Saturday, May 23, 2009

When a new vampire's attempted Turning takes out the Turnee.

Well, wasn't that one serious night on the town? You dressed to seduce, succeeded grandly, but oops, slightly intoxicated by success you went and forgot to pull out in time to avoid the inevitable. That's right; the Turnee didn't make it, dropped at your feet looking very pale and flaccid. There is nothing you can do to rectify the mistake, so you must deal with it.

Of course, you are an apprentice vampire so your initial reaction may be like a Normal's reaction to blame the victim. It's not my fault, I didn't mean for it to go this far. It was an accident. I tried to pull out really, I did.

You may honestly think the fault lies with the Turnee. Perhaps he or she consumed too much alcohol while you partied. Then, after you led him or her to a secluded undisclosed location, got him or her to believe that the big moment had arrived after a serious bout of hot foreplay, wham bam and OMG that feels better than it should have felt. Hmm.

Seriously, you really desired him or her, wanted a successful Turning, but the end result was a disappointment. Well, some things never change, right ladies?

Regardless of who or what you may want to blame, you took more than he, or she had to give. In your old life, you might've said you were sorry, or spewed forth a string of vilely vindictive phrases and walked away. However, you're dead now, and so is the Turnee. Only the Turnee isn't about to be Turned, stand up, look at you and demand to know why he or she feels so weak and lifeless.

You, the Turner must deal with the consequences, and complete the task long before the sun rises. However, what do you do next?

You could just leave his or her corpse where it dropped, but there is the little problem of the telltale bite marks. Even the dumbest cop walking the planet will question the double incisor holes. In addition, if you applied proper vampire etiquette, they were neatly placed along the base of the carotid artery just above the collarbone preferably on the Turnee's left side where blood pressure is slightly higher.

You might quickly dig a hole and deposit his or her corpse there, but if you've never dug a grave, well, you'll need several hours without interruption. If you partied until two or three in the morning, you'll run out of time before the sun fries you.

Calling the vampire that Turned you is an option, but no self-respecting vampire carries a cellphone. If he or she forgot to shut it off and went into his or her recuperative trance for the day, imagine the phone ringing while unsuspecting normals walk nearby, or worse, a hunter bearing unwanted gifts. Normals will search for the phone, certain that even if it wasn't their own, nobody who called or texted a friend should be ignored. I mean come on, what are you thinking? Might be an important tweet.

If you were advanced, say, after a century of life experience, you might call your vampire in a way that is ancient as time itself. Of course, if you were that old, you would not've made all the errors you made that put you in such a precarious position.

Ingenuity must rule the night. You may not have discovered this yet. You are incredibly strong. Especially, immediately after a Taking. Even from an intoxicated Takee. Of course, you may feel a bit wobbly.

My suggestion: lift him or her onto your shoulder and take him or her home if you're not already there. You won't need to explain why you're bringing a friend home. No one will notice the body if you hide it well. He or she is not about to smell, since you've drained him or her of fluids. Then, when you wake at midnight, tote the corpse into an area where no one will find him or her, and bury it deep.

I understand we're in an overcrowded world, and the odds are good someone will discover the corpse eventually, but by then they'll not get enough forensic evidence to convict someone who is still living.

Perhaps this solution is something of a let down, but the easiest answer is always the best one. In the future, learn to pace yourself. Pull out several times to help maintain control. A Turning should be respectful. It is an honored tradition dating back thousands of years.

Next: Breaking the news after a successful Turning.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A new vampire's proper wardrobe and that all-important first date.

Several weeks to three months beyond the day of your Turning, life will seem vastly different as will your appearance.

By now, your once supple tanned flesh glows pale under moonlight, may appear slightly translucent and feel like chamois. Not to worry, this is perfectly normal for a new vampire. Consider it the new you, and with time you will learn to appreciate and even value your new look.

In addition, the effect it will have on prey may prove entertaining as you watch their alarm fade into adoration before the Taking. Once you have perfected the art of Mesmerization, their expressions will be full of adulation immediately before they feel a deep sense of love.

