Caleb awoke to a wet tongue licking his nose and face. He jerked and instantly opened his eyes. He stared into the gray eyes of a wolf. As the wolf backed up, he threw off the wet blanket. Afraid and shaking he couldn't believe this was happening.
Carefully standing up he turned and started running, desperately trying to escape from the wolf. When he looked back he saw the wolf running behind him. The boy tried running faster, but the wolf easily kept pace with him.
At the end of his breath, he emerged from an opening in the trees. He heard the wolf growling and looked back one more time to see the beast leaping at him. He felt its paws on his back, and he slammed to the ground, pressed by the full weight of the large animal. He tried moving, but the wolf snarled angrily. He looked for a stick or rock to use as a weapon, slowly reaching out in front. He found nothing: no sticks, no rocks, and no ground. He had almost run off the edge of a cliff. Feeling the weight on his back let up, he stole a glance back at the animal. It had disappeared.
Caleb opened his eyes to stare at the glowing orb of the sun rising between the trees. He was sweating, even in the cold dawn.
Thinking about his situation, he looked down at himself; at twelve he wore a dirty sweater, his hair uncombed and his fingernails grubby. It had been days since he had slept in a bed. He felt miserable.
Rolling up the blanket Caleb tied it with a string. It was the only thing he owned. Marching up the slope to the highway he tried to jump the ditch at the edge of the road but his foot slipped and slid down into the black muck at the bottom of the ditch. He narrowly avoided falling down and when he pulled his foot out of the muck, his shoe, held by the suction, came off. He carefully reached down to find the shoe and slowly pulled it loose. It was covered with muck.
Scrambling up the bank, he found a stick and started to scrape the smelly rotten black paste off of the shoe. He had to scoop it out of the inside with his fingers. Satisfied that he had done the best he could, he slid the shoe back on his foot and stood up to look at the road.
The road was devoid of traffic so the boy started to walk by the side. He just wanted to dry out. Hearing a commotion in the woods; he turned to see a small deer bound out of the trees and cross the road in a sheer panic. It passed right in front of him and in two hops it jumped the ditch and disappeared into the woods again.
The source of the deer's panic appeared when a large dog came charging out of the woods and across the road. It suddenly stopped and stared at the boy. It started sniffing the air while keeping a watch. The boy realized he was face to face with the big wolf of his dream. The wolf snarled a warning at him, then took off, continuing its chase of the deer.
The boy started walking again. It didn't take long before an old pickup truck slowed down and stopped across the road from him. The short stocky driver had a bulbous nose, and well muscled arms. The man asked, "Where are you going."
"West," mumbled the boy
"Get in. It's a long ways to anywhere around here."
The boy now beyond being hungry walked across the road to get a better look at the man. He seemed friendly enough, probably a farmer. The boy walked around the truck and opened the passenger door and climbed in. The truck was a mess.
The more the boy looked around the truck, the nastier it appeared to him, with half eaten moldy sandwiches on top of the dash and crumpled papers everywhere. He stared at a big handgun lying on the seat between them.
The man noticed the boy looking and said, "Pick it up if you dare."
Nervously the boy shook his head.
The little man grinned broadly, "You aren't afraid of a little gun, are you?"
"No." Suddenly afraid not to, the boy picked up the weapon with his fingertips. It seemed to weigh a ton.
"You want to try it?"
He held the weapon like it had been coated with sticky syrup, the boy again replied, "No."
The man shrugged his shoulders, "Suit yourself."
The boy gingerly put the gun back down on the seat.
They rode in silence for a half hour until they reached the outskirts of a town. The man asked, "You hungry, boy?"
The boy, startled, quickly replied, "No," although he hadn't eaten in two days. When they arrived at the center of the town, he announced, "I have to use the bathroom." He had to get away from the nasty little man.
The pickup stopped in front of a grocery store and the little man pointed, "They have one in the back of the store, and on the way out pick up some food. I'll be waiting out here for you."
"I don't have any money."
The man smiled, "I don't either. Just grab some food and run out. You aren't afraid of that are you?"
The boy felt trapped. Sure that the man would be waiting for him, and take it out on him if he didn't come out with food, he weakly said, "No, I'm not afraid."
The man grinned, "Good. I know we'll be crossing paths again."
