Authors: W.C. Hoffman
Drake’s answer was simple enough and all that was needed.
“You didn’t have to do that, it is not even close to Memorial Day.” Tomek said, now openly making fun of his brother. Tomek was referring to an old tradition the boys had with Uncle. Uncle being a man of the military still held on to and passed along some of the societal holidays and traditions. Especially those holidays that pertained to the armed forces. The boys knew that many men and women had died for the country and while they had no reverence towards any country or nation they did have respect for the fallen soldiers.
Uncle would say that
“I knowingly sent them to die, those were the orders I was given and for that one day a year sure as hell is not enough.”
Thus every year on Memorial Day the boys and Uncle would do no work. They would enjoy a peaceful day usually fishing for the spawning pan fish that would be on their beds. No matter if the fishing was good or not, a large meal was enjoyed along with a moment of silence and reverence around their fire that night.
Memorial Day always marked the first swim of the spring, as well, and the three of them would jump in the icy cold river. This was the tradition that Tomek was referring to while poking fun at his cold brother. Even in the hot years they would be out immediately as the water was known to take your breath away and send instant shivers. The ice-cold swim, Uncle said, would “
Clean your soul of the winter grime trapped inside.
Winter grime or not, Drake was not enjoying this plunge into the river as he would his yearly jump into the same waterway. Unlatching the stilts from his leg, his body fell into an instant numbness. There in there dark along the rocky bank, Drake started to remove his wet clothes as best he could. Tomek assisted and Drake was quickly naked and still shivering. The cold night air not only steamed his hot breath as it left his body it also chilled him further as it entered his lungs. Tomek ran back to where he had placed his bag and retrieved the bloodstained coat along with the other duty gear they had just removed from Ravizza a bit ago.
Drake quickly threw it on zipping it up and pulling it close to his body. Holding his left arm up Drake smirked as an 8 inch chunk of the coat’s arm was missing from his hatchet throw.
Tomek seeing his brother’s blues lips force out the smile said “You ruined a nice coat dumbass.”
To cold and still shivering, standing on the shore line naked from the waist down Drake just looked at his brother and said “Happy Memorial Day Uncle.”
“He would have loved to see that fall,” Tomek said.
“I am pretty sure it was his spirit that pushed me!” Both brothers laughed quietly as they worked together on ringing out the water from Drakes pants and underwear.
“Swim back across, go into the cabin and warm up again. I’ll take out the fire starter.” Tomek suggested.
“Not going to happen. Not only am I not getting back in the water I am not going to send you off alone while I sit inside.” Drake said shooting down the preposterous idea. “Let’s go climb the hill, find the fire, do what we got to do with whomever started it and enjoy the warmth of it.” Drake’s plan sounded fine to Tomek and he knew all along that would be the outcome.
Slipping back on his pants and boots, Drake led Tomek up the hillside to the west of where they had known the fire to be, figuring it was built on the old logging tram road that was the only flat part of the entire ridge almost all the way into Pine Run. The six-foot-wide tram road would provide the fire starter with both a nice spot to camp as well as protection from the chilling winds that kicked through the valley.
Walking west and coming in from directly above the fire would give them a tactical advantage. It might take an hour longer to reach the fire, yet at this point they were hoping to catch the starter asleep or at least in a state of physical weakness due to his or her unpreparedness.
Once above the still-glowing fire the twins looked down upon it from over 100 yards away. From this distance and height they could make out the camp very well in the flickering light of the small, dwindling fire. Being this close meant the brothers did not speak, yet neither of them needed to. This type of hunt had been played out so many times in their past that they both knew exactly what the other was to do. Granted, this was always on the bedded deer that rested on the same tram roads, but in the recent past they had become incredibly adept at hunting and killing the humans that use them, as well.
