There were four of them, and they were going in two canoes. Robert (Rob) Snitzer with Caroline Rich in one canoe, Solomon (Solly) Cohen and Phyllis Snitzer (Rob’s sister and Solly’s girlfriend) in the other canoe. They were perfectly equipped and packed for their adventure, because Rob Snitzer had spent several summers as a wilderness tripper and teacher. All supplies were calculated to be ideal for four campers, each about twenty years old. They set their Magellan to recognize where they set out as ‘home’. After that, they could wander anywhere they wished, because the GPS would bring them right back to their vehicle.
They pushed off from the rocky shore of Whippoorwill Lake, the two girls in the bows of the two boats, and the guys were handling the stern responsibilities. It was mid-morning, and they planned to enjoy a shore lunch at Crayfish Point. The slight breeze across the water was blowing in their direction, so progress went well with a tail wind.
“You set the pace, Caroline,” Rob said as they began their steady paddle strokes. “I’ll match my pace to yours.”
“The same for you, Phyl,” Solly said.
With the easy pace established by the girls in their bow position, Solly and Rob were able to push the boats forward without much strain. After two hours at the comfortable pace, the rocky spit of land known as Crayfish Point came into view. This was as far as Rob had ventured in the past, when he’d taken five canoes full of camper kids on their outings. They had been travelling in familiar territory for the first two hours. From this point forward, they are going to go by instinct, and just choose river branches or marshland routes as they wish, on the spot.
They enjoyed a lunch of German sausages cooked on the open fire, with potatoes wrapped in aluminum foil, roasted in the coals. As they ate, they agreed upon which river branch they should follow. They cleaned up after lunch, securely packed their equipment and pushed off down the unknown channel.
The way was splendid. The river was wide enough for them to comfortably paddle alongside each other and chat. The river flowed very slowly between the wide banks, so progress was easy. The environment was breathtaking. The shoreline on both sides was covered with beautiful wildflowers and stands of huge weeping willow trees. In some places, the river bank was very high, dirt walls towering over the canoeists. In other places, there were thick reeds through which they paddled.
Just before evening, they found a good place to make camp, amid protective foliage at the water’s edge, where the river emptied into a large lake. The foursome decided to make camp to rest before the long paddle across the broad lake. Camp was made; supper of peameal bacon and scrambled eggs was prepared and served before the weary vagabonds entered their pop tents for the night. Rob and Caroline cuddled together in a double sleeping bag. Solly and Phyllis did not. Phyllis was not comfortable being intimate when her brother was a few feet away.
There was a trace of red sky across the western horizon when the natural cacophony of forest and water night sounds was interrupted by the sound of a small, single engine plane. It flew over them at tree top height and landed on pontoons the water. The four campers left their tents and watched the plane from behind foliage, in the fading light.
A door opened on the right side of the plane and a man stepped down onto a pontoon. He moved along the pontoon to a luggage hatch and opened it. The man looked very out of place in a remote forest area. He wore a pale grey suit, a loud tie and heavy city shoes. He reached in and pulled out what appeared to be a strong box. It was apparently heavy, because he did not move it easily. A chain was locked around the strong box and the chain led up into the baggage hatch.
The man reached into the hatch again and pulled a man half way out, who was apparently unconscious – or dead. As he dragged the limp man out through the hatch he pushed the strong box off the pontoon. The chain tightened and the end that was attached to the man dragged him out of the hatch, over the pontoon, and down into the depths.
“What are we gonna do?” Phyllis said.
“We’re gonna check that box out,” Solly said.
“Tomorrow, when the plane’s long gone,” Rob said.
(To be continued)