Crime & Thriller
Don Williams Jnr
Not since his childhood had Mitch Conway been afraid of the dark.
But this was unlike any darkness he had ever known. This was
utter blackness that encompassed every detail of the cold, silent
night and blanketed every inch of the wind swept forest. It was
not like Mitch to be frightened. He was a big, strong mountain
of a man, as nasty as he was big. Yet the ominous darkness and
eerie stillness of the woods both unsettled and unnerved him. In
fact Mitch was downright terrified. He struggled to keep his
sanity as the night seemed to coil stealthily around him as if
stalking his very soul. He was about to turn and flee from the
cavernous forest when he heard the sound. It was an ungodly
sound, seemingly uttered from the very bowels of hell. Had Mitch
not been immobilized by fear he would've bolted that instant, but
he found his legs had turned to stone leaving him paralyzed-easy
prey for whatever had emitted that hideous, inhuman scream. The
sound came again more shrill and angry than before. Suddenly
Mitch turned and looked square into the most vile, evil eyes born
this side of hell.
7:30 a.m.. Monday.
John Davenport swatted sleepily at the alarm clock as its
incessant ringing reverberated off his sleep-deprived mind. The
beginning of another week of occupational hell he thought
listlessly. He had become increasingly despondent as the days
passed, believing the future held little more for him than what
his meager salary could provide. Yet, he thought to himself with
more than a touch of self-pity, he had been the one who had taken
the position as director of child welfare at St. John's,
bypassing far more lucrative career opportunities. He had told
himself that his decision had been made out of a concern for
children, but now, immersed in depression, he told himself that
it had been more out of his own need for self redemption.
Still under the heavy burden of his dilemma he dragged his
weary body in the direction of the shower when the phone rang.
It was his personal secretary, Flo, calling to say one of the
boys at the home had severely injured himself. At the revelation
of this latest incident, John felt a irrepressible pang of guilt
at his inability to help this boy or any of the other children at
John's. After briefly outlining the next logical steps and
answering questions pertaining to insurance and medical
treatment, John thanked Flo for advising him of the situation and
Feeling more beaten than ever he lit a cigarette and tried
to clear his head of the demons that stalked his mind. The
cigarette did little to help his failing nerves and he briefly
considered a double shot of bourbon before he showered. Deciding
against this he instead called the infirmary at St. John's and
checked on the injured boy. After learning the boy had required
numerous stitches but would eventually be all right, John finally
summoned up the strength for what he hoped would be a shower of
both physical and spiritual cleansing.
Sheriff Hank Esham was bewildered. Just the night before
he had seen Mitch Conway at the Brickhouse, Whispering Falls
predominant beer-swilling establishment, throwing down shots of
tequila like there was no tommorrow. Now, less than twenty-four
hours later he stood over the grizzled, bloody corpse that had
once been the easy-living, hard-drinking, socially maladjusted
Mitch Conway. Gazing over the crime scene further confused the
sheriff. From all indications there had been no struggle, and the
idea that Mitch hadn't put up a fight or defended himself did not
sit well with him.
Everyone in the small Montana town knew of Conway's love of
physical confrontation and his propensity for violence had landed
him in the Whispering Falls jail more times than most folks could
count. Hank Esham knew better than most the malicious intent of
the angry man. Although most of his shanninigans had been
confined to drunken, barroom brawling, Hank had the sneaky
suspicion that Mitch Conway was capable of slitting a throat
without blinking an eye and with no remorse whatsoever.
This knowledge along with Conway's intimidating physical
presence led Sheriff Esham to believe that no one in Whispering
Falls was responsible for the atrocities at his feet. No one in
town had the balls to stand up to Mitch anyway, Esham thought to
himself. No one dared confront Mitch Conway when he was drunk,
as it seemed alcohol further soured his already surly
"Shit", Hank muttered as he wrestled with the idea that one
of his law-abiding citizens had actually confronted Conway and
proceeded to beat the poor son-of-a-bitch to death. This idea was
so unbelievable that he immediately dismissed it, preferring to
believe that Mitch had met up with an out-of-towner so mean and
nasty that he had been scared into submission and had just let
the man beat him to death. Hank knew in his heart that the idea
was bullshit, as proposterous as the notion that someone from his
sleepy little town was responsible for the carnage before him.
