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Authors: Urban Waite

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Sometimes the Wolf

BOOK: Sometimes the Wolf
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DEDICATION

For my father,

who has always gone his own way

EPIGRAPH

You know, sometimes—for a long time at a stretch—it’s like it hadn’t happened. Not to me. Maybe to somebody else, but not to me. Then I remember, and when I first remember I say, no, it could not have happened to me.

—Robert Penn Warren,
All the King’s Men

CONTENTS

Dedication

Epigraph

Prologue

PART I: THE KILLING

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

PART II: THE HUNT

Chapter 6

PART III: MISSING. GONE. VANISHED OFF THE FACE OF THE EARTH

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

PART IV: THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

PART V: THE HOUSE IN THE WOODS

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Acknowledgments

About the Author

Also by Urban Waite

Credits

Copyright

About the Publisher

PROLOGUE

T
HE BIG MAN STOOD
in the cold watching the road. He wore an orange vest over his buttoned shirt and held a traffic sign in his hand that he flipped from time to time as he passed the minutes watching the road and waiting. Behind in the night a single blinking orange light marked his silhouette, causing his shape to shift and glimmer against the pavement on which he stood. There was the sound in the distance of jet planes landing and taking off, the high wheeling cut of their engines overhead as they made their turns through the clouds, dropping out of the air a couple miles away and moving earthward.

He had never been on a plane and all he could think of as he stood there was the way the wings seemed to drift open, the flaps bent down like a bird coming to rest on a lake. His mind taken back to a time forty years ago when, as a boy, he had sat out in the prairie grass watching chevrons of snow geese land on a pond in the Palouse. So many of them that the water appeared white as their feathers and the sound of the birds calling to each other deafened him.

He was half turned on his heels when the headlights broke from around the corner of the road and lit him full. The road fenced in on one side with the creep of blackberries and on the other by a stand of oaks that had long since lost their coverings. The dry rasp of leaves heard from within the stand any time the wind moved. He tried to remember what he was meant to do but it didn’t come to him and he stood there in the middle of the road holding the sign. The car now drawn closer and the lights bathing his jeans in an unnatural shade of mercury blue.

There was no one around and as the car came to a stop he stepped forward and watched the window come down. “Construction?” the driver asked.

“Just up the road. Shouldn’t be more than a few minutes.”

With a flick of his hand, the driver brought a watch free from his shirtsleeve and checked the time. He wore a suit jacket and black pants. A black cap rested on the passenger seat with a shiny plastic half bill. He leaned forward on the wheel and looked toward the rounded curve of the road, where above at the bend the planes could be seen landing. He turned and looked behind him down the road from which he’d come. When he turned back around, he said, “It’s late for construction.”

“Best time,” the big man said.

The driver looked up the road again. “Is there a detour? Some other way to get through?”

“You can go down the way you came but it will take you just as long. Maybe longer.”

The driver leaned back in his seat and let the air out of his lungs in a long exhale. Somewhere in the oaks the leaves were moving again but there was no wind. And the driver, who sat slumped in his seat watching the road, heard only the hum of the car’s engine and the soft putter of the exhaust.

“Hello,” a voice said.

The driver turned and looked up not at the big man but into the face of someone much skinnier. His face hollowed out beneath the eyes where his cheekbones protruded in smooth orbs, the shadows beneath filling the length of his face all the way to his chin. The driver opened his mouth to respond but felt only the hard crack of metal come across his chin, and then on his forehead, repeated again and again.

When the skinny man brought his hand back from within the car it resembled a red candied apple. Rounded and shiny with blood. The black butt of a pistol visible at the base of his fist.

With the door open and the car still running, they carried the driver around to the trunk and placed him inside. The big man, who was still thinking about snow geese, had already thrown the vest and sign to the side of the road.

PART I

THE KILLING

Chapter 1

T
HE DEER LAY
a little way off the road at the bottom of the fence. The stomach opened on the cattle wire, with the skin peeled away and the viscera hanging loose in the predawn air. The sun had yet to crest the mountains and Silver Lake stretched away to the south for miles, dark and flat, with only the new wind that came with the morning to tousle the water and work the whitecaps. Gray slate all the way from one edge to the next, and the cattle wire and road running along it like a border. One piece of farm followed by another all the way around the top of the lake and into town, where the flatland ran out and the mountains began again, dense with fir and hemlock, sword fern and peat moss.

Deputy Bobby Drake stood beside the open door of his Chevy, toggling down through the contacts on his phone. Too early for anyone from Fish and Wildlife to answer. All of them had been out the night before—Drake partnered with one of the officers—as they worked to stop a string of poachings in the hills. The spotter plane high up over the mountains calling in positions as Drake and the local Fish and Wildlife officer rushed to catch up.

