Another tale from deep in my demented mind. As usual there are no descriptive sex scenes but there are some violent situations.
Comments, critiques, and/or emails are both welcome and appreciated.
Thanks for reading my work and I hope you enjoy it.
The cool autumn wind fled from the storm building on the west side of the valley. It was late in the day and as the clouds gathered, Augustus Travis Baylor turned up the collar on his flannel shirt. Gus, as he was called, said into the wind, "Glad I wore this shirt. Those clouds are gonna drop the temperature even more; might be snow before morning."
The heavy flannel shirt was almost a jacket in a muted green and brown plaid. It wasn't a camo shirt but did a good job of letting Gus blend into the surrounding forest and it was water resistant. He was coming back from an unsuccessful bow hunting trip. Gus liked to hunt and fish and most anything that got him outdoors, especially outdoors in the woods and near the streams of his own property.
He enjoyed the tracking skills needed for a successful hunt or fishing trip. Gus used the meat and fish he harvested from the wild but felt using a rifle was a cop out. "Anyone can stand off two or three hundred yards with a high powered, scoped rifle and bring down an animal; and then call themselves hunters," he often argued to the gun hunting set. "Try stalking to within 30 or 40 yards with a bow and bringing down the deer, elk or whatever you're after. It gives the animal an even chance and proves how skillful you are."
Gus was on his own property, which was in Missouri situated in an area known as "the Heart of the Ozarks." It was a 960 acre section and a half of land that had been in his family for more than 80 years. The land had mostly wood covered hills, three or four small streams, one large lake and several grassy meadows.
He moved easily through the trees and brush for a man that was 6'2; Gus was as quiet and stealthy as a mountain lion on the hunt. His tracking skills and movement through the woods had been learned at his father's and grandfather's knee. Gus' lean trim build, dark eyes and hair, and his natural light tan complexion made even darker by outdoor exposure told of his Native American heritage. Maybe liking to use a bow was part of that heritage.
Gus smiled as he walked back to the old farm house. He was thinking of the stories told about how this farm had come into family hands. This place feels like a friend as well as my home, Gus thought. More so than that apartment I have in St. Louis.
Gus' great, great grandparents had migrated north and slightly east from the West Texas plains during the Great Depression in 1935. Things had been tough in Texas, maybe more so than the rest of the country. Not only were there no jobs, there was a serious drought that made farming almost impossible. The family settled in the hills of the Ozarks where not many would notice or care than Gus' great, great grandmother and his grandmother were both full blooded Osage Indian from the reservation in Oklahoma. The Baylor's quickly set up a homestead and went about making a life.
Great, great grandpa Austin Baylor did whatever he could to feed the family. Austin knew that he had to have cash money to approach the bank that actually owned the land they were squatting on. He thought, considering the times that if he could offer a good down payment, the bank would sell him the land on credit. Austin was damn certain once he had legal title he could make a go of the farm.
There were more than a few wild cattle roaming the hills that had once belonged to others who had packed up and left or just let the animals go because they couldn't afford to pay for winter feeding. Austin gathered a small herd of these gone back to the wild cattle; not for marketing, they were food on the hoof for his family.
He took to running a trap line for pelts and fur. Austin would begin trapping in late fall when the critters had grown in their winter coats and he would stop just before the spring thaw before they lost those heavy pelts. Money was tight but the general mercantile would give credit in the store for coyote, beaver, muskrat, and martin skins; sometimes he even got cash money.
Another cash crop for the Baylors was the moon shine Austin made. He had a homemade still back in a holler and the 'shine' he turned out was of good quality and highly prized. Prohibition had been repealed two years earlier, but the hill people couldn't or wouldn't pay the higher price for the "store bought" liquor. There was a tax on the liquor made by the law abiding distilleries.
Most of the so called "hillbilly's" didn't care for the government or their agents, the G-men. There had been more than a few confrontations between the Revenue Agents and the free willed "Moonshiners" in the valleys and hollers of the Missouri hills. The tax free, illegal white lightning gave the hill people a well appreciated alternative.
Finally after a year and a half Austin had put together a little over $400, which for the times was a large sum of money. He made the two day fifty mile wagon trip into Van Buren to buy the land and bring back some supplies to the farm. The small town with no more than 400 people in it was the county seat of Carter County. Austin went to talk to Theodore Barkley the owner of the land and of the bank.
"That section of land is worth more than the $2000 you offered Mr. Baylor," Barkley stated after he heard Austin's offer. "Why should I take less than the property is worth?"
