The night woods were just as Ted had imagined they would be — dark, thick with fog, teeming with the exotic sounds of nocturnal creatures.
It was the perfect setting to carry out his dastardly deed.
“I hear there is a buried treasure in the forest, out behind the mine,” he had told Pete.
Good ol’ trusting Pete, who had been his friend since childhood, who had helped him come west and hook on with the mining company. The young men had been inseparable for nearly two decades.
But something had been different about Pete lately. He had grown weak and pale, and he wasn’t able — or willing — to work hard like he had before.
Ted had gone to their boss to ask for a new partner, but Mr. James refused. All the other teams were producing, and he wasn’t going to upset the applecart.
Unless someone left, there would be no new partner for Ted.
And unless the duo picked up their pace, they would be gone.
There was only one thing Ted could do.
So, as they neared the clearing with the huge boulder, where he knew Pete would need to sit and rest, Ted fell a couple paces behind and pulled the hunting knife from his boot.
That’s when he got a glimpse of his pal, shuffling into the moonlit glade. Ted knew he couldn’t go through with it.
“This was a mistake,” he said aloud, reinforcing his change of heart.
He bent to re-sheath the knife, and when he stood, a cold whisper rumbled in his ear.
“No, it’s no mistake. It’s perfect.”
Ted turned to find Pete’s dusty face an inch from his, eyes flashing with excitement. Or was it hunger?
A jagged fang glinted in the darkness, and the inky forest swallowed Ted’s reply.