Monday, August 12, 2013

A PLANET'S RANSOM - Ch. 1 - [How one arrow killed 25 lions]

I'm currently up to Chapter 62 of a novel tentatively titled [A PLANET'S RANSOM], in which one of the leading antagonists is a highly intelligent but, even more so, wicked woman named Rebecca Bates, who also happens to be a trophy hunter. Her same gender opponent, one of the leading protagonists, is an equally intelligent but, even more so, conscientious woman named Shannon Stone. These two women are almost twin-like in appearance, but diametric opposites in moral, ethics and conscience.

If the book ever becomes a movies, I would love to have Sharon Stone play both roles, I think for fairly obvious reasons.

To demonstrate the wickedness of Rebecca Bates, here is a teaser in the form of Chapter 1. I hope by the end of the chapter, you will have begun to loath her. But be forewarned, this is just a fore-taste of her true nature:


(Note: This is just a draft. It will be polished when the manuscript is finished. Please excuse the typos.)

On this day, Rebecca Bates killed twenty-five lions with a single arrow. She did not have an accurate count, nor did she much care. But she was aware of the consequences before they occurred, and she did not care at all.

Most people have a purpose in life. Some don't. And those who have purposes in life are in two main camps - the good and the evil. Rebecca did have a purpose in life. It was continuous and evolving. At that point in her life, it was to hunt the Big-5.

Up to two months before, her general purpose was to hunt every huntable African species, and have at least one head from every species mounted on her rec-room wall. Last time she looked, three of the four walls were crammed with taxidermied animal heads, from duiker to monkey to jackal to hunting dog to hyena to boar to ostrich to impala to wildebeest to zebra to elan to hippo to giraffe. At the centre of the back wall was a cheetah. But the front wall was blank. This wall, she has reserved for the cape buffalo, the leopard, the lion, the rhino and the elephant - her now desperately desired BIG-5.

The primest of the prime specimens, please. No compromise there, thank you. An elephant, for example, the tusk length record was 3.264 meters (10 ft 8.5 in), and weight-wise it was 102.7 kg (226 lbs 7oz). She was not going to accept any elephant with less than 10ft/100kg tusks. And given the fact that, thanks to ivory poaching and trophy hunting, the average tusk weigh has been declining by as much as 1.5 pounds per year in recent years, she felt an overwhelming sense of urgency. The big tuskers are disappearing. She must have hers before he's gone.

Oh, and she had set a certain criterion for herself. She would take them down, one by one, not with a high-powered big-bore rifle, but with her 75-pound compound bow, for the buffalo, the leopard, the lion, even the rhino, and even the elephant. It started with nothing more profound than a dare when she watched a TV-show on women bow-hunters. At first she just wanted to join their rank. But gradually, she began to want to outdo all of them. She took up archery in earnest. Measuring just 5'3 and 120 lbs, she could hardly draw a 45 lb bow at first. The African bow hunting rule stipulated a minimum draw weight of 70 lbs for the Big-5 - for deep penetration especially for the rhino and the elephant. So she put herself through a vigorous body building program. When she landed in Africa for the third time with her favourite hunting bow two months ago, she was a sleek and muscular 140. And with her long blonde hair and ice-blue eyes, she was the mythological huntress Diana personified, or so she saw herself.

A woman named Shannon Stone, the Vice President of a ten-thousand-members-strong group called the Global Anti-Hunting Coalition (GAHC, as in "We will, we will, GAHC YOU!"), once published a blog series titled [The 12 Most Vile] female trophy hunters of the time. Rebecca Bates was the second. She did not make top spot because it was occupied by one Sarah Palin.

To claim her Big-5, and to fully savour every tiniest nuance of the chase, Rebecca had set aside six weeks. Now, into the third, she had bagged a trophy-sized Cape buffalo and a big tom leopard. No doubt these were each a thrill and a half, but she could not fully concentrate on them even when the hunts were in progress. To her, they were first and foremost the necessary steps to her goal, the means to three ends, namely her lion, her elephant and her rhino. She found herself somewhat robotic while firing three arrows into the buff, no more animated than while target shooting. And the leopard, well, the challenge was in locating one, and it was not her doing, but that of her very handsome hunting guide Travis Waltrip. When it came to shooting it, she even felt a tinge of contempt for the animal, for being the least of the Big-5. She had her skinner bring her the pelt, then matter-of-factly handed it over to the taxidermist, and that was that.

