They put the bear in the back of their truck and locked it up. It was customary to check the rest of the area because they both knew it was rare to find only one deceased animal. The biggest haul they’d ever had included two deer, a skunk, a raccoon, a fox, and four squirrels, all within a few feet of each other. The skies had mourned for the entire week prior, so it really hadn’t come as a surprise.
“I wonder what else is haunting the air around here,” Kelsey said.
Alex nodded his head. “Yeah, me too. That bear couldn’t have just been running. He was hunting something. I bet we’ll find what he was hunting within a 50-yard radius. I’m surprised that whoever hit him didn’t stop to check it out.”
“Honestly, I’m not. There are more damn bars in this town than there are churches. I betcha whoever hit him was drunker than a Catholic priest serving Communion. They prob’ly didn’t even know until the next morning.”
“You’re right. What I would pay to hear those explanations! Ever wonder what stories they tell?”
Kelsey froze. Her lips parted slightly. She grabbed Alex’s arm. “I betcha we could find the perp. That bear woulda left a helluva dent.” She turned and looked back through the tinted glass. You couldn’t see much, but it didn’t matter. She smacked Alex on the arm. “C’mon. Let’s do a quick sweep and go. I want to take a closer look at that bear.”
Alex nodded in agreement and they took off through the high grass again, this time keeping closer to the road. Kelsey surprised Alex by ignoring the remnants of what once was a coon. His eyebrows furrowed in concern, but he continued to follow her. When she lifted her nose in the air, he paused.
“Death,” he said.
“Yep,” Kelsey answered. “Same as the bear.”
They moved in unison with the wind, allowing it to lead them to the source of the smell. Five steps away lay a deer. Its abdomen had been gutted open. Kelsey found a skinny branch and bent over the deer. She pushed the deer with the stick, not flinching when her prodding caused a leg to move.
“Ah hell. I wonder how long it took this deer to die,” she mused. She pointed at the marks on its abdomen. “Claw marks, Alex. I betcha if we measure them, it will match the bear. This deer isn’t as dead as the bear, though.” When her eyes squinted, Alex knew suspicions were arising. They’d both been doing this long enough to recognize foul play when they came across it. Kelsey rose with a sigh, cast her eyes around them, and tossed the stick. “C’mon. Let’s get the deer and go.” Alex caught the unease that tinted her voice.
“What is it, Kels?” He asked.
“Fuck, I don’t know, Alex. Something just feels off. The air got cold around us suddenly. I know we should take that coon with us, too, but I really wanna get out of here. Something about this whole thing stinks.”
Alex laughed despite their mood. He wondered briefly if she was ever aware of the puns she unintentionally used, considering what they did for a living. Kelsey eyed him like she thought he’d had a lobotomy. He raised his hands in defense, knowing she would swat him for laughing when she was being serious. She never hurt him, never used force.
“Dammit, I’m being serious, Alex.”
He laughed again when she swatted him. “I’m sorry. I know you are. I can’t help it, Kels. You make me laugh.” He pulled her closer to him and, for a brief moment, they stood so close their noses were only centimeters apart. He inhaled deeply, resisting the urge to kiss her, choosing instead to whisk away that lock of hair that always fell into her dark blue eyes. She stepped away with a grunt and headed for the truck.
“Hey, look!” Kelsey called to Alex. She pointed at the truck. A stranger in a dark trench coat and black cowboy hat hovered around it. They took off running. When they reached the truck, they saw that he was trying to pick the locks. Alex stepped in front of Kelsey and grabbed the guy’s arm, whipping him around. Alex swallowed his shock when he saw the man. His body was as wide as Alex and Kelsey combined and his muscled chest appeared bulletproof in the tight white t-shirt he wore. He looked intimidating but Alex didn’t back down.
“What do you think you’re doing?” He asked.
“It ‘pears to me y’all have obtained an illegal animal and didn’t report it to the proper authorities,” the stranger said. His southern drawl made his words sound drawn out and slow.
“What business is it of yours?” Alex said, bristling. They lived in a small town and he didn’t know who this man was. “Who are you?”
“They call me Scrapper.”
You can read the first part here.
This week’s Master Class assignment was selected by the Professor (moi!). The prompt could be used as either the first or the last sentence of the story. Based on comments to the first installment of this story, I decided to continue The Road Kill Hunters from last week, and will continue to do so until its finished, using Master Class prompts every week to further it along. The prompt this week is a line from page 77, line 4 of Chosen (the first book of the Lost Book series) by Ted Dekker. That line was “They call me Scrapper.”
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