An ancient predator has been reborn in the caves beneath Crater Lake
…and it’s hungry.
Ex-cop Henry Shore has been Chief Park Ranger at Crater Lake National Park for eight years and he likes his park and his life the way it’s been. Safe. Tranquil. Predictable. But he’s about to be tested in so many ways. First the earthquakes begin…people begin to go missing…then there’s some mysterious water creature that’s taken up residence in the caves below Crater Lake and it’s not only growing in size, it’s aggressive and cunning…and very hungry.
And it’s decided it likes human beings. To eat.
And it can come up onto land.
So Henry, with the help of his wife, Ann; a young paleontologist named Justin; and a band of brave men, must not only protect his park and his people from the monster but somehow find where it lives and destroy it…before it can kill again. 2014 EPIC EBOOKS AWARDS *Finalist*. 424 REVIEWS on Amazon 4.1 star average.
Targeted Age Group:: all ages over 12
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I always love Jurassic Park so 26 years ago I wrote my own…Dinosaur Lake. It was contracted; supposed to come out in 1994 but Zebra paperbacks canceled at last minute so, despondent, I stuck it in a drawer for 20 years…then rewrote it and self-published it in 2012. Rest is history. It sold like hotcakes, was loved, and I've since then written 4 sequels. Some of my biggest sellers of my 29 novels; except for my cozy Spookie Town Murder Mysteries.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
My characters, as most of my characters, are combinations of people I know or have known…a main character male hero like my father, brothers, or my husband. I had good men in my childhood and life so I used them as models. The women characters, too, are either women I have known or know…or they are partly variations of me. I think most writers do that.
Justin heard the commotion first. In the stillness of the night a loud swishing of powerfully churning water came from far away, moving closer. On the air trembled a soft cry, the sound filling the caldera as an echo filled a canyon.
Something rose up underneath the boat. Henry would remember later that in the horror of the moment, as they were lifted high into the air, that Sam Cutler had been right, it was bigger than two houses.
The boat plopped back down onto the lake, the whirling engines grinding, water splashing everywhere, soaking both of them. Another bounce like that, Henry thought frantically, and the boat would capsize.
“My god,” Justin yelped. “It really is a monster!” He sounded like someone who’d just watched the sun explode up in the sky.
“I’ll be damned,” Henry mumbled, attempting to swallow. His body was frozen. Only his eyes could move, but they were glued to the creature’s steep side. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing, though in the dark and the chaos of the attack, all he could actually make out was a mass of dark scaly skin as the boat slid down along side of the creature.
He captured a flash of a thick neck, a huge blob of a head, two glaring crimson eyes and a wicked slash of sharp whiteness that had to be teeth as big as a man’s hand. All in all, their attacker was a nightmare that froze him and Justin to the boat’s rail, holding on for dear life as the boat beneath them bucked and rocked.
The thing was moving fast.
Justin’s head lifted upwards on his neck, his eyes gawking up at the thing. He screamed.
The beast replied with a deep-throated gurgling rattle of a roar.
Justin stammered under his breath, “Forgot to mention, I hate the water. And I can’t swim!”
“Now you tell me,” Henry tossed back. “Don’t worry, your life preserver will keep you afloat. If you go over, paddle like hell!”
The boat repeated its jump. The fiberglass creaked tortuously beneath them.
“If we go in the water will it try to eat us?” Henry’s voice was a hoarse whisper.
“I’m not sure. No way of knowing. If it’s a descendent or a mutant of a species like Pliosaur, its ancestors were flesh-eaters. They ate anything they bumped into.”
The boat was lifted a second time, bouncing it high into the air, then it came down violently, nearly capsizing.
“It’s trying to sink us,” Henry cried above the din. The bullets he’d taken in the line of duty hadn’t scared him half as much as what he was feeling now. But he’d never seen the bullets coming. This was different. He couldn’t miss the monstrosity slamming against the boat, playing with them as if they were a child’s toy.
Then as swiftly as the water beast had appeared, it was gone.
The lake beneath and around them became calm. The boat lunged forward, the engines loud on the night air.
Long seconds went by.
Shuddering, on his knees, Justin whispered, “It’s gone.”
Henry crouched by the rail, listening. It was hard to hear anything over the loud thumping of his heart. “That was close.”
“I’ve daydreamed about when dinosaurs walked the earth,” Justin’s voice was ragged. “I always thought it’d be neat to see one. I don’t think so now. The shock alone could give a person a heart attack.”
