* PG13. *
The spring rain had left puddles in the dirt road but she no longer tried to avoid them. Under other circumstances this would have been a pretty ride. The young pale green leaves not yet entirely covering the branches she brushed by glittered in the sun that had finally chased away the storm clouds. Even the fresh scent of the earth moistened by water was unable to mask the smell of the hot motor between her legs. She didn’t know how much longer the bike would last the way she was pushing the engine.
She was being herded; the one corner of her mind not busy trying to figure out how to escape was occupied with analyzing the situation. Her little 250cc Honda motorcycle was no match for the two brutes chasing her, and she had an occasional glimpse through the trees of a third bike traveling parallel to her. It must be one of those dual purpose bikes, because surely no street motorcycle could handle those conditions.
“Escape!” her instincts screamed. But escape—to where? If she ditched the bike and ran, her pursuers would catch up to her in a flash. So hide! But hide where? She anticipated no possibility of a hero coming to her rescue in these remote woods. The dirt road was not much more than a path now and she didn’t have any idea how much farther it went.
A sharp curve to the right and an opportunity presented itself. She was momentarily out of sight, so she dropped the bike and rolled into a hollow in the ground covered by a dead tree trunk. It made the barest of shelters, but would have to do. She doubted any of her followers had any skill in tracking, and she hoped none of them carried a gun.
“She’s got to be here somewhere,” the skinny one shouted as he guided his motorcycle onto the path. “The bike is here, but I don’t see her.”
“Double back and hunt for her along the road. And look harder,” the one with a beard ordered. After the chase, the beard was unkempt, and appeared as if it had been attacked by a flock of birds searching for twigs to build their nests. “She can’t have gone far.”
“What’s the boss want her for anyway?”
“Don’t know and don’t care. Our orders were to grab her and bring her back...unharmed if possible, and that’s all I know.”
The lone woman, still sitting on her bike, chimed in, whining. “He said this would be easy. I didn’t expect to spend my entire afternoon tramping through the woods trying to find some cunt.”
“Shut up and stop complaining,” the bearded one snarled. “He’s paying us plenty for this job. I don’t like it any more than you do, but the sooner we find her the sooner we can get back to the bar.” He circled the area, kicking random rocks and tree stumps, while the other man walked back down the road.
Two orange-yellow eyes followed his movements from behind a think clump of bushes. Silently, taking its time, edging one paw forward at a time, the gray wolf moved into position and waited for its chance. The hunters had become the hunted, but they didn’t know it yet. The bearded one stood about three feet away, turning in circles and scratching his head when the wolf determined the time was right. In a flash, it struck the man’s chest, knocking him to the ground. The wolf ignored the unguarded throat and swiped at the man’s face, leaving a trail of bloody claw marks in the right cheek. The man screamed—a high-pitched, little girl sound, and passed out. The woman turned at the yell to see the wolf sitting unconcerned on its victim’s chest, licking its paw. It looked right at her and winked. Without a second thought for her companion, she started her engine, turned the motorcycle around, and headed back the way they had come.
“I’m going to have to trade up one of these days,” Dot thought as she rode away. She would have to ditch this bike soon, before it got reported as stolen, but that seemed such a shame. For now, she would enjoy the ride, with the wind against her face, and making as much time and distance as she dared.
She needed to get away from West Virginia and into the mountains of Pennsylvania. That was her home turf, and she would hole up there and try to again figure out why she was being chased. She owned nothing of value to be stolen, only her clothes and her ring, and her clothes needed to be washed. Tonight she’d make camp by a creek and rinse them out. Luckily, her ponytail had stayed in its wrappings, so her hair wasn’t too much of a mess. Raiding the bearded one’s wallet had supplied her with enough cash for gas and a little extra. To go back to her old campsite for the rest of her meager belongings presented too big of a risk.
The biggest problem as always was food. Changing used a lot of energy, and between shifting and the chase she had used up most of her reserves. It was too early in the year for berries, and she had no time to set snares for rabbits or squirrels. No, she would just have to do with whatever she bought from a convenience store. She longed for a rare steak to satisfy the blood lust licking her paw had awakened, but she hadn’t found a gas station yet selling them. She sighed. Beef jerky would be on the menu.
Sitting by the barest of fires after dark, she decided the time had come to change her human appearance. Cut her hair short, maybe dye it red. She wondered how that would affect her wolf aspect. She could see the tabloid headlines now. “Rare red wolf spotted in the Allegheny Mountains” and underneath the article would begin “Hunters are requested not to try and capture this animal, but to report its location to the Game and Fish Commission.” Then a paragraph speculating on some Native American prophecy. She laughed, a lonely sound in the night woods, leaned against a handy tree, and fell asleep.
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