TO CATCH A WOLF • by Warren C. Easley

When the woman didn’t come back to the chopper with that guy, I figured something bad had happened.

There was just a slice of moon, and all I saw when they pulled up was the outline of this humongous biker with a beer gut and sloped shoulders and a tall woman who was singing the chorus of some annoying country and western song over and over again.    It was two fifty in the morning, and I was huddled against the wall of the county library where I could pick up a nice wi fi signal.  I didn’t hang out at the library during the day because of all the why-aren’t- you-in-school looks.

I closed my computer—an ancient MacBook I’d bought cheap off a tweeker — and watched as they disappeared down the steep bank to the creek.  The singing died out, and I’d pretty much forgotten about them until the man started up the motorcycle and pulled away maybe thirty minutes later.  The bike was low slung with high curved handle bars and chrome forks that thrust forward.  The chrome gleamed in the moonlight, and the engine made a deep loping sound that snaked a shiver down my back.

I sat there hoping the singing would start again but knew it wouldn’t.  I finally put my computer in the case I’d found in a dumpster, hid it in the bushes and crossed the highway.  The woman was face down in the water, lifeless.  I pulled her out and stood over her, shaking like a little kid.  I felt real sad, too, but no tears came.  All I could think of was my sister, Amy.  I looked down at my hand and realized I was holding a necklace that must have come loose from her neck.  It shone like gold in the weak light.  I put it in my pocket and washed my sticky hands in the creek before climbing back up the trail.

The woman was stretched across a jogging path and would be found in the morning, I told myself.  No way I’m calling the cops.  They’d start asking questions and pretty soon some judge would want to send me home.  No, I wasn’t going back there, where my stepfather ruled like Jabba the fucking Hutt.  I told mom what was going on with him and Amy, but she wouldn’t listen, and Amy denied it.  That’s when I decided to take off.

I spent a restless morning back at my tent.  I got the necklace out and looked it over, trying to figure out why I’d taken it.  It was heavy like real gold, a collection of different shaped leaves strung on a chain.  On the back of a maple leaf was inscribed To Tayla from Daddy. Xmas ’09.  My eyes burned but stayed dry, and a mixture of guilt and anger flowed over me like hot tar.  I ached to talk to my dad.  If he was alive, he’d know what to do.

That afternoon, I put the necklace in my backpack and headed out for Dougherty’s, the only biker bar in the county.  It was a good five mile walk, and I arrived just as night fell.  I got a single slice of stale pizza at a little market across the street and strolled over to the parking lot behind the bar.  I almost choked on a bite of pizza when I saw the big chopper with the high handle bars.  I waited around, and when a couple of dudes came out and mounted their bikes, I pointed to the chopper and said, “That’s a cool bike.  Know who owns it?”

The taller one scowled and said, “That’s Lobo’s bike.”  The fat, ugly one laughed and added, “Better stay away from it, kid.”

I backed off and waited in the shadows, trying to figure out my next step.  An hour later a man approached the chopper.  My knees got weak when I saw the beer belly and the big, sloped shoulders.  It was him for sure.  As he got on his bike, I stepped forward, swallowed hard and said, “Hey Lobo.  I’m Danny.  Love your bike, man.”

He wrinkled his brow for a moment then flashed a surprisingly friendly smile.  “Thanks, kid.”

I took a couple more steps and swallowed again.  “Bet you did the work yourself.”

He held the smile and seemed to puff up a little.  “Fuckin’ right, man.  Every nut and bolt.”

“Bro, that’s genius,” I gushed as I moved behind him to stroke the fine leather of his saddle bags.  “These bags are awesome, too.  Say, my uncle’s working on a chopper like this, but he’s not much of a mechanic.  Think he could talk to you about it?”

Lobo shrugged.  “I guess so.  Have him give me a call.”  With that, he kicked started his machine and took off.  I stood there listening to the deep, awful throb of his engine receding into the night while I committed the cell phone number he’d given me to memory and moved my fingers around in the pocket where the necklace had been.

I walked back to my tent against a cold wind, but didn’t feel it much.  At the library that night I uploaded this in the jewelry section of Craig’s List—“Beautiful necklace of miniature tree leaves made of gold on an eighteen inch, twenty four carat chain.  Cash only.”  I signed it “Lobo” and gave his cell number.

There was nothing new about the murder in the paper the next two days, and I began to feel like a real idiot, but on the third day, the headlines screamed—Suspect Arrested in Johnson Creek Slaying.  The article went on to belittle the biker nicknamed Lobo, who’d been dumb enough to advertise his victim’s jewelry on the internet.

The next morning I packed up my stuff and headed for home.  It was time to take on Jabba the fucking Hutt.

