This year for National Novel Writing Month (NaNo) I’m writing “Hunter Moon and the Red Wolf.” It’s the sequel to”The Bear, the Witch and the Web”, which is the sequel to “Dark Love.” BWW is in the review editing phase right now.
Below is the rough draft for the first chapter. And I mean very rough. (Oh and it has some graphics parts so determine your own comfort level.
Hunter Moon & the Red Wolf
By Stephen del Mar
CHAPTER ONE: A Night in Savannah
Hunter stopped and sniffed. She’d lost the boy in the dark and was relying on his scent. The back alley behind the seafood restaurant was pungent and the Savannah River stank this close to the port. She continued. She knew he came this way and he hadn’t doubled back. The question was did he know she was after him? She needed to get past the dumpsters. She’d detected stress in his scent, but not the fear of pursuit. It was stressful being a street dog. What drove him to the city? Why didn’t he hide out in the swamps with his kind? He was an easy kill now.
Her earpiece buzzed, “You found him yet?”
She frowned and pulled her phone out and texted back, Silence! They can hear you know!
A gruff voice snorted in her ear, “We’ve got him, don’t care how well the little barker can hear. That fag bar’s at the end of the street, bet he’s gone to ground in there. I’ll cover the front.”
She frowned and hurried on. It wouldn’t be good if Judas went in there. She’d researched the area after they’d spotted the kid running with a pack of hustlers. The Bilge Rat was a dive bar on the Savannah riverfront near the port. It had the reputation of being a place where dockworkers and sailors could pick up some young boy butt cheep—no questions asked. A great place for street kids to turn a trick. Not the kind of place the Old Man would fit in or keep his opinion to himself for long.
The wind shifted, blowing the stench of rotting seafood back toward the river behind her. She sniffed again. He was there. His scent mixed with the musky smell of man sex, old semen, and urine. She edged down the alley, staying in the shadows. Up ahead a blue light illuminated the back entrance to the bar. Behind the dumpster, a thickly built man, in work clothes and an orange vest, leaned against the grimy brick wall. A young man knelt before him. His head bobbing up and down. Hunter inched forward. She withdrew a taser from her leather jacket.
The man grabbed a handful of the boy’s shaggy black hair and said, “Yeah, suck it you little Mexican fag.” He looked up from the boy and saw her. “What the fuck?”
The boy pulled his face from the man’s crotch. Hunter touched her earpiece. “He’s made me.”
The boy leapt to his feet and dashed toward the end of the alley. The man tried to put his saliva covered erection back in his jeans. “Fucking bitch!”
Hunter pointed her taser pistol at him. He threw his hands up and his penis flopped out into the night again. “Be glad I’m not Vice,” she said as she passed.
The man asked, “Fuck. Are you a cop?” But she was already gone.
The black van screeched to a halt blocking the end of the alley. An old man with scraggly gray hair and week old stubble on his face pushed open the driver’s side door. He slid out of the seat and winced when his left foot touched the ground. He pulled a riffle from behind the seat and aimed it at the boy. “On your knees cachorro, bet you like it on your knees.”
The boy turned. There was enough light here at the end of the alley for Hunter to see his face. His black eyes locked onto hers. A tear ran down his smooth cheek. Then he put his head down and charged her. She raised the taser, took aim and fired. The boy screamed as his body convulsed. She could smell the urine as he wet himself.
Judas limped forward, keeping his rifle trained on the boy. She ran forward pulling the zip-tie restraints out of the pouch on her belt. She did his hands first, in front of him, then his ankles. She took another tie out and connected his wrist and ankles together. “Good,” Judas said. “Get the van. I’ll watch the dog. And hurry. One of these do-gooder cocksucker’s might have a soft spot for the street trash. We don’t need the cops in on this.” Hunter gave him a curt nod and sprinted for the van.
He took another step forward and held the tip of the rifle to the boy’s lips. “Make a sound cachorro and the rats gonna have dog brain for dinner.” He spat on the boy.
The van pulled up next to him and Hunter jumped out. She slid open the side cargo door and went back to the boy. “I’ll need help to get him in the van.”
Judas grunted and grabbed the boy’s right arm as she lifted his left one. They dragged him over to the van and hoisted him in. “I’ll drive,” Judas said.
Hunter looked at him. “Shouldn’t we verify?”
