Petr ran down from the crest leaping manzanita brambles that crushed beneath him like mattresses made of twigs. He fell laughing a dozen times and couldn’t stop running and falling. When he reached the bottom, he fell like a blown horse. Thank God he got rid of the heavy rifle.
While he caught his breath, he studied the lower lake with its smaller twin. No glimmers of gold just big bowls of cold water. No gold here. How on earth did anyone ever find gold?
The big deer whistled and ran away into a high valley where it vanished. He’s leading me on, isn’t he? No, that was a silly idea. He glanced along the shore. Between the twin lakes lay a grove of pinenut trees all cut down and rotting. Who had done such a crime? He walked slowly into the graveyard of stumps remembering the delicious taste of pinenuts. They were starving at the end of their journey last fall, and Jack had shown them how to knock down pinecones from the tree using a long stick. They had been grateful for the nuts. More importantly, the Indians needed pinenuts to survive. Who did this?
He ran again, and a dark thought hit him: Evil is hidden beneath beauty. That couldn’t be true. Where did such an awful idea come from?
He stumbled onto a rock slab pitted with bowl-shaped holes. Indian work–a big grinding floor. Here’s where they ground the nuts into flour. He ran his hands along the smooth hollows and felt a strange thrill. How long did it take people to make such holes, centuries? The holes wavered like a mirage on a desert, warning he might be having a jimjam fit. That meant jerking on the ground and twitching while the picture in his head flipped, and flipped, and flipped. No, not today! Not this gold hunting day!
His vision steadied. He hadn’t had a fit all the way west.
A few yards off he saw ruins of an Indian village burnt to the ground, a dozen smudges like dead bonfires in a semi-circle. These had been huts the Indians called canees, now fading in the ground. But who had torched them, the Indians? Dain King? He was suddenly cold even though it was a very hot day.
Something bad had happened here. Indians were murdered here. Or simply moved away? This was a dark mystery within an hour of the Valoryvale. Thank God Annabel wasn’t here to see it.
His wrong guesses were piling up.