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Hell to Pay

by Jim Courter

About the Author: Jim Courter is a writer and emeritus writing instructor at Western Illinois University, a Pushcart Prize nominee, and a winner of an Illinois Arts Council award for short fiction. His short stories have appeared in Aethlon, Downstate Story, Eureka Literary Magazine, Mississippi Valley Review, Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine, Shooter Literary Magazine, and the online journals Big Pulp, and Eastown Fiction, among other places. His novel, Rhymes With Fool, featuring Milwaukee private eye Barry Pool, is due out next year from Peasantry Press.


Neil Brody pulled the bill down on his park ranger cap to shade his eyes from the sun as it edged over the east rim of hills around the campground. Between the bright sunlight and the old man’s rambling, he was having trouble concentrating and getting the facts straight.

“Pure luck and chance is what it was,” the old man said for at least the third time. “Somebody coulda got killed, and that somebody coulda been me or my missus. Or the both of us.”

“I’m glad that didn’t happen,” Brody said.

The old man kicked at the dented hubcap near his feet. Brody looked over at the camper. From the skewed angle of the rear wheel, Brody guessed that the wheel mount, and maybe the axle, had been bent, and that the camper would need major repair before it could be driven again.

The boulder that had done the damage sat nearby; it was roughly spherical and about two feet across at its widest. Brody estimated its weight to be at least five-hundred pounds. It had come to rest on the grass in the campsite, out of the way of foot or vehicular traffic, and it might have passed for a decorative addition to the landscape. From where he stood, Brody could see a line of flattened grass that aligned with an abrasion across the asphalt lane and more flattened grass in the median strip. That line extended led to the steep, rocky hill on the other side of the campground from where he and the old man stood.

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