Before Dawn: The Lobo Cliff Incident, страница 1
BOOK ONE OF THE LOBO CLIFF TRILOGY
Fourth grader Alex Davidson was used to being in trouble. If it wasn’t at home it was at school, but a chance discovery in the woods next to his home made his usual troubles seem like nothing. He saw something, and no one will believe him. This is a case of ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’ taken to the extreme. At the same time his best friend is dying of a mysterious disease and the only cure can be found… in the woods. Employing the help of a couple of school mates, he struggles to come to grips with his discovery and hopes his family, his friends and town and his best friend - can survive.
BEFORE DAWN: THE LOBO CLIFF INCIDENT
BOOK ONE OF THE LOBO CLIFF TRILOGY
Copyright 2012 Rod Martinez
Cover art by: Andrew Pearce
(his website is at https://www.krop.com/andrewpearce )
All Rights Reserved
This story is dedicated to early friendships. Do you remember your first best friend?
By: Rod Martinez
“It all started in third grade. They say I look for trouble, but I think trouble looks for me. The first day of school I got in trouble for making fun of Mrs. Budie’s name, ha, and after that, me and the principal were on a first name basis by the second week. I don’t mean to get in trouble, honest. Just some things seem funny to me and I, I just can’t control my mouth, I have to say something.”
Alex Davidson, fourth grader, sat in the small office explaining himself to the new school counselor. The counselor sat in her seat, staring at him while he fidgeted with his pencil. He ended up snapping it in half from nervousness.
“Alex, your Dad says you get in trouble a lot at home too. You want to explain that?”
“It’s my stupid sister’s fault, you know how teenagers are.”
She got up, walked toward the door.
“Alex, I want you to promise me something. We’re going to do an experiment, ok? So from now on, before you act, before you say something… I want you to promise me you’ll think about it first.”
She opened the door, he grabbed his book bag.
He held the pencil in his hand and looked at the garbage can and started to aim, like he was going to throw the pencil.
“STOP!” she screamed.
“See? Right there, before you attempt to toss that broken pencil across the room into the garbage, think about it. Really slow down and think about this. Does that pencil need to be thrown away? Can the half with the eraser still be sharpened and used? If I throw it, will I miss the garbage can and mark the wall? Understand?”
“Oh, uh… yeah. But I don’t normally think about it, I just do it…”
“Exactly, and I want to see if you can train your brain to think about it first. Ok?”
“Well, if it will keep me out of the principal’s office this year, then… ok.”
She opened the door and Alex walked out. Alex was the baby in the family who seemed to always be the one whose name got called when trouble happened. He walked back to class, sat at his desk.
“So, how’d it go?” Marcie whispered across the aisle.
He turned to his best friend; her wide eyed look made him half chuckle.
“Usual, it’s going to be an interesting year in the forth grade. Hey, Dorian didn’t come to school?”
“No, his mom told me he had the flu or something.”
“Oh, man that kid is sick more than my grandma used to be.”
“Alex, do you have something you want to share with the class?”
He stopped, turned and looked up at the teacher, who was staring at him, rapping her ruler in her open palm. The young teacher was already losing patience with her new fourth grader who could never seem to stop talking.
“Uh, no Mrs. Rivera, I was just telling Marcie… uh, never mind.”
“Very good,” the teacher said walking back to the board, “… let’s focus.”
“Ok,” he blurted out, “… let me get my bifocals.”
The kids started laughing. She pointed at him and pointed at the door.
At the same time they both said the same thing… “Ok Davidson, principal’s office!”
Forth grade was a big move from third. Alex thought about maybe trying out for Traffic Patrol, but since Marcie didn’t, he chose not to. They were best friends, they did everything together. Besides, if you were on the traffic patrol team, it was the first sign of being popular. A lot of kids made a big deal about being popular, but Alex’s name was known all throughout the school anyway, and it wasn’t a good thing. Marcie and Dorian were usually the ones getting him out of trouble, if they could.
“Alex you want to go discovering in the woods behind the cul-de-sac after school?”
“Man, I don’t know Marcie, the principal’s going to call my Dad, so you know as soon as I get home, I’ll be grounded.”
“Again? Geez, you may as well LIVE in your room. We never get to play anymore. Man can’t you just stop your mouth before it opens in class?”
“Maybe I’ll throw myself on the mercy of the court when I get home.” he smiled.
The two friends stepped off the bus together and walked the block to their cul-de-sac.
“Well this is it, text me if you can come out later, ok?”
He turned to face his house and his father and big sister were standing on the front porch.
“Oh man, this can’t be good, he never stands there waiting for me. It was nice knowing ya, Marcie.” he gulped.
“Hey son! How was school? Marcie, come on over.” His dad called.
“Great, I’ll have an eye witness when he murders me.” Alex sighed.
