Chapter 27 - In Hells' Wake
A chill runs up his back as he steers his vehicle along the dark back roads. The moon peeks intermittently through the overgrown trees lining the street, huge and brilliant, lighting up the Asphalt almost as well as the headlights that beams into the inky shadows at both sides. It seems that eyes are peering at him from just beyond the reach of the illumination from his SUV, eyes that are looking into him, searching his soul for a weakness, any weakness that might be exploited. With every passing moment the face of moon seems more hideous and malevolent, the cause of those heebee jeebees that now plague his thoughts.
"Fucking Mark and his supernatural bull shit" Jack spits the words out at the uncomfortable feeling of somehow being vulnerable, attributing the goose bumps to nonsense that belonged back in the days of King Arthur, maybe, but certainly not in today's world of science. The words that Mark had spoken about a disease that has never been identified by modern science and yet seemingly confirmed by one or more of the doc's professional associates continue to replay in his head. Possibly a virus that might accelerate the destruction or modification of cells at a molecular level causing moderate to acute physical transformation which may include psychological changes as well. Whereby the moon is known to have profound impact on not only the Earth's tides, and when full to alter the behavior in animals, affecting a woman's monthly periods and has been factually proven to be the preferred night for prowlers of the human species. If the moon's gravitational pull can influence the tide to move in and out, could it not also cause infected cells to morph for a night or even a few nights a month to then return to normal once its full force has faded?
These facts were presented to him and still he wasn't convinced but for the theories that were being passed around which were backed up by yet more historical information which seemed sound in nature, the good Doctor adding, The nature of this disease must certainly be viral if it exists as all. Before the discovery of penicillin or antibiotics the use of silver or silver nitrates to heal the sick was widely accepted. The ability of micro or nano silver particles to inhibit the breathing of the hundreds of different virus cells leading to their ultimate destruction has been medically proven, silver nitrate still being used to this very day as eye drops for new born babies because of the lethality of antibiotics in new borns. Unfortunately the Pharmaceutical industry cannot make money on a product that is readily available to any person seeking a remedy to the common flu and has in the process of marketing their products destroyed the image of silver in general as a medication. It is therefore possible that the old tales of silver having the ability to take down a werewolf might indeed be correct,…
Pulling onto the dirt roads of the Black Tree association he notices that almost every house had its lights on, at almost three in the morning it seemed that most everyone was awake. He pulls onto Pinewood Lane and is greeted by the view of a mass of people all moving in the same direction as he. With a quick flip of one of the many switches on his console his siren shrills for an instant letting the pedestrians know they are to get out of his way.
"Mark, Doc, get these people back. This is getting to be a cluster fuck way too quick and we don't even have the vultures here yet." The Sheriff had barely closed the door of his Tahoe barking the orders and taking note of how many of the residents were walking around with guns and flash lights in their hands.
Walking up to his old friend, his own flash light flipping to either side of the road looking not only at the damaged patrol car but for any signs of those eyes that had haunted him on his way out here, Jack inquires, "Kevin, what did you see? Mark mentioned that you had seen something, what was it?"
"I'll be damned if I know. I didn't see a whole lot it but it was hairy, had a snout and it tore the hood right off the flipping car like it was taking a blanket off of a bed. Scared the shit out of me."
"Was it a bear?"
"I have seen a few bear in my time and that thing was walking on two legs as if it were natural, almost like a man. The way it swung itself around the front of the car, its hands on the front grill,… you might have thought it to be a gymnast."
"It had hands?"
"They weren't paws and those long fingers, almost ape like, had nails at least an inch long. It also ran away on four legs and that seemed natural enough for it but for the fact that it looked,… I don't know, ape like?." Kevin was shaking his head, his eyes staring at the ground as if trying to visualize what had transpired. "I don't fucking know what it was and I doubt that anyone that had seen it does."
"So we are looking for fucking Sasquatch", Turning back to look at the onlookers that were pouring in, Jack spots the old man. "Mr. Johnson, can you get your dogs out? We need to get on the trail while it is still hot." Over the clamor of the surrounding residents the Sheriff half yelled to the old man standing not four paces from him.
"Jack, I don't think its,…"
"Mr. Johnson, I am aware that we have a wounded animal on our hands but the moon is giving us enough light to follow the dogs and I think we might be able to recruit some of the people here to give us a hand. Do you recognize any of them per chance and are any of them experienced hunters?"
Taking a couple of steps closer, old man Johnson replies, "A lot of them are campers from out of town but I do recognize a couple. Might even be able to get a few more dogs out on the trail too."
"Lars, get over there and give Mark a hand with holding those people back. Make sure Mark gets plenty of pictures and see if he's got samples from any blood that might have been found from the shooting."
