Wendell Hall, a Kentucky game warden, walked alongside fresh tire tracks down a muddy road for half a mile and heard the noise of something similar to a motor. The whine made him think of a pig ready for slaughtering. A Datsun pickup appeared around a curve, and Wendell waved. Black and low to the ground, the truck made its way towards him.
â€œGood afternoon,â€ Wendell said. â€œDo you live back in that field?â€
â€œI do,â€ the man said, with a quick glance in his rear view mirror.
â€œYou been hunting this morning?â€ Wendell asked.
The Datsunâ€™s driver nodded. Wendell spotted the gun rack where a shotgun was perched behind the manâ€™s shaggy head like a still picture frame. The inside of the truckâ€™s cab reeked of cat piss.
â€œYou need to see my license?â€ the man asked, around a brown wad of tobacco.
â€œYeah, if you wouldnâ€™t mind.â€
The driverâ€™s face looked like a train wreck, whiskers reaching in every direction. His eyebrows bushy over saggy brown eyes made Wendell think of hard living, lots of bourbon and very little Coke. His cheeks were scabbed in places, and Wendell remembered bar fights heâ€™d seen at Mercerâ€™s Pub. The man stared blankly, reaching out his window with his driverâ€™s license which read: Bledsoe, Martin P.
â€œThe license is good, but I need your state hunting license as well, Mr. Bledsoe.â€
The driver gave a reluctant smile that brought his droopy cheeks up and again he glanced behind his truck.
â€œTell you what. How about I ride back with you to your house, and you can get it? No worries about not having it here.â€
The man nodded more so to his mirror than to Wendell, and muttered something about being in a hurry.
Wendell got into the Datsun and shut the passenger door. He turned to the driver and asked him how long heâ€™d lived out in the sticks. The driver answered that heâ€™d been there all his life. Eventually, the Datsun came to rest under a basketball goal that hadnâ€™t been in use in a long time, judging by the bent, rusted metal hoop where a net had once hung.
The driver got out and walked towards his house. He didnâ€™t look back to see if Wendell was following. The house had been boarded up on all sides. The screen door closed behind the man, and Wendell waited for him to get his license.
Several minutes passed without any noise coming from inside. Wendell called out to the man. An anxious feeling hit him in the ribs, making it difficult to breathe. He called again, unfastening his nine millimeter Beretta and climbing the wooden steps.
â€œIâ€™m coming in,â€ he yelled into the silence. â€œI hope you know what youâ€™re getting yourself into.â€
As he entered the home, Wendell noticed that the kitchen cabinets and countertop were beaten. There were visible yellow marks along the walls and a pungent piss odor in the air. Wendell covered his nose and moved to the window. He saw the propane tank with its blue valve coloring and cleared his throat. His eyes began to burn; he heard footsteps coming towards him.
â€œI found my license,â€ the manâ€™s voice said calmly.
Wendell wiped his eyes on his t-shirt and looked to where the sound had originated. He pointed his gun in that direction and saw that the man held a lit fuel torch of some sort.
â€œI donâ€™t think you want to point a gun at me, warden.â€
Wendellâ€™s hand shook and he lowered the pistol, placing the weapon on the gritty kitchen linoleum.
â€œHow long you been cooking meth in here?â€ Wendell asked, his voice almost a whisper.
â€œDo you feel that burn in your throat?â€ the man asked. â€œThatâ€™s your mucous membranes being slowly eaten away, and your respiratory tract crying out for help.â€
â€œWhy in the hell are you doing this?â€ Wendell pleaded. â€œIâ€™m not out here to bust you on anything. Listen, Mr. Bledsoe, I didnâ€™t see a thing.â€
The man carried his flame out onto the front porch. He spun and looked at Wendell and apologized for not having his license earlier, not having remorse. The man pointed and pulled the trigger. A whirring noise was heard, and Wendell saw illumination. He toppled over, as the flames hit a picture frame of what looked to be the old Bledsoe family hanging on the wall. It was a picture of a young Mr. Bledsoe smiling.