"Careful wit that spotlight!" The voice, thick with a southern Cajun accent, echoed from a hefty, old man. He lifted his caramel tan hand over his beady brown eyes to shield them from the high intense light.
"Mah bad." replied the raspy voice of a slightly younger man from Wyoming. He straightened the trucker cap back on his slick brown hair and readjusted the beam of the heavy spotlight toward the woods. The old Cajun rubbed his burning eyes then grabbed up his hunting rifle and peered through the scope at the illuminated woods. The Wyoming boy did the same with his Winchester. They stood there, aimed at the ready, the silence of nature around them. It was a cold night that night in West Virginia. "Sal, ya sure this is going to work?" the younger man skeptically asked the Cajun, Sal.
"Just you wait little man." Sal encouraged. The Wyoming shot a look back,
"We've been doing this together long enough. Why am Ah still 'little man'?" Sal let a hearty chuckle from his wide belly,
"Sorry, can't call jou Clint. Too formal for me."
"It is mah name." Clint informed to deaf ears. As they stood there trading wit a low rustle came from the woods.
"Here e comes." Sal yelled in joy. Suddenly from the woods emerged a large beast. Wings that spanned out 4 feet and eyes that glowed red against it's silver pale skin. The fabled Mothman of West Virgina was barreling down on the two partners, locked in the gaze of the giant spotlight. "Like a moth to a flame, eh." Sal joked as he waited for the beast to close in. Finally the beast got in close and both rifles tore bullets into the beast's hide. It shrieked in pain as it staggered down in speed. It finally crashed into the ground, unable to keep flight. It slide across the ground leaving a rut in it's wake. It's tumble was stopped when it crashed into the spotlight. The light tipped over and blew the bulb, causing the two to jump back from the extravagant explosion. Sal clicked on the head light strapped around his shoulder length, tangled black hair and observed the dead Mothman. Clint scanned over the carcass with his Maglite.
"Gotta little moth blood on ya beard." Clint shined his light at the silver blood splatted on Sal's black beard that reached down his wide chest. Sal ran his fingers through the knotty mess speckled with gray hairs and returned the favor.
"Might want to wipe de juices off your shirt, mon ami." Clint looked down at his plaid shirt to see it stained. Then he checked his boots, his prized possession. The worn pair of Justins were still meticulously shined up.
"Welp, this shirt is ruined. Margret's gonna string me up." This got a small laugh from the jolly Cajun. He grabbed the Mothman by a wing and started to pull the creature across the woods. He motioned with his free hand for Clint to grab a wing on the other side. The two drug the beast across the woods to the edge of the road. Waiting in the cool dark night by the old country road sat a '72 Ford F-150. The faded red paint had long started to chip on the old truck years ago. They pulled the Mothman around the back and Sal dropped the tailgate while Clint hopped in the bed, dusting the rust from the truck off his hand. Sal leaned the heavy beast up against the tailgate and Clint grabbed it wings to drag it up into the bed.
"Aright. Grab dat tarp in the front." Bungee cords secured the blue tarp across the top of the truck bed. When you have a monster laying in your truck bed it helps to hide it, a lesson learned the hard way. With the beast stowed away in the bed the two partners sat in the Ford's cab. It took a couple cranks for the engine to turn over, but it finally rumbled to life. Clint jabbed the shifter in to 1st and started down the dark road. As they headed down the road through the mist Sal grabbed a slab of beef jerky from the glove box and started to gnaw on it like a lethargic bear. He dusted the jerky crumbs off the lap of his faded blue overalls and looked over to Clint. "We been at dis all night." He looked at the watch on his thick, tanned wrist, it was 5am. "I could go for a nice pancake breakfast. Why don we stop at dat diner we passed on the way here?" Clint let out a grumble.
"Ah suppose." The Ford roared down the wooded country road. It finally emerged from the dirt road onto the main highway. As they started up one of the steep slopes of West Virgina the engine sputtered. Clint kept his boot to the floor and the engine struggled up the mountain finally. Sal shook his head with a smile on his face.
"I'm surprised dis ol' truck still runs." As they pulled into the all night diner's parking lot, Clint let out small huff at Sal's joke. The two creaked open the doors and set foot on the cool pavement. Clint took a gander at the bed to see they had a problem.
"Sal." The hefty Cajun waddled over to Clint's side to see that one of the Mothman's large wings had jetted out from under the tarp.
"Well, we better fix that." Luckily the parking lot was empty at this time of the morning. The two struggled to bend the moth wing back into the bed under the tarp before someone noticed. As Clint pushed against it there was a loud snap and the tension let off the wing. They looked at each with shock in their eyes.
"Ah think we broke it's wing off." Clint pushed the busted wing back up in the truck and started to walk conspicuously toward the dirty diner, Sal followed in behind.
The two sat down at the bar. An old truck stop waitress with a mole on her lip and enough eye shadow to drown a fish came up to take their order. Her voice was thick with smoker cough,
"What'll it be boys?" Sal proceeded to order a short stack with bacon and Clint had grits and sausage. As they both started to scarf down their meals, Sal started ranting to Clint,
"I got a call from Marguerite. I forget to dell you, she said she's retiring. Going go live in North Carolina wit her family." Margret, or 'Marguerite' in Sal's Cajun pronunciation, was the secretary for their monster hunting firm. She kept an eye on the TV and papers for strange cryptid sightings and answered the phone if anyone called with a problem. She was a woman headed into her twilight years so it was no surprise to Clint when he learned of her wanting to leave the office for a quiet retirement. Clint just nodded his head in understanding and forked one of his sausage links, never much for words. The two ate the rest of their breakfast in silence. Sal paid the waitress and they left the run down joint. Sal looked at his watch again. "De sheriff is in by now. Time to drop dis beast off." The two had been hired by the sheriff of Point Pleasant to deal with the Mothman. They finally pulled into the town as the sun began to light the sky. The Ford rumbled into the little police station. Clint rapped on the door and a tall, muscular man emerged, the sheriff.
"We got yer bug." Clint informed as he pointed towards the bed of his rusted Ford.
