Happy Friday everyone! Apologies for the hiatus, I’ve been doing a major edit/rewrite on some of the earlier chapters of this story. Will update the chapters on the site!
Below is latest chapter from A Man of the Mountain, the prequel to my first novel, Whiteout, which just released. It tells the story of a man who just wants to keep the Bigfoot legend alive, and the monster hunters who want to stop him.
For those who want to read Whiteout, it’s out now on all platforms and currently holds a 4.5/5 on GoodReads with 22 reviews in so far! Order below and share my work if you like it!
8. Something Really Stupid
The set was not far from the liquor store, Nick’s first priority. Nick barely waited for the car to stop in the forestry center parking lot before hopping out to look for Mansen. Almost immediately, he spotted Mansen’s trailer, and went straight for it, moving like a hungry dog. Without hesitation, he marched through the door like he owned the damned thing.
Shirley followed behind, exchanging nervous glances with many of the production crew. Luckily, none of them seemed keen to act on the intruder, and instead were content to gawp. She hurried to catch up to Nick, not wanting to miss what was sure to be a spectacular confrontation.
“Hello Rick,” Nick bellowed. There was the loud sound of a pistol cocking.
“Oh shit.” Shirley quickened her pace, hoping that she had not just aided and abetted a murder.
Luckily, Nick walked out of the trailer looking crestfallen, holstering his weapon. “He’s not even here.” Nick spun around like a needle on a compass trying to find North, jittering wildly and stopping suddenly. He was about to jog off in the direction of a scrawny man wearing a Production Assistant T-shirt, when Shirley stepped in front of him.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
“Trying to find Mansen. I think that little weasel knows where he is.” Nick pointed a shaking finger at the PA.
“I meant with the gun, you imbecile!”
“Oh.” Nick pulled the gun out once more.
Shirley flinched away reflexively.
“Relax. It isn’t loaded.” Nick popped out the magazine, never letting his eyes drop from the PA. He was like a predator stalking in the wild.
Shirley took the clip and examined it. Satisfied that it was indeed empty, she handed it back. “You’re going to get yourself killed.”
The production assistant had noted Nick’s interest and was beginning to back away.
“Half this town has carrying permits and wouldn’t mind putting some loud mouth stranger in their—”
The production assistant began to run.
“Oh no you don’t!” Nick took off after him.
“God damnit.” Shirley followed close behind.
Nick caught up to the boy with ease and grabbed him by the collar. “Hi there!” he exclaimed with just a little too much insanity. “I’m looking for Rick.”
“I’m s-sorry s-sir. Only the cast is supposed to know where we’re shooting.” The poor kid was visibly shaking.
Nick didn’t miss a step. “And who the hell do you think I am?”
The boy looked at him, confused.
“I’m cast, you nitwit. Name is Nick Ventner, I’m a consultant the network hired for the final push here. They wanted to make it grittier, so they brought me in.” Nick took his free hand and smoothed over his hair.
Shirley caught up to them.
“This is Shirley, she’s the one that gave you the tip to come here in the first place.”
The PA continued to shake in silence.
“Show some respect!”
The boy muttered a weak hello.
Shirley mouthed Sorry.
“Now, what do you think they would do to a producer—” Nick stopped, as if noticing the boy’s t-shirt for the first time, “Excuse me, Production assistant, that didn’t let their guests on set?”
The PA grimaced as if under extreme mental anguish. After what felt like minutes of this internal calculation, he gave in. “They’re on one of the lower hiking trails by Clearwater Lake.” He exhaled with such relief that he closely resembled a volcanic fissure.
“Really? Clearwater Lake on Clearwater Mountain, in Clearwater?” Nick tightened his grip. “Just how stupid do you think I—”
Shirley gave Nick a hard shove and he lost his grip on the PA. “It’s real nimrod, the settlers just weren’t much for words.” She turned her head to the PA who was still cowering. “What are you doing? Run.”
The boy scampered away.
Nick brushed himself off. “That,” he pointed to the PA, “is why I never travel with assistants.”
Shirley shrugged. “He held out longer than I would have expected. Trailhead for the lake is right there.” She pointed to a wooden sign reading ‘Clearwater Lake Trail’ with a painted smiley face beneath it, signifying an easy hike.
“Fantastic.” Nick strode off toward the trail with a clear sense of purpose.
The lake trail was flanked on either side by tall trees that blotted out most sunlight, leaving the forest floor in a cool twilight. Shirley thought about the days when she used to go out on the mountain for fun. On her first summer returning from college, she had spent all of her spare exploring all of the forests surrounding Clearwater. That was almost ten years ago, back when a journalism degree still held more promise than a position writing for the Local Eye. How the hell did I end up here? A pang of nostalgia for that old hopefulness hit her as she looked at the trail. She consoled herself, At least it’s exciting.