Male or female, feel free to dabble in cosmetics, as you did before Turning. However, too much vivid color will look garish, something no self-respecting vampire finds appealing.

As an apprentice vampire, you will discover that normally you will not need a wardrobe different than the one you owned previously. You can put away the sunglasses and of course, you no longer need to worry about sunscreen. As I stated earlier, exposure to direct sunlight means death.

On the occasion that your vampire, or perhaps a guy, or gal vampire you've met since Turning suggests a night on the town, and you feel ready to be seen in a crowd of normals, those poor mortal creatures, it will be your moment to shine.

However, what I'm suggesting will require preparation. The only clothes you may own are those you wore when you Turned, unless you were Turned while assuming sex was eminent and you hastily undressed in anticipation. Either way, shopping is the order of the day, er, night.

Be aware that some store lighting may hurt your eyes if you stare directly into it. Otherwise, assuming you're dressed to begin with, no one will really notice you. So feel free to shop until, well, sunrise, or earlier to be certain you return home safely.

While mixing with mortals you'll learn despite the occasional odd look tossed in your direction, that they'll take for granted you are one of them, but since you're so pale they'll think you must hate sunlight, or don't get outside much.

See how clever mortals can be? Wait until you can mesmerize and then you will so understand rubbernecking (sic).

If you and your date are shopping together, and there is safety in numbers, you might ask his or her opinion about what you intend to purchase, or steal if you are broke. You have a problem with that? Come on, you are dead, and besides who is going to stop you? It's not as if you plan to make a habit of it. Moreover, if you're worrying about going to hell instead of heaven, you need to lie down and think about your new life.

What you cannot do while shopping is use those lovely full length mirrors you once preened in front of while dressing. Since you are dead, you no longer have a reflection. This can become a nuisance if you have a salesclerk hovering nearby, which is why I suggest you shop with a companion. They can distract, and also let you know how you look, and if the colors go well with your new complexion.

By now, you may have discovered that your hair does not grow longer than it was the minute you Turned. So why bother with haircuts? You might need to get a trim so you fit in with current styles. Remember, you'll live centuries if you are intelligent and wary of mortals bearing gifts. Styles do have a way of changing with disgusting regularity.

Until now, I discussed dating another vampire. So, let's make this discussion much more interesting.

You have seen a person you've decided you want to Turn just because you can. Yes, it might be just because you can, or any of several other reasons including my favorite hunger. However, why you do anything now is entirely up to you.

Approach him or her as you would have before you Turned, flirt, and be attentive. Guys: don't act like idiots, women enjoy humor and intelligence, not touchy feely on a first date. Gals: you know already what guys want, um I mean, other than sex. They want you to make them feel more important, needed. Just don't get too weak-kneed. You're about to alter the course of their life permanently, or oops possibly end it.

Buy them drinks, dinner, take them to a show, movie, whatever, and at the end of the night, invite them home, of course. I leave the rest up to you. Just remember to use the same technique with him or her as your vampire used when Turning you.

In addition, remember this important adage, you are what you eat. So, if you take him or her to dinner, skip fast food unless you need more fat in your diet. Wine and dine him or her at an expensive restaurant. Trust me; you'll be happy you did.

Happy dating and good luck with you first Turning!

Next: Proper Vampire etiquette and the all-important, clean-up when a Turning goes too far.
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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Newly minted vampire? Congratulations!

The joy of your first Taking, and hints for living your new life (sic).

As with anything worth doing in life, the same holds true for those among us who have recently become the walking dead. I regret how dreadful that must sound, but now that you are a newly minted vampire, you must make the effort to truly appreciate and receive the blessings of eternal life--albeit a nighttime existence.

Since you have spent several of your first days or longer in your hideaway, i.e. casket, recuperating from the bloodletting and the Taking-In-Return with your vampire, you may have had time to mull over your new existence. You should not think of this major transition tritely.

