The Spirits of Devil's Peak

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
A couple of cops on a routine night shift find more than they bargain for when they pull over three kids on the run.

Submitted: November 09, 2016

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Submitted: November 09, 2016

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1.

It had already been a long night when my partner announced his desperate need for some coffee and one of those big glazed donuts with the raspberry filling.  I laughed and pointed out how he was walking cliché….an overweight cop drinking coffee and eating donuts. He just laughed it off like always.

“I’ve earned it, kid. There’s the Gas & Go up here on the left. Be nice and I’ll buy you one of them candy bars ya like so much.” One of his usual jabs at my age. I’m his junior by more than a decade and he liked to remind me of that as often as he could.

“They’re protein bars,” I protested for the hundredth time.

“Right. Whatever ya say, kid,” he grumbled as he motioned me over underneath the one working streetlight on the lot. “Just park it; I’ll be back in a sec.”

Skipper was called the Skipper for two reasons. One, he bore and uncanny resemblance to the Skipper from Gilligan’s Island…honest to God. Once, at a Department cook out, he wore a blue polo shirt and…well, the name just sort of stuck with him. Two, he was actually the rank and file supervisor on the night shift. So if he needed a coffee break, we took a coffee break. And in truth, I could’ve used a break myself. Maybe I’d have him get me one of those “candy bars” after all. We had 3 more hours on shift and I needed the boost. I had only been on 3rd shift for a few weeks; we rotated shifts every couple of months and it was my turn. But, honestly, I liked the quiet. This wasn’t one of those big cities that stayed up and running all night every night. No, the folks around here tended to roll up the sidewalks and go to bed about 10pm every night. And that was fine by me. I love my job, but I don’t crave excitement like a lot of the other guy do. I have a family that I need to get home to every night. Boring was fine with me. And most nights were just that…boring.

“Here ya go, kid…. I got you a real candy bar.” The boss said as he got back in the cruiser and tossed a small bar at me.

“A Snickers, Skipper? You know how much sugar is in one if these things?”

“Exactly. You’re welcome,” he said with a grunt as he shifted in his seat to get comfortable.

I was about to protest again when the first sign of head lights became visible just over the hill past the little gas station. Whoever it was, they were flying. They were past us before we could even get the radar gun up to use.

“You see that? With us sitting right here in plain view! I swear these punks ain’t got no respect no more.”

With that, I hit the blue lights and pulled the cruiser out onto the road and began to accelerate up to speed. It didn’t take long to catch up; the old Honda seemed to be just holding on. These little speedsters were pushing it to its max. As soon as we got close, the little car pulled over to the right side of the road and came to an abrupt stop.

Without warning, the occupants jumped out of the car and began running back toward the cruiser.  At a first, you assume the worst with something like this. Were these kids on drugs? Were they crazy? Were they on drugs and crazy? Either way, we weren’t going to take the chance so the Skipper and I got out behind the relative safety of the car door and took a defensive stance with our weapons drawn. It was the Skipper that spoke first.

“Stop! Stop right there and keep your hands where I can see them. Now!” he barked.

To my relief, they did exactly as they were asked. Their faces were red and looked…. wet? We’re these kids crying?

“Turn around and face away from me and my partner,” Skipper continued. “Place your hands on top of your head and walk backwards towards the sound of my voice until I tell you to stop. Now stop and turn to face the vehicle. Place your hands flat on the side of the vehicle and prepare to be restrained!”

Again, they complied to every command. I swore I heard the tall one say “thank God.”

At this point I came around from the door and moved to place them up against the car. They were definitely crying; but they were also mumbling something low to themselves.

“Thank God…. thank God…. thank God.”

2.

It took nearly half an hour to get the kids to calm down. They seemed like good kids overall and I’m pretty sure I had seen at least two of the them where my wife and I go to Church. If I was right, I knew their parents. Good folks. We’d taken off the cuffs almost as soon as we put them on; these kids weren’t any danger to us. But, we kept them in the back of the cruiser until they were able to tell us what exactly was going on.

