“Fuck you, Stetson,” the doe spat out as she rushed around the two-floor cabin. Collecting her clothes and putting them in a large suitcase thrown haphazardly in the living room. The buck sat at the kitchen table, morose, his hands folded, his eyes misty as he watched his now ex-wife huff, her blood pressure sky high. “You just sit there. Like always. After our daughter’s funeral, you sit. For an entire month. Drinking away your sorrows. Today? BIG shock! You sit, I’m working my ass off to provide for us- and you don’t even have a fucking job yet? You looking for the hunter who MURDERED our daughter?Anything?!”
His ears droop to the sound of her yell, it startled him to his core to hear his usually loving and compassionate soul mate finally reach her breaking point. Clocking in at over six feet, Stetson could easily take her if she got violent, but he really hoped it wouldn’t get to that point. Clearing his throat, his distinct Southern accent filled the room. “I want to see a therapist.” Perhaps for a moment, Lisa felt sympathy, she stared at the slender deer for a moment. Looking at his flat ears and head down. Sweat covered his furry hands. “I’m not paying for therapist. Neither are you. I have all I can do to keep this place up and going. Goodbye.” She spat again, her brown eyes narrowing. Roughly grabbing the suitcase, she storms out of the house loudly.
A tear rolls down the buck’s cheek as he stares out the window by the kitchen, watching Lisa’s jeep speed off, leaving a cloud of dirt in its wake. He wasn’t only crying because she left him, it was the past few months of his life that seemed to crash on him. His daughter dying, the bleak funeral, feeling a cloud over his head, where the only break was when he’d take naps throughout the day. Only to wake up late at night to the feeling of depression again.
Resting his head on the table and trying to not dent the surface with his antlers, he took deep breaths. This all felt like some nightmare. This portion of his life. He wanted to wake up to Daisy’s smiling face and take her for a calm walk in the woods. However, he also was realistic enough to know that sitting slumped in his chair for hours wouldn’t help him much either, even though that’s all he really wanted to do. His ex-wife was right about one thing. He needed to get off his ass.
Stepping outside, there was no pathway to his cabin. He decided he wanted to live in a more isolated fashion. His wife agreed, they wanted to stay clear of potential danger. What good did that do in the end?Violence still found them. Even though no pathway led to their home, no signs,and the home wasn’t located on any map. The only way to get there was knowingwhere to go. Only the deer’s family and very close friends knew where Stetson’squaint place lied.
Stetson rolled his sleeves up to his flannel shirt and from the pocket of his khakis, he pulled out work gloves. Working his way around the cabin, he pulled weeds from the ground with minimal effort and put them in a trash bin. The day wasn’t too hot, the breeze hit his brown coat. Noises did scare him a bit. He was often afraid some hunter was eyeing him,that he’d be the next head over someone’s mantel.
The first few weeds he pulled were easy, keeping his mind on his task, sometimes kneeling to make sure every piece was going to be tossed out. Making his way around, noises started distracting him. The snap of a twig. The wind brushing the leaves above him. Feeling something was over his shoulder. The clouds overhead made his environment even more foreboding. The bin isn’t even half full, after a deep sigh, he realized he couldn’t work. His brain was foggy. Clouded with the events of the past.
Daisy’s sweet voice rang in his ear like an annoying fly. He wouldn’t cry again, he didn’t think. With a low grunt he pushed the large bin over, the loose weeds crashed into the grass below and spilled. Stetson repeatedly hit the bin moments after. His fists collided with the tough plastic that hurt his hands, but he didn’t care. He barely felt it. With every hit, he let out a soft grunt of agitation.
Surprisingly, punching this bin like a speed bag helped cool the hot rage in his soul. But it wouldn’t be enough overall. Sure, it would help for an hour or so. If he wanted to feel redeemed, he needed to get out of his comfort zone. Go into a world he never hoped to enter.
ONE YEAR LATER
After a day of Manuel labor at the local farm, Stetson finished bailing the last bit of hay for his shift. The deer was one of the bigger and taller workers, so he’d often help those who needed it. CJ’s concern was also that he wouldn’t come back, but Stetson promised him he would. The stallion handed the buck a few extra hundred-dollar bills, which he tried to decline, but the boss insisted. He’d have plenty of money in the bank to do what needed to be done. He had saved up and marked it on his calendar.
He had told his boss months in advance that he’d be taking a long leave of absence-which wasn’t a big deal. His boss is a kind, slender brown Thoroughbred who was honestly more concerned about Stetson’s state of mind then his work ethic, even though he had never missed a day rain or shine. Everyone knew about the tragedy that befell him and how his wife left with anger.
His large fist collides with the punching bag. Then his other fist collides in a second, almost in the blink of an eye. The gym is aligned with every type of exercise equipment one could ask for. For the small-town Stetson lived in, he had everything he ever could have wanted here. The bustle of other bodybuilders didn’t faze him, the clanking of weights and the sound of the treadmills became background noise as he endlessly hit the bag. In the middle of the gym, a ring for boxing matches. Stetson wasn’t very much into hitting others, even in rough play and wrestling, he always felt bad seeing his opponent bruised and bleeding.
