For two weeks, maybe a little longer, animals had been showing up mutilated around Douglas County; pigs, horses, cows – even a dog. All of them covered in weird markings that looked like something out of one of Great Uncle Sam’s books.
Sammi had been collecting the articles about it from the newspaper and she’d brought them up to the big attic room where that Mom said had always been the ‘kids’’ space. All of the unwanted furniture and things from the house ended up there and they could make as much noise as they wanted without disturbing anyone else. The sloping roof, wooden walls and the little round window right at the end of the house made it feel kind of like a ship and they’d all spent hours here when they were little, ‘sailing’ out the rainstorms that had kept them inside.
Now they were older, Mel didn’t even come up any more; she stayed downstairs and studied with Great Uncle Sam. Sammi was left outnumbered by the twins in a constant struggle of two boys against one girl, but she’d really hoped they’d be interested in what she’d found.
Their laughter, or Chris’ laughter anyway, proved otherwise. She grit her teeth and tried not to make her sulky face. Christopher Robert freaking Winchester wasn’t going to live long enough to reach his seventeenth birthday if she had anything to do with it. In fact, if he didn’t stop laughing at her, she'd kill him before he even got a chance to help Grandpa with the Fourth of July fireworks. Well, okay, Grandpa wouldn’t appreciate that, so maybe she’d just follow Grandpa’s lead and remove Chris’ hair. He was obviously already functioning without the help of his brain.
She took a deep breath and looked up at her other cousin, Dan; at least he wasn’t cackling like a lunatic, even if he was definitely looking at her funny.
“You’ve got one weird-ass hobby, Sammi.” Chris practically whooped. “Collecting pictures of dead animals and building a conspiracy around it,”
“Dude.” Dan warned, poking his twin in the arm. He looked back down at the pile of paper on the bed, moving a couple of pictures together with a frown. “These look like the runes from Blood Eagle. The ones the serial killer was using to mark her victims.”
Chris rolled his eyes. “You think Great Uncle Sam’s been mutilating cows?”
“No,” Sammi snapped. “Don’t be stupid.” She leaned forward, trying to keep her voice quiet in case Grandpa was standing on the stairs and spying on them like he did sometimes – even when Great Uncle Sam told him not to; he said it was to keep them sharp, but she thought it had more to do with Grandpa wanting to join in their fun. “But I know Great Uncle Sam isn’t just a writer. He understands this stuff.”
“He researches this stuff, for his novels.” Chris pointed out, smirking at Dan over her head.
Sammi glared at him, feeling a rage build up inside her. “He fought this stuff. With Grandpa.”
“You serious, Sammi?” Dan asked, falling back on his heels and folding his arms across his chest. “You’re not just shitting us?”
She shook her head, willing the tears of frustration not to well up. “I wanted to research some of the symbols in the pictures, so I asked him if I could use his computer. I told him I wanted to work on a short story. And that’s when I found it.”
“You’re getting your panties in a bunch because you found his research notes?” Sometimes Sammi really hated Chris.
“I found his journal.” She looked at them both, concentrating hard on hiding her nerves. She wasn’t a kid and this was important. Starting to cry now would just be the worst. “His hunter’s journal.”
As soon as she said it, Chris started laughing again and even Dan made a dumb face, trying to hide his smile. “I’m serious.” She practically spat. “I can even take you downstairs and show it to you! He had it encrypted and everything.” It wasn’t her fault that Great Uncle Sam liked to alternate between the same three passwords, which made his high-tech encryption program almost worthless. Grandpa had told her about the passwords months ago, laughing hard about going on sometimes just to delete ‘Sammy’s porn’. So not a conversation she had wanted to have, but it had come in useful.
“Okay, I’ll bite.” Dan touched her arm and Sammi’s breath came out in a huff; why did they keep treating her like a kid? It wasn’t her fault she was the youngest. “Why would he encrypt something about his hunting trips with Grandpa? They’ve been doing them every October for ever.” Dan’s voice was gentle and he looked in her eyes, like he was trying to calm her down. She felt a flush rise up her face, and she realized she was shaking like an idiot.
