The Loop

The Loop by Nicholas Evans Read Free Book Online

Book: The Loop by Nicholas Evans Read Free Book Online
Authors: Nicholas Evans
commercials, the local anchorman came back with the story and Dan felt his hackles rise at the sight of Buck Calder’s crocodile smile.
    ‘The wolf’s a killing machine. He’ll take anything he can.’
    ‘The guy ought to run for president,’ Dan said in a low voice.
    Then, over a shot of Dan and Rimmer, trying to keep a low profile at the back of the crowd, just as they were doing now, the report went on to say that federal officials were ‘embarrassed’ by what had happened. They used a snippet of the short interview Dan had given, in which he proved the point before he even opened his mouth. He was squinting furtively into the glare of the lights, like a man on trial for unspeakable crimes.
    ‘Could this wolf be one of those wolves you released into Yellowstone?’ the reporter in the red suit asked him, shoving the microphone up his nose. The you hurt.
    ‘It’s really too early to know that. Until we’ve had a chance to examine the body, we can’t even confirm it was a wolf.’
    ‘Are you saying you don’t think it was?’
    ‘No, I’m not saying that. I’m just saying we can’t confirm it yet.’ His attempt at a disarming smile just made him look shiftier. Dan had seen enough.
    ‘Let’s get out of here,’ he said.
    Flying over from Helena this morning, with the sun bouncing off the mountain front, things hadn’t seemed quite so bleak. He and Rimmer had talked optimistically about the chances of picking up a signal. Maybe, in her panic, Kathy Hicks hadn’t registered that the wolf was wearing a radio collar. And even if he wasn’t, maybe he was teamed up with others who maybe were. That was a whole bagful of maybes. In his heart, Dan knew the chances weren’t great.
    As a matter of policy, over the past couple of years, they had deliberately scaled down the number of wolves they’d collared. The idea of restoring a viable breeding population to the region was that the animals should be truly wild and live as naturally as possible. When there were enough breeding pairs, they could be taken off the list of endangered species. It was Dan’s personal view that collars weren’t necessarily going to help this happen.
    It was a view not shared by everyone. There were even those who advocated using capture collars, fitted with darts you could trigger anytime you wanted to put the wolf to sleep. Dan had used them himself a few times when he worked in Minnesota and they sure did make life easier. But every time you captured a wolf and drugged him and handled him and took a blood sample and tagged his ear and gave him a shot, you made him a little less wild, a little less of a wolf. And in the end you had to ask yourself whether this kind of remote control by humans made him that much different from a toy boat on a park pond.
    However, if a wolf started getting himself into trouble, killing cattle or sheep or people’s pets, you needed to get a collar on him pretty damn quick - for his own sake as much as everyone else’s. You tried to give ranchers the impression that you knew the address of every wolf in the state and then, when one stepped out of line, you had to scramble like hell to find him before someone beat you to it with a gun. If you could get a collar on him, at least then you knew where he was. And if he got into trouble again, you could relocate or shoot him.
    Now, as the sun climbed higher in the sky, the two men in the Cessna’s cramped cockpit were as silent as Rimmer’s receiver. If any wolf down there was wearing a collar, they should have found him by now. Finding an uncollared wolf - or wolves - in country like this was a much tougher job. The question was, who was going to do it? And then, who was going to monitor them once they had been found?
    It was a job Dan would happily have done himself. The only wolf he ever got to see nowadays was Fred. He’d become so much of a desk biologist, he often joked about doing a PhD on the breeding habits of memos. He longed to be out in the

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