Saturday 30 September 2017

The Hunted

Wendy Ogilvie

a mug of green tea

There he is. I see him. The mountain foliage cannot conceal his large frame. Holding binoculars to his eyes he searches for his target. Does he know that I’m just ten feet behind him I wonder? — No, he has no idea. He may be a trained killer, but then so am I.

I sit perfectly still, hidden by sub alpine trees and moist liverwort. A small branch brushes my neck as it waves in the breeze; it tickles but I dare not move to scratch as any movement could give me away.

His rancid breath - a mixture of tobacco and strong coffee - has hitchhiked on the breeze and polluted the air to my nostrils. Men like him being paid for murder is sickening. Anger rises within me like bile and clutches the back of my throat. But I need to keep my hatred in check. I need calm, clear thoughts if I am to get the job done.

He shifts position and turns up the collar of his jacket. The breeze is stronger now. I saw his red truck parked at the top of the ravine. I know it’s his, I’ve seen it drive past on his way back from the mountain; heavy with the bodies of innocent victims. He has been sent by Mr Davenport to do the job, but looking at him I can’t think why he was chosen. He must be sixty years old with a ruddy complexion and two days’ worth of whiskers. Not exactly sniper material.

I can hear him snorting. He spits into the bushes and slowly lifts his rifle as he surveys the woodland in search of his target; looking only forward, never behind.

I have an image of what his face will look like when I shoot him. I picture a Krummholz: a tiny tree high in these mountains gnarled and twisted from being sculptured by the wind. I smile. It amuses me to think of what thoughts will be crashing through his mind. Don’t assume I’m not scared, I have a family who relies on me, but for now, I need to concentrate; there’s a sniper on the move.

            Holding his rifle butted against his shoulder, the hunter evacuates the safety of the bushes and carefully moves forward. Each step is exaggerated as he lifts his boots over the thick undergrowth. Slowly I rise from my hiding place. The hunter is in my rifle sight. He is still scouring the woodland before him. How foolish he is.

            Crack! A branch snaps underfoot. The hunter turns sharply. His face resembles that of a deer caught in headlights. How ironic. I smile and pull the trigger. Bang!
The bullet penetrates his right shoulder, which he clasps with his left hand as his rifle drops to the ground. He looks at me, his eyes wide.

 “Why are you …? He manages before I raise my aim once again. I step forward. He steps back, quickly checking the ground behind him but not wanting to take his eyes off me. He turns and runs. Just two steps on, he stumbles over some protruding tree roots and struggles to keep upright.

“Please!” he shouts between breaths. “I don’t know what…”

Still holding his wound, he tries to run faster but trips over a log. I can smell gunpowder and fear — his and mine. His face is now purple as he struggles to breathe.  

Bang! I hit his left leg just below his buttocks. Just a flesh wound. I feel a little guilty as his back was turned but I’ll get over it. Adrenaline pumps through my veins like a semi-automatic. The hunter is being hunted.

Slowing my pace enough to reload, I see him. He is thirty feet away, leaning on a tree stump. Time to end this now — I’m not cruel after all.

He looks up to see me moving towards him. “What do you want?” His face is red and contorted. “Please don’t shoot.”

My heart is beating so loudly I hardly hear his pleas for mercy. I don’t think mercy is a word he understands. The hunter pushes himself away from the tree stump still clutching his shoulder and stands squarely before me. Is he daring me to shoot?

Bang! The final shot hits him in the chest. The hunter is knocked back off his feet. I feel a twinge of sadness... killing should never be the answer but sometimes it’s necessary. Still holding my rifle I carefully check his pulse. The hunter is dead. Justice has been served.

I sling my rifle over my shoulder and lay a tarp on the ground. Grabbing the lapels of his blood- soaked jacket, I haul him onto it. He is incredibly heavy, probably 230 pounds, but I’m strong and running on adrenaline. I can feel the cool air catch in my throat as I stop for a second to rest. The rope I attached to the end of the tarp is helpful as I drag my kill through the trees.

By the time I reach the top of the ravine, I have discarded my jacket and grab the hem of my T-shirt to release it from my sweat–soaked body. The breeze has dropped and the early evening sun is filtering through the now steady leaves on the trees.  There it is, his truck, ‘Davenport Venison Meat Co’ is signed in black along the cabin doors.

As I open the truck door, the smell of warm body odour escapes. I move away quickly and look down at my kill. This is going to be hard work.

Heaving the carcass inch by inch into the driver seat, I stop to wipe my brow with his shirtsleeve. There, he’s in. Now it’s time to dispose of the body. I lean across and release the handbrake.

The truck is already parked on a slope and begins to move easily towards the edge of the ravine, picking up speed on its way. Just as the front of the truck tips over the edge, there is a crash, which echoes around the space below. The truck bounces off the ravine wall all the way to the bottom, about 1000 feet.

I stand with my hands on my hips watching with a satisfied smile. The truck is on fire. A job well done I think. As I walk away, I hear the explosion of the fuel tank finishing the job I started.  

On the drive home, there is a rock song on the radio, which I can’t help but sing along to. As I pull into my yard, my youngest son Tommy runs to greet me.

“Hey, Ma, we’ve been playing in the tree house. What’s for dinner I’m starving?”

“We’re having your favourite,” I reply, scooping him up into my arms. “Nut roast with home-made coleslaw and cornbread.”

“I’ll get started, Ma,” says my eldest daughter Suzie, who makes her way back to the house. As she reaches the front porch, Suzie turns and looks me in the eye.

“How was the hunting?” She mouths quietly.

 About the author

Wendy has been a Personal Trainer for twenty years but has always made time for writing. She is currently editing the sequel to her Chick Lit novel Wandering on the Treadmill and completing her first thriller.

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