"Let me see it then." the sheriff ordered. The three approached the side of the bed and Clint and Sal unlatched the cords. The sheriff let out a sigh of amaze when the tarp pulled back to reveal the winged beast. "Well. He's an ugly son of a bitch." he looked back to the duo, "Just drop this thing back in the retention pond after the Deputy gets a picture." He then reached into his shirt pocket to pull out his checkbook, "I thank you boys for your work. That Mothman had been plaguing this town for years. Hell, I didn't believe he was real till I saw him bout a month ago. But you boys don't want to listen me, you want paid." the sheriff gave the hunters a check for $500, "You know. With this bug dead you've pissed off a lot of conspiracy nuts." the sheriff said with a slight smile.
"He, he. Yeah, we do that a lot." Sal chuckled. The three sat outside the station for another hour just passing the time. Talking about monsters obviously, but then politics and life. After dumping the beast in the pond and rolling out of town, the two were back on the Interstate, headed to their office. It was a long drive to Farrsville, Texas.
As the hours passed and the sun started to set when Sal asked. "So, who e going get to replace Marguerite? It's nice to have a secretary." Clint shrugged. "We need someone." Sal insisted. Clint took a deep thought then spoke.
"Mah daughter just graduated from school. Let 'er work till she finds a job." the trucker suggested. Sal shook his head in agreement, a joyful smile appeared in his scraggly, black beard. His teeth a little yellow from decades of swamp living.
"A course, mon ami! Keepin' it in de family." he exclaimed loudly.
"Well, Ah give her a call then." Clint fumbled around the ashtray for his phone. He smashed in his daughter's number and waited for the ring. "Hey pumpkin..." Clint started in. Sal couldn't hear the words on the other end, but he could guess what was being said, "... yes, Ah know yer 22, but yer still mah daughter. Listen, you want a job?" Clint was quiet as Sal waited for the answer, "Helping me at the office. Just filing papers and answerin' phones for yer old man." Sal continued to wait for the answer, "Thanks, I'll get ya the next flight out to Texas.... I know you can git your own flight. Just get out to Texas then. Love ya pumpkin." Clint clicked his phone shut and looked over to Sal who was fervent with excitement.
"So, we got a new secretary. Good!" Sal reveled in the fact, "Which daughter es dis one?" Clint looked at Sal with a sarcastic upset look.
"Ah only have one daughter." Sal followed up with,
"Aright, which wife is dis one from? Lost count of how meny you had." Sal jested.
"Ah'm only at 3 now partner. This'n is from my second wife." Clint corrected, but Sal kept on dogging him.
"Ah ha. Dat the one dat left you when you met de tird one?" Clint started to play along.
"Nah, that was the first wife. Turned out there were prettier women in the truck stops of America." Sal retorted.
"Eh he. You dink dose were some women. You should see de women down in the bars of Louisiana." The two exchanged jokes and stories about girls they used to know all the rest of the way to Farrsville. And after hours on the road and a night sleeping in the truck they had the small east Texas town in their sights.
Farrsville sat just on the Texas-Louisiana state line. It was a small town, on the edge of being a ghost town. The old grain mill and sawmill from centuries past still sat dormant, looming as historic shadows in the moonlight. The duo had set their office up in an abandoned, family owned, garage shop. Still early in the morning, the Ford drove through the roll up door onto the concrete slab that once served as a service bay. They entered the one other room in the garage, that used to serve as an office/customer waiting room. Clint wiped his boots on the worn down green carpet as he saw a figure asleep with it's head on the one desk in their office. The only other places to sit in the room were two plastic lawn chairs. Clint walked across the room, passing the walls of weathered wood paneling covered with maps and trinkets from years of travel. Clint laid his calloused hand on the desk,
"Glad to see ya made it down here Mildred." he woke up his daughter. She raised her head from the desk; her straight, red hair fluttered off the desk. Still half asleep she looked at the imposing figure that was her father. Her sharp, yet sweet voice replied in groggy delivery,
"Hey dad. I got in earlier in the night." she rubbed her hazel eyes before continuing, "And please dad. I go by Milly. Mildred sounds so... old." Clint let out a caring smile.
"It's a family name. It was yer great grandmother's. Got her cheeks too." Milly rolled her eyes at this answer.
"This place was a bitch to find. It wasn't even on the road map." Milly was starting to wake up. Clint's smile turned to a stern look.
"Now, there is no need fer language from a daughter o' mine." he lectured in a fatherly tone, then switched to his standard decibel, "Yeah, Farrsville is legally a ghost town to most people. Not even worth markin' on maps. Makes ideal fer our business."
"And, what exactly is your business?" Milly asked with curiosity. Sal, who had been digging around the office for a jerky slab, saw this as his time to jump in.
"Eh, he, he. Crawdaddy never tol de little shrimp what he did for a living?" The two family members shot look towards Sal. Clint's a glare, Milly confused shock.
"Whose Papa Gumbo over there?" Milly jokingly insulted the Cajun as she pulled down the sleeve of her striped, V-neck shirt.
"Ho, ho. Dis redhead got er a temper. Mus take after er mama." Clint stepped in.
"Yeah, she does get that temper from her mother." He then turned to Milly, "Pumpkin, this is...." before Clint could introduce Sal, the tanned Cajun jumped in.
"Salvatore Louie Gautier Clement Baptiste Donat." Sal introduced himself with all the pomp and circumstance of the French custom, "but my friends, de call me Sal." he continued with the old custom of a kiss on her soft hand from his bearded lips. Milly was a little disgusted at this, quickly wiping her hand on the butt of her brown cargo capris. Sal looked over to Clint with the devil's grin. "You sure do know how to grow dem Crawdaddy." Clint's glare had not subsided.
"That is still mah daughter you're referring ta." Sal walked over to Clint and gave him a jolly slap on the back.
"Easy little man. I em an ol man and I know dat. Just compliment you." The innocent hint of Sal's Cajun accent helped sell his point.
"Still right here guys." Milly said with an uncomfortable tone and weak wave of her hand. Clint turned quick to his daughter.