Since then, for five days now, she had Travis drive her far and wide to the far corners of the hunting concession, looking for the king of kings. In all, they found seven adult-sized males, three with voluminous blonde manes larger than the other four with dark manes. Travis identified the three as being the pride males of what he called the AAH pride, so named for Achilles, Agamemnon and Hector, which comprised seven lionesses and twenty four cubs of various ages from two months to over two years. The other four were a band of young brothers which he called the Gang of Four, or GOF, which had been evicted from a neighbouring pride about a year before. As was the lion's way, the GOF roamed from territory to territory, making incursions and leaving their calling card in the form of their royal, scent charged urine, thereby checking out the strengths and vulnerabilities of the pride males occupying those territories. Though they had indeed tested the formidable AAH, they had steered a wide berth from that kingdom, There were weaker prides to target, and they were seldom seen in this neck of the woods. But lions being opportunists, they were never far away either. At night, Rebecca could hear their roaring contests, which sent thrills up and down her spine. By and by, she found herself losing interest in the GOF, and even when she dreamed, it was about a big blonde leonine Hercules.

For the last four days, she had patiently glassed AAH, minutely examining each - their relative sizes, their mannerisms, their blemishes or lack thereof, even their facial features. Especially their facial features. She would want none but the handsomest and most majestic adorning the front wall of her rec-room back home. Nothing an iota less would do.

Day before yesterday, she had firmly made up her mind. Achilles was hers, and not even Agamemnon and Hector combined could shake her from this her new obsession.

Yesterday, she spent the entire day watching Achilles alone. When Agamemnon and Hector crossed his path, they were but a blur. Only Achilles stood crystal clear in her eyes. She had fallen in love.

So far, she had held her peace from the equally patient Travis, who had merely sat by while she did her interminable telescopic scrutiny of what he took to be the entire AAH pride, cubs and all, plus the occasion glimpses of the GOF, without asking a single question, while surreptitiously admiring her curvy form obliquely from behind, and day-dreaming his own manly dream of romantic victory and sexual conquest. This was somewhat excusable, at least in his mind. He's been out here in this wilderness for eight months straight, and client after client had been big fat bankers or lawyers or politicians, or else the odd hitherto surviving drug lord. Women-wise, they had been nubile mistresses hanging on to the trunks of their money-trees, or dumpy and fretful wives trying to keep their spoiled broods in check. Besides, with Rebecca shelling out $1250 per day for his just being there, she could take all the time in the world indulging in her inexplicable distant lion-viewing to her heart's content. Then came the evening and the obligatory camp fire, and in the sensual flicking of the flames, her desire was revealed.

"Travis darling, bring me another cup that lethal brew of yours, will you?" she crooned.

"Nothing would give me greater pleasure, Ms. Bates," said he rising dutifully from his camp chair.

"Are you really that easy to please, Travis? Anyway, now that tomorrow shall be the day, you may address me as Rebecca, but kindly do not stray into Becky, much less Reb."

"I will be your servant to the end, Ms... uh... Rebecca. Your wish is my command," he said, while placing the second cup of strong coffee into her manicured yet powerful hands.

"And my desire is my wish."

He raised one eyebrow slightly, and lifted one corner of his lips, barely. "And what might your ladyship's desire be?"

"Not so fast, Mr. Casanova. I'm referring to the lions at the moment."

"Oh, but of course," he replied awkwardly, but regrouped with a touch of professionalism, "So, you have selected your quarry?"

"Indeed I have. Indeed I have," she murmured, as if confessing to the fire.

"Who has captured your desire? Which lion, I mean."

"Achilles. He's the one. He is mine."

"Whoa. No no. Sorry Rebecca, he is out of bounds."

