Excerpt for Tracking Bigfoot by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Floor it!” Mike screamed. Josh ran through the rest of the gears of the manual transmission in three seconds, then skidded around the corner and onto the highway, fishtailing on the patchy ice.

Mike Danford Adventure Series #2


by Arnold Ytreeide

Copyright © 2016 by Arnold Ytreeide

All Rights Reserved

First Edition

Third Printing





JQP 16-01

Printed in the United States of America

Jericho Quill Press

Nampa, ID 83686

For Andy -

who never shied away from

having adventures

with me!

Chapter One


“There he is!” cried seventeen-year-old Mike Danford.

“Shhhhh!” chided his best friend, Josh Roberts, lying next to him in the snow. “Aww, now look what you did!” Josh whispered. Mike saw the tail of the silver fox they’d been tracking slipping into the underbrush.

“Sorry,” Mike whispered back, his breath making clouds of steam in the freezing air. “But we’ve spent two days tracking this little guy. Guess I got excited.”

Mike was helping Josh track and photograph the silver fox as part of a school science project. They were high up in the mountains and had been trudging through waist-deep snow for two days. As they lay watching where the fox had entered the bushes, Mike could feel the cold through his thick layers of snow gear.

“Why don’t you slip around to the left and see if you can scare him back this way,” Josh suggested.

“Sure thing.” Mike stood up as quietly as he could. Feeling the crunch of the ice and snow under his thick boots, and falling through to his knees every third or fourth step, Mike worked his way up the side of the mountain to the left of where Josh still lay waiting.

A moment later, Mike heard a loud “boom,” as if a canon had gone off over the top of the ridge he was climbing. Curious, he looked up to see what it was. Then he heard Josh yelling, so he looked back down the hill from where he’d come. Josh was jumping up and down screaming something, but Mike couldn’t make out the words. Then he heard a rumble like a freight train barreling down the mountain, and in a flash Mike understood.

“Avalanche!” Josh had been yelling, and the rumble was a billion pounds of ice and snow rolling down the hill. The white wave screaming toward him seemed a hundred feet high, and Mike knew it would wipe him off the mountain in mere seconds. He started to turn to run downhill, but knew it was no use.

In that same instant, at the top of the ridge and just to the side of the avalanche, Mike saw something that frightened him more than the wall of death about to wipe him out.

A fraction of a second later the avalanche slammed into Mike with the force of a hundred football players. It threw Mike into the air, then closed around him like a giant glove. Ice crystals sliced open the skin of his face. Snow plugged his nose and mouth so he couldn’t breathe. The monstrous snowball punched and twisted and crushed him.

As Mike tumbled end-over-end deep inside the avalanche, all he could do was pray that he wouldn’t be thrown head-first into a tree or rock, or be carried over the edge of the cliff he knew was below him on the mountain.

Finally, Mike felt himself slowing down. Amazed that he was even alive, he knew he wouldn’t be for long if he didn’t act quickly. As the snow and ice began to lose momentum and settle, Mike moved every part of his body he could move, swinging his arms, kicking his feet, wagging his head. At the last moment he sucked in as much air as his lungs would hold, expanding his chest as large as possible. When the avalanche at last came to a stop, the movement of Mike’s body had created a small air space inside the snow. At least I can breathe for a few minutes, he thought, and silently thanked his father for making him take a mountain safety class two years before.

With the one hand he could move, Mike wiped the snow from his mouth, nose, and eyes. When he could finally see, what he saw terrified him. He was buried so deeply in the snow that hardly any light could reach him.

Even with the space Mike had formed by moving his body, the air soon became thick. His oxygen was running out, and Mike knew he had only a few minutes to live. Panic set in as he realized he couldn’t move his legs or his right arm: they were locked in the ice and snow.

With his free hand, Mike began clawing at the roof of his cave. But soon the air was so stale he began seeing stars flashing in front of his eyes. As the oxygen ran out, his arm dropped limply to his chest, and Mike began fading into the blackness of death.

Suddenly Mike felt a gush of cold air on his face, and a powerful hand pulling at his coat. He sucked in a giant lung-full of air and didn’t even care that it was below freezing. A moment later he looked up and saw Josh, framed by trees and blue sky.

“Mike! Are you okay?” Josh shouted.

Mike croaked out a “Yeah,” which brought a grin to Josh’s face.

“Then quit being lazy and get up!”

A few minutes later, Josh had dug Mike out of the snow, and the friends stood looking in awe at his almost grave. “I can’t believe I was buried that deep,” Mike said, looking at the eight-foot hole.

“I never would have found you if it hadn’t been for the GPS,” Josh said, holding up his own unit. The small, yellow Global Positioning System unit was designed for skiers, and sent out two emergency homing signals to help rescuers find people buried in an avalanche. Mike’s father had insisted the boys carry them at all times in the mountains. It was this that allowed Josh to find Mike so quickly.

“Yeah, remind me to thank Dad tonight!” A moment later he added, “Let’s get out of here before we both get creamed by another avalanche.”

As they slogged through the deep powder, Mike realized how weak and shaky he was from his near-death experience. Usually he would lead the way on their hikes, but now it was Josh that often stopped and waited for Mike.

