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   Chapter 13 When The Cold Winds Blow

After Grace By MatheusHMacedo Characters: 8034

Updated: 2018-01-05 17:18

Snow showered silent from the overcast sky. White dust swirled on the blacktop as the wind hammered down between the barren trees. I slung the rifle over my back, it beat against the side of my pack with a rhythmic ting as I walked. I stuffed my hands into the pockets of the worn out leather jacket and turned my face toward the ground. Every few minutes I looked up in search of the gas station Vicki had mentioned, each time I did, I felt the sting of the ice-cold wind as it blew thick snowflakes on my cheeks. I pushed on, snow crunching beneath my feet, fingers burning in my pockets before going completely numb. Finally, I saw a large green "H" nearly buried under layers of brown vines which ran in streaks across the face of the small brick building of the station.

I stomped inside, knocking the snow from my shoes. My whole body shivered uncontrollably. I shook my hair loose, letting the drips of water fly in all directions before tying it into a ponytail. This place had been trashed years ago. The shelves that remained standing were as empty as any I'd ever seen. The only spot left untouched was the magazine rack. I browsed their titles, looking for the magical three letter word that would show me the way to my camp. They had everything from home gardening tip magazines to celebrity gossip.

Before I could find the maps, something rattled outside. As it got closer, I could distinguish the sound of two engines tearing along the road, growing louder and louder until they flew past the station; motorcycles.

The engines' growl slowed. I couldn't see them behind the trees but I heard their motors idling, I knew they'd seen it. The bikes screamed back to life as they turned around.

I ran to the back, pushing against the steel door that led to the woods behind the station. It wouldn't budge. Rust had essentially welded the door's hinges in place. There was no way out. The bikes climbed the ramp leading into the store. Yellow beams from their headlights pierced the dark around me like a spotlight. I dropped to my knees, hiding behind the fallen shelves. Their engines cut out. I could hear two pairs of boots hit the ground and walk inside.

"This places' been tossed every which way but sunday, " I heard a young man say. "Why we even here?"

"You really should educate yourself, " another voice murmured. I recognized it as Halter, the man I had seen cooking on th

the concrete archway leading inside. I rushed to the stairway and climbed down.

The steps leading inside the natural history museum were book-ended by two statues, one was the skeleton of a tyrannosaurus-Rex, the other a saber-tooth tiger, both were monstrous.

I climbed the gray steps, the beating in my chest growing less and less organized. I pushed the doors open and slipped inside. The place was giant, even in the foyer, paintings of deadly creatures adorned the walls. I followed Halter's footprints, hyper aware of the sound my own shoes were making as I tried my best to tread lightly on the marble.

I found him in a dead-end hallway with his back to me. Light streamed in from the windows above and showered down on the display in front of him, bathing it in white light. It showed a single gray wolf frozen in time as it trotted up a rock hill. I wasn't sure if the animal was stuffed or fake, but it seemed real to me. The words The Lone Wolf had been written on a silver plaque beside the scene.

Halter held a sketchbook in one hand, a pencil in the other. He took careful consideration of the animal in front of him as he worked to reconstruct what he saw on the page. His rifle was leaning against the wall, his jacket and bag lay on the floor beside him. A handgun was tucked in the back of his pants. He worked on, as if in another world, as if this is what he was supposed to be doing.

The sharp snap and sudden click of my rifle's bolt being cocked echoed in the large hall. The pencil stopped moving on the paper. He turned around to face me.

"Hands up, " I said.

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