The door to Dillon Gregg’s cabin screeched in the midnight wind, and he tensed his body into a ready crouch.
Coming home to an uninvited guest was a danger of living alone in the frontier forest that he’d had long since accepted.
For one thing, years spent longhunting in the wilderness had honed his stealth into a weapon.
Mostly, though, Harmon Miller had forced his hand.
Returning from his first hunt in the western mountains, Dillon had been dog tired when he dragged himself through the darkness and into his cabin.
Wasn’t aware there was someone inside until he lit the lantern on the kitchen table.
Harmon, asleep on the floor, gasped. By reflex, Dillon buried a hatchet in Miller’s forehead.
It was the only crime Dillon ever committed and, lucky for him, the only witnesses were Miller and his raggedy old one-eyed dog.
Dillon dragged Harmon out into the forest and left him where the Dalton City authorities might find him, eventually.
The dog followed him out, whining the whole way, and stood by his master as Dillon retreated.
A few weeks later, Dillon ventured into town for supplies, and folks were abuzz about how Sheriff Thomas had found the town hobo with an ax in his skull and his dog, Turk, at his feet.
The townspeople chalked it up to the local Indian tribe, which was well and good with Dillon.
He moved on, determined to never be surprised again.
But now, that swinging front door had his full attention. He never noticed the predator creeping up from the blackness until it had his throat in its jaws.
Hot blood poured down Dillon’s shoulders and chest, and dizziness threw him to the ground. A single eye glistened in the darkness as Turk lunged to finish his work.