Flash Fiction Challenge: The Tracker

Photo by K.S. Brooks

The dogs picked up the scent on a bed of pine needles beneath a large tree. The area was so densely forested, the helicopters would be of no use.

I noticed some of the leaves beneath the tree were tinged with dried blood. Perhaps all the shots in the earlier exchange had not gone wild.

The dogs were following the trail toward the creek and I was worried he might have hit the water just to double back on his trail. As the hounds sniffed the water’s edge, baffled at the abrupt break of their quarry’s scent, I noticed a wet spot just downstream. As it happened, I noticed it just a second too late. I heard the unmistakable cocking of a pistol behind me.

In 250 words or less, tell us a story incorporating the elements in the picture. The 250 word limit will be strictly enforced.

Please keep language and subject matter to a PG-13 level.

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4 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge: The Tracker”

  1. I dove into the underbrush as a bullet whizzed past my ear. This dude’s good. Crap, my Glock is jammed! I slid out my SIG—and waited.

    Get your breathing under control, Wes. C’mon. You can do this.

    Crunching boots on dry leaves; a branch breaking; the silhouette of my pursuer as he passed by my hiding place; labored panting; footfalls and splashes in the water; the noise of the hounds diminishing as they disappeared into the distance.

    Just you and me, bub.

    I rolled onto the path. Then I paused. I don’t think he heard me.

    I inched forward, every nerve and muscle twitching with excitement. Damn, you’re turned on, aren’t you? Get a grip. I could see the guy’s back about 20 feet ahead, crouched down with his weapon aimed in front of him, scanning from side to side as he crept onward like a panther on the prowl.

    Gotcha! You’re dead. I moved as only a well-trained cop can, alert for danger, senses in hyper drive, ready to react—and I didn’t notice the sinkhole until I was covered with mud and dirt up to my chin. A pistol cocked behind me.

    Guess this is it. He wins—and so does my drycleaner. With a rueful smile, I raised my hands above my head and tossed the SIG onto the creek bank.

    My tracker’s teeth reflected the little bit of sunlight squeezing through the branches. “You’re under arrest. There’s no room on the force for dirty cops.”

  2. Hard Hunted

    “How long,” I asked as I tried to catch my breath. “How long have you been playing me?”

    “Longer than you think,” my assistant, Jared assured me as he aimed his gun at my head.

    I opened my mind, searching for help, but the hounds were too far away. I could still call them to me, but they were focused on our quarry and even if they did come I would still be dead, and Jared could tell the others anything he wanted.

    “They will figure it out,” I told him as I thought about our quarry, a man who ran for no reason, and suddenly it made sense. “You forced him to run.”

    Jared laughed. “And he will be executed for your murder.”

    “They will know,” I said indicating my pack.

    “They will know what I tell them,” Jared promised me with a chuckle. “They are, after all, only dogs and you will be just as dead.”

    I turned slowly to face him. “If you are going to kill me look me in the eyes.”

    “My pleasure,” he hissed as his eyes met mine. “You are an abomination.”

    “I am a Hounds-man,” I said, my eyes shifting from human to wolf. “And you are dead.”

    All humanity left me as I surrendered myself to the beast that protected me and my hounds. Claw and tooth against a trigger finger, savage against civility. He thought he was prepared, that he was in control.

    He was wrong.

  3. “Now would be a good time to turn around and go home,” Alex said.

    “You can’t keep running,” I said. “Turn yourself in before it’s too late.” The dogs caught his scent and ran back to us, all growls and bared teeth.

    “I didn’t do it and you know it.” He clutched his left side, blood oozed through his fingers. “If you won’t stop at least let me get ahead. You can say you didn’t see me.” The 38 wavered in his free hand.

    “You know I can’t do that. Come back with me. You need a doctor.” I took a step toward him, my gun still pointed at the ground.

    “Let it go, Casey. This is it for me. Just…just let me alone. I need to finish this.”

    I couldn’t just let it go. He was a damned fool and I wouldn’t let him die like this. A step closer, it was all I needed and I could take the gun end this fool’s errand. “Alex, you know mom would never want you to go out this way.

    “Give me a chance to prove your word. I can’t do it if your gone, or dead.” He faltered and I swooped in. His gun was mine and I pulled him up supporting his weight on my shoulders.

    The gun shot came from nowhere. Alex died in my arms. Jon Shaw lowered his rifle at the top of the hill. “Good thing I got here when I did, Casey.”

  4. Abe heard the hammer eased back behind him. Smelled gun-oil, cordite.

    “Hello Kayne.” Abe said.

    “It ends here, Abe … Has to. I’m winged, but I’m gettin’ away.”

    “I don’t think so, Kayne. You fired six shots. Colt 45’s a six-shooter, right? You’re done, Pal.”

    “Wanna try me, Abe? You so sure? Maybe I reloaded.”

    “Nah. We was takin’ you in, took your gun belt. You grabbed the Deputy’s gun and ran. You ain’t got no shells.”

    “That a fact, Abe?”

    “Kayne … Kayne! You, me, we’re brothers. Ma an’ the dogs could hardly tell us apart. We was smart, always bluffin’, taking chances. But one big difference, you joined Jessie’s gang. Swoppin’ an’ stealin’ my duds to rob the train was smart, Kayne but I know you better’n anyone and you’re bluffin’ now.”

    “Hell, you’re dumb Abe! Think I wanna be you? Big-shot Sheriff? Nah! You’re dumb. Dead an’ dumb, you call me on this hand.”

    “Cut jawin’, Kayne.” Abe said, gun up, turning fast,

    “Time to see what you got, brother.”

    Shots rang out. A brother fell. A Deputy stepped from the trees, gun smoking.

    “Sheriff! You ok? Need help?”

    He looked at the dead man prone on the pine needles, looked again at the injured Sheriff.

    “How ’bout that!” He said. “You … him … Absolute spittin’ image!”

    Then Abe’s dogs returned, snuffling, pawing, milling around keening – befuddled by ambiguous scents.

    “No,” said the Sheriff, smiling wryly “I’m ok now … for certain.”

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