While she was not as familiar with the events happening here, Zara wasn't completely oblivious to them. Somewhere in her mind it seemed a fools errand to chase a man that was willing to jump into the abyss over a belief. That man was a part of her. They were split in different ways, they needed each other.
Finishing the coffee, she looked towards him pensively. Dully noting the waitress, she shrugged it mentally off, she didn't care. During this time Jasper could do whatever the hell he wanted as long as she got to where she wanted to be.
"Well, that's great then," Zara replied with a bright smile, perhaps too much eagerness. There was the trace of fear, both for herself and finding her twin dead. "When do we leave?"
Like Zach, she would dive in and hope for the best. It seemed to work out for him in most cases. Placing the papers back in her bag, she picked at some of the food.
This would come back to get her in the ass later. For now, she just wanted to find out and bring back Zach.
Jasper understood her need to know what happened to her twin. He understood her need as a primal one, something that was so engrained into her that it would eat her alive if she didn’t fulfill the need. He taps the highlighted path on the map some more, his mind is traveling the paths soundlessly. Carefully he was picking the best route for them to take to the site. Quickly he glances up at her as she tries to explain herself, even though she didn’t need to. He nodded, acknowledging that she had spoken and letting her know that he had heard her. With great care, he folds the well-worn map back into a rectangle and places it back in the small zipper pocket. Naturally the zipper catches as he goes to close the pocket, this takes a few moments. In those few moments, the waitress returns with the bill. Straightening, he nods gently at the woman whom lingers for half a second too long.
Curiously Jasper watches her leave, he studies the sway of her hips and the way she walks slightly bent. The woman wasn’t unattractive, she was just several years older than he. He wondered what it would be like to lay with her, obviously she would be more experienced than he, but he wondered if the stereotypes were true. With an arched eyebrow he returns his attention to Zara, knowing that she probably noticed his perverse attention toward their older waitress. He wondered if she considered him perverted or rude. Leaning back in his chair again he takes the check before she could reach for it. Instantly his eyes scan the total and the prices of everything. The entire meal cost less than thirty dollars so he considered it a value meal. Reaching in a jean pocket, he pulled out a few crumpled bills and attempted to flatten them on the edge of the table. He fishes through another pocket for a couple of quarters and damp folded ones. Why the tip dollars are damp are a mystery to him, unless they were still wet from when he crossed the river.
“I’ll take you wherever you want to go.” He murmurs to her, concentrating on getting the twenty dollar bill to flatten to his satisfaction.
The hot coffee was a welcomed present, the food, wasn't that much though. Giving a smile to the waitress she watched Jasper having a sinking feeling of where this was going. The reports was not pleasant from what she researched. Hell, she had even called to see about an investigation but there had been some polite, but lame ass excuse not to send someone there.
That was why she was there, Zara would find out the truth one way or the other. It would be impossible for her to live without knowing what happened to her twin.
Taking a sip of the coffee, it stopped the horrible words from escaping her mouth. It didn't stop the pained expression. "He actually did it...that bastard...if I find him, I'm going to kill him myself."
Zara had gone along with his beliefs for years but when it came to hunting them, she stopped there. This time he had done it on his own. Running a hand through her hair she gave an exasperated sigh.
"I still want to go, at least most of the way, it's hard to explain but I need to make sure," Zara added after a minute, her expression turning determined. She would find out. "At least before it gets too much."
Hearing that she had the coordinates, he reaches into the smallest part of his bag and pulls out an old dog-eared map. Pushing his empty plate to the side he makes room and spreads out his map. The night before in what little moonlight he had he’d used a fading yellow highlighter to mark several paths up the mountains and around the areas they had discussed. Each path leads directly to a victim sight or passed one. With a cheap red pen, he’d circled a few areas where wolves had been spotted in abundance and where hikers had reported seeing strange humans walking around. Jasper smoothed one of the creased corners with his thumb, running the rough pad over the crease and bending it backward.
He leans over and glances at the coordinates. His trained eyes quickly scan the margins of the map to find the correct longitude and latitude. The coordinates that she gave him were miles away from where he’d highlighted. In fact, the coordinates she gave him put her brother a few miles away from the heart of what he was afraid of. Deeper in the forest is the opposing pack’s main den. Together the main families live in a tribe-like village. This village guarded their secret with their lives and defended laws protecting humans. The opposite pack wanted control and the valley for themselves. Carefully the village placed themselves between the valley and the opposing pack.
His dark thick eyebrows pull together as he studies the map. He knew the forest better than some that had lived there all their lives. Jasper made a meager living by guiding white families to see the waterfalls or occasionally elk. During hunting season, he took men with massive guns bear hunting and pointed them to the most rewarding rams. Tracking through the forest for a young boy followed by his twin sister was a new one. Most humans stayed away from the mountains now that people have gone missing, later found with organs missing and bled dry. Many of the victims had been eaten by something. Jasper’s trained eye knew that one of his kind had killed the humans, eaten parts of them, and left the rest for scavengers. Gently he taps the upper most part of the highlighted paths.
