Hunted: Part 2 | Jeanette Stampone

Against his will, Toby must aide his father in the capture of his brother.


Hunted: Part 2

Jeanette Stampone

FOR WOLVES II AWARD


Bursting through the front door, tears blur my vision as I rush to find my mother. Finally reaching her, I bury my face in her apron and cling to her as she wraps her arms around me. My chest aches as I struggle to breathe through the desperate sobs.

“Whatever is the matter Toby?”

The door slams shut and my father’s footsteps approach us. I glance back towards him as he stumbles through the house, puffing deeply.

“The lad thinks we saw Jamie—but it was a wild animal. Some unusual species of wolf.”

“It w-was Jamie!” I say, choking on the tears.

Mum’s arms loosen from around me and she grasps the kitchen bench. “I want to see. I want to go now.”

“You don’t believe him do you? You both need to bloody well accept that Jamie is dead.”

With that, Mum walks to the door, grabbing her coat from the hook.

“What the hell are you doing?” Dad yells.

I run to her side. “I’m coming too.”

Dad sighs as he looks at us both. “You two ain’t going by yourselves. I’m calling Mick.”

I’m not sure why Dad wants to call Uncle Mick. We haven’t seen him for ages. Nothing makes any sense right now. He picks up the phone and disappears down the hall for a moment.

When he reappears, he sticks his head into the cupboard and grabs another bullet, dropping it into the shotgun. Then he pulls out a hessian sack. “Here boy,” he says, pushing the sack into my hands. “Let’s go.”

Outside, we hurry through the valley with torches as the light becomes increasingly dim and the snow falls heavily. My mother’s hand grasps mine until we reach the edge of the forest.

“There,” I whisper.

Right in front of us, just as we left them, Jamie is huddled against the stomach of the motionless wolf. Barley visible, both figures are now covered in a layer of white snow. Two bodies curled up, as if they are one. The wolf’s eyes are lifeless, staring up at the sky.

Mum releases my hand and rushes forward.

“Oh my god! My baby!”

Dad grabs her arm and Jamie jumps. His wide eyes stare at us. Leg muscles twitch as he squats, like a stunned rabbit ready to bolt.

“He may attack,” Dad says. “Stay back.”

Jamie stares intently at Mum. My legs tremble underneath me as I watch my brother. His face and his eyes are just how I remember. Yet the naked, fur covered body is unrecognisable. I want to scream. I want to run and hold him. But I am stuck here like I forgot how to move; like I forgot how to speak.

Mum’s face is contorted in anguish as she pulls her arm free from Dad’s grasp.

“It’s me sweetheart. It’s me.”

As she approaches, a light dances in Jamie’s eyes and his lips twitch. There is a glimmer of a smile as the corners of his mouth turn upwards. She reaches out her hand and calls his name. On hands and feet, he walks to her, tentatively creeping through the snow.

Then Dad grabs him.

Jamie yelps like an injured dog. His hands swipe Dad’s face, scratching his skin.

“Don’t just stand there! Open the bloody bag!”

I forgot I was even holding the hessian sack. I open it wide and watch as my brother is dropped inside.

Dad snatches the bag and ties it, before slinging it over his shoulder. Tears stream down my face and I slam my fist into my father’s stomach.

“You’re treating him like an animal! Let him out of there!”

Dad pushes me aside and strolls ahead with the wriggling bag.

“He is an animal.”

Mum just stands there. Her face is as white as the snow coating her shoulders. Dad turns and his eyes meet hers. His voice is softer this time. “Come on. Let’s get everyone home and safe. It’s going to be OK.”

As we trudge back towards the house, the bag over Dad’s shoulder wriggles, emitting a mixture of childish sobs and canine pining.

We finally reach the yard and Dad flings open the shed doors. He gently places the bag on the ground.

“I’m calling Mick to see where he is. Don’t open that bag. You hear?”

“No,” I whisper. “I swear we won’t touch it.”

As Dad leaves Mum and I alone with the wriggling bag, I tremble. I had always been told that Jamie was dead, savaged by wolves. Yet here we stand listening to the pitiful pining filling the space.

I can’t take it anymore.

Walking towards the sack, I glance back at Mum. She stands staring at me. She doesn’t stop me, so I continue. I crouch on the ground and carefully untie the knot, opening the sack wide.

Jamie’s frightened eyes glance up at me before he darts to the nearest corner, huddling against the wall. Mum creeps forward as tears fall down her cheeks.

“Oh Jamie. It’s really you.” Her hand finally touches him. She crouches, holding him, trembling and sobbing. “I’ll never let anything happen to you again. You’re safe now forever. I promise, baby boy. I promise.”

I find myself with my arms wrapped around my brother. His fur is musty and thick and I can feel his heartbeat pounding through his chest. It is beating just as hard and fast as mine.

“What the hell?” Dad’s voice booms through the shed and the three of us jump. Mum leaps up and glares at my father.

“Don’t even start. This is Jamie. You better believe it. We need to get him to hospital. And the police. We need to—”

“I don’t think we do,” Dad says.

A car engine hums outside. Hurried footsteps approach the shed. Uncle Mick rushes through the door, bolting it firmly behind him.

“They’re out there,” he says, gasping. “They’ve hunted you down.”

 

 

 


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