Jim Baen's Universe 1 Vol 1 Num 1: June 2006



Download 2.29 Mb.
Page6/34
Date conversion19.02.2016
Size2.29 Mb.
1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   ...   34

Bob's Yeti Problem


Written by Lawrence Person
Illustrated by David Maier


 

One morning Bob Krusden stepped outside his cabin to discover three yeti carcasses embedded in his front yard.



He was pretty sure they were yeti rather than bigfeet, as their pelts were a handsome silver-white rather than brown. Two of them were semi-naked, wearing only some sort of weird loincloth and bandoleer arrangement, while the third wore what seemed to be a dull brown uniform. All three were suffering from what Bob had learned to describe, during his three seasons writing for St. James Street, as "massive blunt trauma." Two were planted face down a good half-foot into the pine-needle covered loam outside his cabin, and the one in uniform seemed to have come down on top of the others. All three had broken limbs and were surrounded by copious quantities of dried blood.

Bob was, to say the least, surprised. Though it had been getting close to dusk, he was sure there had been no dead yeti in front of his cabin when he had come home from his afternoon hike the day before. From the looks of things, they had fallen from a great height sometime during the night without him waking. That didn't surprise him. Trish, his ex-wife, had always said he could sleep through an air-raid siren. Certainly he had slept through her loading up their downstairs furniture and leaving divorce papers on the pillow.

When he had rented the cabin for the summer, he was pretty sure the real estate agent hadn't mentioned any yeti, dead or otherwise. Moreover, the fact that yeti were generally thought of as mythological creatures, and ones native to the Himalayas rather than the Rockies, merely heightened the odd nature of the situation.

Bob wondered what to do. He had come up to Colorado to spend time cranking out screenplays far from Hollywood's clamoring Babel, and had already finished two with a third in progress. Dealing with cyrptozoological remains wasn't part of the plan.

He finally decided to head on into town. Ed might know if anything like this had happened before and who he should contact. Besides, he was out of cornflakes.

* * *


Bob pulled up in front of Ed's General Store, Hunting Emporium and Internet Café. Ed Ridley was a man of many talents, most of which involved avoiding real work. The general store portion of the business offered staples at only moderately usurious prices, while the hunting supply portion sold lures, bait, ropes, hand-warmers, ammo, etc. for a good three to five times what you would pay at your local sporting goods store. The Internet café consisted of four Formica tables with old, battered iMacs hooked up to a landline upload and satellite download for a princely $10 an hour (one hour minimum), mostly for hunters who wanted to send E-mail or check their stocks. But these days Ed's biggest cyberspace venture was swapping deer and elk leases online, leaving the store's actual grunt work to his sullen teenage son, Mike, who was busy stocking cans of beans when Bob came in.

"Hi, Mike," said Bob. "Nice day today."

"Yeah, whatever," said Mike, not looking up.

Ed nodded at him from the counter as he passed, cradling his phone with his shoulder and typing into his laptop with the other. "Three for Saturday night? Yeah, I think I can arrange that," he said.

Bob drifted around the shop, picking up a box of cornflakes, a gallon of milk, a dozen eggs, a loaf of bread, a can of Folgers, and a four-pack of toilet paper. By the time he brought it up to the register, Ed was off the phone.

"That'll do ya?" asked Ed, running a scanning wand over the items.

"Yeah. Say, Ed, you ever see any yeti up these parts?"

"Yeti?" he asked uncertainly.

"Yeah, you know, yeti, abominable snowmen, bigfoot . . ."

"Oh. Bigfoot! Yeah, we had ourselves a little bigfoot boom down in Silverton around 1977, 1978 or so, whenever they had that bigfoot on The Six Million Dollar Man. Since then I can't really recall too many sightings. Most of our crazies see saucers or black helicopters these days."

"Well, I don't think I'm crazy, but this morning I found three dead yeti out in front of my cabin."

Ed stopped scanning. "Yeti?"

"Yeah."

"Three of 'em?"



"Yeah."

"Dead?"


"Oh, yeah. Looks like they had fallen a long way before smacking into the ground."

