The sharp retort of a single gunshot broke through my subconsciousness and startled me awake. Years of boot-camp and combat training had me reaching for the rifle next to me that was not ever there. My sense came into sharp focus at the sound of another gunshot in the near distance. I slip from the moth eaten blankets of my worn out and dilapidated bed. Barefoot, I pad across my makeshift bedroom and head down the stairs of the dwelling I had been squatting in for the better part of five years.
I peer out the boarded windows, the sliver of moon like a fingernail in the sky, barely casting enough light to give chase to the shadows across the tree filled landscape. I pad along the dew covered grass, leaving little sound over the wet ground. I pick up a nearby pipe from the discarded scraps of metal from my weld work as I pass the warehouse where my shop and grow house are located, and proceed into the trees to the direction of the gunshots. Someone is dangerously close by, and with the latest "accidental" deaths of two Imps a few weeks earlier, I didn't want to take any chances as to who could be snooping around. And since the government strictly enforced who could own what, I couldn't risk someone finding my current dwellings, or my highly illegal greenhouse.
A pair of flashing beams of light direct me towards the location of my mysterious shooters. I silently slip amongst the shadows of the trees, zigzagging closer towards the lights and the voices of the individuals who so rudely awakened me from my semi-peaceful slumber. As I get closer I detect the copper stink of blood in the air and I hear...whimpering? The shadows are still too deep and I am still too far to get a good look as to what has happened. The men appear to be arguing as I move behind a copse of trees closer to the scene in question, my makeshift weapon held low in both hands, ready to swing at a moments notice.
"What choice did we have?" A man in a dark trench coat asked the man next to him in the cowboy hat.
"IDIOT. Shots draw attention. Attention we do not need right now." The man in the cowboy hat yelled back. It was clear that these two were not part of the military crackdown of law enforcement. "This was supposed to be a quiet and clean job. Now there are two...TWO bodies to take care of."
Trench coat's voice retorted. "They had a dog. Someone had to do something or we would have been discovered."
Shit. A dog. Not a good sign. I found myself looking around in a sub-state of panic for any tell tale sign of the furry monsters. For years the military had been genetically experimenting on various domesticated animals to make them more useful for combat and other oddball purposes. Horses could run further without getting tired. Cats were bred as mobile spies fitted with sensor equipment. Dogs were the favorite. The aggressive nature of breeds long used for guard dogs were enhanced for combat roles. Bigger and stronger than even the bull mastiffs used for years by local law enforcement for taking down difficult suspects, these animals would not hold a prisoner until their handler bade them to let go, but instead became hunter-killers, four legged assassins let loose into a compound so the Imps didn't get their hands dirty. Other breeds long used for tracking and hunting were genetically engineered to not only sniff out certain smells, but genetic codings as well, making them impossible to shake once they got your scent. Either way you were dead once a dog was on your trail, weather it be by your throat ripped out by the "attack" dogs, or the "trackers" leading the Imps flawlessly to your doorstep, guns blazing.
"Besides, we can just blame it on the welder anyways. We will just plant the bodies at his warehouse, take what we came for there, and let the Imps figure out the rest." Trench coat continued. "An anonymous tip should help speed the process along and he will be out of our hair for the remainder of our days."
Really. If these two are not military, then I can't help but wonder who I managed to piss off enough to want to get me out of the way. I crouch low and inch my way towards my would-be life wreckers, pipe held tightly in my hand, the stench of blood still thick in the air.
Cowboy hat rests his blunderbuss on his shoulder and kicks something in the shadows. "Let's get to work then, we have a few hours before dawn and the Don wants this wrapped up and the packages in his hands by morning." The two of them bend over to start moving the bodies onto some sort of makeshift sled. The flashlight beams give me a good look at the bodies. Imps. Two of them. Blunderbuss holes in both of their chests from what looks like fairly close range by the way I could almost see through them. That would explain the bloody mist in the air.
As they bend to pick up the first body I quickly move in, striking trench coat in the knee, dropping him to the ground as I spin around and clock cowboy hat in the face. The pipe makes a satisfying ping as it caves in his sinus cavity, laying him out, never to awaken me from my slumber again. I turn towards trench coat, bloody pipe in my hand. He just stared at me, pain wracking his face as he holds his shattered knee.
"Who sent you and why?" I ask.
"F..F...Fuck you." He stammers.
There is a sharp crack as I shatter the other knee. "I am tired. I am irritable. I am not going to ask again. Who sent you and why?"
"No. H...He will...k...k...kill me." Trench coat explains.
I sigh. "If you don't tell me, you will die tonight, by my hand, not by your Don's. Understand?"
He was crying. He was seriously crying, weeping like a small child. "I'll tell you. Boss wants...sniffle..Boss said he wanted something you had. A package. He didn't say what it was, only that it was in your shop. "
"What package? Who is your boss?" I asked, poking his knee with my pipe.
Screaming and backing up against a tree he started to reply, before a large, sleek fur covered creature shot out of the shadows and latched onto his throat, ripping it out while I watched, dumbfounded, my pipe dropping out of my hands in surprise.
It looked up at me, blood dripping from its maw as trench coat gurgled his last breath through his mangled windpipe. I slowly backed away from the beast. By the look of the breed of dog, it was a tracker, trained and bred to locate its target from anywhere and in any kind of conditions. It had my scent and I was in trouble...and I knew it. I glanced around for my pipe or one of the blunderbusses. Hell, I would settle for a tree branch with a rock tied to it. Anything to use as a weapon at this point. It limped towards me, and I realized it was injured. Bad. A glancing blow had destroyed the use of one hind leg. Not a gunshot though, no blood. It was probably swung at like a baseball over home plate. At least I now know what Cowboy Hat was kicking in the shadows. Bastard should have killed it.
It got about halfway to me before just lying down ten feet in front of me. It was just staring at me. Every instinct I had screamed to grab a blunderbuss or branch, anything, and kill it before it caused me some serious problems. The last thing I needed was an army of Imps knocking down my doorstep, or just firebombing my current residence and writing me off as a terrorist. Slowly I worked my way over towards the bodies, looting them for anything useful, piling them on top of each other, all the while keeping an eye on the tracker. It just continued to stare at me while I piled branches and leaves on top of the corpses, hoping local predators and scavengers would rid the evidence for me before morning. I picked up the blunderbusses and my pipe, put it with the few useful items the Imps and my rude guests had on them, rolled them up in one of the shirts, and headed back home.
Much to my dismay, the tracker limped along and followed.