The deputy sheriff grabbed the boy just outside of the grocery store. The boy had run out of the store carrying more than he could manage dropping it all while struggling to escape. He couldn't break the man's grip on his arm. His haul would have kept him from starving for two days.
The man in the pickup truck had disappeared.
The Adventures of a Boy Called Wolf
A Boy's Story
The boy trembled as he sat alone in the jail cell, fearful of what would happen next. Whatever happened, he knew it would be bad.
He knew he had big trouble. It was his fault and he would be punished. The deputy sheriff would soon return to send him back to the foster home. Or worse.
The boy knew what he had done bad, very bad, but he didn't think he had a choice. He had spent the last few dollars of his allowance on food three days before. When he was caught, he felt like what he imagined dying would be like. He wished he could just sink into the pavement. He completely forgot how hungry he had been.
The deputy led the boy to his office down the street and proceeded to interrogate the boy, but couldn't get any information out of him.
The boy had been questioned by the police before; he played it tough, keeping quiet. He knew that one word could expose him and where he had come from. It's too hard to keep a secret, so he kept his focus on the wall clock behind the deputy. He heard the deputy's words but he didn't let them sink in.
The deputy went easy on the boy and didn't press his questions. The interrogation ended quickly. "You know that if I don't return you to your home, I will have to call the state juvenile authorities."
The boy crossed his arms and kept quiet.
"The store owner is furious. He wants to slam you into jail, after giving you a hard spanking."
"Better that than being in a foster home," the boy snapped.
"So you do talk. Hi, my name is Ben." The deputy smiled and extended his right hand to shake but got no response from the boy. "Are you hungry? I am." He picked up the phone, called a Chinese restaurant, and ordered two meals. "Life is always better when you're full."
They waited in silence for about ten minutes before the food arrived. The deputy paid the delivery man, opened the bag and pulled out several containers of food, drinks and chopsticks. He slid two containers, a carton of milk and a bottle of grape juice, across the table to the boy. He opened up his containers, "Ha, I got the pork, which means you've got the chicken." The deputy started eating his meal with the chopsticks.
The boy made no move to eat until the man had half-finished with his meal. He couldn't stand it any longer and opened up his container. He started to reach in with his fingers when the deputy stopped him by clearing his throat. The man passed the extra chopsticks to the boy. The boy looked at them as if they were poison, "What do I do with these?"
"Why, you eat with them." The deputy returned to his meal.
The boy tried to hold the sticks the right way to pick up a piece of chicken. The sticks kept twisting in his hand and the chicken would drop back into the container. He kept trying but made little headway until he finally managed to get a piece to his mouth.
The deputy took pity on the boy and retrieved a fork from a drawer and gave it to him.
The boy gave the deputy an angry stare, "You deliberately did that." But, still hungry, he went back to eating. When finished he looked back up at the deputy. He didn't have as much conviction in his voice, "Do you hate me too? Everybody hates me."
"No. I think you're a nice kid who has had it real bad. So why did you run away?"
The boy looked down, "I was afraid. They were going to beat me up."
He looked up at the deputy and said bitterly, "I tried to fight them, but they always ganged up on me. And I'm the one who gets in trouble."
"What about your foster parents, didn't they help you?
The boy shrugged his shoulders, "No. My foster parents didn't believe me. They wouldn't do anything about it."
The deputy carefully asked, "Did they punish you?"
"No they just ignored me when I complained about it. They said I just made it up."
The deputy very quietly asked, "So where did you hide?"
The boy's eyes opened in surprise, "In the library. How did you know?"
"I knew another boy with the same problems," the deputy paused and smiled, "He eventually solved them."
The boy stared at the man a long minute, and then the realization hit him, "It was you, wasn't it?"
"Yes." The deputy smiled again, "I'm an orphan."
The boys face suddenly hardened up. "How do I know you aren't lying?"
"I don't have a reason to lie. I've noticed you aren't lying. I think you would rather go to jail than lie."
"I never get away with it. It just makes things worse." The boy looked down and sighed, "Jail's better than being beat up."
"Fighting is never good. Getting beat up is never good. Running is never good. Sometimes you don't have a choice. You can't let people keep beating on you."
"How do I stop it?" the boy asked almost pleading for an answer.
"I can't give you a good answer to that." The deputy thought for a minute, then looked the boy directly in the eye, "I feel the answer you need, may come sooner than you think."
