The last two men stepped into the light from the flashlights, revealing they carried a buck on a pole between them. Charli gripped the trees on either side of her and leaned forward, straining her eyes for details. She muffled a moan as she made out the broken antler tine and the blotch of white on the buck’s neck and recognized the three-year-old she had watched grow up from a wobbly-legged, spotted fawn.
She had her phone out and taking video of the scene below her before she could think. Her hand shook as she imagined what these men would do if they looked up and caught a glimpse of light reflecting from her phone. She kept recording the scene anyway, praying for enough details, enough light, to somehow identify and convict these men. No one looked up, too busy with unloading their kill and settling down to wait.
Headlights appeared on the far side of the clearing just about the same time Charli realized that was what the poachers were doing. She almost couldn’t believe her good luck when a few moments later she heard the sound of an engine, and then a Jeep pulled into the clearing. She got shots of the license plate front and back. The headlights created more light in the scene, giving her clear shots of the features of the original five, and the man who got out of the Jeep and hurried around to open the tailgate, so they could load up.
The first man, who carried the guns, let out a bark of laughter and reached into the back to pull out a sack. He upended it, and something yipped and tumbled out, hitting the ground. Another man came over with one of the flashlights and focused on the lumpy shape, revealing a dark bundle of fur. The man who had driven the Jeep kicked at it, sending it tumbling away a good five feet with a loud yelp of pain.