Here are important tips for the apprentice vampire.

Men and women penned volumes regarding a vampire's ability to mesmerize his or her victim. You may have experienced this before your Turning and believed what you felt to be love. It was not, your vampire was hungry. However, now you are a Taker. Nevertheless, mesmerizing a victim is as much about learned technique as it is about innate expertise, so take your time.

Furthermore, who among the living knows how best to pierce the neck with a delicate yet forceful enough bite to draw blood, but not rend the flesh and muscles? Two small neat holes spaced about one and one-half to two inches apart at a slight diagonal along the base of the neck are the mark of a skillful and experienced vampire.

Attention to details is crucially important if your first Taking is to succeed. I cannot stress enough that preparation discipline and patience are equally significant to achieve a positive result.

Remember, should you fail to feed you can go underground where you will learn to absorb nutrients from the soil. There is no telling what might be in the soil. However, it should sustain you for several days if needed, or keep you, well, "vampire alive" until your teacher arrives for your second lesson.

When searching for prey, remember the old saying "the bigger they are the harder they fall." In your new life, you might just consider it super-sizing, and enjoy the extraordinary feast. If your prey's volume exceeds what you might absorb during the Taking, consider sharing with your vampire. Families that Take together stay together.

Should you accidentally walk into a patch of sunlight the way you did when you enjoyed the feeling of heat on your body, the pain will be instantaneous and excruciating. The exposed flesh will boil and stink something awful. Should the experience immobilize you with panic and your vampire is not nearby to assist, you will sizzle into an oily puddle of unidentifiable matter and finally flare into grey-white ash. Your vampire will sweep you away and move on. Remember, your vampire is dead too, and he or she is driven only by the need to survive.

Exposure to silver may be more subtle. Say you wore a silver chain at the time of Turning, once completed and you are a true vampire, albeit weak and helpless, the chain will slowly erode into you, and if left unchecked will decapitate you before you might safely remove the silver. Remember, your vampire will be reluctant to handle silver so again it is all about preparation.

A mature vampire never needs rescuing.

The oldest threat on record for a vampire is a wooden stake through the heart. The Staking occurs while a vampire remains unconscious after a night of mischief. Again, preparation is necessary to avoid this tragedy. Always double back, to check the path behind you when you return before dawn, or after a successful hunt. One of the consequences of super-sizing is over satiation and the sluggishness it causes. So always, be certain no one followed you to your windowless basement, cave, or abandoned house.

Finally, there is talk that a crucifix pressed to the forehead will kill a vampire. As with a lea of garlic, this is more rumor than fact. It is best to allow laymen their beliefs, which in the end makes the Taking less troubling. In this case, myth brings them to you, or notifies you where they live. There is nothing quite like the odor of garlic to bring out the best in us all, and turn away those uninvited guests too.

With centuries of time on your hands, now is the perfect occasion to establish new habits that will carry you through forever. Until you feel sure of your abilities to walk among the living after dark only, I suggest you follow the teaching of your vampire. Remember, for you the moon is not a harsh mistress!

Good luck, welcome, and happy living (sic)!

Next: A proper wardrobe and that all-important first date with the guy or gal you plan to Turn just because you can.
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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Definitions of Noir Mystery

Noir mysteries sculpt imagery from the ice of vocabulary not the stone of definition. Stone is brittle, shaped only by tools. Mood alters ice as it weaves around characters while they struggle to live the plot without knowing their destinations or the consequences of their decisions.

Like the paralyzing sound of hurried footsteps cresting a hollow walkway echoing off water ten yards below, words whittle and change those decisions.

However, it is not enough to experience the crime, not enough to feel the fear or the cold clutch of victory when the bullet fired hits the target, not enough to listen to panting terror as the victim flees death discovering that death was the cold hand he felt clutching his neck and escape is impossible.

When sweat runs fingers down the spine the plot twists, tumbling, turning, the victim slams into facts, betrayal, and faces consequence. Circumstance develops as intent and the hero sinks deeper into a darkness that defines him as a man colliding with justice.