Thoroughly disgusted at his lack of a better explanation, the
burly, barrel-chested man made his way over to his right hand
man, deputy Frank Dobbs.
"Come up with anything, Dobby?", Hank asked.
"Nothin'. Not a damn thing", replied the long, sinewy man.
"Got any idea who or what might've done this, Hank?"
The sheriff frowned, stroked the end of his mustache and
said. "I'd say it was a man, but it's hard to tell no more than
we've got to go on. Sure as hell could've been an animal the way
he's torn apart. But what coulda done it? The only thing that
would've done that is a grizzly, but the weather's to friggin'
cold for them.
"Sure enough is", reasoned Dobbs, pulling the collar of his
insulated bomber jacket tight around his neck. "Reckon we'll have
three or four more inches of snow by dark," the deputy said with
disgust. "I hate the mountains in the winter time. Miserable,
that's what this kinda weather is. Can't see nothin' or go
nowhere. It's like you're stranded."
Knowing too well what Montana winters were like, Hank said a
silent prayer that the forensic specialists from Angel Lake would
get there soon.
Back in New York John Davenport was praying as well. Praying
that this God-awful day would soon end. He was more depressed
than ever as he stared indignantly at the mountain of paperwork
in front of him. This was not what he had in mind when he had
accepted the position here at St. John's. He longed for the
one-to-one contact with the children. listening to their hopes
and dreams as well as their doubts and fears. He had been on the
job less than a year but he was more determined than ever to
The argument that the kids needed him no longer carried any
weight. Hell, I rarely even see the kids he thought dejectedly.
He would turn in his resignation and turn his life around. Make a
fresh start, a new life for himself. Maybe even go home.
Home. Now there was an interesting thought. John hadn't been
back to Whispering Falls since his parents had died, five (or was
it six) years ago. Maybe the cozy town in Montana was just what
he needed. He could open his own practice and help the children
of his own hometown on a daily basis. It all seemed perfect. In
fact it was too perfect. Could it really be that easy to change
your life? To go from one end of the emotional spectrum to the
other by merely changing the scenery? God he hoped so. Hoped with
every fiber of his being. For the first time in weeks John
Davenport smiled. A genuine smile that stretched from ear to ear.
The forensic team from Angel Lake arrived shortly before
dusk, in the middle of a terrible snowstorm. The team, made up of
three men and a single woman, performed their duties admirably in
the face of such adverse weather conditions. Still there was
little to be found, no new leads or evidence that might be
helpful in providing answers to the perplexing murder of Mitch
Conway. Unless one of Whispering Falls own had witnessed the
crime, which was unlikely, (who in their right mind would've been
in the cold, dark woods at four in the morning), then the only
hope for answers to this mystery was in the hands of Whispering
Falls medical examiner, Henry Talford. The autopsy would be
performed as quickly as possible, just as soon as Henry returned
from his business in Sugar Creek, which would be the day after
The leader of the forensic team, Paul Atwood, offered Hank
his apologies for not having produced any tangible leads. "Don't
worry about it, Hank answered, we didn't turn up squat either."
At that moment a huge gust of wind rose up, spraying little
daggers of ice and snow at everyone.
"Damn, it sure is cold up here," Atwood offered. Hank said
nothing but frowned as if he were deep in thought, working
overtime on the end of his thick, graying mustache.
This storm is gonna get even nastier and these roads aren't
safe even when the weather's aces, so I suggest you and your
people let us put you up for the night at the 'Grove", the
sheriff finally said, speaking of Whispering Falls lone, little
inn. Atwood thought for only a moment then agreed, eager to be
out of the cold and none to anxious to be traveling unfamiliar
roads with some crazed psychopath on the loose.
"Good enough, thanks for the hospitality. Might provide us a
chance to give the area another going over tomorrow, that is if
the weather cooperates." At this everyone loaded up for the short
ride to town, Sheriff Esham in the lead and the forensic team
close behind. But they didn't leave unnoticed.
Deep in the heart of the forest something had watched their
every move, had heard their every word. And now as the vehicles
disappeared into the shadows of the night the thing continued to
watch with luminous, hate-filled eyes. It emmerged from the
protective cover of the woods, its dark eyes burning with an
insatiable need. It was hungry.
