Protected Species

The first round took out half the bear’s brain pan in a splinter of bone and a splash of grue. It was a straight kill shot. Those that followed into his neck and chest were for show and gun lust. A few strays chipped the stream around Jack, spraying pebbles and water over the baitman. The grizzly swayed on its haunches above it’s intended prey, then toppled forward.

Jack moved fast. 700 pounds of carcass would smash his already cracked ribs to to pieces. He rolled to the side as the beast fell, ribs screaming as he slid on the wet rock. The bear landed with a splash where Jack had lain and it’s blood mixed with the chill stream.

The water lapped at both of them, gasping man and dead bear side by side. Jack stared into the animal’s dead black eyes, and was shocked to see it’s fur still bristled with life. Swarms of insects and midges that had parasitically nestled within the folds of the bear erupted around their host, the air rippling into a haze with their feeding frenzy.

Whoops of joy marked the arrival of the brave hunters, running up the river bank towards their victim. Leo, hunt leader, heir to an ill-gotten fortune, and the reason Jack was there. Around him tagged his crew of socialite hangers-on. Toby, his sly cooler-than-thou oldest friend. Ralph, a permanently stoned ski-bum fool. And then there was Blake, Leo’s It girl fiancee, with long blonde hair and longer legs. Blake, whose preening knowledge of her own beauty made her as ugly as the others inside.

Bringing up the rear was Hennessy, Leo’s sour Scottish ex-Army right hand man and fixer of all things. Hennessy was also carrying a smoking rifle. Jack guessed it had been his sober marksman shooting that had felled the beast before the others pumped random bullets into it’s hide.


“What a monster! This is going to look great in my museum.” Leo was happy, and that was what mattered. If Leo was happy, Jack would get paid.

The heir kicked at the beast, and it replied with an eruption of gas that sent him jumping back, a split seconds worth of fright spoiling his smug features. His pals laughed, and so did he, but just for a moment Leo glared across at Jack, still struggling to pick himself up, to check if he joined in. The staff didn’t mock the master, not to their face.

“Piccy time,” said Toby, and shoved a Leica M9 into Jack’s battered mitts. The camera was worth more than Jack’s pay, more valuable than Jack to his employer. He struggled to focus the prime lens with his bleeding fingers, and his hands began to shake.

“He can’t even stand upright,” said Hennessy. “I’ll take the photo.” They laughed again.

“Our baitman should be in this too,” said Leo. “Come on Jackie, lie down with your killer.” Jack knelt down below them and they patted his sore head.

“Put your head in it’s mouth,” said Leo.

They prised open it’s jaws for him. Jack did as he was told as Hennessy clicked away. He could feel the warmth of the carcass, the teeth scraping his skull, it’s rotten smell stinging his eyes. This is for you Rosie and Thomas, I’m doing this all for you. He repeated his mantra. Everything will be worth it.

He needed to do this. They had to remember him. He needed to make sure they remembered before he left.

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