“It’ll be good to get some more venison,” Chris added, licking his lips.
“Great Uncle Sam knows a lot of crap about scary stuff and it’s not because of research.” She hated it when Chris looked at her like that – like he could boss her around just because he was older – or when Dan patronized her because he still thought she was still ten. “It’s real. He and Grandpa –” Sammi closed her eyes because she just couldn’t look at either of them anymore. “They grew up hunting monsters.”
“How do you know that’s not just one of his books?” Chris thought she was crazy. Maybe she was, but Great Uncle Sam’s journal made those charms Grandpa carved on the back of their headboards and the salt Great Uncle Sam put on the windowsills after they were supposed to be asleep at night make a whole lot more sense than them just being old, and a little senile, like Dad said when Mom wasn’t listening.
“He could be doing a pseudo-biography or something,” Dan added.
Sammi took a deep breath. “Or, it could be real.” She whipped her head in his direction, her braid swinging around so quickly that both of the twins were startled. “They've saved so many people. Great Uncle Sam called it ‘the family business’ lots of times.”
Chris rolled his eyes. “The family business is the garage.”
She rolled her eyes – like anyone who grew up around Grandpa could forget that Winchesters had been restoring classic cars for decades. “I don’t care if you two don’t believe me.” Sammi hopped off the bed, hand smacking against one of its four posts. “Saving people is what Winchesters do.” She gestured towards the newspaper articles. “And what if whatever is doing this doesn’t stop with animals?”
“Sammi…” Dan scratched underneath his ear, eyes searching her face. “Are you saying we should do something about this?”
“We’re Winchesters,” she said. “This is the family business.”
“You’re not a Winchester, Samantha Jones,” Chris snarked. “You’re just a snot-nosed little girl with a crush on the lead singer of Big Bad.” Sammi launched herself at her cousin, ready to punch that look right off his face, but Dan stepped between them – holding her back just as slow footsteps started shuffling up the stairs to the attic, accompanied by the secondary thump of a cane.
“Dinner in five minutes!” Great Uncle Sam’s voice wafted up into the room. “Go wash up.”
“You heard the man,” Chris said lazily, already heading towards the stairs. He smirked at her over his shoulder. “Family business,” he added, snorting and shaking his head.
Sammi swallowed hard and clamped her mouth shut, determined – totally determined – not to cry.
“Chris is an ass,” Dan said mildly. His mouth quirked up and he tried to smile at her, putting an arm around her shoulders. “You going to be okay?”
“Your brother is lucky I don’t have Grandpa’s temper,” Sammi huffed. She was going to say more but it would have to wait until after dinner; Great Uncle Sam got that look on his face if you showed up late after he told you to come down – although sometimes it was fun to wait just long enough for him to do it and hear Grandpa laugh; Kids, he’s been getting that look on his face since he was two.
She followed Dan downstairs, but she washed up in the kitchen so that she didn’t have to bump into Chris. Grandpa was standing in front of the big old stove, stirring some chili in a pot and squinting at her when their eyes met. He wasn’t wearing his glasses and if Great Uncle Sam saw that, there’d be yelling. Again.
Sammi picked his glasses up off the counter and handed them to him. While Grandpa was sliding them up his nose, she took the spoon and started stirring the chili, almost bumping shoulders with him. He smelled like old cars and sunshine.
She heard the twins’ low voices as they came into the room, but she took a long, slow breath, squared her shoulders, and ignored them. That idiot Chris was still laughing.