“We need to start there, the most recent victim was found there.”
It was easy to tell the true outdoors man by clothing, items, and how they looked. There was the sort like her that had knowledge, did some hands on work, but otherwise went outdoors three to four times a year for backpacking with her parents and brother.
This man lived the outdoors, possibly literally in every term of the word. The dirt and how rough his hands were. Of course, the scars were strange. Noticing that her eyebrows furrowed before letting it go.
The waitress had been working hard on him, Zara wouldn't blame her, either. He was a good looking male if not a little bit odd. She gave the simple order of coffee with eggs, hash browns, and bacon. Not that she would eat all that.
"Of course," Zara answered pulling it out of the Burgundy bag. The twin looked much like her, only male, and hopefully taller. "I also have the coordinates of where he called me last, say...two and a half weeks ago. It's really not much but it's all I have. Other than twin sense..."
The twin sense was vague. It took everything to not think on what could have possibly happened. He was alive and that much Zara knew, just where was another story.
Jasper’s gaze didn’t go unnoticed. Her full pink lips pulled into an amused smile that caused a little bit of humor to swell in his chest. He couldn’t help but smile a little in return. When she mentions his beat up old backpack he glances down at it. Giving her a halfhearted shrug. The backpack had been a constant in his life and is covered in his smell. At night he can easily find it and use it as a marker. Licking his lips to wet them, he watches her. He doesn’t want to make her uncomfortable, but he didn’t want her to let her guard down. Something in her eyes made him protective over her. He could see the innocence of not knowing about his world. Her question pulls him from his thoughts.
“The waitress?” He questions, knowing that is who she meant. He spoke more than necessary to get used to the sound of his own voice again rather than for her benefit. “No.”
When Zara accepted his offer for food he lifts his dark-skinned hand. His nails were rounded and dirt packed under them. Several scars crisscrossed the back of his hand and the bottom of his forearm. Quickly the waitress notices him, she finishes up her short conversation and makes her way to them. The waitress grabs a menu from a nearby table and brings it to the table. Gently she sets the menu down in front of Zara. She pulls out her pad and paper before asking her what she wanted for a drink. While waiting for Zara to answer Jasper takes a sip of his coffee again. He waits for the waitress to walk away with her drink order before locking her gaze with his own. He dark green eyes stare at her, his dark brown hair disheveled and long, and his beard was cut unevenly and close to his face. Politely he takes his hat off and sits it on the table beside him.
“Did you bring the case pictures?” He asks her quietly. He leans forward on his forearms. He wanted to see the pictures in good light.
There was no ignorance to the elements of his gaze in her mind. It really came down to the fact that she did not care. A look did not mean anything until it went further. It was worth noting, for future references though. Zara couldn't help but give the remnant of an amused smile.
"Lucky guess, mostly it was the bag. You'd think that survivalist would upgrade, but no, it's like lucky gym socks," Zara finished that amused smile. "Yes, I am. It's nice to meet you."
He was handsome, no doubt, every bit rugged from the strong smell of earth to the leather quality of his skin. He seemed to be paying attention to everything. What could be so interestingthat that someone would pay attention to that much. The next words brought her thoughts back into focus.
The idea of food wasn't desirable but of course she knew that it was a good idea. "A little food sounds good, thank you," Zara said, placing her bag down carefully. Looking to the waitress she rose an eyebrow. "Friend of yours?"
As tempting as it was to jump into business but she knew better. It was difficult since she knew her brother was in trouble.
There was a beauty in her plainness. Her large brown eyes reminded him of doe’s eyes, her dark hair fell in thick waves. Her clothes hugged her in all of the right places though they still left a lot of to the imagination. Jasper stayed away from the valley and the valley stayed away from him. Avoiding civilization made Jasper restless and lustful. Quickly glancing back down at his half-eaten breakfast he listens her heartbeat. Boldly she sits across from him before asking his name. For all she knew he could be someone entirely different, part of him admired her courage and stupidity.
“Yes.” He answers her shoveling another bite into his mouth. Leaning back in the dinning chair he looks at her closely, challenging her seriousness before nodding softly to himself. Taking his paper napkin his wipes his face and beard before licking his lips one last time.
“You’re Zara.” He states. He could tell that she had spent a great deal of time outside, that her body was used to the elements. Outside the weather darkened to a grey and thick rain-heavy clouds rolled in over valley from the mountains. He could smell the bacon sizzling on the griddle and the earth readying itself for the rain. Worms wiggled themselves to the surface only to be crushed by car tires. He could smell sweat clinging to her skin and the smell of pine clinging to her hair. She wasn’t from around here.
Taking the final bite from his breakfast, he finishes the plate and then takes a hot sip of his coffee. Within a few moments of finishing his plate his flirtatious waitress appears once again. With diner worn hands she takes the plate and gives Zara a harsh glance over her shoulder.
“Are you hungry?” He asks her gently, his voice deep.
To piece it all together was a true puzzle. The main component that was off was Zach himself. Zach was the wild card in any deck no matter the situation. It was always off to another adventure, another city, another situation and woman. It was enough to give her a headache and had on more than one occasion.