Ed scratched his head, then finished bagging Bob's groceries. "Can't say as I ever heard about anyone finding any dead bigfoots around here."

"Well, I think these are more yeti than bigfoot. They've got silver pelts."

Ed nodded sagely, as though anyone knew what color yeti pelts were. "Well, I'd tell you call Sheriff Parker, but he's in Pueblo getting his gallbladder out. That'll be $18.46."

Bob fished a twenty out of his wallet. As Ed was making change he had another thought. "Say, do you suppose yeti are an endangered species?"

"I would suppose so, since no one ever found a dead one before."

"Well, maybe you better talk to the EPA then. I've got a card from one in Denver, a Melissa Speed. She handed 'em out when she was poking around here about that spitting tree spider thing." Ed tore off his receipt and wrote the phone number down on the back. "Here, you might give her a call and see what she thinks."

Bob laid the groceries on the floorboard and fished his phone out of the Explorer's glove compartment. He kept it there for the same reason he had erased the Internet software from his laptop: so he could actually get some work done. He deleted the waiting phone spam and dialed the number Ed had given him.

"EPA field office, Melissa Speed speaking."

"Uh, Ms. Speed, I have a problem, and I'm not sure if you're the right person to talk to." He started outlining the situation.

"Yeti?" she interrupted. "This better not be a prank call! We can trace your phone number, you know!"

"No, it's no prank! I've got three dead yetis in front of my cabin, and I don't know what to do."

After Ms. Speed warned him that she could have him in jail so fast it would make his head spin for filling a false report, she had finally agreed to drive down that afternoon.

As he drove back to the cabin, Bob felt a sense of relief that the whole incident was going to be resolved soon. It had occurred to him that he could have sold the story to the National Enquirer, but Bob hated the tabloids, having seen them lie about a few of his acting friends. He was also wary of any publicity for himself rather than his screenplays. Bob was short, overweight, balding and wore glasses, and knew he looked horrible on camera. The few times he had appeared on TV (right after his first, as thus far only, Oscar nomination), he was surprised at how unpleasantly nasal his voice sounded. When you came right down to it, he was a moderately shy person, and the idea of appearing on Dateline or the evening news filled him with a certain low-key terror.

However, his sense of relief was short-lived. When he got back to his cabin, he saw that there were now four dead yeti in his front yard.

* * *


Speed was a frumpy, overweight woman with frizzy brown hair and the deeply ingrained frown of the Permanently Disapproving.

"This better not be a wild goose chase, Mr. Krusden!" she warned, eyeing him suspiciously. "Where are these three yeti you talked about?"

"Uh, four, actually, and—"

"Four? You told me there were three! Did you kill another one?"

"No, uh, I didn't kill any of them. This one seems to have fallen from the sky like the rest."

"Fallen from the sky? Do you really expect me to believe that?"

"And I dragged the bodies over here to the side of the cabin so I could get in without having to walk around them. Plus they were starting to smell."

"Don't you know what sort of—" Speed stopped, looking at the four dead yetis laid out by the side of Bob's cabin, then slowly reached down to touch one of them. After a few minutes of pulling at their hair and opening their glazed eyes, she stood up.

"They are yeti, aren't they?"

"Yeah, that's pretty much what I was trying to tell you."

"I need to take a Haldol," she said.

* * *


It took Bob a few minutes to brew coffee, during which Speed raged into her phone at various other government functionaries, barking orders and making demands. When the coffee was ready, Bob handed her a mug.

"Thanks," she said briskly, swallowing a pill and chasing it with the coffee. "Without my Haldol, I get unpleasant." She went back to her phone. "No I don't want him to call me tomorrow, I want him to call me right now!"

After another twenty minutes of haranguing other bureaucrats and pacing back and forth across his cabin floor, Speed finally rang off and put her phone away. "Well, that's finally settled," she said. "The FBI will be here to secure the scene in an hour or so."

"Secure the scene?"

"An endangered species is being slaughtered right under my very nose!" she said. "You can be sure there's not going to be another yeticide on my watch! Which is why you'll have to vacate this cabin "

"What? I've still got more than a month's rent paid on it!"

