A scarred Vietnam vet puts himself in harm’s way to save a wounded stranger.
Scarred Vietnam vet Hanson minds his own business and avoids civilization. Until a wounded man who’s being hunted down stumbles into his forest refuge. Hanson is his only hope. And Hanson never leaves a man behind.
An action-packed story set in America after the Vietnam war, starring a scarred vet finding his way out of a self-imposed exile.
Hanson was hunting rabbits. He stood at the edge of the forest looking out over a field, his homemade bow and arrow at the ready, waiting for the motion of hopping, long-eared, meaty creatures. His snares had been empty today, so he’d decided to go for a direct approach.
Concealed at the edge of the forest, downwind from the meadow, he had a good shot at getting something. He stuffed down the impatient feeling that came from having only eaten a few small hickory nuts and a handful of wild grapes so far today. His fingers were stiff with the chill wind, but he stayed still. Patience was rewarded in the forest; impatience wasn’t.
With twitches and cries of alarm, chattering birds took off from the trees overhead. Hanson stirred in annoyance and glanced behind him. It was unlikely anyone would be coming after him. There was no reason for it. Still, his soldier’s instinct was alerted.
Hanson had been living by his wits and his homemade weapons for the last four months. He’d needed a break from being around people after ‘Nam. Walking down a street when someone’s car backfired was enough to make him dive for cover and pull his gun. The extensive forests of his native Pennsylvania felt more defensible. Even once hunting season started, he suspected he’d feel safer out here.
Hanson still had his 1911 Colt .45 automatic target model gun. But he hadn’t used it, not once since coming out here. He knew a gunshot could pinpoint your location better than anything, and the last thing he wanted was anyone getting curious about him and where he lived. It probably wasn’t exactly legal to live here. And of course someone might decide to try sticking him back in a mental hospital for his attacks of nerves.
He strained his ears, all his frayed, hyper-alert senses, and finally heard what the birds had recognized moments before: footsteps. Stumbling, bumbling footsteps. Crashing slowly through the forest. Towards Hanson.
He wondered if he should run. After all, he didn’t want to be seen. If he anyone saw him they could report him and then he’d have to leave. He wasn’t ready to leave yet. His camp was comfortable and well hidden. He’d even been careful with the smoke from his fires. After all that, it would be a shame to be uncovered by a careless and clumsy hiker.
But something made him hesitate. His time in ‘Nam had taught him what this type of footsteps meant—or could mean: the walking wounded. A soldier, nearly down. It might simply be a clumsy hiker, but it also might be a wounded man trying to keep traveling while losing strength.
It was this uncertainty that kept Hanson from melting into the forest and disappearing. He turned around slowly in the direction of the footsteps, watched and waited. The footsteps drew nearer. Hanson didn’t move at all. He was as still as the rocks and trees.
Now he saw it: movement.