"Yes sir, your right," Austin replied. "That farm is probably worth more ... but not right now. This depression, as the government calls it, ain't gonna be over anytime soon. And how much are you makin on the land right now? I'll give you $30 a month until the loan and interest is paid off. Seems to me it's a matter of a bird in the hand against one in the bush that you may never catch."
Austin could see Barkley arguing with himself. "Look at it this way Mr. Barkley, if I pay you a few months and then can't anymore, you can take the land back." Austin held up the $400 and added, "at least you got somethin out of the deal instead of the land sittin there makin you nothin."
Barkley revised his first impression that Austin Baylor was just an uneducated, ignorant hillbilly. The man may be right; I don't see this depression ending in the foreseeable future; in spite of the prattle the Federal Government is spouting. He stared at Austin for about a minute.
"I believe we have a deal Mr. Baylor," Barkley said holding out his hand for the money. "I'll just take your down payment to the vault."
"Reckon I'd like a piece of paper that tells about the deal we made," Austin replied. "I like a receipt for the $400 as well."
This man is no fool, Barkley thought. He took a piece of foolscap and hand wrote two copies of the terms and penalties of the mortgage. He signed both of the contracts, got Austin's signature and gave him a copy. "You've bought yourself a farm Mr. Baylor."
"Reckon so," Austin agreed. "See y'all next month with your payment." He left the bank, went to the general mercantile and got his supplies. He loaded the wagon and rode all day and most of the night back to his farm.
The section and a half of land had been passed down from father to son. Gus inherited the farm from his father, Travis, five year previous when he was 27. His parents were killed by a drunk driver and the property was willed to Gus.
Travis Baylor had used the place as a hobby farm. He had electric power brought onto the farm and had the well piped into the farm house. Travis and his wife did a little gardening but mostly used the old farm house and land as a getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city. The fields and some of the valleys were leased out to a local farmer. Gus changed that when he became the owner.
He gave the farmer notice that the lease would run the current season and one more and then would not be renewed. Gus did some major renovations on the old house, rebuilt the barn, and turned the property into a sort of hunting and fishing preserve.
Topping a small rise Gus looked down at his cabin at the tree line of a narrow valley. A light, windblown mist had started to fall and in the gathering dusk, the lights from the two windows on the rear of the cabin glowed warmly in the coming night. There was a column of smoke rising from the river rock chimney.
The smile on his face turned into a full grin. Ally must have the fireplace going, Gus thought. Bet she's got supper on the stove too. I sure hope so, cause I'm hungry after my little hike. Before starting down the slope, Gus looked over the two valleys separated by the hill he stood on. He had a deep sense of being home. He worked in St. Louis but his heart and his home was the old farm.
Gus started down the gentle slope to the valley and his grin broadened even more thinking of how he and Ally had met. He had gone to an outdoor sports expo on a Friday to check out some archery and fishing equipment. She had been the pretty girl hawking an outdoor sports type of resort.
"Alyssa Beaudrow," Gus read her name tag aloud and smiled at her. His interest was the girl and not so much the resort. He had his farm as his resort and he needed nothing more. What he did want was to get to know Alyssa better.
"Yes sir," she said shaking Gus's hand. "And you are?"
"Forgot my manners," Gus replied. "Excuse me; I'm Augustus Baylor, Gus to my friends."
"Let me tell you about Lost Creek Resort." Alyssa began to tell of the wonders and adventures available at her resort. "Lost Creek is on the shores of Greer's Ferry Lake; the resort has over three miles of shore line. The property is in Arkansas. By car, we're about two hours north and a little east of Little Rock and two hours west of Jonesboro. It's a little over five hours south and little west of St. Louis."
Gus didn't concentrate fully on what she was saying but he did watch her with a great deal of interest. She's tall, he thought. She's got to be 5'9 or 10. Alyssa was athletically slender with long auburn hair and big brown eyes. You'd have to call her handsome rather than pretty he continued his thought. All and all a very nice package.
"Lost Creek has 1000 acres filled with deer, elk, turkey and other types of wild life. We have miles of hiking trails, float trips by canoe, kayak, or inflatable rafts on the White River and there are also tours and fishing trips on the lake." Alyssa gave what was obviously a prepared speech but did it with depth and enthusiasm.