Shirley savored the calm moments as they walked. Aside from Nick mumbling to himself about Sasquatch migration patterns and occasionally cursing, it was quiet. It was likely the last time the trails would be so empty. The fame of a television special was sure to destroy the town for a year or two. Shops would open, selling t-shirts and off-brand merchandise. Tourists would flock for a few years, and then slowly discover the very shallow bottom of Clearwater’s offerings. It was a shame, but if it stopped the attacks, then it was worth it.
After fifteen minutes of walking, they emerged into a clearing where several towering lights had been erected. A cadre of makeup artists, assistants, and crew bustled about. Standing smug in the middle of the vortex was Mansen, reading corny lines from a yellowing sheet of paper. He looked up just in time to see them coming out of the trees. Even through the painted-on tan, his face went pale at the sight of Nick. Almost immediately, he dropped the script and ran.
“Oh come on, Rick. Is this any way to treat an old friend?” Nick’s tone was jovial, but he had once again taken chase. There was an odd hunger in his eyes as he ran.
The cast and crew stopped what they were doing to stare at the commotion, thankful for any opportunity to get away from the script. Unfortunately for them, the chase lasted all of thirty seconds. Mansen may have looked the part for an explorer, but he was well out of shape. Nick tackled him into the dirt and pinned his arms with ease.
Shirley hurried over for a closer look.
“Someone get this madman off of me!” Mansen was struggling hard, but succeeding in nothing but driving himself further into the dirt.
“Don’t fight it now. Say the words and this can all be over. You know the rules.”
“I will n—” Mansen’s protestation was cut off by his face being shoved into the dirt. When Nick let him back up, his voice was weaker. “This is humiliating. Come on, Nick.”
“That’s the intention. Now, you signed your name, same as everyone else. You know the rules.”
Mansen struggled, but the fight had gone out of him. Redness flushed hot in his cheeks. “You have bested me and are far superior in every way,” he mumbled.
Nick cocked his head, as if considering asking for the confession again, but let him up. “You put up a good fight.” It was by no means true, but meant as a sign of respect. Nick didn’t really feel it, but a ritual was a ritual, and he said it anyway.
Mansen got to his feet, brushing himself off and trying to regain his demanding composure. “Now that you’ve finished assaulting me, what the hell are you doing on my set?”
“Call it professional courtesy.” Nick began a leisurely stroll around the production area.
“And I suppose SHE was the one to call you?” Mansen motioned to Shirley like an irksome fly.
“SHE called both of you. Mr. Ventner over—”
“Call me Nick.” Nick tried a smile.
“Stop interrupting me and I might.” Shirley continued, “Mr. Ventner answered the same ad you did, but he actually intends to kill the monster.”
“And what do you suppose we’re doing here?” Mansen growled.
“Getting some good establishing shots to set up a cliffhanger for a season you’ll film next year,” answered Nick, flatly.
“That is absolutely prep—”
“How did you plan on killing the beast without stepping off the main hiking trails?”
“We have every intention of—”
Nick yawned loudly and then looked at the sun, checking its position. “Let’s see, you’re on day seven of shooting, it’s almost three o’clock, and you never stay anywhere more than a week and a half if you can help it.” Nick walked over to a small tent and began rummaging through it. “Shirley, how long does it take to summit Clearwater Mountain?”
“At least a day, and that’s if you have the experience.” She rolled her eyes at the crew, knowing they did not.
Mansen tried to protest, realizing the trap that was being laid for him, but Nick crashed ahead.
He emerged from the tent with empty hands. “Huh, what do you know? No climbing gear.”
Shirley faked a look of shock and surprise. She found a surprising level of joy watching Mansen be humiliated in front of his crew.
“If you are quite-”
“By my mark, that means you should be heading up the mountain tomorrow. That is, if you had any intention at all of going up there in the first place.”
“If you’re implying…”
“That you’re a fraud and couldn’t kill that beast with the holy sword that pierced Christ himself?” Nick paused, scanning the crew to ensure they were watching. “Yes, that is my implication, don’t miss it.”
Mansen’s fury roared back to the surface, his thin veneer of resolve melting like summer snow. “Jealousy does not become you, Nick. We run a business here, and to keep it running, we have to get certain ratings. No one is going to watch a segment about me hiking up a mountain for a day and a half.” A smug smile crossed his face as if that settled the matter.
“Our cameras up there have been getting destroyed,” piped up a camera woman, immediately turning bright red.
“Have they now?” asked Nick, with genuine interest.
“It doesn’t matter!” shouted Mansen.
At this point, one of the producers stepped in and began to talk quietly to Mansen.
“Of course we have enough B-Roll,” he whined.
“You really think our viewers will want to watch that?” Mansen’s grimace deepened.
The producer spoke some final words and then backed away quickly as if Mansen were a bomb.
“FUCK!” cried Mansen, unable to contain himself any longer. “Fine, we’ll set out tomorrow. Haven’t killed anything worthwhile in years anyway.” Mansen stormed off, and then stopped short. “Oh,” he turned around to Nick and Shirley with a malevolent smile. “Have your shit packed and be at the trailhead by 6AM.”
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Nick called after him.
“Have you ever climbed a mountain?” whispered Shirley.
“How hard could it be?”
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