Wolf Hunter

Jack Slade #8

by Richard Dawes

An old Sioux shaman asks Jack Slade to come to the Twin Peaks Sioux Reservation to look into a series of killings that have apparently been perpetrated by a rogue wolf. When he arrives at the reservation, Slade discovers that the killings are being done by a Sioux who shape shifts into the form of a wolf. Slade’s discovery that similar killings happening in a nearby town are being done by a second shape shifter leads him to the additional discovery of a plot by the killer to instigate a rebellion by the Sioux residents of the town. When the grand daughter of the old shaman is kidnapped, Slade races against time to save her life and prevent the Sioux uprising.




Chapter One

The thick grey fog was impenetrable. The Jaguar’s windshield wipers were useless against the heavy mist as it crept along the highway at ten miles per hour. The reflected glare of the headlights blinded Slade. His nose pressed to the windshield, he strained to see three feet down the road in front of him.

A sign appeared on the right side of the highway, then disappeared in the fog. He stepped on the brakes, shifted into Reverse and backed up until he could see the placard. Years and wind-driven sand had wiped out whatever had been painted on the wooden sign, but it seemed to be pointing to something off the highway. Glancing at the ground, Slade spotted the markings of a weed-choked dirt road leading off into the darkness.

He looked at his watch. It read one in the morning. He had been traveling all day and was exhausted. The thought that there might be a place to hole up for the remainder of the night somewhere down that road prompted his decision. He spun the wheel and turned down the rutted path, his grey eyes scanning the darkness to keep from running off the road into a ditch or crashing into a tree. The wheels must have found every pothole and rock in the road as he inched through the shimmering mist. His insides felt like mush when the blurred, dripping outlines of buildings suddenly loomed ghost-like in the misty darkness on both sides of the road.

As the Jaguar crawled down the middle of the rutted track, Slade peered through the drifting fog at ancient wooden buildings in an advanced state of dilapidation, windows boarded up, roofs sagging, sidewalks broken. Apparently on the verge of collapse, the tottering buildings leaned against each other as if seeking support. Moisture dripped in long streamers from the sagging eaves, like the wispy beards of old men staggering blindly through the night.

Slade braked in front of a building that seemed just a little more stable than those around it. The windows were boarded up, but the roof seemed relatively solid, and the door was open, a black hole in the mist. To Slade’s fatigued brain, this seemed to promise shelter from the endless night. He reached behind and pulled the tan leather traveling bag from the back seat, climbed out, closed and locked the door, then looked around. The sky was opaque. Heavy fog rolled through the darkness in swirls and eddies. A cold wind whistled eerily through the broken walls and sagging roofs of the town.

“Looks like I stumbled onto an old ghost town,” he muttered, then moved toward the building.

After picking his way carefully over the rotten sidewalk, he paused at the entrance, reached into an inside pocket of his black leather jacket and pulled out a pencil flash. He flipped it on, then probed the darkness inside with the slender beam of light. Apparently, it had been some kind of store, with a counter running along the back and empty shelves clogged with glistening cobwebs lining the walls. Dust covered the counter, shelves, a few broken down wooden crates against one wall and floor like a fluffy grey blanket. Although the floor creaked, it seemed solid enough as he moved with a light tread toward the counter in the back. As dust burst in powdery clouds around his ankles, brown mice scurried across the floor, tiny eyes glittering, squeaking in panic, escaping through holes in the walls. The counter sagged on one end, but it seemed strong enough to support his weight. He flashed the light around, spotted an old mildewed broom leaning against a wall, and used it to sweep the dust off the counter’s surface. He found a ragged piece of burlap hanging on a nail, shook it out, then used it to wipe away the last of the dust. Finally, after what seemed an interminable amount of coughing, he placed the traveling bag on one end of the counter, stretched out on his side on the surface with his head resting on the bag, closed his eyes, and went to sleep.

* * *

Slade suddenly opened his eyes. Sunlight streamed into the room through cracks in the boarded-up windows and the open door, forming a yellow oblong patch across the rotten floorboards. Standing in the middle of the patch, dust particles dancing in the light around him, was an old Native American dressed in faded Levi’s, blue long-sleeved shirt, and scuffed cowboy boots. A blue bandanna held back his shoulder-length grey hair, revealing a face that was nothing but a mass of wrinkles, the color and texture of old leather. His mouth, above a strong chin, was a gash that could have been sliced in with a razor. Black, piercing eyes stared at Slade without blinking.

Slade lay perfectly still and gazed into those eyes, probing, assessing, and knew that he was in the presence of a shaman. Very slowly, he raised up into a sitting position, allowing the left side of his jacket to fall away, revealing a .38 automatic in a black leather holster set to the left of his belt buckle, angled for a cross draw.

The old man took it in without change of expression.