The touch of warm fingers sliding along the jaw, eyes closing, lips brushing, the tip of a knife under the chin, realization, a gasp of surprise, and justice is decided without the rule of law to delay conclusion.

Noir mysteries drip cold from page one. Mood is set, location chosen, a corpse is central to all that matters. Rage, revenge, love denied, the tenderness of moments, leak into hours of regret, racing to embrace renunciation.

We wade through the killer's bloody wrath, witness what the cop or PI sees, feel the grief permeating and miserable until the only relief possible may prove worse than the crime.

From Sunset Orange Water (copyright 2008):

I found a pull chain for an overhead light gave it a tug and felt pleased when a hundred watt bulb illuminated the space around me, and then felt something else, something dreadful when I examined the walls. Every wall held photos and newspaper clippings of murder victims, prostitutes according to the headlines. The oldest dated back to late ’45, the newest was the clipping for Lois. Alongside the news article--the only one not claiming the victim had been a prostitute--about her death, he’d taped a black and white photo of her that he must’ve taken moments before she died. She sat naked in the chair with her hands folded neatly on her lap holding a small black pistol like the one Dunbar handed me the day he came by my office to tell me the news about her death. The connection might’ve been tenuous, but felt like an unwelcome noose uncoiling in my head that locked onto and twisted my feelings for her.

Her beautiful skin showed no signs of a struggle. Blood had run from the corner of her mouth, but I saw no visible bruising. I wondered what he’d told her to effect her submission. However, Lois’ eyes looked wide with the horror she must have felt by his presence as she stared at the person behind the camera. Her stare gave me the feeling that she knew her attacker, and hadn’t anticipated the behavior he exhibited.

In a trained mind, rationality reaches through panic and angst, and guides thought beyond the obvious, the thread of temptation longing to dwell on pity, or the satisfaction of revenge.

The PI or cop feels deeper, like a man running the knife-edge of sanity knowing one slip will end the journey, not looking back, looking forward the distance of a single step only.

Noir is exhausting, exhilarating, daring, shocking, but always dark. The humor shows an ebony sheen those who love slapstick miss. The relief of conclusion is, to the PI, a page turned with more challenges ahead, one of which will eventually shred a piece from his life, again. Yet knowing this, he reloads, slips his handgun into the holster under his arm, and walks into the darkness daring impropriety to challenge him anew.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

So, you fell in love with a vampire!

So, you fell in love with a vampire. Congratulations! Now, here are a few tips and some advice on how to survive the first intimate encounter.

You might be wondering, "How did I get here?" Truthfully, I’m wondering that too, but put that aside for now and look deeply into the mirror. Not at your eyes, examine your neck along the raised lines on both sides that, if you press your fingers to them, will pulse under the pads of your fingertips.

No pulse? You’re dead so skip the next three paragraphs.

Pulse feels strong? Excellent! It's time to discuss how to keep it that way. One idea is convincing your vampire lover to not suck on your neck. Alternatively, you might suggest he or she wear tiny silver sleeves over their "canine" teeth. The silver might present a problem, but you cannot be too safe these days.

Another alternative, is wearing some kind of protection. Safe sex is good sex. However, you will need to wear a collar that is bite proof. Check with your veterinarian for something in leather. The styles are varied and attractive. If your vampire is particularly aggressive, a bit long in the tooth, you may want to go with a lightweight chain mail collar.

Silver comes to mind, but your vampire might object, pulling his or her head back and hissing, while glaring in your direction. It is never a good idea to get your vampire too angry, so let's skip silver and try something in stainless steel. The collar may feel heavy, but it will prove advantageous when the going gets hot and it does make a nice fashion statement if properly polished.

Once you reach the point in the relationship when you are willing to touch your vampire, do not be surprised at the complete lack of activity within his or her torso. Remember your vampire is dead. His or her heart stopped beating a long time ago, and unless you are willing to donate several pints of your own blood, he, or she will not warm up very much to your tender touch. Do not let this distract you from the reason you are embracing your vampire. Love is blind after all.

