Uh, right. His car… or his uhhh… vehicle…

Dammit Frankie!  Can’t I count you guys to do anything right?!?  Note how quickly Big Mike switches from cigarettes to cigars… and How he stands back and puffs confidently as Frankie leaps to action using the increased size, bolded type to emphasize that this fellow knows TOO MUCH!

Nice Double Entendre, there, Mike… certainly Mark Trail HAS “Checked out…” in more than one way…

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But then Big Mike, as if buoyed by Frankie’s bravado, calmly places his hand on Frankie’s shoulder and bids Mr. Jason Smith follow him and learn what has “happened to Trail…”  Clearly Big Mike has more than what is being revealed since it’s now worth TWO counts of kidnapping, false imprisonment, and MURDER… followed by multiple counts of obstruction when he goes to take care of BOTH cars now, since he needs to get involved if he wants ANYTHING done right…

Man, this Big Mike is full of all sorts of bad habits…

I mean, what would his doctor say after he sees how Big Mike fills out the clipboard survey at his annual physical?  Drink?  Constantly.  Smoke? Yup.  Weight? Lots…

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“Gaaah!  Trail has FRIENDS??? Who knew?  Geez, Frankie, What do we do now?  He’s probably not even stiff yet…  and you did take care of his car, didn’t you?”  At least Big Mike has changed out of his Pink shirt into a slightly more manly red one…  or perhaps the pink one faded on him… who does his laundry anyway, I wonder, and hasn’t that person ever heard of washing bright colors together in COLD water?  And won’t Jason be disappointed when he realizes he will never be Mark’s “friend” since he doesn’t have “Ol’” on front of his name or isn’t called “Bluegill” or some other such silly nature related nickname…

Underneath that calm exterior…

…beats the heart of…  NEWSPAPER-MAN!!! Able to work the phone (at least today he’s figured out how to hold it) and go GET THE STORY!!! I still chuckle at the notion of Jason Smith “working with Mark.”  I don’t think Mark would acknowledge as much.  He wouldn’t have the level of awareness necessary to pick up on that…  And aren’t WE being all Forward and Friendly…  “Hello Cherry, This is ‘Jason,’ you know, the guy you met once who went on a nature hike with your son??”

So with tied cinched back up, and lavender “Member’s Only” jacket donned, Jason, wearing his game face if ever I saw one, heads out to rescue Mark from the Deep Freeze… But will he make it on time??

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Can you just feel the crescendo?  Big Mike and Frankie are about to get there comeuppance! And the animals of Lost Forest will be once again safe to roam and multiply until such time as they outstrip the available food supply and have to resort to eating their own!!

A “Little” Hunting??? Ge Thee Hence, Bald Man!!

Oh, the sixth sense that only a NEWSPAPERMAN can possess is sensing that Trail is IN TROUBLE… or at least wondering whether he might be… But let’s take stock of Jason Smith in his natural environment…  Silk Rep Tie pulled open and loose around his neck- check!  Laptop open and ready for action- check!  Vocalizing what would be for anyone else a private thought- check!  But what’s that he has in his hand in panel two…  could be a smart phone, could be a box of filter tipped cigars, judging by the way he is holding it…  Certainly not like a phone…  more like a walkie-talkie…  base, come in, come in base, Bald Leader here…”  And he looks so smug calling Big Mike and inquiring about doing “a little hunting…”

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But then I probably wouldn’t be giving him such a hard time if he just stopped over-compensating for his lack of hair on top with the fact that he is letting it grow so long over his ears…  I mean I have heard of and seen bad comb-overs, but this is taking things (literally) to a new low…

And if you are no longer IN BUSINESS, then don’t answer your freakin’ phone…

Thanks Mark, For making that clear…

…that this is a REFRIGERATED Meat Cooler…  not the kind that keeps its contents WARM… and who ever heard of hanging meat butt-down??  I am no hunter but I have never seen THAT done before…  And even when facing death, Mark simply must vocalize most every thought… Although I have to admit that it’s best to talk out loud when one is chastising oneself for not displaying the virtue of foresight…

