S7

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S7 - MUSEUM

Three bridges crossed the Green River Gorge. The westernmost was the Maple Valley Highway, running south from Four Corners towards Enumclaw. The easternmost was near Kanaskat-Palmer State Park, built over the old river ford where the People used to hunt. Between them is a single-lane bridge built in 1914 to link the town of Franklin to points on the south rim. This was the most scenic part of the Gorge, complete with a pretty waterfall that fell into the river from the side. A privately-run museum commemorating the history of the Gorge sat precariously on the rim at the hub of a vast network of trails and dirt roads that spread out like a web.

A woman named Juliet Hurst was the only attendant at the ramshackle, green-painted Welles Battlefield Memorial Visitor's Center. She had bloodshot aquamarine eyes under a mane of stringy dark-brown hair. The place she ran was nine miles downriver from the actual site of the battle, which could only be reached on foot or horseback, but it was filled with a lot of photos and uniforms and rifles from that time. There was also a redwood tree. Vic, who had never visited before, had to admit the place wasn't half bad.

A lot of the coal mining and gold mining history of the area could be gleaned from the exhibits. But that wasn't enough, apparently, for Miss Hurst or whoever it was that actually owned the place. They had turned it into the ultimate roadside attraction of the "world's largest ball of twine" variety, starting with a pillar of salt in the shape of a woman.

There was an automobile engine that ran on tap water (but was temporarily busted), a lead-to-gold converter (also busted), and several perpetual motion machines that probably ran on hidden batteries. Miss Hurst showed them a dinosaur skull with a bullet hole in it. Next to that was a dirty plastic Coke bottle. She said, "This was shown to the Chinese emperor in 300 BC, but he caused the inventor to be executed to keep the glassblowers in business. Mark, Vic, and Mike all strained to keep from laughing.

Miss Hurst let them examine what she called undeniable authentication documents for the Shroud of Turin, which lay folded neatly on top of all the books that were still checked out when the Library of Alexandria burned. The original blueprints for the Great Pyramids were posted on the wall.

Next to that was a reel-to-reel deck with Nixon's missing eighteen minutes, plus a manuscript containing the missing chapters of Nostradamus dealing with the end of human civilization. They were suppressed because humanity is not prepared to know the truth, Miss Hurst intoned gravely.

Piled on top of the loose pages of Beethoven's Tenth Symphony was the Holy Grail acting as a paperweight. Miss Hurst showed them a flight jacket hanging next to the Grail and claimed it belonged to Amelia Earhart. That last one was just too much for Mike. I call bullshit, lady! I've met Amelia Earhart in Hamar still wearing her jacket and it doesn't look like that. Juliet Hurst fell silent and looked at Mike like he was crazy.

Another wing of the museum contained thousands of unpaired dirty socks, each one tagged with the time, date, and location of the laundry in which they disappeared. But Vic zeroed in on the far wall which was covered with a giant aerial photograph of the Gorge. And that wall was tagged with many markers showing the location of authentic Bigfoot sightings. Something in the giant image drew her eye. What is this, Mike, a third bridge?

Mike looked closer. No, too small Vic. Maybe just a footbridge.

None of the above, Miss Hurst said. That's the water pipeline for everybody who lives south of here. Has a walkway slung under it though.

Vic got her famous look of resolve. Whoever took Hope didn't cast off in a boat after all. They stayed on the north rim and used the pipeline to cross the river. Next for us is the south side and back into the woods.

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