As she gave her scripted presentation, Alyssa was attracted to the tall, ruggedly handsome man standing in front of her. He looks like he spends more time outdoors than he does here in the city, she thought. Alyssa didn't want Gus to leave just yet so she handed him a special full color brochure; showing pictures of Lost Creek Resort.
"There is a voucher in there for a 20% discount."
Gus glanced at the brochure and handed it back to Alyssa. "Miss Beaudrow, I'm really not interested."
"What?" Gus asked.
"My friends call me Ally," she said and smiled at Gus. "Why don't you want to visit Lost Creek?"
"I have my own resort in the Ozark hills outside of Van Buren," Gus replied. "I've got almost a thousand acres and plenty of elk, deer, and turkey on my place too. I've even got a black bear and her two cubs living out of a cave on a rock bluff just on the far side of my property. My place has several year round creeks or streams and a pretty large lake." He smile and added, "You'll have to let me show it to you."
Ally returned his smile. "I'd have to know you a lot better before I'd go trapesing off to the back side of nowhere."
"We can remedy that problem Ally. The expo closes on Sunday; I'd like to take you to dinner, say on Monday evening. We can begin the getting to know each process."
"Why wait? Ally asked. "I get off at 5 today. The sooner we start the process, as you call it, the sooner it will be completed and the sooner I get to visit this resort of yours."
Smiling he said "See you at 5."
That dinner led to more time together. Ally and Gus would date at least twice a week; more when Ally wasn't working an outdoor or travel expo out of town. Gus found that Ally was more than a pretty model for Lost Creek. She had grown up on a farm on the outskirts of Columbia, Missouri and had a Masters degree in Business Administration and a BS in Hospitality Management. Her goal was to run a group of resorts like Lost Creek. Almost three months to the day after they met, Ally got to see what she called Gus' resort for the first time.
Gus had improved and renovated the building to modern standards but kept most of the historic features. The house was a rambling one story structure very much like you would see on the west Texas plains. The building had two separate parts connect by a covered breeze way. Gus had built walls for this walkway with a few windows so you could get from one section of the house to the other without being exposed to bad weather.
Across the breeze way, the second section of the home held a master suite, two additional bedrooms and a guest bathroom. Gus seldom had visitors to the farm but when he did he wanted them to be comfortable. He had updated the bathrooms and the plumbing. Gus had a second well dug to ensure that his house had enough fresh water; he also kept the old time pump in the kitchen to preserve a little history.
The main house faced west so you could sit on the large front porch and watch the sunset from one of the two old time rocking chairs. The rear of the house, with its own porch, also had two rocking chairs to view the sunrise over the hills to the east. This main section of the building was actually one very large open room. It contained the almost gourmet kitchen, a large eating area which still had the old farm table in it and an area in the front of the building that was like a huge family room. Tucked against a side wall was a bathroom.
Ally fell in love with the old farm house and the valley it sat in. The story of how the farm came into Gus' family intrigued her and she quickly showed Gus that she was as much at home in the woods and had a feeling for the outdoors just like Gus. With her hair pulled back into a pony tail and little make up, she was almost ... almost ... like another male hunting partner.
She helped plan which expos the Lost Creek Resort would attend along with a few other vacation places. If she wasn't doing an expo Gus would pick her up as soon as he finished work on Friday and they would head out of town. It was about a four hour drive to the farm; the last hour from Van Buren over back roads, forest access trails and an old path with two ruts marking the way to the house.
The first week in November, Gus and Ally drove to the farm. The deer archery season would run one more week and Gus planned to harvest a buck. Work schedules had prevented he and Ally from coming to the farm earlier in the season. Gus carried in some wood for the stove as Ally put away the supplies they had brought with them. They planned on staying for four or five days.
"If I get a deer the first day or two, we'll go fishing or hiking or just enjoy being out here away from the city," Gus told Ally.
"What, is there a doubt that you'll get a deer?" Ally asked pretending to be shock at the concept.
Gus picked up his bow and replied, "Using this instead of a rifle gives the animal a better than even chance. Sometimes they're smarter than me." He smiled and held up his hand. "No, don't say it; they are almost always smarter than me."
Ally giggled and ran across the room to jump in Gus' lap. "You're smart enough to make me fall in love with you and that's good enough."
"That's right Ally, I do love you." Gus reached into the pocket of the jean jacket he wore and pulled out a ring box. He opened it and held it up to Ally. "Will you marry me girl?"
Her answer was the squeal of pleasure and the kiss she bestowed on Gus. It was much later that evening before they remembered to eat dinner.
