They came to a stop at Daniel’s house. It was a log home, slightly larger than Shepherd’s. They shut off the engines.
“Make sure your family is safe,” Shepherd said.
Nan went inside the home for a moment and came back out. “Everyone is fine she said, but Father is long overdue.”
“The river leads to Ruby?” Shepherd said.
“Yes,” Nan said.
“Is that the way your Father would come back?” Shepherd said.
He handed Pal to Nan, started the machine, and headed on the trail toward Ruby.
Shepherd figured the drive would be two hours. It was a clear half-moon sky and the trail was easy to follow. The cold was not unbearable, yet it was uncomfortable. He heard earlier form his shortwave radio temperatures would be below zero Fahrenheit.
There were snow machine tracks leading to Ruby, but none returning. He expected to meet Daniel along the way, but after nearly two hours there was no trace of him.
He saw several lights ahead of him. It was Ruby. It looked as if everyone was inside.
Shepherd stopped at the first house and knocked at the door. A young man came to the door and stared.
“I’m looking for my friend, Daniel,” Shepherd said. “He came to town several hours ago and has not returned to his family. They are worried about him. He lives east maybe 20 miles on the river.”
“There is a tribal council meeting tonight,” the young man said. “Maybe he his there. Keep driving it will be the building with all the snow machines.”
“Thanks,” Shepherd said.
Shepherd drove for no more than three hundred yards until he saw a well lit large log building with at least twenty snow machines parked outside.
Shepherd walked into a small foyer. He stomped his feet and entered a hallway that led to a room with the door open. Inside were men in a half circle. Three men sat in front of them. Shepherd entered the room.
One man rose from the three. “This is a closed meeting. It’s tribal.”
“I just wanted to check on my friend,” Shepherd said. “His family is worried. Do you know him?”
“I am fine, Shepherd,” Daniel said raising from the other men. “This is the man I told you about who lives near me.”
“I’m sorry for interrupting,” Shepherd said. “I just wanted to make certain Daniel was safe. I’ll wait outside.”
Shepherd took a step away and turned back. “Does this meeting have anything to do with Daniel’s dog?”
“Yes,” said one of the three.
“Nan, Daniel’s daughter and I saw something strange about halfway between my cabin and the river and several days ago something large in the distance moved slowly toward my cabin.”
“Tell more,” the man said.
Shepherd related all the events that happened with he and Nan and also the night at the cabin, even the strange behavior of Pal.
They spoke in their native tongue to each other. It was all respectful and organized. As the conversation became more intense Shepherd slowly moved to the exit.
“Do not go” the man said. “We would like to hear if you have an opinion.”
Shepherd moved closer the men.
“I cannot be sure what the first thing I saw was,” Shepherd said. “I’m certain it was taller than an average man. What Nan and I saw was definitely a man and I base that upon the fact it hid motionless behind a tree; an animal would not do that.”
A man from the group said, “But we are not dealing with a man or an animal.”
“Thank you, Shepherd,” the man from the three said. He addressed the group. “Let’s go home now and be vigilant.”
Daniel introduced Shepherd to several men, all natives. There was some light conversation a few more questions.
They drove back to Daniel’s home where he was introduced to his wife, Maggie, his 15 year old son, Ben, and his 17 year old son Izzy.
“Stay with us tonight,” Maggie pleaded.
“I’m really concerned about my cabin,” Shepherd said.
“It may be dangerous,” Daniel said. “Can I send one of my sons with you?”
“No,” Shepherd said. “I will be fine.”
Shepherd drove back to his cabin with Pal in his box. The ride was uneventful. The cabin was undisturbed.