Buck McDivit, protagonist in Eric Wilder's first novel, Ghost of a Chance, returns in Morning Mist of Blood. Among other things, he has to contend with a panther, an animal that isn't supposed to exist in the wilds of central Oklahoma.
Excerpt from Morning Mist of Blood
Buck continued along the narrow game trail, apprehensive he might lose his footing and tumble back into the raging water. He had no other option as very little light filtered through the roof of interlocking branches. Something in the distance, an animal coughing to let creatures in the forest know it was on the prowl, also raised his anxiety level. The eerie sound caused a sudden increase in his heart rate. Even though he had never heard it before, he knew it was Clayton’s panther.
Whumph. The throaty cough echoed down the narrow valley formed by Skeleton Creek. The beast was close, but because of darkness and resonance of sound, he couldn’t tell just how close. Groping for a branch or rock to use as a weapon, he found nothing.
Subdued rain continued to fall but the sound of gusting wind was at times almost deafening, instantly lowering the pressure in the arboreal tunnel whenever a blow began. Lacking vision, his hearing and sense of smell compensated. He could almost taste the loamy odor of thick mud coating his body. He also sensed another storm was approaching.
Having lost track of time, he knew Clayton would soon miss him, and send out a search party. With this in mind, he yelled “Hello.” Nothing but the roar of gusting wind answered him.
Muscles aching from exhaustion, he wanted only to hunker down and wait until morning. The cough of the panther caused him to decide differently. He continued picking his way along the slope until a scream behind him chilled his soul. Turning, he faced the monster he couldn’t see but was close enough for him to smell.
He had heard panthers make a noise like the scream of a woman. Now he knew it was true. He also realized the panther wanted him to make his presence known, and he could only imagine the beast in a crouch, fangs bared, ready to spring and tear him to shreds. Within seconds, his nightmare became all too real.
The weight of the heavy cat hammered him into the mud. Jaws would have clamped his jugular, holding him in place with two large paws until his last breath escaped from his body, but Buck had ducked and pivoted, the beast’s claws raking only his back. Having no other weapon, he grabbed a double handful of mud, thrusting it into the panther’s eyes.