HUNTER AND HUNTED
by Judy Bee and Antaeus
Dudleyville, Arizona, population 959
The blond-haired young man, whose mother called him “Angel Face,” clutched the knife tightly as he stalked me through the woods. We’d been runnin’ for a while, so I was actin’ like I was tirin’. Angel Face was probably thinkin’ it wouldn’t be long before he caught up to his victim. When I looked back, I could see the thick muscled twenty-year-old smilin’ in anticipation of what was to come.
He was probably thinkin’…This will be my first human kill. I’ve killed before, but only birds, rabbits, cats, and dogs. Last week I killed a baby pig. The fun part was staking them out and torturing them to death. The best part was that no one suspected. Well, almost no one. The old man that was doing some repair work around mom’s house did, and now he’s gonna pay.
* * *
“How could anyone with such a beautiful face do anything evil.” That’s what his mother said to the deputy when he showed up at the house.
“The baby pig probably just ran away. My Angel Face wouldn’t do anything like that. The handyman must be mistaken. After all, he’s not from around here,” his mother said to the lawman. The deputy looked over at me and sez, “I have to agree with Missus Holland here. You’re not from around here, and she is, so her word means something. You’re just a drifter trying to get a good boy in trouble.” He picked up his hat and went on his way.
I had been watchin’ the boy for two weeks. The pig had been his latest victim. Near the end, the baby pig’s squealin’ had turned Angel Face on. So much so, that he had to masturbate afterward. I watched the whole disgustin’ thing.
Afterward, he sez to the pig, “That felt even better than when I did it while secretly watchin’ my sister takin’ a bath.”
After that, my gift told me that Angel Face had fixated on killin’ a human. That’s when I told the Sheriff about the boy and what he was up to. A lotta good that did me. After the deputy talked to the boy’s mother, the kid fixated on me. He probably figured no one would miss a transient handyman.
I was one step ahead of him, though. I set a trap for him far enough away from town so that no one would hear his screams.
* * *
The would-be murderer stopped runnin’ at the tree line. He was scarcely outa breath when he caught up with me. We had come full circle. I was sittin’ on a tree stump, not twenty feet from the tree line, right next to Angel Face’s brand new, 1951 Harley-Davidson. My truck was a few yards further away.
I tried to make it look like I couldn’t run no more. My shoulders were slumped, and my head was hangin’ down. I watched the boy get an erection.
He was probably thinkin’…”This is goin’ to be easy. I’m younger and stronger than the old man, and he’s given up. I’ll take my time with him, experiment a little.”
I know that’s what I would be thinkin’.
I picked up a good-sized rock and put a big dent in the fender of the Harley. When Angel Face saw that, he got madder than a rabid dog and came tearin’ outa the woods at me. I planted iron, and his legs buckled. He was lyin’ flat on his back before he knew what happened. When he looked down, there was an old, rusty, railroad spike stickin’ outa his stomach at an angle.
When he looked up, I was standin’ over him, grinnin’ like the cat that ate the canary. I sez, “Guess who’s in deep shit now, boy?”
The Lord provides.
The sun was just risin’ behind the mountains when I kicked Angel Face into the grave. His body landed face-up at the bottom of the hole, and the young man’s eyes popped open pleadin’ with me. The tape over his mouth kept him from temptin’ me with his lies.
I thought to myself, Angel Face, my ass. I see ya for who ya really are, boy. Don’t ya go lookin’ at me like that, I got no pity for ya at all. I know you’re afraid, and ya should be, boy. Your day of reckonin’ is comin’, and the Lord has a special place reserved for ya. No worries though, it’ll all be over in a little while, then you’ll sleep sound in the dark of the grave ’til judgment day.
* * *
I’ve been around for quite a while, and I’ve dug hundreds of graves in my time. I gave up countin’ somewhere around 10,000, and that was a very long time ago. Except for the fact that I had to hurry fillin’ it in, this one was no different. I wanted to finish before ol’ Sol peaked over the mountaintop and lit up the place, ’cause it gets really hot really fast in Arizona. The ground was baked hard by the sun, so it had taken me most of the night to dig that grave, and I was plumb wore out.
Not really. I’ve got the stamina of ten men. I just like the way it sounds; “plumb wore out.” Besides, it gives the impression of an older man leanin’ on a shovel barely able to move.