"Right. Listen, it's still early in the morn. I'll let ya sleep in mah cot, pumpkin. Ah can sleep in the truck." Sal helped Clint pull out two collapsible camping cots from storage and set them up on the office floor. Clint threw Milly a blanket from the closet. It reeked of the smell of old mothballs and musk. She sank down on one of the cots and pulled the rank blanket over her. Sal sat his cot next to the door leading to the garage. Clint laid across the back seat of the Ford. It didn't take much for them to sleep, but it would only be a few hours before sunrise and a new day of work to start.
The sawmill's old rooster, that no one could catch, warned the inhabitants of the garage to the rising of the sun. After a half hour of rubbing eyes, making coffee, eating breakfast, and generally waking up. Clint and Sal introduced Milly to her new job and their line of work. For the first time, Milly actually examined the desk she had spent time asleep on. She ran her finger on the dial of a rotary phone. A pile of old newspapers collected dust on the desk. Milly noticed a notepad with scribbled messages on it and a candy dish of butterscotch toffees.
"Dad. Are you secretly a 80 year woman?" she joked at her old man. Clint lowered the coffee cup from his lips.
"That was Margret's desk. She was our secretary. Now you get that job." he chuckled. With this, Milly looked back at the desk with a cumbersome look.
"Do I have to use the phone?" She pointed to the old rotary dial. Clint shook his head 'no'. "Good. And what are these papers for?" motioning to the stack of newspapers. Sal answered this question in mid chew of a bagel.
"Marguerite used dem to keep track of eny stories we'd find interesting." Milly giggled to herself at this answer.
"Oh my God. You guys sound so old right now." she jested her dad. She started to dig through her traveling bags, "I think I can search stories much better with this." she lectured the two old men as she pulled a laptop and set it on the wooden desk. "So, the million dollar question. What type of stories pertain to your business?" This was the moment of truth for Clint, telling his daughter he hunted mythical monsters. He stumbled his words a little, scratched the back of his neck, readjusted his trucker cap, and stared towards the ground. While Clint fumbled around, Milly looked at the notepad still visible on the desk. She took the time to read the scribblings and noticed words like: swamp monster, mystery, howls, giant lizard, strange lights. She looked back at her father in disbelief. "You search for monsters?" emphasizing her disbelief when she said 'monsters'. Clint sighed, the cat was out of the bag. "That's what you've been doing? Chasing after stories all these years!" her disbelief slowly boiling into upset. Clint raised his hand for a chance to speak, but he didn't raise his voice.
"Now, Pumpkin." Clint could see the anger in Milly's eye for calling her that name, "Ya know I was a trucker. And that's the truth, I was till bout 6 years ago." Sal butted in, not to help matters.
"I ran en to dis fool. E was dropping a load off in Louisiana and asking questions about de myth of de Ozark Howler. I tol em what I tell you. Dey aren't no stories."
"Those last 6 years. You missed me getting my license, both graduations, moving into my first apartment. Did you plan on missing my wedding too?" Milly didn't even acknowledge Sal's comment in her anger. Clint's head perked up to this and his voice finally raised, but in surprise.
"Yer getting married? Do Ah know this boy?"
"We are getting married at the end of the year. And no, you don't know him. You were too busy hunting monsters." she air quoted the last two words, "I could forgive you for missing things because you were trucking, but playing make believe." Milly simmered into frustration. Sal tried to jump in again, knowing he risked a tongue lashing from the furious redhead.
"Miss, look around. Dese aren't myths." Sal pointed to a fur on the floor, "Dat, the pelt of de Appalachian Black Panther." he then motioned toward a skull hung on the wall, "Dat is de skull of de Jackalope, one of my favorites." he then motioned to a claw displayed in a case, "Dere's de nails of a Devil Dragon." He then looked back at Milly, "My family been chasing de beasts since we settled in de bayou." Sal's look confirmed he was not talking about myths and stories. Milly sat back in the chair in silence, taking in all of this info.
"So, those myths, they're really real?" Milly asked still in disbelief. Sal and Clint both shook their heads yes. "Bigfoot?" They nodded 'yes' again. "Loch Ness Monster?" more head nodding. "Ghosts?" They still nodded yes. "Aliens?" Sal raised his hand to that one.
"Eh, nope. Dey really are a myth. No little green men en flying discs."
"And you two, you guys hunt them?" They nodded their heads again. Milly looked her dad in the eyes, "But why? Why did you give up steady truck driving jobs for hunting myths?" Clint scratched his neck again and Sal looked at him with a confused look,
"Did you not tell er what happened to..." Sal started, but Clint cut him off.
"No." the slow trucker hurriedly blurted out, "Ah never told her about that beast that ran up against mah truck back in Oklahoma." Clint hid his lie behind his stone cold, poker face. Milly believed her father, "So do ya want to help yer old man out?" Milly almost pitied her dad and her face showed it.
"Yeah. I think I can help out around this office. Bring it into this century." She took another quick survey around the office, "You don't expect me to live in this dank office do you?" she asked in disgust.
"Nah, there's a little bed and breakfast in town. We know the lady that runs it. She'll let you stay for free. She doesn't get many other tenants."
The week went by with relative ease. Milly got situated into her new surroundings, Sal fixed up more supplies and prepared for any future hunts, and Clint caught up with his daughter. "So, this boy yer marrying. What's he do?" Milly was used to the fatherly interrogation.
"He's graduated with a degree in psychology. Going to be a doctor."
"Psychology, huh? So he'll flip burgers for a living." Clint thought lowly of this boy.
"No dad. He's getting a job lined up out in California." Milly defended her choice. The mention of California glinted disapproval in Clint's face.
"Who'd he vote for?"
"DAD!" Milly was aghast at her father's blunt question, even if she came to expect it, "Does that really matter?"
"I already don't like this guy." Their conversation was cut short when Milly's laptop sounded an alert. Sal looked up from sharpening up a tomahawk.
"What es dat noise?" Milly wheeled the office chair over to the computer and brushed her straight hair our of her face. After a few clicks she looked back to the duo.
