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"The Tech Rep" by James Michener Continued

"In the first pale light of morning Holt saw the bloody trail he must follow. It never occurred to him that he had an option. The rule of every settlement in Sumatra or Malay or Burma or India where tigers prowled was clear-cut: IF YOU WOUND A TIGER, YOU TRACK HIM DOWN AND KILL HIM. IF YOU DON'T HE'LL WIPE OUT AN ENTIRE VILLAGE.

All day Holt patiently tracked the wounded beast, growing ever more cautious, for he knew that as the tiger recovered from the shock of having been hit with a heavy bullet, his cunning would recover too, and his rage for revenge increase. It was near noon when Holt realized that the tiger had gone over from the one pursued to the one pursuing.

That hot afternoon, with no food and with no chance to stop by a stream lest the tiger leap upon him, was a hellish time for Holt. Of this he spoke to me once or twice in later years: HOW DID I KNOW HE WAS STILL THERE? I SENSED HE WAS THERE. BUT OF COURSE HE HAD THE ADVANTAGE. HE COULD HEAR ME!

When twilight approached, Holt had his first sense of panic. If he did not encounter the beast in a few remaining moments of light, what could he possibly do in the darkness? Would the tiger not just go off and disappear into the deep jungle? How could Holt track him then?

Any fear that the tiger might leave him alone was misguided, for when night forced Holt into another tree, the beast followed him and filled the empty space of the night with terrifying roars. He knew that in the morning the man would have to descend to those waiting teeth and extended claws. All night the animal thrashed and roared, but what made the scene diabolical was that on those occasions when Holt flashed his light, hoping to get a shot at the beast, trees or brush would intervene, so that Holt could see the stripped body but could not fire, because branches would defect the bullet. And the tiger would move on like a malevolent ghost."

To be continued:

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