Sammi let go the spoon when Grandpa lifted the big pot down from the stove to serve, and she took her place next to him at the big scrubbed pine table. Great Uncle Sam and Mel were already passing around the bread, talking about Uncle Hulsu and Aunt Madison’s new dig in Missouri. She rolled her eyes when Grandpa winked at her; Great Uncle Sam’s side of the family talked about digs and the Potawatomi and things like mythology all the time, it was so boring. Mel had stopped being fun when she decided she wanted to go to college.
“They found a mural that gives a pictorial representation of the Raven creation story, Granddad.” Mel’s eyes were almost as bright as Great Uncle Sam’s. “Mom thinks she can date it back to before the discovery of the new world.”
“I wonder if she can send us some pictures.” Great Uncle Sam pursed his lips and he looked at Grandpa speculatively. “Or maybe we can take the kids there next week. It’d be a good learning experience for them.” Even Dan looked a little sick around the eyes when Great Uncle Sam said that and, next to Mel, he had the best report card at the table.
“Or maybe the kids can just talk to John Green if they want to know anything about the Potawatomi.” Grandpa winked at her, his voice a rumble “Last time I checked, being their shaman makes him part of the tribe and, as much as I love your son, little old Hulsu likes to give lectures almost as much as his father does.”
Sammi grinned when she saw Dan begin to laugh; Uncle Hulsu was even taller than Great Uncle Sam – even Mel looked amused, and Chris was almost snorting his chili down his nose.
She glared at Chris again while Great Uncle Sam just shook his head. “You’re a philistine, Dean,” he said.
“Bite me, Sam.” Grandpa handed her the bread basket, laughing at the old, old argument; the Winchester geeks against the Winchester philistines.
Chris noticed that she was staring at him and made a face, mouthing ‘Crazy Sammi’. Sammi looked away sharply.
“Grandpa?” she asked, taking the bread from him.
“If there’s leftover chili, can we make chili cheese fries and watch Sixteen Candles tonight?” Great Uncle Sam actually snorted.
“Are you sure you don’t want to watch something like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or Apocalypse Now?” Grandpa was making his 'not in front of Sam' face, but when their eyes met he faltered and then he frowned. “What’s happened?” He asked, voice hard and quiet at the same time.
“Nothing,” she muttered, passing the basket on to Dan. Chris couldn’t even look at her, and Mel was pursing her lips. “Just thinking about Great-Grandpa and whether or not he would have loved me.” She’d been thinking about him a lot after reading Great Uncle Sam’s journal; John Winchester was so real when Great Uncle Sam wrote about him.
“You’re his legacy, sweetheart.” Grandpa actually grinned at her with one eyebrow raised. “He’d’ve loved all you kids.”
“Even if I’m not a real Winchester?” The question slipped out of her mouth before she could stop it and Chris couldn’t stop himself from starting guiltily. She almost felt bad for him when Great Uncle Sam and Grandpa exchanged one of those glances that meant someone was in trouble and Grandpa’s mouth straightened into a line as he stood up, wiping his mouth with his napkin and throwing it down next to his plate.
“Do you need to be taken outside for an ass-kicking, boy?” Grandpa’s voice was like a blizzard, cold and sharp, and prickly, and Sammi really did feel sorry for Chris when she looked up and saw Grandpa’s stormy eyes. Usually only the Ku Klux Klan idiots protesting in Lawrence got that look. “Why the hell would you say something like that?” he demanded.
Chris looked down at his plate, then tried to meet Grandpa’s eyes with a grin and failed. “I was only teasing her.”
“Let’s get something straight right now.” Grandpa leaned forward. “Being a Winchester isn’t about your last name. It’s about heart and guts and doing the right thing when it’s hard. It’s in your blood and that’s not something that can ever be taken away, no matter how much the world wears you down. You’re descended from a man who died so that all of you could be sitting here eating chili in Molly’s kitchen.” Great Uncle Sam was staring at him. They all were. Grandpa’s voice shook. “Everyone sitting around this table is a fucking Winchester. You all got that?”
“Yes, sir,” Chris mumbled and he grimaced. “Sorry, Sammi.”