Normally there was a clue of what misadventure he was currently on. Instead there was a dry case here. Talk of people going missing, research on local folklore and he was gone.
Zara was naturally worried when her brother was gone longer than expected, all without word to her. They were still closer than siblings their age.
Taking the moment to take in the scenic and lovely town of White Horse, she dug through the impossibly deep pockets. Oh, the diner, that was the place. It was down the street to make it easier.
Entering, Zara ignored the looks she received. She stood out, she might as well be wearing a parka. That must have been him, most wilderness people had that weathered, devil may care look.
Easily sitting across from him, she had to admit, he was impressive looking. "Are you Jasper?" She asked curiously. She hoped she was right, she wanted to find her brother soon.
Carefully, and with a gloved hand, Jasper Wierson turns the page in a photo album. Lazily he gazes as the pictures, all containing a gruesome scene. Pausing to study one, he smiles to himself. A young girl, no bigger than twelve stands next to a gutted deer. Her pink flower dotted dress is smeared in blood and her skin is stained red. Her thin childish lips are pulled into the biggest grin her doll face can handle. Beside her, holding the severed deer head toward the camera and showing off the girl’s prize, her mother shares the same face. Absently Jasper wipes a single tear from his cheek before snapping the book shut. Around him the ‘mom-n-pop’ diner patrons glance up. To them Jasper appeared to be an unshaven survivalist. The smell of the earth clung to him and his appearance. Wearing a wide brimmed hat festooned with fishing hooks, he looked like he’d barrowed the outfit from his grandfather. On the floor by his feet was an old hunting bag, waterproof, and in need of a new zipper. As gently as he could he unzips the front portion of the backpack and slides the album inside, protecting the normal human populace from seeing it. Swaying her hips in an attention getting way the older waitress appears with his coffee and eggs. She flashes the heavily muscled survivalist her best “come and get me” smile before sliding the fresh coffee onto the black and white checkered table. Politely he pushes the syrup out of her way and then pulls his napkin free from his silverware.
“Where ya from hon’?” She questions, her accent is from a place teeming with churches and drowning in holy water. A place where cows are the state tree and chickens are the state flower. Keeping his eyes down at the clean, he answers her lowly and without looking at her.
“The mountains.” His answer is simple and she gets the message quickly. Placing his eggs with a side of bacon in front of him she continues her questioning.
“Do you have a cabin there?” He shakes his head before picking up his fork to cut into the yellow of the eggs.
“I own a house on the water, it’s only a little thing.” Politely Jasper nods when he notices she had finished talking.
“Do you have a girl?” The woman with the hairspray bun refuses to give up easily. The mention of a girl in his life causes him to fade away to a long-forgotten memory.
“Yes.” He answers simply. The word is a half lie, but the waitress doesn’t know. Finally, the cougar gets the hint and wanders away, bidding him to enjoy his meal with hurt pride. Behind the window a few young waitresses giggle and mock the overly friendly woman. Jasper still loved Elizabeth, he always would even though she had lied to him and cheated him. It was the death of their daughter Abbey they had killed him and caused him to drink. Jasper still considered that year the worst year of his life. Quietly Jasper crunches his bacon and pulls on his eggs, watching the yellow seep out of them like blood.
This trip down to the valley was prompted by a young girl’s need to find her brother. All he knew is that they were identical twins and no one else would take her. The locals are afraid of the mountains, wolves are said to be judge and jury up there, hikers went missing constantly. Shoving another forkful of egg into his mouth, Jasper wished that humans would stay in their little wood houses and leave the forest to the monsters.
"It's been two weeks! I can't just do nothing!" Zara said in frustration, her voice rising much more than mom would care fore. Today, she didn't care, it wasn't as if she lived here anymore. "Two weeks since he was supposed to come back and he's not back yet. It may be the Yukon but he's still really good at what he does."
"Knowing Zach he decided to have some fun with a local for a while longer. You know...fishing and the such...maybe he went to a city to visit," Teresa summarized contently.
"No, mom, I know...and I'm going to see what happened," Zara answered in determination. Granted she didn't love the outdoors as much as Zach. She had her camera and usually got good shots when he had the patience to drag her with.
It only took a week to gather the money, sources and whatnot. In Whitehorse she found a guide that would lead her to the region where she needed to be. The plan was simple in her mind. Find out where he would generally be, see if he was alive , then bring him back.
It took one commercial airline from Portland, then a smaller one to White Horse. From there it was a half hour drive. By the time she arrived, she was already cold, and slightly grumpy from how long it had taken.
"Now where was I supposed to meet this guy?" Zara asked herself, taking out the paper. It was supposed to be at some hotel. Not that there were a lot to chose from, it looked like there was three here and only one counted.
Zara was tall for a woman reaching 5'8", though was willowy with soft curves. It was difficult to tell with the heavy coat and warm pants, dark brown hair placed back. It was obvious she wasn't from here by her shivering.
Finding the right hotel, she waited impatiently. Oddly she was fifteen minutes early.
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