In the Shadows of Dryden

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CHAPTER 6 - Job offer

The town’s weapon shop was located in a big old style building beside the Fire Station. The shop was equipped with all sorts of firearms, hunting, camping, and hiking equipment.

It was almost time to close the store when a man came through the door.

“Welcome! What can I help you with today?” John, the weapon owner, peeked over the counter, where he was organizing some merchandise.

The newcomer was a slim man with uneven long brown hair falling over his shoulders. He had torn leather pants and piercings in his lips, a thick chain hanging from his pants front pocket towards his back and military-style boots adorned with metal spikes. A hoodie covered most of his head, leaving just a slit of his eyes showing under it.

The slim man locked the door behind him and closed its blinds before heading toward John. The shop’s owner straightened up behind his counter, frowning at the man as he reached for his shotgun.

“There is no need for that, old man. I just want to talk in private with you without the possibility of anybody coming in on us.” A malicious grin formed over his pierced lips.

John pointed his weapon towards the guy, ready to fire if needed.

“Who exactly are you and what do you want to talk in private with me about?”

“Who I am isn’t important but if you absolutely must know, I’m Dany. I’ve got a job offer for you.”

“A job offer? From a punk? What could you possibly have to offer that would interest me?” John Kept his gun pointed towards Dany, wary of the weird guy.

“Oh, aren’t you judgmental! That’s alright, I won’t hold it against you. Yet…” Dany leaned against the counter, totally ignoring the gun pointed at him. “I assure you that this job is right in the area of your expertise. You see, my master wants you to find someone for him.”

“Find someone? I’m a shop owner, not a fucking detective! I suggest you and your ‘master’ go to the police department or find yourselves a private detective. Now, get out of my store before I lose my patience and make another piercing hole on your mouth.” John lowered his gun a bit while he answered the guy angrily.

Dany gave him a side glance with a venomous sneer and in the blink of an eye, disarmed the shop’s owner, who backed away stupefied.

“My master made it quite clear that he wanted you to work for him and that’s what you’re gonna do! Now, listen! You’re the best hunter in town and we want you to find this guy and report back to us immediately!” The man pushed a roughly sketched map over the counter towards John.

“When you find this person, you’re to hang a red cloth in that window.” Dany pointed to a window that could be seen from the street. “Will be back when you do!” He returned the shotgun and walked towards the exit as John took the sketch in his hands. Before the man opened the door, he turned back to face the shop’s owner. “One last thing. Be at the position marked on the map at midnight for further instructions.” Without waiting for a reply, Dany exited the door, leaving the store owner alone.

John dropped himself on the closest chair, still taken aback by the situation. What should he do? He wasn’t sure if he should do what that guy said or not. He was never one to allow others to give him orders. And yet, he couldn’t deny the bit of fear that crept in him when the punk disarmed him so easily. He was never disarmed like that either. ‘How did that guy manage to be so quick?’, he found himself thinking. His eyes laid on the shotgun he had been holding and he decided that if he had to go to this meeting, he would take something much smaller than a shotgun. Maybe that way, he wouldn’t be disarmed a second time. He hid his shotgun back in the usual place under the counter and went inside the storage room. In the back of the room, hidden in a corner behind a few boxes was a dark green safe which he rotated the knob a few times while putting the code and removed a magnum with some ammunition from inside it.

‘If that guy tries me again during this meeting, he will be getting one of those bullets for sure!’ He loaded the gun and placed it in his holster. Satisfied, John returned to the store and began organizing everything again before he could close for the day.

A few minutes passed by before the door flew open with a tall blond barging in screaming in panic. She was wearing a long fur coat over a dress and stiletto heels. Her makeup was ruined because of her desperate crying, making her eyeliner run down her cheeks. But it didn’t stop there, her long hair was completely disheveled and her lipstick was smeared all over her face making her look more like a clown than an aristocrat.

“JOHN, JOHN! JOHN, oh please, John!” The scene was a bit comical to see, to say the least. A tall and skinny woman throwing herself over a short chunky man that didn’t know how to manage to hold her properly.

“Miley! Calm down, woman!” He found himself in an awkward position and struggled to hold her up. “Com’ on, Miley! It’s hard to hold you like that! Pull yourself together and tell me what happened!” John managed to push her into a chair and let out a sigh, massaging his shoulders.

“It’s… it’s Thomas, John! He was... He was…” Miley couldn’t stop sobbing in total despair.

“Miley! Listen to me! What happened to Thomas?” He held her arms firmly, trying to make eye contact. “What happened to Thomas?”

“He.. he was taken… a guy came to our house. He… he said you knew what to do. Oh.. what does he mean John? We have to find our son!”

John stepped back in shock. ‘Could that punk be responsible for this? Why would he kidnap his son?’

“John… there is more. He… the guy… gave me Thomas’ jacket. It… has blood on it!”

“Wait! Thomas wasn’t home with you? Are you sure it’s blood in his jacket?” Her husband stared questioningly at her. “Think Miley, think!”

