Chapter 14

Grandpa insisted that they go to the archives at once and retrieve whatever records existed, and this made Samantha a bit nervous. What if Harr had been making this up in an effort to get free of the pit and Grandpa. Was Harr’s intent to lure Grandpa right into the path of the other observers? She didn’t know Harr that well — maybe it was a trick. But she couldn’t confront Harr about it openly, since Grandpa was right there. If she showed distrust in Harr’s word, it might tip off Grandpa to her own embellishments, and then the whole situation would worsen.

“We’ll retrieve the map from their records, and then make a trip to their vanishing point,” Grandpa said. He went to the garage, where his camping supplies were, and started gathering up equipment.

“This would be fine,” Harr said, “if leader Ji didn’t keep the archives under close watch. The archives are stored in an underground safe with a lock on it, and Ji wears the key around his neck all the time. We would have to somehow get the key from Ji if we want to open that box to get at the archives.”

Grandpa stopped packing his bags and returned to the table and sat down. He put his hand on his chin and thought for a minute. He hadn’t realized this would be so difficult.

“We need a plan,” Grandpa said.

Samantha sat flummoxed, not sure what to make of it. What was true, and what was fiction here?

Grandpa said, “I’m just brainstorming out loud here, but what if I go into the forest acting like a madman, demanding to have my book back. They’ll capture me and tie me up to interrogate me. As I’m held prisoner, I’ll splash a bunch of mud or something on Ji, and he’ll need to change his clothes. Maybe he’ll bathe in the creek or something. That’s when Harr will sneak up and grab the key. Then they let me go when they realize I’m just a lunatic and the book is the crazed writings of a demented old man.”

Harr looked at Grandpa. Samantha looked at Harr. Was he actually serious, Samantha thought? This didn’t sound like a good plan at all. She had seen how the clan had responded to the book, and if they found the real author, would they believe his lunatic theatrics? Maybe it would give them cause to snuff him off quietly, burying him somewhere in the forest and assuming no one would miss him.

Harr said, “No, your plan is good but too dangerous. There are too many risks that could go wrong. You can’t predict that you’ll have anything to splash on Ji, and even if you bring some putrid chemical to throw, how can you be sure the other clan members won’t strip you of it and anything else as they carry you into camp?”

Grandpa changed his plan a bit and said he would go in there with his shotgun, firing rounds toward in a lot of different directions and making demands until one of them caved. He could even take one of the clan members prisoner, darn it. Grandpa was moving full-throttle with this idea and spitting a bit in his enthusiasm when Samantha spoke up and said, “Grandpa, no. You can’t do that. They would snatch you up in one of their snares and probably leave you tied up in the forest indefinitely. I’ll go in and reason with Ji. I’ll explain our quest and let him know that we want to reunite him with his ancestors. I’ll play up the angle that we’re connecting him with his lost forefathers.”

Grandpa thought that her plan was even more lunatic than his. “I can’t let you do that, Sam. Not after what happened last time. I’m responsible for your safety you know.”

Harr stood up and said, “No, Sam’s plan won’t work either. There’s only one plan that will truly work. We have to give Ji something he wants, something that he would want so badly that he would trade the ancient map for it. There’s only one thing that would qualify for this: the book that you took from my cabin. If we could somehow get the book, or a copy of it, we could use it as leverage for a trade. I know the clan is hungry, and men are often weakened by hunger and will be more willing to make deals like this.”

The idea was sound, except that the book had been torn up and thrown away by Samantha’s mother weeks ago. There weren’t a bunch of shreds that they could piece back together, and rummaging through garbage dumps to find the material would be impossible. It was probably already incinerated, wherever it was. The book was truly lost.

Harr acknowledged this and said he had a plan to address the situation. “I will make a copy of the book to the best of my memory. I will draw a replica as well as I can, and we will present it to Ji as if it were the real book. We will have a short space of time before the other record keepers analyze the book and realize it’s a fake. But if we can get hold of the map during that time, we could make a dash out of the forest with it. We’d need something major to drive them away right after the exchange.”

“I know just the thing,” Grandpa said. “Leave that to me.”