Now Drake waited in the growing morning haze with his breath curling before him in the twilight, the car hazards washing the scene in a slow pulse of orange, his fingernails cold on his face where he held the phone.

The message clicked on and he listened. When it was his turn he gave his name and then the location. “Pretty near cut herself in two,” he said, looking to where the animal had caught on the cattle fence, the blood black and slick along the metal. He turned the phone away and looked at the deer, trying to decide if there was anything else he could say. A she-wolf had been at the carcass when he’d rounded the curve and caught the animal with his headlights. One rib gnawed to the white bone, and the wolf tugging at the deer, stretching the flesh along the wire.

For the past couple weeks the wolf had been in the hills, calling out for others. Haunting the mist that came off the lake at night and threaded its way up through the mountain valleys. Sheri, his wife, turning the volume up on the television and waiting till the howls faded away and all was silent again. No sound outside but that of the trees brushing against the siding of the house, and the familiar rattle of the wind as it shook through the naked branches of the apple orchard out back.

Drake took a step toward the fence. The head of the deer played back at a strange angle. The animal flipped over on its back, where it had come to rest, eyes black and wide, looking up into the sky. Belly all but eaten clean. He didn’t know what else to say, the phone still open in his palm, and the message ticking down a second at a time. He gave the phone another moment of study before closing it in his fist.

He wondered how long the deer had lain like that before it was found, before the wolf came out of the darkness, pulled by the smell of blood and the bleat of fear. No way of knowing something like that, but a hope it had not been long and the deer had bled out along the wire before the scavenger arrived.

In the past couple weeks Drake had responded to three sightings. The wolf coming down out of the hills, tipping trash cans and chasing cattle. Only once had he seen her though, loping across a rancher’s field, the gaunt hips slowing for a moment as she neared the forest. The wolf, winter worn and skinny, all bone and fur—turning to regard him where he stood. No pack to run with, or cubs to nurse. One of the first wolves to be seen in the valley in fifty years and Drake had no idea what he was supposed to do about it.

He raised his eyes and looked into the cool dark at the edge of the field. A pink light had begun to spread behind him over the edge of the mountains and in the grass the deep blue that came just before the dawn could be seen. He knew the she-wolf was waiting, shifting in the shadows beneath the trees, watching him where he stood.

He scraped a foot over the gravel at the edge of the road, feeling a dull tightness in his leg as he watched the forest. He checked the time on his phone and then ran his eyes to the south, where the sky was lightening with the sun. Out of uniform for the day, he wore a dress shirt and slacks on his thin frame. No desire in him to leave the carcass or the wolf. And a certainty that what lay ahead of him down the road was more threatening than anything lurking in the shadows beneath the trees. Nothing he could do but move on, an appointment he needed to keep and the simple fact that as soon as he rounded the next curve, the nature of the thing would continue.

THREE HOURS LATER
Drake sat in his car watching the Monroe prison gates, waiting for his father’s release. The clouds were breaking overhead and the moisture that had condensed inside the car now showed with the sunlight. The morning had been cold and as he’d driven up through the birch that lay around the recesses of the prison, he could see the rolling barbed wire clear down the line. Wrapping over and over again as it crested one wall and then fell ten feet to the next, layer after layer of it, and no chance of escape for anyone inside, except, Drake thought, maybe his father, Patrick.

It was almost twelve years to the day since his father had been sentenced. In the years past Drake had searched for some sign of his father in his own face, looking at himself in the mirror of his cruiser, or under the bright changing-room lights of the department. The genes there that all who met him said were evident in his face. A fine line dividing the two of them, a reason Drake had tried so desperately in the last twelve years to distance himself from the father everyone could see within him.

All that had changed in his life, Drake thought, and all that remained the same.

He checked his watch and then looked to the prison gate. He didn’t know what to expect and he sat there in the lot watching the single pane of the steel door, searching for the shift of light or shadow from within that would signal Patrick’s arrival. Twelve years ago the life Drake had wanted for himself at the age of twenty put up on the shelf. Everything after his father went away feeling like the life of someone else.

Fifteen minutes went by in this way, the cold seeping in through the seams of the late-model Chevy, before he saw the door push open from within and a guard emerge onto the small concrete path, holding the door wide. Drake didn’t recognize his father at first, carrying a cardboard box in his arms, his breath curling away behind him as he walked. His beard grown full with white hair and a thin, almost animal-like mane, falling thick from his bald crown. He was over six foot, with the beginnings of a belly, and the well-built chest and shoulders he’d always had. The skin of his neck below the beard thickly veined in the cold.

BOOK: Sometimes the Wolf
9.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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