A richard l wren mystery.., p.7
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       A Richard L. Wren Mystery-Adventure Sampler, p.7
 

           Richard Wren
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CHAPTER 5

  The next morning Josh quickly policed the area so that there was no indication that he had cooked and slept there then quickly started on his tracking again.

  Late in the afternoon Josh spotted the man’s second camp. This time he had covered about the same amount of trail in one day as his quarry had.

  He almost missed it. It was located a dozen yards off the trail Josh was following, but the discoloration of some leaves and branches caught his eye. As he examined the camp it became apparent that it wasn’t the first time this spot had been used. He found buried refuse from at least one previous camp. He also had his suspicions confirmed when he found empty food cans and plastic wrappings for dehydrated meat buried. The man was carrying as much stolen food as he could handle. That weight accounted for the trail signs he had left.

  Josh pushed on, deciding that he did not want to use the same campsite his quarry had.

  In two hours, as dusk approached, he made a cold camp near a stream while the weather was beginning to worsen and threatening clouds were forming. It was still warm enough to get through the night without a fire, uncomfortable but do-able. He had water from the small stream and could do without food for another day or two, something that Indians did as a matter of course. He’d be cold but safer.

  His buckskins were almost like a second skin now, having been worn and sweated in for three days. They were very comfortable, quite warm and probably stank to high heaven, but they were correct for what he was doing. He had become part of the wilderness.

  Josh hadn’t allowed himself to worry about what he would do when he caught up with the killer but now he did. Tracking was one thing but a face off was something else. He also had no real idea about his prey’s abilities. Could he be doubling back on his trail and laying a trap for Josh? Could he have left more concealed traps along the trail? Josh wished he had learned more from the Indians about how they had actually fought from tree to tree against other tribes.

  Josh’s plan was to track first and then stalk. In order to stalk effectively, the prey had to have no knowledge he was being stalked. His concern was that stalking was a two-way street. How many times had the great white hunter been pounced upon by the lion he thought he was stalking? Was Josh actually, at this very moment, being stalked by his quarry?

  This would be his third night on his quarry’s trail. He had probably covered almost seventy-five miles. Tomorrow he would have to start being more careful. By his calculations he might be getting close to where he expected his quarry to have his permanent encampment.

  The next morning, tracking became much more difficult. He had gotten up at first light, had a cold piece of rabbit and started. Within a hundred yards the trail almost disappeared. The broken branches, overturned rocks and bent grass were almost gone. It took much more time for Josh to find the almost invisible signs that were left. An out of place rock, a smudge, a slightly bent stalk, things that most trackers would never see gradually led Josh Northeast. Hour after hour he made slow progress.

  One thought made sense to him. There had to be a reason the killer had become so much more careful. He must be getting close to his main camp. He stopped to check his weapons and realized he had not thought to ask if his quarry had stolen guns or ammunition from the cabins he had raided, a serious oversight?

  All around him was Rosewart, a plant almost entirely edible with a high content of ascorbic acid prized by Indians across the entire United States and Canada. The leaves, stems and even the roots could give him energy for the rest of the day. He chewed on them as he carefully moved forward searching for signs, occasionally bending to the ground to search. In mid-afternoon a gradual sense of anticipation came over him and he redoubled his scanning of the land and trees he was moving through. He started moving in a crouch using bush and tree cover. His sense of danger grew. There was nothing he could lay the feeling to except the absence of signs. No odor, no noise, the forest was abnormally quiet. In itself, that was a sign. He proceeded even more slowly and carefully.

  Out of the corner of his eye, his peripheral vision caught a flicker of movement high and to his left. Instinctively and reflexively he threw himself to the right away from the movement. As he landed in a tuck, he heard and saw an arrow thunk into the ground where he had been standing. He continued in a roll, ending up behind a tree. There was no second arrow.

  Josh froze and listened. He heard a faint receding sound from the direction of the arrow and decided it was the archer moving away.

  He looked at the arrow. It was still quivering in the ground. Sure that he had heard the unmistakable sounds of the archer fleeing; he walked over and pulled the arrow out of the ground. “Aha.” He thought. “Hand-made and a thing of beauty. The shaft’s really well made and the head looks like a piece of obsidian. Could have killed me easy.” Fatalistically he shrugged his shoulders. “But he didn’t, a costly mistake on his part.“ He reflected for a moment. “He must have thought he had a sure shot or he wouldn’t have risked giving away his presence. Now I know he’s here and his primary weapon is a bow and arrow and I know he’s a tree climber.” Another thought struck him. “And he’s a damn scary archer too.”