“Kind of late for that, don’t you think? You said you were sure when you picked him out.”
“I’m sure,” she snapped. “And I’m also sure; I’d rather be caught with a bound animal in the van and not a kidnapped teenager.”
“Well, we’re not going to do it sitting here, blocking an alleyway. There’s a place by the river about a mile back.” He sneered, “Think we can make it five minutes without being discovered?”
She glared at him.
He said, “Good and if you’re wrong we can dump the body. Either way, we’re cleaning the streets of vermin tonight. Go ahead and get him ready.” He slid the cargo door closed and limped around and climbed into the driver’s seat.
Hunter opened a toolbox and pulled out a hunting knife. The boy gasped. She ignored him as she cut off his shirt. “Hermana, why you doing this? Why you with him?”
She whispered, “I’m not your sister. You should have stayed with your pack out in the swamp. Why’d you come into the city?”
His black eyes bored into her. “I can smell you, sister. And the swamp isn’t safe is it? You hunt there too. But my pack’s not there. They don’t want my kind.”
She unbuckled his belt and then started silting the leg of his jeans. “So what were you doing here?”
“You saw. Turning tricks. Need cash to get away.”
She rolled him over and started cutting the other side of his pants. “To go where?”
She stopped. “There is no safe place for your kind.”
He whispered, “Our kind.”
She held the point of the knife to his throat. A drop of blood oozed from his smooth skin. “I’m not a perversion like you. Tell me where you were going?”
“I’m not a traitor,” he said.
Judas yelled, “For God’s sake, haven’t you muzzled that thing yet? You aren’t talking to it are you?”
“Sorry father,” she said.
“Father?” the boy sputtered.
She punched him in the face and ordered, “Quite dog.” She pulled a muzzle made of thick black rubber straps from the tool box. Then attached it to his head, keeping his mouth tightly shut. He started struggling but she held the knife up. “You know this can cut more than your clothes.”
The boy’s body went limp and she made the final cut on his pants. She pulled them off his body and then his shoes and socks. It only took a second to remove his underwear. There was something on the inside of his thigh, just below his testicles. She took a headlight out of the toolbox and strapped it on. “Hey, he’s been marked.”
Judas called back, “What?”
“He’s a run away. There’s a barcode and a number here on his leg.”
The van made a sharp left. “You said you scanned for a ping when you first spotted him.” They came to a stop. Judas killed the engine and made his way back to her. She took a scanner out of the toolbox and ran it over the boy’s body. “Nothing.”
Judas kicked at the boy. “Roll him over.”
Hunter turned the boy over.
Judas said, “Yup, look at his shoulder. That fresh scar. Had someone cut it out boy? We’ll have to check the number, but I bet he was part of that big break out from the North Carolina farm.”
She looked up at him. “Are you sure? I didn’t know they had exotic breeds. Don’t they specialize in the Timbers and the Eurasians?”
“Yes, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a selection of others. And his kind has been slipping in with the illegals. I know we need them to pick the crops since the damn niggers won’t do it anymore, but do they have to bring their unnatural filth with them?”
She shot him a look.
“What?” Judas said. “You have something to say?”
“So are we going to take him back to the farm for the reward?”
He shook his head. “No profit in that. Lose money by the time we drove all the way up to the mountains and back.” He kicked a plastic stool over to the boy and lowered himself down on it with a groan. “Damn leg.” He looked at the boy. “Yeah one of your kind got my leg when I was training with my daddy. Cut her head off and had it mounted on my bedroom wall, the bitch.”
He leaned over the boy. “Keep your light on him.” He lifted the boy’s eyelid to examine his eye. Then slid part of the muzzle back so he could look at his teeth. He ran his hands over the boy’s body and came to his genitals. “Well, it’d be nice if they were bigger, but he’s still young—can’t have everything. Those kooky alternative medicine types do like the younger ones, I hear, and maybe Krycul can milk him a few times before he’s processed. God knows what they’d use werewolf semen for, but I’m sure they’d pay mighty fine for it.” He winced as he stood up. “Might as well give him the shot now. Like you said, we don’t want them to find us with a naked boy. They’d think we we’re some kind of perverts or something.”