"I was keeping a track on these strings of suspicious murders. I'm new to this, but something about these stories sound strange." She motioned them to come look at her screen, "I don't know if they are supernatural or just one messed up dude?" The two stood behind Milly and looked over her shoulder at the news stories. Milly read out aloud the important lines of the stories. "Man in Montana found with his chest cavity emptied and signs of animal attack." She scrolled to another one, "Woman in Alberta pulled out of woods after signs of an animal gnawing on her." she clicked through two other stories with similar lines, "And the most recent story. Guy in North Dakota found with his heart missing and his liver feasted on."
"That's all well and good Pumpkin. But those could be unrelated bear maulings."
"But I compared the wounds to bear attacks. They don't leave a mark like that. And all these attacks in just one week?" Milly explained her research.
"Bear attacks happen more dan you dink." Sal informed.
"But do bears attack people this far out of the wilderness?" Milly retorted. Clint looked at all the known maulings.
"No, no they don't." Then he turned to Sal, "What would do something like that?"
Sal ran his fingers through his knotty beard,
"I don't know. Could be wolves or werewolves?"
"Nah, Too spread out to be one werewolf." Clint pondered.
"Can't there be more than one werewolf?" Milly asked innocently. Clint gave a small half smile,
"Yeah, some werewolves travel in packs, others solitary. If this was a pack there'd be a lot more carnage in a smaller area and reports of noise, howling. But it is some kinda carnivorous beast." Clint thought about what it could be. All three sat there and tried to puzzle out what this mystery beast was. Sal spawned an ideal,
"When dese stories start?" he asked. Milly searched back to the earliest story.
"About 3 days ago."
"Aright. Eny stories of disaster, survival, rescue?" Sal made an odd request. Milly tapped away on the keyboard searching through recent stories in the northern US-Canada area. She skimmed through a quick story.
"Here. A bush plane crashed in central British Columbia. It was carrying two men. Searchers found..." Milly gasped in shock. Clint finished the sentence.
"a fire pit with human bones. No sign a either man, alive" Clint grunted in response to this story. He knew what they were up against, so did Sal.
"Oh boy, we got us a Wendigo." Sal informed the room. Clint looked over to the Cajun.
"How do ya go about killing one a those?"
"He, he. I ain't real sure crawdaddy? Na to meny Wendigos down in da bayou. Dey usually keep up to da northern lands."
"Well, Ah guess that is why we keep those books around?" Clint motioned to a bookshelf across the room, the only other piece of furniture in the room, "Pumpkin see what ya can learn about Wendigos. Me and Sal will head up to the northern United States and try to find this thing." Sal grabbed a rough, straw cowboy hat with a bent brim off the wall and buttoned up the latch of his overalls over his raggedy, orange T-shirt. Both of the old men headed towards the service shop.
"Wait! I can just look up info on the Internet." Milly bargained with the two. Sal turned back as he chewed on some jerky.
"Jou ain't going to find da good stuff on dat computer. Dose books been saved through my family for years. Dey got any en all on da unknown."
"I'll be here all month looking through these old books." Milly complained. Sal pointed toward the top shelf.
"Top shelf, left side. Books on Indian folklore and northern spirits." Sal helped her out as he walked out the door. Clint looked back at his daughter.
"Don't worry Pumpkin. You'll do fine. I'll call ya when Ah get there." Clint reassured his overwhelmed daughter. As he walked out the door Clint could hear his daughter.
"Please stop calling me Pumpkin. I'm 22!" Clint just smiled to himself as he started loading an assortment of gear into the bed of the old Ford. After they loaded the truck up with equipment ranging from rifles and pistols to iron machetes and silver tomahawks the Ford left the east Texas garage headed north. The last case of the possible Wendigo attack was on the North Dakota-Canada border, it would be a long drive before they reached their destination.
The old F-150 was finally passing through the state of Nebraska after several hours on the road, with the occasional stop at an Interstate truck stop. And during those hours on the road, Milly was back in Texas scrambling through dusty, old books. She flipped through stories of Indians long lost to time and the myths they took with them, the writing almost illegible. Some of the stories mystified the young girl, others outright scared her. Tales of the Wendigo fell into the latter category. She kept note of all the important details, even the gory ones. And while Sal wouldn't approve, she did some extra research using her Internet sources.
"Wendigos. They're cannibals, right?" Clint asked Sal as they spent another hour on the Interstate.
"Mhmm. Dey like Bigfoot's vicious cousin. What I know es all da Northern woods is cursed by an evil spirit. Wen a man eats da flesh of his fellow man da spirit of de Wendigo takes dem over and turns dem into horrid monsters dat must continue to feed on flesh." Clint tensed up his neck in disgust. Sal continued, "I have little past wit Wendigos. All I know es dey are hard to kill." he finished with worry in his accent.
"Could start by cutting it's head off?" Clint said boldly.
"Eh, he. If jou want to get dat close to it's teeth be my guest mon ami." Sal pushed his straw hat up on his forehead with a conflicted look on his face, "So." he paused with a cautious breath, "You never told little shrimp bout what 'appened to er momma?" Clint lowered his head with a heavy sigh, raising it back up to watch the road.
"Nah. I couldn't bring mahself to tell mah baby girl her mother was killed by some legend. It sounded crazy to me even."
"Dat Ozark Howler was no legend. E was a tough one to kill too." Sal reassured Clint.
"Yeah. Ah know. When Ah was making a delivery to Louisiana Ah heard about ya. The family that hunts myths. Ah hunted down that monster with ya, and Ah never looked back." Clint reminisced.
"And now we going after a Wendigo!" Sal made light of the situation then went quiet, "So what did you tell de little shrimp about er momma?" Clint huffed a sigh again.
"Told her that her mother was killed in the car wreck on the way back from the campsite." Sal shook his head slowly and puffed out his lip, showing understanding in why Clint did what he did.
"Well, she works wit us now. She know de supernatural exist. Jou going to dell er de truth?" Sal's question warranted a little, uneasy smile from Clint.
"She's angry at mah now as it is. Fer good reason too. Last thing Ah oughta do is tell her Ah lied about her own mother." then his uneasy smile turned wider, "And she's getting married." he said with noticeable disbelief. Sal's open smile let out a jolly chuckle from deep in his belly.
