Chapter 8

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Daniel sat down on a log next to the small pond and pulled out a bottle of water. It had been a long day already, an unusual heat wave had brought the temperature up near the 90’s and the woods felt sticky and humid. He didn’t mind being back in his home town, in fact he had volunteered for the job when he heard about the fuss a young couple had made about a wolf attack. He had called up his boss and offered to help out for a few weeks, search along the trails and hills and report anything he found that may prove the story true or false. Relaxing along the pond, he turned to take advantage of one of the few light breezes that gave temporary relief to the steam bath the day had become. His clothes were weighed down with sweat, tempting him to take them off and jump in the pond, but the bugs would eat him alive and he was irritated enough for one day.

 He took his cell phone out of his pack and looked at the time: 1:00, he needed to check in. Flipping it open with a practiced flick of his wrist he hit the speed dial to the local Fish and Game offices, taking another long swallow of water before it stopped ringing.

“Hey Dan, how’s it going out there in the woods? Find anything yet?” An overly cheery voice asked.

“Not a thing Linda. I’ve been up and down every trail I can think of. No sign of a moose, footprints, fur, anything. I did manage to find their packs, no camera though. I guess you can call them up to come get them. What are you so cheery about over there?” he asked.

“Air conditioning and iced coffee! Dave wants to know how much longer you’ll be out there today, says we’ve spent enough time chasing wild geese and wants you to make out a final report.”

Daniel sighed, iced coffee sounded really good right about then. Still, he had to finish up out here first. “Give me another hour out here and I’ll be on my way back, and have a coffee ready for me will ya?” Daniel jested.

Linda laughed. Daniel wished she would transfer up his way. They could use someone that didn’t sound bored all the time, and the fact that she was cute was a bonus. “No promises, but I’ll see what I can do.” She said, sounding flirty.

Daniel hung up the phone and looked over at the moose carcass feeling his irritation return. There was still a lot of moose left to drag off and bury. Not to mention the bugs and smell were driving him insane. Why did there have to be a heat wave now and not after he had cleaned this mess up?

            Movement caught his attention. Daniel looked into the tree line he made out a dark brown shape coming towards him, a grey shape not far behind. The two wolves walked into the clearing and approached Daniel, heads hanging down.

“The next time you two idiots decide to come out here and play, clean up your own mess,” he yelled, “Now where is it?”

Daniel held out his hand, the grey wolf slowly came to him and dropped a camera into his hand. He held the camera up and shook his head at it. Never, in the entire history of the pack had anyone been this careless. Hunting was permitted, even encouraged; the problems came when they didn’t check to make sure they were alone, and worse, when they hunted this close to a well-used path. He turned to the pond and threw the camera as far into the water as he could. At least they took the camera, he thought. Not only did it take away any real proof the couple might have had, but it made the story so unbelievable that he wouldn’t have to worry about a real investigation.

 The two wolves were lying on the ground with their heads in their paws looking up at him. Stupid pups, he thought. They got lucky this time. Daniel didn’t know how much longer he was going to be able to stick around to keep them out of trouble. He knew he should have waited to apply to Fish and Game till he had had a chance to teach these two how to live without getting seen. He stood for awhile thinking, if I could buy myself at least another week or two I might be able to teach these two enough common sense to keep from getting themselves discovered or killed, he thought.Looking over at what was left of the moose he got an idea.

“One of you start dragging what’s left over to the hole I dug in the woods, I need the other one of you to get one of the antlers and bring it to me. Make sure you put some teeth marks on it too, it’s no good to me if you don’t.”

The grey wolf trotted to the remains and started chewing on one of the antlers while the brown wolf began dragging pieces of the carcass into the woods. Daniel watched for a few minutes. Satisfied that they were doing what they were told, he bent down by the pond.

 Daniel pulled his pack closer, swatting at a cloud of black flies as he fumbled with the latch. He then took out a small book and flipped through to the tracking chapters. Picking up a small rock and a stick, he set to work in the mud, checking the book every now and then for comparison. When he was satisfied with the impression he had made, he pulled out a small bag of dry plaster and a cup he kept for mixing. He heard a yelping from the side and looked over; the brown wolf had stepped too close to an early ground hornet nest and was franticly running around to escape the swarm. Daniel laughed to himself, serves him right for all this trouble, he thought. Turning back to his project, he mixed the plaster in the cup and poured it into the impression in the mud. He stood up and stretched the stiffness from his back, then walked over to the grey wolf still chewing on the antler. The brown wolf had dragged what was left over to his hole and was sitting on the ground sneezing and pawing at the stings on its nose.

“That’s good enough” he said, “now get out of here so I can finish up, and no games on the way back. You two idiots have made things hard enough on me already.”

The grey wolf stood up and stretched its legs out, then nodded at Daniel and took off running into the woods with the brown wolf not far behind. Daniel took another gulp of his water and looked into the woods where the moose was about to be buried and sighed. Idiots, he thought to himself. It took him over an hour to bury the moose enough to stay covered for a few days. He knew animals would come dig it up but by then it shouldn’t matter; he just needed it hidden from the path in case the couple came back looking for it.

The plaster had dried up by then. He picked that out of the mud and placed it into a plastic bag, then picked up the chewed antler and tied it to his pack. Finally, he was on his way out of the woods, the couple’s small daypacks in his hands and his on his back. They really owe me for this, he thought.

The Last of the Twenty: The Setting of the BoardWhere stories live. Discover now