Friday, February 15, 2013

Homeless on the Range

Blurb:  Since mustering out of the Marines, Gordon Fisher has been off the grid and out of money, so when a group of ecoterrorists promises him big bucks to set some mistreated animals free, Gordon agrees. Unfortunately, the animals are Wally Schumacher’s large cats, and one of them decides to take a chunk out of Gordon.
Still hurting from a breakup, Mario Laria finds Gordon and escorts him back to Dakota's ranch at gunpoint, only to have his heartstrings tugged on when he discovers Gordon is living out of his truck.
With Dakota doctoring, Wally wanting Gordon gone for good, and Mario falling in love, Gordon hangs on for the ride. But what looms on his horizon threatens to tear apart what little hope he’s found. No one knows Gordon’s past keeps him up at night, and the military wants answers he just can’t give. 

The short Wyoming range grass poked at his chest as he belly-crawled in the direction of the house. He ignored the pricks, scratches, and jabs as he kept his mind and attention on his objective—a cluster of cages behind the house. He really didn’t care why he’d been contracted to infiltrate this particular ranch or why he’d been told specifically to get unseen to those cages and release the abused and malnourished animals inside. Gordon wiped his brow and kept moving. The lights had gone out in the house a while ago, darkness and near silence descending quickly on the land. Once his eyes adjusted to the dark, Gordon had been pleased he’d checked things out earlier in the day. If there was one thing he could count on, it was an innate sense of direction. It didn’t matter if he couldn’t see a thing anymore after he’d spotted a point or landmark—he could make a beeline to it and usually put himself over it with no difficulty at all.

Some light from the area around the barn combined with the partial moon to provide more than Gordon actually needed, and the cages loomed easily within his line of sight. Raising his body off the ground, he thought about getting up and walking from here, but his instructions had been very specific: he was not to be seen under any circumstances. And if at all possible, Gordon was to make every effort to make it look like someone had left the cages open and the poor, mistreated animals had gotten loose. He was pretty sure that the people who’d contacted him were some sort of ecoterrorist group or something like that. What Gordon really cared about was that they had paid him in cash, and he desperately needed the money because he hated starving.
A sound behind him had Gordon stopping where he was. Dropping to his belly again, he listened and waited, but heard nothing more. Looking around as best he could, he saw no one, and was pretty sure there wasn’t any movement. Slowly, he began moving again. The cool night air had started to make its way through his clothing, and he wished he’d worn another layer, but it was too late now. He was getting close to the cages. He heard another sound and figured it was small creatures moving through the grass, and if he didn’t keep moving, he’d have them to contend with as well, so Gordon moved closer and closer to the first set of cages. At the edge of the enclosures, he settled again and listened. Gordon could hear animals moving around in the cages. They didn’t make a great deal of noise, but when he carefully lifted his head to look, he could see dark forms moving around. “Don’t worry, you’ll be free soon,” Gordon whispered, sending the animals his best wishes as he got even closer.
Thinking he could use the cages themselves as cover, Gordon shifted direction and began moving behind them and around to the far side. That was when he ran into trouble. Gordon was approaching the cage on the farthest side when he heard a snarl that nearly curdled his blood. He tried to move away but realized he was too close to the cage, and a pair of razor claws raked over his leg. Stealth or not, money or not, Gordon let out a yell that reverberated over the land and echoed off the hills at the edge of the valley. Lights came on from every direction. Gordon rolled away from the cage and kept rolling, getting farther and farther away. His leg hurt like flaming hell. He was scared to touch it, but he knew he was bleeding and his pants were now wet and clinging to him—that is, what was left of his pants.
Voices called from around him, and Gordon kept putting distance between himself and the sounds. He decided to settle in the grass and wait until everyone left before getting the hell out of here. “Are all the animals okay?” Gordon heard what sounded like a concerned voice ask as figures walked from cage to cage, everyone keeping away from the cage he’d gone near.
“Yes, they’re fine,” a man answered, shining a flashlight around the cages and on the animals inside. Gordon stopped breathing when he realized that the cage he’d gotten close to contained a tiger. Holy shit! There were lions and black prowling cats in the other cages. Fuck, if he’d actually opened one of the cages, he’d probably have been ripped to shreds. Putting his head on the ground, Gordon wondered how in hell he got himself into messes like this all the time. Well, not necessarily like this, because this was the first time he’d actually come close to being torn apart by wild animals. Before he’d only been shot at, not ripped apart and eaten. They’d told him the cages contained exotic animals, and he’d been expecting zebras and animals like the ones he used to visit at the petting zoo when he was a kid.
Gordon tried to breathe and wait out the activity happening closer to the house. It was still dark enough that the people around the cages couldn’t see him, but he had no intention of moving until they were gone. Then he was going to somehow make his way back to his pathetic excuse for a car and get the hell out of this town and, if he lived that long, the entire state.
The activity calmed down, and one by one, the people went inside. Once he couldn’t see anyone else, Gordon got to his knees, gritting his teeth as he crawled farther and farther back across the field.
“I suggest if you want to continue breathing that you don’t move another muscle,” a gruff voice said, and Gordon stopped and slowly lifted his gaze.


Tina Donahue said...

Great excerpt, Andrew - and I love the cover! :)

jean hart stewart said...

Wow, gonna be lots of action in this one. Great excerpt!