From the moment I awoke the sun was working its way out, tinting the sky outside my window a wispy lavender. Wilson saw that I was awake and came over to give me a lick on the lips.  

I tolerated it.  

Since he is normally so undemonstrative, I don’t mind an occasional lip lick or two. 

I planned to go to McDonalds this morning. Not for the coffee and certainly not for the burgers! I go for the free Wi-Fi my connection to the world beyond my writers retreat. I packed my PC in my knapsack, bade Wilson goodbye, and headed down the mountain to my car. 

Just as I came to the bend, three dogs charged up the slope toward me, barking. To be honest, I find loose dogs at times much more dangerous than bears. The back of my neck flashed with fear and my shoulders tensed as I looked around for a stick or a rock in case I’d need it.  

They did not seem feral.  But they were aggressive.  

“You can’t be barking at me!” I spoke harshly, trying to deter an attack.

And then I heard a woman’s voice down below calling the dogs.  They backed away. I waited for the woman to approach.  She was young with dark hair and a healthy gait.  

Ah, she must be the neighbor who walks my land with her dogs.  Earl had mentioned her. He spoke about her and her activities as if I should find her objectionable.

 She and I shook hands and spoke briefly. I asked if she walked the land often. I told her I worried that I might run into her dogs with mine. I don’t know that she understood. Wilson is aggressive with dogs. I didn’t want a fight.

I don’t think she realized I was the property owner and she was on my property without permission. But she was sweet, and judging by her manner of speech, she didn’t seem local.  

I asked her about the bear.

“Well, yes, there was a bear last year,” she said. “It started going through garbage cans because people weren’t careful.”

Was it big, I wondered?

“It was a small, bear,” she told me, a little put off by the way Earl had characterized the creature.

She did not seem pleased. Other than that bear, she told me she had not seen any others, and she walks here several times a week.

“They killed it.”

She also told me that Earl has a buddy who hunted here last season and trashed the road with junk. She told me she picked up whatever she found and complained to Earl.

I like her.

She can walk here whenever she wants.  

There is no bear!  

At least not one that will show itself to anyone but Earl.

I’ve decided when I write my Earl murder mystery, she will have a starring role.