~ Prologue ~

The wind was rising.

He ran.

Passed almost silently through the shadows making blue hollows in the landscape, between the black trees dividing up the snow into grinning teeth. Following his eyes, now, and the dog; his prey was quick on their feet, and the sound of crunching snow had long faded.

But even without the dog, he could have followed the blood trail.

Dark holes steamed their way through the banks of snow, defined as bullet holes. The trail had been erratic for the past half hour; blood flecked the snow.

He paused for a moment, gasping for breath in the cold. The dog whimpered, circled him anxiously and nosed the torn cloth in his hand that had the original scent. She knew the trail was going cold. As he rested, he could feel the chill on his arms. The grey clouds above were heavy with approaching storm, starting to shred as the snow fell high above him.

He swore under his breath. This was taking longer than he thought.

The dog whined; a long moan that made him shiver. Standing straight, he stared down at the dark spots in the wounded snow, like wine on a tablecloth.

They had fallen here. Stumbled, and taken a while to get up. Blood not just from the bullet wound, but sinking out from the boots as well.

Snow started to fall around him, sucking in the sound of his breath.

He considered the dent in the snow. Then, he holstered his gun.

Not giving up, he told himself. More a reappraisal of the chase's worth. His prey was not long for this world, one way or another.

All things considered, they may have preferred the bullet.