The cold wind whipped the grass and weeds, blowing grit into Chelsea’s eyes. She pushed her black Stetson to a different angle. The assault lessened though it didn’t entirely abate.
The wind never really died on the prairie, but the last week or so, the aggression in the air had grown. She’d been debating some kind of face covering.
Bentley didn’t seem to notice the wind as he tore off after the ball she had thrown. Which was good, as she had no idea how long they had to hang out at this backroads pit stop.
The glorified parking lot was gravel and mud. She’d been told that a decent fishing hole lay down the embankment behind her. She wasn’t there to fish though.
While she chucked the ball for Bentley, she kept an eye on the field across the road. The open gate wasn’t needed to see all the way to the horizon. Gray and dead, its grain long since harvested, it wouldn’t matter if the field got tore up. At least, nobody felt bad about it. Cheaper to clean up a field than replace livestock.
Her phone buzzed in her pocket a moment before it rang. Bentley grabbed his ball and sat at her feet as she answered the call. “Chelsea, here.”
Keegan’s harrowed voice screamed through the speaker. “We’re headed your way, and holy shit, this fucker is fast.”
Chelsea hurriedly opened the door. Bentley hopped in, shimmying over to passenger seat. She scooched across the wide front seat, buckled the dog in, and then took the wheel. Her car was a mish-mash of types and parts. Her dad had rigged the thing together years ago. It looked ugly, but it ran like a dream.
All too soon, across the road, the serenity of open, endless fields was disturbed as a pickup truck, the white body stained with streaks of red and brown, roared past, dust and dirt flying behind it. Moments later a large, reddish, hairy animal ran by pursued a second white pickup truck.
Chelsea tore out of the parking lot and through the open gate. Bouncing in her shaking seat, she kept her eyes locked on the monster partially hidden by dust and dirt. The locals called it Taku-He. It mostly attacked livestock. It was also tricky to kill, or so she’d been told. Wearing it down, while also leading it to the cage, was priority one.
The chasing pickup truck lagged a little, so Chelsea floored the gas pedal and overtook them pulling through the dirt cloud. The giant monster was strong and fast, as Kegan had warned. Chelsea’s machine was faster. She slammed a fist into her horn and pumped the breaks. She still nearly rammed the red-furred haunches of Taku-He.
The monster let out a roar and jumped. Taku-He sailed dozens of feet in the air, landing far away from her and the bait truck.
“Oh, fuck,” Her growled oath blended with Bentley’s vocalizations. She spun the car around and gravity lost some of its hold on her for a moment before she hit the gas. Taku-He zigged and zagged. Chelsea mirrored him, hoping he was narrowing in on the bait truck, but she didn’t have the time or attention to spare a look. She also had no real way to direct the monster. Her job was to tail and harry it.
She weaved around, trying to catch sight of the bait truck or its cloud of dirt. She was supposed to stay parallel to the road, but the leap had sent them deep into the unfamiliar fields.
Beside her, Bentley leaned out of the window and howled. Chelsea stayed on the monster’s path, praying it wouldn’t take the continued noise and chase as a challenge.
Taku-He turned deeper into the prairie.
Oh no you don’t!
Thought and action came at the same time. She floored her car once more; the wild bouncing briefly bringing on fear for her suspension, and overtook the monster.
Taku-He swerved and ran, faster than before. Thanking her father for the professional driving lessons yet again, she swung her car around, and overtook the monster. This time, Taku-He’s swerve took him back towards the road.
Chelsea glanced down at the dashboard. She still had about half a tank of gas. “Hang on, Bentley.”
The dog started howling as she chased down Taku-He. Seemingly, out of nowhere, a new truck appeared, dirt cloud following. Standing in the bed, two hunters waved flanks of meat. Chelsea pumped the breaks, slowing her insane pursuit.
Taku-He darted for the truck and the bait. Whooping and waving their raw hog ribs, the hunters lead the monster away.
Chelsea followed, waving to the first bait truck as she passed. Bentley howled at them, getting waves and whoops. She’d meet up with them at the waypoint.
The miles passed quickly, and Taku-He stayed on course. The huge white barn with the hand-painted flag was her first sign. Vaguely, she saw a hunter on the bait truck call the next harrier.
Relief coursed through her when a doorless Jeep ripped into the field. Chelsea slowed her speed more before pulling out onto the dirt lane with shaking legs. Her stop lay a half a mile down the road, a trailer with some amenities, rented cheap to hunters.
The original bait truck was there, being hosed down by the team. She pulled up between a beat up truck and thirty-year-old land yacht. She barely kept her balance getting out of the car when Bentley scurried past her. Together, they rushed Keegan.
Despite the frigid wind and his wet clothes, she grabbed her hunting partner in a stiff hug. “You’re okay.”
“And you.” He squeezed her back. Stepping away, he shivered. “Beau told us about your crazy stunt driving. He was mad he couldn’t get any video on his phone.”
A few hunters whooped and laughed, flashing her approving grins.
Chelsea cocked her hat back and placed her hands on her hips. “Not all rich girls sit around in designer clothes. Some of us learn to drive daddy’s expensive cars… on his credit card of course.”
More laughs and whoops came seconds before Keegan caught her full in the face with the hose. Shivering, she shrieked before wrestling the hose from him, “You are so dead after we kill this thing!”
Laughing still, the hunters finished hosing down the hog’s blood, and hurried into the various cars and trucks at the trailer.
Keegan let Bentley in the backseat, grinning at Chelsea over the hood of her car. “Ready to kill a local legend?”
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