The next issue we want to discuss is fingernails. Your vampire's nails will keep growing as will his or her hair. Your vampire's nails, however, will, under moonlight glow a pale off-white. They will look kind of like sun-bleached bone, opal or an eggshell. Your vampire's nails will grow quickly too, and on occasion you may find bits and pieces of flesh and blood under them. That is to be expected. Your vampire must kill to continue existing, not to be confused with alive. Unless you did not feel a pulse when we began this conversation, you are alive and if you are extremely careful, you may stay that way for years to come.

Your vampire's temperature may present you with a problem difficult to overcome. You see, since your vampire is dead, he or she will feel like a corpse. In fact, I have been told that a vampire's body temperature is very low. This helps them remain stable during the long hours of night when they can spend time outside their hideaway, i.e. coffin. Should you need time to recuperate after a long embrace, do not hesitate to explain to your vampire that the difference in body temperatures requires you to take a breather.

If you are not bothered by your vampire's frigid touch, you may be dead too, so do not worry about the loss of sensation.

Finally, we come to the most important event in a relationship, consummation. All of us know, or should if we are adults, exactly what I am implying. Therefore, details are not necessary. If you want details, go online and give it a search.

Your vampire's take on consummation will be vastly different than yours will be. First off, your vampire is dead, so the necessary body parts will not respond as if he or she were alive. Flaccid comes to mind, frigidly flaccid is descriptively better. And of course, since your vampire is dead, there will be no fluids, i.e. lubrication. Be patient and be prepared and I think the first night together will be extremely memorable.

PS: if you have decided that the life of a vampire is the life for you, introduce the idea to your vampire using caution. He or she, depending on the state of their satiation, might become anxious and drain you dry before recalling your request. Your vampire must not suck you dry, but leave enough fluids in your body that when you bite into him or her in return you have the strength for a successful strike.

Next time: Newly minted vampire? The joy of your first kill.

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Saturday, May 9, 2009

What motivates a fictional private investigator?

Michael Hacker McKaybees is a troubled man.

Those who know him call him Hacker. Most do not know that his legal name is Michael. Back in college, after a stint in the Gulf War, he perfected the art of computer hacking, and while, years later, working with the FBI, uses the skill to aid their search for online predators, human and machine.

Since he received the middle name Hacker at birth, due to an ancient Scottish ancestor, who fought with the Bruce at Bannockburn, known for hacking his opponents using a sword and battleaxe, he feels a strong if distant kinship with the old Scot and drops Michael thereafter. What he did for the FBI was, in his mind, the modern day equivalent of swinging a battleaxe to defeat modern spammers, and pedophiles. Although he needed to sign a statement when he resigned from the Bureau stating he would never again use his hacking skills.

Now caught between the desire to hold onto memories of his deceased mother, and plan a future without the woman he loves, the father he never knew, and believed was dead confronts him unexpectedly. Never having felt anything but a cold loathing for the man, McKaybees is stunned when he steps into his life for the first time in 35 years, and struggles to accept him.

Despite serious effort, McKaybees finds he cannot easily put aside the deep resentment he feels for his father. Yet, fate and criminal intent put them shoulder to shoulder when both stand accused of murdering two men, one of whom is a cop, the other, McKaybees' oldest friend (the plot for Revenge is a Black Promise).

The outcome breeds an alliance that slowly unravels Hacker's conflicted emotions, turning them into a grudging admiration, forgiveness and maybe a little respect.

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Friday, May 8, 2009

A brief history of noir mysteries

Noir writers wrote with a detachment most of the world felt during the years after World War 2 when a sullen hush washed across battered nations numbed by the task of recovery. Many of those writers were themselves combat veterans, and, I suspect, used writing as a means of recuperation from what we now understand as PTSD. It was as if they pictured their story plots, like men standing in the shadows of alleys while out on Main Street life progressed through the struggles writers used to convey their protagonist's adventures but did not necessarily partake in.