"And dat is reason to celebrate mon ami!" he shouted as he dug through the clutter under his seat for a bottle of his 'jolly juice'. Clint's phone rang as Sal dug through the discarded jerky wrappers and empty soda cans. Sal heard Clint answer the phone, he cranked up his window to cut down the noise in the metal cab.
"What is it Pumpkin?" Clint asked his daughter. Milly was on the other end if the phone. Sitting at the old desk with a collage of notes in front of her.
"Well, here's what I learned about these Wendigos. First, tell Sal, half these books are in unintelligible chicken scratches." Clint smiled at the frustration in his daughter's voice. She continued on, "The Wendigo, based from a northern Algonquian legend that any man that eats human flesh is cursed by the Wendigo's spirit to be a beast. It stands over 7 feet tall, covered in fur thick and white as the snow packs. It's claws sharp as razors and moves as quiet as the wind." Milly's lecture was interrupted by Clint,
"Yer getting poetic on me now."
"That's how the Indians wrote it. Say it always hungers to feed on humans again. Kinda gross. Sightings have dwindled since the early 1900's."
"That's all well and good Pumpkin, but does it tell ya how ta kill one of them?" Clint asked bluntly. Milly shuffled through her notes laid out. She chuckled at one of her notes.
"You could turn yourself into a giant dog like Big Goose, the medicine man." she told her father sarcastically. Clint got a little chuckle from this too,.
"Any other way? One that sounds more plausible?"
"We are talking about killing something that only a week ago I believed was a ghost story and you want something plausible?" Milly made the ironic tone in her voice clear across the phone.
"That's cute, Mildred." Clint's raspy voice volleyed back. Sal silently laughed from the passenger seat. Clint couldn't see it, but Milly scrunched her nose at the use of that old woman's name. The voice of her response was more sharp than sweet.
"You want to know what can kill it. I've found that a knife directly into the Wendigo's heart can kill it."
"Hmph. That easy really?" Clint was surprised. He expected a cannibalistic spirit to be harder to kill. But Milly continued on.
"But the knife must be hot enough to melt the Wendigo's heart of ice."
"Can ya just cut it's head off? Works on most 'unkilllable' things." Clint frayed into a wit, unfamiliar territory for the stoic trucker. Sal found a half of a stick of jerky on the floor as he smiled at Clint's attempt at humor.
"Well, ah, maybe?" Milly was a little taken back, "Never saw anything that said you couldn't."
"Thanks fer the help, Pumpkin. So, this boy Ah don't like. One yer marrying, what's his name?" Clint fumbled into another topic. Again, Clint couldn't see as Milly humorously shook her head at her dad's incompetence.
"His name is Darrin, dad."
"Darrin? Kinda name is that?" Clint continuing to voice his fatherly disapproval.
"Dad." Milly's voice started to whine across the phone, "He's a nice guy, you'll like him. I promise." she tried to reason with her stubborn dad.
"Ah highly doubt it. Did he expect to ask fer mah blessing before ya got hitched?" Clint huffed back.
"My God, you sound so old right now. It's the 21st century. People get married without their parent's 'blessing'." Clint started to reply, but his daughter cut back in, her fury subsided into tiresome, "Listen, I've got to go now. If I find anything else about the Wendigo I'll let you know." the connection clicked off. Sal looked over to Clint with that familiar shit eating grin. He spoke with a mouthful of floor jerky.
"De little shrimp not your biggest fan es she?"
"Ah ain't been around fer her since she was about 14 thanks to mah job. Gotta expect some rough between us. But Ah raised er right, she knows Ah love her." Sal swallowed his jerky and decided not to push the topic any farther. The Cajun switched over to the job at hand.
"So, dis Wendigo..."
The cold nip filling the air was a clue that they had finally made it to the state of North Dakota. It wouldn't be long before they reached the site of the last attack. Sal grabbed two Carhartt jackets from behind his seat and started to wrestle on the larger one. The old Ford shifted down a gear as it pulled into the snowy little town of Crosby, North Dakota. It found a parking spot outside an old brick building that served as the newspaper's office. Sal and Clint had learned over the years of hunting that while the police could give them the info they needed, the local paper could do the same without asking too many questions about what authority the two old men had. Once inside the door, the duo was met by a secretary behind a desk.
"What can I help you gentlemen with?" the soccer mom of a secretary asked while taking note of their rough appearance.
"We like to see de stories about da bodies found."
"Oh, you mean that string of bear attacks?" she asked with suspicion. Clint shook his head. "Well, Cody was in charge of that story. He's back at his desk." They started walking towards a cubical of desks the secretary pointed to. As they walked away from her desk she told them in a loud whisper, "Don't startle the boy. He's... eccentric." They approached the desk of a young, lanky kid, doing good to be 25. The young man didn't notice the two as he kept his nose in the computer. Clint used the tip of his Justins to kick the side of the desk, sending a shock wave through the fake wood. The man spun around in his chair with fear in his face.
"You Cody?" Clint grumbled out. He jitterly shook his head, still in shock.
"Jou wrote de story about de bear attacks?" Sal asked with fake curiosity. This caused Cody to look down both ends of the cubical row inconspicuously and leaned into the partners.
"Are, are you the aliens here to reveal the werewolf secrets?" asked Cody in a quiet whisper. The two stared dumbfounded at the quirky reporter, Sal titled his head to the side like a confused dog.
"What are jou talking crazy about? We just want to know what jou gathered about da reports." Sal insisted. Cody leaned back believing these men weren't aliens.
"Yeah, the editor says it was just a gruesome bear attack, but I looked deeper. There were other attacks just like this one all around this part of the country. Too many to be a bear. I'll tell you what I think it was..." Cody raised his hands, "Aliens. Not many know this, but werewolves were created by aliens as a way to thin us out before invasion." Clint couldn't help to crack a smile at the craziness he was hearing. Sal tried to stay on topic.
"Can we just look at de notes jou collected?"