Finally the two friends made it back to the comfort of their snow camp. Josh quickly built a fire and made some hot chocolate.

“Now for the hard part,” Josh said, reaching for his phone.

“What are you doing?” Mike asked, suspicious.

“I’m calling your dad to tell him what happened.”

Mike jumped up from his camp chair. “No! Wait! Don’t call my dad! He’ll freak out.”

Josh gave his friend a look that said just how dumb he thought that statement was. “Your Dad? Freak out? Since when?”

Mike knew as well as Josh that Mr. Danford was about the most level-headed man in their home town of Seacrest. “Yeah, well, I just don’t think we need to worry him, okay?”

Josh looked to the sky and tapped his chin with his fingers as if playing the piano. “Let’s see,” he said, “What was the last thing your dad said?” A moment later he pretended like he hadn’t known all along. “Oh yeah,” he said, snapping his fingers. Then he dropped his voice to mimic Mike’s dad. “‘Be sure to call me if there’s any trouble.’” Back in his own voice he said, “I think this qualifies as trouble!”

“Yeah, but . . .” Mike started to protest, but Josh held up his hand to stop him. “Mike, there’s nothing wrong with doing right.”

That silenced Mike, and after a few seconds he took a deep breath and said, “You’re right. Give him a call.”

As Josh punched the buttons on the phone, Mike thought back to their secret pact. Several years before, when they were young and trying to fit in with everyone else, Mike and Josh had done something they knew was wrong. They didn’t get caught, but both boys felt bad. Later they each decided they didn’t want to be that kind of person anymore, so they came up with a saying with which they could remind themselves to always do the right thing: “There’s nothing wrong with doing right.” That saying had kept them out of trouble many times since then.

“Yeah, he’s okay,” Mike heard Josh saying into the phone when he finally came out of his trance. “Just kind of shaky. I had to practically carry him down the mountain.” Josh listened for a moment, then laughed. “No, I think I can manage. . . Yes sir. We’ll pack up now and will be home in a few hours.”

Josh finished the call and hung up without Mike ever talking to his dad. Ever since Josh’s father had died when Josh was eight, he’d been an almost permanent fixture at the Danford home. More than once the two boys had talked about being almost brothers.

“You heard the man,” Josh said to Mike. “We need to pack up and hit the road.”

Suddenly, Mike passed out and fell out of the chair into a snowdrift. A moment later his eyes fluttered open and he groaned. “Ohhh,” he cried, “Where am I? I . . . I’m feeling very weak . . .”

Josh stood with his hands on his hips and frowned. “Not buyin’ it,” he said. “You can roll up the sleeping bags, I’ll pack up the kitchen.”

Mike sat up on his elbows and said in a perfectly strong voice, “Some friend you are! Won’t even pack the camp so I can recover from almost getting avalanched to death.”

“A horrible ordeal I’ll grant you,” Josh said with a laugh. “But you can still do your share of the packing.”

Mike jumped up and gladly helped pack, but before they’d finished, a thought struck him. He walked over to where he could look back up the mountain and stared, thinking.

“Hey!” Josh shouted. “What gives? You pullin’ your too-weak-to-work act again?”

Mike didn’t answer. He knew what he was looking for, but didn’t dare say anything to Josh. The previous summer, while building and sailing a submarine, Mike and Josh had been attacked on several occasions. Mike had been sure he knew who was behind it, but no one would believe him, including Josh. Even though he was eventually proven right, he didn’t want to repeat those feelings of rejection now. So he kept quiet, until he could be sure.

“No, just thinking,” Mike said to Josh. Then he turned back and kept packing. He was just finishing with the sleeping bags when a forest ranger came riding up on a snowmobile.

“You boys okay?” he asked. “That avalanche was close.”

“Yeah,” Mike answered casually. “I got buried for a minute, but my friend pulled me out.”

The ranger turned off his machine and pulled out his phone. “In that case,” he said, tapping the keys on the phone, “I need to take a report.”

After fifteen minutes of questions the ranger got on his radio and reported the incident. He offered to give Mike a ride back to their car, but Mike assured him there was no need, so the ranger left.

It was an hour’s hike back to the SnowPark parking lot and Josh’s Mustang. The drive home was quiet except for the music playing. Even though he was uninjured, Mike was exhausted. He slept part of the way home, and was deep in thought the rest of the time, even when they stopped for hamburgers.

Back home in Seacrest, a small town on the edge of Admiralty Sound, Ben and Laura Danford hugged Mike tightly as they all stood by Josh’s car. “You’re never going up on that mountain again!” Mrs. Danford chided a moment later, her finger wagging in Mike’s face. “Except on a groomed ski slope! And even then I want you to stay on the bunny hill close to the lodge!”

Everyone laughed at that, knowing she was just joking. “Yeah, I’ll even get him a pair of bunny ears,” Josh laughed. “I’m sure Jessica will think they’re cute!”

Mike blushed at the mention of Jessica, the girl he’d dated many times, but he fought right back. “And I’m sure she’ll think they’re so cute that she’ll insist Cindy make you wear a pair!”

Now it was Josh’s turn to blush at the mention of the girl he’d been dating.