Although, I believe noir fiction began under the ink stained fingers of John Carroll Daley while he wrote for the Dime Detective Magazine in the 1930s. His protagonist Race Williams was as brutal as life in the Great Depression, used violence to uphold the law as he, Race Williams, interpreted it. Readers enthralled by Daley's writing, let the story's darkness shed the light of hope into lives lived hand to mouth, which helped create the genre.

Mickey Spillane, who I was fortunate to spend time with during the last years of his life, as a young boy read Daley's stories and later used what he'd learned when he walked Mike Hammer off the pages of comic books and into one of the most successful mysteries ever written, I, The Jury.

While I was a young boy, I read Mickey's books. The pacing, tension and almost machine gun style of writing turned the pages for me. I believe that noir fiction is similar to modern Jazz as introduced in the 1950s and 1960s. It is a free form style of writing, which at times drags the reader along, coddles the senses with imagery, and at other times jerks him up in his chair as if daring him to relax and read. The characters are in your face people, with each other, and a film of tension dangles between them like spider web filament.

* * *

When I created Marlowe Black and his illegitimate son Michael Hacker McKaybees, I wanted the tension between them to navigate plots. Marlowe Black whose pregnant fiancée was murdered in the early 1950s (the plot for Sunset Orange Water) refused to ever again consider marriage. He avoided intimate relationships, staying around until emotions grew thick, and he began glancing over his shoulder should his new love face the retribution his first one had due to the nature of his profession.

When the woman who would become Hacker's mother, announced her pregnancy in 1971, Marlowe immediately decided that he would not be seen with his new son therefore giving the boy the opportunity to live. Marlowe knew he had dragged some of his enemies through the previous decades and felt their hypothetical breaths on the back of his neck.

Now, in the twenty-first century, Marlowe, although a man nearing eighty, continues to work as a PI. He had kept an eye on his son, and provided for him and his mother. He felt pride as the boy grew into a man, but stayed away.

Until the day when an old army buddy's son, a New York City cop, was brutally murdered and he and Hacker were considered prime suspects. Then all the rules changed, and Marlowe Black knew it was time to educate his son about dealing with criminals the old way, using fists and guns. Shoot first and ask questions should one of the enemy, be lucky, or unlucky enough to remain standing.
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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The previous post is a synopsis, so I've been told, so this must be a query/pitch

Crawling barefoot through Pluff mud dressed in tattered night clothes that provide minimal coverage or protection, drenched in sweat and river slim, Sue Todd Smith begins to wonder if her decision to rescue missing children might have been an error as she swipes at the onslaught of mosquitoes feasting hungrily on her exposed flesh.

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Sunday, May 3, 2009

An attempted mystery pitch - ugh

Savannah, Georgia born Sue Todd Smith, a disillusioned grade school psychologist, resigns and establishes an agency to locate missing children. With fifteen successes behind her, she moves north with her new boyfriend to New Jersey.

Her first job up north comes when a distraught Jersey mother Cindy McDonald hires her--pro bono as it turns out--to locate her missing daughter Peggy
Sue accepts the job and heads south where the girl's father--a suspected sexual predator--has family.

Within the first 24 hours of her arrival in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Sue fights off an attempted assault with a well-placed knee, and witnesses a savage murder.

Sue learns she has walked into the middle of a drug ring and that 13-year old Peggy McDonald's estranged father's brother, is deeply entrenched with New York organized crime establishing a drug network in the resort community known for its massive motorcycle rallies.

Determined to find the girl, Sue--with the help of an old friend Horry County cop Dwayne Thompson who wants to develop something deeper than friendship with Sue--becomes driven to succeed without Dwayne by her side.

