Photo by Matthew T. Petersen

Reynolds looked at Niko for a long time and shook his head. “Don’t they say a Chamonix never lies?”

“They do.” Niko chuckled, but it sounded forced.

Reynolds began walking again, moving into the yard, scanning as strolled, as if looking for shark’s teeth on a cold beach. “So you’re saying you didn’t hear any shots in the past hour or so. The reports say they were over by the river … where you were.” He was circling towards the tarp.

“Damn Sheriff. I hear shots out here all the time. They don’t really register with me, you know?”


Niko stood and swung the oar in a single swift motion, but Bayless was ready. He ducked and leaned with the boat and the oar flew out of Niko’s hand. Bayless raised the gun and shot.

Niko heard the gunshot. He looked to his torso but felt nothing and saw no blood.

He heard Bayless curse as he stumbled and slipped to one knee in the bucking boat — he was off balance and had somehow missed the close-range shot. Niko didn’t have time to be thankful as he saw Bayless raising his arm once again.

Niko jumped onto him…

They had just pushed off from camp. Bayless still held the gun and had not taken his eyes off of Niko

“You’re acting like I’m going to steal something from you,” Niko said as he settled into his seat at the oars. He looked over his shoulder in Bayless’s direction. He had chosen the rear seat for the return trip.

“That noise in the woods last night spooked me a little.”

“Having you up front would be helpful. Keeping the bow down helps me steer, and you’re right in the way of the motor.”

“I like it back here. I…

Bayless was about twenty feet away, holding the duffle in one hand and the pistol in the other. His gloves and hat had been removed, and he was smiling.

He repeated his question. “Going somewhere without me?”

Niko’s pulse was racing, but he pulled that guide mask on. He laughed and spoke in a steady voice. “No. Guide-school 101, make sure to bring the client back with you. ”

“Good advice,” Bayless scanned the camp site. “What you looking for then?”

“A bigger light. You scared me, heading off on your own. I was about to come find you. ”

Bayless, duffle in hand, moved from the moonlit landing into the darkness of the trees.

What the hell is he doing?

Niko slipped his crocs on and kept eyes on the spot where Bayless entered the woods. He followed, moving light and quiet over the difficult ground. He was well acquainted with night travel on river banks. He considered calling to Bayless, but something about this was secretive, and Niko wanted to know more before announcing himself.

Niko entered the woods in the exact spot where Bayless disappeared. He stopped and listened. Faint footsteps in the distance of the still…

By the time Bayless emerged the next morning, Niko had cooked breakfast, cleaned camp, packed the boat, and had caught three brook trout swinging a parachute Adams from the bank.

“You feeling alright?” Niko asked, pulling his line in.

“I’m fine. You got any coffee?”

“Coffee, eggs, and toast are over by the fire.” Niko pointed at the smoldering coals.

Bayless walked over and poked at the food. “It’s all cold.” Bayless took a bite of the toast.

“Should’ve been up two hours ago.”

“Figured after I got divorced I wouldn’t have anyone telling me when to wake up.”


Niko spent the next day at the shop prepping his supplies for the run up the river with Bayless. He even waited to see Tracey leave the house before he snuck back in to make a quick sandwich for lunch. He wanted to tell her where he was going the next day, but he knew that would shatter his plans. He knew as well as Tracey that he shouldn’t go out there. He was going anyway, and he felt that there were no words to describe exactly why.

There was no avoiding dinner though. He made minimal conversation while they…

Still about three years ago …

“I thought a Chamonix never lied?” Tracey’s chin dipped, and her right eyebrow rose a half inch above the other. She sipped whisky from a juice glass. Hard alcohol was a rarity for her, and the fact that she didn’t even take the time to find a tumbler made Niko gird up for this conversation more than he did before talking to the sheriff.

“Chamonix’s never lie, but this is different.”

“You didn’t break a law before, but you have now,” Tracey said as they sat on the porch and watched the bears at…

Photograph © 2020

I used to write in bars, enamored that I could focus midst the sounds.

Words echoed off the walls, bass shook the table, but my mind stayed still;
a quaking voice covered by the quilt of slurred conversations.

Trying to hoard phrases, describe feelings as elusive as smells,
it almost seemed like I was close to something —
then we all went inside for months, and things became very quiet…

The city is alive again and louder than I remember;
chatter in restaurants, cars and the quiet moan of the loud highway. …

Still about three years ago …

Niko and Reynolds sat in silence, weighing the death of a child, the account of Niko’s attacks, and the fact that Bernard and Andrea had relayed a different story altogether. Reynolds stood up. “You want some coffee or something?”

“Sure. I drink it black,” Niko said.

Reynolds was gone for a half hour, and he returned to the office empty-handed.

“Usually if you are pretending to get coffee while you verify a story, you return with some coffee to keep up appearances,” Niko said as Reynolds closed the blinds that he had opened before…

Matthew T. Petersen

Writer • Storyteller • Novelist •

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