Warren C. Easley is a retired Ph.D. chemist with a background in R&D and international business. Although he’s hard at work on his fourth mystery novel, this is his first attempt at flash fiction. He lives in Oregon with his wife and two dogs.

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Every Day Fiction

  • I enjoyed the main plot of this well-written story.

    The only problem is the casually-thrown-in subplot of an abusive stepfather(sexually abusive in the case of his stepdaughter). Like zombies, this theme has been done to death, and ironically wasn’t even needed in this story.

    That said, I enjoyed justice being meeted out in this story a lot.

  • Rob

    Ah, a young man who uses his head. Very good, thanks.

  • As complete a story as you’ll find in flash. Fun read, well-written.

    Four plus stars….+

  • J.C. Towler

    “To Catch a Wolf” earned the honor of our Flash Fiction Day “Story of the Day” for a number of reasons. It pulls the reader in right off the bat with an effective hook. The tension builds quickly and keeps the reader engaged throughout the story. The main character is complicated: a young man with a troubled past thrust into a difficult moral quandary and the reader becomes emotionally involved in his struggle. By the end we not only have a strong resolution, but a significant development in the main character: where he ran away from problems in his past, he is now ready to face them.

    Hook ‘em quick, reel ‘em in, cook it up however you want, but leave the reader satisfied by the end. “Satisfied” doesn’t always mean a happy ending. “Satisfied” doesn’t always mean a cut-and-dried resolution (but the reader should have enough information to feel like they know what happens next.) “Satisfied” means no “it was all a dream” endings, some deus ex machina capstone, or “abandoned” stories where the writer drops the curtain prematurely on a character he’s painted into a corner. Strong writing is important, but some of the worst submissions come from earnest M.F.A.’s graduates who give us beautiful prose but completely useless stories.

    On the surface, writing flash fiction might seem simple. “Only” a thousand words (or less). But the constraints of the word count are often the greatest challenge. How do you fit a complete story in that short a space without it coming across like a “scene” or a “vignette” (both of which we try to avoid). Mr. Easley’s story pulls it off and in a genre that is not easy to do it in: the mystery/suspense category. I mentioned earlier that “humor” is one of the hardest flash genres to write, but the mystery/suspense category is one of the most difficult to plot. Like any good story of that genre, “To Catch a Wolf” invites the reader on a literary roller coaster. Hope you enjoyed the ride.

  • Jay Tanzer

    Paul, I have to disagree. To me, it’s a great punch line that the boy realizes he’s got the guts to deal with his stepfather. Great story !

  • Gregory Marlow

    Nice work, Warren. Although I can see where Paul is coming from with the subplot, without it the protagonist’s desire and driving force in the story would be to get revenge for the death of someone he didn’t know. And although that is a valid enough reason I guess, I would argue that the actual goal of the protagonist in this story is to go home and face his father, not to get a murderer arrested. And in that respect the subplot was not “sub” at all, it was the plot.

    The “I hate my stepfather so I am running away” theme may not be 100% unique, but I think making the strong tie between Tayla and Amy helped it along a lot. I would have liked to have seen a stronger tie in the narrators mind between the biker and his stepfather as well, just to make his actions a little more meaningful along the way. But I think you tied it together nicely at the end. 5 Stars from me.


  • kc

    I love this story. It’s always wonderful to read a short story that’s not totally predictable. I was expecting the young man to do something to the biker behind his back, but I wasn’t expecting him to be slipping the necklace into the saddlebag! And to have him feel enough courageous at the end to feel he can take on his evil stepfather, well, YES!

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    Four stars from me. Believable in every way and strong realistic voice. Always satisfying to see evil get its due. Excellent work.

  • kathy k

    Good, really good, and I loved the subplot. I want to see more by this author.

  • Simone

    I agree with #9 – Kathy K. For me, it is a thoroughly entertaining read.

  • Joanne

    I knew from the first sentence that this would be a good story.

    Strong voice, suspense, realistic motivation…loved it.

  • Gretchen Bassier

    I agree with many of the others – I absolutely loved this story. It was engaging from line one, the build-up was awesome, and the ending was perfect. Very well done!

  • Ginny

    Great story! I loved the craiglist twist.

  • Loved the ride. Looking forward to reading more from Warren Easley.

  • Karen

    I enjoyed it and was actually looking forward to more! Well Done Warren!

  • Debby

    Good plot but, more importantly, a creative and elegant telling of it.

  • Pingback: Interview: Warren C. Easley Has EDF’s Top Story for May « Flash Fiction Chronicles()

  • Sonia Easley

    Loved the interview, #17.