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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