Saturday, March 5, 2016

Intercepted


The sun was dipping towards the rosey horizon. Thin wisps of grey cloud tinged pink and back-lit stretching across the Western sky.  A cool breeze picked up out of the valley and whispered through the dry leaves on the trees along the road that followed the high bank.  The river shone like a string of molten steel, spilled across the wide basin by some celestial foundry.

Matt slung the rifle over his shoulder, heart still pounding, and thrust his cold hands deep into the pockets of his work coat, his left hand wrapping around a handful of bullets hastily deposited there earlier.  Standing straight, he stared down on the pair of carcasses. He could tell there was a lot of blood, and that he had been too late.  Rushing out the door had been unnecessary, the mare was long dead and the wolf had been feeding for a while before Matt had spotted the huddled pair from the rear window of the upstairs library.  An uncomfortable thought was quietly forming in the back of his mind, but refused to come into the light to make itself known.  Chewing his lip, he stepped off the road and picked his way down the slope into the pasture.

Once over the fence he was within 25 yards of the gruesome scene and could smell the bowels of the horse mixed with the scent of fresh manure.  The wolf lay hidden from view, having been deftly picked from atop the horse's haunches by Matt's single .308 round, fired from a kneeling position up on the road.  The supersonic bullet had easily pushed its way through the forehead of the predator and out the back of its neck before the sound had arrived, sending it slumping backwards.  As he came around the horse, the wolf lay there, as still as its prey, in the mess of entrails and blood.  The haunch of the horse had been gnawed and torn in several places, but there were otherwise no evident scratches or bites.

The thought in the back of Matt's mind began to grow but it still stubbornly refused to declare anything concrete.  He stepped closer to the horse and he felt a shockingly forceful tingle run through his body and reflexively he pulled the gun off of his shoulder and held it at the ready.  A single clean slice ran along the horse's flank, from just behind its front leg, down on an angle towards its belly.  From this cut it's organs had begun to spill and apparently it bled out at the same spot, without running, without being spooked into bolting, it had just died where it stood, apparently bleeding out quickly through its liver.

Matt crouched and began turning on the ball of his foot, scanning the terrain in an arc.  The wolf wasn't the killer, a person had done this purposely, close to the barn and the house, out here in the middle of nowhere, not long before the light would be failing, which it was presently.  He thought he could see an odd shape along the river bank that didn't belong, but it could just be a shrub, or a stump he had failed to notice before, or a person hunched low.

He now had the choice between tracking down the killer by moonlight or waiting till dawn and probably getting help.  The later choice seemed wiser, so he left the crime scene undisturbed and headed back to the house, rattled, uneasy, angry and intensely curious.

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