Hunter nodded. She pulled a flat leather case out of the inside pocket of her jacket and unzipped it. It held a vial of yellow liquid and four syringes. She held the bottle up and plunged the needle through the rubber membrane. The boy began struggling again as she filled the syringe. She put the vial back in the case, closed it, and put it back in her pocket. She avoided looking at his face as she stabbed the needle into this ass cheek. Even with the muzzle, he screamed. They always screamed—screamed, pissed and shit themselves. Then they changed. She snatched up the remnants of the boy’s pants and headed for the passenger seat.
Judas called after her, “I never understood why you don’t want to watch?”
She ignored him and tried to ignore the muffled screams of the boy. Eventually they’d become muffled howls and snarls. Then he’d pass out. And when he woke up, he’d be a wolf in a cage waiting for his organs to be harvested for folk medicine. He’s just an animal—not even an animal. He’s some kind of unholy mutation, she told herself.
Judas had parked under a street lamp. She used its light coming through the windshield to go through the pockets in the boy’s pants. She found eighty-three dollars and some change. She stuck the cash in her pocket. In the back pocket, she found a folded up bus ticket. He was going somewhere. She unfolded it. One-way to some place in Florida called Cooter Crossing. In the front pocket was a little bit of an index card. On it someone had printed, The Jumble. “What the hell?” she whispered. She slid the card into her jacket and looked back at the ticket. She pulled her phone out and opened the map app. She typed in Cooter Crossing and waited. She had to zoom in several times to find anything. It was just a dot on a river in west central Florida. She was surprised that a bus would even stop there.
Her father came up. “It’s finished. What do you have there?”
“Bus ticket to Florida.” She held the phone out to him. “You ever hear of Cooter Crossing?”
He shook his head as he looked at the map on the phone. “Nope. What do you think? Might be a pack down there he was trying to get to. I’d expect a Mexican wolf to head west to find his own kind. But, then, Florida is known for its invasive species.”
“So should we head down there?”
He slid into the driver’s seat. “I think we need to unload this carcass and get our cash. We’ll run it by Krycul, if it has to do with wolves in the southeast, he knows about it.”
She nodded as he put the van in reverse and pulled out of the parking lot. “Did you find anything else,” he asked.
She shook her head. “Just some cash.”
“God and you touched it? Probably came from those fags he was sucking off.”
“Money’s money,” she said. “It’s all dirty.”
“Hum,” he said and gave her a sideways glance. “You okay Honey?”
She gave him a little smile. “Of course Daddy, why wouldn’t I be?”
“No reason. But what did it say to you? You know you’re supposed to muzzle them right away. Can’t trust the words of a dog.”
“Nothing. Just lies about being a human and letting him go.”
Judas snorted. “Lies and more lies. Damn dog. Well, he’s young and healthy. We should get a good price for him and Krycul won’t care if he’s got a farm brand. In the end, meat’s meat.”
Krycul Processing and Packing was in the old rundown industrial part of the city. The area was even more desolate late at night. Hunter never liked this place. The smell of terror and death always unnerved her.
Judas pulled the van up to the security gate. An old man wearing a uniform came out of the guardhouse. Judas rolled down his window and showed him his vendor ID. The old man scanned it with his tablet. “Kind of late for deliveries. What do you have in there?”
“Delivery for the Specialty Meats Division. I talked to Mr. Krycul personally. He’s expecting us.”
The guard looked down at his tablet. “Oh you mean Mr. Karl. Yes. He came in an hour ago. You’d never find his brother, Mr. Otto, at the factory this time of night. But then he doesn’t think much of the SMD either. I have to agree. Why we keep an entire building for processing things like emus and llamas, I’ll never understand. What kind of critter did you say you had in there?”
Hunter leaned forward. “Daddy, what’s wrong? Mr. Krycul did tell us to hurry. He didn’t want to be here all night.”
Judas turned to her and said, “Now you be patient Honey, we have to go through the proper procedures. Not our fault if we’re held up and he has to wait. It’s his own company after all. He makes the rules.”
He turned back to the guard. “I’m sorry. What were you saying?”
The guard shook his head. “Not important.” He gave the other guard watching from the guardhouse a hand signal and the gate opened. “You all have a good night.”
Judas smiled. “Thank you sir.” He started snickering as soon as the window was back up. “Nice one. I’m sure some governmental agency would get their panties in a knot if they knew how special some of the meat is old Mr. Karl is processing.”
