Explanations (Ginger Man 14C)

Within that plastic carton, Charlie had found the proof he had been seeking, evidence that the odd events of the past week were directly related to each other. But — a Ginger Man? Really? Was that the only explanation for what he’d just discovered, that the story Mike had invented from the gjenganger legend, an animated corpse seeking revenge for its unhappy life, was somehow a premonition (Charlie remembered Mike using that word, had explained its meaning to him)? When his friend had written that description of the Ginger Man in that notebook Charlie had found (and had left in his pickup, dammit), was he predicting what would happen, what was happening now, months after his friend’s death?

“Jesus.” Charlie shook his head, suddenly realizing his scalp felt cold. He reached up, confirmed his suspicion that he was no longer wearing his baseball cap. He looked around the outside, then inside the tent, saw it lying on the canvas bottom. Must have been knocked off as he’d gotten out.

He put the baseball cap back on his head, his uncombed brown hair pushing down and out as he pressed it down. No, there were other explanations — a prank, for instance. Somebody who knew Mike, and had a sick sense of humor. Rune? Yes, that boy seemed to recall the gjenganger legend pretty quickly when Charlie had shown him that notebook. Seemed pretty full of himself, too. But not too strong-willed, Charlie was sure he could get him to confess pretty easy when confronted with the evidence. If he did it, of course. Other explanations . . . no, nobody’d said how long they’d been missing their stuff. Could have been months, before the accident at Pete’s Elbow. Maybe Mike was the one who had gathered all the stuff into this carton, he had been acting strange ever since coming back from college —

A tree branch snapped on the forested ground loudly, behind Charlie and several yards away. He’d spent enough time in the woods to know the sound could not have been made by any deer, even the largest buck, and larger animals (moose, bear) would rarely come this close to a populated area like the Pleasant Hill subdivision. Another snap, then another . . . the volume and spacing of the footfalls was definitely human.

And it was coming straight for Charlie.

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