“Maybe I’ll just leave it alone,” Josh said.

“Seriously though, son,” Ben Danford said, “I thought we agreed you’d stay away from avalanche paths.”

At this Mike felt frustration building in his chest. “I did, Dad. There’s no way an avalanche should have started in that area! The grade, the terrain, the snow pack – everything said it should have been safe!”

“Well, it sounds like you were watching for all the right things,” Mr. Danford said, rubbing his son’s shoulder. “It must have been a fluke.”

Mike didn’t say anything, believing it was anything but a fluke but not wanting to explain to anyone yet why he thought that.

“Well, let’s go inside and have some ice cream,” Mrs. Danford said.

Mike groaned. “About the last think I want is ice cream, Mom!”

They all laughed again, and Mike’s mother said, “Okay, I’ll make some hot brownies.”

Mike was about to agree to that when a big white van pulled up with the letters “KXYN TV” painted on the side. In a flash, a reporter and photographer jumped out and, before he knew what was happening, a microphone was shoved into Mike’s face. A moment later a camera and light were pointed at him.

“Mike, we heard on the forest service radio that you were caught in an avalanche today,” the reporter said, out of breath. “Can you tell us what happened up on the mountain?”

Mike was confused for a moment, but then regained his composure and gave a brief description of the avalanche. Ever since Mike and Josh had battled some undersea terrorists with their submarine, they’d become minor celebrities.

After a few more questions, the TV team left. Mike agreed to the brownies, and asked Josh if he was staying for the dessert.

“Naw, I haven’t seen my mom in three days. I’d better get home.” With that, he drove off and the Danfords went inside.

Later that night, Mike began searching the internet for some information. He wasn’t happy with what he found, and eventually gave up and went to bed, thinking he might have better luck when his head was clear.

The next day was Sunday, and Josh came home with the Danford’s after church. Mike led him up to his bedroom and let him in on his secret. “I want to buy a snow cat,” he said.

Josh’s jaw dropped opened and he stared at Mike for several seconds. Finally he got his mouth to work and he said, “A what?”

“A snow cat. You know, a machine with tracks instead of wheels, used to groom ski runs and stuff.”

“Yeah, I know what it is, and I guess I shouldn’t be shocked after everything else we’ve done, but a snow cat!?”

“Yeah, a snow cat,” was all Mike said.

“Aren’t they, like, really big and expensive?”

“Well, expensive yes,” Mike said, turning to his computer. “But so far I can’t find one that’s very big.”

Josh felt like he was in some weird movie where nothing made sense. “Wait, wait. Back up a minute. Why do you want a snow cat of any size?”

Mike kept his back to his friend and answered. “To go up into the mountains and track your silver fox, of course!”

Josh’s face scrunched up in his really confused look. “You want to spend . . . how much do one of those things cost?”

Mike told him, and Josh choked. “You want to spend that much money on a big machine just so I can finish my science project? Come on, Mike, I know we’re best friends, but not even you would throw money away like that!”

Josh knew that Mike could easily afford the cost of a snow cat, since Mike had sold the plans for his submarine for a huge profit. But he also knew the money was put away for Mike’s college, and that Mr. and Mrs. Danford would never let him waste it.

“So, you wanna look your best friend in the eye and tell him what’s really going on?”

Slowly, Mike turned around and faced Josh. “Okay,” he said, “but you have to promise not to laugh. Or get sarcastic. Or think I’m crazy.”

“So noted,” Josh said, like he’d heard on lawyer shows many times.

“Okay, just remember that promise,” Mike said.

Just then the doorbell rang downstairs. Mike’s dad called up from below, and Mike and Josh hurried down.

Standing in the doorway were two men in black suits. “These men are from the FBI,” Mr. Danford explained. Then turning to the men, he said, “Now, can you tell me what this is all about?”

The two agents ignored Ben Danford, and instead pulled out a pair of handcuffs. “Mike Danford,” one of them said, “you’re under arrest for attacking a government installation.”

Chapter Two


Mike, Josh, and Mike’s parents stared at the FBI men in disbelief. Mr. Danford started to say something, but before he uttered a sound, Josh started laughing uncontrollably. He laughed so hard that he fell into a chair by the door. Pointing at Mike he sputtered, “You . . . you think Mr. Clean here . . . attacked . . .”

Josh was laughing so hard he couldn’t finish his sentence.

Now both of Mike’s parents started chuckling. “Agent . . . I’m sorry, what was your name?”

One of the FBI men said, “I’m Tibbs, and this is Lockhart.”

“Agent Tibbs,” Mike’s dad continued, “our son was awarded the government’s highest civilian award recently, for exposing a ring of terrorists and saving a Navy submarine from destruction. Do you honestly think he would attack anything, much less a government installation?”

The FBI agent turned pale. “Danford! You’re that Danford?”

“Yes sir,” Mike said, finally starting to relax. “And I haven’t even been near any government installations.”

“If I could make a suggestion,” Mr. Danford added, “you might want to call Admiral Norton out at the Keyport Submarine Base. I’m sure he’ll vouch for Mike. What’s this all about?”

