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Authors: Glenn Rolfe

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Blood and Rain (9 page)

BOOK: Blood and Rain
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Chapter Fourteen

Melanie Murdock's Thursday morning commenced as always with a packed house and
Wild Ted's
morning program playing over the speakers of her busy establishment. They were playing best of shows for the next couple weeks while his band went on the road.

This morning, Mel's Café was humming along with its full roster of regulars, the majority of which were devouring an order of the “Best Stack in Town” and unconsciously nodding along with or tapping a foot to an Aerosmith classic. Melanie listened to Kenny Larson, Pat Caron and Bob Dube, a three-man work crew for Elias Construction, snorting, chuckling and making juvenile comments about what they'd like to do to her or her young waitresses if they got the chance. They didn't think she could hear them.

Two tables over, Allan and Dot Donavan were enjoying their orders of eggs and bacon. Allan took his sunny-side up, with a black coffee. Dot had hers scrambled, with a hot cup of Earl Grey tea. Both were well into the seventies and Mel found them completely adorable. They just sat quietly, eating the warm food before them, feeling comfortable and more than happy just to be sitting together sharing another beautiful morning. Alex McKinney sat alone in a corner booth, half-awake and waiting for his brother Josh. They would blast through a quick meal of bacon and hash, as they always did, before heading down the street to open the auto shop for the day's business.

Mel listened to the conversation between Kemp Peaslee, Timothy Harper and Kylie Potter, who were all perched on their regular stools, commenting to each other about the abnormal heat wave that was supposed to start today, but mostly they spoke of the horrible death of Old Mike. They shared stories of his nonsensical ramblings and about the many separate occasions when they had each picked him up, walking or stumbling along the side of the road, sometimes two towns over, not even sure where he was or what he was doing there. Mel even added her tale about the time she'd found him passed out in front of the café doors.

She knew, for some quaint communities, town drunks were seen as eyesores or blemishes on the face of their small-town charm. Mel was happy that her people went the opposite direction. Most of her customers spoke fondly of Old Mike—Sheriff Fischer had once referred to him as a town landmark. To Mel, he was just another of Gilson Creek's many colorful characters. He may have been eccentric, but he had always been harmless. His sudden passing was a notable and sad footnote to this early summer season.

Sitting alone at the counter, farthest from the loud discussion group was an old, haggard-looking man who could have easily been mistaken for a homeless person. Scraggly, long gray hair hung down to the middle of his back, matching an unmanaged beard that covered a face with numerous deep, leathery wrinkles and scars. Dark, distracted eyes stared through the breakfast before him. He was dressed in a long dark-green trench coat and wore a flannel shirt, stained work pants and a pair of combat boots. The fact that today was supposed to be in the high eighties to low nineties only accentuated his out-of-touch factor. He was picking at the breakfast she had set before him an hour ago—a piece of toast and a cup of black coffee.

The tattered-looking soul being ignored and left alone was none other than former Gilson Creek Sheriff Stan Springs.

Mel had learned plenty about the man over the years from various sources. He had accrued an interesting history of sorts since vacating his official post with the Gilson Creek Sheriff's Department. He had unexpectedly resigned from his position as sheriff near the end of the spring of 1997, dropping out of sight from the people he had sworn to protect. He had told the
Sentinel
that he knew the town would be in the more than capable hands of his number one deputy, Joe Fischer, and that was the sole comforting factor that had allowed him to make the move so abruptly. Also he had no doubts Joe was ready for the job.

Seemingly overnight, one of the town's most recognized and beloved public officials became a recluse. He spoke to no one, outside of the sheriff, following his resignation. Sheriff Fischer told her that Springs traveled down to Augusta and checked himself into the Augusta mental health facility.

Ever since he returned, he'd been different. Mel wondered where it had all gone wrong for the guy.

Stan Springs stared into his black coffee and replayed his history. He thought about his own unraveling. He thought about it every day.

He remembered the day he went into the loony bin. He told Joe Fischer that for the better part of the previous year, he had not trusted his own instincts or his own sense of reality, and things had finally reached the point where he had to face the hard truth. The reality he admitted to Joe, and to himself, was that the loss of control and state of distrust evolving within him had been building with more intensity over the long, cold winter. He'd done his best to hide his struggles, though he was sure Joe had noticed, but he no longer felt fit to work, let alone to defend his town or its people.

