by W.F. Ranew
PI Red Farlow travels to Camp Ridgemont for Boys for a reunion with his summer camp friends. On arrival, he discovers two camp counselors in the woods, hacked to death. Red’s investigation soon widens with more mysterious deaths, one of them a close friend.
Far-right extremist Troy Unsworthy knows the hills and hollows after a lifetime of growing up in these mountains. Red soon learns all the victims are connected to Unsworthy in the years leading up to a deadly auto accident.
When he learns Unsworthy was released just before the counselors’ deaths, Red goes into the mountains. His trek requires sure-footedness over rocky terrain and old-growth forest as he explores caves with endless tunnels, shafts, and deep-water pools searching for his suspect.
But, did Unsworthy really murder these people, or should Red turn his attention to other suspects?
Red treads a treacherous path on his quest to find the killer and bring him to justice.
Death visited late in the day. I came upon the human tragedy the following morning.
Near Kitsuma’s summit, a steady breeze rustled trees and bushes hugging the mountainside. Spring in North Carolina meant comfortable temperatures during daylight. Standing there, I felt the night’s lingering chill.
Years had passed—fifty or more—since I’d tramped the mountain’s footpaths.
Two dozen of us searched the area late the previous evening but had gotten nowhere near the summit. We resumed our task along the rigorous trail on the Old Fort side well before dawn. . .
We covered areas unreachable in the previous night’s outing. Two hours later, I came upon the campground, forty yards down a side trail and near a cove of rhododendron and mountain laurel.
The scene’s horror struck deep, painted in strokes of surreal hues. The blood, in the dim light, bore a black pigmentation. One young man’s skin tone paled to a faint glow reflecting his orange rain parka.
Two light-green pup tents stood side by side. One caved in toward the back; the other seemed undisturbed.
I looked around for the second camp counselor. Raking the mountainside, my gaze focused on something resembling a yellow night safety vest. I made my way downhill.
Soon enough, I came across another grisly scene. The young man’s head cocked at a strange, unnatural angle as he sprawled belly down in the bushes and leaves. The blood wasn’t as apparent with him as the fluid had seeped into leaves and pine needles beneath him.
Something tilted out of his left hand—a cell phone.
W.F. Ranew is a former newspaper reporter, editor, and communication executive. He started his journalism career covering sports, police, and city council meetings for his hometown newspaper, The Quitman Free Press. He also worked as a reporter and editor for several regional dailies: The Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle, The Florida Times-Union, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Ranew has written two previous novels: Schoolhouse Man and Candyman’s Sorrow.
He lives with his wife in Atlanta and St. Simons Island, Ga.