He’d stepped on the gas considerably—all that adrenaline from feuding with Tucker, I suppose—and no one noticed the buck standing in the middle of the road except me until—
“Jesus, look out!”
—until it struck the grill like an oncoming vehicle and tumbled up against the windshield, breaking it into a thousand spidery rings, and smearing it with blood as the truck careened wildly about the road and finally came to a rest in the ditch.
It didn’t take long to access the damage, and the short of it was: we weren’t going anywhere—other than on foot. The old Ford had a crushed radiator, and, somehow, a flat tire.
I’d never see Danny quite so upset, quite that livid, and I guess I never will again. As for Tucker, he seemed more bemused by the situation than anything, and volunteered to stay with the truck—but really just the kills—while the rest of us hoofed it into town—to fetch a tow truck, I suppose.
It was Billy who first noticed the thing’s eyes, and called us all over. Sure enough, the buck was a dead ringer for the one I’d missed in the clearing, right down to the red diamond above its snout. It even had 13 tines.
After checking the doe in the payload by holding open its eye, Danny said, “Some kind of disease, maybe?”
“I ain’t never seen a disease that turns eyes white,” said Billy.
“Yeah. Me neither,” said Danny. He exhaled sharply, looking down at the thing. “Okay, that settles it.”
“What do you mean,” said Tucker.
“What do you think I mean? I mean it can’t be eaten. We don’t even dare butcher it until someone from fish and game has a look. So guard your prize, asshole. But I wouldn’t get too attached if I was you.”
“Is that so?”
“Yeah. That’s so.” He turned to the rest of us as if to say, Ready?