Authors: Glenn Rolfe
Dwayne sipped his black coffee and watched his best friend wrestle with his skeletons. Last night's attacks were similar to what he knew about those of 1997. He and Ted had been friends with, or had known people who were friends with, the three Gilson Creek students who were found torn apart.
Ted dated Michele just a few weeks prior to the tragedy, before she dumped him for Paul Glidden. No one knew how deep her leaving Ted had cut his best friend, and it only worsened when hers was one of the three bodies the police found decorating the park. Dwayne wasn't even sure if Ted had been in any kind of lasting relationship since then.
The sad part was that Ted had bought into all the beast stories whispered among the town's more superstitious types. Ted was so desperate to understand, to place blame for what happened to Michele and his brother Jack, that he was open to anything. It made it next to impossible to discuss the situations with him.
Katie Brooks returned to their corner booth.
“More coffee, Deputy?”
Katie scooted away.
“So Joe is chalking it up to random wild animals again?”
“Jesus, Ted. Would you just drop the goddam werewolf bullshit already? You're not a fucking kid anymore.”
Ted jumped up from his seat and grabbed Dwayne by the collar. “Fuck you, Dwayne.”
Dwayne shoved him back. Ted countered with a haymaker that caught him in the eye. Dwayne held his face and pointed at his best friend.
The customers stared at them. No one moved a muscle. Katie Brooks froze next to Kenny Larson, still holding his order of pancakes.
Mel came out from behind the island that separated the front counter from the kitchen, frantic at the sound of the commotion. “Just what in the hell is going on here, Ted?” Mel said.
Dwayne slid out from his seat.
Ted started for the front doors.
“I'm sorry about this, Mel,” Dwayne said. “I'll be right back.”
Ted couldn't believe what he'd just done. He was sick of Dwayne treating him like a child over this. If he wasn't coddling him over Jack and Michele, he was taking shots at him about what he believed might be responsible for their deaths.
Ted burst out through the cafÃ© doors. The bright sun felt warm again on his face. He wiped the tears from his cheeks and headed straight for his bike.
“You okay?” Dwayne said.
Ted reached into his shirt pocket, pulled out another cigarette and lit it. “Yeah, I think so. I'm sorry I hit you. I don't know what the fuck just happened. I don't know howâ”
“Fuck you, Ted. Don't apologize to me. I know what you've been through and how much this stuff means to you. Shit, you don't have to explain a thing. I'm sorry.”
“Aw fuck.” Ted watched as Sheriff Fischer's Range Rover pulled into the parking lot, then sidled up next to Dwayne's cruiser.
The sheriff leaned out his window and stared at Deputy Clarke. “Didn't Glescoe give you my message?”
“Yeah, Boss. I had to stop and see Ted real quick.”
“What happened to your face?”
“Ah, justâ¦a little horseplay. Ted got the better of me.”
“Well, you're on the clock now, so let's go. We've got to get out to Hollis Oaks General before noon. You know how those morgue guys like to keep to their lunch schedules.”
Dwayne slapped Ted on the shoulder and got into his cruiser. “Gotta go, Ted. I'll catch up with you later.”
“Yeah, man. Thanks for breakfast. And I really am sorry.”
“Don't worry about it.” Dwayne turned to the sheriff. “Ready when you are, Boss.”
Joe gave Ted a nod.
Ted nodded back, pulled and lit another smoke, and got on his bike.
Still mortified by the spectacle he'd just made of himself at Mel's, Ted decided to cruise by Paulson Park. Michele, Paul and Paul's friend Luke had spent their last summer night there. He rode up to the entrance and cut the engine.
The place was in disarray. A fallen branch took up the entire circumference of the sandbox to his left, a couple more limbs poked up through the jungle gym just beyond that, and a much larger one leaned against the swing set to his right.
Ted started to go for another cigarette when he noticed something odd covering the surface of the merry-go-round just up ahead. The golden rays shone down over the debris-covered play area that was like something out of a nightmare. His stomach squirmed. He gripped the lighter in his hand.
He inched toward the merry-go-round. There was blood andâ¦displayed across the surface of the park equipment, a severed arm. The dark, soaked sleeve with a blood-covered hand at one end, and a string of tendons and ripped flesh at the other, sat still and frighteningly tangible in the thick, coagulating mess. Just a few feet farther, he caught sight of the rest of the body lying facedown on the ground.
