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General

2004, Dartmouth

“Can you keep a secret?”

There were splinters in her palms and the signal on her phone was waning.

Margaret Wolf gritted her teeth against the pain and ploughed on through the undergrowth, her tights tearing on the brambles as she passed. At her feet sat a carpet of golden leaves, but she could no longer appreciate Autumn on the Dartmouth Estate. Everything had become so tainted so quickly and it was only the adrenaline rushing through her veins that kept the tears at bay.

She didn’t understand how everything had gone so wrong. A year ago, she’d been the blushing bride, barefoot in the snow on the Estate, standing before the sandstone manor, holding Richard’s hand as he smiled at her, telling her she was more than the most beautiful woman in the world.

Now, nothing would be ever be beautiful again. Not for a long, long time.

Her shoe – she’d lost the other to the dogs – caught on a root, but she managed to right herself before she could fall into the mud. The flip phone – a burner phone she’d ordered online - was clutched in her white-knuckled grip, Edward’s voice a faint rattle on the other end.

Edward Suffolk was an old friend. He’d joined the same Sailing Club in Oxford, dropping out in the second year to pursue a career in the Yacht Business. Soon after, he became an independent sportsman, entering Sailing Rallies and he spent his days lounging on the River Dart, mooring his boats on every bank and harbour he could find.

And it was his most prized vessel, The Margaret, that she was running to now.

Running, too fast to catch her breath, listening to her husband’s dogs barking at her heels. They rushed through the undergrowth, distracted by the hair ties she’d thrown into the bushes to slow them down. Somehow, she knew Richard would not be fooled. He seemed to pick up on her scent faster than the greyhounds; she could hear his footsteps, heavy in his steel-capped boots, bow and arrow held high. Even though she couldn’t see him, she knew he was grinning.

She should have known.

He’d claimed the trophy room, the room which sported the heads of oxen, zebras from Safari in Angola, foxes, rabbits, was his Grandfather’s. She should have known he was lying. She should have known.

If she didn’t hurry, she would be his next trophy.

But Richard Wolf would never stop hunting her, now that she knew his secret. She knew everything and by the Lord, she wished she didn’t.

Clutching the crucifix at her neck, Margaret held the phone higher as she ran.

“Maggie? Maggie, I can’t hear you.” Edward. She almost screamed his name. She tried to keep the phone steady while she slowed, scanning the treeline, the vast oaks which curled over her like armour. She looked down, stepping over dried twigs. There was moss everywhere. The forest floor was more than damp; her left sock was soaked.

“Are you almost at the River?” Edward asked. Margaret bit her tongue.

“Nearly.” She paused. “He’s coming for me, Eddie. I can feel it. He’s going to catch me”.

“Sssh, don’t think about that. Just keep running. Stay on the line, Maggie. I need to know you’re safe”.

She’d met Edward at a café in Oxford. He’d been a year older, not to mention twelve-thousand leagues more relaxed. He had the hair of a fox: russet gold and brown eyes. An orphan, he’d inherited his Trust Fund five years early, a fund he spent restoring old boats to their former glory. He was kind enough, a good friend. He’d been a friend for over a decade now; he’d even walked her down the aisle after her own Father had died of tetanus. Margaret thought of her Mother, who was trapped in Italy in the arms of her new husband, a man whose cologne had been so pungent Margaret thought she might have fainted if not for the air of Rome.

Biting tongue, she uttered the words she’d been afraid to speak since Richard had discovered her rooting in his study an hour ago.

“Eddie, I need you to keep my secret. Eddie, please.”

“Don’t say anything. Don’t tell me anything,” he snapped. “You’re going to make it. Just keep going.”

“Eddie,” she sighed. “I’m not going to make it”. And Margaret Wolf slowed to a walk. She ignored her best friend’s cries and listened to the sounds of the forest. It was poetic in a way. That the forest would be the last thing she would ever hear. The rustling of the trees, the raging river. Margaret blinked.

The River. She was near the river.

She could make it.

“Hold on, Eddie. I’m coming,” she said. She could almost hear him smile.

“I’ll be waiting.”

The forest held its breath. She took a step and suddenly, she could hear the dogs. Sniffing, barking to their master. They’d caught her scent. They were barely a yard behind her.

The moment she caught sight of their bone-white teeth, their grey paws, she ran for the river. The boat was on the other side. It was a small speedboat, its name scrawled calligraphy style a top a coat of white paint. It had been moored to the bank for the past week. She hadn’t meant for Richard to discover her so soon. But she’d needed evidence, and now she had it.

She had yet to learn of the cost.

Behind her, the dogs were snarling.

Margaret took a breath and surged for the riverbank. She didn’t see him, not at first. He was standing on the riverside, caught between two silver birches, arrow knocked. He was smiling.

“Till Death Do Us Part,” said Richard Wolf, half-laughing to himself as he let the arrow fly.

