Xed pulled up when he saw the police cars. A crowd had formed on the sidewalk, looking at the house trying to get a glimpse of the gruesome sight that lay within. An officer flagged him to the side of the road and Xed stepped from his vehicle. He spoke briefly with the officer and was escorted under the taped off area. As he neared the house, Xed caught the distinct smell of vomit in the air. A few officers were standing around, clearly traumatised by what they had seen in the house.
Ronald met Xed, at the door to the house. An old friend from high school days, Ronald had become a homicide detective in Seattle and though they met up for drinks every so often, they had seen each other less and less, especially in light of the amount of time Xed was spending in the Cascades. He was surprised to get the call and even more surprised to ask him to immediately get his gear and come to a crime scene. Ronald explained the rules as he led Xed into the house. What greeted Xed was the worst sort of carnage that could be seen.
The entire family was dead. Torn apart by vicious animals. Far to frenzied to be any sort of dog, the animals had ensured that there was nothing left alive in the house. They had come in through the glass door that overlooked the jungle gym in the back garden. The glass had offered no protection from the animals. Xed looked at the bodies. He had been in war zones, seen friend blown to pieces and had become accustomed to scenes like this. Never from animals, though. Never like this. Ronald led Xed through the house to where the baby, or what was left of her remained in the bed. The animals had not eaten, just attacked. Xed left the house and headed to the back. Ronald spoke but Xed barely listened. It turns out in the Seattle region there had been three attacks in the last forty-eight hours. This was by far the worst though. An entire family wiped out in one swoop. Neighbours had reported screams early this morning but by the time anyone went to see, the killing was finished. Xed remembered hearing on the news about something like this happening in Missoula. He knelt and studied the tracks of the animals. They were feline, sort of, and like nothing he had seen before. Coming from the reserve at the back of the house. Xed climbed the fence and found the tracks on the other side. Ronald didn’t speak as Xed went about his work.
After the war, Xed returned home and had gotten a job assisting researchers keep track of animals within the Northern Cascades. He had grown up with a grandfather and father that loved to hunt and Xed had been tracking animals in the wilds since he could remember. Xed stopped at the edge of the stream and studied the tracks. There were three and all of them were large predators. Ronald had started talking again. Everyone handled violence in his or her own way. Ronald had seen enough and he found talking kept his nerves under control. Xed was half listening. It was clear he was here to track the animals but it was the last statement from Ronald that was the most clear. Find them and stop them. Four other police officers had joined Ronald and Xed. Xed recognized Mackie. He had seen him in the Cascades hunting once or twice. He wasn’t certain about the other three but all looked like they had spent time getting shot at. Either way, these men looked steady and not afraid of a little rough living.
They talked briefly and plans were made to follow the tracks whilst they could. There was an aerial search going on but that was more to make people feel better than to yield results. Xed headed back to his car to get his gear. As he unlocked his cage and removed his rifle, he made a verbal list of additional supplies that they would need. Xed would start tracking with one of the other men. The others were going to get supplies and would join them soon after. Mackie knew what would be useful and ensure that the others didn’t overpack. Xed travelled with most of his gear ready to go. He liked to slip away sometimes and just lose himself in the Cascades for a few days and his job was such that he could justify it easily enough.
Xed returned to the tracks and headed off into the reserve. It was highly unlikely that the creatures would still be in the area and suburbia was the worst place to track but the creatures were heading north-east. It looked like Xed was going to the Cascades sooner than he had planned.