Tomek worked his way down toward the camp, staying above it on the bouldering outcroppings that jutted out from the hill. Stalking on top of the moss-covered, glacier-placed rock tops allowed him to be silent and get close without waking the subject. He could now clearly see was lying in a sleeping bag tucked under the ledge of rock much like the ones he used to obtain his new position 35 yards away. Frustrated with his position because he had no clear bow shot into the sleeping bag that would end it now, he stuck with the plan and watched as Drake worked his way down to the campsite using the same rocks in the opposite direction.
Dropping onto the tram ground as silent as an owl in flight, Drake held his tactical knife in one hand and his newfound favorite weapon, the hatchet, in his other. At 20 yards he was still in the dark and while Drake could not see him fully, he knew something was there in the shadows. Continuing forward, digging the heels of his still wet boots first into the ground followed by a gentle foot at every step in order to stay silent, he approached the sleeping soon to be victim.
At 10 yards Drake was just outside the camp and was in full fire-light view of his brother. Drake was in throwing distance of the bagged fire starter but wanted to close the distance just a few feet more to confirm a proper target. Three more steps he made, then flipping the knife around in his hand so that the well-balanced blade was in this fingertips Drake reared back to throw the knife, stretching for power with his arm extended behind him,
Drake never heard the rifle shot from Magee’s sniper rifle but felt the direct impact as the 30.06 round struck his chest. Tomek watched in horror as the force of the bullet’s penetrating impact violently threw his brother to the earth and off of the tram road where he knew it was at least an 18-foot-drop. Still, Tomek stayed silent, realizing for the first time in a while he was afraid—afraid and angry.
omek was angry that they had fallen for the trap, angry that there never was anyone in the sleeping bag to begin with. Tomek was angry at the fact that someone had just shot and killed his twin brother, from a distance, with a gun like a coward. His desire to run to his brother’s body was quelled by the fact that the body was now the bait. Tomek knew where the shot came from and knew that the killer would soon be back to either check out his kill or pick up his camp.
Now it was a waiting game—waiting to kill. There would be time to burn his brother and put his ashes to rest with Uncle tomorrow. The feeling of losing his brother to a gunshot made him finally understand Uncle’s views on firearms. There is no skill, no pride and no reverence in that type of death.
Drake deserved better,
” he thought to himself. After two silent hours the fire was completely out and darkness had reclaimed its grasp on the hillside. Growing more and more impatient Tomek was thrilled to see the light. Light was emanating not from the moon, the stars or even the dawn but a piecing light shining down the tram road.
The shooter had turned on his flashlight and come to claim his trophy. Tomek waited, hand on the bow string, fingers surrounding the knock as he continually repeated to himself “
In the name of my brother, I will kill you.”
Both Tomek and Magee moved toward the camp. Magee shuffled along through the fallen leaves with much less caution than that of the predator on the rocks above him. Now only 12 feet away, Magee was still very unaware that he was not alone. Tomek, with his bow drawn and hand at its anchor point just under the cheek bone, stood there wanting to kill the deputy. Only he felt that simply killing the shooter of his brother with an arrow from behind was not enough.
This demon must pay for what he has done
Again, the anger was boiling inside of Tomek.
Reaching the edge where Drake’s body had rolled off into the valley, the deputy illuminated the valley with his flash light. There, just below the edge, was the body of what he knew to be Mowgli. The murdering boy that, as far as he knew, had taken out two hunters and a police K-9 unit. Drake did not look so menacing now in the dim light’s beam. The boy lay there on his side with his arm draped over his head. Face down in the dirt with the remains of frothy blood still surrounding his mouth.
The flashlight hitting the brother’s body also allowed Tomek to see his dead twin for the first time. Deciding it was time to begin his mental assault, he picked up a stone and tossed it into the roots of a tree just 10 feet from Magee.
Magee jumped to his side as the stone plinked against the tree. Drawing his pistol and holding his light across the top of his gun arm in a tactical fashion, he quickly realized nothing was there but a tree. As fast as Magee had confirmed he was alone, a barred owl called from his perch in a tree behind him.
