The bitumen of the old road dies a natural death, petering out to a deeply rutted dirt track, clogged with tall, browning grasses and weeds. They close in around us, quickly, obscuring the view both forward and to the sides. Only the path behind us remains open.
Brennan downshifts, and we slow to a crawl.
“You’re sure this is the way?” he asks as we splash into a deep puddle, throwing water up and out into the meadow with a loud hiss. “This road hasn’t been used in months.”
“I don’t know,” I reply and shrug. “She seemed pretty clear about the directions . . . . Maybe they just don’t like company—she did seem to think they were a little . . . odd.”
He glances at me then back to the . . . track. “I hope you’re right. It’s going to be—”
“Stop!” I yell, and at the same moment he slams on the brakes. We slide to a stop, just short of a wire gate, closed across the track, almost entirely hidden in the weeds.
“Shit,” he breathes.
I glance around and spot a very old wooden sign, just off to the right of the gate. “Look,” I say and point. No trespassers. And, just below it, Beware of Dogs.
“I think this might be the right place.”
I open my door and climb out, reaching to avoid a slimy-looking mud puddle, then slog to the gate. The air smells heavily of rotting vegetation, and something else.
“It’s locked,” I call back to him when I see the chain. “Heavy steel—no way we can open it. Just a sec—I need to check something.”
I glance down the track, but it’s deserted. I peel off my shirt and toss it on the bonnet of the car, then start unlacing my shoes.
Brennan leans out of the window. “What the hell are you doing?”
Stupid question. “I’m horny—I want to fuck you. Isn’t it obvious?”
He watches me cooly as I toss my shoe and sock up on the car, then start on the other.
“I can smell something, all right? Old urine, I think. I’m going to check it out.”
“You’re serious,” he replies, raising an eyebrow.
“Got any better ideas?”
He doesn’t reply, but slides back into the car. I finish undressing and change.
Definitely urine. From several people. All of them big. Even the females. All of them strong and healthy, too. Sheep eaters, I think. A loud announcement—a threat, even.
And so much more effective than a little wooden sign.
There’s a trail, too, off to the right.
I change back.
“You ever met this Dugan,” I ask, suddenly wanting to be anywhere else.
He shakes his head and leans out the window again. “No. Why?”
“Nothing. This is definitely the place.
“Leave the car. Looks like we’re going in on foot.”
I nod my head back, over my shoulder. “There’s a trail. Smells like the way in.”
“You’re sure about this?” he asks as he opens the door. It’s oddly comforting that I’m not the only one with doubts.
“Not even remotely. But we’re here, so what else are we going to do.”
He wades over to me, but I shake my head.
“We’d better leave the clothes in the car.”