popp was short for her real name—.”

“—Popercznick,” Musgrove added for him. “The story goes that Charlie was seeing a lady in Choteau,” he continued, “she was married—to a guy with shell-shock, who wouldn’t hesitate to cause plenty of trouble if anyone crossed him. Of course, Charlie was married too. From what I heard Dad talk about, Charlie was headed down to Cheyenne, along with Doug Bond. The night they left, they all disappeared. Dad was a deputy back then; he investigated but never turned up anything except that this lady from Choteau disappeared that same night.”

“I’ll have to follow that up,” Driscoll said. As he stood up to leave, he asked, “Charlie’s wife—?”

“Committed to the loonie bin around ’65. Died somewhere around ’68 or ’69—cut her wrists. Son—Stan, and his wife, Wendy—you know Wendy—Peterson—,”

“Oh I know Wendy,” Driscoll said. Kind of a student body—.”

“Some called her the ‘town pump,’” Musgrove interrupted.

“Dated her myself in high school,” Mark added, “but she dumped me for Darrel Buchanon; flung herself at him for a while then dumped him.”

“Well, she sure seemed to have a thing for Stan,” Cole added. “She married him, threw the nightlife away and commenced to raise seven kids; all churchgoers; all responsible citizens.”

“Guess there’s hope for all of us,” Driscoll said with a forced grin.

Driscoll left the Musgrove ranch and drove down the road, deep in thought. The case of the older car was more questions than answers. For the time being, there was the strong possibility of two suspects; a jilted husband or a jilted wife. They would need to find a slug and then see if there was a gun to match.

The Scheels spread was on the Border Road, a road that ran up to the Sweetgrass Hills themselves. Stan had served in the Marines, joining up less than a year after Driscoll, but had gotten out after his required time was completed. He had married Wendy between his time in basic training and his deployment. His paternal uncle had run the ranch while he was away; the original plan was to take it over but when Stan gave intentions of returning, the uncle readily decided to head for the eastern headquarters and left the original place to Stan. He and Wendy had built up and improved the ranch and had done an enviable job of both running a ranch and raising a large family. Driscoll drove down the tree-lined lane into the yard and parked in front of the rambling house. He could see a newer three quarter ton truck driving in from one of the pastures so he stood beside the Yukon and waited.

Stan and his wife were both in the truck. They might have been a little guarded at first but then, most people are intimidated when they come home to see a sheriff’s department vehicle in the yard. Any misgivings were dissolved within a few minutes. There were the usual pleasantries before the sheriff told them of the real purpose of his visit.

“I think we found your dad’s car,” Driscoll began, “We drug it out of Francis Lake yesterday. License plate indicates that it was last registered to your dad back in ’59, the year he disappeared.”

Stan was silent for several minutes while he comprehended the news. “I heard it on the news, about the cars in the lake,” he said finally. “You’re sure it was Dad’s car?”

“The license plate indicates it, and considering your dad had a ’49 Chevy ‘Fastback’ it looks very much like it’s your dad’s car.”

“What about Dad? I heard on the news that they found a body.”

“Three bodies,” Driscoll said, “all I know so far is that there are two men and a woman. Pondera County is following up from their end because there’s a chance—and that’s only if our suspicions are true—the woman is from north of Choteau. Since there’s a possibility that one of the victims is your dad, I’m going to need a swab from you to test for DNA.”

“What about the other guy?” Wendy asked.

“We’ve got an idea but I can’t say; we’re checking for dental records, and once we’ve established something more positive we’ll try to locate his family.”

“Doug Bond?” Stan offered as quickly as Musgrove had just done.

Driscoll gave a slight nod.

“Doug’s real name is Dallas,” Stan continued. “I don’t know how he got the Doug moniker.”

Driscoll shrugged. “Probably the same way I got called Mark.”

Wendy was surprised. “Mark isn’t your name?”

Driscoll shook his head. “My middle name was Martin; my grandmother called me Marty, and called me that till the day she died. My Uncle Cordell, Mom’s brother, got part of his jaw blown away during the war, and he had a major speech impediment. He could barely manage to call me Mark. ‘Course he was usually about twenty-three sheets to the wind and had trouble talking anyways.”

“I’m actually surprised that those cars weren’t discovered years ago when they all but completely drained the lake,” Wendy said, steering the subject back to its original course. “I can remember places you could walk across it. It seems that they found a motorcycle, a computer and a stack of rifles in there, back in the mid-eighties.”

“I think the Pondera county sheriff still has the rifles,” she added.

“Glacier County,” Driscoll corrected her. “They traced one to the murder of a Canadian RCMP officer from just north of the border about twenty years ago.”

“I read about that,” Wendy mentioned.

“Still unsolved,” Driscoll said.

They completed the swab on Stan, and Sheriff Driscoll sealed the jar. “You say there were two cars?” Stan asked.

Mark nodded. “The other one was eleven or twelve years later, almost the same place. It’s actually the one we found first; we were going after it when we discovered the older one, and we had to get the older one out of the way first.”