"You're not going to tell me, are you?" the boy said with bitterness and disappointment in his voice.
"The only thing I know to tell you is; you have to learn to defend yourself. You can't afford to let yourself be beat up."
The boy started to ask how but the deputy held up a hand. "You're still in big trouble. I'll have to put you in the jail cell while I try to fix this problem you have."
"And then you're going to call the juvenile authorities, aren't you?" the boy mumbled while looking at his feet.
The deputy sighed, "I have to."
The deputy put the boy in the jail cell and left the office. So there the boy sat stewing over what had happened for him to get there. He spent a long lonely hour in the cell. When the deputy returned, he opened the cell to let the boy out, "It seems your name is Caleb." He led the boy back into the office.
As soon as he entered the office Caleb noticed the front door slightly ajar. Another man stood in the middle of the room. A very tall man wearing a large knife tucked in his belt. The man looked at him with hard set eyes. The boy spooked and bolted for the door.
The sun shined brightly outside and before the boy could get his eyes adjusted to the light, he crashed into a wall of flesh. Caleb bounced back a step and looked up. A massive horse head looked back down at him. It belonged to a very large gray spotted horse.
The horse's head came down at him and two big flaring nostrils sniffed and snorted at him. Then the horse grabbed him. Its teeth clamped down on his shoulder, causing the boy to wince in pain. Slowly, the horse pushed him back, still holding his shoulder.
A large hand came down gently on his other shoulder and a deep but quiet voice whispered in his ear, "Don't move." In a louder, sharper tone, the voice said, "Mary, stop it." The horse let loose her grip, but kept an eye on the boy who stood frozen.
At that moment, a young voice from somewhere above could be heard, "Did Mary bite you? She must like you, she never bites anybody!" Caleb looked up and saw a young redheaded girl looking down over the horse's shoulder. "She's a Percheron. She's a real beauty, isn't she?"
"She's a monster!" Caleb stammered.
The hand on Caleb's shoulder turned him around. The big man looked down at him, "You had better come back inside before she bites you again." He led the boy back into the office, where the deputy waited, and sat him down in the chair at the desk. The man pulled another chair up close to Caleb and sat down.
"I've made the call to the state juvenile authorities," the deputy said to the boy. "It seems they know about you, Caleb. Someone must have it in for you. You have quite a long record of running away from foster homes. They want to send you to the Juvenile Center. Do you understand what that means? It means no foster homes, no running away, and no freedom. It means you could be behind walls until you are eighteen. Not just overnight."
"I'll escape," Caleb snapped, visibly shaking.
The deputy's words turned grave, "I doubt it. Juvenile Hall is like a prison. Kids just don't escape from there. The state is sending a car down here to pick you up. It should be here within an hour, maybe sooner. The report says you are an orphan. Do you remember your real parents?"
The boy looked down at his lap and mumbled, "No, I was a baby when they died. I cried a lot and nobody would adopt me. Nobody will adopt me now."
"You have no family, no other relatives?"
Caleb mumbled, "No."
"Foster homes don't seem to work for you and your prospects of being adopted are slim at best. Unfortunately, somebody up in the capitol thinks they know better."
Caleb began to get really agitated and he started shaking nervously, his shoulders twitching. He blurted out, "I can't go there. I'll die! I'm too small. There are gangs there. They beat up kids like me. Just let me go. I'll leave. You'll never see me again."
"I can't do that," the deputy replied quietly. "It would be wrong for me to turn you out just like that. If it means anything to you, I really don't think you should go to Juvenile Hall. You're a good kid. You didn't do anything to deserve this. Feeding yourself is just basic survival. But, it's not my decision." The deputy paused a moment, "However, I think I can give you another choice, if you will take it."
"What is that?" the boy asked almost pleading.
"Go with the Raven here." The deputy pointed at the large man sitting next to him. "If you leave with him, the Juvenile authorities can't touch you, at least not for a while."
Caleb looked up at the big man, "Who are you?"
The deputy answered, "He's called The Raven. He's a friend of mine and he's just now leaving town. I guarantee you'll do better with him than with the state."
Caleb took a closer look at the man. He was big, broad-shouldered and had huge hands. He wore a dark green jacket and trousers with knee high soft leather boots. The man's eyes spooked him; they were a flinty gray, hard set in a weathered face. He looked to be very tough and ready for a fight.