"Yes boss, I'm on it." Lars appeared to be a bit embarrassed by the fact that he was caught off guard. Although the situation is different than what he saw in the parking lot at the school and there were no dead bodies lying around, he felt as uncomfortable and sick to his stomach as ever. The thought that this beast is roaming the woods around him, right now and it is dark outside had his head spinning.
"Hey Jack, we have a resident over here," Kevin points to the camper fairly well hidden in the trees at the edge of the road, "He seemed to have seen the creature best of all of us. He was outside, not thirty feet from the thing and managed to pop at least two forty five calibers into it before we were able to join in. I think you should have a quick talk with him before we head off."
"I'll get right on it. Go with Mr. Johnson if you could and see how he is coming along with getting us some help would you? Make sure these guys are ready when I come back."
Rapping his knuckles on the door the Sheriff was greeted by a man and wife dressed in cammo. Entering the fifth wheel the three sat down talk. The interrogation didn't take but fifteen or twenty minutes when the two men reemerged from the camper, one with a note pad and the other with a AR-15 assault rifle in his hands, a forty five caliber pistol on his hip and a military issue bayonet strapped to his leg.
Once old man Johnson started making the rounds looking for volunteers the crowd grew in size. Trucks and four wheelers seemed to magically appear from all sides. Word had gotten out that a hunt was on for a possible killer wolf or bear, over heard by ears eager for information and mouths completely used to gossip, it didn't take long and the news reporters had also shown up. The area looked pretty much just like the Sheriff had predicted it would, a cluster fuck.
Yelling for his crew, the Sheriff packed everyone into the Tahoe for a quick discussion in private. "Okay guys, I feel like a fucking idiot in a game here. Pass this around and take a good look at that sketch. Is that what attacked the squad car? Mr. Johnson, somebody has your dogs at the ready?"
"Yes Sheriff, and I was able to bring a few more to boot. Got some good men, huntin' men through and through and they ain't scared ta shit to help in the search."
Everyone was then silent, taking in the details of a quickly sketched animal their own eyes reluctant to leave the page as it was passed between each for scrutiny.
Kevin broke the silence first. "That boy has one hell of an imagination,... I don't know, I couldn't see the things head or legs in any detail but yes, that body was barreled, hairy with the exception of the stomach. I may have seen a snout too but that could just as well have been shadows from tree branches playing in the wind. I sure as hell didn't see no fucking fangs on the thing or legs as long as they are shown in that sketch though."
Old man Johnson didn't appear to be shaky but for his voice, if you couldn't see the anxiety in his demeanor at the recollection he was about to speak of, you could hear it in his voice. "It isn't that dark, that's for sure but the lights of the car didn't help me much. It seemed darker around that thing that it shoulda been. I saw the outline of the body well enough and it might just look like that thing in the picture but what got to me was them red eyes. After Doc shot it and if fell, it raised its head and looked straight at us. It was as if them things were hot coals. I have to admit now, come to think of it, those eyes seemed to look right into me and they was the spookiest thing I ever saw."
Jack's eyes turn questioningly to Mark.
"Sorry Sir but I was out cold from the impact on the car. I only saw something brown run from the trees when I shined the spot light over to that camper." Mark still had the paper in his hands studying that sketch as though it were a living thing in his hands, his fingers subconsciously tapping the paper one moment then seemingly caressing it the next as if trying to feel the thing that was presented to him. "I didn't think this could be possible but it looks like myths and legends are becoming the reality. Would you look at the jaws on that thing." That last sentence was more of a statement than a question and directed to no one in particular, a mere fact that his brain was trying to register and not finding it possible to think that a human body might become a monster of such proportions, no matter what disease a person might have.
The Sheriff looked at everyone in the vehicle and noticed Lars behind him, squeezed into the corner of the back seat, almost cowering with his gaze at his feet. "You okay there Lars?" There was no reaction. "Lars!" This time his voice not carrying the concern he had for the boy the first time around but more of his military style grunt.
"Yes boss." His eyes snapped from the floor to the man in front of him.
"Well, if you ask me, I think we have our killer and we need to set about catching it or killing it." The Sheriff turned forward again to look out the front windshield. "Ah fuck." The Sheriff rolls his eyes but can't forget the feeling he had driving out here, "Do we need to bring silver with us?"
Again complete silence in the vehicle.
"Guys, what we seem to be dealing with here is as new to me as it is to you. I want your input."
"Where the hell are we going to get silver this time of night Chief?" Kevin was annoyed not only by the question but by the fact that he had wanted to be on the trail of this critter half an hour ago and had been blocked. "We should get our asses out there right now while the trail is still hot."
Mr. Johnson, fidgeting a bit where he was seated between Lars, Doc and Mark, "This ain't nothin' but a damned animal. Its hurt but we have enough people now if worse comes to worse."