“Alright. Which one of you wants to tell me why ya’ll are out here this late driving around like your momma didn’t teach you any sense at all? And what’s got you so weepy, ladies?” The Skipper didn’t try to hide his disdain for tears…especially from boys.

“What my partner here means is…what’s going on, guys? You could have killed someone driving like that and what’s got you so upset?” I tried to smooth it over hoping that might get them to open up.

“You’ll either tell us here and now or we can call your folks and have them meet us down at the Station…your call, ladies,” Skipper added. I swear, he must have skipped the day they taught sensitivity training at the academy; these kids were visibly shaken.

The tallest of the boys, a kid named Jeff, whispered so softly I could barely make what he was trying to say.

“I’m sorry, son; I didn’t catch that.”

Jeff took a deep breath; then he looked at me and the Skipper dead in the eyes and said “better to die out here speeding than back there with that…thing.” It was barely more than a whisper, but it was loud enough so that we could clearly understand what he was saying. At the mention of that “thing”, the other boys, Jake and Tony, began to glare at Jeff like he’d just told the teacher they were passing notes in class.

“Shut up, Jeff!” said the scruffiest looking of the three.

His name was Tony and he was clearly the leader of the Three Amigos.

“Why? It’s the truth…you saw it too. We all did.” Jeff was getting angry.

“Saw what?” Skipper demanded. “Out with it!”

“You wouldn’t believe us if we told you, Cop. Go back to your donuts and just call my Mom.” This time it was Jake that responded. This one had an attitude, but I could tell it was just tough talk. He was scared and he didn’t want to show it in front of the others; I’d seen it a hundred times with kids this age. The question was, what had these kids so spooked?

“Listen, guys. I get it. You saw something and it scared you; that doesn’t make you criminals. So we’re not trying to set you up or anything like that. But, if there is something out there, we need to know about it. Do you want it hurting someone else?” I tried to relate to them as best I could. The last bit was to help them rationalize “squealing” to the cops. If they thought they could say they were telling us to help someone else, they wouldn’t get hassled by the other kids if someone ended up getting in trouble. At least that’s what the training told us.

Finally, Tony began to look down at his shuffling feet. He was squirming in the back seat and I could tell he wanted to tell us what was going on. A little more pressure and I knew he’d open up. Once he started talking, the others were quick to follow….

3.

It was late when they received a call from a friend they called Hound Dog. He had been at a party late that night when he realized his ride had baled on him earlier in the evening to go see their girlfriend. He needed a ride home and they were happy to oblige. They live on the other side of the county; so by the time they got to the party it was already past 1:00AM. They picked him up and they headed out to his place.

Hound Dog lived off a dirt road at the top of Devil’s Peak, a local mountain pass between Cary Lake and Baker Falls. That was about 2 miles from where the kids had been pulled over. The road to the top of the mountain is filled with dangerous curves all the way up and back down to the highway. It was one of those roads that was probably five miles in length overall but could have been less than one mile if it had been made straight. Some of the curves are sharp and the max speed a car, even a small car, can get up to is about 35 miles per hour. Maybe a little more in a couple of places but there weren’t many of those. As they pulled onto the little road that would take them to the top of Devil’s Peak, one of their headlights blinked a couple of times and then quit working. So, with limited sight they began moving slowly up the road.

About half way up the mountain, they came around a dark turn to find a man walking down the middle of the road. He was dirty and only wore an old pair of coveralls. No shirt; no shoes. He was walking away from them and directly in the middle of the road; the boys had no choice but to try and move the small car around him and as they pulled alongside the man, they rolled down the driver’s side window and tried to speak to him. It was late and he appeared to be in bad shape, so they asked if he was ok or if he needed a ride up to the top. They were met with only silence. He didn’t even return their gaze…he simply continued to walk up the road towards the top of the mountain. They asked Hound Dog who he was thinking he had to be a neighbor; but he was as much a stranger to him as he was the other three. Admittedly a little freaked out, the boys accelerated up the hill and each breathed a sigh of relief as the man faded into the darkness. They reached the top of the little mountain, turned off down Hound Dogs dirt road driveway and made their way to his house. They said their goodbyes, made plans to hang out the next evening, and the other three boys pointed their Honda back down the winding little mountain road.