The man finally spoke in a surprisingly gentle voice, "I can promise you; you won't be locked up, you won't go hungry, and you won't be beaten or abused. There will be some hard work involved. But I think you can handle it. However, if you don't like it, I'll bring you back here."
"Why should I go with you?" the boy demanded. "You're just going to cut me up with that knife. How do I know you will bring me back here? Besides, what kind of name is Raven? It sounds like a girl's name."
"It's just what I'm called." The man paused a moment before saying, "I can promise you the adventure of a lifetime. You will get a chance to do things you never imagined you could do. You'll learn to ride horses for a start. What you can and will do is up to you. It seems to be much better than your other choice."
The boy looked down at his feet and considered this for a long minute. For some reason, he believed the man. He wanted to ask him what he meant. The hard work part scared him, but the adventure part drew him in. He had always dreamed of escaping to a different world. Ever since he had discovered adventure books in the library; he wanted a different life. He wanted to explore the world, like the people he had read about. He wanted to see jungles and castles. He looked up at the big man and then at the deputy, "Why are you doing this?"
The deputy smiled. "Like I told you, you remind me of myself when I was young. I don't want you to go to Juvenile Hall. I think you can do better if you have a chance. If you continue the way you're headed, I think you will have a bleak life. Living on the street or in Juvenile Hall is an invitation to gang violence. The Raven helped me once. I bet he could help you. He didn't tell you, but the hard part is he will make you keep up with your school work."
"Do I have a choice?"
"Yes, of course you have a choice. The Raven is a fair and good man. He will teach you how to defend yourself against bullies. His word is gold and he will do right by you. In the Juvenile Center, like you said, who knows what will happen to you. My bet is you will do much better with him. I think you will find it interesting and fun." The deputy leaned forward so he could look the boy in the eye and quietly asked him, "Do you want to keep running away like you're doing now.
The boy considered it a long minute. This had to be better than prison. He could always escape. He hesitantly said, "OK, I'll go."
"Good," the deputy said. "You had better be going, there isn't much time before the state car gets here. I'll see what I can do to placate the store manager. I am a good friend with his son." The Raven and the deputy signed some papers. Then they all stood up. The big man said to the boy, "Let me properly introduce you to Red."
The Raven led the boy outside to meet the girl who now stood on the ground. She held the reins to four horses. The first horse, the great Percheron, spotted gray, bobbed her head up and down. The second horse, all black, danced agitatedly, snorting and complaining. It looked dangerous. The next horse, which tried to stay away from the black horse, was brown with white legs. The last horse, looking bored, was all brown and heavily loaded with various bundles.
The Raven told the boy, "This is Red." Turning to Red, "This is Caleb." Red quickly nodded her head to the boy.
Looking older by a year or two, the girl stood only a little bit taller than the boy. She extended her right hand, small and calloused. She took his hand and shook it with an iron grip. She dressed like the Raven but also sported a hooded cloak. The most striking thing about her had to be her curly copper red hair, brilliant in the morning sun.
"I guess I know why you're called Red. Do you have a real name?" Caleb said with a little sarcasm.
A small storm passed over her face, "Just call me Red and we'll get along," she snapped. Then in a calmer voice she said, "Here, let me introduce you to Easy Rider." She passed the leads of three horses to the Raven and led out the brown horse with the white legs, saddled and loaded with large bags. "You'll ride him. He's a gelding and quite gentle."
"But I've never ridden a horse," he said while rubbing his shoulder where the Percheron had bitten him.
Red chuckled, "Well, you could walk, but I wouldn't suggest doing that. It's an awfully long way to go. Besides it's easy."
He suddenly got a cold feeling in his stomach about the whole adventure.
"You could still stay with the Deputy," the Raven spoke up. "You don't have to come with us."
The boy had heard enough. Just the thought of Juvenile Hall made him shudder. He walked over to Red and whispered into her ear, "How do you get on him?"
She smiled and pointed the boy to the left side of Easy Rider. She showed him how to get onto the horse by first mounting the horse herself, then dismounting. She made him place his foot in the stirrup, grab the saddle, stand up on the stirrup and swing his other leg over the saddle all in one motion.
Red kept the reins and tied a lead to them, and then she mounted the Percheron. She turned to the boy. "It's easy to sit on the horse. Don't kick or squeeze with your legs. It'll confuse him and he might try to run away with you."
