The grass and torn branches made wet sounds against the worn military boots as the gray man slowly and methodically made his way down the narrow path.
Animal smells hung in the early twilight mist around him pulling at memories of earlier, happier times. Memories so dulled down from years of neglect that their empty husks, as dry and withered as the broken branches under his feet, hardly registered as he focused on the rusted wire fence slowly coming into focus ahead.
His Bahco pliers made small sounds in the still air as he carefully cut the fence across the bottom, squeezed under it, and pulled leaves and branches back to cover his work.
The location was as deserted as could be found from three hours of painstakingly going over illegal print-outs of border patrol reports, but there was no reason to challenge fate. He was too old, and too experienced with the havoc momentary lapses could wreck on the best of plans, to challenge fate more than necessary.
As he got up on the other side and started pulling his way up the hill through the dense brush on the other side, he picked up speed. It had taken six long months to get here, but he was so close now he could almost smell it in the air.
Somewhere ahead, in the sleepy innocence of the kingdom ahead of him, he felt it. Felt the scent of his prey. The grey man pulled at the heavy backpack and carefully made his way down the trail.
ILLUSTRATION: Jon Deboer