CHARLIE HAWK'S FAVORITE LINE FROM THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE was the one about "merciless Indian savages," and in that rebellious spirit he took "the Savage Creek" for his nickname as a member of Crockett High's 4x400 relay team. A full-blooded Creek Indian, he was as fast with his fists as he was with his feet. The Savage Creek was as tough a competitor as could be found in Crockett County, Alabama, but no one had a bigger smile, a more infectious laugh, or a more affectionate bear hug for a friend than Charlie Hawk.

Charlie's father, Lamar Hawk, instilled in his son a fierce pride of heritage as a descendant of the fearsome Red Stick band of warriors that fought against the white settlement of Creek territory in the early 1800s. Lamar was one of those weirdly talented shade tree mechanics who could fix any car; the only thing he couldn't fix was his own alcoholism. He couldn't keep a job. He occasionally landed in the drunk tank in the county jail. People talked. And Charlie hated it.

When he was a senior in high school, one of Charlie's track teammates committed murder. For strange, almost supernatural reasons, Charlie and his best friends were warped by the incident. He quit school. A year later, angry and disgusted, he dragged his father into the old stone church on the edge of Hell's Back Forty, now abandoned after the murders there, to dry out once and for all. But alcohol withdrawal can be deadly, and it was for Lamar. Before he died, and in the grip of the DTs, Lamar had a vision--of an apocalyptic reckoning that would cleanse Creek land of all invaders and return it to its rightful owners.

To Charlie, it became a prophecy. And an obsession. One morning four years later a little girl was kidnapped by a boogeyman with a sack.

That was the first sign.


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