They were waiting for him. Grey shadows against white snow. He didn’t even bothered to look back down below. They waited.
He put the gun against his temple and tried to pulled the trigger. Something stabbed him in the wrist and he lost the gun in the snow. A chunk of black rock, smooth and polished as glass, protruded from his wrist.
“No, no, you can’t spoil the hunt like that.”
He dropped to his knees. He looked up as the speaker stepped out from the dark of the woods.
“Would you like to keep going, Mr. Tilman?”
He recognized the voice. Edward drew pulled back the hood on deep red robes fringed with white fur. He smiled at Tilman, not unkindly. Tilman stared.
“I killed you,” he said.
Drew coughed. Once, twice. A deep, wracking cough. He coughed into his hands, and Tilman saw his saliva was tinged with blood. Drew held out his hand for Tilman to see. Two bullets rested in palm. Drew dropped them and wiped his hand on his robe.
“That’s not possible”
“You’d be surprised, Mr. Tilman, “ Drew said, “Just how many things are possible.”
The gray shapes, the wolves not wolves, stood up, becoming gray robed people. Maybe they always had been. Tilman saw claws made of obsidian. Their faces were lost in the hoods they wore. They didn’t move. They simply stood and watched.
Drew pulled something that was like a knife from his robes, more black and polished rock, its handle raw wood, bound together with what Tilman thought, for no reason in particular, was almost certainly human flesh.
Drew looked at Tilman, waiting, knife in hand.
“Well?” Drew said.
Tilman looked at the good people of Holly Falls, saw the glint of their eyes and the moonlight reflecting off the black claws. He reached over and delicately, careful not to cut himself, pulled the black glass from his wrist,
He stood up, slowly. He looked at the glass in his hand, at an edge sharper than sharp. He smiled. He hadn’t lost. Not yet. He looked at them. He gestured with the blade,
“Come on then.”
And they did. They swarmed him, and he slashed with the knife until the weight of them pushed him back down into the valley. More slid down the slope after him, and they tore and tore.
When everyone had gotten their share, when there wasn’t much left but a red stain on the white snow, Edward Drew slid down the slope himself. His employers watched him. What was left was not for him. He managed the hunt, he did not participate. That was the bargain he’d made.
He cut away the last bits of flesh holding Tilman’s heart in place. He put the knife away and squeezed the heart. Near black blood poured from it, and he kept putting pressure on, as hard as he could.
Finally he opened his hand and smiled. All that was left of George Tilman’s heart was a small black bean.