The coyote wrapped her arms around the deer she hadn’t seen in a year. “Stetson! Oh my God it’s been too long!” She was shorter than Stetson, her arms toned. She was a farmer and had the build for it. Her muzzle met his chest. “Hey Connie. Can I come in?” She smiled.
The sun had just finished rising, the sky was already looking to be blue and clear. The canine led the deer off her front porch and into her two-story home. Her place looked much homier than Stetson’s. Much more inviting, which made sense. She didn’t have the worries he had. She hadn’t experienced loss of a family member in such a grim and depressing fashion.
The living room was big, complete with a fireplace and framed pictures of her grand kids adorned her home. She had two of them, both of which now had jobs somewhere far away, so she was alone almost all the time left with her chores and occasional shopping.
Stetson was almost in awe of it all. He had not seen a TV so big, nor a home that looked so welcoming and sweet. Connie’s home could be anyone’s grandmother’s house. The TV and fireplace are close to each other, in front of the TV is a very nice couch. Behind the couch is a staircase which leads to a guest bedroom and bathroom.
Stepping into the kitchen, he hung up his vest over his chair and sat at the table. His antlers nearly hit the black chandelier above him. The two of them pour sugar and cream into there hot beverages. He’d admit it was nice to be treated like this after a three-hour drive through the backwoods and finally to the small town of Fincher. Unlike where Stetson lived,Connie’s neighborhood was welcoming of furries and humans. “How are you?” She spoke as she stirred her drink. Stetson sipped his coffee slowly. The long hours of driving had done a tole on him. He really wished he could nap. “I could be better. Fell into a depression a while ago, Lisa broke up with me after—well, you know.” She frowned. Even the mere mention of Daisy would be enough to make her cry, which she didn’t want to do. “Well, you look great.”Trying to lighten the mood, her ears flicked, her brown fur had a few silverspots, her ears like a wolf, but her build different enough. Most knew she was a coyote anyway. Her neck and legs were longer and her walk was also slightly different.
With a short smile, she continued. “You know, I have a great human helping me with chores and such. On days I don’t feel great or I just want someone to talk too. His name is Bobby Anderson. Bobby himself was in quite a slump for a year.”
“Yeah? Give me his info. My place is lonely.” It was true that maybe if he survived all this, it would be good to have a friend help him and hang out. Maybe he would be more content with someone around. She spoke as she wrote out his phone number and address on a scrap paper on the table. Connie’s tone became saddened. “He never quite told me why he was in a slump. He’s very sweet though, I even let him sleep over when his mom and dad go out. Trust me, he’s a good guy.” The deer rubbed his neck and pocketed the paper.
For an instant, he eyed Connie’s wrist as the sun caught a piece of jewelry on her wrist. Not just any jewelry. He stared at it for a while. His mind went numb. His vision narrowed in on this one object, so clearly,he could see every little detail. Every tiny design. Connie’s wrist became a blurred mess as he just stared at the pretty piece.
He hadn’t seen it since Daisy was alive. A silver bracelet. The smell hit his nostrils. It was faint. So faint that he was shocked he picked it up, if he had been human there would be no way he could have detected it. The slightest scent of Lisa and Daisy. Lisa had given it Daisy fora birthday gift. Seeing it made him want to gush to Connie. Tell her all his feelings in a single go.
“Who gave that too you?” He pointed to it. “Hm?” She lifts it up to her eye, she owned a lot of random jewelry. “Oh! Bobby! Isn’t it nice? He said he found it in his driveway.” Stetson’s heart leapt as he abruptly stood from the table. “Uhhh. Well, Connie. I’ll be in touch.” He instantly regretted standing up at such a quick pace. Dammit Stetson. Don’t be so brash! Not like she’d approve of youhunting down the ones who killed your daughter.
Taking his vest, he heads for her front door. Connie walked briskly behind him, her eyebrows went down as she rubbed the back of her neck. “Is everything okay? Don’t you want to stay for a snack?” Opening the door, he looked to her, his feet already hit the porch which led to her door. Keeping his mannerisms casual was a chore. “I’ll call you. I promise. By the way, can I borrow that bracelet?” He hugged her to make his leaving a bit more casual, but it was too late. As soon as she dropped the bracelet into his hand,she sensed something was up. Hopping into his hummer which was parked a few feet away, he quickly punched in Bobby’s address into his GPS. He zoomed off,quicker than he wanted too. It didn’t help Connie’s suspicions at all.
Coming home from school, Bobby hung his bag up. The nightmares of Daisy ’s death had not gone away. Hanging his hoodie up and ruffling his short hair, he sat at the kitchen table to begin his homework. The sound of his cellphone got him out of the math mode he was in, lifting his phone, he saw a name he hoped to never see again. Marco Payne.
<Hey Bobby! Wanna go hunting again? Been a while! Me and my pals are gonna spend a weekend up in the mountains. Maybe I’ll let ya shoot a furry!>
Of course, he didn’t want too, but instead of answering, he put his phone in his pocket. Instead of getting back to the work at hand, he stared into the various numbers. His mind wondered. Ever since Daisy, he had vowed to not go hunting again. The night he got home from that terrible day, he tossed his hunting gear into the trash and did nothing but cry in bed for hours. The weeks after, he grew a disdain for the woods. Which was difficult being that he lived in the woods.
After telling his parents, taking him to a therapist helped a bit. As often as the doctor told him not to blame himself and to remember that furries aren’t as smart as humans, he did blame himself. He should have shoved Marco or broken the rifle in half. He had this suspicion that furries were so much more than just toys. He found some of the species even beautiful.
The work he did with Connie helped. The fact she welcomed him into her life was unexpected and heartwarming. He thought she’d turn him away and call him a ‘gross human’. He had to remember that not every furry and not every human thought either species was low and deserved death.
