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By Jacksen West

( Sample from Chapter One )


     AS I GASPED FOR AIR -the tight, crudely made hangman's rope around my neck made breathing next to impossible. I could feel the crisp, cold October wind on my face as if a thousand pins were piercing into my skin at the same time. With each labored breath, I could see frosty air streaming out of my mouth.

     The three of them quietly watched me as I stood helplessly on that old yellow plastic chair, a chair that once stood on the back porch of my house; they were just waiting to pull it out from under me at any moment, ending my life instantly. 

     A long piece of gray duct tape bound my hands firmly behind my back; I had lost the feeling in both hands. My outcome at this point seemed inevitable: I would die. What started as a typical, uneventful day was ending badly. 

     Once the sun goes down, it's cold in northern Minnesota in mid-October. I can see my warm, hooded coat lying on the muddy ground under me; it would feel so good to have it covering my shivering body right now. 

      I was about to hang from an old white pine tree in Cook County forest at the end of an old, never-used logging trail. The same old dirt trail I used to hunt deer on each year; this old logging path hadn't been used in over fifteen years, no hope anyone would come down it tonight; I was on my own.

     Cook County forest is an unforgiving place, with over one million acres of thick uncut forest, rock-face cliffs, dangerous fast-running streams, bears, wolves, cougars, and some of the most rugged terrain anyone could ever encounter. 

      I grew up close to here;  I knew this forest like the back of my hand. 

      Over the last one hundred twenty years, seventy-three hikers, hunters, and campers have gone missing in this part of Cook County forest, never to be found alive again.

      Three years ago, they did find Ben Juno's Weatherby Vanguard Deer hunting rifle on the bank of Porcupine Creek, a popular trout fishing stream at the bottom of Bear Ridge Mountain; it was blood-stained and still fully loaded. Ben was nowhere to be found, ever.

     Tonight, I might also be one of those who went mysteriously missing out here in Cook County forest.

     I glanced over at the man I knew as 'Pastor Mikey,' as my wife Vera lovingly called him; I guess since she was sleeping with him, she could call him anything she wanted. 

     At 48 years old, he was the Pastor of a tiny, worthless, 27-member country church located at the edge of town, right next to the sleazy XXX adult bookstore known as Adult Heaven, where I'm sure he was a regular customer. 

     I could see why his church congregation hated him; he fucked many other men's wives from that tiny church; my wife was just another pair of worn-out panties he added to his collection. 

     Rumor had it he came from the far west side of Montana after he was facing charges for fondling the women in his church there. He high-tailed it out of town in the middle of the night in his old brown and beige 1975 AMC Pacer, a dud of a car for a dud of a man.

     As he stood off to my right side, with his hands tucked in his pants pockets, apparently trying to keep them warm from the icy air around us, his eyes looked at me sheepishly; when I returned the glance, he looked away, either ashamed or just because he was a coward. The same piece of shit who was sleeping with my wife Vera for over 4 months was now one of my executioners. and...

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