The name ‘Robert’ appeared on Emmett’s phone and for a second he thought the man must have known he was thinking of him. He took little time to answer, “Hey, forget something?”
“Emmett, I need your help. I’ve got an injured deer on my hands here. Can you do anything about it? It’s really little.”
“Hang tight. You’re east on thirteen still?”
“Yeah, just coming into town from your place. Hurry if you can.”
Though the urgency was appreciated, Emmett didn’t quite need it. As soon as he was sure he had everything; his revolver in its holster, Dee-Dee’s knife, and the emergency medical kit, Emmett was down the road. Despite himself, Emmett kept it at the speed limit, thinking the headlights that passed him might just have been the sheriff. The last thing he wanted was another encounter with Kerry, not anytime soon, at least, and if he gave reason enough to be ticketed or brought into custody, things would be worse. Being far from the sanctuary with no one to tend the animals, found with two lethal weapons on him, and already a laundry list of complaints, a traffic stop would be a death sentence. It took several minutes, but without incident, Emmett arrived on the scene.
Pale red light suffused the scene of a bleating fawn trying to find its feet only to have it’s back right, bent at an odd angle, give up on it at every attempt. Emmett hardly noticed Robert at first. His mind quickly went into the work that needed doing and the doe staring out from the tree line. Robert stepped out of his car as Emmett came to the front of it. Numbly he informed, “I hardly had time to react. It just jumped out in front of me. If I had seen it… my night vision isn’t worth a damn. I’m sorry.”
“These things happen. It’s not your fault,” Emmett replied half-heartedly as he examined the leg. The fawn bleated more, definite terror in its cries, but its mother wouldn’t come. Worse still, Emmett knew he would have to take the little one back with him. In the wild, the fawn might go on for another night or two before a predator got it, but that hardly would bother Emmett. He knew, more often than not, if someone spotted a wounded deer, they would poach it. Sheriff Kerry wouldn’t bother worrying about it, and if he did, a few venison steaks would have him forgetting the whole matter. If Emmett could have known some starving coyote might get the meat, he may have left the fawn to try to walk away, but it wasn’t anything he could bet on.
Taking one of the old stained blankets from the back of his truck, Emmett wrapped the fawn up gently and carried it back. He didn’t need to worry about a fight. The deer became docile and lay in the cluttered back with the ease a house cat would find in hunkering down in a box. The doe continued to watch as Emmett made his way back to Robert and inspected the front of the Volkswagen.
The headlight was smashed, and the other coated in blood enough to darken the way still more so. It would require repairs and cleaning that Emmett couldn’t help with, certainly not at the moment. Though the fawn needed urgent help, he knew he couldn’t leave his friend stranded halfway out in the country. The car still ran and had been running the entire time. Emmett calmed, knowing he wouldn’t need to clear out room in the truck. Gauging the distance into town, he instructed, “I’m going to get ahead of you, and you follow close behind. The sheriff looks for any reason to make a stop, but this might get you by.”
“Okay. I live in the red house on Elm… Will it be okay?”
Emmett looked back to his truck and started envisioning all that had to be done still that night to save the leg. He wouldn’t tell Robert; that would only deepen the well of misery for the man. Instead, he nodded, “Yeah. I don’t think she’ll ever return to the wild, but some zoos would be willing to take her in. A lot of game wardens and state troopers would just put an animal in her condition down, so rescue deer that can’t reintegrate are somewhat of a hot commodity. Anyway, let’s get moving.”
Emmett escorted Robert to the tiny faded red house on Elm Street. It was as pathetic on the outside as Emmett figured his was to Robert on the inside. Though he had only recently become friends with him, Emmett wondered if Robert might want to take up residence in one of the upper rooms of his house. It wasn’t that he wanted a tenant, but having another set of eyes and hands around would make life a bit easier. He patted the deer through the blanket, garnering a weak cry for the attempt at comfort. Emmett could hardly forgive himself for separating mother from child, but it was too late now, and there wasn’t much choice in it. The tiny child of the forest made no sound all the ride home, nor did Emmett until he reached the driveway.
The barn doors weren’t just open, they were lying in the yard paces away from either entry they were supposed to conceal. Inside, the barns were black as pitch as the new moon battled to bring the barest light to the earth. If the sight of the house door being left open had stopped Emmett’s heart a breath, the state of the barns, even from the road, dropped every last bit of his innards into a shredder. He barely had come to a halt as he rolled out of the truck and drew the revolver. With the headlights flipped to their maximum, Emmett bolted into the green barn.
Teens, townfolk, the sheriff, or state workers would have somehow been a welcomed sight. If there was anything he could throw his rage at, fire a shot in the direction of, it would have been better than the emptiness waiting for him inside the barn. For what it was worth, a brief moment passed wherein Emmett could have pretended the looming shadows of toppled cages and broken beams were targets. With hollow steps and bated breath, he made his way around the loop of the barn, doing his best to sidestep, if not clamor over debris.
The owl was gone, no sign of struggle or injury, the cage filled with a chemical odor not unlike petrol. The raccoons were a heap of fur and the metallic stench of gore. A small pen wherein a rabbit with one ear once sat was now just the entrails of the poor critter. In a cage on the other side of the barn was the mutilated body of a red-tailed hawk. He couldn’t fault the killer for shooting the bird, his talons would have shredded them, but the feces, human this time, smeared across the cage and creature was another thing entirely. As Emmett made his way around, he could not bring himself to look into Blossom’s enclosure. There was no point in checking the red barn; Emmett could guess what became of the beaver or the songbirds and the fox. Rather than stomach the heartache, as he always had, Emmett moved on to the next problem to solve, the fawn.
He killed the engine and lifted the sad burden who hardly squirmed against the embrace of man. Emmett skipped the front door, finding that too reeked of human waste with its facade bearing slurs and threats and things of the like. Though it was hard to count lucky stars in a cloudless night, Emmett had to consider himself fortunate to not find the house ransacked again. The backroom, a would-be sunroom if his mother was still around, housed the bulk of medical supplies not needed in an emergency situation. By the dull golden light of an antique hanging lamp, a favorite of his late grandmother, Emmett sedated the fawn and went to work. Once it was all said and done, the bone set and open flesh bandaged, Emmett slumped over and found oblivion in the silence of night.