The Trouble Starts
It's not long before full dark is upon him, and with it comes a significant drop in temperature. The air becomes more and more frigid with each hour that passes.
I should've brought gloves. And a hat. And a space heater, he muses to himself. Maybe a tent and a sleeping bag, too. For all my talk of being prepared for everything I certainly failed on this one.
Despite his inner grumblings Hank remains at his post, rubbing his hands and shivering against the cold but not taking his eyes off the radar screen. About two hours in he bumps the signal strength up to twenty-five percent, to no avail.
After over six hours in freezing temperatures Hank decides that he's earned himself a break. He can see the lights of the packed bar down the road and can hear people laughing inside.
Roxanne is in there, he knows.
I think I could use a bathroom break and a chance to regain feeling in my hands, he tells himself innocently. And perhaps check in with her, too.
With that decided, he turns the hypersonic transmitter back down to zero and jogs to the bar down the road.
He reaches it right after Ethan and another townie that Hank doesn't recognize pull up in a ramshackle old Ford and get out of their vehicle.
Ethan laughs meanly when he sees Hank approaching. "There's the great bear hunter," he crows.
"He don't look like a hunter," his companion mutters, loud enough for Hank to hear.
Ethan guffaws and jocularly hits Hank on the back, but the gesture is more forceful than friendly.
Hank restrains himself from shoving the man, merely giving him a withering glare instead. He doesn't appreciate the clowning around when this man ditched him in the woods so callously.
"How'd you fare out there, slick?"
"The trail went cold," Hank replies stiffly. A lie, but Ethan doesn't deserve the truth anyway.
"Probably for the best."
Ethan heads for the bar, but his friend's feet remain firmly planted on the ground. He scowls at Hank, who doesn't flinch one bit. The feral is not one to be easily intimidated, and certainly not by a man such as this.
"Come on Dave, Charlie's waiting," Ethan calls, breaking into the developing staring contest.
The other man- Dave, apparently- snorts and heads inside as well. Hank follows, not bothering to gloat over such a minor victory.
There's a man standing in the bar's foyer with a collection jar, a doorman of sorts. Dave whispers something to the man as he and Ethan pass, otherwise unmolested.
The other man grins. "Hey, stranger," he calls when Hank tries to go by him as well. "Five dollar cover."
"I just need to use the restroom," Hank tells him politely.
"Still five dollars," the man retorts.
Hank pays him, though he's starting to feel rather exasperated over the obviously unfair treatment he's receiving.
When he turns to continue on his way the other man grabs him by the shoulder. It takes a great deal of patience not to whirl around and punch this obnoxiously handsy individual in the face.
"What's your problem?" Hank demands.
"Let's see some ID."
Grinding his teeth to hold back a snarl of irritation, Hank digs through his wallet and shows the man his New York driver's license.
Finally satisfied, the doorman lets him go.
Hank weaves through the crowd towards the back, looking for Roxanne as he goes. With his height he's able to see over the heads of most of the other patrons with relative ease.
His heart skips a beat when he catches a glimpse of her behind the bar. A smile comes to his face, unbidden, and the majority of his irritation immediately vanishes at just the sight of her.
He's drawn to her like a siren song, his need to use the restroom temporarily forgotten. He approaches the bar and scoots over to a sparsely populated area of the space.
Roxanne is too busy to notice him at first. She pulls beers with a furrowed brow and cashes out a few patrons before finally becoming aware of his presence on the more deserted part of the bar.
Her smile, he believes, could easily light up New York City. "Hi, Hank," she says brightly.
"Hello," he replies, grinning like an idiot.
"Is everything ok out there?"
He shrugs. "No luck so far," he admits. "I thought I'd come in here and use the restroom, thaw out a bit, and…" His grin turns sheepish. "And see you for a moment."
She ducks her head shyly, but Hank can tell she's pleased.
"How's it going?"
Roxanne shrugs. "Good trade tonight," she says, "but my head hurts like you wouldn't believe."
She nods. "Yeah, I think so."
"I'm sorry," Hank tells her sincerely. He didn't take into account how sensitive her feral hearing abilities are when he conceived of this plan. "I turned it off to come in here, though. Hopefully that will give you a break."