Hunter said, “I don’t think Mr. Otto would like it either.”
“Yes,” Judas said. “He was always the weaker brother. Don’t know why old man Krycul left the controlling interest in the plant to him.”
Weak? She wondered. Or just not cruel? She looked away from him. The poultry processing building was lit up. Chickens were in such high demand they ran the plant around the clock. A number of workers stood around outside smoking by its entrance. As they drove past, she noticed most of them looked Hispanic. What would they think of the boy we have in the back? Then she had to remind herself, he wasn’t a boy—really. Judas headed the van toward the opposite side of the complex.
The building with the Special Meats sign on it was smaller than most of the factory building and set further back, closer to the river. The receiving door stood open and a black Town Car sat next to it. A large man in a dark suit leaned against the back of the car talking on his phone. “There he is,” said Judas. The man stayed on his phone but waved them into the building.
Judas pulled up next to a heavy-duty cage on a pallet-jack and turned off the engine. He glanced in the rear-view mirror. “You know the routine. You smile and look pretty and I’ll do the talking. Don’t bring up the mark. The dog’s chip’s gone so he might not notice.”
When has Karl Krycul not inspected every inch of every animal they ever brought in? And I thought you said he wouldn’t care? She thought, but she just nodded at him. She looked at the mirror on her side of the van. The door rolled shut as Krycul walked toward them. Two large men in coveralls joined him. Judas smiled. “Payday.”
The two men dragged the wolf out of the van and laid it on top of the cage. Krycul walked over and ran his hand through the fur. “Mexican and a young one.” He looked at Judas. “Pretty nice coat for a wild wolf.”
Judas swallowed. “Yes. Makes him more valuable doesn’t it? Market for shifter pelts I imagine.”
Krycul grunted. One of the men handed him a scanner. He ran it over the wolf’s body and he looked at the results.
“See,” Judas said. “No chip. We never got a ping when we sighted him.”
Krycul handed the scanner back to his man and then made a flipping motion with his hand. The two men flipped the wolf over and one of them snipped the zip ties restraining the unconscious wolf’s legs. “Where’d you trap him?”
“Down on the river—near the docks. Running with a pack of street kids. Founding him sucking cock for cash—real animal.”
Krycul ran his hand through the pelt. “How’d you spot him?”
Judas gave him a look and a quick glance at Hunter.
Krycul nodded. “Miss your daddy needs to pay you more.” He stopped and leaned in closer to the wolf’s shoulder. “What’s this? There’s a wound here.”
Judas shifted, trying to take the weight off his bad leg. “Is there? Well he didn’t come quietly. They never do.”
Krycul held out his hand and one of his men put a flashlight in it. He examined the spot on the shoulder more closely. “This is at least a week old.” He nodded to his men and then turned the wolf over on its back. Its legs spread apart and its tongue lolled out of its mouth. He used the light to examine the inside of the animal’s hind legs. He pulled his phone out and took a photo. He turned to Judas. “So do you have anything else about this dog you want to tell me?”
Judas shifted again but held Krycul’s gaze. “Did you find something?”
Krycul said to his men. “Cage it. And give it another blocker shot. We don’t need the damn thing changing on us.” He turned to Judas. “Office. Now.”
Judas didn’t like taking orders from anyone, but if he wanted payment, he’d have to play the obedient dog. He whispered to Hunter as he limped after Krycul, “You stay here.”
He cut her off. “I said, stay!”
She turned around and slammed the van’s cargo door closed and then got in the driver’s seat. She watched Krycul wait at the office door. She didn’t trust him. And she didn’t trust the man limping across the floor toward him, because she knew he wasn’t her father. He didn’t smell right. Everything about her life stank.
Krycul slammed the office door as Judas limped past him. “Moon, what the hell were you thinking?”
Judas leaned against a table on the other side of the office. “Thinking? Don’t know if I was thinking anything. I was expecting to get a fair price on an animal I delivered. I’ve always gotten a fair deal from your family. Your daddy was a good man. Like you.”
Krycul frowned and turned away, looking out the office window. Judas smiled at his back. He knew the comment about Karl’s father would dig at him.
“Moon you may be the best tracker I work with, but that’s still small time compared to the business I get from the farms. If I had to rely on you and you’re lot, we’d still be processing in the back yard, stringing the vermin up from the old oak tree like my grand pappy did.”