“Uh, Hi Mr. Davidson, hi Bethany.”
“Hey Marcie, so what have you two monsters planned for the afternoon?”
“Oh man… this can’t be good.” Alex whispered, “…Uh, nothing Dad, you know… the usual, homework…”
“Nonsense, son, I have a better idea. Your principal called.”
“Oh, Baby brother’s in trouble.” his big sister smiled.
Alex lowered his head, ready for the lecture. He was used to it. His father was used to it too. What could it be this time, no internet for a week? No TV for two days? Or worse… he’d have to feed the dog for a month.
“Son,” he put his hand on his shoulder, “… how would you and Marcie like to go on a field trip? Sound like fun?”
“A field trip, Mr. Davidson?”
“Yeah, I have an idea. As you know I work in construction, and my general contractor asked me to survey the land over there,” he pointed at the woods at the end of their cul-de-sac, “… I just might need two helpers.”
“Dad, uh, are you sure it was my principal that called you and not Bethany’s?”
“No, your sister’s principal has never called our house.”
“Rub it in won’t ya.” Alex thought to himself.
Alex’s sister was a straight A student at her high school, even in the Honor Society, and she always made sure Alex knew it. She stuck her tongue out at him, and then walked back into the house after pulling out her cell phone.
“See, it seems they want to build a little shopping mall out of the woods there next door, and since I live here, my boss offered me the job to check out the land. I know you and Marcie have explored in there, and I know you love nature, so this might be a problem with you, but I have two key eye witnesses who can give me some details from in there.”
“Well, they taught us about how our natur
“I know Marcie.”
“Uh, Dad… what does my principal have to do…?”
“Your principal talked me into a deal. I’d get you two a ‘job’ to do and maybe you’d have some discipline in this work and learn to curb your mouth and actions in school. Is it a deal?”
“Uh, sure Dad.”
“Good, go hop on your bikes and get in there… let me know what you see, and I’ll get my equipment ready and we can get to work.”
Marcie ran home to get her bike and she and Alex met at the entrance of the woods.
“Wow, we do this all the time, but now we have a reason to do this, wanna follow our usual trail?”
“Yeah Alex, but after we get to the Y tree, let’s go left, we always said we’d do it but we never have.”
The two friends sped off in excitement. Within a few seconds they were at the huge oak tree that was shaped like the letter ‘Y’. I started off crooked from the ground and curved up into a perfect form of the letter Y.
“So what’s your dad going to do in here anyway?”
“He looks at the land and measures it for the contractors and architects and all that. Then they decide were a house goes, or a gas station goes, or bank or ice cream shop…”
“Mm, ice cream.”
“I don’t like the work he does, the last time they built the mall, all those poor raccoons and snakes had to find new homes. That’s when those animals kept showing up all over town, remember?”
At the corner of his eye, he caught a blur that ran by.
“Huh? What was that?”
“What?” Marcie jerked her head around to see where he was pointing.
“I just saw something dash off behind those bushes Marcie, come on!”
Before she could say anything, he was on his bike and speeding past the tree. She quickly hopped on and followed. They were used to these woods, they’d ridden through here many times before, but never while chasing something. And that something seemed faster on foot than they could pedal on their bikes!
She was growing tired fast, but he kept up the chase. Finally they came to a clearing and he slammed his brakes, skidding on the dirt.
He hopped off his bike and Marcie stopped just behind him. They both stood in amazement, staring over what they both agreed was…
“How… how is this possible?”
“It’s a cliff, Alex.”
“We live in Florida, Marcie, there’s no such thing as cliffs here!”
But sure enough they were overlooking a ravine that carved deep into the earth.
“Well, maybe this is where our town gets its name, Lobo Cliff.”
“Ok, we didn’t stop back there and take a nap or something, did we? Maybe we’re dreaming this.”
“How could we, you saw something and started chasing it, what was it anyway?”
“I don’t know Marcie, it had brown fur and all I really saw were the back legs, almost looked like a deer.”
“Have you ever even seen a deer in real life, Alex?”
“Yes, at Busch Gardens in Tampa!”
“Your Dad is never going to believe this; we’ll have to show him.”
“Uh yeah, you remember how we got here?”
“Nope. But on our way back, we have to just remember trees and stuff we pass. Maybe we can break a twig here and there and we can follow it back.”
“No! Marcie why kill nature? My dad’s job does enough of that.”
“Well then we’re going to have to try and remember every turn we take. We’re deep in the woods, Alex.”
“Just remember the places we pass, like those mushrooms right there, ok?”
The two friends turned and rode back home. Seemed like only minutes to them, but by the time they rolled out into the cul-de-sac where they lived, it was dark. They had just coasted by Alex’s house when the porch light at Marcie’s house came on.
