Dave P. Fisher                        
Author & Western Humorist

Double Diamond Books                      
  
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Monthly Feature
               Outdoor Adventure in the rugged Idaho mountains
                                    Mark of the Killer

 
Le Tueur, the killer Cougar that no one has been able to take, has turned man killer.  The government
has sent in a professional hunter to track down him down, but the man has no idea what he is up
against with Tueur. 
        

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The following afternoon a pickup with a dog box in the back and hitched to a double horse trailer pulled off the highway parking parallel to it in Ralph’s lot. A fortyish man in a well-worn cowboy hat, long sleeve shirt, faded jeans, and cowboy boots run down at the heels got out and walked across the lot to the store. A Bluetick hound stuck its head out one of the dog box holes and watched him.

Ralph looked up as the man entered. Taking in the man’s style of dress he pegged the stranger as a native to the state, or at least the west. “Afternoon, what can I do you for?”

The man walked up to the counter, fished a business card out of his shirt pocket and laid it on the counter.  “Pete Alden, government trapper,” he said simply.

Ralph read the card lying on the counter that confirmed the man worked for the U.S. Wildlife Service as a predator controller. Ralph looked back up at him, “That’s what it says alright.”

Alden’s expression indicated he didn’t like Ralph’s response to the card he felt would impress the old man. “I’ve been sent to take care of your killer cougar.”

Ralph smiled in a friendly fashion. “Where are you from?”

“I’m based out of Lewiston.”

“Then, I take it you’re not familiar with our neck of the woods.”

“Doesn’t take me long to learn a country.”

Ralph held the smile. “I wasn’t referring to the country, I was referring to Tueur.”

Alden’s brow furrowed, “Tueur? What’s that?”

“Not what – he. Tueur is our resident killer cougar.”

“So? It’s a cougar like any other cougar. My dogs will tree him, I’ll shoot him, and go home.” Alden smirked, “It’s not like it’s my first cougar.”

Ralph stopped smiling as annoyance at the man’s cocky manner drove the friendliness out of him. “How many dogs do you have with you?”

“Three. My Bluetick strike dog and a pair of Walkers.  It’s all I need. They’re all I’ve ever needed.”

“Do you know Monty Payton?”

“No.”

“He brought his Plotts up here, six of them. Best cougar dogs on the Salmon. He jumped Tueur.” Ralph paused for effect as he held Alden’s eyes. “He took three dogs home.”

Alden snorted, “Guess they weren’t such great dogs after all.”

“Tueur doesn’t tree,” Ralph said coolly. “He runs dogs ragged and then ground fights. He’s killed at least six dogs that I’m aware of. He’s been killing deer, elk, and horses up here for the past eight years. You think no one has tried to get him?”

Alden’s eyes smoldered with growing anger as he glared at Ralph. He was touchy about anyone questioning the adeptness of him or his dogs. “You’re a bunch of amateurs – I’m not.”

Ralph barked out a humorless laugh. “There’s men up here that can hunt circles around you, and they’ve failed to even get close to killing Tueur. What makes you so special?”

“I’m a professional. That’s what makes me so special.”

“Those men are professional hunting guides.”

“Not the same thing.”

“They’re on a hunt right now, you should at least wait a couple of days and talk to them. I’m sure they can give you some advice on how to hunt Tueur.”

Alden snorted with distain at Ralph’s suggestion. “I don’t need advice, just the direction of the kill site.”

Ralph met the man’s eyes with a flash of anger. “Then do it for your dogs.”

Alden snorted again, “My dogs don’t need advice either.”

 Ralph shook his head and shrugged. “Fine by me. Go have at him.”

“I will. Who can point me to the kill?”

“You might try Matt Shuler.”

“Where do I find him?”

“About ten miles up River Road. He’s got a horse rental business, you’ll see the sign.”

Alden stepped back from the counter. “I’ll be back tonight with your invincible cougar. You can take a picture of me and my dogs with it, and hang it in your store here.”

Ralph simply looked at Alden. He had deliberately sent him to Shuler feeling they deserved each other. “Do you know what Tueur means, Mr. Professional?”

“What do I care what it means?”

“It’s French for Killer. He’s carried that name for eight years. That tell you anything?”

Alden huffed a cynical laugh, turned on his run-down boot heels and headed for the door.

Ralph called out after Alden, “I’ll take a picture of you without your dogs, or Tueur, and hang it up. I’ll caption it, I don’t take advice.”

The door slammed as Alden stormed out.

Ralph huffed a disgusted laugh, “So, that’s the best the government can do for the situation. Send us a pompous jackass.”

 

Jep was lying back on his bunk in the bunkhouse resting when he heard a truck coming up the road toward the yard. He got up and went out the door to see who it was. The business was closed, the sign down on the road, so it wasn’t a customer. He watched to see who appeared.

As he stood waiting the sound of the house door opening drew his attention to his father coming out to see as well. The two had not spoken a civil word to the other since the fight. That suited Jep as he had severed his family tie to the man. The old man had made the most of his injuries limping around the yard and porch moaning. A lot of antics trying to make him feel guilty, or give in to him. It hadn’t worked.