The Raven tied the pack horse's leader to his own black horse's saddle and quickly mounted.
The Deputy looked up at the Raven, "You had better hurry up; the state car will be here soon. I can't keep them from taking the boy if they show up." The deputy's face lit up, "But, before you go I have something for Caleb." He stepped into his office and came right back out with a heavy stiff coat with a Sheriff's badge on it. He pulled the badge off and handed the coat up to the boy. "You'll need this."
The boy took the coat and thanked the deputy, not wanting to appear ungrateful. He put the coat on despite it being too large and too warm.
The Raven clucked his horse to a walk and turned it down a side street. Red followed on the Percheron with the boy in tow. The boy found it easy to sit on the horse just like Red had said. He had only the saddle horn to hold onto, but felt relatively safe.
From an alleyway a short stocky man looked at the receding caravan a grin and delight in his eyes.
They quickly reached the edge of town, started up a large grassy hill and soon entered a line of trees. "Watch your head or a branch will knock you off," Red remarked looking back at the boy. Caleb thought; she ought to watch out herself, sitting on the huge horse in front of him. They continued ascending through the trees not seeming to follow any marked path.
Back in town, the state car never did arrive.
When they reached the top of the hill, they entered a large clearing in the woods. "We're going up there," Red said pointing up at several mountains in the distance.
Caleb was taken aback by the immensity of the mountains which didn't look that far away. "How long will it take to get there?"
"About a day and a half, then we go through the pass between those two peaks." She indicated two of the closer mountains. "Then it's one more day."
Caleb tried to figure the distance just in case he decided to escape. "How far is that?"
"Farther than you can walk in a week. It's all rough, up and down, switchbacks and rivers. Someone as soft as you would never make it alone."
"I'm not soft!" Caleb protested indignantly.
Red grinned, "Yes you are and I'll prove it tonight when we camp."
"We're not staying anywhere?" The boy exclaimed in surprise.
"Silly boy, we're in the forest, there is no place to stay except where we make it."
"And where is that?"
"When the weather is nice like this, we camp out in the open."
"What if it's raining?"
Red said half seriously, "Out in the open."
"And if it's snowing?" the boy asked, somewhat sarcastically, fully expecting the next answer.
Red lost her composure and snapped, "Out in the open. You get the idea?"
Caleb drawled, "Yeah, and I don't like it already."
Red rolled her eyes, "You'll get used to it, trust me, and there are ways to stay comfortable. Camping is fun, but sometimes things don't go as expected and you wake up with a wolf in your bed roll." She grinned and winked at him. "Just kidding, but you really do get used to sleeping outside. Besides I've never seen a wolf in these parts."
Caleb almost gasped but he quickly realized that she had played with him.
The horsemen continued past the clearing, going back into the woods. They followed a mostly western course, up and down hills, and eventually descending into a forested valley. The trees they were traveling through were enormous, and spaced well apart from each other. The going was easy, with very little undergrowth to slow them down, he ground almost level and soft. The horse's breathing and hoof beats were the only sounds to be heard.
They soon came to a stream and the Raven called a stop to water the horses. They dismounted and let the horses drink their fill of water. Meanwhile Red pulled three packets from the Percheron's saddle bags. She gave one packet to the Raven who took it, went over to a large rock, and sat down to eat. Red gave a packet to the boy and motioned for him to follow her.
They went up the stream for about fifty meters, found a log to sit on, and started to eat their dried fruit, which surprisingly good, consisted mostly of dried apples, pears and raisins dusted with cinnamon and some other spices. "Do you like it?" Red asked with pride. "I made it myself. The Raven taught me how."
"Yeah, it's pretty good, if you're into that sort of stuff."
Red grimaced, "You'll eat plenty of dried fruit and vegetables in the next few months. You'll appreciate the variety soon enough."
Caleb looked back down in the direction of the Raven, "He doesn't talk much does he?"
Red followed his stare, "No, he doesn't, but when he does, it's important. He teaches mostly by example. Pay attention to what he does." She brought up a soft leather water bag and offered him a drink. He suddenly realized how thirsty he had become. He took several big gulps before he handed it back to her, then she took a large swallow from the bag.
The boy furrowed his eyebrows, "Why is he called the Raven?"