"That's your problem, Mr. Krusden, not mine. My problem is protecting biodiversity, which is why I'm having the forest around this cabin declared a sanctioned protection zone. You should just be glad that I don't charge you as an accessory to an environmental felony. You have ten minutes to pack up and leave!"

Speed stalked out of the cabin and slammed the door behind her.

Bob looked around the cabin in dismay. How the hell was he supposed to get everything packed in ten minutes?

Suddenly, from outside the cabin, there was a deep-throated cry, soon joined by a woman's scream, both of which were cut off by a loud, wet WHUMP.

Bob opened the door to find out that Speed had been crushed by yet another falling yeti.

* * *


"Mr. Krusden, do you know what the penalty is for killing an agent of the federal government?" asked Agent Rollins.

"Look, I did not kill Ms. Speed. She just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time."

"That's what you say. We have not ruled out foul play in Ms. Speed's death, and we still consider you a suspect."

"She was crushed by a yeti."

"Even if that is the case, we can't necessarily rule out that you used the yeti as an instrument of murder."

"Do you think I've got secret catapult or yeti-firing cannon out behind the cabin?"

"Never underestimate the devious byways of the criminal mind."

"Don't you think that's a little crazy?"

"Crazier than yeti falling out of the sky?"

He had a point.

Two hours after Ms. Speed's demise, two FBI agents had shown up at the cabin and had become quite perturbed at the most recent turn of events. Now Agent Hernandez was busy examining the bodies while his partner questioned Bob.

Hernandez walked up, shaking his head. "It certainly looks like she was killed by a falling yeti."

Bob spread his hands. See?

"And the others?" asked Rollins.

"It looks like they fell too. You can still see the indentions in the loam."

"Are you sure they're yeti?"

"Heck if I know. I've never seen one before. But they ain't guys in funny suits."

"That's aren't guys in funny suits. You're an FBI agent now, Hernandez. We speak proper English. And don't say 'heck.'"

"Yes, sir. Sorry, sir."

Just then another SUV pulled up and two men climbed out, one of them carrying a camcorder.

"Oh, great, just what I need," groused Rollins, moving off to intercept them.

"Tightass," muttered Hernandez under his breath.

"Rollins, FBI," he said, flashing his badge, "This is a crime scene, you'll have to leave immediately!"

"Agent Rollins, Dan Parker, FOX-31 News. Is it true that this cabin is the sight of a bigfoot killing spree?"

"No, it's not, and get that camera out of here!" he said. The cameraman kept filming the FBI agent for a moment, then panned to take in the dead yeti on top of Speed.

"How many people has the murderous bigfoot killed so far?"

"Only one! No, strike that! No comment! How the hell did you hear about this anyway!?"

"Oh, you came through loud and clear on the police scanner! We were out doing a spitting tree spider story when word came across, but nine or ten other news crews are on their way."

"I said, get that camera out of here! This is a crime scene! Do you want to be arrested?"

Parker shut off his microphone for a moment. "Oh, could you? Please? That would look so cool on my resume!" He turned the microphone back on. "Agent Rollins, before arresting me, you should know that this audio and video is being fed live to FOX-31's web site, but if you need to do your duty, so be it."

Rollins muttered something under his breath as he walked away and pulled out his phone.

"Sir, are you the owner of this cabin?" asked Parker, sticking the microphone in Bob's face. Bob looked uncomfortable and unconsciously sucked in his gut.

"Uh, not the owner, the renter."

"And your name?"

"Uh, Bob Krusden."

"And your profession?"

"Uh, I'm a screenplay writer."

"And did you witness the murderous bigfoot attack?"

"Uh, well, actually it's more of a yeti than a bigfoot."

"Yeti?"


"Yeah. You can tell by the silver pelt. And it wasn't really an attack, it just fell out of the sky."

"Fell out of the sky?"

"Yeah, like the other four."

"Four?"


Bob pointed and the cameraman bounded over to the side of the cabin to film the other dead yeti.

"Mr. Krusden, how can we believe that five bigfoots—"

"Yeti."

"That five yeti just fell out of the sky?"