  He reflected on the fact that most trackers would have probably been killed by the arrow, not having the extraordinary eyesight and reflexes that He had been blessed with. His quarry was proving to be formidable.

  Relying on his hearing and judgement that the man was moving quickly away from where he had taken his shot, Josh went into action. “Moving that quickly and carelessly he’ll be easy to track.”

  Josh started after the killer. The track at first led directly west, away from the northerly course his trail had been taking. Gradually it curved back to a north easterly course as before. It was easy to follow at first as the man had been anxious to get away. Gradually however there were signs that he was slowing down and being more careful about leaving signs. It didn’t stop Josh. Eventually the trail led back to the stream, more than a mile above where the attack had occurred. Here the trail ended at the stream. He was relying on the stream to cover his tracks again. Josh tried to put himself into his quarry’s mind. He had retreated immediately after missing with the arrow, but he had retreated in a planned direction. He had made a large circle back to the stream in order to hide his trail. The man was good but his abilities hadn’t been sharpened by centuries of Indian history. Josh wasn’t fooled. He spent some time looking for signs that he had either gone downstream or upstream. Once again he found almost invisible but un-mistakable signs going upstream. Josh moved slowly upstream, searching for signs where the killer might have left the water.

  Instead he found a small, obviously man made, rock dam in the stream. “gotcha!” He thought. He crouched in the pool, carefully scanning the surroundings for any sign of his quarry. Gradually he climbed out of the stream and carefully started looking for signs of habitation. No hut, no cabin, no lean to, no tent. Nothing except the dam.

  “Where the hell are you, you son of a bitch,” he muttered.

  He started scanning the treetops. “There!” He thought. A dark spot among several treetops. With his keen eyesight he was gradually able to make out a small treehouse almost totally hidden by leafy growth high up in the trees. There was no discernable movement.

  “Where is he and how in hell does he get up there?” Josh wondered as he moved from tree to tree searching. “He has to be out there somewhere watching me, he has to.” Josh reasoned. “Somehow I have to draw him in.”

  He made an elaborate show of searching the clearing, then re-entered the stream and started searching upstream for signs where his quarry might have left it. Soon he found it, an almost invisible, elaborately planned and executed swinging vine that allowed a person to land ashore several feet away from the bank, leaving no trail. Assuming he was still being watched, Josh ignored it and continued slowly upstream for more than a
mile before exiting the stream and heading circuitously back south.

  This time he knew where he was going and how far. He had to be extremely careful not to be spotted. His plan was to get within sight of the treehouse and simply wait. A hunting style Indians had used for hundreds of years, it required patience and more patience. Once again he blessed his buckskins. He could be almost invisible huddled up against a tree trunk or a fallen log, as long as he didn’t move. He emulated the mountain lion and with extreme care and total silence went west for what he reckoned was about a quarter of a mile, then circled back. As he had planned he arrived back at the stream almost directly opposite the clearing. he used the thickness of the forest to conceal his presence.

  He found a large tree and using his Ninja clawed gloves was able to climb the back side of the tree to a crotch some thirty feet off the ground. He took a half hour to ever so slowly inch into the crotch to avoid being noticed. It gave him a commanding view of the clearing. He quietly set up his cross bow and made sure he could accurately fire the steel tipped arrows anywhere in the clearing. He began to feel sorry for his quarry, once he entered the clearing, he would be an easy target. He settled in to wait. It was just a matter of time.

  Hours went by. Josh didn’t move. He ignored crawling insects and one tree snake that slithered over his right leg. He began to feel hunger and thirst but ignored them.

  Just as dusk was arriving, Josh’s patience was rewarded. A thick growth of ivy like vines surrounding a couple of trees moved. Josh focused upon it. Gradually an opening appeared. A hand thrust through followed slowly by a face. It was the first glimpse Josh had of his quarry. A darkly tanned face, heavily seamed with creases, a long dark beard and almost bald.

  Josh held his breath. Shortly a leg was thrust out followed by the man’s body as he slid out sideways from his hiding place. He was clothed in ragged jeans and shirt and a pair of old high topped canvas shoes. He slowly stood up and did nothing. Josh felt sorry for him. He didn’t know that he was a dead man standing. Josh could have easily killed him then as he stood motionless. His steel tipped arrows would have reached him before he could possibly move.

  Josh waited. He was curious about the tree house. Did he actually use it? How did he get to it? He waited some more, sure he couldn’t be seen.

