Thursday, November 24, 2016

Man Hunter

A large dark police box truck down the narrow mud strip that passed for a road leading into Belle Swamp.  The vehicle bounced and slid like a old wooden roller coaster car about to jump from the tracks.  The road dumped out into a grass clearing with blue, red, and white lights flashing from a dozen sources.  A number of vehicles were parked haphazardly in the clearing like toys tossed in the middle of a child’s room.   Dozens of people were scattered around the clearing.
 A group of police officers both local and federal stood around a rather large slubbish looking sheriff in the small swampy clearing.  In a booming southern draw he says "We have a escaped patient from Dutchess Mental Facility.  He is a 32 year old white male, average build, with light brown hair, with a history of arson going all the way back to his teens.  He also has 11 outright kills to spice things up amight.  This guy will kill, and not bat a eye.  When D.M. had bedcheck last night at 10 P.M.,he was missing.  Last know appearance was at med check at 630 P.M.  He has at least a 6 to 8 hour start.  He could be anywhere within a 100 radius by now.  We have units searching all the roads and towns in the designated area.  This is the most likely area to hide, since it is scarcely populated, and very rugged.  Treat him as if he was armed because he is most definitely dangerous.  I don’t want any heros.  Be cautious, and dont take any risks.  He has been kept in solitary and drugged for the last 12 years for others protection.  So the higher ups have assigned the Man-hunters for this one.  I know some of you are not very partial to them or their use, but they are superior both in stamina and senses.  They have their own handlers, and you will not have to work with them, so don’t get your shorts in a knot.  Now lets get out there and find this guy before he hurts someone."
Most of the men dispersed, while the large boxed truck pulled up.  Two men jumped out and proceeded to open the back.  In the back was just a 6 by 5 foot box made of metal.  Low moans seem to come from the box.  The men slid it onto a small dolly and hauled it down the hydrolic ramp.  The box was riveted sheet metal with small doors on both sides and a hatch on top.  With the box unloaded, a few of the men standing around in the clearing, edged closer.  The driver closed the back of the truck and went back to the cab, while the other shorter man carried a satchel, and a small electronic device to the box. Placing the device on top of the box, he began attaching two cables to it.  A low, guttural groan rose up from the darkness inside the box.
The men had formed a semi circle about twenty feet from the box.  In a nasally voice the man attaching the wires said to the officers around him "Watch here boys, 1.5 million volts for 3 seconds.  It would kill any one of us, but it just paralyzes old stumpy here.  He'll be still for 5 minutes,  back to normal in 9.  So I'll get the harnesses on and the works done, or you might get a surprise, ha ha." 
With that the short man flicked a switch on the device, and the sound of electricity and the smell of ozone filled the air.  Like a surgeon, who has done a procedure multiple times, the short cop disconnected the wires, and proceeded to open the top of the box.  He reached in with a harness and maneuvered a few seconds, then pulled a rather rugged looking leather and steel mask from the satchel and again reached into the box.  Less that 1 minute later, the short man raised up and announced, "We're ready.  Now don’t be getting  itchy trigger fingers kids."
The short man said in a loud deep voice, "Introductions first.  The name's Gale, as in the wind." as he put a fresh toothpick from his pocket in his mouth.  "Some of you might know how this works, but for the benefit of those who don't, there are a few rules.", Gale added.
A chuckle of nervous laughter rippled through the group before the sheriff's stern look returned the glade to silence. "No Smoking" Gale began.  "It spoils the scent and makes the hunter's job harder. Besides, they're not too keen on fire.  Don't get in front of me once we head out. I need a clear scent line and believe me, once they get worked up, you don't want to get in the way."
A hearty round of laughter bubbled up, causing Gale to pause and wait until it died down. This was what he wanted. Men at ease. There would be plenty of time for second thoughts and uncertainty later.  "I assume you have an article of clothing or something that belonged to the fugitive?" 
The sheriff nodded. "We have a shirt in the cruiser."
"Good enough, lets get stumpy out" Gale replied.
The men looked at the box and then back and forth at each other.  It was amazing how a group of grown men could be reduced to frightened schoolboys. Gale had to remind himself that he had been at this ten years. He has trained, slept and ate with stumpy for the last 3 years.  Stumpy hasnt even tried to bite him in 2 years.  What might seem normal to him would be a hellish nightmare to the average man. “Now just step back. I'll handle this,” Gale said. “And sheriff, I'll need that scent item when I'm done."  He opened the hatch on top and grabbed hold of the leather harness and began pulling a grayish limp body from the box.  A murmur of panic rose up from behind him and, without turning, Gale knew the men had stepped back even further.  He laid it faceup beside the box.  The creature wore rags that had once been a shirt and pants. A ratty belt with no shoes. It was male, with skin a ashen gray, mottled and bore evidence of old, unhealed wounds.  It's eyes were clouded, lacking intellect or expression. Broken, rotted teeth showed each time it's cracked lips opened to moan.  The right arm was missing from the shoulder. The left hand had what looked like a strange leather boxing glove.  
"Don’t worry fellers, the harness has 3 different tasers."  Gale joked trying to break the tension.  "One click from this remote in my pocket, or the one on my belt, and stumpy will fall sleep again.  So no worries if he gets curious." 
The once living creature began to stir.  The sheriff handed gale the shirt, and gale laid the shirt over stumpy's face.  Gale though, “These creatures lived only for flesh and understood only the need to eat.  There was no doubt that dealing with these man-hunters was far more dangerous than using ordinary dogs. At best they moved like drunks and their sense of smell was about on par with a good scent hound. They did, however, have one big advantage.  A killer might not think twice about slaying a deputy or a tracking dog if it meant a clear path to freedom, but even the most hardened con would think twice about taking on one of the living dead.  I've seen the biggest, baddest, criminals give up from just hearing these things moan. Though a vaccine had eventually been created, the undead plague, as it was referred to in popular culture, had taught humanity one thing. There are some things worse than death.”
“OK stumpy" Gale said.  "Lets save the world and make a dollar"  Stumpy stiffly stood and acting like he was tasting the air, started stumbling off into the morning light.

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