"Hey, now I remember!" said Hernandez suddenly. "Bob Krusden! You wrote the script for Autumn Light, right?"

Bob smiled. "Yeah, actually I did! How did you know that?"

"I knew your name sounded familiar! Yeah, there's an excerpt from that in Mastering Screenplay Basics! I've always wanted to be a screenwriter! See, I've got this idea for a script about these two FBI agents. One of them's cool, but the other is really a tightass—"

"But back to the yeti, what the public wants to know—"

At that moment, they all heard a loud, guttural cry, and turned just in time to see another yeti plowing into the ground.

Finally, Bob had an idea. He pulled out his phone.

"Ed's General Store, Hunting Emporium and Internet Café, how may I help you?"

"Hi Ed, this is Bob. Listen, I wanted to see if you had some things in stock . . ."

* * *

Night had fallen, but the area in front of the cabin was brightly lit by an array of floodlights. Bob, Agent Hernandez, Ed, and Mike were busy tying the last of the lines in Bob's makeshift net. Rope, bungie cord, several hunting slings and a couple of real nets were tied to several pine trees and the top of the cabin's porch some ten feet off the ground. Between the ropes and the lights, Bob had ended up putting more than a thousand dollars on his Visa card, all of it at Ed's exorbitant prices. When Bob had pointed out that his business would probably quintuple after tourists got wind of the yeti story, Ed had generously knocked off five percent.



"Is that end tight?" asked Bob.

"Yeah, whatever," said Mike, already climbing down the ladder.

Bob carefully walked across the makeshift net and back, uncomfortably aware of the dozens of cameramen filming his every move. There were now a good fifty to sixty reporters milling around outside the FBI's tape barrier, all covering "The Great Yeti Mystery" and all being scowled at by Agent Rollins. Rollins hadn't been wild about Bob's idea, but hadn't been able to think of anything better.

Though it shifted alarmingly under his feet, Bob was reasonably sure the net would at least break the next yeti's fall, assuming another one came tumbling. Bob carefully climbed down, waved off a batch of shouted questions, and stepped into his cabin to grab a cup of coffee. While it was brewing he checked his phone calls. Twenty-two requests for interviews, two more friends and an ex-girlfriend calling to say they had seen him on the news, his agent Sid calling with the latest offers for the movie rights to his story, and his mother, asking why he couldn't wear some nice pants for the cameras instead of those ratty old jeans. He called Sid.

"Bob, you're golden! Sony's upped the offer to $750,000!"

"Creative control?"

"No, they're balking at that. They say they're not sure you have the proper perspective to do the story right. They think the protagonist needs to be a beautiful, twenty-something half-Native American veterinarian who's capable of speaking to the spirits of the dead yeti."

"Of course they do. That's why you're going to tell them No. Call back when they're willing to offer two million and creative control."

"Well Bob, you're the man! But are you sure they'll go that high?"

"Wait until we capture a live yeti." He rung off and stepped back outside.

Bob looked up at the net. One of the strands Mike had tied seemed to be loose. Bob picked up the ladder and moved it to the next tree, painfully aware of the cameras capturing his every move. Upon closer inspection it was coming loose, but there wasn't enough rope left at the end to loop it around the tree again.

"Do we have any more rope down there?" he asked.

 

 

Before anyone answered, there was another guttural scream as another yeti fell, this one straight into the ropes. The makeshift net bowed in the middle, almost touched the ground, then held and rose back up, sending the ladder tumbling to the ground in the process. Bob grabbed the edge of net nearest him, then, with some difficulty, pulled himself up.



Dozens of live camera feeds captured the sight of the new yeti scrabbling to its feet in the netting, shielding its eyes against the floodlights' glare, fearful and disoriented. It seemed to be wearing the same brown uniform as the last few yeti and it carried some sort of flashlight. It let out another long cry.

Bob got unsteadily to his feet, unsure what to do next. "Uh, hi there!" he said, raising his hands, then wondering if that would really be seen as a peaceful gesture. The yeti turned to look at him, then slowly backed away.

Bob edged closer, painfully aware of the fact that the yeti probably weighed a good two hundred pounds more than he did. "Hi there! My name is Bob," he said, lowering one hand and pointing to himself.