Gus Mitchell was busy putting away the last of the stock
items in the backroom deciding they could wait until morning to
be displayed on the shelves. He had owned and operated the lone
hardware store in town for the last thirty-five years. The small
store was situated at the most western edge of town at the base
of the mountains. Hundreds of acres resplendent with towering
pine trees billowed out behind the store in an ever spreading sea
of green. It being the only store of its kind had helped Gus earn
a respectable living over the years, even put his daughter
Barbara through college. But even now he still hated the
laborious chore of stockpiling shelves and inventorying every
part in stock.
As he locked the storage room door and turned out the lights
he couldn't help but think of his late wife, Joanne. She had been
his helpmate in the business and his soulmate in life. She was
also the only woman Gus Mitchell had ever loved. Her love was the
motivation for everything he had ever done and he had looked
forward to retirement and growing old with his beloved. But that
dream was gone. Taken from him by one of life's cruel injustices.
When his wife passed away most of Gus had died with her. This had
been one of her functions, locking up and turning out the lights
while he tended to the safe and the day's take. With a deep sense
of loss he turned the key in the front door, locking another day
of his life away inside the tiny store.
As he made his way across the deserted parking lot, he
thought of Barbara, his daughter. She had become his sole reason
for living, the only true purpose that remained in his life. She
was a beautiful girl, chock full of her mother's wholesome
qualities. She had moved back to Whispering Falls to strengthen
him and help with the business, giving up her own life for his
just as Joanne had done. He had been overjoyed when she had
returned home but his feelings of guilt grew with each day that
She had graduated magna cum laude from Northwestern with a
degree in speech pathology and had landed a position at a
prestigious Chicago hospital when her mother finally succumbed to
the cancer that had taken over her body. It had taken the life
out of Gus yet it seemed to affect Barbara even more
dramatically. Once a vivacious girl with dreams aplenty she had
seemingly lost her spirit. Gone now was the zest and confidence
with which she tackled the least of obstacles. Gone also was the
infectious laughter she had used to charm the hardest of hearts
and warm the coldest soul.
Though she was the indeed the very thing he needed, he knew
his daughter was unhappy and this was almost as hard for him to
bear as losing Joanne. He simply could not stand to see her
shrivel up and die emotionally as he had done, not when she had
so much going for her and deserved so much happiness. He
determined then and there that grief would not steal his
daughter's life away. If it took him the rest of his life he
would see the radiant smile that used to flash with frequence and
ease across his child's lovely face.
With this thought in mind he started his car and tooled out
of the shadowy, snow covered lot, oblivious to the hulking
silhoutte that had been approaching him. The thing had closed to
within a few yards of his car yet Gus hadn't noticed. Now as the
man slowly moved into the depths of the Montana darkness, the
huge figure howled in frustration, its eyes ablaze with an
Later that evening John Davenport was busy planning his
escape from New York. He was enthusiastically planning the
details for his trip home, typing out his resignation, closing
bank accounts, and the typical things that needed to be taken
care of when moving. He was in a euphoric state, feeling more
free than he had felt since the days of toga parties and beer
chugging contests when he had been an undergrad at the university
of Colorado. He was overwhelmed at the thought of going home, of
starting his life over again. He felt like the prodigal son
returning to the fold.
He had a sudden flash to his days at Whispering Falls High
and the one true love of his life, Barbara Mitchell. He hoped
wistfully that for some unknown reason she had chosen to remain
in the comfort zone that was their idyllic hometown. He
remembered with fondness the time he had spent with Barbara, and
the ease with which he could talk to her, despite her
intimidating beauty. He smiled to himself recalling the subtle
grace with which she carried herself even at that awkward,
frightening age. He had missed her profusely over the years but
never with such longing as he felt now.
He had never met a woman like her in the fifteen years they
had been apart and his dates' inability to meet her precedent had
a direct bearing on the fact he had never married. He was
suddenly filled with a growing fear that Barbara Mitchell, the
object of his undying love, would be a happily married woman,
having forgotten the very name John Davenport. This struck a blow
to his new found happiness, a blow that would not be easily
reconciled. Yet he decided that the move afforded him a much
needed opportunity at a gratifying life, Barbara Mitchell or not,
and if she was as of yet an unmarried citizen of Whispering
Falls...well than that was just a fabulously wonderful perk. In
two weeks, he thought optimistically, I'll know.