“Aww… YES! It was blood. I… he made me smell it! What do you take me for?” She wiped her eyes and nose in an unladylike way and stood up, looking around for a napkin and feeling altogether lost. The man answered her with a sneer before taking a peek at his watch.

“We still have time.” He paced back and forth thinking. “What did he look like?”

Miley had managed to calm down a bit and even found some tissue paper to clean her face. She turned to him confused.

“Who?”

“MILEY! I swear, sometimes your level of stupidness amazes me! The guy that took our son, what did he look like?”

“Thank you, honey! He… well… he looked like one of those gang members on the big city streets. Leather, spikes, piercings…” She kept thinking with her long manicured nails touching her lips. “Oh, John… he said that he would kill Thomas if you didn’t do what was expected! What does he mean? We have to get our baby back!”

“It sounds like the guy that came over today. Come, I believe I know where to go. It’s almost midnight.”

The couple rushed out of the store and into John’s car. He removed the crumbled map sketch from his pocket to read it again and drove for as long as he could to save time, even driving inside of Witches’ forest until it got too dense with vegetation for them to be able to continue by car. There they abandoned the vehicle and ran as fast as they could to the meeting point. For once, Miley had been smart and left her stiletto heels behind.

They got to the point indicated in the map realizing that it was deserted.

“John…”

“Oh, shut up, woman! I’m tired of you whining.” He kept looking around, completely ignoring his wife. She turned her teary eyes away, trying to see anything that could help at the same time as she kept her mouth shut. Truth was, she would rather avoid her husband’s angry side and continue to look for her son by herself.

“Hello? Anybody there? Thomas? I’m here as told. Where is my son?” He called out. They were a few minutes late and he was really hoping it wouldn’t cost his only son’s life.

“PLEEEEEEASE! WE’RE HERE! I beg you!” Screamed Miley. Her tears ran down her cheeks again.

The forest was quiet, the only audible sound was of the foliage moving with the wind.

“There is no need to shout.” It was the same voice that he had heard in the morning. The punk was definitely behind the kidnapping but John couldn’t see him anywhere.

“Where is my son? I’ve done what you told me, now give him back to me!”

“Aren’t we pushy?! Don’t forget who gives the orders here.” This time, John did see something. He saw a pair of red orbs shining from on top of a tree, followed by a thud coming from behind him, and instinctively turned towards it. It was hard for him to see exactly what it was in the dark but he could guess. All he could see was a dark silhouette on the ground and his wife running to it.

“You were late by two minutes. I thought you wouldn’t come anymore…” John felt his blood run off his face, giving a few steps forward towards his wife and what he thought to be his son’s lifeless body.

Miley crouched down, trying to figure out if her son was still alive or not. She could feel how drenched his clothes were as she frantically ran her hands over him. Her expression was one of terror, complete horror, and fear until she found his neck.

“He’s… he’s alive John! I can feel it!” Miley gently slapped his cheeks trying to get some kind of response. John rushed to join his family.

“Thomas? Thomas, dear! Please, answer me!” Sluggishly the teenager moved his head and arms showing a grimace of pain.

“Thomas, are you alright? My God! You have blood everywhere! Where are you hurt, son?” John helped his son up to a sitting position, letting him lean over a tree for support.

“Isn’t that a sweet sight to see?!” Dany let out a burst of evil laughter.

“You son of a bitch! How dare you hurt my son?!” John stood up, pointing his magnum at Dany.

“Oh, daddy got mad lil Thommy! And to think that I only broke one arm...”

Thunderous deafening cracks filled the surrounding area as John unloaded his magnum on his adversary, who, to his surprise, had no problem in dodging all and every bullet fired.

“Oh, silly John. There is no need for such a kid’s toy, your son is fine… for now.” Dany flashed a malicious grin where his pointy canines could easily be seen. He jumped down from a tall tree like it was the most natural thing in the world.

“Dad, mom… I’m… I’m alright.” Thomas grimaced when he was forced to shift position to accommodate his mom in a side hug. His left arm falling limp to its side, blood flowing from three different places. His dad promptly removed his belt, wrapping it high up, on his son’s arm to stop the blood flow. “Dad, please… don’t fight him… he’s a monster!” His teeth ground together as his dad applied the tourniquet.

“Don’t worry, son. I will kill that son of a bitch!”

After stopping his son from bleeding to death, John loaded his gun as best as he could and turned with the intent to unload his gun again but he was met with a pair of red orbs staring at him. He tried to fire his magnum but the punk was yet faster than him, twisting his wrist so the weapon would fall to the ground. In a single motion, Dany kicked the gun far away into some dark corner of the forest and lifted John in the air as he choked him. John tried his best to free himself, holding with both hands into his enemy’s arm and kicking him simultaneously.

Dany clicked his tongue in annoyance and threw John against a nearby tree.

“The things I need to endure for my master… Anyways, I don’t have all night to play with you so let’s get this meeting done.”

