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THE EGRIGOR, Part One

Short story By: Philip Roberts
Horror



Supernatural horror story with a werewolf for the hero and as the villain an egrigor, a creature which can take on human shape, but runs as fast as a cheetah.


Submitted:Feb 14, 2011    Reads: 40    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   


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PART ONE:

Sergeant Danny Ross moved nervously through the dense forest of wattles, pines, and eerie, grey-white ghost gums half-a-dozen kilometres outside Glen Hartwell, in the Victorian countryside. A powerfully built man, Danny had been nicknamed "Bear" by his friends, and colleagues in the local police force.

It had been raining off-and-on over the last week, so the air smelt fresh and clean, with a strong aroma of eucalyptus from the gum trees. But the pine needles underfoot still crunched loudly, making Bear wince each step he took, defeating his best efforts at stealth. His great size made it impossible to walk silently through the forest. He heard a crunch up ahead, followed by a curse, and realised that his constable, Terry Blewett, was having the same trouble.

Bear, Terry, and half-a-dozen other local cops had spent the last three days searching day and night through the forest for illegal Russian immigrant Kostyn Pavolich. Pavolich had entered Australia on a six-month tourist visa in February 1980, and then had not been seen for nearly four years. Until he had been captured in New South Wales in December 1983. But on the way to court Pavolich overpowered a policeman and took his gun. In the resulting short shoot-out, he had killed two constables, and a young WPC had been shot in the back, turning her into a paraplegic.

After the shoot-out Pavolich had vanished again for more than six months. Until a few days ago, in mid July 1984, he had been sighted in the forest around LePage and Lenoak -- two towns near Glen Hartwell. Despite his scepticism at the reports, Bear had mounted an all-out search for the escapee. With the "help" of half-a-dozen cops from Melbourne, they had been searching the forest for the last three days without discovering any sign of Pavolich.

The area had also been swarming with journalists from around Australia, despite Bear's best efforts to keep them at bay. After three days the press had obviously started to think that it was all a wild goose chase, however, for the last couple of hours Bear's sixth sense had been tingling, warning him of imminent danger.

'Sixth sense like hell!' thought Bear. 'It's just your nerves on edge after the last three days with almost no sleep.' Bear had almost convinced himself that his nervousness was only fatigue, when from ahead of him he heard a gunshot.

After a few seconds two more gunshots followed in quick succession.

Looking round he saw Terry Blewett and the grey-haired figure of Mel Forbes loping through the forest in the direction of the gunshots.

His heart pounding from nervous excitement, Bear set off after the two men. Not wanting to be late and possibly cost a fellow cop his life, Bear easily raced past Mel and Terry, ignoring his own danger from potential head-on collisions with trees or oncoming bullets.

* * *

Ernie Singleton had had a tiring day on his sheep station on the outskirts of Merridale. Normally he could have looked forward to a good night's sleep, but his senses told him that tonight would be the first night of his transformations that month. Ernie's transformations had started around seventeen months ago, in February 1983, only days after his twenty-first birthday. Since early February his body had been wracked by aches so severe that he was hardly able to move out of bed. He had hobbled round the house for weeks, until the night of the twenty-third of February, when he had finally discovered the reason for all his agony: it was his body adjusting itself for a strange metamorphoses that he would go through two or three nights each month:

Ernie Singleton was a werewolf!

He suspected that he had inherited the werewolf taint from his father, Gregory. All his life, Ernie had heard rumours of a large, black wolf roaming the countryside around Merridale and Glen Hartwell. So he assumed that his father had also been a werewolf, the original black wolf. But Gregory had been killed in a farming accident in July 1980, so Ernie was unable to question him about how his taint had originated.

Usually Ernie had no idea when that month's first shape-shift would occur, until it did. But sometimes he would wake up in the morning, mysteriously knowing that that night he would transform into the black wolf for the first time that month. As had happened that morning.

Ernie ate a hearty tea, and then took a long soak in a hot tub, before heading to bed. Although it was mid winter, he left the bedroom window wide open. He also slept naked, so that he would not be trapped in his oversized pyjamas in wolf form.

Ernie had hardly got into bed, when his head began to swim and he transformed into the black wolf.

The black wolf leapt out through the bedroom window and started off into the forest. He set off in no particular direction, however, after an hour or so be realised that he was heading toward Lenoak -- two towns away from Glen Hartwell. He had already slowed intending to start for home, when he was startled by the sound of gunfire.

At first the wolf panicked, thinking that the shots were aimed at him. But after a moment he realised that the shots were away in the distance. Although his first instinct was for self-preservation, the black wolf forced himself to head off at a steady pace to investigate the shots.