That decision along with clues left by the drug lord who wants to question Sue about the murder she witnessed only makes success less likely when the drug lord's men kidnap Sue, which forces her to accept that her attempt to save Peggy may prove fatal.
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Friday, May 1, 2009

Silent Observation, an exercise in show me versus tell me

Thorpe stopped walking, turned his head, and listened for footsteps parting the damp knee high grass. A bird rustled through overhead leaves. Twisting his torso, tilting his head slightly, he concentrated listening for other sounds, but heard nothing else.

Boldly now, he walked into the tree line, still pausing every few steps. Silver light flashed to his left, a hiss split the air past his ear, an odor of singed hair brushed his nostrils as warm liquid ran down to his shoulder.

He dropped to his stomach, lifted the .38 from his waist holster, and waited. Moments stretched into minutes. Bird song again filled the air, but no footsteps.

Gingerly, Thorpe touched the raw wound in his scalp and bit his lower lip to swallow the groan of pain. He examined his fingers, frowned as his eyes narrowed, and then wiped the blood on the tail of his black shirt.

Cautiously now, he rose to his knees staying low enough that the tall grass offered some cover, crawled behind a wide oak tree hoping the trunk might shield him. The thick bark was rough and firm under his palm. A line of black ants crept soundlessly though the deep winding grooves.

A snapped twig signaled the approach he anticipated. He wiped a line of sweat from his forehead, smelled a tangy citrus odor on the light breeze, held his breath, and smiled a tight scowl of success.

The unmistakable sound of someone walking carefully allowed him to turn to his left without moving his feet so he might follow the noise of his opponent's advance.

The shooter approached him as if thinking he lay dead.

With brief forethought, Thorpe stood, stepped left, lifted the handgun, aimed, and fired three rounds. The reports exploded and silenced life.

The body crumpled as if boneless, legs folding underneath, arms out to his sides, one holding a crossbow.

Thorpe kept the .38 aimed at his pursuer's head, but when he saw the blood pulsing from the man's chest, lowered his arm.

Grasping the wood and steel crossbow, he yanked it free and tossed it noisily into the brush behind him. He squatted, stared into dying blue eyes, but neither man spoke as the hunter rasped for air.

When life faded from the shooter's eyes, Thorpe stood, turned, and walked quickly towards the parking area a half mile away.

Five minutes passed before a thin whistling sound stopped him. Knife-like pain drove him to his knees. He threw out his hands to break his fall. His gun dropped, skidded into the underbrush, and disappeared.

His right hand went to his thigh, fingers feeling a steel shaft protruding through it, and knew because of the location that it had pierced only muscle. The aroma of fresh blood filled the air.

He heard the second shooter's approach, scrambled to retrieve his .38, desperately scratching the soil under the debris. His fingers closed on his handgun, pulled it close to his chest, and he held his breath.

A large soiled and scuffed black boot appeared in front of his face. He smelled shoe leather, heard it creaking, glanced up, and into the dark brown eyes of the second hunter.

They stared at each other for a second. His opponent had failed to notch a second shaft. He was unarmed.

Thorpe lifted the .38 from where he hid it and fired two rounds. He watched the surprise, saw the pain, and rolled to avoid the body when it fell in Thorpe's direction.

Thorpe slapped a hand over his mouth as pain ripped a raw cry from his throat. His movement had driven the steel shaft further through his leg.

Sitting with his back against the tree, he removed his pocketknife opened the blade, and sliced his blood soaked jeans. With both hands, Thorpe ripped the material from crotch to knee and exposed the tip of the shaft.

The thin metal rod ended in a needle-like point. Thorpe carefully climbed to his feet pressing his torso against a tree, sweat dripping from his face, sliding down his chest and back. With his left hand, he grasped the feathered end of the shaft and with his right; he squeezed the front of his thigh.

He screamed as the shaft snagged on tissue and ripped out with a wet sucking sound. Blood oozed from the wound. Thorpe used his belt as a tourniquet and hobbled the remaining distance to his car.

As he opened the door and swung his uninjured leg inside, he saw his gold shield on the passenger seat, and wondered why he had left it behind as he popped open the glove box and fished out the phone he had placed there so he might be uninterrupted.
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