Ted McKinney dropped to his knees and vomited.
Wes Kaplan paced in one of four small offices at the
, his cell stuck to his ear. The phone on the other end of the line continued to ring.
“Fuck, Nick. Answer your phone.”
There was a knock on his door.
Joel O'Brien's Mohawk peeked in. “Still no luck?”
“No. I've left him like twelve fucking voice mails already.”
“Jesus, you'd think he'd be all over this.”
“Yeah, well, he should be.”
Wes tossed his cell amongst the pile of crap on his desk. His little weekly publication had suffered quite a shot from Nick Bruce's Portsmouth fuckup, but, dammit, this was their chance to make things right. This was
opportunity to make things right.
“What do you wanna do?”
Wes gnawed at his piercing in his bottom lip and locked his hands together on his head. “We're gonna have to go up there.”
Joel stepped into the office and picked up a book from Wes's shelf by the door. “You don't think he just forgot his phone at home or something?”
“I don't know, maybe, but we can't fuck this up. I'm going and you're coming with.”
“When do we leave?”
Wes snatched his keys from the desk. “Right now.”
They hit I-95 and headed north from the small building Wes leased in downtown Portsmouth. Wes had never driven north of Portland, but had heard Maine was fucking beautiful.
“Where we stayin'?” Joel said. “With Nick and his mom?”
“No. I checked online. There's a Motel 6 in the next town over, which is Hollis Oaks. Use my phone and get us a room for the next couple of nights. I saved the number in my contact list.”
While Joel made the call, Wes imagined a return to glory for the
. The animal attacks were all over TV. He was amazed that Nick hadn't called him first thing this morning with a full report and a gallery of photos. The fact that the guy wasn't responding to his phone calls, or the emails he'd sent, bothered him. Nick lived for this stuff, just like he and Joel did. No way Nick had just blown it off. Not even with the embarrassment of the Portsmouth gig.
Imagine, Representative Jonathan Haim as a Satanist. Hey, it made for good copy. Nick's story was brilliant. Problem was it was also a lot of misconnected dots and a wonderful practice in fiction.
“Done. One smoking room with two doubles.”
“Thanks. We're gonna stop in Portland and grab a map and a bite to eat.”
“Cool. Can we go to the Great Lost Bear? Wings and PBRs?”
“No. Drive-thru. We don't have time to waste. I wanna get up there and see what the hell happened.” Wes knew how fast these types of things got covered up, especially if it was what he thought. Nick thought he was clever coming up with the Full Moon Monster, but Wes called it what it was. A werewolf.
Joe Fischer thought about the body of Brian Rowel. The portrait of mutilation, the blunt, sheer gruesomeness of it. It was too close, too similar in style to the way they had found the groups of bodies that unforgettable summer. It was the beast's signature.
Gilson Creek was like a wife trying to cover up the scars of spousal abuse, both physical and mental; it dwelled in denial and guilt. The darkest of such secrets involved the vicious attacks and deaths of three separate sets of members of their quiet community.
The first attack of 1997 took place at the end of spring that year.
then just a rookie sheriff, and his deputies walked into a scene out of a horror film.
The forest-green Saturn wagon they found smashed and battered all to hell looked like something that had been through a war zone. The windshield was gone, both the driver and passenger-side windows were smashed in, and the driver-side door looked as though it had been rammed by another vehicle. The result was the car leaving the road and landing on its side in the ditch.
Troubling thing was there were no signs of another vehicle having been involved. No mismatching paint on the points of impact or one fragment that could have belonged to anything other than the wagon. It was obvious
had slammed into the car as it made its way up Old Gilson Creek Road.
It was what they found inside of the demolished car that really sent their heads and stomachs spinning.
Crimson covered the dashboard and the police detector gadget attached to it, the stereo console, the steering wheel and the seats. Even the cup holders were filled with pools of the dark fluid. The bodies were worse. Only the lower halves of the two people remained inside of the vehicle. The lap bands of the seat belts were still engaged, securely holding the bottoms of both bodies in place.
What on God's green earth was capable of such a savage act? At the time, he had no idea. What his deputies could find of the rest of the bodies was scattered and strewn throughout the woods beyond where they found the vehicle.
It was the same viciousness executed upon the body of Brian Rowel. Only, Rowel was a stranger to this town. Whereas, the two people they had found that spring night were some of his best friends.