The smile on Judas Moon’s face melted away. “I bring you plenty of business. And I get you stuff you won’t find on those farms. Tell me your clients don’t pay premium for free range.”
Krycul spun around. He pointed out the window. “That dog’s not free range! You tried to scam me. Don’t you get it? You aren’t important enough for me to risk pissing off the farms. Stick to what that tamed bitch of yours can find out in the backwaters and leave the bounty-hunting to the farm boys.”
Judas held out his hands. “We did scan him. He already had the chip out. How were we supposed to know—what you think we should have let him go?”
Krycul shook his head. “No. But you knew he was a run-away. That’s the issue here. Judas, this is a dangerous business. We walk a thin line. We’ve got to have trust among ourselves. Otherwise the wolves win.”
Judas snorted. “Wolves win? They’re too damn stupid. Ruled by their instincts—so loyal, so dedicated to their pack.”
Krycul looked back out the window at the Moon’s van. “That’s how you get them to turn against their own isn’t it? Their loyalty to you.”
Judas limped over to him. “Yup, learned it from my daddy. Raised a few pups up as my brothers. Nothing can hunt a wolf like another wolf. The trick is keeping them from knowing their a wolf. He always said, Raise them up as part of the family and put them down before they learn different. My first kill was putting my big brother down.”
Krycul glanced at him. “What happened?”
Judas shook his head. “Oh, the usual with the male wolves. They get into their late teens and the mating urges kick in. They go from just wanting to jack-off all the time to actually wanting to fuck. And when that kicks in you know their first change isn’t far away. And once that happens the hunt goes out of them.”
Krycul moved over to an old floor safe on the other side of the room. “Is that why you’ve always used bitches?”
“Yup, you can get a few more years out of them. And after going through my little brother trying to dry-hump everything, including me, I didn’t want to do that again. I find the bitches work better. I think they’re keener hunters, but I really can’t prove that.”
Krycul took some cash out the safe and closed it. “So how long do you think you’ll have with the current one?”
Judas scratched the stubble on his chin. “Not sure, she’s a funny one. She’s the first farm-raised bitch I’ve had. We’ve always done wild stock. She’s harder to read. Maybe another year.”
Krycul nodded. “You getting another one trained up?”
Judas shook his head, “No. Met a gal with a specialty farm up in the Ozarks. That’s where I got Hunter. Think it’s time to settle down. Maybe I can convince her to send you her stock. She’s been using Cullpeppers down in Mobile.”
Krycul shook his head. “Not anymore she isn’t.”
“Cheep bastard tried to outsource his Block to China. Turns out what he got back was colored saline solution. Ended up with a whole factory full of naked people in pens. One of his workers freaked out and the Feds came in with tanks.”
“My word,” Judas said. “I didn’t hear anything about that.”
“And you won’t. Even the media won’t report on what they believe is human trafficking that leads to the slaughter of the supposed humans. Damn fool.”
“Still, that’s got to be good for your business. Leaves you the largest processor in the region now.”
“And the biggest target. They’re going to be looking for more of this now and what if they find out those really weren’t humans? Then we’re playing a whole new game.”
Judas nodded. “I’d better tell Maddy.”
Krycul handed him the cash. “Yes, if she was connected to Cullpepper, I’d be running scared right now.”
Judas counted the cash in his hand. “Is this it?”
“That’s a fair bounty price. I need to contact the farm to see if they want the pup back for growing out or breeding.”
Judas shook his head. “Doubt they’re pay the shipping. He’s a run-away. Don’t want that contaminating their pack. They want to keep their dogs happy and content. Maddy has hers believing they’re living in some kind of spiritual commune. They work the farm for her all day and then fuck each other all night, until they get to a certain age and move on to another spiritual plane. Dumb animals. I thought she was pulling my leg when she first told me, but I saw it for myself. She turned a bunch of wolves into a flock of sheep.”
“Yes, well,” Krycul said. “She’d better watch her cover with that Cullpepper connection.”
Judas nodded. He looked back down at the cash in his hand and shrugged as he stuffed it in his pocket. “Do you think that pup was part of that big break out?”
Krycul shook his head. “Don’t know. Find out when I contact them in the morning. Why?”