"And why not?" She cast him a sidelong glance, which became a steady stare.

"He is the poster boy in my website and my show piece to all clients. His purpose in life is to entice them to cross the seven seas. Once they have set foot on this land, his task is done. It will be other, lesser, lions that will take the bullet, or arrow, as the case may be."

"Ah, you have hit the nail on the head, with one word."

"What word?"

"'Lesser'. I want nothing that can be so described. I want the very best. I'm glad you concur on which one this refers to."

"I'm truly sorry, Rebecca, but Achilles is not to be touched. How would the leader of the Gang of Four be? He is one magnificent specimen of the much sought after black-maned lion>"

"Nope. Achilles it has to be, or the hunt is off."

Travis tried, but could not maintain contact with her piercing eyes, and let his gaze drift down to the one of the crackling imported logs. "Look, I'll have to consult my senior partner on this," he mumbled weakly.

"Well, well, so you're not man enough to call your own shot?"


"Alright, let's approach this from another angle, an angle I'm sure you can appreciate. Everything has its price. So, tell me what Achilles' price is."

"One moment, please." He stood up stiffly, pulled his satellite phone from his pocket, walked off ten feet, and punched a speed-dial. Moments later, he ambled back, and said, "Mr. Hawthorn said that he would required three times the fee."

"See? There is no such thing as not-for-sale."


"I will pay you double. Thirty grand. And you can keep the change."

"I'm sorry, Rebecca, three times $13,500 is $40,500."

"Thirty grand, and you can have me for the night. Take it or leave it," she said, without a hint of passion in her voice.

Under the stars, the sounds of the wild African night was polluted somewhat by those of human origin, emitted from Rebecca's tent to be exact, vocal, but non-verbal. But the great orchestra of nature was nonetheless dominated by the lions. The sound was awe-inspiring and horrific. The lions had taken down a large animal, which Travis said to be a giraffe. And the hyenas were the uninvited and unwanted guests to the feast, which lasted till dawn.

In the mid-morning, from about a mile out, they spotted Achilles resting in the shade of an acacia tree, alone. Travis tested the wind and said that they were at a cross-wind to Achilles. He guided Rebecca down wind, then made a stealthy direct approach. At about a hundred yards, she halted Travis, who had by then unslung his rifle.

"Wait here," she ordered.

"I can't do that," he protested.

"You're gonna have to." And with this, she began to advance towards the sleeping lion, bow not drawn, but arrow nocked.

Present day

Travis hurriedly assumed a prone position on a slight rise, and kept Achilles dead centre in his scope. With his other eye, he saw Rebecca approach Achilles in much the same manner as that of a lioness approaching a zebra herd. At forty yard or so, no more, she stopped, stood up erect, drew her bow, took careful aim, and launched the arrow right through Achilles' chest. The lion gave a surprised grunt, lept to his feet, hesitated a split second, then charged head long at his tormentress, with a hurricane in his mane. Rebecca cradled another tri-bladed arrow, and was midway through drawing her bow, when a barrage of three shots came from Travis' rifle, which brought Achilles a crumpled heap at her feet.

She stood staring at him for a long moment, while Travis reached her at a run. When he had come to a screeching halt, she turned to face him, and delivered a resound slap on his cheek.

"See what you've done!" she scream at him. "You ruined this hunt for me! I wanted to kill him MYSELF!"

She didn't know, nor would she be interested to know, nor would she care if she did, but within days of Achilles' demise, the Gang of Four invaded the AAH pride, vanquished Hector, evicted Agamemnon, exterminated all 24 cubs to terminate the AAH line, and claimed the seven lionesses for themselves towards propagating their own.

It is the lion's way and she knew she was in no position to pass judgement on the morality of any species, including of course her own. She might feel a fleeting pang of regret had she heard about the cubs, but cubs were worthless to trophy hunters anyway. She would see them as accepted bilateral damage in her quest to mount the magnificent head of Achilles towards immortalizing her Big-5 wall.

Anthony Marr, Founder and President
Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE)
Global Anti-Hunting Coalition (GAHC)

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