As the last members of the forensic team were checked into
the Shady Grove Inn, Hank Esham breathed a sigh of relief.
Several times through the course of the evening he sensed that
they were being watched. There had been a mysterious air about
the woods, not to mention the suffocating stench of death. He was
more than a little flustered by the events of the last
twenty-four hours and it was beginning to show. Long, creased
lines of worry marked his forehead and heavy, dark bags shown
under his eyes. At thirty-four he believed he was too old to be
dealing with a homocidal maniac who had decided to open shop in a
quiet, backwoods town. Hell. I'm too damn old to get a cat out of
a tree he thought with a dry laugh.
Mitch Conway's body had been taken to the county morgue
where it waited for the probing hands of old man Talford when he
returned from Sugar Creek. The sooner the better Hank thought
with disgust, I don't want the fucker around any longer than need
be. The quicker he's in the ground the better I'll sleep, he
thought as he remembered the mutilated body of Mitch Conway lying
at his feet. Hank shuddered as he recalled the large, black holes
that existed where Conway's beady, red eyes had once resided. The
sheriff of Whispering Falls visibly flinched as he tried to
imagine the person who could disassemble a six foot four,
two-hundred-fifty pound man with such ease and violence.
Standing in the lobby of the inn he realized that he had
bitten his lip in his consternation and that a slow trickle of
blood was stealing down his chin. "Damn it, he muttered aloud as
he dabbed at his blood with a handkerchief, what the fuck
happened to Mitch?" Knowing that he was tired and exasperated,
and knowing he could use a drink as well, he decided to kill a
couple of shots of Old Grandad and call it a night. With this he
stepped into the freezing night air and walked across the street
to the Brickhouse. Once inside he beleaguredly hefted his ample
frame into the barstool nearest the jukebox and motioned the
"What'll it be, Hank?", a hard, heavy-set woman with red
colored hair asked.
"Give me a Blue Ribbon and a tall shot of Grandad, would ya,
"What gives, Hank? You only drink the hard stuff when your
day's been for shit. Ruth finally come to her senses and give ya
"I thought bartenders were supposed to be on the side of the
drinkers", Hank replied, trying to hide his reason for the
Staring at the amber liquid, he slowly raised the glass to
his lips and drank the viscous flow. The whisky failed to numb
his mind and he continued to feel like something wrong, something
evil was trying to extinguish the very life out of Whispering
Despite the terrible snowstorm that had hit Whispering falls
Eddie Thomas and Wendy Miller couldn't control their teenage
ardor and had ventured out into the night despite their parent's
protests and obvious reservations. Parked near the old abandoned
farm on Coleman Road the two were involved in the tired formality
of petting, their desires engaged in silent war with one another.
The big four-wheel drive Ford Blazer offered plenty of warmth and
space for the young lovers as they vainly tried to cool the fire
that raged inside their bodies.
Eddie Thomas, a senior at the local high school, was by no
means a virgin. In fact he was probably the most sexually astute
teenager in town. Yet by the same token he had never conquered a
girl that possessed the the physical beauty of a Wendy Miller.
But what made this encounter more erotic, more of a challenge to
him was the Miller girl's wholesomeness. She was the ice queen of
Whispering Falls High. The prude. The little miss innocent.
She had become his obsession, his most involved quest ever.
And though she had made him wait, had played all the little
games, he had finally broken through. In the six months they had
been dating Eddie had turned the young girl's head, diluted her
sense of propriety with the promise of unwavering, never ending
love. The ironic part was that was exactly what had happened. He
had fallen in love with her. Hopelessly. He no longer cared about
his casanova image. The only thing Eddie Thomas cared about was
Wendy Miller and holding her in his arms for the rest of his
Now as they were about to prove their love, consumate it on
this blustery, icy night they felt more like husband and wife
rather than teenagers swept away by love.
"I love you, Eddie," Wendy said in a raspy, throaty voice,
as she hesitantly unbuttoned her cream and pink sweater.
"I love you too," the anxious boy replied, his lips dry with
Suddenly, through the howling wind came a reverberating
scream. Eddie looked at Wendy, his face ashen. The girl's eyes
were wide, filled with apprehension and pure, unadulterated fear.
"It was just the wind, that's all," Eddie said
"Do you really think so, it sounded like a scream, Eddie,"
the young girl said, her voice trembling with fear. No sooner had
the words escaped her lips when the nightime silence was
shattered by another unholy wail and then by a deep, evil growl.
