Monday, February 22, 2021

ACTION IN THE WOODS by Nelson Abraham Murray

Somewhere near Morgantown, West Virginia

December 13, 1915

 

Ian sat behind the wheel of his Model T pickup, awakening from a brief sleep.  A steady flow of blood ran from his nose, down his forehead, and onto his bowler hat.  Nervously, he observed his surroundings and went over in his head what had happened prior to his rest.  Earlier, while driving to his destination, a black bear had stepped onto the road in front of him, causing the truck to veer off course and turn on its roof.  Naked trees and snow surrounded the vehicle.  He wiped his nose with the back of his hand, reached for the door’s handle, and twisted it.  Before pushing the door open, his hand froze at the sound of crunching snow.  His heart raced as a tear of sweat developed beside his ear.  Nothing could be more compromising than if he were found at that moment.  He knew if the bodies in the truck’s bed were discovered, his short life would be over.

            “Hello?” a scruffy voice called from outside.  Ian silently waited.  The door opened and a hand in a wool glove grabbed hold of the young man’s shoulder and dragged him out onto the snow.

            “You okay, Mister?” the man asked.  Ian looked up at him.  He was a bearded gentleman standing at more than six feet wearing a black trapper hat and a double-breasted red flannel coat.  A double-barreled shotgun slung over his left shoulder and a bandoleer wrapped around his abdomen.  He gently slapped Ian on his chest.  “That’s one hell of an accident.”

            Ian sat up and leaned against the side of his truck.  He looked under the bed and found the three bodies lying in the snow beside each other wrapped in their respective blankets.  If he could get the mountain man to leave him alone, there would not be a problem.  He checked his watch, then looked at his rescuer.  “Thank you, sir, for helping me, but I think I can manage.  Please, leave me be to handle this situation myself.”

            The noise of crunching snow reemerged behind the mountain man and Ian noticed another person appear before them.  This gentleman was thinner with a handlebar moustache too large for his face.  He gripped a Krag bolt-action rifle with his bare hands.  The first mountain man turned around and smiled.  “The truck is fucked, Don, but the driver seems to be okay.  We should probably take ‘im to a hospital.”  They both nodded to each other.

            “That’s okay, I’ll manage.”  Ian raised his hand in protest.  “You two can go now, thank you.”  Slowly, he got himself to his feet.  His legs shook with weakness as he unbuttoned his winter coat and loosened his solid black necktie.  

            “No, no,” the first mountain man responded, shaking his head.  You need medical help.  I can see your nose is probably broken.”  The man proceeded to peer into the truck as if looking for something valuable.  There was the leather satchel with Ian’s payment for disposing the bodies, but the mountain man had not noticed.  He then turned towards the bed.  After getting on his knees, he pulled out one of the wrapped figures and curiously peeled open the layers of sheets.  Ian watched motionlessly as the mountain man gasped at what was inside.  “Holy Jesus!  What the hell is that?”  The big man stood up straight and took a step back.

            Ian remembered his Smith & Wesson .38 special he had kept in a shoulder holster and reached for it, taking aim at the mountain man’s skull.  While on the verge of squeezing the trigger a hard blow hit him on his right cheek bone.  A rush of pain ran through his head as he collapsed onto the snow.

            The other man turned his rifle over so the barrel faced Ian’s direction.  In an instant, Ian lifted his sidearm at the stranger and fired first into his forehead.  The man’s head jerked upward, a squirt of blood flinging from his wound, as his body slumped on its back, making a loud popping sound.  Ian turned his weapon towards the first man, who had his shotgun aimed at his head, and fired another round.  The mountain man dropped to his knees and fell forward.

            A black crow flew over Ian and landed on the rear tire of the Model T as he stood on his feet.  He studied the animal for a moment before looking down at the two dead men he had just murdered.  He contemplated what he had just done but figured he had no choice in the matter.  The bodies in the stolen truck were nothing more than gambling degenerates who did not pay their debts.  If his boss found out about the scuffle, he might be the next victim. 

            The crow took off without warning as Ian holstered his revolver.  A foreboding sensation ran through his body, causing him to slowly turn around and find to his bewilderment the 400 lb black bear standing an arm’s distance away, staring straight at his face.  “Shit!” he said to himself.  The bear growled at Ian and sniffed at his direction.  On impulse, Ian decided to turn around and sprint towards the nearest maple tree.  He grabbed onto a branch, pulled himself up, sat down, and lifted his legs.  The bear chased after him, leaned against the trunk of the tree and clawed away at the bark.  He growled while keeping his eyes on the young man.  Ian took note of the mountain man’s rifle, figuring it would be enough to take down the bear.  His own revolver would not.  He glanced at the rifle and back at the angry bear below.

 

 


Nelson is from upstate Michigan who enjoys writing on his spare time.  He works as an accountant and serves in the United State Marine Corps on the reserves.  Most of his stories revolve around noir, crime and war fiction.

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