Authors: Dean Crawford
Dean Crawford began writing after his dream of becoming a fighter pilot in the Royal Air Force was curtailed when he failed their stringent sight tests. Fusing his interest in
science with a love of fast-paced revelatory thrillers, he soon found a career that he could pursue with as much passion as flying a fighter jet. Now a full-time author, he lives with his partner
and daughter in Surrey.
Also by Dean Crawford
First published in Great Britain by Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, 2013
A CBS COMPANY
Copyright © Dean Crawford, 2013
This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.
No reproduction without permission.
All rights reserved.
The right of Dean Crawford to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act,
Simon & Schuster UK Ltd
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Simon & Schuster Australia, Sydney
Simon & Schuster India, New Delhi
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
B Format ISBN 978-1-47110-255-4
Trade Paperback ISBN 978-1-47110-254-7
Ebook ISBN 978-1-47110-256-1
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to
actual people living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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Printed and bound by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY
Douglas Ian Jarvis
‘We’ve got him now, brother.’
Cletus MacCarthy’s voice was a whisper drifting through dense ferns that sparkled with moisture. Jesse MacCarthy did not reply as he crouched low in the foliage, kept his breathing calm
and tried not to look directly at their quarry on the far side of the creek. But he could hear the ragged excitement in Cletus’s voice, a volatile mixture of bloodlust and adrenaline.
The alpha-male was no more than sixty yards away and some fifty feet lower than where they crouched on the forested hillside. The rushing water in the narrow creek far below was the only sound
that rose up between soaring hills that vanished into wreaths of cloud enveloping their peaks. Jesse looked down to where the magnificent creature scanned the hillsides with a cautious gaze before
lowering its head to drink. At least twelve hundred pounds, and with antlers more than a metre long, Jesse had never seen a Roosevelt elk as large as the specimen they had tracked for the past four
A breeze drifted down the valley from the west, the clouds drifting slowly above them in the cold sky. The elk would not have picked up their scent, allowing them to creep to within a
hair’s breadth of a sure kill. Either one of them could hit such a large animal at this close range.
‘He’s a goner f’sure,’ Cletus whispered. ‘Question is, who’s takin’ the shot, lil’ brother?’
Jesse breathed his reply.
‘Best you make the shot, Cleet. You’ve done it before and we don’t want to lose this beauty. Besides, you’ve got the Winchester.’
Jesse saw his brother nod. He was crouched six feet farther down the hillside, his rifle cradled in his grasp. Jesse held his own rifle with the barrel almost touching the ground and the safety
catch off. Sighted for long range, his Browning 7mm mag was loaded with a 175-grain bullet and zeroed-in three inches high at a hundred yards, meaning that Jesse could hit targets at more than
three hundred yards using the 3x9 sniper scope. But Cletus’s .308 Winchester was perfect for closer shots.
Jesse relaxed his posture, knowing that he would not have to move now that Cletus was taking the shot. His brother was a big man with a thick, russet beard that almost touched his chest. Jesse
watched as Cletus moved with extreme care further down the hillside, one crouched and hunched step at a time, until he reached a cluster of small boulders scattered amid the thick grass.
The elk looked up and blinked at the hillside, its magnificent antlers looking like the limbs of a gigantic tree. Big, black eyes stared as though looking directly at Jesse. The rut was over and
although the Roosevelt elk did not migrate seasonally like other species, their diet changed from sprouts to bark as the fall progressed toward winter. Cletus knew where to find the big elk, the
first to reach the deep valleys, creeks and ravines they favored as shelter from the winter storms. He knew that they had to head as deep into the wilderness as their supplies would allow and avoid
the well-trodden game trails. He also knew that to find the best specimen they had to go in before the season opener and the influx of day-trippers and other clueless tenderfoots out to shoot bull
elk for something to tell the grandkids back home.
Cletus and Jesse were poaching.
Only thing on their side was that no day-tripper would ever hike this far out into the wilderness. Hell, the ranger service probably wouldn’t make it out here, so harsh was the terrain.
And with the swiftly fading light, only the hardiest hunters like Cletus MacCarthy felt confident enough to rough it in the wild until dawn before making their way back with their prize. Jesse
figured there probably wasn’t another human being within twenty miles of them.
The bull elk scanned the hillside, not alarmed but not entirely at ease either. Jesse watched as, inch by painfully slow inch, Cletus brought the Winchester up onto his shoulder, sighting down
the weapon as his finger moved by reflex and slipped the safety catch off. The soft puffs of breath condensing on the air from Cletus’s nostrils suddenly ceased as he took final aim and held
his breath, waiting for the pause between his heartbeats to steady the rifle for the final shot.
Cletus’s finger squeezed the trigger.
The voice came from behind Jesse, spoken without force and yet in the deep silence of the moment it seemed as loud as a gunshot. All at once the magnificent elk shuddered in alarm and whirled,
leaping with extraordinary force and grace across the creek in a rustle of grass and thundering hooves. Within moments it had plunged into the treeline on the opposite side of the ravine. Cletus
jerked his head back over his shoulder as Jesse whirled to see a pistol held by a uniformed park ranger pointed at him. The ranger, his jacket festooned with Idaho State patches and his field hat
shielding his eyes from the drizzle, directed a steely gaze at them.
‘Gavin Coltz, Idaho State Park Ranger. You’ll be aware that we’re ten days outside of the season opener. Lay down your weapons immediately.’
Jesse heard Cletus sigh heavily and the safety catch of the Winchester click back into place. Jesse carefully laid down the Browning at his feet as he turned and stood up from his hiding
Gavin Coltz kept his pistol trained in their direction, the weapon held double-handed. Jesse knew that park rangers had been shot in the past by poachers, and Coltz was taking no chances. He
kept his distance, ten yards further back in the treeline. Jesse raised his hands and from the corner of his eye he saw Cletus do the same.
‘We don’t want trouble, officer,’ Cletus said, all of the excitement now drained from his voice.
‘Then you’ll do exactly as I say,’ Coltz replied. ‘Keep your hands in the air and move ten paces to your left. Leave your weapons where they are.’
Cletus reluctantly did as he was told, casting a last glance at his beloved Winchester as he backed away. Jesse followed him, stepping carefully through the rough grass. Gavin Coltz stood his
ground at the treeline until they were where he wanted them, and then glanced over his shoulder into the deep forest behind.
‘Where’s the third guy?’ he demanded.
Jesse blinked and looked at Cletus. Cletus shook his head.
‘There ain’t no third guy, officer. It’s just me and my brother here.’
Coltz changed his stance and gripped his pistol tighter.
‘I’ve been tracking you for three hours, boys, and I saw somebody trailing you. Don’t be messin’ with me and making this worse than it already is. Call him
Jesse shook his head.
‘We’re alone, officer. I swear it. There’s nobody else come out this far with us.’
Coltz frowned. ‘Then who the hell was followin’ you?’
Jesse was about to answer when on the faint breeze a pungent odor filled his nostrils and coated the back of his throat with something that felt slimy. He fought a choke reaction as the stench
hit him and tears welled in the corners of his eyes. Beside him Cletus coughed and glanced to their right.
‘Sweet Jesus,’ Cletus gasped. ‘What the hell is that?’