Meanwhile, a man dressed in faded clothes and hiding his face under a baseball cap sneaks up to Hank's equipment down the road.
There's no sign of the shaking in his hands that Hank had witnessed the day before, nor his supposed blindness, as the man reaches out and turns the dial from "zero" to "one hundred percent" on the hypersonic transmitter.
Dogs begin to bark within the town in response to the sound suddenly assaulting their sensitive ears.
Roxanne winces. "Are you sure?" she asks, pinching the bridge of her nose. "It feels like my head is hurting worse."
"I'll go check it out," Hank assures her. "Let me use the restroom and I'll head right back."
She nods, now closing her eyes against the pain. "Take care, Hank."
"I will," he says, before hurrying away from the bar. He hates that this plan is causing her pain.
He heads for the back bathroom corridor where- it figures- there is only a single stall restroom for each gender and an emergency exit door. He knocks on the closed men's room door.
"Hold your horses!" a man shouts from inside.
I give up, Hank thinks, fully exasperated. I'm just going to find a tree outside.
The man outside cleans off the frosted over radar screen, waiting for a response. A bite on the metaphorical auditory lure, so to speak.
There's nothing for a long moment, and then-
Something big appears on the edge of the radar.
Out in the forest, one of the motion sensors stuck on a tree begins to blink…
Hank returns to the bar's main area. He feels a headache of his own developing, courtesy of the blaring country music assaulting him from every direction thanks to the multiple speakers set near the ceiling. It's definitely time to take his leave.
As if to emphasize the point, one of the bar patrons spills beer on Hank's jacket as he passes by.
"Damn," he mutters.
He heads for the front door with more purpose now, only to find the way blocked by none other than Ethan and Dave.
Oh look, he thinks to himself sardonically. My new best friends.
"What's your hurry, stranger?" Dave asks, with an unpleasant grin.
The dot on the radar screen moves closer.
Beep… beep… beep… beep…
The sounds come faster as the creature closes in, until the watching man decides it's getting too close for comfort.
He runs away with much more finesse than one would expect for his appearance, clutching his fake cane. He gets into a sleek black car that would most definitely look out of place in Eagle Village and drives away.
Seconds later, the giant claws of the Wendigo smash through the hypersonic transmitter, the source of the agitating noise that drew it here.
The beeping stops, but now the trouble is just beginning.
The Wendigo hears the loud noises of oblivious prey coming from the bright lights down the road. Lots of prey, unaware and all together. Easy pickings for Wendigo. It's a chance too good to ignore.
He heads for what will surely be a feast.
"I need to piss," Hank replies bluntly, immediately on guard.
Ethan points in the opposite direction of the door. "The bathroom's that way, slick."
Dave now invades Hank's personal space- he's much shorter than the feral man, but also much more muscular. "Your license says you're a Yankee," Dave observes- apparently his buddy the doorman gave him the intel. "What you doin' this far North?"
"It's a personal matter."
"Most folks don't find the snow to their liking," Ethan notes.
"I'm not most people," Hank retorts impatiently.
He glances over at the bar, searching for Roxanne. He can tell she's still in a lot of pain- maybe even worse than before, if the sickly paleness of her face is any indication. It makes him even more anxious to return to his equipment and see what on earth is going on out there.
As if sensing his eyes on her, Roxanne looks up and meets his gaze from across the room. Her small smile of reassurance turns to alarm when she sees who he's talking to.
Ethan sees the silent exchange and scowls. "You-"
Suddenly the music stops and the lights go out.
"Dammit Charlie, you kicked the breaker!" Ethan calls out into the dark.
"I did not!" another man shouts.
This can't be good, Hank thinks grimly.
A sound as loud as thunder comes from the back of the building, where the bathrooms are.
Hank runs towards the disturbance, fighting through the crowd milling about obliviously. This X-Man's first instinct is to always run towards the source of trouble in order to protect innocent civilians.
The impact is so hard the doors shake and the windows rattle in their frames.
"I said it's occupied!" the man in the bathroom grouches.
Hank arrives at the back door just as something kicks it down. The emergency door drills Hank, knocking him through the women's bathroom door. He smacks his head, hard, on the cold tile floor.
Thoroughly dazed, he hears the Wendigo give a roar.