He was on his own, even though Joe tried to be there for him, and he knew the amount of responsibilities that were involved in being the sheriff, even of a town as small as Gilson Creek. Plus, Fischer already had a little girl to raise on his own. The young man had enough on his plate to tend to, without dealing with an old, senile bastard like him. Going to the mental health facility made the most sense. Going of his own volition, he could leave when and if he felt well enough to do so. Like the rest of the patients, he was on lockdown after 8:00 p.m., but he'd traded his way around that one.

Prior to checking in, his mind had become his own prison, where he could barely even recognize himself or his own thoughts. He had been having terrible visions at the time. Things he could not rationalize. Some came while he slept, and others, the ones that really shook him up, came while he was wide-awake.

For instance, he could be staring out his back window, at the thick forest that stretched out infinitely, like an ocean of dark pine trees. He had always thought it to be a beautiful, breathtaking view. Only, now, he would see something darker. The once brilliant mass of pines would hold an aura of malevolence.

It didn't make sense. There was no reason for thinking such things, but he could not vanquish the dreary feeling. He would see the forest as an army of horrible dead things that were making their way, inch by inch, closer to his property, coming to drag him out to whatever evil waited beyond.

At least, being in a facility, he wouldn't be alone. He'd be looked after by psychotherapists and nurses. He packed a suitcase of clothes and car magazines, told Joe, and only Joe, that he was leaving and drove himself to his new safe house.

His irrational fears abated for the first couple of weeks of his residency, allowing his thoughts to return to simpler things: classic cars, John Wayne movies and the Red Sox.

Then along came the dark spring and summer seasons, and with them, the dreams. He remembered night after night of tossing and turning, waking up stuck to his sheets, from being drenched in sweat. He couldn't tell if it was his own distraught mind causing these bad dreams, or the stories being recounted to him by Joe about the brutal deaths springing up back home.

Fischer came to him for counsel on the killings, and he felt obligated to listen, even though he didn't want to. The memories were too much, but he was a man of honor and loyalty, and he felt compelled to help in any way he could, especially since he considered himself responsible.

Joe tried to explain the extensive damage he and his deputies encountered in each apparent attack. It wasn't just the mutilation of the bodies, but also the damage to the car in the case of the McKinneys.

It was Stan who, with some reluctance, asked the sheriff if he believed in monsters. Ghosts, goblins, ghouls, werewolves—the things he had been seeing in his own tortured mind. Joe tried to laugh off such a foolish notion, but his laughter died with one look at the former sheriff's face. Stan was deathly serious, and as much as he knew Joe wanted not to admit it, he could see in the younger man's face that he too knew it was something supernatural. A werewolf.

Both dates of the first two attacks coincided with a full moon. Each set of victims was torn to pieces, a car had been battered off the road and onto its side, and trees had been knocked over as if from a hurricane or tornado.

Would Joe figure it out?

The two men immediately started researching the folklore of werewolves. Stan used whatever books Joe would sneak in to him—his therapist would frown upon such things, considering Stan's state of mind and reason for being in the facility in the first place. Stan battled his inner demons, writing down every bit of possibly pertinent information he could gather. In his dreams, he paid for every word. But at the time, he thought he could help destroy it. He thought he could rid himself of the curse, or at least help Joe to…

A voice broke the haggard ex-sheriff's trip down memory lane.

“You all right, man?” said the young gentleman behind him.

Stan's mind returned to the café. His coffee was staring back at him. The memories faded. Someone had placed a gentle hand on his shoulder and was looking at him with both apprehension and concern in his eyes. Stan recognized the youth as Alex McKinney.

“Get your fucking hand off me,” he growled.

Josh grabbed his brother and pulled him toward the café's doors.

“Sorry, sir, he doesn't know any better,” Josh said.

“What the fuck, Josh?” Alex said.

Josh spun his little brother around and shoved him out the door. He didn't bother looking back to the former sheriff.

