Patrick’s family had walked these woods in western Maryland for generations. They had defended them during the War for American Independence and every opportunity since then. Patrick’s sister, Dawn, had once paid for a genealogist to come in and shake the family tree to see what fell out. The guy had joked that the family must have been cursed to die in battle. There was more than enough evidence for that theory. Men and women up and down the family line had died of unnatural causes. Most of those unnatural causes had been brutal and bloody. The truth was, the family was constantly in battle but they had never left the United States since the late eighteenth century.
Since arriving in the new world, the family had been blessed and cursed with sight beyond sight. The things most people dismissed as myths, legends and optical illusions were the things Patrick’s ancestors had killed with sword and musket. Through the years, they had kept the fight a secret. So the family had fallen to bears, wolves, gators, snakes and once a pack of rabid gophers. Anything but the actual creatures that killed them. It was not something you discussed in polite company and definitely not with some insensitive genealogist making bad jokes.
“What do we have, Al?” Patrick asked his cousin. She stood hall with a wide-brimmed hat, a thick canvas coat and a big sniper rifle.
“We’ve got three Beauregards holed up in Roscoe Hollow,” Allison said. She spat on the ground after which was sometimes her take on punctuation. Beaus were the family code for the wolfman creatures that showed up periodically. They were among the most intelligent of the creatures they faced on a regular basis.
“We’re the only ones available right now?” Patrick asked. He was not really worried, just curious. He climbed into the driver’s seat of the side by side that was parked in front of the cabin. Alison climbed onto the back and hooked her rifle onto the roof so it would not bounce around so much.
“Furble infestation in the southwest,” Alison answered. She banged on the roof to let Patrick know that she was braced and ready for him to drive.
“Damn,” Patrick said, “We got the lucky assignment then. Those things are annoying and deadly. We just got the deadly ones.” He gunned the engine and they were off toward the Hollow in the northeast of the forest. Patrick trusted Alison more than just about everybody else. One day he would be in charge of the family and he wanted Al as his right hand. She was a keen mind and a crack shot.
The drive was short but before they got there, they had to get out and walk. There were too many roots and it was darker under the thick foliage. Patrick went first after clipping a machete and a pistol to his belt. Al followed with her rifle swinging back and forth and a hard look in her eyes. The Hackette family was nothing to mess with. They did not raise any pushovers.
The two of them crept through the brush, trying to be as quiet as possible. The Hackette clan could just feel these creatures when they were near and Patrick could definitely feel them in that moment. He unfocused his eyes and tried to scan the terrain like a normal person scanned a word search. If he looked too hard he would miss these cunning beasts and they would devour him and Al before they could utter a sound. It was a dangerous job fighting these things but nobody else was going to do it. If they did not thin their numbers, the beasts might spread to other areas and make their presence known. They could murder untold amounts of people without anybody being the wiser.
Suddenly, one of the beasts used itself as a furry missile and tackled Al. She and the beast flew together for a few yards but she was able to roll free and clear of the thing’s terrible claws. Patrick drew his machete and met another one coming from the opposite direction. The machete sank into its side and the thing yelped with inhuman pain. Patrick tried to draw the machete against the wound but the thing pulled away.
Another lunged at Patrick but a shot rang out from Al’s rifle and the thing’s skull exploded into a fine mist and a jigsaw puzzle of skull fragments. That made the other two think twice about their aggressive behavior. They did not think long about their pacifism before they were after the cousins again. Patrick swung his machete and dueled with one of them while the other had Al scrambling for higher ground. Patrick was having a hell of a time with his opponent dodging and weaving but finally, the machete struck gold. In this case, gold was a fountain of blood as the Beau gave up the fight.
The final beast tried to run and Patrick almost felt sorry for it as Al lined up her shot. That shot echoed through the woods as the bullet hit the Beau right in the center of its spine. It slumped against a tree and then hit the ground. Patrick reached for a canteen to celebrate.