“It had a bus ticket for some place in Florida called Cooter Crossing. Thought a group of them might be going down there.”
“Never heard of it.” He smiled. “But I’d lay money down that you’re going there.”
Judas smiled. “Was thinking on it.”
Hunter sat in the driver’s seat reading on her phone. She’d looked up Cooter Crossing. It didn’t seem very interesting. A village that grew up around a ferry crossing on the Big Cypress River during the lumber boom after the Civil War. Other than a grocery store, a gas station, a few other shops and a bar there didn’t seem to be much there. Must be a stop on the way somewhere else, she thought. But where? She checked. There wasn’t even a proper bus station there. If the pup went on in to Bennett Bay, the closest city, he could have connected anywhere. The only thing around Cooter Crossing was swamp and forest. That’d be good for a wild wolf, but a farm raised one from North Carolina? Wasn’t adding up.
Next, she searched for the term The Jumble. She didn’t expect much but an entry for the One Thousand Springs National Wilderness Area came up. She clicked on the link. It was a bit of wild Florida left—part of the old growth forest. Apparently, it survived because the land was so rugged with potholed limestone and springs it was impossible to log or develop. Now that would be a good place for a wolf to get lost. She clicked on the map and zoomed out. And it was just north of Cooter Crossing. Wouldn’t be a problem for a little hustler like that to get a ride.
But a wolf needed a pack, especially an inexperienced young one. She had an idea. She went back to search and typed in wolf sightings Big Cypress County. Her screen filled with links. Before she could tap on one the passenger side door open.
Her father asked, “What are you doing?”
She cleared her phone and slid it back into her jacket pocket. “Trying to find out why that dog wanted to go to a piss ant of a town in Florida.”
Judas grunted as he climbed up in the seat. “What’d you find?”
“That’s it’s a piss ant town on the Big Cypress River surrounded by swamp and scrub woods. Good place to hide I imagine.”
Judas slammed the door closed. “If he was looking to get lost in a swamp, why in the hell leave Savannah? And we know firsthand there are wolves out there. He could have found a new pack.”
She nodded as she started the van. But what if he was different, she thought. What if they wouldn’t take him in? Was there something different about him?
Judas continued, “No, something’s up here. I think we need to go for a little road trip.” He clicked his seatbelt closed. “Fancy spending Halloween in Florida? Full moon on that night, this year, you know?”
She glanced at him as the turned the van around and headed for the receiving door that was now rolling up. “Does that matter? You always taught me that the moon stuff was just made up by Hollywood.”
“Oh, it was, but was.” He smiled at her. “But you know what the first full moon of autumn is called don’t you?”
She shook her head as they exited the building. He chuckled, “The Hunter Moon, your name sake.”
“I thought I was named after my uncle, you little brother?”
The smile faded from Judas’ face. “Well, that’s where he got his name.”
“And he died hunting, just like your older brother?”
“Yes. And I nearly got my leg ripped off. What you just realize putting dogs down is dangerous? Maybe I should send you back to your Mother’s so you can milk cows and knit sweaters from natural fabrics. Would you rather sit around cross-legged and open your soul to the Universe or rid it of vermin?”
“You said she wouldn’t take me back.”
“That’s right. You’re a hunter now, you stink of blood. Her little flock of sheep wouldn’t like that.”
“So do you talk to her?”
“You know I haven’t talked to her in the fifteen years since she gave you to me.”
She didn’t need to look at him to know he was lying. She could smell it. Did he know she could smell lies? What would he do if he did? She changed the subject. “So how much did we get paid?”
“Just the bounty.”
“Yup. Looks like the farmers have taken Krycul’s balls. His daddy would never have bowed down to them like that, but then he’s a better businessman than the old man. He’ll earn some points with the farm and still get to process the dog. Hell two squirts of that pup’s jeez will be worth more than he paid us. Even if he ships the dog back, you know he’ll have an electrode up its ass for the next week till its nuts are dry. Old Karl will make a profit no matter what.”
“But he doesn’t like to share it,” she said.
“No he doesn’t. And that’s the real difference between him and the old man. He talks about trust. I say trust needs some cash too. But let’s get home. I want to head south in the morning. Something’s up. I just know it.”
She agreed. Many things were up and she wanted to get to the bottom of them all.