* * *

Three more shots sounded, allowing Bear to zero in on the gunfire. He almost ran out into an open clearing where the shots were coming from, when he heard a call of, "Bear, stay back!"

Looking round he saw Con Rodriguez (sergeant of LePage) crouching behind a great blue gum with one of the cops from Melbourne.

Ducking behind a large ghost gum, Bear looked out into the clearing. The gunfire was emanating from a small log cabin in the clearing.

Knowing that Bear was still learning the names of the local inhabitants, Con called across, "That's Jacinta Blakey's cabin."

"Is she in there with him?" asked Bear.

Con shrugged, and then realising Bear couldn't see the gesture in the dark, "We don't know. Pavolich is in there all right, but we haven't seen anyone else."

Hearing rushing footsteps behind him, Bear looked round to see the tall, fair figure of Terry Blewett, and the equally tall, but heavier built figure of Mel Forbes arriving on the scene, along with two more Melbourne cops. He was dismayed to see that two Melbourne reporters had also turned up.

Though loath to shoot another human being, Bear aimed his service revolver toward the four-paned window of the cabin. As Pavolich fired toward them again, Bear also opened fire, only hoping that he would not hit any innocent bystanders in the cabin.

* * *

Approaching a clearing the black wolf saw Bear Ross and a dozen other police officers, as well as half-a-dozen men and women, at least two of whom had cameras, all crouching behind trees. The police were firing their revolvers toward a small cabin, returning fire with whoever was inside. The air was full of the stink of gunpowder where many shots had been fired. Puffs of leaves or pine needles flew up as shots from the cabin fell short of the mark. Shots nearer the mark took off chunks from the trees that the cops and reporters used for cover.

The gunfire seemed endless to the black wolf, although it probably lasted only a minute or two. Until a loud scream rang out from the cabin.

"I think I got him," called Bear Ross. Hearing the sadness in the big man's voice, Ernie knew that he took no pleasure from killing another human being -- even in self-defence.

At Bear's cry the police all stopped firing. There was a moment's eerie silence, until Bear Ross called out, "Anyone in the cabin, come out with your hands above your head!"

The front door opened, and then out walked a tall brunette in her late twenties or early thirties.

"Take her into custody," Bear instructed Terry Blewett after the woman had reached the trees at the edge of the clearing.

"But I was his hostage," insisted the woman, Jacinta Blakey, as she was cuffed and led away. "I wasn't helping him. I was his hostage."

Though tempted to tell the reporters to "Piss off!" Bear simply ignored them as they snapped photographs of Jacinta Blakey being led away. He hoped they might follow after her, leaving him free to do his job, however, they obviously all realised that she was small news compared to Kostyn Pavolich.

Obviously still hesitant, the police slowly approached the cabin, expecting to be shot at, at any second.

Reaching the cabin, Bear raced past the window -- too large a man to duck beneath it, as Terry and Mel did when following him.

The three policemen entered the cabin, afraid of hearing gunshots inside the cabin.

Bear Ross tentatively stepped into the log cabin. He slowly felt round the wall inside the door for a light switch, but didn't find one.

He resisted the urge to curse, knowing the cabin was too far off the beaten track to be on mains power. Although private generators powered some of the small cabins dotting the local countryside, others were more primitive using candlelight and wood-burning stoves to cook and heat water.

Bear stepped away from the door to allow Mel and Terry into the cabin. He signalled for them to start one way round the cabin, while he went the other.

Walking into the front room, Bear unthinkingly stepped in front of the window. Then realising that he would be visible against the moonlight to both the cops outside and anyone inside, he quickly ducked down to minimise the danger of being shot....

And fell over the corpse of Kostyn Pavolich that was under the window.

Cursing his own stupidity, Bear decided to risk being shot, by turning on a small penlight -- which he held well away from his body, in case it drew gunfire.

Following Bear's example Mel and Terry flicked on their own, more powerful flashlights.

The front room was bare of furniture other than two small, wire-frame cot-beds, three or four old wooden chairs, and a roughly made wooden coffee table.

Seeing a dark figure in one corner Bear flashed his light over that way and called out, "All right come out whoever you are."

When the figure refused to comply, Bear aimed his .38 at it and slowly advanced. Mel and Terry watched on, ready to come to Bear's aid if need be.

"All right stand up," ordered Bear. When it failed to comply Bear gently nudged the figure with his left foot. Then jumped backwards in shock as it lurched forward....

And fell apart to reveal itself as a pile of dirty laundry.

