The tower had an unwelcome surprise.
I dared not leave the area around the pool, not if I wanted to find out who had been murdered and eaten and – more importantly – what had done it.
I spent a sleepless night beneath the bows of a tree that didn’t particularly care for my company. It spent the better part of the evening complaining and muttering about not having had a decent meal. Finally, just to get it to stop its bellyaching, I took the feet out of the shoes and fed them to the tree.
Begrudgingly, the tree quieted down, and I was able to at least let my body, if not my mind, rest.
When the sun came up in the morning, I was ready to go, and the tree was happy to see me leave.
There are few trees that I’ve had an urge to burn, but this was definitely one of them.
The dead woman’s shoes had a distinctive tread, and so I backtracked her trail for several hours until I came to a tower standing in the middle of this new forest. From where I stood on a slight rise, I could see numbers marching up the right-hand side. At the top, there was debris and wood.
The woman’s trail came from the tower, and so I went down.
When I reached the structure, I found an iron ladder set into the side. I climbed the ladder to the top of the tower, and once there, I saw the unknown woman had moved aside some of the debris.
The sun shined down and illuminated the interior of the tower.
I was impressed.
Someone had been busy.
Dozens of heads stared up at me. Most were rotting and well past recognition. There were a few, those closest to the top, which had a fair amount of meat and definition.
I recognized one of them.
Old Tom Landry. He’d gone missing the month before while working on his tractor.
He hadn’t been anywhere near the Hollow, which meant something was coming off my land to hunt people in my town.
That was something I couldn’t abide by.
I pushed the cover back and climbed down the tower.
I don’t know if the woman had been dragged out of my Cross, but I knew the hunter was near its trophies.
It would make the hunter easy to find.
I loosened the Colts in their holsters and went looking for a path.
I had a head to collect.