That’s how my gift works. I can make people see what I want ’em to see. Just like Angel Face saw what he wanted to see. All I gotta do is act the part and suggest. Sometimes I’m an old man, sometimes I’m not. Sometimes I’m the “Fix-It Man,” sometimes I’m not. It’s like I’m a chameleon. Except this lizard can kill ya if he has a mind to.
Shing, fisshh, pushh. The first shovel full of dirt went on the demon-spawn’s face. That’s so I wouldn’t be tempted by those innocent lookin’ eyes. Shing, fisshh, pushh. The next one went to cover the rusty iron railroad spike stickin’ outa his gut. Just for a second, I had a mind to pull it free, but I fought the urge to do so. That hunk of iron was the only thing keepin’ him from movin’.
* * *
Ya see, iron is the demon-spawn’s Achilles heel. Ya needs to put it under the stomach and through the gut. If ya do it right, the intestine will move outa the way, and you’ll break the spine. That way, ya don’t hit anythin’ vital, and the demon-spawn can’t move.
A knife will work, but it might cut the intestine, which will cause unnecessary pain. A railroad spike works just fine. As an added bonus, it shatters the spine nicely.
While the demon-spawn is down, ya stick your knife in the back of its neck and sever the spinal cord between C-4 and C-5. Doin’ it that way don’t kill the demon-spawn, but it makes it so it can’t move at all. The other important thing ya has to do is tape their mouth shut. ‘Cause their beggin’, pleadin’, and lies will soften your heart if ya don’t.
I know how to do these things ’cause I’m a hunter, and I been doin’ it as long as I can remember. I’m good at it too. Usin’ railroad spikes is my specialty. I like to use railroad spikes because they’re made of iron, and they’re easy to come by. I’ve got a whole truckload of ’em.
* * *
Shing, fisshh, pushh, Shing, fisshh, pushh, Shing, fisshh, pushh. With each shovel full of dirt that went on top of the demon-spawn, I felt less and less guilty. In the end, there was just a low mound to mark where the boy’s body lay.
I imagined a headstone over the grave that read, “Here lies Angel Face, born in the year of our Lord 1931. He went into the Earth on July 12, 1952. May Hellfire keep him warm.”
A strong wind started to blow, and it wiped away any trace of my footprints or my diggin’.
The Lord provides.
The sun was full up now, and the sweatband of my fedora was soaked through. I took it off, and my mop of unruly hair tumbled all over my head. First, I made a mark with my thumbnail on the sweatband, then I mopped my forehead and neck with my bandanna.
I tossed my head back to get the hair out from in front of my eyes. It was time to pray.
“Lord, it’s hard doin’ your work,” I sez. “Ya gave me the gift of knowin’ and sent me on a mission. Now, I ain’t complainin’ ’bout it, but I sure wish ya would give me a little help sometimes. This here body of mine ain’t gettin’ any younger, ya know.
“This boy’s momma is hurtin’ bad, ’cause she’s missin’ her boy right now, and it’s only gonna get worse for her. So, please, Lord, help her get through this, ’cause she ain’t never gonna see her Angel Face again.
“And Lord, that boy was only on this Earth for twenty years. After I shoved the iron in his gut, I told him that I knew he had marked ten people for torture and killin’. I tol’ him I would take the spike out if he admitted to it. He did confess to everythin’, torturin’ the animals, lookin’ at his naked sister, and havin’ a list, but I didn’t take out the spike.
“I confess to lyin’, but I don’t think it was really a lie, Lord, cause lyin’ to demon-spawn don’t count. Anyway, who knows, the boy might’ve even started killin’ the innocent people on his list right away, if ya hadn’t sent me to him when ya did.
“That spike is gonna take a couple of hundred years to rust away. When it does, ya need to smite him down afore he can rise up outa there. Amen.”
* * *
I had no sooner put my hat back on and looked up from my prayers when I saw it. The dust cloud was about three miles away.
I thought…It looks like there’s somethin’ movin’ this way, Lord. I hope it’s You sendin’ me the help I asked for and not a friend of what’s lyin’ under the ground here.
I picked up the iron shovel and tightened my grip on its handle. Whichever it was, my gift would tell me, and I’d deal with it.
The Lord provides.
I had to take a leak so bad my back teeth were floatin’, so I walked into the woods a little way and pissed behind a tree. When I came out, a young man was standin’ beside my truck and leanin’ on her hood.