Mark shook his head, "We don't know what we are dealing with, wounded or not. I have a bad feeling about this and have since that first killing but I know feelings don't count. Let's do it."
"Let's get to it."
Old man Johnson had indeed found a few good men and a line of hunters armed with everything from single shot long range rifles to some heavy duty AR-10 assault rifles, all carrying side arms, knives and flash lights, at least fifty men total were lined up along the woods where the beast had disappeared.
"Men, for those of you who don't me, I am Sheriff Wheeler. We are on an official search for an animal, a possibly dangerous animal, with the intent of capturing it. This animal is BIG, its weight approximated at about three to four hundred pounds. It was seen to be walking on in its hind legs and the height estimated at about seven feet." A murmur went through the crowd of people like a slanted wave of water running up a coast line.
"If capture is NOT possible and if anyone is subject to a threat to life or limb then you shoot to KILL." Jack was walking down the row of men looking at each person measuring them up as much as ensuring that they comprehend his words.
"The dogs and trackers will be out front, and we will appoint an escort of two men for them, EVERYONE else is to follow at least fifteen yards behind. We will have two lines behind those trackers. The first line will be looking for any evidence that might pertain to this hunt, tracks, hair or blood if you can see it. The second line of men following at about five yards behind them will have their eyes peeled and cover those men in front of them. We will be moving fast because of the dogs but at the same time, we do not want to pass up a piece of evidence that might help in the search. If you happen to find something noteworthy, you call it out!" Stopping at about the center of the line the Sheriff pulls back a couple steps and fully aware that they are now on television due to high power spot lights that are trained on them and seeing that one prick of a vulture that had been in his office earlier belittling him, dressed as though he were going for hike. With a raised voice the Sheriff makes one last statement, "This will be a safe hunt! All personnel will follow standard hunting guidelines and respect everyone's range of fire. There will not be any media on this hunt as I cannot guarantee your safety and your presence may inhibit or obstruct our search, anyone found following us will be arrested and jailed NO exceptions! Let's get this hunt underway."
Turning to Lars and Doc Baker who are standing near the wrecked patrol car he signals them over. "I need you guys in the Tahoe. Doc, you know these back roads out here as well as any of us, you let Mark drive and head out in a somewhat north westerly direction. Lars, you grab Mr. Johnson's truck and someone willing to sit next to you and head out northeast. Make sure you are monitoring your radios! We will periodically send out our coordinates, if we need you somewhere, you get there as fast as you can. Got it?"
The three men nod their understanding heading to their respective vehicles.
Kevin whips the hunters into the lines then getting old man Johnson, his fellow tracker and the dogs to the front.
Kneeling next to his oldest dog, the old man whispers into his companions long floppy ear, "Come on Timber, this is gonna be your biggest day, let's show these whipper snappers behind us how this is done." Scruffing his old pups ears lovingly and patting the noses of his two best dogs, Lucy and Max, he gets to his feet feeling at least 10 years younger.
"Let's git this sum bitch." Whispering under his breath he presents the eager noses of the eight dogs with a towel that had been pressed into the bloodied dirt in the middle of the road. With a howling that would make the hair stand up on any creature in hearing distance, the pack takes off pulling their trackers along like puppets.
The dogs had the team of men at near a dead run for almost half an hour straight. Although dark under the cover of the trees, there was enough light passing through the thinning leaves to see the obvious signs of the hasty retreat of the animal they were after. The blood left behind had shown like black oil on the leaves of the bushes that were trampled over and on the smooth bark of the saplings twisted from the swift passage with which they were mowed over, a boy could have followed this trail.
The line of men, with only a couple of stragglers on the outsides of both lines broke into opening with a cliff at their front. A few of the dogs had stopped just outside the tree line surrounding something on the ground, the awful howl and bellowing bark of the dogs carrying like air raid sirens on the wind.
Jacks' body shivers, an uncontrollable reaction to the confrontation with the full moon looming directly above the tree tops in front of him, the light cloud cover resembling long arms stretching from its hideous visage seeming to encompass the land in front of him as if to say, this belongs to me and you are entering my domain. Shaking off the dread feeling of doom he tries to preoccupy his thoughts with the work at hand.
"Mr. Johnson, what have you found?" The Sheriff, quite winded from the fast jaunt through the woods stops next the old man still fighting to get his dogs back from whatever it was they had found.
"Not sure, can ya get some light down there?"
"Yeah, give me a second." Jack holsters his standard issue nine millimeter pulling out his short Mag light. "Looks like a clot of blood?"
"Yes it does. The trail of blood was getting less as we went on. Funniest thing I have seen, like it was bleeding out but them prints show this animal still moving like it weren't hurt at all." The old man finally able to get full sentences out without gulping for air. "It don't look like we hurt it bad after all. We should slow things down cause we may have a pissed off animal if come up on it too quick."
