The sun was fading now, and the woods were growing dark, and Spud was stumbling. He seemed quite adept at stumbling, and who wouldn’t, in this murk, and with a maniac back there undoubtedly soon to discover that he had escaped. But where the hell in the world was he? He knew nothing about the geography of Baton Rouge. Had no concept of distance or location. All he knew was, he was stumbling through the woods as fast as he could, heart racing, because he was scared.
Somewhere behind him back there in the gathering darkness was a maniac, and that maniac would have to realize soon that Spud was gone. And, he reasoned, maniacs don’t take kindly to that sort of thing.
He had no means of communication with him, no cell phone, and the woods were getting creepy now, dark and creepy, with bayou sounds, and he could see swampland and water not far off. He had to somehow find his way back to the main road.
The police, meanwhile, had discovered the tart’s corpse, and indeed that of Jerry Sloane, slumped against a wall in an alley not far from the tart’s place. He had taken a couple of shots to the head, and he was bloody and plenty dead all right.
At George Lesslie’s place, the scene wasn’t any prettier. George had been quite proficient with his driver, as an accumu-lation of golf balls in the woods would attest, but the stranger had been even more proficient with a heavy wrench. It must have come down on poor George like a ton of bricks, the way his head was squashed like a pumpkin.
“Christ,” the chief muttered, and wondered to himself, now what the hell would they do?
At the Great House, Katt was crying -- pacing and crying. “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.”
“Now, now, baby.”
“Ah found mah true love out there in cactus country, mah dearest love in all this world, mah Spud. Don’t say he’s been taken from me.”
“I won’t say it.”
“Don’t intimate it, Daddy, ah beg of you.”
“Not the slightest hint.”
“He’s been taken, hasn’t he?”
“Now baby -- ”
“You do have a way with words.”
“I’ll flat out say it -- someone has kidnapped mah Spud. And we very well know who that someone is. I’ve no recourse, Daddy, I’ve no recourse.”
“No recourse but to do what, honey?”
“I know what I have to do. I should have done it a long time ago.”
“Your Daddy doesn’t quite understand, baby.”
“I hunted, Daddy, I hunted in the mountains out west, ah think you should know that.”
“Hunting is an enjoyable sport.”
“I don’t believe you fully catch my drift. I didn’t idly shoot for game, Daddy.”
“And just what is it exactly you’re suggesting, my dearest little Katt?”
“Ah hunted down on all fours, Daddy, ah hunted not like a hunter, but like an animal. I’ll put it more bluntly, Daddy -- I hunted humans.”
“Uh, pardon Daddy if he seems a little distressed.”
“Ah learned things from the high desert medicine men, Daddy, and we’re not talking about pottery work or basket weaving.”
“Just what exactly did you learn, honey?”
“How to hunt, Daddy, like a coyote.”
“And how do coyotes hunt, honey, tell your Daddy.”
“Not how, Daddy, but what.”
“Okay, honey, you’ve got Daddy’s attention. What then do they hunt?”
“Flesh and blood, Daddy, flesh and blood. They hunt humans.” Daddy had to pause to swallow, for he could hardly believe his ears -- his own beautiful Southern daughter hunting like some kind of wild animal. “I’ll spare you the details, Daddy, but I learned, oh how well I learned, the ways of the desert coyote from those Indian shamans, Daddy, and what I learned, I did not forget. I have to hunt now, Daddy, I have to hunt the way I once did in the high desert. I have to use all my stealth and acumen, but I have to hunt.”
“You’re sending the shivers through Daddy.”
“For I have a hunger, Daddy, an incredible hunger. I’ve been denying it since I got here, but that barbecue the other night seemed to bring out my big cat instincts. I have to hunt, Daddy, and then, when I’ve got my prey in my sights, I have to feed.”
Daddy didn’t know what to say.
“I will find him, Daddy, this ex-husband of mine who has been causing all the trouble. I will stalk and find him, and then I will move in for the kill.”
“For my hunger is deep, not only for human lust and human flesh, but for vengeance, Daddy. I shall seek vengeance, and I shall bring that maniac ex of mine to justice. When I corner him, I will rear back on powerful haunches and spring, Daddy, and in the final analysis, do the one most important thing of all.”
“Dare I ask what that is?”
“I have to hunt him down, and then move in for the kill.”