“What.. the hell ARE you?” Asked Miley, hugging her son. The three humans stared at him in utter fear. John had difficulty in breathing with the intensity of the impact.

The punk ignored the woman, walking calmly to John.

“As I tried to explain before, your job is to find the forest ghost. Bring him to the cabin deep inside Witch’s forest, near the base of Katska mountain.”

“... but you said that you only needed me to find him…”

“Yeah, but since you placed so much enthusiasm in attacking your employer, I figured your job description could change a little bit too. Now… use any means necessary to bring him over to me, do NOT hold back on him. My master will not mind if he gets injured.”

“How long… do I have? Asked John, using the tree as support to stand.”

“There really isn’t a timeline for this to be done but beware. Your wife and kid might show up injured or just simply disappear if you take too long.” Once again, Dany flashed that toothy malicious grin of his.

Mother and son hugged each other tighter than before, closing their eyes and shivering from the horrors of what might happen to them in the future.

Dany backed away with a disgusted sneer.

“Humans…” He threw an old picture on the ground and vanished into the darkness.

With difficulty, John picked the picture up and went to help his wife and kid up.

“John, what are we gonna do?”

“Right now, I do not know Miley, but will figure something out . For now, let’s go home.”

The two parents supported their teenager as best as they could and the three made it back to the car.

“You should take Thomas to the hospital.” Said Miley, trying to make Thomas as comfortable as possible. “I… need to go home and clean up before heading there. I refuse to show up in public like this! Will bring some clean clothes for him to change into.”

John nodded and kept his attention on the driving out of the woods. Once they got to the road, it was a straight line to the hospital, even if they stopped to drop Miley off.

At the hospital, John ran inside to get help, coming back with three paramedics and a stretcher to transport the boy. They rushed back inside.

“Sorry, Sir but you have to stay here while we take care of him.” One of the paramedics told John without stopping or staying behind.

John nodded and went to the reception to fill out the papers before sitting down to rest.

It must have passed a few hours before a doctor walked over in their direction. Miley was the first one to stand.

“ Doctor! Please, do you have any news about our son?”

“Mr and Mrs Cortney, I presume.” Both parents nodded eagerly. The doctor looked down at the patient files, flipping a page or two before talking again. “As you might have noticed, your son, Thomas Cortney, had his left arm broken in three different places. We had to operate to save his arm since he suffered intensive damage to his ligaments and veins.”

Miley gasped, dropping the backpack on the ground to place her hands over her mouth.

“But, you saved his arm, right?” Asked John.

“We did everything we could to save it but I’m afraid that it’s all up to him now. At the moment, he is using a special cast that utilizes metal pins to keep the bone structure in the right place and unmovable at the same time as it can be detached to facilitate cleaning the wounds.”

“How… how long will he have to use it for” Asked Miley.

“With the severity of his fracture, I want him to use it for at least twelve weeks. He might even have to use it for longer, will see. He’s currently staying in room 212.”

“Thank you, doctor!” Said both the Cortney’s.

“You’re welcome! Let me know if you have any questions. Have a good day!” With that, the doctor placed his file under his arm and walked away to talk with a nurse.

When the couple got in their son’s room, they saw sheriff Le’ Blanc sitting in a chair by the window.

“Mr. and Ms. Cortney!” Le’ Blanc approached them but Miley dodged the sheriff to go straight to her son’s side.

“Issac! Why am I not surprised to see you here?! Couldn’t you have come over at another time?” John asked, frowning.

“Unfortunately, no.” The sheriff took his small notepad and a pen, looking back at John. “So, tell me what exactly happened for the kid to get that much injury. The doctors couldn’t tell me much other than the extent of his damage.”

“We went out hunting after work and a grizzly bear attacked him. It was horrible! I even lost my magnum in the process!”

“A grizzly bear? Really?” Le’ Blanc’s eyebrow lifted slightly as he folded his notepad close, placing it back inside his jacket.

“Yes, really! Look at me! I’m full of scratches and bruises. My clothes alone should be telling this.” Issac looked at him up and down, studying John.

“I hope you don’t expect me to believe that those small scratches came from a grizzly.” The sheriff crossed his arms waiting for an explanation.

“Those scratches aren’t from the bear himself, no. They are from running throughout the forest with my son, trying to get away from it. It was only my son that got attacked.”

Le’ Blanc let out a heavy sigh, tired to have to deal with John and his family again. He rubbed his forehead in annoyance and pointed a finger at John’s chest, making sure to look very serious.

“Thomas’ arm doesn’t have any sign of a grizzly bite, even with the intensity of the wound he got but you know what John? I really don’t care if you don’t want to tell me. Your son is safe and sound and will hopefully get a quick recovery but the day that someone dies because of you, then you WILL have to explain more than just a few things to me.” The sheriff turned to leave, adding one last thing before closing the door behind him. “Have a good day!”

Thanks for reading! :)

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