"On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God
and my country and to obey the Scout Law…
Hidden for decades in local woods lies a World War II munitions crate filled with bones. The gruesome discovery by a Boy Scout troop uncovers Satanic rituals and prompts questions about cults, Wiccan covens, and a murdered FBI agent.
"To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong…
Could young men led by a twisted scoutmaster be the hooded marauders terrorizing the woods? Can Grace count on the Scout Law to keep her safe as the cult chooses her for their next victim?
"mentally awake, and morally straight."
Read an Excerpt:
The shock-still silence grabbed my attention as no shout could have. Moments before, Robinson Woods had reverberated with the incessant noise only pre-pubescent boys made. I'd been a step-mom for only one month, but I'd grown up with four brothers. Throat gripping silence was never golden, rather a violent shade of purple, or a bright slash of crimson, but never golden.
Harry and I had arrived at Robinson Woods two hours ahead of the designated pick up time for scouts participating in Troop 265's community service project to clean up the woods. Since meeting Will for the first time last month, Harry had immediately taken to his newly discovered parenthood, unwilling to give up any time he could spend with his son. Our early arrival today marked another 'method to his madness,' as Harry thought he might be able to lend a hand since he'd been a Scout in the U.K.
We'd left the car near the troop trailer and walked into the woods. A few minutes later, deeper into the woods we heard the cheery shouts and yells of the boys happily scouring the ground for trash and treasure. Then silence.
"Put it down and move away," Edward Bantonini, the scout leader commanded. The two boys carefully lowered the hinged box they struggled to carry. The thick undercover of leaves accepted the box greedily as its shape settled into their mass. The arrival of the scouts, carrying the box between them, pallbearer style, had caused the abrupt silence.
The youngsters backed away toward the rest of the scouts who'd formed a semi-circle around their leader and the wooden crate.
"It's heavy, something's in there," one of the boys reported. His buddy nodded.
The box looked about four feet in length and eighteen inches in width. The leader motioned the group around to the other side. The whispers began, questioning the boys. "Where'd you find it? Did you look inside?" They grew silent as their leader knelt before the box.
I'd already thought of it in terms of a 'casket' and now my heart thumped against my ribs in anticipation. Most of me wanted him to call the Forest Preserve Police and turn it over to them, but that tiny part which usually lead me astray, wanted him to open the box now. Harry moved. I reached for his hand but he kept moving.
The scout leader stood when he saw Harry. His dark eyes registered recognition and he extended his gloved hand. "Mr. Marsden, right?"
"Yes, Harry Marsden." They shook hands. "My wife, Grace." I smiled at him and his open stare caught me off guard. Sometimes when people noticed my lavender colored eyes they stared a little, but his look stayed riveted to my face. I shifted to stand behind Harry who stepped forward. "Looks like an interesting item." Harry motioned. "Were you thinking of opening it now?"
The boys crept forward, anxious for the answer.
Edward Bantonini's face flushed. "I'd hate to call in the squirrel police to open a box of rocks. On the other hand, I'd hate to open something that could be dangerous or that would give these guys nightmares."
He showed a mix of mostly good sense with a modicum of hastiness. Of course, with Harry on the scene a second man could tip that scale.
"If your concern is something biological, the box isn't sealed and it's wood. If anything had been in there it would have leaked out by now." Harry brushed the debris from the top and used his handkerchief to clean off the written area. "The sides of the box look rotted enough to have been out here for ten years, but the markings on the top are even older."
Edward read aloud, "Property of the United States Army."
Comments of 'whoa', 'cool', and 'awesome' escaped from the scouts' mouths.
"This is a munitions crate from World War II. I don't believe there's any unexploded ordinance inside; possibly a few weapons and ammunition, which would be dangerous enough."
The boys stood slack-jaw, staring at Harry. I sensed a bit of showboating for the scout whose cornflower-blue-eyed stare never wavered from his father. One of the older boys, a Life Scout according to his insignia, stepped forward from the crowd. "Should I take the troop back to the trailer?"
The boys immediately shouted in protest, many faces turned to Harry as their leader in this adventure.
"That won't be necessary, thank you, Brad. I think Mr. Marsden and I can take a look and determine our course of action."
I pulled a length of yarn from my jacket pocket and braided three inches before identifying the dread pulling at my heart. I didn't want them to open it here, didn't want to run that risk. My thoughts had rejected munitions and headed directly to dead body. Since last year, my life gravitated to dead bones with a story to tell. I didn't have a good feeling about this crate. I prayed for guns.
"Those are the conditions. Anyone not clear on that?"
Edward Bantonini took the silence as a 'yes'. I'd missed the conditions, but the boys stepped back and tightened the group.
Harry and Edward stood on the far side, their backs to the boys. They pried the lid up at each end, preparing to lift it toward them, and carefully staying to the side. I walked toward the front of the crate. Harry motioned me behind him.
The lid lifted easily and both men held it at a forty-five degree angle to block the boy's view. I held my breath and leaned around Harry to look inside. It wasn't munitions.