"Yeah, the story notes are written as if it was a bear attack, but I'll give you my personal research too. Most people think I'm crazy with my theories." Cody pulled a plump file from his desk and handed it to Clint's outreached hand.
'Ya know there right. Ain't no such thang as werewolves or aliens." Clint disillusioned. Clint walked over to an open table hidden in the corner and opened the manila folder. They both started filing through the notes, Cody had articles ranging from alien controlled werewolves to American Yetis and mole people. They sorted the useful from the conspiracy nonsense. Clint looked over one paper, smiled, then handed it to Sal for the Cajun to read.
"Wendigo legend: De beast of de Northern Wind. A vile beast dat alway hungry and grows taller wit each feeding. It's howl can be heard across de woods as it terrorizes people en broad daylight." Sal read the article from a frivolous conspiracy site. "Dat es some grade A mule crap." Sal said of the article and Clint agreed. They spent another hour or two pouring over the details and getting the unwary stink eye from the odd newspaper worker until they had what they wanted. A map was laid on the table with sharpie marker lines connecting all the known attacks they contribute to the Wendigo and the site of the plane crash story. They measured out the map distances.
"Dis thing 'as been traveling almost 150 miles a day. An it es heading east." Sal deduced from the markings. Clint scooted the map closer to himself and started measuring out another distance. He drew a line on the map that stretched from mid North Dakota to southwest Manitoba.
"Then somewhere along here is where it'll strike next." Clint explained the line. Sal pulled back his coat sleeve to check his watch. It was almost time for the sun to set, it had been a day since the last kill. They quickly shoved all the papers back in the folder and tossed it onto Cody's desk. The squirrelly journalist tried to ask them questions, but they were hurrying out the door. Clint sat up in the driver seat of the Ford and cranked the engine. It tried to turned over several times, but it never fired. "Come on baby. Start." Clint sweet talked his old rust bucket. The engine continued to crank with little avail. "Sonnuvabitch!" Clint raised his voice in frustration as he smacked his hands against the leather steering wheel. He looked over to Sal, "Bitch's too cold ta start." Clint jumped out of the truck and popped the hood open. Years as a trucker taught Clint a few tricks of dealing with car troubles, including how to warm up a cold truck. With the hood open, Clint climbed up and set his boots on the Ford's front bumper. He did a quick check to see the parking lot empty before he unzipped his Wranglers and took a leak on the motor. He quickly zipped up, slammed the hood, and ran to the driver seat. Sal looked at Clint with a look of disgusted concern while the trucker cranked the engine again. The motor was just warm enough now to turn over and the old '72 roared to life.
"Dat was pretty raw, mon ami." the hardened Cajun was legitimately disturbed.
"When ya been drivin' rigs 'round the country long as Ah have ya learn a few tricks. Feller in Alaska taught me that'n." Clint defended himself. Sal just shrugged with acceptance, it got the job done. The Ford roared out of the town, trying to play catch up with the winter monster. Clint shifted the old truck into 5th gear outside of town and poured the coals to it. The truck kept up with his commands, but Clint could hear it straining under the speed. Once they had Crosby well in the rear view mirror and open road laid ahead of them more snow began to fall on the flat, open Dakota land.
The sun began to set and the truck's lights barely cut through the snowfall. Sal kept an eye on their marked road map while Clint wrestled to keep the truck on the road as the old tires started to skid around. The truck hit a patch of snow and drifted off into the other lane. Clint could see the lights of an oncoming car charging toward him. He turned the wheel hard in his hand, but the tires were unresponsive. The road was too slick and the headlights were closing in. C lint kept trying to pull the truck to the right. Sal was getting worried, clutching the door handle in his thick paw. The truck kept skidding across the road. The lights were too close, Clint made a sharp turn the other way. The old Ford hit the drainage ditch, still at full speed. The passing car whizzed by on the road. The truck jumped up the other side of the ditch, catching air before bottoming out on the empty land. Clint just kept his boot to the floor as the truck sped across the field, Clint regaining some control. The trucker never missed a beat, slowly easing the Ford out of the snow banked field and back towards the snow covered road. Clint's view never wandered from the landscape ahead. His steely blue eyes were focused, his mouth a straight line of determination. Sal looked over, still waiting for his life to finish flashing before his eyes.
"Eh, he he." he chuckled nervously as he took note of a new clicking sound coming from under the hood, "Jou want to check de truck? Least slow er down." Sal asked sheepishly.
"Ain't no time." Clint shook his head, but his eyes never unlocked their gaze, "We gotta get to that beast." Clint eased the truck over the drainage ditch with softer thud and brought it back onto the road. After another several minutes of rampant speed on the dangerous roads they were close to their map marker in North Dakota. The nearest town consisted of a gas station, a barber shop, and a few single wide houses; not much of a town. The truck pulled into the gas station to check the map. Sal clicked on the cab light.
"We made et to one of de markers, but what if de beast attacks up ere?" Sal pointed to the other end of the line reached into Manitoba, Canada.
"Welp, we just haft ta hope we're close." Clint reasoned, then flipped the light off and slowly pulled the truck through the town, following the roads headed north. The snow was still falling, making spotting anything, even a huge mythic beast, a challenge. The lights of the little fueling station was behind them when a sound broke through the snow. The shriek of a woman split the silence from the road ahead. Clint floored the truck again, jamming the shifter up a gear. The Ford didn't like this and sputtered a puff of smoke from under the hood, but complied nonetheless. Sal kept his eyes peeled as a final screech echoed from the dark land to the left. Clint pulled the truck to a stop off the road. Sal threw his straw hat in the back and pulled out his headlamp from the glove box. Both leaped out of the truck and ran to the bed. Sal dropped the bed and pulled a large box towards the back. He lifted it up, the packs of snow falling off the lid. He threw Clint his favorite Winchester and grabbed a shotgun for himself. The two ran towards the sound as they loaded shells into their guns, passing through a line of trees. The two old men reached the epicenter of the noise. Sal bent over to catch his breath. The huffing of the heaving Cajun was the only sound that filled the wooded area. With his breath returned, Sal leaned back up straight and clicked on the headlamp. What lay illuminated before the two hunters was a gruesome scene. A woman had been mangled and chowed on. One arm was eaten off, a leg stripped to the bone. Clint shined his Maglite across the woods. He swore he could hear a low, soft growl fill the air around them. He couldn't pinpoint it's origin. It just seemed to be spread across the angered winds, riding on each gust.
