It's 2 am and things have finally calmed down somewhat.
When I heard the gunshots I pictured the worst. I grabbed my .357 and hit the pavement running. Did not even stop to close the Uni's door. Emily was right on my heels at first but quickly passed me. The front doors of the store had been smashed in by a runaway minivan so we did not even have to stop to open the doors. We raced past the remnants of the glass doors, past the wrecked Caravan that was now resting in the center of the alcohol and tobacco aisle. Emily turned left and I followed her. We heard screaming and bellowing before we saw them. Two more gunshots rang out, Dee squealing each time.
I saw the top of a large furry head rise above the tops of the shelves amid scattered bags of chips. I was simultaneously relieved and frightened. The grocery aisle was a mess of toppled shelves and ripped open packages. I could not see a clear path at all. And somewhere in the midst of that were Dee and Katherine.
Emily dove under a shelving unit that was leaning at about a 60 degree angle against another shelf. Canned goods rolled and spun out from under them as Emily frantically wriggled her way through. I followed as best as I could, praying the whole time that the shelves would not choose that particular moment to come crashing down on me. When I was finally able to get out from under the shelves I saw Emily already engaged with the bear. A Rottweiler is a powerful dog and has a devastating bite, but still no match for bear. I don't know one breed of bear from another, I just know that it was big and angry. Blood was running from several wounds. I wondered why it had not already charged until I saw the cub huddled behind her. It was more concerned with protecting its cub than killing the intruders. And that is surely what we were. She had obviously made her home here where food was plentiful and they were sheltered from the elements. I had just been lucky my first trip in and missed her.
Katherine later told me that she had only taken her eyes off Dee for a couple of seconds and she had wandered off. Katherine had caught up with her as she was crawling under the shelves.
In its rummaging for food the bear had pushed the shelves around and knocked others down creating a bit of a maze, with its den in the center. This aisle was nearly closed off at both ends The opening we had come in was just barely big enough for us but would have been nearly impossible for the bear. At the other end there was an opening big enough for the bear to walk through. One set of shelves between us and the bear was canted at an odd angle the only thing preventing it from falling was a bent shelf support.
Katherine was taking advantage of the distraction Emily was causing and drawing careful aim at the bear's head. I tackled her low causing her shot to go wild and called Emily to me. I hoped that she would come to me. She of course did not, but Dee called her at the same time and she always comes when Dee calls. I grabbed Katherine's gun before she could aim again and shot at the bent shelf support I had seen before. I was actually aiming at the point where the support was in contact with the other set of shelves. What I hit was the point where the metal was bent. It was already weakened so it folded like paper. Without the bent shelf support holding it up, the massive rack of shelves fell to the floor. A lot of bottles bounced to the floor. The bottles were plastic so none of them shattered, but the plastic caps on quite a few of them broke off spilling clear liquid all over the floor. Most of the bottles contained ammonia based cleaners. It was bad enough for us, but for Emily and the bear it was overpowering. The bear was confused and panicked now, but the shelves were between us and her. I grabbed Dee and shoved her under the shelves I had entered through. Emily was already through. Once I was under I looked back just long enough to see that Katherine was following. When I was clear of the shelves I reached under and grabbed her arms and yanked her out and up to her feet. Of course she had to complain that I had just about dislocated her shoulder. I gave her a shove towards the door and covered our retreat.
I did not notice the trail of blood till I got to the shattered front doors. At first I feared that Dee or Katherine were injured. But what I was seeing were bloody paw prints. I caught up to Emily halfway to the Uni. I scooped her up and carried her into the motor home. She was a mess, but it was not as bad as it looked. Her paws were all cut up and bloody from the broken glass at the store entrance and there were four slashes across her chest from the bear's claws. No broken ribs.
At least Katherine did not give me any grief about patching up Emily. She did grumble some about not being a veterinarian. She pumped her full of sedatives she insisted would be ok for her so the dog would not bite while she was tending to her.
When she was done she whirled around on me slapping me hard on the face. Had Dee not been there I might have returned the favor. I haven't hit a girl since the second grade, and I got whipped four times for that. My father, mother, grandfather and Gramma. I was raised knowing that a man, a real man, never hits a lady. But that does not mean he has to take shit from her either. What I did instead was to lead her a short ways off from the Uni so Dee would not hear the shouting and profanity that was soon to come. We had of course relocated by that time.
She was mad because I had tackled her and demanded to know why. I told her I saw no reason to kill the bear that was only trying to defend its cub. I don't know that she really understands. I don't really even know if I understand, I just know that letting her kill the bear would have been wrong. I also told her that if she smacked me like that again she would be looking for different travelling companions.
Dee is asleep and Katherine is sulking in the front passenger seat. Emily is resting on my bed, bandages covering most of the left side of her chest and her feet. But at least it was not a wraith, just an ordinary, but very pissed off bear.
I look at this as a good reminder. The world seems safe during the day, and at night I have been so busy worrying about the wraiths that I tend to forget that there are other very real dangers in the world.
© 2009 R. Keith McBride