The elf nodded again. ”Yeah, I haven't seen anything myself. But you should check with those Mexican dudes. You know, the ones that hang out some nights by the mystic pools? They were kinda put out a few weeks back about something. You should check with them.”
“No problem. Want a hit?” The elf pulled a small wooden pipe out an inner pocket. Tosh shook his head.
“What about you, dude?” he asked me.
“No. But maybe next time, and it'll be on me,” I responded.
“Excellent!” he said. ”Come back soon, then!”
“Thanks,” said Tosh again, and crawled back out with me right behind.
Tosh started leading us up the hill deeper into the woods. ”Elves?” I asked him quietly.
Even in the dark I could see him grin. ”Elves,” he said. ”This is Elf Land. It's not for people live in; it's for people to hang out. Kind of a Tolkien-type place, if you know what I mean.” He waved his arm around. ”This whole section of the woods is full of little places like that, and the people who come here regularly hear a lot of stuff. Some of them crash at other places in the forest; some come here just to chill out or get stoned or even just to read or meditate or whatever. But a lot of folks who come here have been doing it for years, and notice a lot of things the campus cops miss. So it's a good place to get some info.”
He nodded. ”Actually, it's pretty cool. You’ll see. Too bad we’re here at night; it's nicer in the day, but still worth seeing now.” He nodded his head at the woods around us. ”People on campus who know about this place work hard to keep it nice.”
“That's really cool.”
“Yeah. Watch your step here; it's kind of tricky near here.” Tosh led us up a set of steps that were the natural result of a stepped series of redwoods and their roots, and running beside us were a series of round pools at each level, feeding one into the other. In spite of myself, I had to agree that it was pretty magical. Goofy and hippy, yes, but still magical. About halfway up, there was a clearing on the left. I heard low muttering. Not in English.
“Careful here; it slopes off pretty quickly and there's a little ravine off to the left there.”
“Just a little one,” Tosh said. I was not reassured, but stepped carefully. The voices stopped.
“Hola,” Tosh said. ”Estoy Tosh.”
“Hey, Tosh! ‘Esta usted?”
He looked over at me. ”It's Miguel. I know him, but his English is pretty broken, so I was hoping you could help.”
“Sure,” I said, feeling useful for a change. ”Tell me when.”
“In just a minute.” He slid over to several shapes huddled around another lantern. I guess fires were a no-no in Elf Land—this lantern was battery-powered. Sitting around it were several people—all men. Day workers, I guessed. They were smoking cigarettes and drinking Mexican sodas of some kind, from what I could see on the bottles.
“Miguel, esta mi amigo 'Zack',” Tosh said.
“Buenos dias, Zack,” Miguel said to me. He was a short man—easily 2-3 inches shorter than me—with sun-darkened skin, short black hair, and a dark mustache shot with a little grey. His dark brown or black eyes practically twinkled in the dark. I shook my head—I clearly had “elf” on the brain.
YOU ARE READING
A Study with SlugsMystery / Thriller
It is the early 1980s, and women are disappearing from the university campus in Santa Cruz, California, home of the Fighting Banana Slugs. The local police and state investigators are baffled, and so solving these crimes is left to a dope-smoking...