Marston cursed virulently beneath his breath as he watched the men moving cautiously on the trail below him…they had finally, it seemed, caught up with him.

As he hunkered down on the overhang above the trail, he watched as the dogs went about, noses to ground, trying to pick up his scent.

He silently chuckled to himself, fat chance of that.

He had come across a dead deer and had what, to him at least, had seemed the brilliant idea of using the carrion to throw the search dogs off of the trail.

So he had used his hunting knife to carve a different kind of meat than it was normally wont to.

And then he had stripped and rubbed the chunk of rotting meat everywhere he could reach on his body and then over his clothes.

He had nearly gagged while doing it, but to his way of thinking, nausea was preferable to what would happen if he were caught.

Besides, by the following night he was no longer aware of the smell at all. He guessed his nose had gotten used to it.

And he took the hide and put it in the cave, storing his clothes with it so that the smell soaked into them.

That had been two weeks ago, and he had tried to be careful about getting wet and risk washing away the scent, for he had finally had to get rid of the hide when it begun to turn maggoty.

But life was a real bitch…the rainstorm two nights back had pretty much drenched him before he could reach the caves where he had been holed up for the past three months, and he had run out of the clothes that had been “doctored”, so had been reduced to wearing clothes which allowed his own scent to fill them for the past two days.

As he watched the activity on the trail below, his thoughts drifted back to what had brought him to this point…

He had stumbled onto the caves after a close run in with the law after they had found the kids.

His car had broken down not far from a heavily wooded area, above which could be seen what appeared to be some large mountains.

He had left the car sitting on the road, taking time only to grab his gun, the satchel of ammo, the canteen, all incriminating paper work that might identify him and the satchel containing the junk food that he had managed to steal along the way at a couple of the gas stations and convenience stores he had robbed.

He had wandered, totally lost, for about three days when he had stumbled onto the caves, which went far back into the mountains in which they were located. And that was where he had set up temporary camp.

Water had been no problem, as there was a stream not far from the caves, but food was another thing altogether.

He had had to resort to sneaking down into the closest town, which lay only about two or three miles from the entry to the forest surrounded the caves, in the dead of night and raiding the dumpster behind the two grocery stores and the three local eateries.

He hadn’t wanted to call any more attention to his presence than he had to.

As for clothes…and a few beat up pots and cooking utensils and dishes…he raided the local charity bin that sat on the edge of town. He couldn’t carry much at one time and still hike all the way back to the caves, so he had learned to be very selective in what and how much he took.

The garments that didn’t fit he simply dumped down a shaft he had found while exploring the cave he was in, and food that went bad went the same way, as did his bodily waste.

He never, ever lit a fire in the main cave, but rather used one that was further back, which had a really high ceiling that allowed the smoke to dissipate without choking him, as actual living space.

All in all, it had proven to be a fairly cozy little set up, and for the first time in longer than he could remember he had actually stayed in one place for longer than two or three weeks.

And then the hunger had come and ruined it all.




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