There’s an intersection. You pass through it every now and then and it’s different every time, different things on the corners - a junk shop, a library, a movie palace, a newsstand festooned with the bright magazines of another century. One time there was a bar, another night a girl in a tight skirt, slit all the way to heaven, tough guys, weirdos, lovers, monsters, you never know what you’ll find at the corner of Drake and Angel.
Happy February from Angela and Drake Caperton! Angela here. It’s that time of year when we look to hearts and chocolates, flowers and sappy cards to express our love/like/interest/obsession with our sig other / spouse / lover / wannabe whatever…
But…not every Valentine’s Day ends in roses and wet kisses. In this excerpt from my erotic horror story “Hunting Snipe”, we learn that snipe hunting (honest! It really exists!) ends on or about Valentine’s Day in Texas, and well, sometimes hunters aren’t necessarily on the right end of the game.
"You, know, Vernon. Hunting from a blind is for pussies." Trey Gilley punctuated his opinion with a yeasty burp.
"Well now, Trey," Vernon Wheeler replied, half a dozen PBRs hardly challenging his diction. "That would explain your misfortune in the pursuit of women. Blind hunting is just like seduction."
The third member of the posse, Dwight Miller, leaned back on his stool and listened. Vernon had known the boys ever since middle school. They'd been Chi brothers at the university and now they all worked at jobs around the statehouse, shifting easily from aide to lobbyist and back again. At the moment, Dwight was a committee clerk, Vernon a junior staff member to a Senator, and Trey a procurer of law firm party favors.
"The whole trick of blind hunting," Vernon elaborated, "is to convince your prey that everything in its environment is safe. You got to coax it and offer just the right bait just like you have to teach a bitch to trust you. Then, BAM!"
Trey kept his face passive, pondering while he killed his beer, so Vernon pressed his point. "Your technique, with your gun-of-the month and those damn dogs, just won't catch many classy ladies."
"You sayin' that 'cause I humped that Christina's leg after I sniffed her ass?" Trey gave his best frat-boy leer.
Vernon shook his head and turned to Dwight. "How about you, cupid?"
Dwight ordered another round before he answered Vernon. "Depends on what I'm hunting," he said, "but you know I use a bow any time I can. Blind or dogs, either one's fine. Never hunted a lady I haven't caught either." He gave Vernon a cocky wink.
"Yeah, I know, stud," Vernon acknowledged. "You've been the man two years running. I got the lease for three days in February.
You boys will be coming with me, right? To the traditional Valentine's Day hunt?"
"Sure. The south lease. The one down by Beeville."
"How many leases your folks own?" Trey asked. "I lost count."
"This one's grandpa's. It's the one where they used to … you know."
Trey looked around and leaned close. "Someday we need to hunt like your granddad did."
Vernon had told the boys the story over and over, embellishing it even more than his grandfather, making it juicier. On several occasions back during the Depression, Pop Wheeler had paid five or six Mexican whores to hide in the forest so his cronies from the Capitol could hunt them. Most times, the hunters just caught and fucked the women but a few times the hunts turned rough and bad. Pop was lucky none of it ever hit the papers.
"Yeah, but not this year," Vernon said. "You got a girl for us, Dwight?"
"Maybe. She's a little heavy. Hate to give you guys anything but the best."
"Trey?" Vernon asked, fully expecting the usual response.
Trey shrugged. "I can get us a thousand dollar ho' for half price."
"No sport in that," Dwight objected.
"It's all right, men. Vernon Wheeler never lets his dogs down. I'll bring something special this year. You'll like her. Her name's Diana.
Best I can tell she might even be a virgin."
"Fuck yeah," Trey said as he drained another beer. "You lure her to the blind, bro, and I'll hump her leg."
* * * *
"Your eyes are amazing," Vernon whispered into Diana's ear. She looked away from him, skeptical but he saw she was flattered too. "I know that sounds lame, but it's true," he pushed.
"Tell me more about this trip, Vernon," she said, looking down at her menu. Vernon leaned back into his chair and suppressed his frown as he watched Diana study the leather bound binder holding the Sixth Street Grill's selections. He had taken her out enough times to know she'd order the biggest, most expensive fucking steak the restaurant had to offer. He wondered if she only ate when he was buying.
"Like I said. Every February, me and Trey and Dwight go to a hunting lease. This year we're hunting down by Beeville. My family's part owners and there's a big old house, miles of woods, a hot springs. We bring our girlfriends. It's like a vacation. The guys hunt and the girls do whatever. You'll love it."
"February, huh? What do you guys hunt in February?"
Vernon leaned close to her and winked. "Snipe," he said. Diana didn't look up from the menu but shook her head and chuckled. "Vernon, dear, I grew up in the country. I've taken plenty of city kids snipe hunting."
Everybody born and raised in the rural part of the state knew what snipe hunting was. He'd taken his share of city boys out in the country at night and given them bags, told them he'd chase the snipes toward the suckers and that he was supposed to catch the flightless swamp birds. Leaving the ignorant city kids out in the near freezing swamp, cold, wet and stupidly eager was a rite of passage. Every lie benefited from a kernel of truth.