  The man was extremely patient. He didn’t move for several minutes until he darted to another tree, reached up and freed a natural looking vine from a low limb. He leaned back, put his feet against the trunk of the tree and using the vine as a rope slowly walked his way up the trunk to a branch some twenty feet off the ground. Something Josh could do but few could. Again Josh was impressed by the man’s woods-man-ship and agility.

  He watched as the man reached behind the tree and pulled a hanging rope out, a man-made rope that Josh had missed when he explored the clearing earlier. The rope led up to another branch high above him. He took a twist of the rope around his wrist, stepped off his branch and slowly swung to the tree where the treehouse was lodged, landing on a large branch. From there Josh watched him climb from to limb to limb to reach the tree house. No wonder no one had been able to find him.

  His curiosity satisfied, Josh steeled himself to end his assignment the only way acceptable to him. He couldn’t capture the man and march him out for three days. He had deliberately eschewed any back up cell phone or radio to call for help. Nobody knew where he was. The man had deliberately and viciously murdered an innocent family. Josh had no compunction about pulling the trigger, which is exactly what he did. He carefully aimed the crossbow, allowed for a slight wind and pulled the trigger, quickly re-arming just in case. He needn’t have. The arrow punctured the center of the man’s chest and he toppled forward off the branch falling in a heap on the forest floor.

  Josh dropped off his tree, dashed across the creek and checked that he was really dead. He was. Josh left him and using the same technique he had witnessed, made his way up to the tree house. Inside there was nothing of interest except some canned food, a few articles of clothing and a few tools. This could not have been the year around hiding place he must have had. It was more of a hidey hole. Josh thought it was probably meant to be an unfindable retreat.

  “Curious,” Josh thought. “I found his hidey-hole but didn’t find his camp. Doesn’t matter. He’s finished.“

  He already knew what was going to happen next. He had been told that no-one had ever claimed to know the man or know who he was. The only interest in him was removing him as a threat to others. That was done. He was a vicious and unrepentant murderer with no connections to anyone that was known about. Josh decided to bury him where he had fallen. He started digging a deep grave and cut some branches to make a simple cross. The next to last thing he did was to check if was wearing a set of dog tags, he wasn’t.

  After much thought and some soul searching and as proof that he had successfully completed his assignment.

  He scalped him.

  THE END.

  The following are excerpts from my four novels.

  The first two are excerpted from the two Casey Alton Mysteries. The second two are excerpted from the Joshua Rogan adventure novels.

  If you enjoy the excerpts, remember they’re all available in print and as ebooks on Amazon.com.

  Remember, sign up for my email newsletter and get a PDF of my first book, CASEY’S SLIP, for free!

  Go to www.rlwren.com to sign up.

  But first….

  Advance Reviews for MURDER MADE LEGAL

  In a word, WOW! This book is incredible and a blast to read. It is action packed and has strong wonderful characters. I was captivated from the first page and held by it until the last, and was left wanting more. It has so much going on and drew me into the entire tale, kept me guessing what would happen next. There is suspense, mystery, murder, family bonds, and friendships formed and the truest sense of loyalty. The details are impeccable and it is extremely well written, so easy to read and impossible to put down. Richard L. Wren is a brilliant writer and I love how his mind and imagination flow. I want more of his work and I highly recommend this book. Definitely one of the most thrilling books and a must read!

  Debbie Raynes, independent book reviewer

  Written with a visually-rich, vivid writing style that compliments the mysterious and suspenseful vibe that creeps through each chapter near-perfectly, MURDER MADE LEGAL is a must read for any thriller fans looking for a refreshing new addition to the genre that brings with it a plot that continuously has readers guessing what is going to happen next, yet somehow always plays out differently through twists and turns that could catch even the most perceptive readers off-guard.

  Jane Lavuire, independent book reviewer

  A Few Words About Other Books by RICHARD L. WREN

  CASEY’S SLIP

  A Casey Alton Mystery (2010)

  “Sailboats, motorcycle gangs, kidnapping, blackmail, arson. What more could you want for pleasurable reading?”​Oakland Magazine, January 2012

  JOSHUA’S REVENGE

  A Josh Rogan Mystery Adventure (2012)

  “Mr Wren's second book(Casey's Slip #1) and he just seems to improve with each book, a sequel to Joshua is due out around October and I can't wait . If you want an adventerous read I would recommend Joshua's Revenge.” (Amazon.com reviewer)

  JUSTICE FOR JOSHUA

  A Josh Rogan Mystery Adventure (2014)

  “Wren’s ear for creating fluid, realistic dialogue, as sharp as it is wry, is especially outstanding. There were so many times when I was reading this book that I kept thinking it would make a great film or episodic TV series.” (Amazon.com reviewer)

 
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