He knew the old man was healed from his injuries. The facial bruises were just yellow splotches now, but still he played it up. He snarled with disgust as the old man hobbled down the steps to see who was coming. “What a faker,” he grumbled.

He had not been to Cougar Bend since his encounter with Ty Kavanagh. No one in town wanted to see him, and there was no one to visit. He hadn’t needed to buy any additional food at the store so there was no reason to go in. A deer hung in the shade of the trees behind the bunkhouse that he had shot for meat. The old man had demanded half of it, which he refused telling him to hobble on out and shoot his own deer. That had set off another brief fight.

The truck came into view and stopped in front of the house. Jep shook his head as he took in the dog box and horse trailer. “Another idiot that thinks he can run down Tueur,” he said in a low voice.

Matt met Pete Alden as he stepped out of the truck. “Bet you’ve come to hunt a cougar,” Matt said with a smile.

Alden looked at the mess of a man Matt Shuler was. Physically dirty, disheveled clothes, snarly hair, unshaven, and he smelled bad. Obviously lazy. He then cast an eye around the property with its freshly repaired corrals and lack of trash, and disassociated the place with the man standing in front of him.

His wandering gaze stopped on the young man walking toward him. He looked like the hired hand and was probably responsible for the order of the place.

Alden shifted his eyes from Jep back to Matt. “I’m looking for Matt Shuler. There’s supposed to be a horse rental sign on the road, but I didn’t see one.”

Matt held the smile and jabbed his thumb against his chest. “That would be me. Guess the sign fell down.”

“Figures,” Alden remarked. “I was told you could point me to the killer cougar and the site where he killed the man.”

Matt’s jaw momentarily dropped open. “Killed a man? When did that happen?”

“Yesterday. I was told you knew all about it.”

Matt’s eyes flicked back-and-forth as he thought about the helicopter flying around yesterday. It must have been for that. “Oh yeah,” he suddenly burst out. “I thought you were talking about something else. Sure, I know all about that cat and the man he killed. Big going’s on yesterday.”

Alden looked at Matt with growing impatience. He knew Shuler was lying. “Well, can you point me to it or not?”

Matt’s conniving nature suddenly struck on an idea. His smile broadened, “I can do you one better I can take you right to it . . . for say a hundred dollar guide fee.”

Alden locked an icy glare on Matt. He knew a con job when he heard it. “I thought you said you didn’t know anything about the dead man, how can you guide me to the spot?”

“I said I did know about it. I was just confused at first. I can put you right on the spot.”

Alden had taken an instant dislike to Matt and let it show. “I don’t think you know a post hole from a city manhole. Besides, you’re limping around like a three-legged horse what good are you?”

“Ah, this is nothing. I was busting my broncs up here and got stepped on. I’m plenty fit to ride.”

“Right,” Alden remarked with thick skepticism. “Must have stepped on your face too. Looks more like fight marks to me.”

“Well, yeah. I got in a fight with three Indians what was trying to steal my horses. I whupped ‘em, but caught a couple myself.”

Alden stared at Matt, “You’re so full of B.S. it’s oozing out your ears. You’re useless to me.”

Matt’s face fell into a pout. He scowled at Alden, “Then, find the cat yourself.”

“I can take you there,” Jep said from where he stood back listening.

Alden turned his attention back to Jep which increased Matt’s fury at being rebuffed.

“You know where the dead man was?” Alden asked Jep.

“I don’t know anything about a dead man, but I know Tueur’s territory. Where was the man killed?”

“Nineteen Mile Creek. Up where it crosses the Centennial Trail.”

“I know the spot,” Jep replied.

Alden studied the young man and found him acceptable to talk to. “You want a hundred dollars too I suppose?”

“Fifty,” Jep said simply.

“I work for the United States government. I don’t pay guide fees.”

Jep shrugged, “Fine. I’m sure you have a map.” He turned and began walking back to the bunkhouse. He called out as he walked, “If you value your dogs you’ll forget about running Tueur.”

That was the second time he had been given that warning. A hint of caution was elbowing its way into his ego centered thoughts. “What’s so special about this Tueur of yours that dogs can’t be put on him?” he shouted back.

Jep stopped walking, turned, and looked at Alden. “Tueur doesn’t tree. He runs dogs until they’re too tired to fight, and then kills them.” He glared at Matt when he said the last.

“Not my dogs,” Alden protested.

Jep looked up at the sun sinking steadily to the west. “Too late to start up there today. You’d best start in the morning, that way you’ll have enough daylight left to bury your dogs.” He turned and continued walking to the bunkhouse.

Alden stared after Jep. There was something in the knowing manner of the kid’s warning that gave him pause. He knew more than he was saying. It might be worth fifty bucks to find out what it was. He had a dozen stock-killing cougars to his credit, but this was the first man killer he had been assigned to. Maybe there was something he needed to know before he put his dogs on this cat.

“Don’t listen to that stupid kid,” Matt snarled. “He doesn’t know jack about what he’s talking about.”

Alden didn’t look at Matt as he replied, “I think he does.”

“I’ll guide you for fifty,” Matt said. “I’ll get your dogs on that cat.”

Alden glanced at Matt, an expression of disgust on his face. “I wouldn’t give you ten cents to guide me across the road.” He then left Matt standing as he walked toward the bunkhouse. 

 


 

 


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