He wouldn’t admit it, but in a year, he had gone from a slender, slightly out of shape deer, to a massive buck and ranked one of the highest as far as skills. His trainer knew he had it in him, Stetson perhaps didn’t think so. His whole life he had never been in horrible shape, but nothing to write home about either. He was strong, but morning runs, and the rigorous upper body routines pushed his body to the limits. Most figured he was doing this for self-confidence, and maybe on a secondary level he was. What really went through his head was something much more depressing and darker. He wished he was doing this only for himself. He wished he could come home to his wife after hours of exercise and see his daughter.
With a sigh, he placed his gloves back on the hook where they belonged. Sweating, he drank some cold water from his bottle and hopped into the warm shower the gym provided. As the warm water hit his fur, he stood facing the tiled wall in front of him. The distant sounds from other stalking evaporated. He heard Daisy again, only for a moment. The water dripped down his muscular body and to the ground and down the drain, his ears flicked to the white noise effect the sound made. Turning his head, one antler accidentally scrapped the wall. “Dammit.” He whispered as he quickly checked the damage. Luckily it didn’t leave a scrape. Turning the water off, he realized he had stood motionless for perhaps three minutes.
He wanted to get a swift move on, so he dried off, put on his day clothes and exits the bathroom. Only to be met by his friend, Ryan.A slightly overweight cheetah with a heart of gold. “Hey Stetson!” He followed the deer as he walked towards where he once was to grab his backpack. “How are you?” Stetson replied, keeping his tone friendly. “I was wondering if you’d like to go to the bar with me and a few friends? We’d like to get to know you better!” His smile was cute, the deer would admit that.
Hoisting the bag over his shoulder, he smirked, with an air of sadness. More like fake disappointment. He had much bigger plans.“Sorry pal, I got plans, go have fun though. Have a beer for me.” The feline rubbed the back of his neck. “It’s just, you seem like a cool guy.” He didn’t blush at the comment, but his heart had a momentary moment of shyness. “Maybe some other time.” With a nod, he briskly walked out into the parking lot.
No longer thinking of Ryan or his offer. He needed to focus on his routine. Ryan texts his friends to tell them Stetson yet again cancelled. He’s so nice, and such a hard worker here. What prevents him from going out? Anxiety? Social pressure? Bad life at home? He wished he knew.
The shooting range was full of furries. Humans were not allowed to enter, in fact a sign posted in front of the range itself stated this fact. The species firing off a plethora of guns ranged from dogs, to cats to horses. Some talking in between clip changes, others silent and in their own world. Here, Stetson barely talked to anyone unless they had a question. Then, he would talk their ear off if he felt so inclined too after his target session ended.
Entering the concrete building after putting on noise-canceling headphones, he grabbed his go-to weapon, a pump-action shotgun. One side of the building was smooth rock, on the other side, furries are lined up at large, separated rectangular holes. Putting rounds of bullets into white cardboard targets far into the distance in a huge yard. Some were very experienced, others were clear novices.
Stetson didn’t know where he landed on the spectrum, he just fired rounds into the targets as best as he could. Some complimented him on his skill as he stopped to reload or went to stretch his legs in the gun shop close by the range. He felt bad that he wasn’t as chatty as usual, but today he had a lot on his mind. Mostly the fact that he could die if he didn’t play his cards right. It was an odd mix of fear and relief. Relief that he also could get to the bottom of his daughter’s murder and maybe prevent other furries from suffering a similar fate. Even with furries learning how to shoot guns, the law and most of society was on the human side.
Cleaning up his cabin to an excessive amount as the sky turned to pink and the sun was in the process of setting, he finished up his cup of coffee as he knew he’d have a long journey ahead. The clothing he’d put on his back would be his main outfit, he didn’t want to pack two suitcases full of all his outfits and useless accessories.
A few black t-shirts, two pairs of old jeans, a belt and a green fishing vest to put hidden weapons and whatever else he’d need seemed to be the easiest to get off and on. For shoes, he wanted durable footwear. Sneakers would be too slippery if it rained and he was out in the elements. So, he opted for some dark brown hiking boots. Comfy, waterproof and hard to wreck. Also, in his suitcase, he threw in a black tank top and lightweight pants for sleeping in. He also packed emergency snacks and a large bottled water. He hoists up his warm, fuzzy parka, which would protect him from harsh coldness over his shoulder and stepped out into the night.
The crickets were noisy as usual. The sky a dark blue, soon blackness would cover the sky. He knew where to get information, and forever a year he was too scared and too sad to go there. But now, there was no turning back. With a sigh of nervousness, he hopped behind the wheel and turned the ignition. The hummer roared to life.
Everything hit him at once. He saw humans behind the wheels of cars as they zipped by him. The city was still far away but leaving the town to enter bigger areas was jarring. Having to deal with traffic and pedestrians was rather new. Luckily, he knew the hummer well and knew exactly what to do when these new experiences arose.
He would be an outsider. No doubt about it. He had a destination. He wasn’t just going to the small town to see if he happened to stumble across the hunter. He was going to a bar. A specific bar. A bar known as a hangout for all hunters, where they’d talk big game after a day of slaughter. It was time to go to their world. Get into their heads. And sabotage what he could.