The paleontologist came off his knees to lean against the rail beside Henry. He wiped the water from his face, in the faint light, his eyes wide and glazed. “Ha, imagine, and I didn’t want us to hurt it–as if we could have.” An acid laugh escaped his lips. “That thing must be gigantic, by what we glimpsed of it. That tail and head went on forever. And did you hear that awful sound it was making, a rumbling snoring roar? It sounded as if we were under a waterfall.”
“Yes,” was Henry’s only reply. He was still listening.
“What are we going to do, Mr. Ranger? Should we make a run for the shore or what?”
Henry stood up slowly, moved over to the controls and shoved the throttle full open. He put out the other hand to grip Justin’s shoulder. “We get out of here as fast as we can.”
They heard the water and the roaring noises resume around them.
“It’s coming back!”
“I know,” moaned Justin.
The boat began to rock harder. The beast was near.
Later Henry believed Justin’s inspiration and quick thinking were the only things that saved them. “Noise! It’s attacking the noise from the engines…and it sees the lights.”
“Then we turn off the engines and the lights! If we play dead, it might leave us alone.
“And I’ve got a gun,” Henry added, a hand on the Sig in his holster. “I can shoot it.”
“Forget that,” Justin hollered. “That pin prick would probably just make it madder and it’d come after us for sure.”
Henry shut down the engines and switched off the power.
“Flashlights off, too,” Justin breathed.
They blinked into darkness. It’d been a moonless, overcast night, with creeping fog to help hide them. Henry felt as if he were floating in outer space, no stars, no other light source, just endless eternal blackness.
“Shhh,” Justin hissed, yanking the ranger down next to him.
The wild pitching of the boat ceased but Henry’s stomach remained in turmoil.
They waited for a long time for the creature to make its next move. Nothing. It was as if the disturbance had never happened.
They huddled on the wood of the deck, silent, barely breathing, their craft dead in the water, for what seemed like an eternity, the rest of the night. It wasn’t until the first rays of sunlight filtered through the mist that Henry restarted the engines and gratefully took them home.
“I want to thank you, Justin,” Henry said after the boat had resumed chugging along. “You probably saved our lives. I was ready to shoot at the thing. I think you were right–it would have just angered it more.”
Peering at Henry through water-speckled glasses, Justin gave him a weary grin. “No need to thank me. I was saving my skin, too.”
“Well, thanks anyway, quick thinker. You didn’t panic as most people would have.”
“Ha, I was too scared to panic.” Justin released a shudder. “And I only used common sense.
“I thought I’d never say this, but as unique a creature as it might be, it doesn’t belong here in our world. Here, it’s a nightmare. You’re right, it belongs to the ancient past.”
“That it does.”
“Henry, since you know the park and the lake area so well, where do you think it hides during the day?”
“Let’s see…underneath the lake there’s a honeycomb of caverns and caves formed thousands of years ago by lava streams when the volcano originally erupted. An amphibious beast could live, hide, down there in the connected waterway caverns forever.”
“I don’t like caves. They make me claustrophobic.”
“And you don’t like the water, either.”
“I hate caves more.”
“How did you ever become a paleontologist then?”
“I figured I’d be excavating mostly on dry higher land. Most archaeological sites are up in the mountains or in deserts. So far I haven’t had to dig underwater or in caves.”
“That’s too bad because after what happened last night, what we saw, if it keeps destroying boats and people keep popping up missing, we might have to search for the creature. Might have to find out where it’s hiding, or living; maybe even explore the underground caves.”
“You’d want me to accompany you?”
“If you would. You’re the only paleontologist I know. I could use your expertise in dealing with the, er, dinosaur, if that’s what you think it is.”
Justin’s face was ashen as he nodded. In the dawn’s light he looked a hell of a lot older than he’d looked the day before.
“It, they,” Justin muttered, “could live down in the caves.”
“You mean there could be more than one of those things?”
“Why not?” Justin replied as their boat pulled up to the dock. “Heaven knows how long the creature we saw has been living in the lake. There could be more.”***
Henry made coffee and slumped into a kitchen chair. The previous night, a lead suit, collapsed on him. Feeling the exhaustion, he wished he could crawl into bed and sleep, as Justin had; lose himself in black oblivion. Better yet, he wished last night had never happened because now something would have to be done about the beast in the lake.
He stared out the window at the sunny day and tried to wipe his mind clean. But pretty soon he was back worrying over the next step to take. Worried about getting help with the situation and what he was going to say to Redcrow, without coming across as being plumb nuts.