“Marcia Latoya Kevons! I’ve been calling you, where’s your phone!?”
“Oh man, Mom’s mad at me. Have to go Alex, catch ya later.”
“Ok, see ya.”
He turned his bike and rode back to the head of the edge of the woods and stood there staring into the darkness. There was an umbrella on the moist ground that he didn’t see when they went in the first time, it was open and moist from the misty air. He slowly walked to the edge of the woods where the huge full moon was hot and bright over the horizon. He felt like maybe something… someone... was watching him. He couldn’t shake the feeling. But it was dark, and he saw nothing.
“Hello?” he called.
He heard a couple of twigs snap, and then an owl.
His Dad called from behind, he turned, ran back to his bike and rode home.
Next morning, though he tried, he couldn’t stop the inevitable. Young Alex found himself sitting back on the big plush leather chair, starting back at a forty-something year old man who seemed like he was just at about the top of his tolerance.
“Alex, don’t you get tired of being in my office?”
The principal walked back to his desk.
“Well yes, Mr. James, I mean no Mr. James... I mean…”
“I know what you mean, Alex. Do you have problems concentrating? Is that why you get in trouble so much in class?”
“I, I don’t know… Mrs. Velez was covering the Nixon President stuff in American History class and asked if anyone knew what Watergate was and I said it was the gate on my pool.”
The principal held a laugh.
“Son, you know. Teachers really get upset when they want to teach kids, and there’s a kid disrupting them all the time. I’ve been at this school for years. I used to teach your Dad, and you know – he was a trouble maker too. I know you’re a good kid, Alex, but I can’t have you disrupting class all the time.”
“I know Principal James… and I’m really sorry, but...”
“Ok, go back to class... and this time, think before you say it... ok?”
“And son, I hope you don’t get into anymore trouble today, I’m leaving now for a family appointment, promise me you’ll stay out of trouble.”
“I... I promise.” he smiled.
The boy walked out of the principal’s office after a long sigh. On his way down the hallway, he stopped at the water fountain, took in a sip while thinking back on what his counselor and Principal had told him.”
“Think before you do it… seems easy enough.”
He took in a cool swig of cold fountain water, held it in his mouth and turned and saw the waste can in the corner. He stared at it, held the water in his mouth, wondered if he could squirt the water into the basket from where he stood. Before he could spit it out, he could hear the Principal’s voice in his head…
“Think before you do it…”
He smiled, swallowed the water.
“See? That was easy.”
He turned, looking outside the window, and he saw the familiar brown blur. It flashed by the window and out into the field behind the school.
Alex quickly dashed out the hallway door and started running out into the field.
“Hey, you! Wait!”
Alex was a fast runner, so he chased it back into the woods behind the school. In no time, Alex was deep in the woods and he was lost. He looked around, trying to decide which was the best way to get back to school. He reached in his pocket for his...
“No! Cell phone is in my locker, we’re not allowed to carry it in school.”
He turned, looking for a way out, he saw nothing but trees and green.
He started walking, thinking this was the way he came in. There was the rock he hopped over… there was the group of mushrooms he almost slipped on.
He stopped. Someone, or something else was in there with him, he couldn’t see anything but he felt he was being watched. He grabbed the dead limb leaning against the tree next to him.
“Ok, come out… whoever you are, come out… I’m not afraid of you!”
He heard a breath… then a scratch. He kept looking around him with quick nervous jerks of his head, holding the limb up like a baseball bat.
“Come on… come out… I mean it!”
The crushing of fresh grass behind him caused him to turn. He could see the fur, hiding behind the tree next to him. He turned and held the stick up, ready to strike.
“It’s ok, little animal. I won’t hurt you, just…. just don’t hurt me, ok?”
There was a shuffle behind the tree, then he saw gruesome claws, coming slowly around the tree, then a face… a dog, a wolf, he wasn’t sure - but he trembled holding the stick. The animal was standing on its hind legs and slowly crept from behind the tree to face Alex. He gulped.
“Nice doggy? Nice doggy…”
Their eyes met and stayed locked on each other, the animal seemed as curious of Alex as he was of it.
“Ok, I’ll put the stick down. See? Trust me, I’ll trust you.”
He slowly put the stick down, lowering it to the ground without taking his eyes off the animal. It showed its teeth, Alex wasn’t sure if it was a smile or a frown. He dropped the stick in front of him. The animal slowly came out fully from behind the tree, he was just a little taller than Alex standing on its hind legs.
“What… are you?”
It came out, slowly stepping closer, they were about three feet from each other when Alex started to hear the growl that came from deep within the thing.
The scream came from the other side of the woods, not far from where he was. Alex turned around and heard the shuffle behind him.
“Over here!” he called.
He turned around and his visitor was running off deeper into the woods.
This time he knew the voice… the new counselor.