Wednesday, January 29, 2014

2. How she killed one elephant with 25 arrows

Rebecca felt nothing about the two-dozen dead cubs, but she hired a helicopter to over-fly the old AAH territory until she spotted the scene of the carnage.  She instructed the pilot to circle the site several times during which she took over a hundred aerial photos, then to set the chopper down for her to take close-up shots.

Meanwhile, through her weeks of BIG-5 tracking, Rebecca had not relented on her upper-body-strength-training.  To take down her next prey, even her 75-lb bow would not suffice.  To drive the heavy-gauge tri-bladed arrows through thick and tough hide deep into the massive torso of her chosen Colossus, a draw weight of no less than 90-lbs would be required.  And 90-lbs is what her bow was now set at, which even Travis himself could hardly manage.  At 90-lb draw, she was over the edge and shook slightly, so her aim was less steady, but the target was huge - the heart itself weighs in at some 28 kg or 60 lbs, was by her own analogy twice the size of a butterball turkey - in which case accuracy could take a backseat to power.

While increasing the draw weight, she had to come to terms with decreasing expectation about tusk size.  The rigors on the ground, including over twenty miles of trekking in the fierce African heat on some days, and at that without much to show in terms of her quest of the 100-pounder, had drummed into her the difficulty of finding even a 50-pounder, or tusks greater than 5 feet in length.  Due to this she suffered a bout of belittlement, but emerged with the determination to find at least a 60-pounder, one with tusks at least six feet long.  

To track elephants is different from tracking lions.  Whereas the lions are highly territorial, roam the open savannah and sleep openly under acacia trees, elephants range widely in their quest for forage and water, and often frequent thick vegetation where the visibility is restricted to 30 yards or less.  Which may as well, since the ideal shooting distance of an arrow is only 30 yards.  

Other than the accurate shooting distance, which for the scoped rifle can be hundreds of yards, bow hunting has the extra disadvantage regarding the angle of attack.  Simply put, a rifle is capable of both the frontal brain shot meant to drop the elephant where he stood, and the frontal or broadside heart shot, whereas the flank heart shot is the only one the bow is capable of.  The desperate bow hunter could of course attempt a frontal shot in the chest between the massive fore limbs, but the arrow may not reach deep enough to reach the heart even if well-aimed, or it would end up being a lung shot, and the enraged animal would be directionally oriented to charge straight at you. 
Rebecca was not the only female bow hunter, and wouldn't be the first to bow-hunt an elephant.  The first woman who killed an elephant with an arrow was Teresa Greenfield, who dispatched her prey with a single arrow, resulting in the elephant staggering for over a mile before collapsing.  His body was recovered a day later, and it was still warm.  The pain in the arrow-embedded heart which struggled to beat faster and faster cannot be imagined.  

This did not exactly trouble Rebecca.  Her burning ambition was to out-do Greenfield, and she had found a way by which she could do it more, in her own words, "humanely". And it would Rebecca Bates' way.  She would fire as many arrows into the elephant as the situation would allow, the goal being to kill it as quickly as possible.  In elephant bow-hunting, everything is relative; there is absolutely no quick or humane way to kill an elephant with arrows.

"I expect that the elephant will collapse within 100 yards of where the first arrow is launched, and will die within an hour of when the arrows are shot," she wrote to a hunting magazine, to which Teresa Greenfield was of course paying rapt attention. 

The day when the 65-pounder was sighted, though "it" was too far to reach considering the time of day, the camp fire illuminated a scene where an act of extortion was played out.

Jacob Hawthorn, Travis's senior partner, was nursing a glass of whiskey in the fire glow, when Rebecca sidled up next to him.  "What a glorious day this has been, Jake," she crooned.

"Indeed, Rebecca, indeed," enthused Hawthorn somewhat guardedly.  For some reason, he often found himself somewhat guarded when sharing eye contact with Rebecca.  

"And tomorrow promises to be even more glorious yet.  I won't be able to sleep tonight."

"If you don't bring down that huge beast by sundown tomorrow, I will give you a ten percent discount."  He instantly regretted what he said, not because of the money, but the crassness that even he himself felt.

Her soft gazed transformed into a steely stare when she said, "It is crass to talk money in the campfire light, Jake, but since you brought up the subject, what I have to say to you is that you will give me a hundred percent discount, whether I bring down the beast or not." 

He forced a smile.  "Ha ha, nice try, Rebecca, I love you as a client, but not THAT much." 

"Oh, Jake, you will positively HATE me for it, but you will give me not only the 100% discount on the elephant, but a hundred and fifty percent discount on the promised rhino, and I don't want a docile White rhino either, but a fiery Black rhino."

"WTF!" he thought to himself, but said out loud, "I'm having a hard time interpreting your sense of humor, Ms. Bates."

"No laughing matter, I'm afraid, Jake."  She handed him a large and budging brown envelope. "Here, see for yourself."

"Wh... what's this?" he stammered while taking the enveloped from her hands.

"Go on, open it.  It won't bite."  She smiled.  "But I'd be careful if I were you."

He slowly set down his half-empty glass, awkwardly tore open the envelope, and extracted from it a thick stack of jaw-dropping and eyebrow-raising photographs.

"Wh... what's all these?"  He repeated.

"They are images of the remains of the AAH pride.  A tragic disaster perpetrated by one of YOUR clients that occurred on YOUR watch."

"Does Travis know about this?"  

"No.  No one knows about this, as of now.  But one such package has been sent to stateside, and received yesterday by my friend Edward Smith.  If he does not receive anything else from me by midnight our time, that is two hours from now, he will release them one per hour to the New York Times, the National Geographic and the CBS, with your name plastered all over them."

"This is blackmail, Ms. Bates, and blackmail is a criminal offense."

"So sue me."

At 11:45 pm, she received two "complimentary rewards" from African Nights Safari, Inc., one for an elephant hunt, and the other for a rhino hunt, plus a "bonus" of $175,000 deposited into her bank account in Manhattan - exactly half the fee for a rhino hunt.  At 11:59 pm, she made her call to New York.

"Edward," she said within Jake's ear-shot.  "Hold off releasing the package until month-end.  If I return to New York safely before then, we could burn it together with the flash drive; if not, release it to media the first of next month."

The next day, she did down her 65-pounder.  She did it on horseback, alternatively fleeing the charging elephant and charging after it as it was fleeing.  In all, the two quivers tied to the saddle contained 25 arrows, all of which having disappeared into the body of the elephant within three minutes.  

Within a hundred yards, and an hour, he died, just as she had predicted.

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