He was just about to get up and nap, try to calm his brain and maybe get some work done after wards, but a hard knock at the door erased that idea for now. Walking across his small living room, he opened the door a crack, enough to see the most muscular, tall furry he had ever seen. He opened the door a bit wider. He had to crane his neck all the way to see the behemoth. “C-can I help you?”
“I need to talk to you about my daughter, and the man who took her life.” The buck spoke, eyeing the teenager. Darkness flooded Bobby’s soul as he went wideeyed in terror. Taking a deep breath, he slammed the door into the deer’s face, locked it and ran in the opposite direction. Time moved in slow motion for Bobby, not paying attention to his footing he tripped over his backpack. It was too late to catch his balance, he fell facefirst into the kitchen floor.
This gave Stetson enough time to peer into the window beside the front door. With adrenaline going through him, he wrapped his hand around the doorknob and with a single twist, broke it. He then used the toe of his boot to open the door, Bobby stood up at this point. The deer looked even scarier in shadow. His footsteps huge as he walked into the home, he knew he had a pistol and a hunting knife close by him. However, it seemed to him the teen was scared enough. Stetson truthfully only wished to talk and was only persistent because what Bobby held was beyond vital information.
“Kid. Settle down.”
“Settle down?! You broke into my house!”
“I need to know something.”
Before the deer could speak again, Bobby charged at the buck, not with rage, but with pure terror. He cried heavily as he pummeled his muscular stomach with his fists, which apart from being annoying, meant nothing. “Get out! RIGHT now! I’ll call the cops!” Stetson held both his wrists as he attempted to keep hitting. He wanted to yell at the hysterical teen, but he knew it wouldn’t help.
He then shoved his knee into Bobby’s stomach, sending him crashing onto his back and lying on the living room floor. He whined loudly as the deer then knelt to him, grasping him harshly by his t-shirt. “Did you kill my daughter?” His tone ice cold. This was a dreaded day for Bobby. As if the nightmares and self-loathing wasn’t enough. Here was her dad, facing the teen head-on. “No! No!” Tears streamed down his face as he relaxed, showingStetson a complete form of submission. Even if Bobby wanted to hurt him, the deer could split him in half with one hand.
Pinning the teen down with one hand, he reached into his vest and fetched the silver bracelet. “Connie, your friend told me you gave this too her. Where the hell did you get this?” Bobby took deep breaths. “I found it—in the dirt. Near my house.” He read the teen’s terror and wide eyes.He wouldn’t lie. Not now. Not while his life was on the line.
“When did you find it? Last week, Last month? Speak to me.”
“No! Last year! Shortly after the incident.” Stetson’s tone remained monotone, he paused to think of Bobby’s words.
“The first time I saw a furry die in front of me. Thedoe. My friend drove me home that night.I-I found it after he left. You see, her body. Her body was tied to the top of his truck.”
Stetson shivered. The thought of Daisy ’s bloody corpse on top of some hunter’s truck was enough to make him want to snap the first neck he saw. Sadly, it would have been Bobby. The deer went closer to the human, his muzzle nearly touching the teen’s nose. “You didn’t pull the trigger, did you? You didn’t want to see my little girl die.”
Bobby shook his head ‘no.’ His face pale. “No sir. Please don’t kill me.” He cried again. Deep in thought, Stetson re-positioned himself. Now sitting cross-legged on the floor right by the teen. Bobby was about to get up until the deer shoved him back down with one hand, then with the other, he pulled out his hunting knife, playing with it between his hands once he knew he’d stay lying down.
Bobby whimpered softly. “So, you didn’t kill her. I believe you. You’re not the type. Who is the type though? Who do you hang out with?” Bobby’s crying wasn’t as obvious,now that he knew Stetson wasn’t some mindless killer. He had motive. For so long, Bobby felt trapped by the hunter. “M-Marco Payne. He’s the one. He’s crazy!” Stetson’s ear flicked, he still played with the knife, keeping his gaze on Bobby, lying on his back and craning his neck to meet his eye.
“Marco Payne, huh? If you’re so against hunting furries, why do you hang out with him?”
“I-I’m afraid of him, sir. He’s a family friend. He’s -said he’d get pissed if he couldn’t teach me how to hunt. He wants me t-to join him. I hate him, and I hate what he does.” Putting his knife away, Stetson stood up and reached his hand out to Bobby and hoists him up quickly. Bobby stepped away from the giant deer, his breathing heavy as he whipped tears away.“You tell me where he hangs out, and you’ll never have to worry about him again.” Bobby went from fear to absolute relief.
Maybe Stetson wasn’t a demon, but an avenging angel. “Fincher’s Bar and Grill. It’s an hour from here. H-he and some hunting guys go there. He’s taken me there a few times too.” The two exchange phone numbers, at this point Bobby felt this guy was trustworthy. How odd was that? Usually, the teen was quite private, but maybe having someone as big and strong as Stetson by his side wouldn’t be a horrible fate. “Send me the directions. Get a new hobby.”Feeling dizzy, Bobby nodded. “You aren’t going to kill me? For being involved?”
“You’re not the evil one, kid.” He gently pets Bobby’s shoulder before heading out. The teen quickly texts him the directions along with two of his friends who frequent the bar and who he’s met on occasion, Patch and Baldy was all he knew them by.
He watched the deer drive off. That was his first real encounter with a furry, he couldn’t help but think of his life. He thought he’d die today, but he didn’t. Darkness slowly took his heart-he met the father of the girl he let die. He watched Marco shoot a fawn. He didn’t do anything to stop it. Going back inside, the teenager lied on the couch, closing his eyes he saw what he had so long ago. The fawn flopping to the grass, covered in blood. The more this image cropped up, the more he felt Stetson’s intervention was a good thing.