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What do you mean, Big Mike, he “won’t last long in that cooler?” What- do you have cyanide pellets that drop from the ceiling or something??  And why are you beating such a hasty retreat?  That’s an awful lot of house you are walking away from, friend… What money out of what customers?  I would imagine you run a cash operation there- “No money, no trophy…” Every time Elrod tries to introduce any notion of what a “going concern” looks like whether legit or crooked, he he just falls short of anything that would actually sustain and pay…

Big Mike apparently does his best thinking with a glass of whiskey in his hand, or maybe that’s prune juice?  Regardless, Frankie looks on helpless as usual…

Mr Squirrel says, “Shoot, my paw is stuck in this knot-hole… but if I unclench my fist, I won’t get the prize that I am after…”

I will leave Trail in an overly elaborate and complex death trap from which he can easily devise a way to escape!

Oh Mark… not very smart are we??  And I guess you won’t be “checking in” with Smith or your family anytime soon, will you, now that you are locked in the Meat Cooler… “Honest Officer, I have no idea what he was doing in there… guess he shut the door on himself… Camera? How would I know?  Maybe he had a cooler fetish or something…”  So, Mark, not so clever now, as you are destined to die a slow, sleepy death from hypothermia, even with a jacket on…

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And what is that on your face in panel two, Mark?  Is that a sweat bullet?  That’s a pretty quick and extreme physiological reaction to being surprised…  did you soil yourself, too?  And what would there be in the Meat Cooler that would be remotely incriminating?  Dry aging otter? Big Mike’s Mother?

What is it with unlocked doors??

First it’s Rusty going into Rod Bassy’s van unwelcome and unannounced, now it’s Mark Trail snooping in Big Mike’s Meat Locker…  Hmmm… “Big Mike’s Meat Locker…” that has a good ring to it.  Maybe Big Mike needs to expand his empire into Frozen foods, what with all the meat that must be piling up with all the BIG TIME POACHING going on…  I mean, once the client gets the head to hang on his wall, there must be pounds and pounds of meat left over!!

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Oh Mike, you are an evil man, you know that?  What breeds such evil?  I am sure your dear mother could never have imagined what devil spawn sprang from her loins… even if she’s still with us, I am sure she doesn’t want to know you… And Frankie- the excitable one… yesterday I told you to chill, now Big Mike grows weary of your hysterical outbursts, as in, “ What are we going to do now <exclamation point –one> <question mark- one>” It doesn’t get more tense than that…

OH BIG MIKE!!

I love when you talk smack- especially when you are wearing that bright pink shirt!!  And Frankie.  Dude.  Chill out.  Note the clenched fist in panel two…  he doesn’t know who he’s dealing with does he???  Itching for a fight are you?  Well bring it, my sideburned friend… Mark has that and then some waiting for you!

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His “kind?” What- Mark isn’t the first “famous outdoor writer” that has paid you a visit in an attempt to upset your POACHING EMPIRE??  These writers are a dime a dozen I suppose…  and knocking one off is of little consequence when there is Empire at stake…  In medieval times, Big Mike would be Lord of his manor and no one would have dared suggest that he was doing anything untoward…  but of course these aren’t Medieval times, and we have to be accountable to all forces of correctness- political and otherwise…

Biggest, Worstest Sideburns Ever!

Frankie, c’mon, man… Get yourself a subscription to Esquire or something…  Those mutton chops of yours are getting out of control!!  That’s quite a mouthful, though… “Big Mike Morrison’s Phony Hunting Lodge…”

There DOES seem to be all manner of smaller critter about, including rabbit and squirrel.  See Mr. Squirrel in panel one savor the thought of cracking into that nut- “No!  I won’t put this away for later!  I will not delay gratification!  Just this once I will EAT FOR TODAY!”  In the words of Dave Matthews, “Eat Drink and be Merry, for tomorrow we die…”

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Note the picture of the Trail-head on the page in the second panel…  this is great.  Disguise?  I don’t need no stinking disguise.  Or, apparently you do, especially when you offer up your real name.  I mean, I mean what were you thinking mark?  Now you are found out!  But wait, why wouldn’t Trail want a trophy too?   Nice Nose, Big Mike…