I was walking through the woods on Hardack hill in search of Sherry Bevins, a mentally ill woman, who on the previous morning had stabbed an elderly man eight times in the back as he was walking his dog down High Street. It was late May, almost June, and the hot humid air was making me sweat underneath my bullet proof vest.
I don’t know why it was called Hardack Hill. On every map I ever saw it was neatly labeled “Aldis Hill”, but everyone, even the dispatcher who had sent me up there, called it “Hardack.” We had received a tip, through some very amusing circumstances (I’ll have to tell you that story some other time), that Bevins had spent the night with a man who was also mentally ill, named Mikey Paquette, at his camp-site in the woods on Hardack.
After Trooper McNamara and I searched Paquette’s camp-site without finding Bevins, we decided to split up and comb the forest north of Paquette’s camp in the hopes of finding some sign of her. Trooper McNamara said that he often walked his dog on Hardack and that if we walked far enough we would eventually come to Rt. 105, I-89, or walk back into St Albans.
I agreed, said goodbye, and tramped off into the woods. I walked for a long time. I enjoyed it. It wasn’t often that my job called for a nice leisurely stroll through the woods, and even if it was a little hot at least I wasn’t at a domestic assault or mediating a landlord/tenant dispute. I was walking through the woods on Hardack Hill- a free man. At first I did my best to be stealthy. After all, I was looking for a knife-wielding mad woman, but after a while I decided it wasn’t very likely that I was going to find her and I just began to enjoy the walk.
At one point I turned uphill to avoid a patch of brambles, and after pushing my way through some dense growth, I came out into a little clearing. All around me Hickory, maple, and white pine, flush with spring growth, crowded in and loomed over the tiny opening in the dense woods. Their branches mingled in the sky above me and their roots intertwined below. The sunlight, filtered through layered leaves, fell in dappled splotches on the mossy ground. There was an immense slab of granite in the middle of the clearing. The inscription on it claimed that this was the site where the last wolf in the state of Vermont had been shot by a resident of St Albans. I wish I could remember the date on the inscription and the name of the man. I think his last name was Brainerd and it was in the 1800’s, but I’m not sure about specifics. I remember that, according to the inscription, the wolf measured over six feet long from the tip of its nose to the tip of its tail. It was a pretty good size slab, which must have taken several men and a healthy team of mules to transport there.
It was surreal… like a dream... one of those moments where you just kind of step back and ask yourself how did I come to be standing here way out in the woods? In a police uniform? With a forgotten slab of granite?
I checked with city hall later, and nobody there knew anything about the granite slab. I called The Messenger, our local newspaper, but they didn’t seem interested. I never met anyone who knew anything about the spot where the last wolf in the state of Vermont died.
Captain Renaudette and I caught Sherry Bevins later that day. She had fallen asleep in a garden shed with her head propped up against the side of a lawn mower deck for a pillow. The frantic home owner, who had heard about the stabbing on the news, and who had discovered a disheveled looking crazy woman asleep in her shed, did the math and called 911.
Sherry was bent over the back of my cruiser in hand cuffs. My bullet proof vest was beginning to chafe against my sweaty skin. I couldn't wait to go home and take a shower. She had a smudge of oil on the side of her face and the imprint left from sleeping against the mower deck. She smelled awful. I asked her why she stabbed the man, and she just laughed and shook her head... like it was an inside joke or something... like I wouldn't understand if she told me.