Raw Meat of Revenge
By: Walter Giersbach

Erik Rasmussen showed me what grief can do to a quiet man. When his wife Betty died, Erik exploded at the funeral, "Doc, we had no more insurance. Betty's pills were costing us $120 a day. The price of her life went up 900 percent when the drug company was sold to a Wall Street group."

I'm a doctor. I knew what big pharma and the politicians were doing.

Erik went back to work as a wilderness guide. His outdoors skills made everyone in the Wallowa National Forest envious. And he didn't talk about Betty again.

His distraction from grief came when one of his clients urged him to invest in his rocket ship to riches. The client was buying startups, pumping them, stripping them bare, then declaring bankruptcy. Erik suddenly found a pipeline to God — or an insider.

The insider was James Cuthbertson, a billionaire venture capitalist. "Cubby" dropped into town every now and then to jaw with Erik, shoot a mountain goat or cougar, hit a bar and urge him to use Betty's bit of life insurance to get deeper into the market. Then Cubby would head back to New York.

I counted Erik as my best buddy. But Cubby was a batshit killer, flashing pictures of all the elephants he'd killed in Africa, white tigers in Asia and other trophies to prove it.

It was during the last stock market hiccup that Cubby's venture group went down the toilet. Erik stopped me at the gas station. "The Feds indicted Cubby for insider trading," he said. "Clients are disappearing faster'n a rat with a doughnut. Everything I invested has gone down the toilet."

Worse, it was in the papers that Cubby had bankrolled the drug company that had skyjacked the price on Betty's medication.

"Doc," he groaned two weeks later, "I'm down to eatin' beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I could kill that sumbitch for wiping me out."

"Hell, Erik, I'll grubstake you till the tourists come back for you to guide. That's what friends are for."

It was early spring when Erik mentioned Cubby was coming back to repay a little bit and shoot more trophies. Even though the golden boy was supposedly bankrupt he had to kill more animals for fun. I wished them good luck.

No more'n a week later an FBI guy showed up looking for Cubby and asking for Erik. He canvassed the bars and Erik's hangouts, which weren't many. The city boy was named Special Agent Johnson and came to my office like an undertaker in his dark suit and white shirt. He was on me like a dog with a bone. "Where's your pal at? He's going to be in a world of trouble."

I said, "Sorry, Erik said he's going to Portland."

Johnson yelled, "We found his pickup in the hills. We think your pal's doing a Rambo up there. Before he left, he was at the market buying loads of crap."

"Grub for camping probably."

"I want to know where he is. And, why would a hunting guide just buy catsup?"

I shrugged, wishing this guy would leave. "Maybe he was going to make a movie about vampires."

Johnson pulled up a posse, a helicopter and some tracking dogs to look for the billionaire crook and the guide.

We had two missing men. But one came back. Erik. Alone. Special Agent Johnson and his buddies were on him like crows going for road kill. The charge was murder. The motive, of course, was that Cubby had screwed Erik out of his life savings. The murder charges stuck, even though the police and feds couldn't produce a body. The Wallowa County prosecutor had to call Cubby's apparent murder a Class C felony. That might give Erik five years prison time down in Salem if he was convicted.

Erik's pro bono lawyer immediately started preparing his case. Yeah, I'm a sucker, but I put up the bondsman's 10 percent. What are friends for?

When Erik got paroled I told him to hang out with me and watch the ducks flying north again. After we'd emptied a couple bottles of Cascade Brewing's sour ale, he began to loosen up.

"Not much came out in the hearing," I said, inhaling the sweet scent of white pines. "What really happened?"

"You got no hidden microphones or stuff like that?"

"Erik, we've been friends since we fought over Judy Bristow in eighth grade!"

"Well, Cubby had a driver bring him up after he flew into Boise. We packed in about 10 miles, made camp…then I stuck a knife in his gizzard. Took him awhile to die."

I was speechless while he drained his beer and hooked another. I could see his pain, being really pissed on top of his grief over Betty's passing.

"Found he was carrying 12 thousand in cash. That'll get me through the summer."

This was a strange man spilling his guts, a man I thought I knew. "Just between you and me, Erik, where'd you bury him, or am I off limits asking?"

"No, no. Could've been a lotta places. An old Nez Perce brave once showed me a few caves no one would ever find. But the fact is, I hated Cubby so much I ate him. Then I pounded his leftovers to bone meal."

"You … ate him?"

Erik nodded. "He was the cannibal living off sick people. He tasted like chicken gone bad."

As a medical practitioner, I had to think about that one. "So that's why the FBI told me you didn't buy grub. Just catsup."

He looked at Venus rising in the dusk and the birds heading north against a crescent moon. "I may be spiteful, but I'm not evil. I had to use all dozen bottles of catsup to get Cubby down my craw. Those 12 ketchup bottles earned me a thousand apiece."

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