“I’m sorry, I can’t tell you everything,” Tibbs said, “but a secret installation was destroyed by an avalanche yesterday. We received an anonymous tip, and have evidence, that you started it on purpose.”

Everyone stopped laughing.

“I was in an avalanche yesterday,” Mike said, “but I certainly didn’t start it. In fact, I was almost killed by it.” Josh and Mike explained everything that had happened the day before.

“I’m inclined to believe you,” Agent Tibbs said, “but of course we still have to investigate.”

“What kind of evidence do you have?” Mike’s father asked.

“We can’t disclose that,” Agent Lockhart said, “but I’m beginning to doubt that it’s real. Probably whoever phoned in the tip was the real saboteur and manufactured the evidence.”

“We’ll keep checking,” Tibbs said, “but in the meantime, consider yourself cleared. After all you’ve done for this country, it makes no sense you’d attack it now.”

“No, I did not,” Mike said. And with that, the two FBI agents left. As soon as the front door was closed, Josh started pretending to measure Mike from head to toe. “What are you doing?” Mike asked.

“Measuring you,” Josh answered.

“For what?”

“To see how well you’ll fit in that six foot by eight foot prison cell!”

Mike gave Josh a playful punch and the two boys were soon wrestling in the entry way. Mike’s mom knew she’d never break them up, so just walked away saying, “Guess I’ll have to eat the leftover brownies myself!” The wrestling match abruptly stopped.

Josh spent the night at Mike’s since there was no school the next day because of a teacher’s workshop, and they were soon asleep. Mike was still sleeping soundly the next morning when Josh hit him with a pillow from where he’d slept on the floor. Mike opened one eye and looked at his friend through a fog.

“Wake up, snow boy,” Josh said. “You have to be at work in an hour.” Mike worked at the Seacrest Marina two or three afternoons a week and many weekends and holidays.

“Then I can sleep another half hour,” Mike mumbled.

“No way,” Josh answered. “You’re gonna finish telling me what you started last night!”

This woke up Mike instantly. “Oh yeah, I forgot. I guess almost getting arrested scared it out of me.”

“So, what was it?” Josh prodded.

Once again Mike made Josh promise not to laugh, then Mike took a deep breath. “Just before the avalanche started,” Mike said, “I saw something up on the mountain. Something really strange walking around.”

Josh looked at his friend suspiciously. “You mean like a three-headed elk, or a hairless bear?”

“No,” Mike answered. “Something even stranger than that.” Josh’s eyes opened wide, then Mike took a big gulp and continued. “I saw . . .” He hesitated again, and then finally blurted it out. “I saw a Sasquatch!”

Josh was stunned. “A what?”

“A Sasquatch,” Mike repeated. “You know, Bigfoot?”

“Yeah, I know Bigfoot, but . . . what are you saying?”

“I’m saying I saw Bigfoot at the top of the mountain. And I think he had something to do with the avalanche that almost wiped me out. And DID wipe out that government installation.”

“But Mike,” Josh said, sitting on the bed next to his friend, “Bigfoot is just a legend. He doesn’t really exist.”

“That’s what I thought,” Mike answered. “Until Saturday.”

Mike left a stunned Josh sitting on the bed while he showered and dressed. He made Josh promise not to say anything about his sighting to anyone, then headed to work. His boss, Jordan Washington, had seen news of the avalanche on television the day before and was concerned. Mike assured him there were no broken bones or serious damage.

The marina stored boats in a three-story building, using a large outdoor elevator to lift them in and out of the waters of Admiralty Sound. After a day of helping customers with their boats, Mike met up with Josh again, this time in Salty’s Diner next to the marina.

Josh still had a really concerned look on his face. He ordered a Coke and fries and said, “You’re really not joking about this Sasquatch thing, are you?”

“No, I’m not,” Mike answered.

Josh thought for a moment, then lowered his voice and spoke very carefully. “I’m not saying I don’t believe you, Mike, but you have to consider how this sounds. I wouldn’t go telling anyone else about this. There’s no such thing as a Sasquatch.”

Mike sighed and slumped back in the booth. “Yeah, I know,” he said. “Sounds pretty weird. But I saw what I saw.”

“Could it have been something else?” Josh asked. Mike shook his head “no.”

“In that case,” Josh said in a determined way, “I’m in. After all we went through with the Jonah, there’s no way I’m not believing you now.”

Mike grinned. “Thanks, Josh. I guess there’s a reason I let you hang around me.”

“You let me hang around ‘cause you wouldn’t pass biology if you didn’t,” Josh laughed. Then he turned serious. “So what’s the plan?”

Mike sighed. “We need to go track this Bigfoot or whatever it is, and find out everything we can about it.”

“How do we do that?” Josh asked.

“We go to the mountains.”

Spending weekends hiking in the mountains tracking creatures of various sorts was Josh’s favorite thing to do, so he had no problem with this. “Except for one thing,” he said. “There’s ten feet of snow up where you saw the . . .” He stopped for a moment and looked around at the other people in the diner, then decided he’d better use a code word. “Where you saw the ‘rabbit’,” he said.

Mike smiled at Josh’s code word. “Yeah, I know,” he said. “It’s also getting colder, and will be twenty or thirty below zero soon.”

