Chapter Six: Hunt or be Hunted
“Ariel, what are you doing at work already?” Trenton Kody asked as Ariel walked into his office.
“I’m ready to work.” She said with a smile.
“Shouldn’t you be recovering?” He asked as he eyed her.
“I have been recovering for five weeks, Trenton. I want to work.” She said as she approached his desk. “See, stitches all out.” She said as she tapped the scars on her face. “So, what do you have for me?” She asked with a smile.
He watched her for a moment. Her face does look much better, and she has most of her smile back. He sighed as he pointed to a file on his desk. “Well, I have something that came in just this morning, I would give it to…” He stopped talking when she picked up the report and whistled.
“Seven people reported missing in the last three years. All reported having been hiking in the same area.”
“Yeah, how about you go check it out?”
She looked at him with a smile. “On it, boss.” She said with a nod, then turned to head out the door.
“Ariel.” He said before she could leave.
She turned to him with a brilliant smile. “Yeah?”
“You should take back up. Like how about that detective, who’s on your other case?”
Ariel shook her head. “I don’t need a babysitter.”
“No, that’s why it’s called back up.”
“I don’t need a man to protect me; I can take care of myself…”
“Just be careful.” He mumbled.
“Aren’t I always?” She asked with a grin.
“I thought so until the last one…” He stopped talking when he saw the excitement waver in her eyes. “But I know you will be careful this time.”
“Right.” She said with a nod and a grin, then left his office.
Trenton shook his head as he picked up the phone. “Can I speak with Detective Gunnar, please?”
Luka picked up the phone on his desk. “Detective Gunnar.”
“Hello, detective, you don’t know me, my name is Trenton Kody, I run the Exposé…”
“Ariel’s boss.” Luka said as he listened to the man on the other line.
“Yes, sir. Well, she’s going on another investigation, and I think she could use some backup.”
“I’ll get a squad…”
“No, sir. I think you should go alone. Just make sure she doesn’t get into the same trouble she had last time…”
“Got it.” Luka said with a nod.
“Thank you.” Trenton said, then gave the detective the location of where Ariel will be.
Trenton hung up with the detective and sucked in a deep breath. He hoped he had done the right thing.
Ariel looked around the woods as she followed the path. Other than the woods being creepy as hell, she saw nothing out of the ordinary. Maybe the hikers had fallen off a cliff.
She’s happy to be working again. Five weeks of sitting at home doing nothing but letting her body heal had been hell. She was an investigative reporter; she was used to being out in the field, looking for a story, not stuck in the house, watching TV.
Trenton hadn’t let her start work on her own story yet. He had told her it could wait until she was better and could get her full brain power into it. He didn’t want to read gibberish. She chuckled, maybe the pills she had been on had been potent.
At least the nurse who had come to her house twice a day, to change her bandages, was a pleasant woman. Her parents had insisted on hiring someone to help her, rather than her trying to do it herself and chance an infection.
She heard something zing past her head and watched it thud into the tree beside her. She stared at the arrow, sticking out of the tree.
Had she walked into a western?
“I only miss once.” A gruff voice said from behind her.
She turned and stared at the man who was loading his bow again.
He looked up at her with excitement in his eyes. “Run.”
She squealed as she took off down the path back towards the way she had come in. An arrow zinged past her head and hit the tree in front of her.
“Wrong way, darlin’.” The man said with a laugh.
She turned around and ran through the woods.
“That’s more like it!” The man hollered with excitement as he reloaded his bow.
What the hell is going on? This man is nuts.
She heard an arrow leave his bow and tried to dodge it, but it pierced through the back of her shoulder and knocked her off her feet. Damn it; she had recovered from her last encounter with a nut job.
“Oh, you’re only winged. Shame, now I will have to use my knife.” The man said as he walked up to her.
Ariel screamed as she kicked the man between the legs, then got to her feet and took off at a run, as he laid on the ground holding his crotch.
How is she going to get out of here alive? She is so lost now, and her shoulder was burning. Losing blood was making her weak, but her adrenaline was pumping, and keeping her going.
But for how long?
“Yoo-hoo.” The man called through the woods. “I will find you.”
Great, she bets he knows these woods like the back of his hand.
“Gotcha!” The man hollered with glee as he stood twenty feet in front of her.
She skidded to a stop and stared at him. How had he gotten in front of her, was she going in circles?
“That wasn’t very nice of you, back there.” He said as he glared at her. “I would have made it fast, but now…”
Ariel turned with a scream and ran away from the man. She heard the man pull back on the bow and let another arrow fly. She felt something big and robust, tackle her to the ground, just as the arrow flew past her and hit a tree.
