Excerpts from In Velvet by Burt Weissbourd

From the Prologue

This was big, easy country, and Rachel moved quickly through a saddle, a shallow depression between two rises. She was watching for bear signs as she climbed toward her trap….

Ahead of her, Elk Creek curved gently through the long leg of an L-shaped meadow….Rachel stepped into the meadow, pleased to be alone and thinking again like a bear ….

Elk
Photo: Tom Murphy

 

... she placed her Telonics TR5 receiver on an open slope. She carefully adjusted the setting to pick up the familiar frequency sent by the radio collar on grizzly bear #146, the bear she called Woolly Bugger.

She put the metal box on her left hip and held the antennae out in front of her. No signal… When she rotated further east, toward the Sentry Hot Spring, the pulse grew louder ….

She took binoculars out of her pack and focused them on Dr. Moody’s lab tent. Moody studied the microbial life, especially the thermophilic organisms, that lived in the hundred-sixty-degree-plus thermal pool.

Seconds later, Woolly Bugger lumbered out of the trees. The animal skirted the timber, moving toward Moody’s camp… stopped and turned back toward the forest. He was checking on something. It looked like some kind of mound… Maybe he was bedding in the near timber, and now he’d come out to his feeding site.

Something flashed just beyond the mound – sunlight, reflecting off a bright object…

It was a pair of glasses. Extra thick, gold-framed glasses… The bear was pawing at the far edge of the mound, pulling at something. A limb. Was that a shoe? And there was Dr. Moody…

Rachel carefully examined the corpse again, looking this time for what wasn’t there … Curiously, she didn’t see the usual signs of a mauling or predation …

In her study area … she was in a pea-soup fog, anxious and confused. And she had a report to make. A report that would likely condemn Woolly Bugger to death. It made her heart ache.

Rachel decided on a starting point. Wooly Bugger had eaten Moody – yes – but maybe, just maybe, he hadn’t killed him. She could work with that.

At the trailhead she saw it again, a waking dream: Woolly Bugger feeding lazily on Raymond Moody.


Photo: Tom Murphy

Another excerpt

The pool hissed and sizzled, blowing steam, rock, and boiling water all over the heavens. Chunks of geyserite rained down on the meadow.

Another excerpt

“… So far I’ve seen four up close, and one, maybe two, have this incredible antler growth. I’m talking palmated, like the Irish Elk.”

Gummer, the lean-faced enforcement ranger, interrupted. “Did you say Irish Elk?”

“No, I said like the Irish Elk. Irish Elk is an Ice Age species. They’re extinct.”

“I’ve seen pictures showing Irish Elk with bigger racks than your Boone and Crockett world records. These babies in that league?”

“Yes.”

“You sure?”

She turned to the others. “What confused me, to tell the truth, was that two of these elk were in fall pelage, and bugling—typical fall rutting behavior—in June.”

Out-of-sync elk? And what about that deformed bear cub? Rachel couldn’t explain that. Agh. What had gone wrong in the closed area?


Tom Murphy's vision of an elk with palmated antlers, reminiscent of the extinct Irish Elk but smaller.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to the Yellowstone Park Foundation.


More from In Velvet

“You remember that movie where they found this old DNA, used it to make dinosaurs? … That’s what Doc Moody was cooking up, son, new kinds of DNA. Now here’s the point — DNA determines everything from the color of your eyes to the hang of your ass ... I’ve got a hunch — a hunch, mind you — that whatever else they do, these superheated thermoditties might just be some sort of high octane fertilizer for elk antlers.”   –  Sheriff Jesse Stinson

“Combining poaching, mutations, and romance isn’t easy to accomplish, proving Weissbourd’s boundless talent to spin quite a yarn.” – Malinda Hintz on Nightly Reading

"The biologist in me loved this exciting story ... All the characters bring the location to life with splendid description of a national park; almost felt like I was with Rachel checking the bear traps and following her favorite old bear, Wooly Bugger ... Anyone who loves a thriller, the outdoors, and a good mystery will find this novel a real treat. Highly recommended."
– Tom Johnson in Detective Mystery Stories


Read excerpt from Inside Passage