Vincent lay on his cot. The sun outside was bright, and the shadow of the maple tree on the canvas roof of his tent was sharp. He had not raised the fly off the roof vents, and the air in the tent was hot. He took another swig from the bottle of whiskey on the floor beside the cot. He should be out guarding the trophies, not getting drunk in his tent. God knew what kind of predators they had in this place.
He drank whiskey from the bottle when he was very happy or very sad. He did not know which it was this time. It had been a clean shot. When he got home they would mount the head on the wall of the lodge and Vincent would be a somebody. Even Sir Gradson had never shot a unicorn. That crazy witch doctor who brought them here knew what he was doing after all.
The creature had walked right into their camp. Sometimes animals did that. It had walked underneath the oak they had hung the carcasses from to drain, and stretched its neck down to sniff the blood on the ground. It hadn't noticed Vincent lying behind a clump of ferns not fifty yards away. The angle had been no good. Its neck had been in the way of its heart, and the Rigby .465 left holes that made taxidermists cry. There were mosquitoes in the shade under the ferns, and they had bitten his arms and face as he waited for the thing to lift its head.
"Daddy," he heard a little girl call from outside.
"Go 'way," Vincent muttered.
Brett thought the lodge was going to mount his gryphon over the fireplace, in the empty space to the left of Sir Gradson's tigers. When he and Molo returned, he would see the unicorn stallion's carcass hanging from the oak tree and would know that his gryphon would never be mounted over the fireplace next to the tigers.
"Daddy!" the little girl screamed.
Vincent cursed, and took another drink. "Leave me 'lone!" he shouted. "You aren't real!"
The gryphon had also screamed, and kept screaming for a long time, after Brett gut-shot it. Brett always jerked the trigger. A loop of intestine had fallen out, and the thing had attacked it, yanking it out like a long, pink-purple earthworm. If it had flown off instead, they never would have found the body.
Now the little girl was sobbing. She sounded almost real.
"Honey," Vincent called hoarsely. "It wasn't Daddy's fault. Daddy didn't wanna leave you. Your mommy wanted a somebody." He rolled onto his back and stared at the patterns the maple leaves cast on the tent roof. "But 's gon' be okay," he slurred quietly. "Daddy's a somebody now."
The sobbing continued. "Daddy... Daddy... Oh, Daddy..."
Vincent staggered to his feet. He stumbled once on his way to the end of the tent. He was terrible with children, even when he was sober and they were real. "Hold on, honey," he said as he opened the tent flap. "Daddy's coming."