"I'm heading out before first light in the morning," Gus said as they got ready to return to the big bed after a shower. "Gonna try for a deer up by that big rock shelf in the next valley. It will probably be late afternoon or maybe even dusk before I get back; of course if I get an animal I'll be back sooner."
Gus was making the long hike back as he thought of him and Ally but the clouds opening up and changing the light mist to sudden rain drops brought him back to the present. Best be getting inside, he thought. Looks like it's gonna pour down.
He stepped onto the back porch out of the weather. Gus took a soft dry towel from a peg on the wall and wiped down his bow, bowstring, and the leather quiver he'd been wearing on his back. The quiver was hand made from a stiff piece of elk hid; Gus had made it and it contained a dozen stiff spine hunting arrows tipped with broad heads for hunting large game. The takedown recurve bow was a 'Black Widow', custom made for him by the bowyers at the plant in Nixa, Missouri.
Nixa is a small town was close to 160 miles from Gus' farm and over 230 miles from his place in St. Louis. At least once a week Gus would make the trip to be measured, test and watch the progress of his bow. It took over two months before the weapon was completed to his and the bowyer's satisfaction. The result was a beautiful example of the bow makers skill and art. The bow had a heavy pull of 70 pounds and could throw an arrow at over 200 miles an hour.
Gus hung his bow on two long pegs on the back wall of the house because he liked for the wood handle and limbs to stay acclimated to the temperatures he was hunting in. Hanging the quiver strap over the pegs as well, he unbuckled his wide leather belt and hung it up too. The belt held a small hunting pouch containing some basic survival tools and his hunting knife. Gus kicked the dirt and mud off his boots and entered the house.
He saw Ally sitting at the kitchen table with her head down. Her long hair covered her face but when she raised her head to look at him, Gus saw a red hand print on her cheek. He took two steps toward her before he saw the four men standing two on each side of the door and turned toward them. All of the men were armed with rifles and the biggest one held a .45 pistol on Gus.
"That's far enough buddy," the pistol wearer ordered. He motioned with the gun and said, "Join the little lady at the table."
Gus moved to Ally, made sure other than her cheek that she was okay and sat down next to her. "There is no money to speak of in the house," Gus explained. He didn't ask who they were, he didn't care. "The keys to my truck out front are in it so take what supplies you need and the truck and leave us be."
The big man shook his head and smiled. "You don't understand the situation here, buddy." He motioned with the pistol at the other three men and introduced them. "That's Joe, Barry, Jenkins and I'm Sully; we are your worst nightmare."
Gus looked at each of the men and studied them quickly. Joe was thin to the point of looking anorexic with almost white hair, Barry was short and almost as big around as he was tall, Jenkins was of average height and build but he had a wild look in his eyes. Sully was close to 6 feet 4 and had the big body to go with his height. He acted almost friendly but there was a sense of cruelty and danger about him when he spoke. Each of the men wore hunting clothes like the ones men wore on big game safaris.
"So what do you want?" Gus asked. His mind had already gone into survival mode. Whatever these men wanted it was Gus' plan to make sure that Ally didn't die nor himself if possible.
"Have you ever read a short story named 'The Most Dangerous Game'?" Sully asked. Gus nodded; Ally didn't bother to answer. "It's a story about a rich man hunting another man who was shipwrecked on the aristocrat's island. I've hunted all of the big game that the U.S., Canada and Alaska have to offer." Sully waited for a response from Gus and Ally but except for the look of hatred from Gus, he was disappointed.
"Anyway I'm bored. So after reading the story I decided to have my own 'Dangerous Game' by hunting another human. You will have the honor of being the prey."
"Why us?" Gus asked. "Of all the places and people you could go after, why us?"
"I scouted a hunting spot outside of Fremont in early August and as Van Buren is the county seat I went to the courthouse to get my deer tag. At the service station I heard you and the owner talking about him hunting on your property. He said he liked to hunt there because it was out and gone from any civilization."
Sully smiled and continued, "I did a little investigating and here we are. Your farm is 50 miles from the nearest town and the property is posted for 'no trespassing' so I thought this would be a great out of the way place to try my little experiment."
"And after the hunt, assuming you're successful?"
"I think this is a perfect area to continue our hunts," Sully answered. We will find other er ... candidates and bring them here to continue our little entertainment."
"That story ends with the hunter becoming the hunted and losing the 'Game' and his life," Gus offered.
"Yes that is the way the story ends, but this is real life and that won't happen," Sully bragged.
