The sound of breaking glass roused me from my slumber. Shapes were moving around out there in the dark, fleeting shadows and a low murmur of voices. Something inside told me not to move, to feign sleep until I could figure out what was going on.
There was a big floodlight in the parking lot next to my campsite and it cast enough light for me to make out four young men and one young woman standing not ten feet from where I lay. They didn’t look like the kind of people I’d want for neighbors. They were smoking weed and drinking beer out of paper bags. One of the young guys, a big brute in a sleeveless t-shirt, drained his bottle and then threw it hard against the sidewalk. The crash made me jump. Don’t draw attention, I thought, remember what happened to Frank...
As I watched the group’s dynamics, I was able to sort out the pecking order. The big brute in the sleeveless t-shirt was the leader. He was the biggest, rowdiest and loudest. He stood a bit over six feet, stocky, and had a close-cropped, skinhead haircut. His face, mean enough I was sure in daylight, took on an even more gruesome appearance in the cold, half-light of the mercury vapor floods. It looked like his nose had been broken a couple of times.
The woman, it was clear, was his property, and after breaking the bottle, he grabbed her by the arm and led her to the nearby glider swing. They sat in it and began swinging violently back and forth; pushing it far beyond its design parameters so that the sturdy steel poles supporting it rocked dangerously in their concrete anchors. After that got old, Sleeveless wandered over to the picnic table and began cutting into the top with a wicked-looking long-bladed hunting knife.
The other three men followed Sleeveless and stood around laughing at something he was carving in the wood. It took him a few minutes to finish, then, Sleeveless grabbed a paper bag/bottle from one of the other men, pushed him away, took a swig, and wiped his mouth on his arm. He was bored now and looking around for some other mischief to get into. His eyes seemed to lock onto my bicycle, which was lying on its side next to my tent. He stood up and looked right at me. A shudder ran down my spine. “Oh, Jesus,” I moaned, “here it comes…”