Josh’s fries and Coke and Mike’s chocolate milkshake arrived, which gave the boys a few moments to think. When the server had left Josh said, “I don’t mind roughing it, but hiking up that high, in that much snow, when it’s that cold, sounds like a pretty dumb thing to do.”

“You’re right,” Mike sighed. “Thus the snow cat. I’ve just gotta find out what’s up there!”

It was Josh’s turn to sigh. “Yeah, if I’ve learned anything about you, it’s that you never stop trying to solve a puzzle until you’ve figured it out.” Josh was thinking about the many adventures he’d had with his friend. When they were eight, Mike decided to turn the family TV into a 3-D TV, and talked Josh into helping him. Mike’s dad was very upset – until Mike turned on the TV and it actually worked.

“I guess what we really need is some research,” Mike said as he sucked up the last of his milkshake. “Let’s find out everything that’s already known about . . . rabbits . . . and then decide how to track them.”

“Sounds good to me,” Josh said, and he chomped down the last french fry. Mike paid and left a tip on the table, then the boys left. As they walked up the hill toward the Danford house, Josh said, “You remember the 3-D TV we built?”

Mike cringed. “Yeah. It got me grounded for a week.”

“I thought your dad liked it?”

“He did. But he said I should have asked before taking the TV apart. Why do you bring that up now?”

Josh shrugged. “Just thinking.”

They finally reached Mike’s street and waited to cross until a power company repair truck passed. It was unusual to ever have to wait for traffic in Seacrest as it was a quiet town, except on weekends when tourists filled the streets.

Mike’s house was empty when they arrived, his parents being gone for the day. Back in his bedroom, Mike got on the internet and typed in “Sasquatch.” Instantly hundreds of links to websites popped up. “Wow!” Mike said. “Looks like we’ve got some studying to do.”

Josh groaned. “This better not keep us from dinner.” Mike gave his friend a disgusted look, and Josh added, “What are you waiting for? Let’s start reading.”

Mike started clicking on links and Josh searched on his phone. “What’s cryptozoology?” Mike asked while reading one page.

“The study of really fantastic creatures that probably don’t exist,” biology-expert Josh answered.

“So they’re saying that Bigfoot doesn’t really exist?”

“They’re saying it’s controversial. Most scientists believe Bigfoot is a hoax, but some think there’s too much evidence to deny it.”

“Well there’s sure been a lot of people who claim to have seen one.”

“Including you, now,” Josh said.

The boys read page after page, learning more with every click.

“What’s this about a gi . . . gi-gan . . .”

“Gi-gan-toe-pith-i-kus,” Josh finished, pointing out each syallable. “Gigantopithecus. They’re saying it was a very large ape-like creature. They found fossils of it in Asia. Some scientists think maybe that’s what people are seeing.”

“Asia’s a long way from here,” Mike said. “And what I saw wasn’t an ape. Besides, isn’t this gi-gan-to thing extinct?”

“Yeah, but there are lots of living creatures that descend from species that people thought were extinct. There’s also been a lot of creatures everyone thought were extinct that weren’t.”

“Such as . . . ?”

“Such as Omura’s Whale. A weird looking whale with a big frown that no one thought really existed until a few years ago. Now there’s video of them on the internet. There are dozens of other examples too.”

For two hours Mike and Josh searched the internet, looking at photos, drawings, and even video of supposed Sasquatch sightings. They read eye-witness accounts – most of which seemed very unreliable. “I think some of these people are just making it up to get their name in the news,” Josh said.

But there were enough stories that sounded possible to make Mike believe Bigfoot really could exist. “What I saw was definitely not like any other animal around here, and not even like an ape,” he told his friend. “It looked like a lot of these photos, and fit the descriptions in these stories.” He took a deep breath, looked Josh in the eye, and said, “I think Bigfoot really does exist, and I think I saw one.”

Josh was quiet for a moment as he thought, then said, “Okay, what do you want to do about it?”

“I want to go look for him,” Mike said. “And if he really does exist, I want to prove it.”

“And just how do we do that without going up to the mountains?”

“We don’t,” Mike answered. “We go up to the mountains.”

“But we already decided that’s too dangerous!”

Mike didn’t say anything, but instead just looked his friend in the eye.

“Uh oh,” Josh said. “I know that look. You’re cookin’ up some scheme, aren’t you.”

Mike started to answer, but just then he noticed something strange. Josh watched as Mike looked around the room, then as his eyes stopped and stared for a moment. After a few seconds, Mike turned back to the computer. With his right hand he clicked on links, and with his left he started searching around and under the desk. As he did, his voice took on a funny tone and he said, “Of course it’s too dangerous to go into the mountains in the winter Josh! What are you thinking of? We’ll just wait until summer, when the snow is all melted and we can walk up there. Anyway, it’s probably silly anyhow. We should just forget the whole thing and go sail the submarine.”

By now Mike had stopped feeling around the desk and his face was a mixture of anger and determination.

“C’mon,” he said to Josh as he jumped for the door. “Let’s go see the new house they’re building on the corner.”

“What!?” Josh said, surprised. But he followed dutifully.

