THE GHOST TREES
By Thomas P. Hopp
A Peyton McKean Mystery Short Story
Smashwords Edition copyright 2013 Thomas P. Hopp
Author’s note: This story appeared in the West Coast Crime Wave anthology published in 2011. I have expanded it a little from the anthology’s necessarily compacted form. The characters are fictitious but the places are authentic. And cedar tree poachers are a very real problem in the Pacific Northwest.
One day recently, while I was at my writing office putting the finishing touches on a news story about the latest tragedy involving high-fructose corn syrup, Peyton McKean phoned. “Remember the old shaman, Henry George?” he asked, giving pause to my indignant keyboard jamming.
“Of course I remember him,” I replied with disdain. “He was my prime suspect in the death of that geoduck digger.”
“Franky Squalco just called and told me George has been arrested in connection with the death of one Bradley Peter Olafsen in West Seattle.”
“You see?” I crowed. “I knew he was a bad one.”
McKean suggested an excursion to the crime scene, so after hanging up and shutting down my computer I put on my hunting jacket and boonie hat and went out to the lot and got my Mustang and picked him up from his labs at Immune Corporation on the Seattle waterfront. Following his directions, I drove us to a brush-choked hillside in Puget Creek Canyon, where a mud-splattered side track off the pavement of Puget Way led into a secluded glen among tall trees. Our Duwamish Indian friend Franky was waiting there, dressed in a dark green hooded raincoat, rain pants, and black rubber boots to fend off the drizzle and chill. He waved us into a graveled parking place beside a muddy, brushy, sword-fern-encircled turnaround. I pulled in gingerly, trying to avoid getting muck or mars on the Mustang’s newly refinished midnight blue paint job.