Thursday 13 – Sunday 16 August 2015
It was just as Detective Matilda Renner feared would happen. The locals had closed ranks, and nobody wanted to talk.
‘This is the trouble with these small places. They’re all backing each other up, and the only people getting dropped in the shit are the blow-ins, and travellers. We’ve gotta approach this in a different way, Tom, or we’re gonna continue to go nowhere, and get nothing.’
‘No, we don’t have time for pussyfooting around these people, Matty. We’re doing this one way, and one way only . . . we’re gonna push, and we’re gonna push hard. We’re gonna put the heat on all of them, and by God, we’re gonna get the information outta them that we need.’
From his vehicle across the parking lot, Claymore Hunter watched the two out-of-town cops engage in what appeared to be a heated conversation. The male finished speaking, and slapped his hand hard on the bonnet of their car. The woman nodded, shrugged her shoulders, threw her hands in the air, and walked around the car to the passenger’s side. She slid into the passenger’s seat, and the male opened the driver’s side door. As if sensing Clay across the parking lot, the male turned and surveyed the lot. A smattering of cars helped Clay’s four-wheel drive blend in to the surroundings. It didn’t look odd against a landscape of hunters’ trucks, beat up old sedans, and wagons that could easily have been hunting vehicles or family cars.
When the cops’ vehicle pulled out of the parking lot, Clay counted to five, then followed at a safe distance. They drove by the local cop station, past the motel, and out along the highway towards the location where the latest body had been discovered. Clay backed off the accelerator, and made a split-second decision – there would be another time to confront these detectives about their treatment of his little brother, and when he did, they would pay. Today, he needed to deal with the out-of-town kids who had laid into Jimmy.
In order to allay any suspicions that he had been following them, Clay indicated, and pulled his 4×4 into the last business on the highway before it became all woods both sides of the road. Avery Jackson’s gas station was the last place he wanted to be, but it was a safe place to be if he was to maintain any sense of normality. The gas station owner, despite his age, leapt to his feet to pump gas into Clay’s car when he saw the vehicle pull in.
‘Ain’t seen you for a long time, Clay. Whatchoo bin up to?’
‘Ah, you know, Avery, a bit of huntin’, some fishin’, drinkin’ beer, an’ more huntin’. An’ a bit of kickin’ Jimbo’s ass. Don’t think the truck’ll take that much gas, but fill ‘er up, will you?’ As he spoke, Clay kept an eye on the road, watching for the return of the cops.
* * * * *
Unable to leave because of the mechanic’s actions to drum up business, Nash, Lance, Gabrielle, and Iona had settled on a short hike behind the motel to pass the afternoon.
‘Are you sure that this is a good idea? I mean, is it safe with all the hunters around?’ Gabrielle, hesitant to go anywhere near the hunting grounds, had posed the questions to both Nash and Lance multiple times before they even made it out of the motel room. Each time she had asked, they had done their best to quash her fears, but Gabrielle was still on edge.
‘Don’t worry, honey,’ Iona linked her arm with Gabrielle’s, ‘we’re going to be walking on the designated hiking trails, and we’re well away from the hunters. I checked with the motel owner, and the restaurant waitress ‘cause she seems to be the only one around here who has any real idea about stuff, and we’re gonna be safe.’
‘Okay, okay. Thanks, Ona. You’re a real peach.’
Lance locked the door to their room, and took his backpack from Nash. Hitching it over his shoulders, he jiggled it around until it sat comfortably.
‘Shit, Nash, what the fuck did you put in this?’ he asked.
‘A surprise for the ladies, bro,’ replied Nash. He wiggled his eyebrows, and gave Gabrielle and Iona the biggest grin he could wear. They both groaned. ‘No, no, no, not a crass surprise. Not, y’know, like one of my normal surprises. I got something special for y’all. It’s a nice surprise.’
‘Shut up, Nash. Just stop talking ‘cause you’re making it sound worse every time you open your mouth.’ Lance slapped his friend on the shoulder, pointed to the area behind the motel, and started walking in the direction that the waitress had told them they’d find the hiking trails.
* * * * *
It had taken a little time, but Clay had finally got away from Avery, and set himself up near the west edge of Potter’s Clearing, a well-known but not often visited area at the end of the Crossman’s Walk hiking trail. He’d constructed a makeshift hide, set up his two favourite rifles ready for firing, and dug in to wait for his prey. When he’d phoned Jarvis at the motel office early that morning, the motel owner gave his word that he’d point the kids in the right direction, and now Clay could only wait and hope that he’d made it there before the kids passed through.
His hunter’s ears told him that they weren’t far off from his position. He could make out their footsteps, but it was their perfume, aftershave, and deodorant that really gave them away. A good hunter, Clay’s father had said, doesn’t just hear his target, he should be able to smell them, and feel them. Right now, Clay could have smelled his targets a mile away. Now it was simply a matter of waiting for them to step into his line of sight.
‘Closer little piggies, come closer . . . ’
. . . To be continued . . .