"Dis es definitely de work of a Wendigo." Sal diagnosed the body. He stood up from the body and raised his shotgun towards the woods in case the beast still lingered. Then Clint's Maglite caught the tail end of something rustle deep into the woods.
"There it goes!" Clint hollered out. He levered a round into his rifle, but the beast was long gone. "It's headed north through the woods." The two trudged back through the snow towards the truck.
"Ef we want to catch dis beast we best follow it on foot through de woods." Sal suggested as they approached the truck. Clint nodded in agreement. They prepared for a long trek across the snowy forest. Sal pulled a cheap toboggan over his head and buttoned up his Carhartt. Clint grabbed a backpack and loaded it with supplies; ranging from food and camping gear to rifle ammo and silver knives. "Ye, remember to bring plenty o' knives. Say a hot knife melting dat heart es all dat'll kill it." With guns loaded, knives hitched in their belt, backpacks of supplies, and layered in clothes the two started hiking through the woods, hoping they could keep up with the beast. The snow started to let up to a light flurry, but the night was still cold on the skin. As the woods deepened the land started to elevate as the forest turned into mountainside. Their each step became more labored than the last as the heavy backpacks and deep snow slowed the old men down. As they traversed the mountain terrain Sal kept a lookout for any tracks. "De weren't lying. Dis monster es a master 'unter. Ain't no tracks to speak of." Sal was impressed with the Wendigo's prowess. Clint replied with a grumble, too cold to speak any words. They kept heading the direction they expected the beast to go when they were stopped in dead in their tracks by a roar. This one didn't mysteriously fill the wind, it was loud and pronounced, and it had an origin. Clint and Sal both turned to see the reflecting eyes of a 450 pound Grizzly Bear, only 20 feet away. Both raised their guns up to their shoulder. The bear stood it's ground, continuing to roar. The hunters didn't shoot; the bear wasn't attacking, just defending it's territory, and a shot could scare off the Wendigo if it was near by. With guns still trained on the bear, the two slowly side stepped away from the brown mass of muscle and fur. The bear kept it's eyes locked on the two hunters, never moving from it's spot but continuing to raise it's voice. Clint and Sal kept slowly back stepping trying to avoid tussling with a dangerous animal. The Grizzly stood up on it's hind legs to make itself appear bigger. As it did, another animal entered into the flashlight's beam. It tackled the bear to the ground and viciously clawed away at it. The bear's fearsome roars turned into terrified yelps. The two hunters took a good look at the second animal. It stood on it's hind legs, hunched over the bear. Clint could see through the thick, white fur that the claws on it's hands were long as nails and, if the bear was any judge, sharp as razors. Sal noticed that the white fur flowed down from the beast's head as a thick over coat, and under it was a rougher undercoating that grew from yellowed, heavily muscled skin. The bear had stopped squirming and the second animal looked up towards the light. It's face, sitting low on a thick neck and wide shoulders, was revealed to the hunters. Glowing yellow eyes, the sign of a predator. It's lower jaw was bookended by two large protruding tusks. Any noticeable nose was absent from it's face, but it had it's fair share of sharp teeth. Bear blood trickled down it's lip and onto it's long, white goatee of fur. When it stood up straight it easily lumbered over the hunters at an imposing 8 feet.
"Crap, that's it!" Clint yelled as he fired a bullet at the beast. Sal answered with a volley of shotgun fire. The bullets sank into the Wendigo, but it shook them off. It started charging at the two with unheard of speed. The two kept shooting lead into the beast hoping to slow it. The Wendigo's long arm lashed out at the hunters. Clint dived into the deep snow to miss the wide swing of the sharp claws. The Wendigo kept running and leaped into the trees, disappearing again into the darkness. Sal ran over to Clint and pulled the frozen trucker from the snow. Sal put his wide arm around Clint to share body heat.
"We... gotta hurry fer it gets away." Clint tried to mumble through chattering teeth.
"Don't worry mon ami. Et knows we are here, and dat we er next on da menu." Sal replied, his jolly tone absent. They trudge farther on through the snow, Sal pulling the hypothermic Clint along. "Aright, we need to get jou warmed up." Sal insisted as he stopped near a tall pine tree. He laid Clint against it and pulled a knife from his belt. He skinned the tree of it's bark, making a neat pile that he soaked in lighter fluid from his supply pack. A quick flick of a match gave the partners a fire to warm up by. They sat under the tree; warmed by the fire and sheltered from the snow. Clint slowly rummaged through his pack to pull out a turkey sandwich, a thermos of spiced cider, and a Butterfinger. Sal picked a snack of beef jerky accompanied with a bottle of his 'jolly juice'. They sat there, regaining their strength, assured that the Wendigo wouldn't go too far with a fresh meal practically following it. The warm cider and warmer fire started to unthaw Clint; his body at least, his personality would stay steel cold. Sal was half way into his jerky when he looked over to Clint.
"Dis jerky ain't real bad, but it ain't going to 'old my hunger." Sal stared at Clint with a hungry look in his brown eyes. Clint strained his neck in cautious fear. Sal held the look for another moment then burst out in laughter echoing from the deepest parts of his belly. "Eh, ha, ha. Dake it easy. I just yanking your chain." Sal found his joke knee slapping funny. Clint let out a small smile, not sharing the same level of merriment as the Cajun. They were warming themselves to the blazing fire when a noise had returned to the wind. It seemed to carry a whisper from nowhere again. Not a low growl this time, but a deep, primal, gravely voice seemed to subtly whisper, "Wen, di, go." Clint looked up sharply from the fire, making eye contact with an alert Sal.
"Yah hear that." He whispered. Sal shook his head yes, the headlamp bobbling along.