The yeti made no reply, its gaze darting back and forth between Bob, the ground, and the assembled crowd. It was a good thing they had moved all the dead yeti back behind the cabin.

"My name is Bob," he repeated, still pointing at himself.

The yeti zeroed in on him.

"Bob!" he said again, still pointing.

The yeti seemed to get the idea. It pointed a finger at him and growled "Brrraaaab."

"Yes, that's right!" said Bob, nodding his head and edging closer. "My name is Bob," he said, pointing at himself again, "and your name is . . ." he said pointing at the yeti.

"Yawragrowroh!" said the yeti pointing at himself.

"Yahhgrawow," said Bob, pointing at the yeti.

"Yawragrowroh!" said the yeti, then it stiffly mimicked Bob's nodding.

Bob nodded in return. "Nice to meet you, Yawragrowroh" he said, slowly and carefully extending his hand to the yeti. Yawragrowroh looked at the hand for a moment, then, under the glare of a hundred camera flashes, cautiously reached out and grasped it.

* * *


"Are you there, Bob?"

"Yeah, Sid, I got you on the speakerphone."

"How about the Y-Man?"

Yawragrowroh growled in assent.

"What's the score?" asked Bob.

"Sony bailed at two million, but ViaDream's willing to go two point five mil, plus a one percent contingent compensation gross kicker when it exceeds one hundred sixty million."

"Crrrrrreeeeeeaaaative?" asked Yawragrowroh.

"Wellll, sorta," said Sid. "They're willing to give you 'substantial' script consultation, but no final cut approval."

"Did they ditch the chase scene with the nuclear warhead?"

"Yeah, that's gone."

"How about the dinosaur attack?"

"Turns out Paramount is doing a 'Dinosaurs vs. Robots' movie next year, so they agreed to cut that as well."

"And just to make sure: I'm still not a hot Indian veterinarian psychic, right?"

"Well, not exactly, no. You're still a male Hollywood scriptwriter, but now the half-Native American veterinarian is your girlfriend."

" I wish. Who's going to play the girlfriend?"

"They're talking Reese Witherspoon with dyed skin."

Bob pounded his head ever-so-softly against the wall. "Does she still speak to the dead yeti?"

"Yeah."


"I can live with the girlfriend. But they have to drop the psychic crap. That's a deal breaker."

"Drrrreeeealbrrrreaaaker?"

"If you can live with the girlfriend, I think they'll budge on the psychic part."

"And if we can't get a real Indian, can we at least get a real brunette?"

"See what I can do. Oh, and they're also offering 'personal casting approval.'"

"Personal casting?"

"Yeah, just for the actors to play you two."

"Who do they want to play me?"

"Jason Alexander."

Bob sighed. "Yeah, I was afraid of that. Did they try Bob Hoskins?"

"He's playing the villain in a Jet Li film."

"I can live with Jason Alexander."

"Mrrrreeeeee?"

'For you they want Ben Affleck."

"RRRRRRRRRRAWWWWWWRRRRR!"

"Okay, I'm sensing a little resistance to the Affleck idea. Who would you prefer?"

"RRRRRReeebaaacaaa?"

"Sorry, Y. Peter Mayhew is in the hospital following a golf cart accident."

"Rrrraaaawww, crrrrraaap."

"Anyone else they have lined up?" asked Bob.

'Well, unofficially, they're saying George Clooney is up next after Affleck."

Yawragrowroh made his hopeful noise. "Goooood deaaal."

"No problem with the Feds?"

"Nah, now that the gate's up and running they've got dozens of live yetis to work with, and they're too busy hammering out an inter-dimensional trade agreement to worry about some movie deal."

"So we got it? We in agreement here?"

"Yeah, let's do it. Pull the trigger."

"Y man?"

"Rrrrrrroooock aaaand Rrrrrrrrroooollll!"

"All right! I'll get ViaDream to fax over the contracts. Hang onto your seats, gentlemen. I think this one could be a monster!"

* * *

1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   ...   34


The database is protected by copyright ©essaydocs.org 2016
send message

    Main page