When the coffee was ready he poured a cup, black, and drank it. Then another. He figured a good meal and a shower would revive him; keep him awake for seeing George and the long drive into town. So he fried some bacon and five eggs, plus toast with butter. Once he took that first bite, he realized he was hungrier than a starved bear.
Stark terror must do that to a person.
After cleaning up the dishes, he stood under a hot shower and afterwards put on civilian clothes, a pair of gray slacks and a casual shirt. At least he wasn’t going to look like a crazy.
Henry drove the speed limit to headquarters. George’s car was parked outside along with a couple of others. Shift change. Taking a deep breath, the Chief Park Ranger strode in.
Redcrow was heading out the door. They nearly collided.
“Just the man I came to see,” Henry said.
“Thought this was your day off, Boss?”
George took one look at his face and, gripping his arm, guided him outside into the sunlight.
“Let’s take a walk,” George suggested. “I need to work off those crullers I just gobbled down.”
“You were right, George.”
“There’s something, some huge water creature, in the lake. Maybe it’s the explanation for the wrecked boats and those missing men. Could be it’s what’s been butchering the animals on Wizard Island as well.”
George leveled Indian-black eyes at him. “I knew that. I’m the one who was with you when we found the remnants of Sam Cutler’s boat.”
“I remember.” Henry kept walking. His face was turned away from George’s, his shoulders slumping a little.
George understood. “You found it, then?”
Henry slid a look at his friend. “It found us. Last night. Justin Maltin, the paleontologist sent up here from John Day’s, was with me. We were patrolling the lake after dark, as we have been on and off since the first boat disappeared. Looking for…something. Anything. We found it. It came up under our boat. I thought we were dead men.”
“You should have been. You were protected. The water spirits were watching over you and your passenger. You’re a charmed man, Henry. I’ve always told you that.”
Henry threw Redcrow an amused look.
“What did it look like?” George’s troubled eyes glinted ebony, as if he already knew what Henry was going to tell him.
“It was hard to see. But the creature, whatever it was, was enormous. It either had a long neck or a real long body and it appeared to be a dark color. Not really sure. But it did have lots of big white teeth because they gleamed in the dark.”
George’s shaggy eyebrows rose. “Even though I’ve seen the mutilated animals, seen the tracks, I’m still flabbergasted,” his lips pulled back away from his teeth as he inhaled, “and frightened. If it’s as aggressive and as big as you say it is we have a hell of a problem.”
“Tell me about it. A huge problem. It’s an immediate threat to anyone on the lake.”
“Yes, it is.” George whistled softly, dodging a tree.
“I thought it was going to belly flop right on top of us. I froze like a scared kid. Just gawked, dumb-struck, at it. Wasn’t for Justin, who made me cut the lights, the engine and play dead in the fog, I might not be alive to be talking about it. The beast went away.”
Henry stopped walking and leaned tiredly against a tree. In as few words as possible he described the night he’d had and everything he could remember about the leviathan.
“What do we do now? It’s not going to stay gone, is it, Boss?”
“Imagine not. I’m going to need anyone who’ll believe me. I thought you might fill the bill.”
“I might,” George replied with a reserved smile. “What are your orders?”
“We’ll need to keep everyone off the lake, make it off-limits, for now, I’m afraid. Don’t see any other alternative.”
Henry fell silent as a group of chattering visitors swept by and went into a souvenir shop. He had the urge to run after and warn them not to go near the water because a monster would get them. But he didn’t.
“You’re going to report this sighting to the National Park Service, aren’t you?” George’s voice had that same sarcastic humor it usually had when he knew the answer.
“Again I don’t have any choice, the way I see it, George. That creature is dangerous. We’re going to have to do something.”
“Capture or kill it?” George inquired curiously.
“Well, those are possibilities, if we can find it. Or, we can leave it alone.”
“That last one’s not an option. It’s a threat to humans. It’s proven that. And we both know it won’t leave us alone,” George murmured in a troubled tone. “Gonna close the park?”
“Nah, not yet. Just the lake area.”
“I know. I don’t like the idea any more than you, but it’s better than losing more lives. We’ll close the lake, shut down the boat tours, and see what happens. I’m hoping it’ll be enough for now.”
“If the beast behaves and stays in the lake, right?”
“You got it.”
“And if it doesn’t stay where it’s supposed to?”
“Let’s face one nightmare at a time, please.”***
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