Moments later the boys flew down the stairs and headed for the door. “It’s got a pool and everything!” Mike added in mid-flight.

Outside, Mike made a sharp turn to the left and headed up the sidewalk.

“Mike! What are you doing? There’s no new house being . . .”

Mike cut him off with a wave of his hand. “No there’s not,” he said, “but I had to get you out of the house.” Then he sucked in a deep breath and said, “Someone is spying on us!”

Chapter Three

A Plan

Josh stared at Mike in disbelief. “What do you mean someone’s spying on us?”

“There’s a tiny video camera and microphone hidden in my room,” Mike said.

“How did you find them?”

“I noticed that my skis were leaning against the east wall of my room. I always put them against the north wall.”

“What kind of freak has a certain wall he puts his skis against?” Josh asked with a jab to Mike’s ribs.

“It’s just habit. I always set them in the corner of my room the same way, but today they were different. So I started looking, and spotted the camera up on my bookshelf behind my model of the Jonah. Whoever put it up there must have moved the skis to get to the shelf.”

“This is serious, Mike,” Josh said, rubbing the back of his head. “We gotta call the police.”

Before Josh could dial his phone, Mike said, “Wait. I want to do some more checking first. If we scare this guy away . . . Oh!”

Mike suddenly looked surprised, and his friend said, “What is it?”

“I just thought of something. Remember when we were walking home this afternoon, we passed that power truck coming down the hill?”


“I’ll bet they were the ones who planted the camera.” Mike was quiet for a moment as he thought, then said, “Okay, I think we should go home and act normal. You play some video games and pretend nothing is wrong, I’ll search the house and see if there are any more cameras.”

“Why not just rip them out?” Josh asked.

“I need to figure out how they’re receiving the signal, then we’ll know how to trace them. If it’s a low power transmitter, they might even be watching from a car or van nearby.”

They both looked up and down the streets, but saw no unfamiliar vehicles.

“Okay then,” Mike said, “we’ll just go home and act normal.”

A few minutes later the two boys entered the front door.

“That’s gonna be a cool house,” Josh said loudly. “Wanna play some vids?”

Mike kept up the act. “Naw, you go ahead. I gotta get my chores done before Mom and Dad get home.” He got a dust rag and some spray wax out of the kitchen and began dusting the whole house. As he did, he looked behind every book and box, on top of every shelf, and inside every knick-knack big enough to hold a camera.

Just as Mike was finishing up the last room his parents walked in carrying bags of groceries. Josh immediately jumped up and started a conversation. He talked about school, and work, and asked about Mike’s sister Amy. Mike’s parents couldn’t figure out why Josh was being so talkative, but they just shrugged and went along.

Meanwhile, Mike quietly finished his search and found three more cameras: one in the family room, one in the dining room, and one in the study. When he was sure he’d searched everywhere, he went to his laptop and started typing. His fingers flew across the keys, and every once in a while his mom or dad would look over and wonder what he was doing. Finally, Mike stood and called across the room in a loud voice.

“Dad, we need to call the FBI.”

Everyone stopped and stared, and Mike quickly told them about the spy cameras.

“I don’t believe it!” Mike’s mother said. “I’ve been bugged before, and I don’t like it! No sir, I don’t like it one bit!”

Mr. Danford looked at his wife with surprise. “When were you ever bugged?”

“In the Congo,” she answered. “I was working on a story about a corrupt governor and the governor had me watched.” Mike’s mother had been a freelance writer before Mike was born, a job which took her to many exciting places and adventures.

“So what have you found, Mike?” Ben Danford asked his son.

“Four cameras and microphones spread throughout the house, and they’re all linked to the internet through our router.”

“Okay then, I’ll make the call.” Mr. Danford went to his study and got the business card the FBI had left then dialed his phone. In the meantime, Mike’s mom asked, “Where’s the camera?” Mike pointed to an ivy plant on a shelf. Mrs. Danford, hands on her hips, turned to the hidden camera and started giving whoever was listening a tongue lashing.

“Now listen here, you creeps!” she said in the same voice she used when Mike was in trouble. “I’ve traveled this whole world and met a lot of bad people, but you take the cake!”

Mike’s mother was still wagging her finger at the camera and lecturing the spies twenty minutes later when the FBI arrived.

“You were smart not to touch anything, Mike,” Agent Lockhart said. “But you probably should have waited to reveal your knowledge of the spying until we could try tracing the signal.”

“And another thing . . .” Mike’s mother said in the background, still talking to the camera.

Mike said to the agent, “I did trace it. I pinged the IP address, then followed it through six countries. The signal disappears behind a mega firewall, probably as good as what you have at the FBI.”

Mike showed the two agents what he’d done, and they were impressed. A few minutes later an evidence team from the FBI arrived and Mike had to pull his mother away from the camera. “Time to get off the air, Mom,” he said.

Mrs. Danford kept yelling at the camera, even as Mike pulled her into the kitchen. “You should be ashamed of yourselves!” was the last thing she yelled.

An hour later, the evidence team had removed all the spy gear, and reported there were no fingerprints, and that the units were cheap items that could be bought in any store.

“Gives me the creeps,” Josh said.

