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Whoever left this beauty for dead will fu@king pay!
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I powered the white Escalade through the heavy snow that smothered Highway 77. I knew I was probably fifty miles from Lake Superior and although I’d come this far, I was tempted to turn around and head back to humanity. The place was just too damned cold and void of human life for my taste.
What the hell am I doing here, anyway? Okay, so I’d started bullshitting with Jay and the other guys at his cabin outside Traverse City. They’d dared me to brave the blizzard warning and prove that my “fancy Cadillac” could make it to Superior and back before noon the following day. I’d had a couple of beers, but once I sobered up, I took the challenge.
What can I say? I was spoiling for trouble, and they were obnoxious. The rest was the history that brought me to the godforsaken wilderness and threatened to smother me. The deal was that I had to mail something, anything, to Jay with a Grand Marais postmark on it—undeniable proof I’d made it. I didn’t stop to think until I hit Hwy. 28 that I could have faked the damned thing with Photoshop on my laptop and been in a Traverse City casino with my dick cradled in some babe’s hand while I played the roulette table. Hell, no! I had to do it legit.
It was early January, and I was surprised how much later in the day the sun was visible that far north. I reached back into my high school science class and remembered something about tilt and axis and… oh, what the hell. Did it matter?
People from Michigan called it the UP. When Jay had laid down the challenge to drive to Lake Superior, he’d held up his hand and pointed just below his pinkie finger to show me where we were. Apparently, there was no body part that resembled the upper peninsula—no scale of measurement to indicate in a conversation how far away Superior was. To me, it was just the most godawful place I could imagine.
I was bored. I’d gotten gas just after leaving Jay’s and when I stopped a dozen miles north of there to take a piss, I realized my phone was missing. I’d still been so full of myself, I guessed I’d knocked it off the seat when I slid out. There I was—no radio signal, no phone and not even a damned CD in the car that wasn’t Christmas music! I regretted not having the satellite radio activated, but hell, who would have ever expected I’d end up in this Godforsaken nowhere? I reflected momentarily on how well we plan everything in our lives—maybe even our burials—but I couldn’t think far ahead enough to realize that when I crossed that damned bridge, I would be leaving civilization as I knew it.
The wind was blowing loose snow into one of the UP’s fabled white-outs. They had the bridge shut down to one lane and were escorting vehicles over like high wire artists clinging to the same balance pole. They almost didn’t let me go over—called me a “high profile” vehicle, whatever the hell that meant—but I don’t think he was talking about price tag.
I lied and told the guy I was bound for the air force base to pick up a big shot and he promptly saluted me and let me go. I guess it never occurred to him that I wasn’t in uniform and I sure as hell was glad he didn’t ask to see identification. As I looked back, I felt like an ass for having done it.
At least the road was deserted, so I headed right down the middle. Haven’t these people ever heard of a plow? The light of the dwindling sun strobed through the endless pines; bright enough to make me squint. Off to my right I saw a pattern in the snow—looked like a pair of footprints leading from the edge of the road off across the snow. There was just one set and no sign of any return.
That’s when I saw the billow of smoke and slowed down to look. I could see a shack-looking building set just about fifteen feet back into the wood line—and the smoke sure as hell wasn’t from a fireplace. What the hell? One corner of the roof was on fire, flames blowing smoke like a fat man with a Cuban cigar. Then I realized that the tracks led directly to it.
It was below zero outside, and I was wearing dress shoes from the party at Jay’s. I only had my leather jacket and no gloves. What an idiot! I looked north and wondered how far it could be to a phone. Surely these people had a fire department somewhere. It wouldn’t take any effort at all for me to keep on going and let the next car behind me deal with this. I could be headed south again, and home, in about an hour.