Soft flakes of snow drifted down from the leaden clouds in lazy swirls, barely touched by the slight breeze that tickled the trees. Sam stood silent and still in the small clearing deep in the woods. His eyes moved, scanning the ground for signs among the damp brown leaves and soft white snowflakes. The deep blackness of night gave way to the soft grey of the early sky, heralding the coming of a new dawn.
Sam lifted his head and breathed deeply in through his nose. He turned to his left, toward the lithe figure leaning against a small birch, arms crossed.
"I've been searching the woods for you," Sam said. He drew the air in through his nose again, but the breeze came from behind him now and he smelled the wet leaves, the sleeping trees and the chill in the air that floated with the snow.
Lone Wolf studied Sam, his dark eyes unnerving. "I know," he replied.
Sam turned his entire body to face Lone Wolf, grinning, white teeth bright in the dim pre-dawn light. "I finally found you."
"No, you didn't." Lone Wolf's eyes twinkled with laughter.
"I heard you, you know. In the trees," growled Sam.
Lone Wolf shook his head, but his eyes never left Sam's face. "No one hears me unless I want them to."
"I'm not the normal person," said Sam.
"I realize that. You have some impressive abilities, but little skill," said Lone Wolf.
Sam's head jerked back, a growl rising from his throat, unbidden. "What does that mean?"
"You're like a wolf pup running through the forest, thinking you hear everything, smell everything. Yet you don't have any concept of how to truly sense anything."
The growl rose in volume. Sam choked it back. "Hey, I'm a lot more than that."
"I know you think so," Lone Wolf said.
Sam didn't even try to stop the growl this time. His eyes narrowed and he pointed at Lone Wolf with his right index finger, the thick nail dull in the light. "I found you."
"No, you didn't. I came to you." Lone Wolf silently shifted his weight. The leaves and twigs under his feet didn't move. "What do you want from me?"
"I knew you last night, you know, as soon as you walked into dinner. You look like your pictures." Sam moved his feet, a small twig snapping under the leaves and he narrowed his eyes. "The pictures weren't very clear, but they were you, helping August escape."
Sam smiled. "They showed me pictures of August, too. I didn't know he was your brother, of course."
Lone Wolf's smile did not disappear, but it dimmed. "I understand now," he said.
Sam's muscles bunched across his shoulders. "And I have a mission."
Lone Wolf's eyes reflected a deep sadness. "Of course."
Sam reached for his pistol, but Lone Wolf was a blur; he appeared before Sam, took the pistol and tossed it into the bushes outside of the clearing.
"You're damned fast," Sam said. He swung at Lone Wolf, fingers extended like talons, but Lone Wolf no longer stood there. He stood five feet from Sam, facing him, his body relaxed.
Sam moved, leaves lifting from the ground at his heels. He punched at Lone Wolf's face, yet the Indian's face was no longer there. He punched at his body and Lone Wolf twisted to the side, Sam's fist narrowly missing. Sam grunted and continued to swing at the man in the buckskins. Repeatedly his hands moved like lightning toward the dark-skinned warrior, yet his fists met only air.
Sam stepped back, breathing hard, eyes narrowed. He looked at Lone Wolf, standing unruffled a few steps in front of him.
"That's impossible," he said through clenched teeth. "Nobody can move as fast as I can."
"You are impressive," Lone Wolf acknowledged. "Also mistaken."
"I'm supposed to kill you if I find you," said Sam.
Lone Wolf smiled, inclining his head toward Sam in a slight bow.
"I have a job to do." The growl rose in the back of Sam's throat, his dark glittering eyes focused on Lone Wolf. In the blink of an eye, Sam stooped and grabbed a heavy stick, throwing it toward Lone Wolf.
Lone Wolf was no longer there. He wasn't anywhere.
Sam spun around in a circle, looking for the warrior. "I tracked you once. I can track you again," he shouted, the growl audible now.
A sound floated to Sam on the slight breeze, soft as a feather touching his face. Perhaps it was a voice. Perhaps it was the wind. It was a word. Pup.
Sam screamed, his head back, his face lifted to the sky. The snowflakes quit falling as the sun started its slow rise into the morning sky.