"No, really!" he protested. "Look it up! Snipe season in Texas ends February 14th - Valentine's Day. It's kind of a tradition me and Trey and Dwight have."
"Oh, I believe you," she said as she closed the menu and looked at him coolly. "But if your lease is all woods, you won't find a lot of snipe there."
Vernon drew back a little, surprised that she knew anything about snipe. "There are marsh flats on the lease too. But how'd you know that?"
"Told you, Vern. I'm a country girl. I bet I've hunted more kinds of birds than you have." The waiter took their orders while Vernon thought about that. Sure enough, Diana ordered a sixteen-ounce sirloin, rare.
"Oh, then you got to come with me. You really like to hunt? That's great! Ducks? Geese?"
"Sure," she said. "Quail, pheasant, doves…"
They traded stories for a while before he asked, "You still hunt?"
"Not as much as I used to. Now, it's more of a special occasion thing."
"You ever hunted snipe?"
She answered him with a question. "Where will I sleep?"
"With me?" he asked hopefully but she shook her head.
"Not yet, Vernon. You're really nice and I like you a lot, but not yet."
He sulked elaborately for a moment, then grinned at her. "You can have your own bedroom. I'll bunk in the main room. Come on!"
The waiter returned with their steaks and Diana practically glowed as she cut into the bloody meat. She ate with quick bites and Vernon found himself fascinated by the intensity of her appetite. She saw him watching her and stopped, blushing.
"I'm sorry, Vernon. I'm starving! Sure, I'll go snipe hunting with you." She smiled at him and he thought for one minute that he might really be in love. "It sounds like fun."
Vernon's inside tightened as lust and determination bit at him.
Love, his churning hormones reminded him, is for pussies.
* * * *
"Fucking fuck," Trey said. "She's fucking beautiful."
Trey and Vernon lingered by the Land Rover while Dwight unlocked the old farmhouse and showed Diana the way to her room.
The four of them had ridden down together and Dwight had been his most gallant, using all his football captain charm. Vernon wasn't jealous. Not at all.
"Yeah," he told Trey while they watched her from a distance. "Try not to hurt her, okay?"
"No promises, dude. I may eat her alive."
Badger and Asshole, Trey's dogs, chased each other around the yard. The house stood a hundred yards from the two-lane highway, at the edge of the hunting lease. Not far beyond the building, a barbed wire fence marked the edge of civilization before scrub brush and weedy pastures gave way to a dense tangle of real forest.
"Where'd you say you met her?" Trey asked, wiping his mouth with his shirtsleeve.
"I…I'm not sure. You know, a party or a reception somewhere.
She was somebody's temp, I think."
"Tempting you mean. Right?"
Vernon grinned and nodded, hiding the twinge of unease. It bothered him a little when he realized he had no clear memory of how he'd met Diana. He comforted himself by remembering that their meeting wasn't the only fuzzy spot in his recollections of the countless parties and receptions around the Capitol.
"She doesn't know what's going to happen, does she?" Trey asked as he took his rifle and shotgun out of the back of the Rover.
No fault of yours, moron, Vernon thought, remembering Trey's jokes on the drive down. "It's okay. She'll be fine after she takes her medicine."
"And no bitching afterward, right? No cops or trouble?"
"Who the fuck's going to believe some no-name, wanna-be teacher over three upstanding cogs in the legislative machine? Besides, I've dropped enough names she knows we've got connections beyond our families. Trust me, she won't say a word."
"Fuckin' testify, Vernon. You are the man!" Trey punched him in the shoulder and sauntered toward the house. Badger and Asshole raced around him barking. Vernon unpacked his own guns and Dwight's hunting bow then started up the path.
Diana came out of the house, giving Trey and the dogs plenty of room, and crossed the yard to Vernon. She took his hand. "It's nice," she said. "Really. I feel bad about you sleeping on the couch."
Vernon kissed her cheek, then aimed at her lips. "How bad?" he asked grinning, and added, "I'm just glad you're here. Glad we'll be together on Valentine's Day."
"Snipe hunting," she laughed, dodging his kiss. "When did you say the other girls are coming?"
"Should be tonight," Vernon assured her, smiling. "Very latest, they'll be here tomorrow. You just relax tonight, Diana. Don't worry about a thing. Let us boys take care of you. Dwight's a good cook.
"All you have to do is look beautiful."
* * * *
Damned if she didn't have her part down. After dinner, Diana had changed into a white robe that covered her from neck to ankles and she sat on the rug near the fireplace sipping from a glass of red wine.
Her dark hair hung in gorgeous contrast to the ivory cloth. Vernon tried not to stare, but couldn't take his eyes away from the curves of her hips and breasts. He imagined what she would look like under the robe and shifted to ease the tension in his crotch.
Dwight sat on the other end of the sofa from Vernon, but Trey had moved onto the floor beside her. Diana didn't seem to notice or to mind, but continued to sip her wine as she stared into the snapping flames of the fire.
All afternoon, the crack of Trey's gun had echoed back to the house, and Diana had asked once, "What's he doing? Not hunting birds with a rifle?"
