Decked out in a camouflage hunting jacket, Cole peered through the scope of his rifle and took aim at a deer as it lapped up water out of a nearby stream. He’d been trying his best to keep an eye on the animal, though it was difficult, as Moses and Felix had led Sharon and Rusty to his location, and three out of the four were babbling on and on.
“An alligator the size of a boat makes sense to me,” Moses said. “Everyone and everything is getting bigger. It’s because the CIA is putting steroids in our water supply, trying to make every living thing on earth huge so we’ll be better slaves for the impending new world order. I read that on the Internet and you know what they say. ‘If it’s on the Internet then it must be true.’”
“Literally no one says that,” Sharon said.
“Well they should,” Moses replied. “The Internet is full of all kinds of important factual information and also cat videos. Felix loves his cat videos, don’t you Felix?”
Felix nodded in the affirmative.
“What do you think, Cole?” Rusty asked.
Cole stayed quiet as he shut his left eye and drew a bead on the deer’s head.
“Cole?” Rusty asked.
“Huh?” Cole asked.
“The alligator!” Rusty said.
Cole ignored Rusty and maintained his focus on the deer.
“People,” Moses said. “Maybe now is not the time to bother our fearless former police chief. After all, he’s been through an awful lot and the whole purpose of hunting trip is for him to get his mind off losing his job and his leg and his lousy bitch of an ex-wife…no offense, Sharon. It’s good to see you.”
“Offense taken, Moses,” Sharon said.
“Moses,” Rusty said. “I thought we had joint custody of Cole.”
“I wasn’t aware of that,” Moses said.
“You’re his hunting and shooting buddy and I’m his everything else buddy,” Rusty said. “And right now I need him for something else.”
Cole hovered his finger over the trigger and gritted his teeth.
“Holy shit, Cole,” Rusty said. “Will you blow that thing away already so we can talk?”
Cole sighed. He set his gun down and stood up to face everyone. “I don’t shoot harmless animals. I only use them to practice my aim.”
“Wait,” Rusty said. “So all those animal heads that used to hang on your office wall?”
“They started it,” Cole said. “I finished it.”
“So, what?” Sharon asked. “You just put yourself in situations where a dangerous animal will attack you so you can shoot it?”
Cole popped a piece of gum into his mouth and began to chew. “Yup.
“Wow,” Rusty said. “You’re like the Charles Bronson of hunting.”
“I thought everyone knew that,” Moses said with a snicker. “Or maybe that’s just information his really, really good friends know.”
Felix tugged on Moses’ arm. “Don’t be jealous, F-Train,” Moses said. “There’s plenty of Sergeant Moses T. Malone, United States Marine Corps, Retired to go around.”
“You want to know what I think about your alligator story?” Cole asked. “It’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”
Rusty looked sullen. “You don’t believe me?”
Cole saw the pain in Rusty’s eyes. “I believe you think you saw something but…come on man, I know how you drink.”
Rusty threw his hands into the air. “Then how the hell did Gordon die?!”
Cole shrugged his shoulders. “I dunno. Sewer gas?”
The sheer frustration was too much for Rusty. “Arrrgh! You sound just like Hammond!”
“I’m nothing like Hammond,” Cole said. “Hammond’s a kiss ass.”
“You’re exactly like Hammond,” Rusty said. “Two Bozos who spent so long in management they forgot what on the line police work really means.”
“You really want to talk to me about on the line police work?” Cole asked.
“Oh sure!” Rusty shouted. “Just throw your leg at me again, Cole! That’s your trump card, isn’t it? Why don’t you just twist the damn thing off and beat me over the head with it already?”
Moses pulled out his phone. “Hold on. I want to get that shit on video if you do.”
Sharon threw herself between Rusty and Cole. “Enough, you two!”
She turned to Cole. “Cole, crazy alligator story or not, my partner’s dead and you know that’s something I just can’t ignore.”
“I know,” Cole said.
“The FBI has banned me from working on this case,” Sharon said. “But it’s pretty obvious that Buford Dufresne is involved in all of this somehow and he’s benefiting from his father’s protection. Can we please get out of here and talk about how to solve this?”
Cole looked into his love’s big brown eyes and felt he could not say no. Still, he had a question. “Why me?”
“Because I can’t tell anyone at the FBI I’m working on this and outside of the bureau, you’re the best damn cop I know,” Sharon said.
“Ex-cop,” Cole said. “I was unceremoniously given the boot after twenty-years of service. Not one member of the town council was willing to step up and take on the Mayor for me. They all rubber stamped the Grover County Sheriff takeover.”
“Don’t do it for them, Cole,” Sharon said. “Do it for me.”
That was all Cole needed to hear. “I suppose I could eat.”
Cole picked up his rifle and took one last look at the deer. “Beautiful creature, isn’t it?”
“It is,” Sharon said.
The deer took three steps through the grass and then…KABOOM! It was consumed in a fiery explosion. Blood and guts rained down from the sky. Moses, Felix, and Rusty hit the deck. Instinctively, Cole jumped on Sharon and knocked her down to the ground, shielding her with his body.
“What the fuck was that?!” Rusty shouted.
Moses raised his hand. “My bad.”
“Your bad?” Rusty asked.
“What?” Moses asked. “Some people hunt with rifles. Some people hunt with Claymore mines.”
“Literally no one hunts with Claymore mines,” Rusty said.
“They’re going to,” Moses said. “They just don’t know it. I’m starting a trend.”
Everyone stood up and headed for the main road.
“You didn’t set any more of those out here did you?” Rusty asked.
“Of course not,” Moses said. “Wait, Felix. Did I set up any more of those out here?”
Felix shrugged his shoulders.
“Shit,” Moses said. “Oh well. Just stick close to me and you’ll be fine.”
“You know if you left more of those out here, a kid might step on one,” Rusty said.
“Aw, who cares,” Moses said. “Builds character.”
Cole and Sharon remained on the ground together just a little bit too long.
“Are you OK?” Cole asked.
“Never better,” Sharon answered.