Kevin comes up from behind the pack of men his flash light shining first left and then right to see the men along the line searching for any clues that might have been left behind. Interrupting the conversation, "Your dogs know where to go from here Mr. Johnson? We seem to have lost the tracks down to the left there, like the animal just up and flew away."
"What do you mean 'just flew away'?" Jack looking hard at is friend, having already had a belly full of supernatural bull shit fed to him in the last couple of days.
"Those tracks stop about twenty yards over there as if the thing were in a full run and then nothing. We've looked to the left back into the woods and there's that cliff going almost straight down for a hundred feet. Fuck if I know. Maybe our animal can grow flipping wings too."
Jacks mind is whirling, looks like we now have a fucking vampire to deal with, his thoughts not being spoken out loud lest he get another rumor going rampant through the ranks. "Do we know where we are at?"
"Nope, not sure anyway." The old man replies looking about him and for his partner tracker that should know this area pretty good. "Need Tommy to answer that one." He spots him with his two dogs down where the trail goes cold letting his dogs sniff through the area trying to pick up a new sign.
"Kevin, get that young man over here. Animals don't just disappear and I don't believe ours grew wings. That leaves only one option, we need to get down off this cliff." Jack is certain that once off of this ragged edge that trail will be as hot as a Kentucky morning pancake again.
Dressed like a good ole boy, jeans, sloppy looking sweater and rubber boots, Tommy runs up with a crooked smile, "Yessa, how can I help ya?"
"Where are we at here Tommy? Any idea?"
"Yessa Sheriff, we are near Joe Allerton's property. Down that cliff and abouts half a mile straight away there's a small creek, the other side is his. There's also Jed Harris about another mile or so up yonder." The boy points off to the left from where he thought Joe's house should be. "There's a road between here an' that creek that leads to Jed's parents old house. If we can't pick up the trail again quick down there, that road would be best to look at for tracks and a scent."
"I like the way you think young man. How far away is Joe's house?" The Sheriff squirms a bit in shoes. He just picked up Joe not two hours ago and yet this animal seems to be heading directly towards his property. This has to be coincidence because he knows that Joe is locked up tight in a cell at the court house.
Taking out his phone, Jack calls Mark. Even out here in the middle of the woods, the small mountain they are standing on proves to have good reception. "Mark, I need you to head towards Joe Allerton's home. We should be in that area within the next twenty or thirty minutes."
"Didn't you just arrest the man?"
"He's locked up but our trail heads right to his place it would seem. See you in a bit." Jack pockets the phone and heads along the ledge of the cliff to see where the trail ends.
"The slope isn't as steep here but still one hell of a drop." Jack talking out loud.
"There's a way down about a quarter mile up along this ridge." Tommy had followed like a puppy dog. "Don't even need rope."
"Let's get moving then, you lead the way."
The Sheriff thought they lost about 10 minutes taking the roundabout but no one was hurt and the dogs seemed to have picked up the scent again, this time theirs noses scouring the night air rather than being plastered to the ground. Soon they came upon a beaten trail where they stopped shortly to look for animal tracks, there were none but there were some fresh tires marks.
"Tommy, is this the road you spoke of?" Jack not convinced that a car or SUV would make it through the narrow trail.
"Yessa, this is the old road. It was for the logging trucks a long time ago but now its not used much, just ole Jed every now and again. The creek must be about two or three hundred yards over yonder."
The dogs insisted that they were on the right trail so the team continued on along the road, now at a much slower pace. Not only because of the danger that their animal posed but because they were on private property now and people in this area tend to shoot first and ask questions later.
"Good choice of action Tommy, getting down here was exactly right." Jack gives the young man a pat on the shoulder as they walked side by side near the left flank of the small army.
With no sign or landmark to go by it was difficult to say where they were located and there was no sign of Mark and the doc. Although he had tried several times to contact them, Jack had been unsuccessful due to the poor reception of his phone and no one was answering the radio. He was now wishing he hadn't told them to move in as quickly. If they encountered their creature then it would only be two against one, not good odds when one thinks of the description of the animal in question. It also seemed that the animal was no longer headed in the direction of the Joe's house but towards Mr. Harris's place.
Not ten minutes on the beaten trail that some might have called a road, faint noises reached their ears over the barking and howling of the dogs. A fist in the air and a short low whistle brought everyone to a silent halt. The dogs pulled back and hushed by their owners, it was plain for all to hear, screams. So high pitched and drawn out it was as if the wailing of five dying souls were harmonizing, it seemed a song coming from the pits of hell.
Jack was almost sent into a headlong run towards those screams thinking of the only victims being Mark and Doc, that was until he heard the coughing and guttural roar that shook turned the blood in veins to ice and threatened to route his sanity.