My visitor turned out to be some young buck, who looked to be a bit older than the boy restin’ in the ground. I could tell right off that this one wasn’t a demon-spawn, ’cause my butterfly tattoo wasn’t twitchin’. I was glad I wouldn’t have to put him in the ground with the other boy.
He held out his hand to me and sez, “My name is Duane Eddy Pienkowski, but everybody just calls me ‘Duane.'”
I moved the shovel to my left hand and took his hand in mine. I squeezed a bit to test his strength, and he jumped. That was a good thing, it meant I was stronger than him.
“My name is Jon Thomas, my friends call me JT,” I sez. “Most folks I meet, call me ‘The Fix-It Man,’ though. That’s because I travel from town to town, fixin’ the things that people don’t want to, or can’t, fix themselves.”
I noticed the butterfly tattoo on his neck and could see by his eyes that he was gifted like me. I told him that fact right out.
Duane started to lie to me, thought better of it, and confessed that he had a dream the night before. He told me that when he woke up at four in the mornin’, he had a strong feelin’ to hitch a ride on this road, so that’s what he did. When he saw my truck sittin’ by the side of the road, he knew he was in the right place, and asked to be let off.
Later, while we were sittin’ round the campfire, I told Duane about my gift, but not that I was immortal. It’s best to keep things like that to one’s self.
“Ya see, Duane,” I sez. “I’ve got this gift from the Lord where I can look ahead to what a thing will become. That’s why I can fix anythin’. Sometimes while I’m in a town, I can see what a person really is, or what they will become. If they’re evil, I do the Lord’s work, and I fix ’em, so the evil don’t spread. If I see they’re gonna do good in the world, I help ’em as best as I can.”
Duane just took another sip of moonshine and shrugged. I could tell he was a bit woozy, so I let him digest what I had said while he drank some more. It’s been my experience that when people drink, their real personality tends to come out.
I remember thinkin’…The boy may be a hunter like me, but I’m gonna test him anyway. Some hunters forget why the Lord put ’em here. They get all upset when ya tell ’em ya been killin’ demon-spawn and the like. Sometimes they try to run away when ya ask ’em to join ya in doin’ the Lord’s work. If he fails the test, I’ll put him in with the boy. It won’t be too much work this time around, ’cause the dirt is still soft from my diggin’.
When I thought the time was right, I told Duane about the boy. My hand was close to the shovel’s handle, just in case. That’s when Duane admitted that he did have the gift, but never did anythin’ with it. He said he’d be happy to join me in doin’ the Lord’s work if I were willin’ to teach him.
The Lord provides.
* * *
We finished off the last of the moonshine and turned in. The boy slept like a log while I stayed awake, just in case. It didn’t bother me none, I’d stayed awake for three days once, waitin’ to catch a flesh-eater who worked in a morgue.
The flesh-eater was wearin’ a lab coat and even had an ID badge. She damn near soiled her britches when I jumped off the slab nearest to the new body, she was about to take a bite outa.
I was a lot younger then and looked for creative ways to do things. I knocked her out, put her on an empty slab, and embalmed her while she was still alive.
* * *
In the mornin’, me and Duane ate some smoked meat for breakfast, and I cleaned up the campsite. When we were ready to go, I picked up the dead kid’s Harley and tossed it into my truck’s bed. Yeah, I can do things like that, ’cause I’m a lot stronger than I look.
Angel Face had said he had been in touch with some demon-spawn down in New Orleans, so I figured we should head in that direction. But first, we had to make a stop in New Mexico. My gift was lettin’ me know we were needed there.
The Lord provides.
About the Author:
Judy Bee is the co-author of “The Fix-It Man.” Judy grew up in New Jersey, where, at the age of five, she wrote her first poem titled “My Kitten.” The four-line poem about her kitten “Mittens” was published in a children’s magazine. Judy currently resides in the Sarasota area of Florida. Her first book, “Barbie the Ghost,” was written in her cherished companion’s memory.
Antaeus is the author of “The Prepared Citizen,” a three-book series on how to react to and avoid dangerous situations and active shooter attacks. He also lectures on Situational Awareness and has appeared on the “Front Sight Press” talk show. In addition to nonfiction, Antaeus has self-published sci-fi, action/adventure, and fantasy novels. You can find his poetry and short stories in magazines such as Gravel, Ariel Chart, The Lycan Valley Press, Trampset, Armarolla, Heart and Humanity, as well as other publications.