“Our home has been violated, Josh,” Mr. Danford replied. “I doubt any of us will feel quite normal for a while. But God is still in control.”

“I just don’t understand why someone would want to spy on us,” Mike said.

“Probably has something to do with your submarine,” Agent Lockhart answered. “Maybe the Kirovians are back and want to see what you’re up to.”

No one had any answers, though, and the FBI packed up their equipment. “We electronically swept the entire house,” Lockhart said, “and are positive you found all the bugs. Just keep your doors locked from now on.”

It was later that night, as Mike lay awake on his bed and Josh lay awake on the floor, that Josh said, “I feel like I’m still being watched.”

“I know what you mean,” Mike answered in the dark. “My brain knows the FBI ripped out all the cameras, but my emotions won’t believe it.”

A moment later Josh gasped in the dark. “Mike! I just realized! Whoever was eavesdropping on us this afternoon heard us talking about . . . rabbits. But we didn’t use the word ‘rabbit’”.

“You’re right.” Suddenly Mike felt sick to his stomach. What if whoever was watching them revealed Mike’s secret? He’d be the laughingstock of the whole school. And town..

“You know if word gets out you think you saw Bigfoot the whole school’s gonna laugh at you.”

“Like I hadn’t thought of that,” Mike said. “But I’m more concerned about why someone bugged our house in the first place. It’s scary.” Mike was quiet for a moment, then added, “Maybe this is one of those times we’re supposed to trust God.”

Both boys were silent for several minutes, then Josh finally answered. “I think you’re right. If someone really wants to get us, there’s absolutely nothing we can do to stop them.”

“Exactly,” Mike said. “Which means that only God can protect us. Makes me feel better knowing He’s there.” Then he reached down and grabbed his friend’s shoulder. “How about we pray?”

Without answering, Josh started a prayer asking God to give them peace and comfort. A few minutes later, both boys were asleep.

When Mike got up the next morning he forgot that Josh was sleeping on the floor and stepped on him. Mike lost his balance, Josh yelled in surprise, and Mike hit the floor with a loud THUD.

“That’s a nasty alarm clock you’ve got,” Josh said, rubbing his ribs.

“Why won’t you let us put a bed in here for you?” Mike asked for the millionth time as he rubbed his own elbow. The Danfords had been offering to put a second bed in Mike’s room for years, but Josh didn’t want it.

“I keep telling you,” Josh said, “I like the floor!”

An hour later both boys were showered and breakfasted. After school they were back in Mike’s room. “So what’s up today?” Josh asked.

Mike looked at his friend with a strange smile.

“Oh no!” Josh groaned, falling back on Mike’s bed. “That look always ends up getting me in trouble!”

“You’ll like this one,” Mike said.

“You always say that!” Josh retorted.

“Well, this time it’s true. Listen, it came to me just before I went to sleep last night,” Mike said. Josh sat up slowly and couldn’t hide the non-excitement in his face. “You know that . . . rabbit . . . I saw?” Josh nodded. “We need to go up in the mountains and find it.”

“We already talked about that. Twice.” Josh said. “It’s too high, too cold, and too big an area to search.”

“Exactly. So what we need is a way to get up there safely, stay warm and cozy, and have everything necessary to survive, but also to track a . . . rabbit.”

“Uh ohhhh,” Josh said with a frozen face. “I think I see where you’re going with this.”

“Where?” Mike asked.

“You really wanna buy a snow cat, don’t you?”

“Well, I did want to buy one,” Mike answered with a grin. “But I finished looking them up on the Web while you were showering, and there’s a problem.”

“I know I’m not going to like this,” Josh groaned again. “What’s the problem?”

“Well, buying a snow cat that can take us into the highest part of the mountain under the worst possible weather conditions is the obvious solution.”

“Sounds easy enough,” Josh said. “What’s the catch?”

“We can’t,” Mike said. “Buy one, I mean. I’ve been to the website of every company that makes snow cats, but none of them will work. They’re all too small or only made for grooming ski runs and stuff like that. They’re not meant for living in the mountains for days or weeks, or for doing research.”

“I say again,” Josh said, getting more suspicious by the moment, “what’s the catch?”

“The catch is, we’ll have to build our own.”

Josh flopped back on the bed again. “I think it’s time for me to find a new best friend.”

“Come on! It’ll be fun!” Mike poked his friend in the side. “You haven’t gotten to weld anything since we finished the Jonah’s articulating arm!”

Josh sat up and sighed. “Okay, no use arguing. Let’s make a list of specs.”A moment later he added, “It’s not like we haven’t done it before, and it’s gotta be easier than a submarine!”

“My thoughts exactly,” Mike said. He pulled up his laptop and started making a list of specifications. “It has to be completely self-sufficient for at least three weeks,” he said, typing that first on the list.

“And it has to have a refrigerator,” Josh said. Mike threw a pillow at him, but then typed in “refrigerator.”

An hour later, the boys had compiled a list of over two hundred features the snow cat would need in order to do the job, including bunks, a kitchen, a rack of scientific equipment, and all the comforts of home. Among the many other items were a computer full of topographical maps, another with photos and sounds of every known animal, and a chainsaw for cutting up trees that have fallen across their path.