The madman growled into the air as he came after her.
“You just can’t stay out of trouble, can you?” Her rescuer said as he stood and pulled her to her feet.
Luka patted his holster for his gun and grunted.
“Yeah.” He said as he took hold of her arm. “Let’s get running before he shoots us.” He said as he pulled her in the opposite direction of the maniac with the bow.
“Why don’t you shoot him?” She asked as she tried to keep up with him.
“I seemed to have lost my gun when I tackled you out of the way of the arrow.” He said as he turned around a tree.
“How did you find me, anyway?” She asked as she stared at the back of his head. “Wait, how did you know I was here?”
“Your boss called me. Now, no more talking, save your energy.” He said as he glanced at the arrow in her shoulder and shook his head.
“Less talking, more running.” He said as he pulled her behind him.
She kept up with his fast movements, as well as she could. He took a sharp turn, and they lost the man for the moment. He stopped and took in a deep breath, then looked at the arrow in her shoulder again.
“You’ll need that pulled soon, but for now, it needs to stay there, don’t want you to lose more blood than you already have.”
“Can you break off the ends so that I can move better?” She asked as she looked at the arrow in her shoulder.
He shook his head, then yanked her down when he heard a noise.
“You need to stay hidden.” He said as he looked for a place to stash her. He found a small cave and took her over to it. “Get in there.”
“Oh, Lord, I’m glad I’m not claustrophobic.” She said as she squeezed into the small hole.
“Don’t make a peep until I come for you.” He said as he watched her slide into the hole.
“What if you never come for me?” She asked as she watched him from the darkness of the small cave.
“Then we’re both screwed.” He said as he placed branches in front of the small opening.
“Not funny.” She grumbled.
“Wasn’t meant to be.” He said with a soft laugh.
“You better come back; you still owe me an interview.”
He sighed as he left her in the cave and went in search of the psycho. It seems the man has been hunting people in these woods; for the past several years.
Luis Archer looked around for the crazy bitch he was hunting. The first time anyone has caught him off guard. That was a nice kick to the crotch. And just as he was about to take her down. Some behemoth knocked her out of the path of his arrow. He heard a twig snap and smiled as he turned around.
“I see you, darlin’.” He said as he loaded his bow.
He pulled back and shot at the dark figure. The figure dodged the arrow as though it was nothing.
“Missed.” A gravelly voice said as it came out of the shadows. “You have been bad.” The masked man said as he approached.
“Who the hell are you?”
“I’m your worst nightmare.” The masked man said as he stood in the sunlight that streamed through the branches of the trees.
Luis fitted another arrow into his bow and shot at the man. Dreamer dodged it again, as though it was a simple task to dodge his precise arrows. Dreamer moved so fast, Luis squealed when the man stood in front of him.
The masked man yanked the bow out of the man’s hands, then pulled an arrow from the man’s hip. He looked at the man, his red eyes shining in the sunlight.
The man paled as he looked into those red eyes.
“Run.” The masked man said as he loaded the arrow into the bow.
Luis took off at a run through the woods. No one knows these woods as well as he does. There’s no way the man will find him.
“Yoo-hoo, I will find you.” The masked man said as he watched the man run through the woods.
Luis shook his head. Who is this crazy man?
“Gotcha.” The masked man whispered as he let the arrow fly and watched it hit the man in the back.
Luis fell forward onto the forest floor and crawled across the ground. He has to get away from this madman.
The masked man stood above the killer and shook his head as he watched his pathetic attempt to crawl away. He moved over to the man and tossed the bow off to the side, then placed his foot on the man’s back and smiled when the hunter hollered in pain.
The masked man reached down and pulled the man’s knife from its sheath, then flipped it twice in his hand.
“Aww, look at that, you’re winged. Which means I will have to finish you with this here knife.” The masked man said as he grinned behind his mask.
Luis turned onto his side and looked up at the masked man, his hands in the air.
“Please.” He begged. “Have mercy.”
“Mercy?” The man in the mask asked as he stared down at him. “The same mercy you showed all those people you hunted for fun?”
“I gave them a chance to get away.” Luis cried.
“As did I.” The man in the mask said with a nod.
He looked down at the hunter as he shook his head. If only there weren’t so much evil in the world, then he would be out of a job. He leaned down and thrust the knife into the man’s chest and sliced him from sternum to stomach.
Luis screamed and gurgled as the knife sliced through him, then choked on his blood as the world tilted on its axels.
The man in the mask looked up when he heard the reporter’s voice. Great, that’s all he needs, the nosey reporter and her cop.
He tossed the knife onto the ground next to the dead man, then pulled out a dream catcher and set it on the ground next to the man’s head and disappeared.