Red chuckled, "That's easy. He's called the Raven because he's a tracker. He finds people. Ravens are good at finding things. He received the name when he became a knight.
Caleb stared at Red in disbelief. "Knight? There are no knights. You're joking, right?"
Red crossed her arms and gave the boy a challenging stare. "He's a knight, you'll see."
Caleb also crossed his arms, "I don't believe you."
Red shrugged her shoulders and looked darkly at him. "Look I'm not going to waste my breath, wait and see."
Caleb stared at Red; something about her manner said not to to challenge her. "OK have it your way, he's a knight."
The boy realized he didn't know one important fact. "Where are we going?"
Red's eyes lit up, "We're going up to the high country, to the valley where we camp during the summer."
"Just us? All summer?" the boy said not sure what to expect.
"Oh, Heavens no! Most everybody will be there." She spread out her arms to indicate a lot of people. "And yes, all summer. Isn't it magnificent?"
The boy still didn't have the answer he needed. He gulped not sure he wanted the answer, "Who is everybody?"
Red beamed, "Just about the whole school."
His eyes opened wide and he sputtered, "School?"
Red looked perplexed, "Well, yes, well it's more like a summer school."
All of a sudden it came crashing down on him, his worst nightmare, 'School,' the place he hated the most. It was the reason he ran away this last time. He had been bullied and beaten, and his lunch money stolen. Boys would trip him in the halls and girls would laugh at him. There had been no help from his teachers or foster parents. Now he was going to a school he could not escape from.
He started jerking his shoulders and exclaimed, "I hate school!"
Caleb's eyes hardened, "Just because."
Red considered this a minute, sighed, and then quietly said, "You must have your reasons, I won't ask again." She said, "I swear to you now, that this school is like no other. This school is really good. The class work is hard but we have a lot of fun afterward. I believe you will enjoy it, please give it a try. It's summer up in the high camp and we get to play hard and have fun."
Caleb had stopped jerking his shoulders, "What do you do there?"
"We ride a lot and take care of the horses, learn self defense, and archery.
"I mean what do you do for fun?"
Red laughed, "When the day's work is over we get to ride the horses for fun, play horse games and other silly stuff. There is always something to do. Besides most of the work is fun."
Some music came through the trees. Red pulled a small fife from under her cloak and signaled back by playing a similar tune. "The Raven is calling us. It's time to get going."
They returned to the horses which were grazing by the stream.
The Raven went over to the pack horse and retrieved something out of its saddle bags. Walking over to Red, he whispered in her ear. She nodded her head and pulled some clothes out of one of Easy Rider's saddle bags, handing them to the man. He looked at the boy deciding what to say next. "Why don't you come with me? You need to do something."
Caleb decided it must be important. He started walking behind the man as he went downstream.
When they were out of sight of the horses the man stopped and faced the boy, "Take off your coat."
"Take off your coat."
The Raven furrowed his eyebrows and repeated with a more stern voice, "Take off that coat or I'll take it off for you."
That got Caleb's attention. He opened his eyes wide but quickly slipped the coat off and handed it to the Raven, who tossed it aside. "Now what?"
"Here are some clean clothes, you're going to take a bath"
Caleb yelled, "No, no way! Besides, I don't know you!"
"Before you get back to the horses, you're going to wash up. Both you and your clothes. You smell like a goat."
"Suit yourself." The Raven took one step and grabbed the boy by his belt and shoulder and lifting him, walked straight into the stream until the water came up to his thighs. Caleb struggled but the Raven held him tight. The man tossed the boy into the stream. He landed with a large splash, and completely submerged before rapidly coming up, struggling for breath. The shock of the freezing water seized up his muscles and he couldn't speak or fight back.
The man reached into his pocket, pulled out a bar of soap, and held it out to the boy. "I'm going back to the horses. Wash everything, especially where the sun doesn't shine. Then wash those clothes and throw them on the bank. When you're clean, get dressed and come back to the horses. We'll be waiting on you." He turned, climbed the bank, and walked upstream back to the horses.
Caleb hastily pulled his sweater off and started scrubbing it with the soap. He tossed it on a rock then started with the rest of his clothes.
Caleb managed to clean his clothes and himself while freezing in the process. He rapidly climbed out of the stream and put Red's shirt and trousers on, then he slipped on the deputy's coat. He walked upstream to where the Raven and Red were waiting, his sneakers squishing water.