“It’s okay,” she replied softly. It was. Grandpa had made everything okay. It’s about heart and guts and doing the right thing when it’s hard. Dan looked at her with a small grin before he picked up his fork and dug into his chili. Sammi knew what he was thinking. He wouldn’t say anything in front of Chris but Dan had felt it, too. Finding out about those animals was in their blood.
Things were subdued for a while after that, but Grandpa and Chris were cracking jokes by the end of dinner – and there were no more threats to take Chris outside and teach him some manners. Great Uncle Sam did make him help with dishes, though.
Sammi and Dan put their dishes in the sink, not even rinsing them off, and grinned at Chris as they both ran from the room and immediately went back up into the attic. The jerk deserved a little payback even after what Grandpa had said to him. She was still giggling about the look on Chris’ face when she and Dan settled across from each other on the old bed.
“I was thinking we could do two things to start,” Dan said. He was holding two articles at the same time, brow furrowed as he looked at the pictures. “The symbols don’t look the same on all of the pictures, so maybe we should start cataloguing them by type. Maybe see if the same symbols were used on the same kinds of animals or if the pattern’s totally random. This could just be some idiot from the University getting some giggles by scaring people around the county into thinking something worse is going on.”
The way he was already brushing articles with his fingers, and moving the papers around while he was biting his lower lip, made Sammi giggle. “You sound like Uncle Hulsu!”
“I guess being anal-retentive is in the blood, too.” Dan shook his head.
Sammi felt a small bubble of excitement rise in her chest. She might have stumbled onto matching up rune patterns eventually, but Dan was good at this stuff, always looking at the bigger picture, always finding the Easter eggs in the backyard and every single Christmas present Grandpa tried to hide while they were growing up.
“I think you might even be as smart as Mel.” She grinned at her cousin.
“Don’t tell Chris this, but my PSAT scores were higher than Mel’s.” Dan looked wistful. “I want to go to college instead of starting in at the garage.”
“You are so busted, Danno,” came another voice from the head of the stairs. “But I’ll get even more chicks now that you’ve unleashed your inner geek.” Chris appeared, carrying an armful of regional maps. “Anyhow, you’re not the only smart ass in the bunch. I was thinking that we could plot the animal locations on a map and see if there’s a pattern there.”
“Man, I hadn’t even thought of that.” Dan scratched underneath his ear.
“You should just give up and admit that I’m smarter,” Chris sat down next to her on the bed. “I’m the oldest, dude.”
Sammi threw a pillow gently at Chris. “I still think you’re a big jerk. But you had a good idea about the maps.” This whole being Winchesters thing worked better when you weren’t alone.
Chris pursed his mouth. “If Great Uncle Sam has a journal, maybe Grandpa has one, too.” Sammi’s mouth dropped open. “We should have a look through Grandpa’s old trunks in the storage room and see if we can find it.”
“Seems like a good place to start.” Sammi said. Chris grinned at her, looking just like Grandpa did in the old pictures; the trunks were supposed to be off limits.
All three of them scrambled off the bed at once but Sammi made it to the door behind the bookcase first.
It wasn’t even locked.
The eaves room was dark and dusty, with huge cobwebs and the threat of spiders. There were boxes, with dangerous-looking pieces of metal sticking out of them, piled haphazardly in the room. Sammi skirted a stack of glass bottles with something black crusted in the bottom of them and a scuttling noise from just overhead made her jump.
Dan put his hand on her shoulder but his voice sounded shaky too, when he spoke. “Just a crow, Sammi.”
Grandpa’s old chest didn’t take long to open, not with the trick of using a paperclip that he’d shown the twins. He was always making them play games like that, his voice gruff when they did well. Never know when that’ll come in handy, kids. The latch popped with a soft metallic snick that didn’t even sound important. The butterflies in Sammi’s stomach hurt when Chris and Dan each took a side and lifted the lid and she caught a glimpse of some old photographs of Grandma Molly.