More terrified than ever the two teenagers looked anxiously at
one another, eaching trying to draw strength from the others
Reluctantly Eddie pulled on his wool hunting jacket and
fumbled with the buttons. Heart pounding, he reached with shaking
hands into the glove box and pulled out his father's .45 caliber
pistol and a box of shells. Realizing her boyfriend's intentions,
Wendy's eyes filled with apprehension, knowing too well that
Eddie planned to confront the thing that had uttered those
horrid sounds. As he popped the last bullet into the chamber of
the gun Eddie drew in a long breath and slowly opened the door of
The night wind swirled around him, howling as if in pain.
For a moment he thought that it had indeed been the wind playing
tricks on them, teasing him out of the warmth and comfort of both
the Blazer and Wendy's arms. However, he suddenly felt with a
sense of despair that they weren't alone, that they were in the
forest with something abhorrently evil. Shaking uncontrollably he
somehow managed to cock the hammer of the gun and make his way to
the front of the Blazer. Illuminated by the headlights of the
vehicle he peered into the the dense shadows of the forest,
wondering why the night had grown utterly silent.
As if on cue a long, low whine came from the cover of the
trees, sounding saliciously vile. Eddie whirled to face the sound
but saw only darkness. Just above the whispering of the wind
Eddie thought he heard ragged, heavy breathing approaching
through the surrounding blackness of the night. He cast a quick
glance at Wendy and saw that her eyes were wide with fright. He
tried to smile reassuringly and failed. He was terrified and it
showed. Angered at his fear and his inability to comfort the
woman he loved, he slowly backpedaled to the drivers side door,
deciding it was wiser to retreat to the safety of hearth and
home, and that their long anticipated consumation could wait.
Just as he reached for the handle of the door, Wendy
screamed. It was a scream of terror and of dread. Instinctively
Eddie knew that his life was over yet he was amazingly calm. He
turned to see his fate and that was when his sanity betrayed him.
What he saw defied human logic and understanding.
The huge, hulking figure that hovered over the young man
was hideous. For an instant the thing looked almost human in
spite of its obvious deformities. Then Eddie saw the eyes. Those
eyes weren't human. They couldn't be. In fact had Eddie been a
particularly religious person he would've sworn he was looking
into the very eyes of Satan.
As he continued to gaze into the eyes of the devil Eddie
begin to feel his mind snapping under the intense white-hot heat
of their stare. The last conscious image of his life was not of
the thing and its hell-spawned eyes but of the equally
captivating beauty of Wendy Miller. He carried this image with
him as he crossed over into the sweet darkness of never-ending
peace. When Eddie collapsed at its feet, the beast turned its
attention to Wendy Miller.
The girl was near hysteria, cowering in the front of the
Blazer. She was staring open-mouthed at the grotesque image that
stood defiantly outside the vehicle, its eyes emitting a rage
that threatened to consume her very soul. As the thing stepped
inside the Blazer, Wendy became aware of the stench that poured
from the beast. It was a foul, choking aroma that attacked her
senses and caught her breath. The rotting, goatish odor carried
with it a heat that stung the young girl's eyes.
Wendy tried to scream but could only manage a frail,
pathetic whimper. The beast sensed her fear and reveled in it,
throwing back its head and shrieking in evil laughter. Wendy
began to babble incoherently as the insanity of it all started to
override her senses. The beast brought its face close to hers and
the vile smell that escaped from the things open mouth settled on
her skin and made her wretch. With one final act of courage Wendy
forced herself to look into the eyes of the thing and there she
saw the essence of evil in its purest form.
With this she closed her own eyes knowing her young life was
about to end. The hunger that coursed inside the veins of the
beast was overpowering and would not be denied. Wendy could no
longer suppress the sheer terror she was feeling and lost control
of her bladder. The beast immediately recognized the smell of
urine and the bitter, stale smell drove the thing further into a
frenzy. With animalistic fervor the thing sniffed heartily,
drawing in great gusts of the raw, base emotions that filled the
cab of the Blazer.
