This is the sequel to The Tracker from Tales of the Wild Rose. There is gore and adult content. Parental guidance suggested.
Every wait person knows that there are good things and bad things about quiet nights behind the bar. The good is not much stress. The bad is not much tips. Tonight had been a quiet night. I’ll take it for what it was worth. The stress didn’t start till after closing.
Just as I finally got the last regular out the door, I see a guy limping up the sidewalk. As he passed under a streetlight I saw he was bare headed, his old military fatigues were torn and bloody. That’s when I recognized my old friend Mike that I had talked to earlier this evening.
“Holy shit Mike! What happened to you?”
“Sorry, I know it’s late but can I get a drink and I’ll tell you about it.”
“Sure, get inside!” I quickly glanced around the darkened street and then locked the door behind us. The closed sign had already been up for twenty minutes.
This looked like it called for the good stuff. I poured us both shots. We downed them without wasting time for toasts. I poured two more then got out the first aid kit and started tending to the worst of Mike’s cuts and scratches. “Some of these are gonna need stitches you know.”
Mike winced as I applied some antiseptic, “I know, This isn’t my first time in the woods.”
“So what happened?” I asked, “last thing you mentioned was going out to help the state patrol chase down a wild cat.”
“Yeah, turned out not so much a cat but more in the dog family. Remember the story I told you earlier about the guy in Eastern Europe? Well I knew there was gonna be trouble when I smelled that same dog-in-shit smell again. Ow! Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning.”
“There plenty of time for that. Let’s get you to the ER first.” I urged. Just watching him was making me hurt and I know how he likes to talk.
Ignoring me he went on, “When I met the half dozen troopers at the staging area I could tell they they thought they were just out for some target practice. Shooting wild cats for them was like skeet shooting to most people. I can’t blame them. I enjoy the hunt too. But the government built me for it and I know a wild creature being hunted is never easy prey. The animal’s survival skills and instincts make them stronger and craftier when they are being hunted.”
“Luckily I told the troopers to leave their bloodhounds at the staging area before we drove to where the last cat sighting was. That’s where I first smelled the crappy dog so I knew it wasn’t one of theirs. I asked, ‘Are you guys sure it was a cat?’ They insisted is was ’cause they’ve killed cougars in the area before.”
“I circled around for awhile trying to find any sign of a fresh wild cat smell. There was some from a long time ago but it was overwhelmed by the recent dog smell. After awhile I could see the troopers were beginning to think I was full of shit too so I decided to follow the dog-in-shit smell without commenting on my wolf suspicions. It of course lead to a nearby creek where I followed the strongest scent upstream. The moon light made the forest look like midday even for the troopers that followed some distance behind me.”
Mike downed another shot for pain management and continued, “As I carefully moved on, the scent got stronger and after about a mile started to mix with blood smells of lots of different animals, mostly deer and other larger mammals. I also started seeing broken tree branches and tracks that looked like things, probably bodies, were being dragged. The troopers following me saw this too and they began talking about it in their excitement. I had to turn to quiet them. I could tell we were getting close to the lair.”
“The scent turned away from the creek and went up a hollow. I told the troopers to wait by the creek while I scouted up ahead. I knew we were pretty much there and I didn’t want them to spook anything. They were the ones getting spooked at that point so they waited by the creek without any argument.”
“As I moved up the hollow I could tell I was in the home of the wolf we’d been chasing. The scent of blood was all around me. An occasional leg or rib bone was laying in the trail. I used every trick the government taught me to silently move closer till I saw it. It looked like that same damn wolf on his hind legs that I saw in Europe years ago. It was chewing on the leg of a deer or cow or something. I should’ve been more mentally prepared since it was the same scent but I guess I was surprised about how big this thing was. I must’ve gasped or something. Anyway the thing saw me, dropped what it was eating and started toward me. I’ve never been so scared in my life. I barely had time to get a shot off. I know I hit it, but it never slowed. So I ran.”
“The troopers heard the shot and came running toward me at the same time I was running toward them with the wolf close behind me. There was not near enough room in that hollow for half a dozen panic stricken men and a two hundred pound wolf. A melee ensued worse than any fire fight I’ve ever been in. The wolf was clawing and ripping skin right off of us. I saw one man go down while still trying to hold his insides together. Some of the troopers were shooting the beast but nothing was stopping it. Several of the troopers were hit by the shots. Another trooper had pulled a hunting knife and was stabbing the wolf in the back with no effect.”
“That’s when I remembered my good luck piece, the silver knife from the experience in Europe. The next time the wolf turned and took a swipe at me I came up from underneath and pushed the knife deep into his chest.”
“The wolf stopped and just looked at me. It felt like the entire forest went silent. I’ve never seen puzzlement in an animal’s face before. The puzzlement changed to an expression of relief as I watched. Then the face changed. It was no longer an animal’s face. The wolf seemed to grow smaller, the face changed to look more and more human. Then as I stepped back I realized it was a man, still standing there with my knife in his chest. A moment later he fell.”
“Luckily one trooper, a rookie of course, was smart enough before all this began to escape and get help. I heard sirens in the distance coming closer. I got out of there in a hurry at that point. I knew no one was gonna believe this story. The final tally I saw was two troopers dead from an unknown animal attack and accidental gunshot wounds, three critically wounded troopers with life changing injuries, one as yet unidentified, dead civilian, and me as you see me here.”
After Mike drank down one more shot I was finally was able to coerce him out of the bar into my car. He was silent for most of the drive but as we pulled in to the parking lot of the ER he whispered, “I didn’t want to admit it out loud for all those years but now I have to give in to it. There are werewolves in the world.”
Have a Happy Halloween everyone.