Vernon had shrugged and said he didn't know. No telling how Diana would take the news that Trey was likely out killing everything he saw without regard for season or wisdom. When he returned in the evening with his dogs, Badger and Asshole were fighting over what looked to be the leg of a fawn.
Carnage left behind with sundown, Trey shifted closer to Diana, exercising the same finesse he displayed in his hunting. "Lot of girls would be glad to be out here with three guys," he said, shooting a look at Vernon. Vernon knew the unspoken question. Had Vernon spiked her wine with a roofie? Trey was always too eager for the main event no matter how many times Vernon had told him good things shouldn't be rushed. "How 'bout I give you a little back rub?" Trey suggested putting his hand on her shoulder.
"That's sweet, Trey, but maybe later." She barely seemed to move, the graceful half-turn settling a distance between her and Trey. The robe rode up almost to her knees, but she pulled it back into place.
She smiled at Dwight then, her voice as rich as the wine. "You only hunt with a bow?" she asked as she sipped. As always, Vernon thought with a sour tang creeping over his tongue, when we make the kill, it'll be Dwight who strikes first and best.
"I use a gun sometimes," he said, a longneck rolling between his hands. "Hunting birds with a bow is hard, but I always bring it along. One year, I'll get a big cat here. That's my dream - a mountain lion with my bow."
She smiled at that and looked toward the window. The night air outside was already touched with a hint of spring, not really cold enough to justify the fire so they had left the window open just a little. "I've hunted lions," she said. "At night." She sounded intoxicated by the memory and Vernon thought that he'd never heard anything sexier.
"Did you get one?" Dwight asked, leaning toward her.
"Oh yes," she said. "I hunted him while he hunted me, but I was faster. Maybe someday I'll show you the fur."
"Diana, baby. I'd pay ten thousand dollars to see your fur," Trey's hand found her shoulder and he began to knead. "You ever done a three-way?"
"Trey, for Christ's sake," Vernon started, but Trey gave him a dangerous look. Trey's other hand spread over Diana's thigh.
She looked directly at the man pawing at her, drawing a deep breath that only encouraged him. Vernon tensed. Had Diana unintentionally crossed the line that would prompt Trey to rape? Outside in the night, a shrill, cracking scream rattled off the Rover on the driveway.
"There's your cat," Diana stated to Dwight with airy calm, then she glanced at Trey, her voice direct and even. "If I were you, I'd see to my dogs."
Trey looked like a man who had been sucker-punched as he scrambled up and headed for the back porch where the dogs were penned. Outside, the cougar cried again, then an echoed call reached them from the far side of the nearby barn.
"More than one of them," Dwight said, rising now too, going for his bow.
Trey dragged the dogs into the room, both animals trembling, tails tucked and showing white in their eyes. Their master didn't look much better than they did.
Diana kept her seat by the fire, watching with a shadow of a smile.
Vernon gripped his 30-06 and Dwight gathered his arrows. They started for the door at the same time, Vernon's hand gripping the knob. He started to turn as something huge hit the other side, the blasting shock of weight and rage against the heavy door stung his fingers and pounded his joints. He and Dwight drew back together as the wood bucked and creaked from flailing claws. Furious snarls shrieked; snorts and feral growls vibrated through the farmhouse. Vernon aimed at the door, ready to shoot. The wood shook and bulged in its frame, the screams growing louder, insane in pitch. The dogs began to howl and whimper, pathetic as they cowered, and the three men stood frozen.
Like blowing out a candle, the attack ended. The cutting yip of the dogs and the harsh panting of the men filled the void.
They stood there for a frozen moment, none of them in any hurry to open the door.
"Fuck," Vernon said in a shaky breath, then turned the knob, his gun ready. Light from the room spilled only a little way into the yard, showing nothing much except the massive scratches that scored the door and the frame. Dwight stepped up into the doorway, arrow-nocked bow in hand, and stared out into the waiting night.
"Go ahead," Diana said. Vernon glanced back at her, watching her rise. The robe fell away from her shoulder and the round, pale perfection drew Vernon's gaze and made his breath catch. "You want me to come with you?" she purred, humor bending the corners of her lips.
Dwight turned to look at her and Vernon saw a dangerous mix of anger and lust in his eyes, but something else too. Vernon tasted it, smelled it in the air too - not quite fear, but a sense of caution to temper their instincts.
"No? Well, I think I'll go to bed now and see you boys in the morning." She pulled the robe up to cover her bare shoulder, drank the last of her wine, and dismissed them with a little sway of her hips.
Vernon looked at the other two for a moment then darted after her.
"Diana? Look, I'm sorry…"
"Don't be," she said, turning to meet him just past the threshold of her room. "I can take care of myself."
* * * *
If you want to find out what happens to Vernon, Diana and the others, check out “Hunting Snipe” in Darkness and Delight, published by Renaissance and edited by the wonderful M. Christian! “Hunting Snipe” may not be the story you expect…
I hope everyone has a wonderful Valentine’s Day! Love your lover(s) (don't hunt them in a bad way!) and make the world a happier place!