Bear heaved a sigh of relief, then slowly nudged open the door to the second main room and crept inside. The kitchen-cum-washhouse was as sparsely furnished as the front room with wooden table, two wooden chairs, two overhead cupboards, a concrete sink, and dirty laundry lying round the floor. It was also devoid of human habitants. As was the small bathroom at the back of the cabin.

* * *

The black wolf watched from the shadows, expecting to hear gunshots emanate from the cabin at any second. Instead, after a couple of minutes Terry Blewett emerged through the doorway.

Cupping his hands over his mouth, the constable called, "All clear, he's dead."

Mel's constable, Andrew Braidwood, and four other cops came out from behind the trees to approach the cabin.

Bear Ross emerged from the cabin and went over to the five cops for a few moments. Then Sergeant Jim Kane and Constable Paul Bell (both from Harpertown) set off into the bushes again.

Over the next hour police came and went. Finally a Land-Rover with a blue police light on top approached the cabin. Out got Jim, Paul and the local coroner, Jerry Green.

Jerry examined the corpse for five or ten minutes. Then he called to Paul Bell and Andrew Braidwood. The two constables carried a collapsible stretcher into the cabin, and then quickly returned carrying the corpse of a heavyset, black-bearded man, who looked to have been around thirty-eight or forty.

As the procession emerged the reporters broke cover to snap off seemingly dozens of photographs of the dead murderer. Then, to the obvious relief of Bear Ross, they followed after the departing group, eager to get their stories sent in before other local reporters learnt of Kostyn Pavolich's death.

Over the next hour the swarm of police gradually filtered away, leaving Bear Ross, Terry Blewett, and Mel Forbes behind.

* * *

From his hiding place in the bushes, the black wolf decided that it was time for him to leave too. He turned to start into the forest and almost ran straight into a tall, thickset, black-bearded man. The man was standing just in the forest, glaring into the clearing toward where Mel and Bear were standing talking.

The black wolf backed away quickly, afraid of being attacked. But the bearded man was glaring so intently at Bear Ross that he didn't even notice the large wolf as it crept off.

Ernie turned to lope away, then stopped and stared at the black-bearded man.

'It's him!' thought the black wolf. 'It's the man whose corpse was carried out of the cabin!'

* * *

At the police station at Mitchell Street, Glen Hartwell, Jacinta Blakey was charged with harbouring a dangerous felon. Although she still swore her innocence, claiming to have been held hostage in her own cabin by Kostyn Pavolich.

* * *

Having had little sleep over the last week, Bear Ross left the station in the care of Mel Forbes, to return to his Boothy Street flat for a few hours' rest.

Despite the emotional turmoil that raged inside Bear, having killed a man for the first time, the moment that his head touched his pillow he dropped off to sleep. When he awakened nine hours later it was almost noon.

Although refreshed after his long sleep, he was ravenous, having not eaten in nearly twenty hours. Stretching wide, he sat up and looked around his tiny, two-room flat, thinking, 'Jacinta Blakey's log cabin is absolutely roomy compared to this.' He had originally taken the tiny flat two years ago because it had been the only one available in the Glen at a price that he could afford. But in the two years since, he had simply never taken the time to look around for something more spacious.

He walked over to the dining room/kitchen half of the main room to help himself to a quick breakfast of bacon, eggs, cornflakes, and coffee.

As he sat down with his back to the centre of the room, the feeling of being watched suddenly overwhelmed him.

Turning round too quickly, he overturned his chair and toppled to the floor.

Cursing his own stupidity, he climbed slowly to his feet again, rubbing at his right knee, which had been bruised in the fall.

Taking a minute or two to look round his flat, he reassured himself that there was no one lurking in any dark corners. Feeling childish, he took the time to look under the small bed, wincing as he knelt on his bruised knee, and even inside his double-door wardrobe.

Feeling foolish Bear returned to the kitchen table, after moving his food to the other side, so that he could look into the room while eating.

Certain that he was just overwrought; Bear finished his breakfast, then had a quick shower before dressing. But he was still unable to shake off the feeling of being watched as he finally set out for work.

As he stepped out onto the veranda outside his flat, the feeling of being spied on became overwhelming. For a moment he tried to fight the overpowering urge to look round to his left.

Finally he gave in, looked round, and saw a heavyset, black-bearded man standing beside flat number eight, glaring toward him.

Bear started toward the man, then stopped again, thinking, 'Kostyn Pavolich! It can't be!' He knew that Pavolich was lying in a freezer drawer at the morgue in Baltimore Drive. Bear started toward the dark-haired man again, then feeling like a coward turned and started toward the street instead.

He stopped at the end of the gravel path and looked hesitantly back toward the flat....

And was astounded to see no sign of the man.