“I’ll be damned,” Stan said. He stood up and left the room for a moment, returning later with an old photo of his dad’s car with his dad, clad in his army uniform, posing proudly beside it. “That’s just before he went to Korea.”

“Thanks,” Mark said. “I’ll make a copy of it and return it to you.”

The work was far from done. Driscoll arrived back at the office then immediately began to sift through a mountain of old files.

Reports, missing person reports, no one even reported them missing until four days after the rodeo was over and they hadn’t returned home. Possible sightings, then the interviews. The investigation carried on for the better part of a year then was finally sent to the place where all unsolved cases went: the vault in the basement.

It was well past dark and Driscoll was beginning to realize that he had only gotten maybe two hours of sleep in the past twenty-four hours. He switched off the lights in his office then checked the phone to ensure that any calls would go to the answering service and prepared to leave for the day. He was reaching for the door when his cellphone chirped.

It was Hinkley. “Sheriff, they drug the bodies out of the cars and they’re on their way to the city morgue. They’ve got the cars loaded and are ready to take them down to the lab; they just need your authorization.”

“Just tell them to go ahead. If they need anything more, tell them to see Moffit.”

“Roger that. Coming home.” Hinkley sounded tired too. It seemed that Driscoll was always dependent on Hinkley. They had been best friends since Second Grade in school and shared nearly everything. When they graduated they both enlisted in the Marines. Both had spent a lot of years in and out of service to Uncle Sam and had looked forward to retirement before the sheriff’s position suddenly became available. And that was supposed to be a temporary job but had somehow gone through no less than two elections afterward. It seemed that Hinkley was the only member of the staff that stuck around. Well, Driscoll shouldn’t exclude Larson, who was a rookie when Driscoll became sheriff.

Tammy was happy to see her husband home. Being married to someone in law enforcement was a challenge, almost as much of a challenge as being married to a soldier. And she had been married to both. There were times when the absences were almost overwhelming but she also knew that Mark and people like him wanted to be home with their families instead of being out in the elements, chasing elusive criminals, settling domestic disturbances, or sorting out the grisly aftermath of a tragic accident. Mark had been a marine—a Navy SEAL, in fact, although when she met him he was working as a mechanic. He had later been involved in military investigations and government probes. But he always knew where home was, and he was always glad to be there.

Sandwiches and coffee on the table, they sat down and talked about the things that mattered: Roger was busy on the farm, and he and Uncle Paul were busy spraying crops. The hay crop was almost ready to cut and branding was coming up. Wesley was coming home from Afghanistan and had a good chance of not being deployed there again. He was in line for a promotion and would probably be wearing two silver bars on his uniform next time. Melissa was going to work in Yellowstone again this summer and she probably wouldn’t be home until just before classes began in Bozeman. And that left Jordan, who was a freshman in high school.

Where had the time gone? It seemed like only a few days ago when Mark was working on his motorcycle outside the shed over at the old fourplex. The end of a blistering hot day and Tammy asked if he could help put a new bed together over at her place. That was thirty years ago.

An investigation never sleeps. Driscoll managed to grab some much needed hours but come Monday morning he was up with the sun and at the office long before anything else was stirring in the community. He had an investigation to run and answers were needed. And the predawn hours were often the times when progress was the best.

Best keep the investigations separate; there was no need to put them together anyway as it was established that over ten years had passed between the times that the cars had left the road and plunged into the lake, taking a combined four lives in the process. Of course, there was the possibility that those weren’t accidents. The sheriff had just begun to read through the massive pile of files when his cellphone rang its usual.

Driscoll picked it up and listened to the caller. He woke up his computer and accessed the message. After seeing the information that was sent, he killed the call, gathered up a map, and left a message for Hinkley. He locked up the shop and climbed into his Yukon.

The first place he drove was to the lake. He unrolled the old map then examined the tracks made by the car when it was pulled from the lake. He then went and placed stakes where the old road would’ve been. About sixty yards from the boat launching ramp was a berm, tall enough to stand behind, and yet be reasonably well protected or camouflaged. He made a sketch on the map then got back into his vehicle. On an impulse, he quickly emerged again and opened the back to the SUV. He pulled out the metal detector and went back to the berm.

Probably an hour passed as Driscoll walked back and forth along the berm slowly playing the detector from side to side. A beep and the sheriff stopped and probed the ground. The first thing was a bottle cap. He dug up several bottle caps and a couple of quarters, even what looked like a fifty-cent piece. He paused and gazed at the flags he had placed to mark the approximate location of the original road. He then moved over a couple of feet and began to retreat toward the lake.

A distinct beep and he probed again. The earth was mixed with a lot of gravel due to the approach and the boat ramp; it made digging a bit difficult. Driscoll had the most success with a large screwdriver. He would dig and turn the dirt over and scan it with the detector. More bottle caps then something long and narrow. He carefully worked the object out of the loosened up dirt. A shake and a moderate tap and he slipped the object into a plastic bag.

In the course of another hour, he found another similar tubular metal object. He carefully photographed where it was found then staked the area off. After putting the detector away he got back into his SUV and drove away.