Outside of Mel's, Josh's brown eyes burrowed through his little brother, “What the fuck is wrong with you? Don't you know who that is?”

Alex pulled himself free before answering, “Yeah, so what? The guy looked like he was fucking ready to freak out. What's wrong with you?”

“Look,” Josh began, “there are some people who are better left alone. Stan Springs is one of them. He's a fucking nutjob. He spent five and a half years locked up in an asylum. Guys like that always look like they're about to freak out. But they only do that if someone gives them a reason to.” Josh ran a hand through his short auburn hair before urging his brother forward.

They started toward the shop, then Alex fell quiet. A shiver raced through his body. Josh noticed, but said nothing. He just kept walking.

Back in the diner, Mel watched as the former sheriff made his way out the door and around the corner of the building. He had paid, always did, and had been a quiet customer—a little weird, but harmless—but for the first time since he had made his cryptic return from his self-induced exile, she was afraid of him. She wasn't sure if she wanted him coming back in. She would have to call Joe and talk to him first. He knew the guy best, if anyone really did.

“Get your fucking hand off me.”

Alex looked as if the devil himself had just advised him to mind his own business.

Chapter Fifteen

The sun hovered above, high and bright, adding to his misery. Stan Springs stopped at the road and stared at the McKinney brothers heading down the sidewalk. Part of him wanted to follow them—a deep, mean part of him. He stayed put, letting them go on their way for now. He dared a glance over his shoulder and could make out that big-titted bitch behind the counter, phone in hand, calling the sheriff, no doubt. Fuck her. Fuck them all.

His blood didn't just boil, it roared. It raced through his veins, his heart humming like the engine of his old '57 Black Widow. He was like an old stock car all right, but what he had under the hood couldn't be bought or sold. It was something only the cursed and the forgotten, the lonely and the tortured, endured. A price to pay doled out by some sadistic god above, or below. It didn't matter which deity or demon pulled his tendons from beneath his flesh like old strings, he no longer gave a shit.

He'd overheard Pug Gettis mumbling through his false teeth about Old Mike, something about him sleeping on a park bench and then being ripped apart by a mountain lion. That's the thing about small towns—they're filled with half-truths and misinformation. Gilson Creek held a lot more secrets than its people knew.

Stan remembered the heated conversation he and Old Mike had just around the bend from here two months ago.

The drunk stumbled into him as they passed—Stan heading to Mel's and Old Mike heading wherever wasted quitters wandered off to—causing Stan's glasses to hit the ground and break. The eyes of the sloshed and brown-toothed vagrant, realizing whom he'd bumped, went dark. Storm clouds moved in over his brow. “I'd say sorry, but you don't deserve it. You quit on this town. You quit and let that monster have his way. You ran away and hid while that thing ate through us. Three kids, just in high school, torn up and strung up for the world to see. And you just hid away. Shame on you,” that drunken son of a bitch said just before spitting in Stan's face.

There were no witnesses when Stan grabbed the smelly bastard and delivered a right cross worthy of a gold belt across the sunken, bristled cheek of his accuser. It felt so good he delivered two more for good measure. He left the unconscious fool in the dirt on the side of the road.

Old Mike never ratted him out. He probably couldn't remember whether the assault had been real or imagined. No matter, his accusations struck a chord Stan thought forgotten. Something revved within—something dark, something powerful.

The drunkard hadn't been wrong, at least not completely. There were truths, half-truths, to his accusations of abandonment and resignation. That it was cowardice, on the other hand, was fucking laughable. A monster, he'd called it.

That's funny,
Stan thought. Most people live with ghosts of their own pasts, some often referring to skeletons in their closets. Stan lived with something much larger, much more tangible.

Stan Springs made his way down the sidewalk, thinking of an old novel he'd read years ago by Guy Endore. Stan's thoughts were of the French and of monsters. He continued on under the hot sun high in the sky, headed for his fortress of solitude. Sweat barreled down his forehead, his thick chest, and his thighs.

He would wait and see if the sheriff paid him a visit. He doubted Joe Fischer would do much more than knock on his door. A heart-to-heart with his old friend was long overdue.

Bonjour, Sheriff.

BOOK: Blood and Rain
8.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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