A janitorial closet served as my hiding place until the museum staff locked up for the night. The simple lock disengaged in seconds, and I made my way down the corridor. A solid oak door blocked my progress, as I reached into a backpack. This presented a challenge, but I resolved not to be defeated.
Pulling out my lock-picking tools, I set to work. I glanced over my shoulder a couple of times, thinking I heard movement from around the corner. The night guard was making her rounds, and I wanted to avoid running afoul of her. If she discovered me so close to obtaining my target, it would be disastrous.
Less than a minute after starting, the tumblers clicked into place. I eased the door open, slipping into the room housing the touring exhibition. The green light from the emergency exit sign, cast a pale glow over my shoulder. I shouldered my backpack, as I placed a folded piece of paper between the deadbolt, and the strike plate, preventing the lock from engaging. I tested the door and it required more than a casual effort to push open – more than satisfactory.
The door opened into the rear of an exhibition room. Dim overhead lights shone down on several displays. Dim moonlight shone through the honeycombed skylight, causing filaments of shadow to overlay the displays, a little like dark cobwebs. The clouds were so wispy that there was little chance of them obscuring the moon.
The displays highlighted various predators and prey of Washington. Different lighting effects created a feel of the wilderness and unsettled the nerves of the average visitor. Years of hunting at night meant that I wasn't even the least phased.
I glanced around, getting my bearings, and took in the life and death struggles that surrounded me. To the left, a rabbit ran from a cougar. To the right several pheasants flew from bushes, pursued by a raging boar.
Despite the familiarity of the other scenes, the central display caught my attention. The woodland recreation was so realistic that I detected the scent of dampness in the soil. Two hunters hid in the bushes, pointing their rifles at a third figure. Though she wasn't human, I knew both aspects of her nature human and wolf.
Her wolf form was posed as if running from the hunters. As I reached out to touch her paw, I remembered how things had turned out on the night portrayed. My fingers made contact with perfectly preserved fur, and the sensations flooded back from that Halloween night.
The air turned damp, the scent of the forest after a rainfall filled my nostrils and the sensations of grass and mud between my toes. Tears welled up, blurring my vision, and memories came flooding back. As I looked up through the skylight, the moon became fuller and brighter - a Hunter's Moon that shone through the trees. The room faded.
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