He’d been tracking them for two hours when suddenly he’d lost their trail. He’d thought that by adding another mouse to the game it would make it easier for him to catch them. He’d expected Stacy to resist playing the game. That was not the case, however. It appeared that she had embraced playing the game and was every bit as good at it as Amanda. He really wished he could keep them. They were the best prey yet.
Austin couldn’t believe his luck. He was a big adventurer and loved hiking uncharted territory. This forest was perfect for that. He’d been looking for something new and exciting when he’d come across an old abandoned mine online. He was even more excited when he found out that no one had been in the forest where the mine was located in years. The forest wasn’t prime real estate, so it hadn’t been developed. This made it perfect for an adventurous week. Austin had taken a much-needed vacation from work and he planned to remain off the grid for a week. He plotted his points, set the GPS on his phone so he knew where he’d left his car and set out towards the abandoned mine.
Three Hours Later…
Amanda stopped and ducked down behind a tree. She had gone ahead and Stacy was following behind covering their tracks. Amanda couldn’t believe how much of a help she was. Apparently, she had been a nature scout a few years ago and knew her way around the woods and just about anything that had to do with the outdoors. Suddenly, there was some movement off to her left. Amanda quickly ducked behind the tree and held her breath. After a few minutes she slowly peeked around the tree. She was surprised to find a man standing there staring down at a compass. She couldn’t be sure but she had a feeling that this was not the man hunting her. All of a sudden, Stacy came running out of the trees. She ran right into the man. She quickly scrambled back. Amanda could see the terror in her eyes. Her own heart was racing. Amanda reached into her backpack and pulled out the pocketknife. She quietly opened it and began to creep up behind the man. Suddenly he spoke and she knew that he was not the man hunting them.
“What are you doing out here?”
Stacy didn’t respond. Instead, her eyes darted around, probably looking for Amanda. Amanda lowered the knife but didn’t put it away. She stepped from behind the tree.
“Who are you? And, whawt are you doing here?”
The man turned quickly towards her. Amanda tried not to let his attractiveness distract her because she didn’t know if he was a threat or not. His eyes darted to the knife in her hand then back up to her eyes.
“I’m not going to hurt you. I was just hiking to the old mine in these woods. I didn’t think that anyone else would be here.”
Amanda considered what he said before responding.
“Do you have a car?”
“Is it close to here?”
He looked at his map then back at her.
“It’s about six miles back that way.”
He pointed back over his shoulder. Amanda considered the direction. It wasn’t the way from which they had come so they should be ok to travel in that direction.
“Can you take us there? Do you have a phone?”
The man looked at her suspiciously.
“Yes, I have a phone. I doubt there’s reception way out here. Are you lost?”
Amanda looked at Stacy and then nodded.
“Yes. Can I try to use your phone? Do you know our exact location?”
Again, Austin looked down at his map.
“I think we’re about here but I’d have to check the GPS on my phone to be sure.”
He pointed to a spot on the map that looked surprisingly close to the old mine. Amanda considered whether they should continue to the mine or try to make it back to this stranger’s car.
“Do you know about how far the mine is from here?”
“It’s about a mile and a half that way.”
He pointed in the direction she and Stacy had been headed. Amanda looked at Stacy who had a look of hope in her eyes.
“What do you think we should do, Stacy?”
Stacy stood up.
“I think we should go to the mine. It’s not that far and it’s the only way to…”
Amanda shook her head to stop Stacy from saying too much. She still didn’t trust this man but she also didn’t want to involve him in their problems. She didn’t know how far behind them the hunter was so they needed to get moving quickly.
“Ok. Let’s head to the mine. Thank you, sir. Come on Stacy.”
As they took off running he stopped them.
“Wait! I can come with you. I’m heading there anyway.”
Amanda shook her head.
“That’s ok. You seem to be on a leisurely hike and we’re in a bit of a rush. Thanks anyway.”
Before he could respond, they took off into the forest. Amanda couldn’t be sure that the hunter would allow them to live even if they made it to the mine, but she was sure that getting to the mine was her best option. If things took a turn for the worst, the mystery man could be their saving grace.
Half a Mile Away…
He had finally picked their trail up again. They had done a good job of covering their tracks. They must’ve gotten tired because they were no longer trying to hide their tracks. It didn’t matter because he would be taking a more direct route to the mine soon and there was no way that they’d make it there before him. When they arrived and he was already waiting, he would relish the looks on their faces before regretfully watching the life drain from both of their eyes. After about a half mile he cut over to a hidden tunnel that would lead directly to the mine. He whistled happily as he began down the tunnel.