Margaret tried to run. She tried to duck and swerve, but her husband had meticulous aim. One second, she was running, leaping into the river. The next, there was a blinding pain, and she tumbled headfirst into the water.

“Maggie?” Edward’s voice was lost. The phone slipped from her hand, carried away by the current.

But Margaret Wolf did not scream. She did not cry out, despite the arrow in her shoulder. No, she sculled against the water, swimming against the current at a forty-five-degree angle. Hooking her fingers into the side of the boat, she pulled herself up. For a moment, she lay there, breathing hard, half staring at the metal steering wheel. If she sat up, if she stood, Richard would surely shoot. And this time, he would shoot to kill. He was a hunter after all.

But so was she.

Yes, she was a wife. She’d been the doting wife who’d accompanied him to Business Conventions and Boat Parties where she’d sipped wine and felt like a fraud in a thousand-pound dress. But she was also a quick study.

After all, she thought with a smile, Richard wasn’t the only one who had his hobbies. Looking down, she noticed that her blood had started to pool in the bottom of the boat. The arrow sticking from her shoulder suddenly hilarious, Margaret could not contain herself. She laughed until she cried and cried until she reached for her last resort.

She’d acquired a thirst for the sport after her Father had died. Her Dad had always protected her and now that he was no longer around, she had to make her own way in the world. She had to carve her own path. And right now, that path was blocked by her husband.

So, Margaret Wolf stood and, clipped to the side of the boat just like Edward had promised, she picked up her own bow and arrow and met her husband’s gaze. Smiling at him, an arrow in her shoulder, she said,

“Can you keep a secret?”

Her husband’s smile fell.

August 17, 2020 20:28

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17 comments

11:09 Jan 27, 2021

Very beautiful narration , Superb History.

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. .
09:31 Sep 03, 2020

Beautifully written!

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Jane Andrews
10:33 Aug 27, 2020

I have so many things to say about this story... First of all, you do a great job in building tension - starting it in media res works really well and keeps the focus on the hunt/chase aspect. This would actually work really well set in an earlier time period too - it almost had the sense of the Victorian maiden being hunted through the forest by the lord of the manor. I can understand why you chose a more modern setting so you could build tension with the mobile phone, but you might want to play around with the idea of transposing it to an...

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Shea K
19:35 Aug 25, 2020

Great story! I like how you started in the middle of the action, and I didn't see that twist coming!

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Eve Naden
23:43 Aug 25, 2020

Thank you so much!

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Thom With An H
04:16 Aug 25, 2020

Noooo!!!!! It stopped to soon. I need to know the secret. What a great story and easy read. It is professional grade. I felt as if I was running along side her. There is so much unknown though. Are you planning a sequel? If you’re looking for votes mine is yes. 😀 I chose the same prompt. I’d like to know what you think. I’d also like a like if you think I deserve it.

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Eve Naden
23:43 Aug 25, 2020

Of course, I'd love to read your work. Thank you for your lovely comment.

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Ryan Lieb
23:23 Aug 24, 2020

This story definitely has me wanting to know more! I mean that as both a compliment and a constructive feedback. The overall writing is really on point and it moves along at a nice pace, keeping the tension up with the chase scene. It draws the reader in and keeps my attention, but I can't help wondering what's really happening? Maybe I missed it but I didn't really get what the secret is. That the trophy room is his? Is he a serial killer/human hunter like in The Most Dangerous Game? You mention she had evidence but I don't think I caught w...

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Eve Naden
23:44 Aug 25, 2020

Thanks for your wonderful feedback. I did feel that this story was a little half-baked and that there was more to it, but oh well; it's something I can revisit at a later date. Thank you so much for taking the time to read it.

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Keerththan 😀
07:40 Aug 23, 2020

The chase scene was amazing. I loved the character Margaret wolf. Wonderful story. Well written and keep writing, Eve. Would you mind reading my new story "Secrets don't remain buried?"

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Eve Naden
01:15 Aug 24, 2020

Thank you for your lovely comment. I would love to check out your story. :)

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Deborah Angevin
11:40 Aug 21, 2020

Fast-paced story but well written! I enjoyed reading this! P.S: would you mind checking out my recent submission, "Yellow Light?" Thank you :D

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Very good job suspending the tension by blending action and explanation in well timed chunks.

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Itay Frenkel
21:36 Aug 19, 2020

Wow, this was amazing! It was really fast-paced, but at the same time, you let some things, like the reason Margret was running away from her husband, develop slowly, which put even more tension into the story. I liked how you showed us a glimpse into Margret's life and her past, it made the character feel real which in turn made me more scared that her husband would catch her. Great twist at the end!

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Eve Naden
22:33 Aug 19, 2020

Thank you so much. :) I was originally going to kill Margaret but I thought, meh, this character deserves to live (For now). :)

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Charles Stucker
21:23 Aug 17, 2020

Great chase scene with a twist ending. Certainly one of the more entertaining pieces I have read lately.

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Eve Naden
22:33 Aug 19, 2020

Thank you for your lovely comment! :)

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