Slade let his feet dangle and rested his palms on the edge of the counter. “Is there something I can do for you?”

“I saw black Jaguar coming through the night,” the old shaman replied in a deep, guttural voice. “I came here to see in daylight.”

“You saw my car last night, driving through the fog?”

“No. I saw you.”

“Ah, I understand,” Slade breathed as light dawned. “You saw me in a trance.”

“I see you in smoke.”

“All right, you’ve seen me in daylight. Now what?”

“I came here to ask for your help.”

“My help?” Slade’s head jerked back in surprise. “What can you possibly need from me?”

“I know who you are.”

“What does that mean?”

“You are Jack Slade, Demon Hunter. You are night stalker who can track prey here or in vision world. All shamans, wise men, and brujos know who you are. You fight and kill many demons, black sorcerers, and evil shape shifters. That’s why I came here to ask for your help.”

“You’re clearly a man of power,” Slade returned, combing his straight black hair off his face with his fingers. “Why don’t you solve the problem on your own? Why call in an outsider?”

“When I tell you story, you will know why.”

“All right, tell it.”

“I am Ogllala Sioux,” the old man began, his black eyes taking on a distant expression. “I live on the Twin Peaks Reservation ten, fifteen miles over mountain to the north. For many years, we live at peace with the town of Crawford, twenty miles to the northeast. Then last year, some of the young men of Crawford caught one of our women while she was picking berries in the mountains. They raped and killed her. We went to the authorities in Crawford and made a complaint. One of our boys had seen the young men driving away in a pickup truck. He identified the youths. They were brought up before a judge, but he decided that the evidence was too circumstantial to warrant a jury trial, and the charges were dropped.” The old man paused, infinite sadness clouding his eyes. “The murdered woman had a brother,” he went on. “His name is Johnny Tall Trees. Although still a young man, he is a shaman of great power, maybe greater than mine. When we failed to get justice from the white man’s system, he went insane with rage and grief. It was terrible to see. Nothing I did or said could calm him down. Finally, he vowed vengeance on the white youths. One night, he left the reservation and went into the mountains. He dropped his reservation name and started using his vision name, Running Wolf. And then the killings started.”

The old man stopped talking and stared at the dust-covered floor.

Slade’s harsh features had gotten grimmer as the tale progressed.

“I suspect the first people killed were the young men who raped his sister,” he stated quietly.

The shaman glanced up and nodded. “The thing is, he shape shifts into the form of his power animal, a wolf, so the white police haven’t been able to discover who or what is doing the killings. All that is left of the bodies is bloody meat, as if wolves had ravaged them. They have hunters out, searching for a rogue wolf or pack of wolves. Even if they were lucky enough to stumble onto Running Wolf, they wouldn’t know it was him, because he would be in his human form.”

“All right,” Slade returned. “So he’s taken vengeance. What do you need me for?”

“The killings have not stopped.”

“He’s moved on to murdering other people?”


“My question remains the same: what do you want me to do?”

The old man spread his hands. “I fear Running Wolf has gone truly insane. Or he has become possessed by the dark nature of the wolf. A member of our tribe was hunting in the mountains. He failed to return. When we found him, he lay in a pool of blood, his body mutilated almost beyond recognition. I believe Running Wolf no longer cares who he kills. Insane with blood lust, he now lives only for the killing.”

“Why not just go to the police and tell them the truth?”

The shaman chuckled coldly. “And bring the fury of the town down on us? And that is even if they believed me. White men do not believe in shape shifting. Besides, not even the other members of the tribe suspect that the killer is Running Wolf. They think he just disappeared. Such knowledge would cause too much trouble among us. Like the white men, they think a pack of wolves is doing the killing. I let them think that. Only I know the truth.

“I believe what we need is a white man—you—who can move in the white man’s world as well as the vision world. Who can shape shift as well as Running Wolf. Who is a killer every bit as deadly. I request that you go after him and bring him down before he does any more damage.” His black eyes glittered. “If the townspeople discovered that a Sioux was responsible for the killings, these mountains would run red with blood.”

Slade pondered for a moment, then slid off the counter and pulled his traveling bag along with him. “Well, I suppose I can look into the situation for you,” he said. “It’s clear you need some help. If I can do something, I will. But,” he held up a finger, “the first thing I need to do is get something to eat. I’m starving. Where’s the nearest restaurant around here?”

The old Indian’s gash of a mouth split in a wide grin, revealing strong but yellow teeth. “We go to reservation. You stay at my house. You can eat all the food you want.”

Slade looked down at him. He stood inches above six feet, and the old man barely came up to his shoulder. “By the way, what do I call you?”

“Call me Joe.”

Slade chuckled. “All right, Joe.” He gestured toward the door. “My car is outside. Guide me to your reservation.”


"Jack Slade: Wolf Hunter" by Richard Dawes


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