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No Reply: Flash Fiction by cam

Chris has written more than 300 flash fiction/short stories. Working Vacation was 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.

Bosley placed his handgun and container of bear spray beside the log he used as a chair. He had gone into one of the largest wilderness areas in the United States to hide, not to get mauled by a bear or a mountain lion. If they—not the bears and mountain lions, but the men hunting him down—found him out here, there really wasn’t anyplace he could hide.

He tossed another piece of wood on the fire, and it flared up, lighting the surrounding gloom. He ate more of the cutthroat trout he had caught from the nearby lake earlier in the evening. If he could go back in time, he would pick one moment of one day to change. He would ignore the digital trail that had been so poorly concealed in the network of the international finance company where he worked. It was only by accident that he had uncovered it, and years of resolving financial loose ends had programmed him to follow the trail to its conclusion, or in this case, its beginning.

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Money laundering could be such a tedious business. Everything had to be cleaned, folded and put away so that it looked good, but didn’t draw too much attention. After all, it was supposed to be a dish towel not the cloth that was draped over the Holy Grail. Money came in from Asia, was placed in an account with the bank, then went out to Mexico where something got purchased and sold. The layering of purchases and sales went on and on.

Finally, the laundered money came back to the bank to be integrated with legitimate funds. He had followed the whole thing in reverse. When links with international terrorism became real possibilities, he dropped the whole thing, or meant to. He took a peek one day. His entire snooping trail had been discovered. He knew this was true because he had left it as he had found it, partly exposed. Now the end of the trail was neatly tucked away.

His potential problems could come from the bank wondering why he hadn’t reported it. On the other hand the people doing the laundering, a company that called itself BAIR international, could come after him. That would be a different kind of BAIR attack. Then he had gotten one of those “no reply” emails. “ur life is in danger. u know 2 much. Get lost. Be careful, they will come after you.” Somebody cared enough to warn him. but why? Who? Those were questions for later. He took the advice of the emailer and left the city.

He looked for the best place to get lost and settled on the Selway-Bitterroot wilderness, 1.3 million acres straddling the border between Idaho and Montana. He paid cash for all his gear at a local outdoor store in Missoula, Montana and took a bus south of town on highway 93 to Hamilton. From there he was on foot to Blodgett Canyon, twelve miles into the wilderness area.

Blodgett Canyon, Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness

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He sat on the log in front of his campfire with a can of bear spray and a glock .45 caliber at his feet. There wasn’t any warning that someone was approaching. The man simply spoke from the darkness.

“I’m here.”

“I’d say it was impossible, but here you are.”

“Leave the bear spray and gun where they are. Don’t move.”

Bosley waited while the hit-man made his way into the light of the campfire. He was middle aged and seemed to be in excellent condition. The man collected the gun and bear spray and sat cross legged on the ground.

“Now what?” said Bosley.

“I will kill you.”

“Can we at least talk about this?”

“You can talk. I don’t know anything about what you did. I was hired only to kill you.”

“How’d you find me out here?”

“It is impossible to disappear. There is always a trail.”

“I’ve got coffee, if you’d like some.”

“Yes, that would be nice. Thank you.”

Bosley poured hot water from his cooking pot, mixed in the instant coffee and handed the cup to the man who was about to kill him. He took two sips and set the cup on the ground.

“Isn’t there another way?” said Bosley.

“No.”

The two listened to the crackling of the fire, a moment of silence before the execution. The man stood and pulled out his gun.

A snorting sound came from the direction of the lake.

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“Grizzly!” said Bosley. He looked down at the leftover trout that lay on his dinner plate. The bear would smell it. This is where he had his meals, but his tent was two hundred feet to the west. He never ate where he slept. The bear was digging for the remains of the trout Bosley had cleaned on that spot, but those scraps wouldn’t satisfy a grizzly.

The bear walked on all fours until it came within the light of the fire. It sniffed the air and rose to its full eight feet. The man shot twice. The bear came down wounded, hungry and angry. The man fired again and again. Bosley’s first inclination was to get to his own gun and save the man’s life, but he waited. The bear charged and was on the man in a second, biting, slashing with its four inch claws. The screams faded with the blood the bear consumed, and only the sound of feasting remained.

Bosley had already retreated to his campsite. He could sleep without fear. Neither bear would be hungry for quite some time.

Grizzly, Glacier National Park, Montana

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