“Won’t the diesel engines make a lot of noise?” Josh asked.

Mike thought for a moment. “Good point. We can’t very well sneak up on rabbits if we’re making more noise than a train.” He thought for a moment more, then erased “Twin Diesel Engines” from the list and typed in new information. “Instead of a standard diesel rig, we’ll use twelve independent, synchronized electric motors,” he explained to Josh as he typed.


“Sure,” Mike answered. “All we need is an atomic reactor to generate the electricity.”

Josh stared at Mike. “I don’t think the government is gonna let a couple high school guys buy blocks of plutonium.” Both boys knew that atomic reactors use very dangerous radioactive materials, such as plutonium, to heat water into steam and then convert that to electricity.

Mike laughed. “Just kidding. We’ll use a couple tons of batteries like we did in the Jonah, and add some solar panels.”

Josh relaxed. “That I can live with.”

For the next week the two friends spent every spare minute they had working on the design for the “snow cat.” They designed at school, during lunch, designed after school, before youth group on Wednesday night, and after finishing their homework the other nights. They designed after Mike got off work at the marina.

Even though Mike was making lots of money from the sale of his submarine design, most of that money went into a bank account and Mike’s parents insisted he still work for his day-to-day expenses like burgers with friends. “I won’t have you turn out like Keith Little,” Mike’s mom had told him. She had once done a story on the boy who became a famous singer with millions of dollars by the time he was thirteen. “He was an absolute spoiled brat, just because he had money he didn’t even really work for.”

Mike didn’t mind at all, though, since he really loved working at the marina.

By the time Mike and Josh finished they had designed a long snow-cat in three segments. Each segment would start with the frame of a city bus. “We can just buy a bus without wheels or seats or anything,” Mike had told his friend. “Then add the snow tracks where the wheels would go.” Josh thought that was a great idea.

Instead of a big, heavy engine, each of the twelve snow tracks would have its own electric motor, all synchronized by a computer so they’d run at the same speed.

The three sections would be tied together with two accordion joints, again like a long city bus. This would allow the cat to turn around tight corners and between trees. “Those things creep me out,” Josh said. “Every time I get stuck sitting in that accordion thing it’s like the front half of the bus is going one direction and the back half is going in another!”

Mike laughed. “Well then, you’ll really love that we have three sections going different directions!”

Josh rolled his eyes, held his stomach with both hands, and began moaning like he was going to throw up. “I think I’m seasick already,” he said with puffed out cheeks.

“If you can survive depth charges in the Jonah without getting seasick,” Mike said, “I think you’ll do okay in a snow cat going five miles an hour over solid ground.”

“Five miles an hour?” Josh looked up, shocked, and no longer pretending motion sickness. “Is that all?”

“That’s fast on the snow,” Mike answered. “That’s probably about our top speed on flat ground. When we’re climbing through the wilderness it’ll be much less than that.”

“I guess that’s okay,” Josh said with a shrug. “We’ll be there to research, not race.”

The final plan showed the three sections separated by the two accordion modules. The front section held the driver’s seat, with monitors for video cameras, radar, sonar, and other tracking and recording equipment.

The second module was the research lab, with everything from microscopes to snowshoes, computers full of data, and evidence collection and analysis equipment.

In the last module was the living quarters, with a small bathroom, shower, kitchen, and bunks, and behind that a garage for two snowmobiles. These were included to allow the boys to go places the bigger snow cat couldn’t reach.

All together the three sections were sixty feet long, the length of a long semi-trailer.

“As long as there’s a huge refrigerator, a microwave, and a dishwasher,” Josh said as Mike drew. “I know you – you never think about food!”

“And it’s all you think about!” Mike laughed. But then he erased the small cooler he’d drawn in and changed it to a full-size refrigerator.

After a week of work the boys had finished plans and celebrated by going to the rec center with Jessica and Cindy. The four swam, played two-on-two volleyball which the girls won, and climbed the rock wall. “It feels good to be doing something instead of sitting behind a computer,” Mike said.

The next day was Friday and Mike decided they were ready to propose the plans to Mike’s parents. They met with them right after dinner, and revealed their ideas. Mike knew this was just a formality – if his parents had said ‘yes’ to building a submarine, what possible reason would they have to say ‘no’ to a snow machine?

“I’m sorry, Mike, it’s a ‘no’,” Mike’s Dad said twenty minutes later. “This just isn’t a good idea. I can’t approve this.”

Mike and Josh sat at the kitchen table staring at Mike’s parents in shock.

“What do you mean?” Mike asked, his voice scratchy.

“I mean just what I said,” his father answered. “I can’t approve of you building this machine. It’s not safe . . .”

“It’s a GREAT design!” Mike shouted, cutting off his father. “We’ve thought of everything! Including a kitchen sink!”

“About that sink . . .” Mike’s father started to say, but again Mike cut him off.

“We NEED this snow cat! We’ll never find the s. . .” Mike almost said “Sasquatch” but Josh gave him a warning look, “. . . the snow fox without it!”

“Well, I’m not sure why it’s so important to find a snow fox,” Mike’s father continued, “but you won’t be doing it in this machine. The . . .”

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