"The story was of one man hunting another," Gus said. He motioned toward the other three men. "What about them?"
"I wanted to share the thrill of the hunt with my friends," Sully replied. "Tomorrow morning at dawn you will be given an hour's head start; then we will come after you."
"What about Ally?"
"The young lady will be the prize for the man who kills you." Sully leered at Ally. "I certainly hope I am the winner." He laughed and added, "of course if I win I'll share my trophy with my friends and I expect them to do the same for me."
Gus tensed but Sully pointed his pistol at him and Ally. "None of that now," he ordered. "You and the girl get over on couch. Joe, tie them up. Don't make it too tight; we want our prey to have feeling in his hands and feet tomorrow morning." Sully smiled again and added, "After all, we want to be sporting." The painfully thin man using a rock climber's nylon rope first secured Gus and then did the same to Ally.
"Now, I suggest you get some rest," Scully said. "The hunt begins at dawn."
"Will the prey be allowed a weapon?" Gus asked sarcastically.
"I have no intention of one of us getting hurt if you should get lucky ... so no, you will be unarmed." Sully, Joe and Jenkins went through the breezeway to the bedrooms, leaving Barry to guard the prisoners.
Gus and Ally watched and talked in whispers when Barry wasn't paying attention or he went to the bathroom. They discussed plans and options and were still awake four hours later when Joe came to relieve the watch. After Barry left, Joe went to the stove, got the coffee pot and poured himself a cup. While he was occupied doing that, Gus leaned close to Ally's ear and whispered.
"No matter what, I will come back for you." Ally looked back at Gus and half way smiled.
"I know you will," she replied and leaned in closer to Gus and kissed him. "Just don't get yourself killed."
"They're not good enough to catch me so you do what you have to do to stay alive and I will come for you." Ally seemed to gain strength from Gus' words and nodded.
All too soon, Gus could see the sun beginning to rise. Sully, Joe, and Barry joined Jenkins in the kitchen. After getting coffee Sully pulled his gun and sent Joe to untie Gus. "Let him stretch his legs before we send him on his way," he ordered.
The hunters allowed Gus to take a long drink of water and pushed him toward the back door. "You'll have a one hour head start from the time we put you out the door," Sully instructed. "We won't watch where you go but in an hour we will track you down."
Gus started to say something to the big man but Sully held up his hand. "You now have 59 minutes." Gus stared at Sully for a few seconds turned and stepped out onto the back porch. Sully slammed the door behind him.
With a grim smile, Gus grabbed his bow, quiver, and hunting belt from the pegs on the outside wall. Good thing they didn't check the back wall, he thought as he left the yard at a ground covering lope. Circling, ten minutes later Gus settled behind a huge oak tree on a hill overlooking the valley and the house. The rain had stopped during the night but the low hanging dark clouds began to drop a gentle snow.
About 30 minutes after he'd been forced out of the house, Sully, Barry and Jenkins stepped out onto the back porch. Sully pointed to the path leading up the closest hill and the men started into the woods. So much for an hour head start and being sporting, Gus thought. If this snow get heavier it will be harder not to leave a trail for them to follow.
He watched as the men went over the crest of the hill and start down the other side. Gus tightened the ties on his winter weight moccasins which allowed him to move silently through the woods and waited a few minutes to make sure the men were gone. He had only seen three of the hunters. Must have left Joe behind to guard Ally, Gus thought. Slowly and carefully he made his way down the hill to the back of the house.
Gus took a very quick peek through one window and saw Joe sitting at the kitchen table. He was facing the front door with his head down as he played solitaire. Ally was still sitting on the couch, staring at Joe but she wasn't relaxed. Her hands were still tied but she dropped her feet off the couch to the floor and rushed Joe.
As Gus watched Joe picked up a pistol from the table and backhanded Ally, knocking her to the floor. He pointed the pistol at her head and yelled at her. Gus put an arrow on the string and started toward the door. He was pretty sure he could let an arrow go before Joe could get turned. As he touched the door, Gus heard one of the other men coming back down the trail yelling over his shoulder that he would get the damn binoculars.
Before Gus could enter the house a rifle bullet as it hit the back wall near his head and immediately afterward he heard the sound of the shot. Joe turned to face the sound of the shooting bringing his pistol to bear on the door. Having lost the advantage, Gus turned and sprinted into the trees near the corner of the house away from Barry who was coming down the hill. Joe came out of the house and popped off a couple of rounds in the direction of Gus's escape.