Fifteen Minutes Before…
Amanda and Stacy stopped to rest. There was no way that they would make it to the mine at this rate. Amanda was starting to regret the decision to continue to the mine instead of trying to reach the stranger’s car.
“What’s that over there?”
Amanda looked to where Stacy was pointing. It looked like an opening in the trees. Amanda got up and walked over.
“Oh my gosh, Stacy! It’s a tunnel. It must lead to the mine.”
Stacy couldn’t contain her excitement. They both looked down the tunnel. It was too dark to see much.
“I wish we had a flashlight.”
Amanda thought about it then dug around in her backpack. She was sure that there were matches in there. When she found them she excitedly pulled them out and showed them to Stacy.
“We can make torches. Let’s find some sticks.”
Once they had gotten everything they needed and lit their torches, they slowly ventured into the tunnel. Although it was old, it was easy going. They slowly began to pick up speed until they were running down the tunnel. After about twenty minutes, Stacy stopped running.
“Do you hear that?”
Amanda stopped and listened. It was faint but she was sure she could hear whistling. That meant that the hunter was close.
“We need to go faster. The tunnel shouldn’t go on much longer and it should lead to the mine.”
Stacy nodded and they took off running. Not long after the tunnel began to brighten and they could see the opening. They ran faster and bust out into the open. They had made it to the mine. There were carts and shovels still littered around. Amanda ran over to one of the carts at the edge of the mine. It was big enough and deep enough for them to hide in. they doused their torches in a bucket of old, rank rain water and tossed them into the forest. They climbed into the cart and lay down, quietly waiting. Before long they could hear the shuffling of feet. The hunter had arrived. Amanda wanted to take a peek to see what he looked like but she didn’t want him to see her. After a few minutes she heard someone coming through the woods behind where they were hiding.
“Hello there. I see I’m not the only one who wanted to explore uncharted territory.”
It was the man they had met in the woods.
“Uh…yea. I just found this place through a Google search and decided to check it out.”
The hunter sounded a bit flustered. He probably hadn’t expected the man to come through the forest instead of Amanda and Stacy. Amanda couldn’t help it anymore, she slowly peeked over the top of the cart. Thankfully, both men were angled away from her so that she could see them, but they couldn’t see her. From the profile view of the hunter that she had, she could tell that he was probably attractive. Unless, there was some defect that she couldn’t see.
“I didn’t see any other vehicles when I parked on the east side of the forest.”
The hunter nodded.
“I’m parked on the south side of the forest. I didn’t have many directions to the mine except that it was in the northern part of the forest, which unfortunately doesn’t have a road. It’s a longer hike but it was well worth it. This place is amazing.”
The man nodded.
“Yea it is. I can’t believe it’s still so intact. I guess since no one’s been here in years it’s to be expected.”
The hunter nodded. Amanda’s heart stopped when the man asked his next question.
“Are you out here alone?”
Would he tell the hunter that he’d seen them earlier? Amanda hoped not. The hunter might kill him just to keep himself safe.
“Um…yeah. I usually take these hikes alone. I like the solitude.”
The man nodded.
“Same here. It’s so peaceful. I wonder if there’s anyone else besides us who’s found this place.”
The man didn’t give away the fact that he’d seen two women earlier. It seemed too much of a coincidence that this man had parked in the south part of the forest and that was the direction from which they’d come. He wondered if they’d made it to the mine, if so, what had he done with them. He took out his camera.
“I’m going to stay a while and take some photos before heading back to my car. What are your plans?”
The hunter looked a bit frazzled. He looked around then back at the man.
“I’m probably going to head back to my car. I’ve seen enough of this place and should be getting back. It’s a long walk to my car.”
The man nodded and began snapping pictures. He watched as the hunter glanced around again before heading into the forest to the south. He made his way to where the hunter had disappeared still taking photos. He was sure that those women were with him and based on how afraid they were, they weren’t with him willingly. He entered the forest where the hunter had disappeared. He walked a wide perimeter to make sure he was gone, then headed back to the mine.
“Son of a bitch! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!
He was pissed. He had lost them and his hunting ground. He stomped back to his van. He’d have to find somewhere else to play his game. He wasn’t sure where the girls were since he didn’t see them on his way back to his van but he was almost certain that the mystery stranger had seen them. He was angry at having been interrupted but he was happy that he didn’t have to kill them just yet. Maybe he’d get a chance to play with them again.
(To be Continued)