The startled deputy spun 180 degrees, now illuminating the tree line where the owl had previously been roosted. The light beam’s subtle shake, coupled with the deputy’s labored breathing, allowed Tomek to see that his brother’s killer was slowly losing his nerve here in the dark woods, thanks both to Tomek and the random bird of prey.
the owl cried out, this time from just over Drake’s body, again causing Magee to spin in fear while pointing both his light and gun at the noise coming from what seemed to be every direction.
For Tomek, the barred owl was a welcomed guest to this kill party. Uncle’s teachings on stealth and camouflage often relied upon the skills owls displayed in the wild. Both boys could identify every owl species by its particular call, often translating them into English and the barred owl now terrorizing Magee was no different.
Who, who cooks, who cooks for you
?” the call of the barred owl again rang out from a different spot. Again Magee spun in an attempt to discern the source of the sound. Only this time, the owl was directly above Tomek’s head and as the light beam hit Tomek in the face, his fingers released the bow string.
Magee, astonished at what his flashlight had shown him, had no time to acquire the target and shoot. Magee never saw the arrow in flight and as the razor-sharp stone head made contact with the glass lens of the light, it shattered, breaking the bulb and forcing both the light and his gun to flip out of his hand to the ground. The arrow had also ricocheted up off of the light and toward Magee’s mouth. Knocking multiple teeth out upon impact and slicing the right corner of his mouth, the arrow left a gash in his cheek from mouth to ear.
Now Magee found himself in total darkness, bleeding profusely from his mouth and face. While attempting to not choke on the warm iron-like blood that began pouring into his throat, he dropped to the ground in a frantic search for the pistol that had, unbeknownst to him, fell off of the ledge behind him. Tomek leapt down from his perch on to the rock and even through the dark he could see Magee on the ground searching for his weapon.
“Who are you?” Magee yelled out upon hearing Tomek land. The words strained coming from his torn-open mouth while spitting out gobs of coagulated blood mixed with broken tooth fragments.
“I am the night, I am the fire, I am the owl and I am the woods,” Tomek answered while circling Magee, who was still on his hands and knees now looking into the darkness asking,
“What do you want?
“How are you alive?
“I fucking shot you.”
Tomek, now realizing that Magee had not yet put it together that there were more than one of them, decided to continue answering the deputy in a terrorizing manner with a deeper, almost growling voice.
“You cannot kill what is not alive.”
Tomek then drew back his bow and aimed for the small spot between the eyes of the deputy and was instantly blinded by a flash of light.
The sound of the gunshot echoed through the valley. Every owl and crow in the area called out as they took flight from their roosts. Tomek never had the chance to release the arrow as the muzzle flash from the gunshot caused him to flinch off his target. The instant brightness of the flame escaping out the end of the barrel was gone as quickly as it had arrived.
Both Tomek and the deputy briefly looked each other directly in the eyes through the darkness using what little moon had peaked through the cloudy sky. Tomek dropped his bow, feeling around his entire body, searching for where the round had struck him. Looking toward the deputy again, he made eye contact as Magee slowly fell forward from his knees, hitting the ground with thud that launched leaves into the air upon impact.
The clouds dissipated just enough for Tomek to look 15 yards up the tram road. Again, he was locked eye to eye with a shooter, frozen, as if believing if he did not move the shooter would not be able to make him out in the dark. Motionless, hidden in the shadows, he watched as the new shooter walked slowly up to Magee’s body.
Picking up his bow and raising it slowly with the same arrow knocked that was meant to kill Magee, Tomek came to full draw, waiting for his new target to take one more step into the beam of moonlight.
Just prior to reaching the light, the shooter stopped, looked into the dark area where Tomek stood to the side of the boulder and hollered, “You cannot kill what is not alive.” Tomek did not understand how or why, but hearing Drake’s voice again in the dark was nothing short of miraculous.
tepping out from his shadowed hiding spot behind the boulder Tomek grasped Drake in his arms, pulling him close, chest-to-chest in a deep hug that caused Drake pain.