Timberlands blood and pr.., p.1
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       Timberlands: Blood and Prey, p.1
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           J.J. Mainor
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Timberlands: Blood and Prey
Timberlands: Blood and Prey

  Copyright 2015 by J.J. Mainor

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

  Table of Contents

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Author’s Notes

  Also By J.J. Mainor


  Chapter 1

  Out of beer: three words Gunner never hoped to encounter on this camping trip. Yet there he sat, unable to coax out that last little drop that always seems to cling to the side of the bottle. His older brother Greg chuckled drunkenly while he tossed the empty bottle aside. There must be another beer hiding in the cooler. He dug through the ice, then dug and dug and dug some more, unable to escape the fact the pair had finished the cold ones. It would have to be warm beer for the rest of the night.

  Gunner took up his flashlight, carelessly turning it on with the bulb aimed into his eyes. The light burned onto his sensitive vision, turning everything to a ring of white. He winced, much to his brother’s continued amusement, before relenting himself to the comedy of his predicament.

  He played with the light along the young pines and maples ringing their camp while his vision returned to focus. Would they join him for a beer, or was this a dry forest? Those trees may not even be of legal age? As tall and strapping as they already were, none could have been more than fifteen or twenty years old. Too young for the law, but with no one else around to scold them, Gunner wouldn’t complain.

  Yet they offered no interest in his spirits or his drunken antics. Gunner shrugged them off and stumbled to his tent. The bag with the beer was there somewhere. He thought it was beside the tent, or was it inside?

  He peered toward Greg who remained quietly by the fire nursing his beer, probably to avoid running out before his brother returned. Satisfied, though not sure at what, Gunner slipped into the tent. They had only been there a day, and it was already a mess. Their clothes mixed into a chaotic pile, only the brothers could tell the garments apart. Gunner’s pack spilled across his sleeping bag. In his fog, he recalled an earlier struggle to find the matches for the fire.

  The struggle to find the beer would not end in this tent. It seemed they didn’t feel the need for the warm brew and left it in the van. Gunner once again took up his light and continued onward and out of the camp.

  His van was parked in a pull-off beside a thin, possibly out-of-service dirt road. It was an old cargo van, an odd choice given it wasn’t a work vehicle. He had been the butt of many jokes, but his friends often had need of a vehicle with the storage capacity of a pickup and the passenger capacity his back seat offered. It had ferried him and his friends and their gear on many camping trips as it did this weekend.

  What it stored now, was the excess beer. Just inside the rear doors, Gunner found the shopping bag hiding the excess fun. He retrieved it and held it up triumphantly, so pleased with himself, he forgot to hold tightly to his flashlight. It fell to the ground and rolled under the van.

  Gunner fell to his knees searching for his beacon. Fortunately it hadn’t gone too far. Though easy enough to reclaim, it had cost valuable seconds of drinking time. He took it up and once again shone it into the wilderness.

  His mind wandered toward thoughts of the animals out there. The possibility of bear had given them reason to seal their food in airtight containers. The sighting of moose had given them momentary excitement during the daylight hours. The squirrel scampering around the forest, and the constant chirping of crickets had provided a wilderness sound track, one that Gunner suddenly noticed seemed absent. He turned off the flashlight and listened carefully for any sign of life. But there was none: no crickets, no scampering animals, no birds; nothing but the crackling of the fire.

  Then came Greg’s voice calling for his brother. Gunner took up the beer once again, and made his way back to the campsite. Peering across to the fire, he found Greg standing and searching the darkness for him. The light of his fire threw up a visual barrier just a few feet around him. A curtain of blackness hid everything beyond that, including Gunner.

  Gunner called back to Greg to let him know the beer was on the way. Greg must have been anxious though, because he remained on his feet. It seemed his brother could not nurse his last cold one long enough for the resupply.

  He started back across the camp, when he heard movement in the forest once again. It came from the other side of the fire, somewhere behind Greg: something moving across the soft cover of dead leaves and pine needles littering the forest floor. Gunner aimed his light, not realizing it would blend with that of the camp fire and go no further. He figured it to be another animal and gave it no further thought.

  Greg noticed it too but wasn’t as quick to dismiss it. He turned to the forest, expecting to see beyond the darkness, beyond the first trees and saplings. While the noise grew, the void refused to give up the secret. Greg took a few steps closer, hoping to bring the darkness into focus.

  Gunner picked up his own pace. His brother’s curiosity stoked nervousness within his own stomach. Greg could not have been so drunk as to think it a good idea to seek out some unknown animal. When a vague pair of saplings parted at the edge of the blackness, Gunner froze. He could just make out a shape shaded slightly lighter than the blackness moving between those saplings.

  Greg took a couple steps backwards toward the fire as the shape grew more pronounced. It joined him in the firelight, revealing itself to be a man.

  Gunner had difficulty making out the man’s features with his brother between them. He could however see a hand carrying an object. This object reflected the light from the fire as the man raised it. He had a knife! The other hand came up and grabbed Greg by the shoulder. With a thrusting motion, the knife disappeared behind Greg’s abdomen.

  Gunner dropped the bag containing the beer. The ground was soft enough to break the fall, yet but the bottles still shattered against themselves. It had alerted the stranger who peered from behind Greg. Gunner could finally see a face nearly hidden under a long, filthy mop of hair and grizzled beard. Could the man see him too, or was he blind to the darkness as Greg had been?

  Before learning the answer, Greg shouted for him to run. Gunner, half out of his mind from the alcohol, stumbled forward toward the fire, forgetting he only had his flashlight to go up against that knife. Still he felt he needed to defend his brother.

  The man returned his attention to Greg. With another thrust of the knife, the brother went limp. The stranger released his shoulder and dropped the lifeless body to the ground.

  Gunner’s sudden bravery melted away. His hand balled into a fist as the anger swept away the clouds in his head. Not fast enough to save Greg, all he could do was take revenge. But when this killer took his first steps toward him, common sense pushed through the haze in his head. His legs made flight, carrying him back past the tent and on through darkness.

  The killer gave chase. With his head start, Gunner reached the van with enough time to lock all the doors and himself inside. He climbed from the back into the front seat, and as he slid the key into the ignition, the kille
r knocked on his window with the end of the knife’s handle.

  Gunner started the van as the window shattered. He shielded himself from the incoming glass. And as the killer reposition his hand to make use of the blade, Gunner put the van in gear and raced backwards. After winning some distance, he stopped.

  The two stared each other down. Gunner considered racing forward and splattering this monster across the front of his van. Almost as if sensing those thoughts, the killer stepped off the road, guarding himself among the young trees. He then made his way toward the van.

  Gunner had no other choice. He did drive forward, but instead of hitting his brother’s killer, he returned to the turn-off so he could make a U-turn and exit the forest. He gave no thought to his drunken state, or to where he would go. Fort Kent was a couple hours away to the north, and Bangor maybe three in the other direction. All he knew was he had to get out of these woods.

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