'Where the Hell did he go?' wondered Bear, astonished. 'There's nowhere for him to go to!' The only place was into one of the flats, yet there had been no sound of a key turning or a door opening.

* * *

Back at the police station Bear made out his report on the shoot-out at the log cabin. Then he and Terry Blewett interviewed Jacinta Blakey, who still maintained that she was innocent.

"I shouldn't even be in here," protested Jacinta looking round the small cell where she sat on the hard wood bunk, while the two policemen stood before her. "I've already explained to Mel and Terry earlier. Pavolich broke into my cabin, raped me, and held me hostage."

Looking down at the attractive Indian-born Englishwoman, Bear tried without success to decide whether she was telling the truth or not. During the time that he had been away, Mel Forbes had arranged for Jacinta to be tested by Gina Foley at the hospital, to determine whether or not she had been raped. But the results had been inconclusive.

After they returned to the front room, Terry Blewett asked, "Well, what do you think?"

Sitting before his blackwood desk Bear shrugged. "She could be telling the truth," he admitted, undecided. "But I don't have the authority to let her go. That's up to the magistrate."

Over the next few hours Bear tried to settle into his work. But he was unable to shake off the feeling of being watched. Finally deciding that a breath of fresh air might help clear his head, he went over to the door to the street....

And saw the thickset, black-bearded figure standing near a lamppost across the road, glaring toward him.

This time instead of running away, Bear drew his revolver and ran across the road toward the lamppost. Aiming as he ran, he began to fire the revolver, then stopped, not wanting to kill his second person in twenty-four hours.

When he got there though, there was no sign of the bearded man and nowhere that he could be hiding. 'Just like at the flat!' Bear thought, walking across to look behind a yellow Honda, even though he knew it was too small for the big man to be hiding behind. 'I must be tired, overworked, imagining things. It can't be Kostyn Pavolich, I killed him.'

He looked behind him to see if the man could be hiding in the front yard of one of the houses. But the nearest house had only a low redbrick fence. The house on either side of it no fence at all, leaving nowhere for the man to be hiding in the immaculately mown front lawns. 'His body is lying in a freezer drawer at the morgue!' thought Bear, unable to get over the resemblance between the mysterious watcher and Kostyn Pavolich. 'It must be in the morgue!' But although he knew it to be true, he couldn't quite convince himself.

He returned to the police station to tell Terry Blewett, "I'm just Off to Baltimore Drive to speak to Jerry Green for a minute."

"You can speak to him by phone, can't you?" asked Terry, wondering why Bear would go all the way to the other end of town just to speak to Jerry for a minute.

"No, I need to see him in person," said Bear. He hurried off before Terry could question him further.

'What's up with him?' wondered Terry. He stood in the doorway of the police station, staring after the retreating form of Bear Ross.

* * *

The morgue was a good ten minutes' walk from Mitchell Street, however, Bear decided to walk, so that he would have a chance to think. Yet by the time he reached the morgue, he was as confused as ever. Although he had not seen the bearded man a third time, the feeling of being watched persisted. As he walked along the bitumen footpath Bear fought hard to stop himself from looking back over his shoulder every minute or so...and failed. Once or twice he thought he saw mysterious shadows behind cars or lampposts, however, when he went to check, there was no sign of anyone lurking in the shadows.

Pushing open one of the glass doors, he stopped at the reception desk to talk to Gloria Ulverstone for a minute or so, and then headed down the grey-walled corridor toward Jerry Green's office.

Although Jerry was a close friend of his, Bear hesitated for a moment from embarrassment. Then, feeling childish, finally he blurted out everything that had happened since he had killed Kostyn Pavolich the night before.

"I need to see the body again, just to convince myself that he's really dead."

"Oh he's dead, all right," said Jerry. He took a large key chain from a metal cabinet near his desk, and then led Bear to the freezer room next door to his office.

The coroner unlocked one of the freezer drawers and pulled out the drawer to reveal the naked body of Kostyn Pavolich.

"Of course, I knew he was dead," said Bear, thinking aloud. "I mean he had to be dead, didn't he? After all, I killed him."

"In the line of duty and in self-defence," pointed out Jerry. Aware that Bear Ross had never killed anyone before, he wondered if it was guilt over the death of the illegal immigrant making Bear fantasise that Pavolich was following him around. "There was nothing else you could do. If you hadn't killed him, he would have killed you. Or Terry, or one of the other men under your control. No one likes to kill someone, but better one dangerous felon, than three or four cops."

"Yes, of course, you're right," agreed Bear. He only wished that he could really believe it though.

'Maybe I am just fantasising it?' he thought. For just a second he wondered if the bearded figure could be Pavolich's ghost. 'That would explain how it vanished into thin air!' he thought. But then he rejected the idea as nonsense.