Sammi wouldn’t let the boys touch the pictures as they started lifting things out the trunk and placing them on the floor. She couldn’t – they didn’t understand what they meant to Grandpa. But Sammi knew, and placed them reverently out of the way so that they wouldn’t get trampled by her cousins. They were some of Grandpa’s precious things, like the roses he kept trying to prune outside but never managed to kill or the little blue and white ceramic bowls he kept on the windowsill in the kitchen.
At the very bottom, underneath everything, was a battered leather journal. Scuffed and scratched and looking older than anything else in the chest. “Oh…” Sammi breathed, brushing the leather with her fingers.
“I bet that’s it,” Chris added, reaching in a hand to pull it out.
Dan smacked him. “Hey, Sammi should get to do it.” His voice was gruff and he was suddenly staring at the wall, scratching underneath his ear.
She grinned broadly and put both hands around the journal and pulled it out, hugging it to her chest as they left the store room.
It smelled like Grandpa’s garage, like oil and sweat, and she didn’t want to let it go. This was her precious thing; it’d be all that they had left of him once Grandpa went to be with Grandma Molly.
“Well, come on!” Dan was practically bouncing on the spot.
“You’re a little tease, Sammi,” Chris added. Dan punched Chris’ arm before Sammi had time to blink. “Shit, that hurt.”
“You deserved it, jerk,” Sammi snapped. She might have said more but the journal was in her hands, waiting to be opened, and Chris being a weenie was something that happened all the time. She flicked the button off the small latch and opened it, gently turning the first few pages. The writing was small and precise, more like Great Uncle Sam’s than Grandpa’s scrawl, and that’s when she realized what Grandpa had done. The journal was their family’s prized possession, like the crown jewels or that ring in that boring series that Mel read them last summer during the long drives to whatever educational places Great Uncle Sam wanted to take them.
“Maybe Grandpa’s writing got worse along with his eyesight,” Dan observed, flipping to another page. “His drawing, too.” He coughed. “I mean, this is pretty good stuff for a dude who draws stick figures. Dad always has to transcribe Grandpa’s doodles into something more reasonable for the shop.”
“It’s not just his journal.” Sammi grinned, running a finger across the fading ink and diagrams.
Chris sucked in a breath. “Great-Grandpa John…” He peered over Sammi’s shoulder. “What the hell is a wendigo?”
“Not sure.” Dan’s eyes flicked back and forth across the page. “But someone added some bits about a place in Colorado. Says it’s the world’s best hunter. Collects humans when it can and –” Dan swallowed sharply, shook his head. “It stores them for food, to get ready for hibernation.
Sammi slumped onto the mattress. “All those stories… They’re real.” She bit her lip, and ran her fingers over the articles that Dan had arranged. “What if it’s a wendigo or something? And it’s going to move on to humans after it gets rid of all the animals?”
Dan’s brow furrowed. “We need to find its hunting ground.”
“Time to put our orienteering skills to work,” Chris rolled out the map on the bed in front of them. “Dan, go downstairs and get me a pen. Sammi?”
Sammi could only nod. He sounded just like Grandpa did when he was taking charge, the way he grinned at her over his shoulder and let her know that he was the boss. Even if this was her idea, Chris’ taking over made her feel like they could actually pull off doing what Winchesters really did. “Get the articles and help me plot them on the map. When they’re all marked, it’ll help figure us out where to look. Thing’s probably hunting from the inside out, you know?”
“Dude,” Dan said. “You totally stole my idea.” He pulled a pen out of his pocket. “Let’s get to work.”
Sammi grinned, and it didn’t bother her that the more points they plotted on the map, the more the idea became theirs as much as hers.
Grandpa was right. Winchesters lived and died together.
