Jerome sat in the dark. His trusty shotgun rested on his lap. The cold, damp air seemed to settle into his old army jacket and seep past his clothes and against his skin. Fear was not part of Jerome’s vocabulary. How many times had he been out hunting alone? Tonight was different though. This night he was not hunting prey, he was pursuing a hunter.
The crisp night felt darker than others. Perhaps it was because Jerome knew the odds. His trusty semi-auto held eight shells. He wasn’t even sure it was enough. Whatever the number, he knew he better hit his target. After all, his livelihood was now under attack.
The coyote pack began to raid his farm almost nightly. The hardened fences and locked chicken coops had kept the predators at bay, but the hens did not care. They had not laid a single egg in the last week. It was not just impacting his breakfast; it was affecting his spending money. His egg sales supplemented his retirement income. Without that money, life was little more than television and dinner.
A howl interrupted Jerome’s thoughts. Several followed suit. A chill ran up his back, but it was not from the weather. At least five had answered the leader, and they were close. Jerome shined his flashlight over to his right and saw seven pairs of yellow eyes gleaming back at him. The pack spread apart, and Jerome stood and lifted his shotgun with his flashlight shining down its barrel. He slowly swept left to right. The count was now down to five. Two were missing, one was the alpha. Where was he?
They drew close enough now that he could see their gray fur and snarls. He took aim at his left and fired. The coyote yelped, lurched back and fell. Jerome already had his barrel sweeping right. He picked off the last coyote to his right. He swept back left and took down the one in the center. The other two in view yelped and ran off. Where were the last two? Jerome held his breathing and listened. The only sound was his own breath. He stood still as a stone until his legs began to ache.
“I guess they all ran off. No eggs tonight, but things should improve.” He turned and started his short journey back to his home. He kept his shotgun rested on his left arm, his right hand carried it by the butt, his trigger finger rested outside the trigger guard. The closer he got to who house the more relaxed he began to feel. What remained of the pack would not be back anytime soon. Jerome heard the snap of a twig and spun around, shotgun butt in his shoulder.
The alpha was sneaking forward, a female behind him. The male stood staring into the flashlight, daring Jerome to fire. He snarled and growled. He dared the death that would soon come to take him. Jerome stood silently. He almost hated to end the life of such a brave animal. Why did the animal stalk him? Jerome noticed the drool pouring out of his mouth. The animal’s jaw did not just snarl, it hung open. Jerome knew this was not just an alpha, it was a rabid alpha. He had to take out the female behind the male as well, just in case she was rabid too.
Jerome forced himself to swallow. Heat and sweat from fear replaced the chill of the night. He took careful aim and fired. The female behind the rabid coyote flipped backwards and was dead before she hit the ground. The male charged. Jerome fired. The alpha’s head jerked back, rabid saliva flung backwards as his legs came off the ground. Chunks of diseased flesh scattered behind, and the male fell with part of its head missing.
Jerome had a long night of clean up and hunting ahead. He walked inside his house and picked up the phone to call the Sheriff. They would have to put down the remaining pack. He knew the last of the coyotes would be nearby without their leader. The work was nasty, but at least he could count on enjoying an egg for breakfast soon.