In one startling quick motion it ripped through the flesh
that had once been Wendy Miller's beautiful, young face. Squeals
of high-pitched laughter gurgled from the beast, laughing
obscenely at the dying girl's sobs and shrieks of unfettered
pain. The gargantuan entity placed its remarkably large hands on
the sides of the girl's blood soaked head, placing the oversized
thumb of each hand directly over the eyes. With a mixture of
blood and spittle clinging to its chin, the beast drove its
digits with powerful force deep into the sockets. Grunts of
satisfied pleasure were the only sounds in an otherwise silent
forest. The thing slowly removed its thumbs from the cavity of
Wendy Miller's skull, sucking the blood that clung to its massive
hands. Rather than quell the hunger that raged inside its
tortured soul the ejaculation of violence had instead unleashed a
greater need to inflict pain and death. The hell colored eyes of
the devil were alive with pain. It wanted more.
At two-thirty in the morning Hank Esham was awakened by the
unwelcomed ringing of the telephone. His wife, Ruth, whom he had
been married to the last eleven years answered on the third ring
and immediately handed the reciever to her husband.
"Yeah, what the hell is it?" Hank gruffly answered,
thoroughly pissed off at having been disturbed from his slumber.
The caller was Sam Miller, the local pharmacist and
president of the board of education.
"Sorry Sam, what can I do for ya?" the sheriff asked.
The story that followed sounded to Hank like the typical
call from a worried, over-protective parent. Eddie Thomas hadn't
as yet returned Sam's daughter home from their date and they were
over an hour late. Trying to be as cooperative as he could under
the circumstances Hank suggested that the kids were probably on
their way home even as he spoke, but Sam was a stubborn ol' cuss
and would have no part of the sheriff's explanation. The weather
was terrible Sam explained, and he wanted to be certain his
daughter was safe and not in a ditch somewhere freezing to death.
As tired as he was, Hank realized he was fighting a losing
battle and reluctantly agreed to see if he could find Wendy
Miller and her pubescent boyfriend, Eddie Thomas. After hanging
up Hank was more irate than before.
"The little tease is probably gettin' her cherry plucked and
is too damn horny to come home", he muttered to no one in
"How in the hell does he expect me to find them kids
he wondered aloud. "Don't know why he let her go out in this
kinda weather in the first place, and now I'm supposed to freeze
my ass off tryin' to find the little mynx."
"Well maybe he was under the impression that he had dialed
the sheriff's house, for crying out loud" a muffled voice called
out from the bed. "Would you just quit complaining and go find
them before they do freeze to death" his wife said exasperatedly.
"Gee, thanks for all the sympathy, Ruth, I knew I could
count on you", he heard his own sarcastic voice reply.
With a grunt of disgust she rolled over as he slipped on his
boots and padded softly into the kitchen. He poured himself a cup
of coffee and grabbed the cruiser keys from the table all the
while thinking that something wasn't quite right in Whispering
As the night time sky continued to rain torrents of snow on
the sleeping village, Hank was becoming increasingly frustrated.
He had searched most of the small, isolated town and hadn't found
a trace of the two teenagers. He was hesitant to continue the
vigil as that would certainly mean expanding the hunt down roads
and make-out points that he feared would be virtually
inaccessible. The big, brawny lawmen was not pleased to be out in
the cold and even less pleased with the futility of his
sleuthing. Realizing that he had little choice but to accept his
responsibility as protector of
Whispering Falls he veered off Main Street and headed toward the
The Coleman farm was a popular spot among the high school
kids during the summer season as it was abandoned and remote,
offering privacy for those who sought it. The pond that bordered
the farmhouse was also a reason for its popularity. During the
solstice the kids would migrate to the pond to bathe in its
cooling waters as it provided them temporary escape from the
sultry heat that radiated through the town and their troubled
hearts. Still there was little reason to believe the couple had
chosen the farm for their late night frolicking. It was as
deserted during the winter months as it was frequented during the
A sudden thought made the drowsy man shudder. He tried to
dismiss the thought as if it had never been but it clung to his
sense of reason, determined to be acknowledged. With a fear and
desperation that ate through his disgust at having been made to
leave the warmth and comfort of his bed, the sheriff remembered
in vivid detail the torn, dismembered, eye-less body of Mitch
He had to accept the fact that what had happened to Mitch may
have happened to the two teenagers as well. The truth of such a
possibility terrified him.
