"Stage A"


Ignacio's heart was pumping furiously, energizing both his body and mind. He was breathing hard, which was something he tried to control, knowing that this would make him an easy target for the wolves. But fear was overtaking him, his mind losing focus of what had to be done. How much time had passed since the last wave of howlings? He tried to remember; three minutes, at most. If the pattern kept up - and there was no reason for it to be broken now - at least three more minutes remained till the howlings resumed. Timing was critical; since the Hunters were still on stage A - positioning - he couldn't attack now, even if a wolf was within striking distance. If someone killed one now, when the wolves "submitted" their new locations, one cry would be missing. That would immediately be interpreted as an attack on one of their kind; the rest would move to the last signaled location of the missing wolf, and all hell would break loose.

Synchronization was a little tricky in 1914, since the Hunters hadn't available such things as walkie-talkies to know when everybody was in position. They depended on good execution based on their training prior to a Hunt; there wasn't any room for mistakes, or all their lives would be in jeopardy. But good fortune had smiled to them this night. The pattern of howlings gave them a six-minute window to attack and kill as many wolves as they could, then they would have to withdraw. Six minutes was a lot of time, compared to past Hunts. If the wolves were spacing their calls so much, it could only mean that they, too, were hunting.

Ignacio was getting overly anxious. His hands were trembling, barely able to hold the hunting rifle, as he waited for the next wave of howlings. How much time now? One minute left, he thought. Or maybe less than that; the wolves weren't carrying clocks to time their calls, they were relying on instinct. Stage A was supposed to be completed before the next round of cries. His head seemed to be beating as if his heart, unable to remain still, had moved to his brain, pacing back and forth. He was sweating a lot, and the rifle was slipping from his hands.

Unexpectedly, thoughts of Madrid came to his mind. He had been born there, in 1897, the first son of Don Esteban García y Sotomayor. His father had married Doña Elena Robledo, heir to the vast empire that was the Robledo's family business: manufacturing of guns. Since he was a child he had been around guns, and knew exactly what to do with them. His father had taken the responsibility of preparing him for what was destined to be his future. Thoughts of his first kill came back to him, as well as the time when his father introduced him to the other "business" that the Robledo's had been part of for centuries -

There it was. The howlings. Stage A should be complete, and from now on he had six minutes to "search and destroy" as many wolves as he could. It had begun.


>> continue...



Back to Main
Part II - The Sixth Wolf
Part III - Casualties
Part IV - The Dark Man of the Forest
Part V - Siege
Part VI - The Cabin
Epilogue - Days of Crimson


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