Dan and Chris had argued about what the points on the map meant for twenty minutes – and Sammi just left them to it; it was obvious that it was centered on Canfield and that Chris was just trying to think of anywhere else to look, because Canfield was one of the most boring places on earth. At least the last time they’d gone she’d had Grandpa around to pick her up and carry her when Great Uncle Sam’s lectures started to make her tired, the twins had just had to suck it up and Mel… Mel had asked about a million even more boring questions.
“Oh, man!” Chris threw the pen down onto the map. “This sucks.” He frowned. “You know what happened last time?”
“It’ll be worse this time, I know,” Dan sighed. “But it’s the best place. There are even buildings there, shelter.”
“I’m not disagreeing –”
“Anymore!” Sammi couldn’t help butting in.
Chris’ mouth twisted and he punched her lightly on the arm. “Better watch it, squirt. I’m still bigger than you are.” He chuckled. “But, yeah, it seems like the best place to start.”
“Great Uncle Sam says that they don’t even have an office anymore or security guards. It’s open all the time. He was really bitch pissy about it.” Her cousins both gasped. “What!?” she demanded. “Grandpa says that all the time.” It was true; when Great Uncle Sam had learned about the budget cuts that led to Canfield losing most of its status as a living history museum, he’d complained about it for three days straight.
“Do you even know what bitch pissy means, Sammi?” Chris demanded.
“I’m thirteen, dude,” she snapped. “I even know about sex.”
Chris snorted. “Jesus, Sammi, you’re scarring me for life here.” He leaned forward conspiratorially. “Then again, you probably know more about that than Danno over here.”
“Screw you, Chris.” Dan flipped him off.
Sammi giggled and then tried to look serious. People were dying. Maybe. Well, absolutely, if the Winchesters didn’t stop it from happening. It was their job. “I think we need to figure out how to get to Canfield,” she said.
Chris and Dan looked at each other then both of them nodded at Sammi. The answer wasn’t that hard at all; you just needed to remember which Winchester liked to educate everyone else about boring things like Canfield, and whose first name wasn’t Mel. All three of them said it at the same time.
“Great Uncle Sam.”
Archie Johannsen cleaned the blood from his knife, carefully wiping it back and forth on the thick pelt of the She-wolf he’d caught and sacrificed, drugging her with poisoned rabbits. He smiled as he remembered the quiet, pained, rattle in her throat as he carved his symbols into her belly.
Archie knew he came from powerful stock and his birthright was so much more than a share in the family bookshop, divided between his brother and a handful of cousins who only wanted to sell the place for the profit the land would make. He had researched back into Father’s family history; following the Johannsen line back to their lands in Germany, spent months, years, reading and finding the rare tomes he needed.
There was so much power in words – something his father had known and wasted, peddling those words to ungrateful strangers who never came back to the shop once the old man died. Mother never understood it. And Thomas? His stupid brother defiled the books; bringing cards, wrapping paper and small gifts into their shop. Such fripperies were sent to distract the reader from where books could lead them. Even stories, the old stories, had power to them – if you knew where to look.
Sammi couldn’t work out if Chris wanted to lose at Rock, Paper, Scissors or if he just didn’t realize that he always opened with the same move. She was relieved though – Great Uncle Sam’s part of the house was downright creepy and while it was important they go to Canfield, she wasn’t entirely sure that she’d’ve been able to go through to ask him by herself; at least, not while it was dark out.
She left the twins arguing out the best way to persuade Great Uncle Sam without letting him turn the trip into an exam and went downstairs. Grandpa was in the kitchen, peeling potatoes, while Mel was setting up the deep fryer. Even Grandma Molly’s chili cheese fries weren’t as good as Grandpa’s.
“Hey, Sammi!” Grandpa looked up as she stepped into the room. “You up for a double feature?” He raised an eyebrow.
“And some company,” Mel added.
Sammi smiled at her. “As long as you don’t talk about digs or anything.” The last time Mel had watched ‘History of the World: Part One’ with them, she kept talking about how they got it wrong and it wasn’t really like that and that Mel Brooks was a lot funnier in Space Balls. Mel grinned back at her and Sammi rolled her eyes. “Because those things are boring.”