"Can't dell where et coming from?" Sal looked around nervously. Clint threw another piece of bark on the blaze, the embers shot up like beautiful dancers. The trucker pulled two of the knives he had in his belt and laid the blades on the fire. Sal followed suit with his knives. If the Wendigo appeared, they'd have the hot knife to melt it's heart readied. The whispers still rode the wind, "Wen, di, go. Wen, di, go." They both clutched their guns tight and wandered a few steps from the fire. They scanned the mountainside forest for the large beast. Their eyes constantly moving, surveying, hunting.
"WEN, DI, GO!" This was no whispering wind Clint heard screamed into his left ear. He turned to see the monster mere feet away. The back of the beast's hand tossed Clint aside like a ragdoll. The Wendigo started to stand over Clint to feast. The trucker could see the bullet wounds that scarred the beast's hide from the earlier encounter. Before the Wendigo could make the kill it was knocked off balance by a close range shotgun blast. Sal ran up to Clint and fired another shell off, knocking the beast back further. Sal extended a hand to help pull up Clint. Clint grabbed his Winchester from the ground, dusted the snow off, and fired. The 30-30 caliber bullet went deeper into the monster, but it stayed standing.
"Jou keep it distracted. I'll grab a knife." Sal told Clint as he jogged back towards the campfire. The Wendigo saw the sudden movement and began running towards Sal at breakneck speed. Clint sighted in and fired another shot at the moving target in one fluid motion. It caught the Wendigo's chin and stopped it's momentum as it tumbled through the snow. Sal turned to see the beast had almost got him, he raised his shotgun to fire one more round in it before reaching the fire. Sal had reached their campfire and the knives were glowing red with heat. He started to bend down to grab one when the monster's cry rang out again,
"Wen, Di, GO!" The beast had picked itself up and jolted towards Clint again. The Cajun watched as it took another brutal wide swing at the trucker. This one connected. The claws sliced across his face. He spun to the ground, his trucker cap flying off, and blood trickled from his wounds onto the pure white snow. The monster raised it's arms high to deliver the final blow when another shotgun blast hit it. The beast glared at Sal with evil intent in it's yellow eyes. It quickly made it over to the campfire and Sal. In it's pursuit to consume Sal it's massive foot smashed the small fire. Sal could hear the cooling sizzle as the snow packed feet cooled the knives. Sal lifted the shotgun, but the Wendigo's claws were faster, knocking the shotgun away and Sal onto the ground with a gash across his chest, and his beard unevenly shaved. The Wendigo took a few more steps, lifting it's foot from the dowsed fire. Sal could see the red glow quickly fading from the knives. The Wendigo was over top of him. He looked up at the beast that would do him in. He mumbled a quick prayer in dirty French and looked the beast in the eyes.
"Jou'll eat well tonight monster." Sal snarled at the Wendigo as it raised a claw, his voice as raspy and angry as Clint's. The beast started to lower it's hand when it yelped out in pain. A hot knife had been stabbed in it's back. It quickly turned to see Clint standing before it. His face still leaking blood, his breathing labored, his body hunched and tired, but his blue eyes set with determination, and his hand clasping a heated knife. The Wendigo took another wide swing, but Clint ducked this time around. The Wendigo hunched it's back, putting it's fury jowl level with Clint. He could see the mist of it's breath and the stains on it's protruding tusks. It's soulless, yellow eyes locked on the worthy opponent. It's jaw dropped and roared at Clint, swinging it's arms back for power. He could smell the Wendigo's morning breath, stench of death. Clint's eyes never left the monster's gaze. He was locked in a staring contest with the world's deadliest competitor. Clint returned with a roar of his own as he raised the heated knife and inserted it into the beast's muscular chest. The Wendigo started to stumble back. Sal rolled through the snow to avoid being stepped on. The Wendigo roared in pain as it stared at the knife in it's chest. Clint picked Sal up off the ground as the beast fumbled around. The heat of the knife started to emanate and spread across the yellowed skin of the Wendigo. Sweat started to pour off it's body, trickling down the shaggy white fur, as if it were melting away. It raised it's head and arms towards the sky as the heated red glow reached across it's whole body.
"Wen, di, go!" One final roar echoed from the cannibalistic beast as a gust of wind came from nowhere and whisked the monster into powdered snow. The snow was carried away and the wind disappeared as quickly as it came in. Sal and Clint looked at what was left of the beast, then at each other.
"Yer beard's a little..." Clint made a hand motion to tell Sal about his rough shave from the Wendigo. Sal grabbed his beard and looked at it. He let out a little chuckle that turned into a cough.
"Eh, he, he. Dis'll grow back. Maybe wit out all da gray hairs?" he let his beard fall then pointed at Clint's facial wounds, "Jou look terrible. Best get dat taking care of." Clint agreed and handed Sal his shotgun and backpack. They started a long trek down the mountain slope and towards the old Ford. As they walked through the forest Sal looked over at Clint's wounds, "I saw jou stare down dat beast. Gotta be careful doing dat. One time da beast won't back down." Sal lectured, then cracked his jolly smile and slapped a sore Clint on the back, "And lets be honest. We getting too ol' to pull stunts like dat." Clint listened to Sal but said nothing in reply. The Cajun was right, time was catching up to the old hunters. Clint wiped the blood off his hand onto his blue jeans and fumbled through his pocket for his cell phone. He punched in Milly's number.
It was late in the night already. Milly was at Farrsville's B&B watching TV in her pajamas. Her phone rang, playing "Convoy", a song that always made her think of her dad. She picked it up and answered it.
"What is it dad? Are you okay?" Her voice was extra sweet sounding to Clint's ears.
"Pumpkin, I love you. You know that right?" Clint had a rare soft moment.
"Of course. Is this because of my getting married?" Milly asked with a sarcastic tone. Clint grumbled out a laugh.
"I'm heading home. I'll see you soon. Bye." Clint clicked the phone shut and caught up with Sal. They were still trudging through the woods. The snow finally subsided and the scene was still and beautiful. Sal and Clint took in the gorgeous, postcard view. A slight wind was still blowing, carrying a low grumble that whispered "wen, di, go."