Jack McKinney was Joe's best friend in high school, and Jack's wife, Kelly, was one of the primary nurses who'd cared for Joe's wife, Lucy, as she battled, and ultimately passed away from, cancer. Tears began to well up in his eyes as he tried to stop this long and very painful train of thought from rolling along any further, but he couldn't. Lucky for him, Rita came over the police radio and did it for him.
Joe snapped back to the here and now. He picked up his police radio. “Go ahead, Rita.”
“Sheriff, you'd better get over to Paulson Park. Someone just reported another body.”
Joe pulled up to the entrance to Paulson Park, followed by Deputy Clarke.
The sheriff climbed out of his vehicle and motioned for Deputy Hines to join him. Deputy Clarke followed close behind. “Now what the hell do we have here, Randy?”
“McKinney says he pulled up to the park, all upset about something that happened down at Mel's. Says he walked into the park and found the body on the other side of the merry-go-round. He showed up down at the station looking like death.”
“Where the hell is he now?”
“We sent him home.”
“Well, I need to talk to him.”
Joe turned his attention to the playground. “Clarke?”
“Put the lines up around here and then get Ted back down to the station.”
“You got it, Boss,” Deputy Clarke said.
Deputy Hines led the sheriff over to the playground equipment. There were broken tree branches everywhere; it looked like a damned tornado had come through in the night.
“There's the first thing Ted says he came to,” Hines said as he pointed at the merry-go-round. A severed human arm lay across it. “Body's just beyond, over there by the tree line.”
Joe looked at the ravaged form lying facedown in the grass just before the woods. He could see the bloody mess left at the shoulder where the arm should have been. A pool of blood held what was left of the person in a final congealed caress to the grass and dirt.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
“Anyone we know?” He made a quick prayer for another stranger, but his gut was already telling him it wasn't.
Deputy Hines put his hands on his hips. “Can't be a hundred percent sureâthe face, or what's left of it, looks a lot like that shoulder. No wallet, no ID, but the red hair makes me think it's Old Mike.”
“Old” Mike Ouellette was the town drunk. He was a small, withered old man in his early fifties. He had greasy red hair that was always jutting out the sides of the dirty, old Red Sox baseball cap he wore every day. What he had left for teeth was brown and decayed. He lived in a crappy little hovel of a house that was closer to a shack than an actual homeâbroken windows, crooked door and yard covered in useless piles of random junk. The centerpiece of it all was an old, broken-down 1970 Pontiac Tempest that probably used to be red before it was bleached into the pale-pink lump of automobile that it was nowâno wheels, no windshield. Damn shame. The old man kept to himself, for the most part. They had to pull him out of Jenner's Grocery a couple of times a year for getting loud, spouting nonsense and scaring kids with his tall tales.
He was the one person around Gilson Creek who would openly mumble about what happened in the spring and summer of 1997. It was on those rare occasions at Jenner's that he'd start howling and going on about werewolves and shapeshifters. That was always sure to get him a free night down at the station. Otherwise, he'd be out there until dawn, barking at the moon or whoever happened to pass him by. They would bring him in and let him howl the night away in a cell where he would bug the shit out of whoever drew the late shift.
“It's Old Mike all right.” The sheriff pointed back over toward the playground equipment, without looking away from the body. “See that bottle under the merry-go-round?”
Deputy Hines looked back.
“You know anyone else who likes a little vodka in the park?” Joe said.
Hines looked at the sheriff.
Joe was half-lost in thought, zoned out in the direction of the body of Mike Ouellette, but not really looking at it. He could still hear the old man howling as he hauled him out of Jenner's about this time last year. Joe shivered and hoped Hines didn't notice.
“Did you call Seth Kimball yet?” Joe said.
“On his way, Sheriff. Should be pulling in any minute.”
“Wait here for him.” He turned back to face Hines. “I have something I need to go check on before I head back.”
Hollis Oaks Coroner Seth Kimball pulled up to the police line just as Joe drove around it. Kimball waved, but Joe just drove by without so much as a look in his direction.
The sheriff knew what a werewolf attack looked like. He had seen the ravaged victims too many times already in his forty-two years. He also knew that he had shot and killed one of the fucking things seven years ago.
His stomach curdled as he passed the road to the station and headed north. He needed to make a stop at his house and place a phone call to check in with Sonya. He also needed to check on a grave.