Mel laughed. “Granddad might even join us.” She made a show of leaning towards Sammi and whispering. “But I think that’s because he wants to make fun of Great Uncle Dean’s love of chick flicks.” She was definitely loud enough for Grandpa to hear.
“John Hughes did not make chick flicks.” Grandpa’s voice was a growl, but there was more than a twinkle of laughter in his eyes. “I’ll have you know there are more guys than chicks in The Breakfast Club, little missy.” He made his exasperated face. “This is your cultural history, Mel. I swear you’re worse than your Grandfather.” He winked at Sammi. “And your old gramps is just pissed because even the nerds in the movies got more chicks than him in high school.”
Sammi could hear the twins making their way down the stairs. “Where is Great Uncle Sam?” She asked casually, staring down at the floor. “Chris and I were talking about something from school and I want to prove I’m right.”
“He’d be the man to ask,” Grandpa agreed mildly, making his kinda proud face when she mentioned school. “I’d guess that he’s in his study. Want to help me peel potatoes when you’re done?”
“Yep! But I don’t want to grate the cheese,” she made what Grandpa kept calling her bitch-face, but she really meant it. She always ended up scraping her fingers and making Grandpa laughed and say that every meal was better with a blood sacrifice, but it hurt . “Make Mel do that.”
“You’re the boss.”
She ran down the hall to where the twins were still bickering and nodded to Dan. Sammi hated going into the other part of the house at night – Great Uncle Sam had all those masks, including the one that Chris wore last summer when he woke her up moaning and holding a flashlight under his chin; they made shadows on the wall that seemed to move and Sammi was sure that they weren’t quite the crappy tourist tat that Dad said they were.
Chris opened the door and she suppressed a shudder. It was always so much darker through on this side, she knew it was because Great Uncle Sam wanted to protect the environment and not keep too many lights on, but it felt scary. They found him in the study, hunched over his computer. His cane was resting against the desk, just within hand’s reach; she bet he knew how to use it like a weapon. He and Grandpa probably knew how to use all sorts of things as weapons. It was way cool. Chris knocked on the door, three times, and waited.
“Come on in, guys,” Great Uncle Sam said softly, swiveling in his chair. “What can I do for you?”
The three of them trooped into the room and sat on the big leather couch in the corner. It was cold and slippery against her legs, and she couldn’t help the little tremor in her hands. She was cold. Not scared. Not even of the huge black bird with the five foot wingspan that hung above their heads. It was a valuable and culturally important emblem. Not a scary dead Raven-thing.
“We need your help with something,” Chris began and Sammi tried to pay attention keeping all of her focus on Great Uncle Sam’s face so she wouldn’t have to look at the dead thing. She nearly jumped out of her skin when Dan gently jostled her shoulder and she giggled a little, reassured by her cousin’s comforting warmth. Chris turned and glared at her. “Dan and I have a school assignment about Canfield, well, about how we don’t properly appreciate our history, and Sammi pointed out that Canfield’s being left to rot so we thought it would be perfect. Sammi wants to go camping.” Sammi tried to look cute while Chris rolled his eyes. “And there’s a campground more or less next to Canfield, so we thought…”
“You want me to convince Dean to go to Canfield?” Great Uncle Sam was smiling, eyes lit up. Sammi felt bad that they were lying to him about it but it was time for Great Uncle Sam and Grandpa to pass the torch to them.
Chris nodded. “We were thinking we could go on Friday. That’d give us enough time to finish researching stuff, and if we needed more information we could maybe go again on Saturday when there are more volunteers there.”
Great Uncle Sam snorted. “I’d have helped just to see Dean agree to go camping. But a project on how much they’re screwing over Canfield? I love you kids!” He grinned. “Leave Dean to me.”