With growing panic Hank Esham realized there was a danger
lurking in his town and, though it was as yet undefined, it was
very real. Too real. Hank fought to keep his emotions in check
and tramped the accelerator, desperate to find the teenagers and
exorcise the demons that had begun to haunt Whispering Falls.
Cursing the heavens for their lack of cooperation, Hank braved
the falling fragments of ice and snow, urging the cruiser even
faster down Coleman Road.
Through the sheen of ice that attacked his windshield Hank
noticed headlights in the distance, faintly illuminated by his
own. Optimistic that he had found the two youths he radioed the
station house and related the good fortune to his dispatcher,
finding that he was near euphoria in his relief. He pulled up
along side the vehicle and recognized Gene Thomas' Blazer.
Although he couldn't see inside the Ford he was surprised that
there was no more commotion than there was. Surely they had heard
him approaching or at least seen the headlights of the patrol
car. They had to realize that they had been discovered yet they
seemed either not to care or too embarrassed to acknowledge his
Hank's anger began to resurface. He had gone out of his way
to make sure these kids were alright and now they were indignant
enough not to expain their actions.
"Ungrateful little shits," he muttered as he opened his
door and stepped into the night.
"I'll scare them to death then," Hank thought a tad
sadistically. He pounded on the passenger side window hard enough
that he feared the glass would break. He had expected to startle
the inhabitants inside, but still nothing came. No muffled
whispers or sheepish giggles. Nothing.
"The sons-of-bitches are fuckin' with me!" Hank whispered to
no one but the wind.
"Eddie? Wendy? It's Hank Esham. Your parents are worried
sick about you! Do y'all have any idea how late you are? Haul
your asses on out here, y'all gotta heap of explainin' to do."
Still nothing. Not a single movement came from inside the
Blazer. Had they heard him above the wind? He had nearly shouted
in his anger. They had to have heard him and still they were
playing with him. More enraged than before he pulled hard on the
doorhandle but found it locked.
"Damn it, open the fuckin' door!" he screamed.
He walked angrily around the Blazer to the driver's side,
ready to play hell with the two teenagers inside. What he saw and
smelled on that side of the vehicle made the bile rise in his
throat. Eddie Thomas or rather what was left of him lay face down
in the snow, turning the ground a rich crimson. Bordering on
hysteria the large, jowl-faced sheriff made his way to the body
on rubbery legs. Hank knew before turning the body over that the
boy was gone. There seemed to be a river of blood flowing from
him and he was as limp as a dishrag.
Still he had to search for a pulse and Hank turned him over.
Immediately he wished he hadn't. Two black holes existed where
the youth's green eyes had once been and the entire left side of
his face had been torn away, as if eaten. Hank could no longer
repress the nausea he felt and he vomited all over the
Crying now, the man's thoughts turned to the Miller girl.
"No, please dear God, no," he whimpered.
He turned toward the Blazer and noticed the door was
standing wide open. He knew theren it was useless to hope. It had
gotten her as well. It? Why had he referred to whatever had done
this as an it rather than a whom? He was losing it he thought.
Just stay calm he told himself. Relax.
Peering inside the cab of the Blazer his stomach was again
assaulted. Large, dark stains of blood marked the seats and
speckaled the dash and windshield. Bits of hair and flesh were
matted into the material of the seat covers. In the passenger
seat was Wendy Miller. The late Wendy Miller. Her torso was
hideously bent and Hank reasoned that her back had been broken,
snapped like a toothpick. Her once beautiful face, full of life
and hope was gone. Nothing remained but bone. Her throat had been
ripped open or perhaps bitten through. Yes, bitten through.
Something had attacked the two teenagers and dined on their
carcasses, seemingly with a voracious appetite.
Belatedly, Hank learned of the foul aroma that permeated the
night. It was a harsh, sickening odor. Unlike anything he had
ever encountered. The flesh smelled burned and there was the
underlying stench of death and hell. It was all too much for
Hank's tired mind to comprehend. Too much of it couldn't be real,
it just wasn't possible. It was all a bad dream, an unbelievable
nightmare from which he simply could not awaken. Try as he might
Hank knew he couldn't merely wish the truth away. Three of his
citizens had been savagely murdered in less than a day. It was
perverse and gruesome, but nonetheless real and the evidence of
the carnage was all around him. Shaking as a coldness enveloped
his haggard soul, a beaten Hank Esham used his radio to call for
backup. And more body bags.