20: The perfect shot

The apes lazed peacefully in the hillside clearing, bathed in the soft halo of the midday sun that filtered down through the lush foliage from the jungle canopy above. The mother watched her children frolic gently in the grass, while the proud silverback father chewed lazily. They had not moved on since the men’s last visit the previous day, ignorant of their murderous intent.

The hunter positioned himself against the fork of a tree, overlooking the glade, his clumsy attempts at stealth echoing in the tranquility of the gorilla’s domain. The silverback watched him, uncaring, naive to any threat from the strange white men. Leo motioned for Jack to move towards the primates as he unholstered his rifle.

There were only two of them now. Toby had fallen by the wayside early. It was less than an hour up the mountain ascent before he screamed, clutching a supposedly twisted ankle. At least one of the Congolese guides would be needed to carry him down to base camp.

“I’m so sorry old chap,” said Toby. “I’m afraid you’ll have to see this one through without me.”

“Don’t be silly, your health and safety is the most important thing,” said Leo. “Both these boys best take you back, to make sure you’re okay. Jack and I can take it from here, we know the way.” It was a forthright, jocular show of compassion a la the Boy’s Own fictional heroes he was trying to emulate. Another act, but one Leo wanted so desperately to believe in, he would will into being.

As the two guides helped the Toby back down the slope, the hunter and his baitman continued up the mountain path, fantasy continuing to unspool from the heir’s imagination with each step. “They trekked to the peaks of the mountain in search of the legendary flower, whose medicinal properties would heal their fallen comrade,” said Leo. “It was by mistake they stumbled into the domain of the mighty Kong, and sheer luck they survived at all. The beast had not known Man before, but would allow no stranger into his kingdom, no matter their peaceful intent. It would be a fight to the death…”

It took three hours, including a few wrong turns, before they found the glade again. Leo had talked all the way, words energising him with boyish enthusiasm. Now, Jack walked forward into the clearing as instructed. His legs ached from the climb as much as his ears throbbed from the chimeric ranting of the delusional heir. He wished he could lie down and roll around on the grass, just like the gorillas did, innocent once more.

He stopped, feeling a brushing at his knees. The baby gorilla pawed at his feet, a little ball of black fur and wide, guileless eyes staring up at him. More than human, so trusting, so pure. He reached down to shoo it away, but ended up patting it’s head. It’s tiny fingers stroked his palm, the touch flooding him with a forgotten warmth that brought tears. Thomas…

The silverback grunted and moved forward. Surprised by the sudden movement, Jack stepped back, tripped and fell to the ground with a thud that winded him. Gently, the father scooped up the baby and handed it back to it’s mother, then nudged Jack’s boot with it’s fist. It wasn’t going to hurt him, it just didn’t want the clumsy human fooling with his young.

From his vantage point leaning through the fork of the tree, Leo smiled. It was the model tableau, ripped from the cover of a penny dreadful. The helpless innocent prostate on the floor, as the hugely muscled raging beast towered over him. The perfect shot. Cartier-Bresson would be proud, but Leo did not wield a camera, his bespoke weapon of choice was a rifle. Holding his breath, he aimed the sights at the apes’s chest, and pulled the trigger.

TO BE CONTINUED . . .

THIS IS THE TWENTIETH CHAPTER OF ORIGINAL ADVENTURE SERIAL PROTECTED SPECIES. THE TWENTY-FIRST CHAPTER WILL BE POSTED ON WEDNESDAY 19th OCTOBER.

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