They talked for a few minutes more, and then Jerry walked Bear to the front doors of the morgue.

* * *

Jerry stood watching Bear through the glass doors as his friend headed down Baltimore Drive. He shook his head ruefully and started to turn away....

When he saw a sudden blur of movement from the left as a man ran out from behind a parked car as Bear Ross walked past. Terry watched in horror as the man lifted a red brick in one hand and swung it at the back of Bear's head....

Too late Jerry pushed open the glass doors and shouted, "Bear, look out...!"

As the brick connected with the back of Bear's head with a sickening thud.

Wincing at the sound, as his friend fall to the bitumen, Jerry Green raced out into the street, with Gloria Ulverstone not far behind him.

The dark-bearded man started to swing the brick toward the back of Bear's head a second time, but stopped as Gloria screamed.

Jerry ran toward the bearded man, who to the coroner's dismay did not turn to run, but stood his ground. Never much of a fighter, Jerry wondered how long he would last in a fist fight with the heavyset man. Particularly since the man still carried the red brick, which was stained with blood and hair from the back of Bear Ross' head.

"Put that down!" shouted Jerry. He only hoped he wasn't making a fatal mistake by drawing the man's attention to the brick.

Instead of doing as ordered, the man opened his mouth wide and snarled at Jerry with a sound like a panther.

Jerry stopped, shocked and frightened by the inhuman snarl.

Backing away in fright, Jerry tripped over the prone figure of Bear Ross. More by luck than design Jerry's left hand landed on Bear's leather gun belt. As quickly as possible the coroner unclipped the flap of the holster and withdrew the .38 police revolver. He unclipped the safety catch, pointed the gun at the heavyset man and said, "Put down that brick, or I'll shoot!"

The bearded man snarled again and threw the brick at Jerry's head.

The coroner dived aside, thumping against a parked car.

Wincing as bolts of pain shot through his shoulder, Jerry raised the gun and fired three shots into the attacker from point blank range.

Ignoring the bullets the "man" snarled again and started toward Jerry....

But at the sound of running footsteps from houses on both sides of the street, the bearded man stopped. He snarled one last time at Jerry, turned to glare at Gloria Ulverstone, who was standing frozen from terror in the doorway of the morgue. Then turning he ran down the middle of the road at an astonishing speed, vanishing from sighted in only seconds.

"For Christ's sake ring for an ambulance," Jerry shouted to the crowd. Three or four people ran back into their houses to oblige while Gloria ran across to the footpath to help Jerry attend to Bear.

With Gloria's assistance Jerry tentatively checked the back of Bear's head. He was pleased to see that there only appeared to be broken skin, not any broken bone. But he knew that any head injury could be serious, and silently cursed the ambulance for taking so long to arrive.

* * *

Ernie singleton had arrived back at his sheep station only minutes before dawn that morning. He had hardly entered through his bedroom window, when he transformed back into human form.

Exhausted, he was tempted to go straight to bed and sleep the clock around. But he knew that he couldn't ignore his farm chores. Outside he could already hear barking from the forty or so sheep dogs out in the dog yard.

Wearily he forced himself down the corridor toward the back door....

Only to be overcome with a burning hunger, clenching like a fist in the pit of his stomach....

Over the last seventeen months Ernie had learnt that the transformation from man to wolf and back again burnt up a tremendous amount of energy. Energy which had to be replenished by eating. Thus after each transformation he was overcome with an often painful, famine-like hunger, which sometimes kept him eating almost from breakfast time right through till lunch. At its worst he had been known to consume a normal week's groceries in only a day or two.

Ernie ignored the barking, which had increased in tempo when the dogs saw movement through the kitchen window. Going across to the fridge he started grabbing anything in sight, eating cold roast beef, a large block of tasty cheese, a large salami, plus almost a full box of Kellogg's cornflakes and three full cartons of milk.

After ninety minutes of gluttony Ernie's famine had reduced to a mere dull ache. Allowing him to take time to feed the dogs and other farm animals, as well as doing some of the more urgent farm chores, before returning to the farmhouse around 10:30 a.m. for an early lunch.

By 12:30 he was finally sated. Despite his yearning to return to bed -- knowing that he would have to go out again that night as the black wolf -- Ernie forced himself to head toward his brown Range-Rover parked near the wire-mesh fence ringing the farmhouse yard.

Almost dropping the car keys from fatigue, Ernie got into the Rover and drove down the dirt path toward Donaldson's Road, half a kilometre beyond the farm, which led to Merridale, and ultimately to Glen Hartwell.

END OF PART ONE:





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