Len Grimsby awoke as his feet slid from the desk and crashed to the floor of the Apgar Ranger Station on the West Glacier. He’d been working the nightshift- a week on; a week off- which was always a bore and often led to snoozes like this. Len’s sleep usually ended at the shift change when that bastard Ed Crockett awoke him in some foul way. Two weeks ago that meant a bowl of warm water and Grimsby had pissed all over himself much to Crockett’s delight. But today was different. Len had the feeling he’d slept too long. The light outside, although gray, was midday light and not that of a sun just peeking over the horizon. Where the hell is Crockett? If I have to work a double because of that idiot, there’ll be shit in his boots the next time he slips them on. He won`t be laughing so hard then.
Len rose to his feet, taking a moment to scratch his belly and squeeze out the last of the yawns. He rocked his neck from side to side and then glanced at the clock on the wall next to the Montana state flag and Old Glory. 3:30! I slept through the entire morning? This has to be a joke. Crockett’s come in here, moved the clock forward and is probably hiding somewhere, ready to jump out and make me crap a diaper full.
Len Grimsby walked as quietly as he could, searching all the station`s hiding spots and poking in dark corners with a metal ruler from his desk. Perhaps he could scare Ed this time and turn the tables? The rain was pounding the outside of the Ranger Station and he felt sorry for the freaks out there in the wilderness roughing it in the elements. It was one thing to be observing nature`s majesty from the safety of the resort at St. Mary`s, or in one of the Trailhead Cabins, but out under the open skies was a whole other matter. It had been a terrible year for the hikers and campers not only weather-wise, but various areas of the park up by Polebridge, had been closed off by the EPA for more than a year. Too many assholes leaving their soda cans and wrappers floating in streams I guess. And anyone foolish enough to be out there in this, were sitting in their nylon tents like miserable little gofers wishing they could get their hands around Mother Nature`s supple neck and squeeze.
After ten minutes of hide and seek, Len finally came to the conclusion, Crockett was nowhere to be found and he must have, indeed, slept through the day. He wondered why his relief was a no-show. Wasn’t like him at all. Crockett could be inept, but to not at least call and say he’d be running late, was totally out of character. That’s when Grimsby looked out into the parking lot. Crockett’s Jeep Cherokee was there. So he is here planning some prank. The windows of the car were all steamed up like he was hot and heavy with some young hitchhiking chick in the back seat. Bumping one out while I slept and getting paid for it too....that bastard.
The Ranger stood looking at the car for some time, but there was no movement from within. Oh, enough of this! I should have been home hours ago and that jerk has parked in the handicapped spot as well.
Len grabbed at the heavy Ranger coat with the hoody from the rack and thrust his arms into it. Snapping the hood onto his head, he ventured outside into the rain. The drops now plopped steadily onto his coat and hood, but other than the rain, there didn’t seem to be any other noise. No song from the woods, no wildlife, nothing. Even lake McDonald seemed quiet and serene, taking the falling rain and delivering up an sizzling mist.
As he walked up on the vehicle he could see someone was inside sitting in the driver’s seat. If it was Crockett, he couldn’t tell through the fogged windows. The figure was a dark shadow. Len Rapped on the window but the driver made no attempt to lower the glass. Len tried the door. It was unlocked, but took some tugging to get it open
He wouldn’t touch Crockett at the best of times, but when he discovered him sitting in the driver’s seat it nearly sucked Len`s breath from him. Crockett`s tongue was swollen and easily four times its normal size. His right hand clutched the steering wheel in a death grip, and the left hand had been pulled free from the Jeep`s armrest when Len had opened the door. Crockett must have had one hell of a seizure. Plus he smelled bad like rotten eggs and dead rat was the closest olfactory perception he could think of. Crockett’s eyes were open and glazed over. They looked on the verge of popping from his skull, held back by a net of red blood vessels. His head was sunken into the head rest and his mouth- that mouth that had taunted Len so many times- was twisted into a sinister howl of pain. In all, Crockett’s head now appeared to be too big for his body.
Len grimaced at the sight and smell of him, but forced himself to touch the man’s neck. No pulse. That’s not good. His skin also felt rubbery and seem to glow with a fragile lucidity. Maybe he had Hep G or some other communicable disease? Len noticed a wet stain of urine had made a dark bull’s-eye on the crotch of the man`s Ranger, forest-green issue. I imagine that’s where the shit smell’s coming from too. But the Ranger also noticed the river of piss zigzagged down Crockett`s right leg to his boot and into a puddle of blood. His nemesis had pissed blood in his final moments and not just a little. We’re talking Old Faithful- a geyser of bloody piss. Best leave this for the coroner and the micro fibre specialists. Ain’t no job for a Ranger. Len tried to close the door with his hand retracted in the sleeve of his coat and the other pulled tight across his nose and mouth, as if using his bare skin would risk an infection.
The door hit Crockett`s lifeless left hand now hanging at his side, catching a few of his fingers in the process. The flesh split and squirted a vile yellow liquid onto the pavement. Len backed away in horror, leaving the door ajar and ran to the phone.
Len needed someone, anyone to come and take this body from his sight. He burst through the door of the Ranger Station, clutching on to the desk for balance and grasped at the phone with great urgency. The line was dead. Shit! He slammed the phone down and peeled off his jacket as if it were on fire, turning it inside out in his haste. He tossed it to the far corner next to the water cooler. Len stumbled forward to the radio. He hailed Polebridge, East Glacier, Summit Station, there was no response from anyone.