At the other end of the forest, Don Esteban waited.

The designated hunting area was surrounded by pieces of raw meat, dispersed gunpowder, and even some drops of grease. This was done to disguise the Hunters’ scent, as well as their rifles, so that the wolves can’t pick up their true locations. All these disguising elements were hidden between the bushes, just like the Hunters were, confusing the wolves even more. It was between one of these bushes that Don Esteban waited.

At Don Esteban’s side was Leo Bernini, his rookie partner. During these practice Hunts, each veteran Hunter took a rookie hunter as a partner, and it was that rookie who would effectuate the actual kill. Ten meters to their right were Dr. Philip Reinhard and his own rookie partner, Joe Schreck. They, too, were waiting. Their wait wouldn’t be for long.

They all saw the wolf approach, very quietly, very cautiously, entering their area. The wolf certainly knew that this was some kind of trap, because it seemed to be thinking twice before taking each step. After sniffing a piece of raw meat for quite some time, the wolf started to eat it (apparently it was checking if the meat was poisoned).

Leo was getting anxious with the long wait. “Don Esteban,” he whispered, “why we don’t act? The wolf is within perfect striking distance!”

“Shhh!” replied Esteban.

The wolf’s ears suddenly pointed upwards, as if startled, and then seemed to scan the area for any sound, the ears moving sideways. They were strained with the effort to find the source of the sound it just heard.

Don Esteban had briefed them all before the Hunt. A wolf’s sense of hearing is as acute as the sun is bright, he had said, so you must make as little noise as possible. With all the smells from the meats, gunpowder, and grease, its sense of smell will take over its concentration, and its hearing will not be as acute. But, once the wolf picks up some odd sound, his hearing will be downright perfect, and it’ll pick us up just as if we were waving flags at it.

The wolf’s ears stopped moving, its head turning in the direction of Esteban and Leo, its head lowering a bit, straining to see where, exactly, were its prey. Because, of course, it knew already that they were there.

So, I repeat, do not make a sound.

Don Esteban held his breath. He wondered if Phil and Joe had the wolf locked on already, because, thanks to this kid, they hadn’t a chance now, the wolf’s speed being too fast for them to even attempt to fire at it.

The wolf now lowered its entire body, preparing to strike.

It was some eight to ten meters away. That distance would be salvaged in less than a second.

The sound of his own madly beating heart was deafening Don Esteban, and he wondered if this was it, killed because of the stupidity, impatience, and recklessness of a trainee.

The wolf leaped, and a muffled gunshot was heard at the same time, the bullet catching the wolf’s neck just as it was lifting off. It fell right in front of Leo and Don Esteban, its face frozen.

Don Esteban let out a long sigh of relief.

“That was close, wasn’t it?” said Phil in a low voice, “Lets move on, we have no time to lose.” The shot was right on target, in the neck, immobilizing the wolf before it actually died, thus avoiding a second strike from it. The shot was supposed to be fired by the Schreck kid, but because the danger to Leo and Esteban was imminent, Phil took over and made the kill.

“My God…” whispered Leo, leaning over the wolf, “…so close…”

“Leo, we have to get moving,” said Esteban.

The wolf’s jaws made a quick strike to Leo’s head, grabbing it and crushing his skull.

Shit!” Phil and Esteban both fired at the wolf, this time the blows being lethal.

“Damn, damn, damn…that was Roberto’s kid,” said Esteban, after a few moments, “what am I going to tell him now?”

Joe was in shock, and Phil was already checking the wolf’s neck. “I’m sure I hit it in the neck, this is – ”

“The Hunt’s off, at least for us,” said Esteban, “we have to get him out of here. Damn, now the rest of the pack will be on alert, they must have heard the gunshots!” To minimize the gunshot’s noise, a primitive type of silencer was attached at the firing end of the rifle; a small bag filled with sand. But, since they had to shoot down the wolf in a hurry, they couldn’t attach any new bags of sand to Phil’s rifle, the old one previously opened by the first shot.

“Joe,” said Esteban, “help me pick up Leo, please --”

“Esteban, look at this,” Esteban bent to look at what Phil was pointing out, something in the wolf’s neck, “what the hell is this doing here?”


>> continue...



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


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