Protected Species

Back at the lodge, Hennessy gave Jack TCP and Savlon for his cuts, and bandaged his hands, splinted his fingers. He was gruff and professional. There was no point in strapping his chest, his ribs had to heal on their own.

“‘Bout three weeks shittin’ yerself when ye move in bed,” the Scot said.

His men loaded the bear onto the back of a pickup, and threw bags of ice over the mound. The carcass had a long freight journey ahead, pick-up, plane and van, before it would be stuffed for display.

“I want my bonus,” said Jack. “Leo promised one if he got a bear, and I’m not leaving without it.” Hennessy just stared at him and grimaced sourly.

Leo and his crew started partying as soon as they’d got back. The champagne popped, the EDM pumped and the coke was cut. They were blitzing when Jack limped into the lounge, arranged in various states of undress on a giant battered leather Chesterfield, a bear skin rug at their feet and antlers over the blazing log fire. The perfect designer hunting lodge for those who could afford the cliches.

“You promised me something extra,” said Jack. “A bonus for the bear.”

Leo looked at him sourly. “Bonus for the bear? Are you a child?” That made Blake giggle. She liked watching people squirm.

Toby laughed. “Oh, come on Lee, he deserves it for running a fair crack of the whip.” He unfurled a silver bill fold and pulled out some notes, then nudged semi-comatose Ralph next to him to do the same. He grunted and grabbed some crumpled up bills from his jogging pants. It was all loose change to them. It was three months rent and food for Jack.


Toby leaned across Blake to hand the wad to Leo. She was wearing only a grey T-shirt, tanned bare legs and feet stretched out. He rubbed her breasts as he moved and she smiled. Leo didn’t notice, his coke-rolling eyes were trying to focus on Jack.

Leo took the wad and made to count it, then gave up and snatched a couple of rolled up blood and powder caked notes from the coffee table. He stood up, swaying and held out the wad for Jack. Jack reached forward, and Leo dropped the notes on the floor. Blake giggled some more.

“Oh dear, so sorry, old chap.” Leo slumped back on the button-back. “There’s your bonus.”

Think of Rosie and Thomas. They’re the reason you’re here. It’s too early to screw it up. Besides, you couldn’t hit him anyway with your broke fingers.

Jack knelt down on the floor and pawed up the notes. His knees hurt, his ribs hurt, his hands hurt. His body screamed to bring tears to his eyes, and the humiliation screamed with it.

Blake opened her legs wider. She was naked underneath her T-shirt, and he was at eye level with her sex. It wasn’t a come on, she was showing how little Jack meant to her. He levered himself unsteadily up, nodded, and limped away silently, leaving them to their guffaws and superiority. He knew if he said anything then, that would be the end of it.

He was shoving the cash into his jeans when Hennessy stopped him in the corridor. Clad in a thick parka, he had Jack’s holdall in one hand and a bottle of GlenDronach in the other, his own post-hunt bonus.

“I ken ye, laddie” the Scot rasped, breath reeking with whisky.

Jack didn’t say anything, but his sore head tried to work it’s way back through the gears. What had the fixer discovered? Had he been sussed already?

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