Samantha didn’t think the plan would work, but since she didn’t have a better one, she decided she would help out where she could until she could formulate something else.

The first thing Harr said they would need is some paper, and some kind of chemical agent to give it the appearance of having aged. He would need some leather to create the cover, and he would need some ink pens to draw the maps.

It would take a few days of concentrated drawing. He would need to work alone to have full concentration. He worked best in complete silence. Grandpa suggested the basement, and that’s where Harr soon lived. Grandpa set up a table and bed down there, and he set about finding the right supplies. He didn’t know how to fake aged paper, with the yellowish musty smell and worn look, like the original book, so he visited a large used bookstore and bought up a shopping cart full of old books. He bought the oldest, most musty books he could find, and which had pages that looked fairly similar of the same dimensions. Books usually have one or more blank pages in the front and back, and he removed these pages and brought them to Harr. It was an ingenious idea, actually.

While Harr worked on drawing the maps in the basement, Samantha had an idea. She could “reverse create” the maps from the music in her head. The music, after all, was patterned after the trajectories in the map. She had come up with the music by mapping the top and bottom points in the trajectories. These could perhaps assist Harr a little. She wrote out the notations and connected the points with lines and gave them to Harr.

“Yes,” Harr said. “This helps. It helps me remember more than I thought. Harr worked arduously through the day and late into night. Grandpa delivered him regular meals and juice, anything Harr needed. Grandpa retrieved some leather from a leather shop, and cut it into a book cover and hired a leather worked to create an old tree on the front, patterned after an image that Harr drew from memory.

It actually took up a full week to make the book, and during this time Samantha brainstormed her own backup plan, in case all of this failed. Suppose they immediately spot that the map is a fake, she thought. Then what? If that happened, she would need to get Harr out of there immediately. If that happened, she reasoned, she could offer to trade something else, such as needed weapons. She gathered up all the money she could find around the house — change left here and there, under the couch cushions, on nightstands, and such. She took some stay dollars from Grandpa’s wallet and coin baskets. She gathered up $12 dollars and thirty cents this way, which wasn’t much. But on one of Grandpa’s errands into town to get supplies for Harr, either ink or leather or some other supplies, she strayed away into a camping store and bought a knife. It was a small knife, folding into a plastic sheath, but it would serve in a pinch as an example of what she could secure more of. She could barter with weapons, perhaps. And if the bartering didn’t work, she could at least use it for self defense.

Grandpa himself kept busy in his garage working away on his part of the plan. Grandpa not only owned a shotgun, but he also had the equipment needed to make his own shotgun shells. The shells required black powder, which was pressed into the end of the shell through a machine with a lever. He took about ten shotgun shells and filled them full of black powder, five times the normal amount, omitting any of the buckshot metal balls that usually filled the shells. He added a fuse that ran through each of the shells, with about 3 inches of fuse wire between the shells.

At last they were finished. Harr had done a marvelous job with the book, and it appeared, despite Samantha’s initial skepticism, pretty similar to the one she had taken from the cabin weeks ago. Grandpa filled a small pack with his black powder shells, and Samantha wrapped her knife just above her ankle, concealing under her pant leg. She thought it best not to let the others know about the knife.

“I think we’re ready,” Harr said.

They decided to go into the woods during the day, so they could make a quick escape when the time came and not get lost in the dark. Grandpa parked his truck at the entrance of the trailhead. Grandpa was to wait in the truck while Samantha and Harr made the trade. When he heard a whistle, he was to create the distraction while Harr and Samantha ran away with the ancient map.

Harr put the book in a small journey back strapped across his shoulder, and he and Samantha made their way through the intricate forest trails toward the clan’s camp. After they gathered about a hundred yards into the woods, Grandpa left his truck and quietly followed behind them.

As Harr and Samantha reached the camp, they noted various observers making a commotion and calling the attention of Ji. Ji stepped out from inside the main cabin and focused his eyes on Harr. Ji raised both hands to signal Harr to stop 30 yards out.

Harr raised one of his hands and said, “I have the record keeper’s book.” Ji lowered his hands and then motioned for Harr to come forward.


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