A Bounty in Blue
By Robert Lynch
The bloodstains on the ground were brown; a sure tell that they were old. Fresh blood retains are shade of red that seems only to belong to blood. There is also a metallic smell; these stains were... musty. In Cesi’s extremely cold climate, the stains had to be at least a week old, although they could be months older than that.
I circled the small clearing looking for sign. The tall cactus trees are sensitive to creatures brushing against them. It took a few minutes, but I found what I was looking for. The spines on one of the trees had brushed the bloody corpse as it was carried from the clearing – the blood was only on the clearing side of the spines. East. Back toward the settlement.
A thin breeze lazily brushed my neck, the chill sharp from the freezing climate. At this time of year, a few hours exposed could take down even experienced hunters. When I took this job I was prepared to find a frozen corpse at the end of the trail, but as I turned to follow the path I began to wonder if I was headed toward something more cold-hearted.
The hunter didn’t go directly home. Instead, he skirted the settlement and entered a small cottage on the east side of town. I knocked on the door.
The woman that answered looked familiar, she was wearing a bright blue lipstick that nearly threw me off, but once I looked beyond the shock of blue, I saw it. She had different hair colour, but the same slightly slanted eyes and thin lips as the woman who hired me.
“You could have saved your sister a lot of worry if you told her that her husband is here,” I said.
Her eyes widened a touch, and she puffed up to deny it. But at the same time, she got a good look at me. She paused, then slumped her shoulders and opened the door wide without a word. A large shouldered man sat in the living room. He too had blue lips.
“Mary sent you?” he asked.
“It appears you’ve never been ‘hunting’ this long before,” I replied, “She got worried.”
“She got suspicious.” The large shouldered man said. “She gave Liz a cake filled with the dye we use to mark our sheep.” He pointed to his lips.
“And it would be suspicious if you returned marked in this way?” I said.
“Were it only on my lips I could claim I was just dropping off some fresh meat.” He blushed. I noted that there was the edge of a blue lip mark peeking out from below his shirt.
I shook my head and sighed. “I don’t need this.” I left the cottage and headed across town. The record from my contact lens cam would be enough to get me paid.
I need to get better clients.