They were apprehensive when they came upon the same man they had encountered just minutes earlier in the road; this time he was walking back down the mountain…once again moving in the same direction as their car. They pulled around the man and, once again, they slowed and asked the man if he needed assistance or even a ride down the mountain; though they confided they had no intention of letting him in the car. This time, however, the man stopped and turned to face the boys. There was something unnatural about the way he stared without emotion. It was as if he were coldly sizing them up one at a time. Jake, the mouthier of the three, had had enough and began to provoke the stranger. He taunted him about his clothes and his hygiene, he admitted. But the man did nothing; he simply stood there and continued to stare coldly at each boy moving his gaze from boy to boy… slowly one at a time.

Jake related that he felt like the man was just trying to scare them and it was working. But, he wanted to show him that he was not scared…they would not be intimidated by a “homeless old hillbilly”. As the words came out of Jake’s mouth the car started to move forward down the hill again slowly leaving the man standing alone in the road…staring. But, in one last brazen attempt to show just how brave he was, Tony threw an empty can of Mellow Yellow out the car window striking the man squarely in the chest. With that, the man began to change in front of their eyes.

4.

“Wait,” barked the Skipper.

“Just what kind of load are you trying to sell me here, kid?”

“See, I told you,” Jeff broke in. “you don’t believe us.”

“It’s not that,” I interrupted before the Skipper could reply. “It just sounds a little…out there. That’s all.”

“You haven’t heard the worst of it,” was all Tony could say.

5.

The three kids sat there unblinking as they watched the man turn into…something else.

The man’s eyes, still staring blankly forward, seemed to blacken; the whites slowly disappeared from view until his eyes were as dark as the night sky. His eyebrows pulled together into a snarl and his posture began to shrink in front of the boy’s eyes…he was hunched over now, almost touching the ground with one hand. But the worst thing was the smile. It crept across his face into a tight black slit at first, but then rapidly grew into a wide gaping unnatural grin with yellow, crooked teeth protruding. There was no sound except the boys own heavy breathing in the car. Without realizing it, Tony had stopped in the middle of the road...they all seemed frozen in place watching the man’s features change before their eyes.

The man cocked his head to the right and then back to the left like a demonic bird watching the boys with curiosity. But, that curiosity changed to malice in an instant as the man let out a roar that rocked the car windows. The sound shook the boys out of their fear as their fight or flight instincts kicked in. It would be flight. Tony put the small car in gear and began to accelerate down the hill. Jake and Jeff watched the man in horror out the back window as he continued his transformation. It was like a gymnast, Jeff had said. The man bent low and then threw himself back over into an arch nearly touching the ground behind him….and then launched himself forward into a run after the car. He was running on all fours.

They nearly went off the road as they took the first curve at 35 miles an hour; but they seemed to have put some distance between them and the…man? But their relief was short lived as Jake saw the man jerk to his left and move into the woods heading down the mountain. With the curves, that would put him directly in their path again as soon as they rounded the next corner. Terror set in and the two passengers began yelling for Tony to go faster…they had to beat him to the turn. He was no more than a few feet away from the car as they made the turn first and pulled into one of the few short straightaways. Tony gunned it knowing that if the man had continued his straight-line run through the woods he could be waiting on them around the next bend. Jeff was starting to cry in the back.

To their relief, there was no one to be seen as they came around the corner and moved toward the next turn; Tony slowed the car down. What was he doing? The others pleaded for him to speed back up, but Tony knew the road well and he knew that they had to slow down to make the next couple of turns without going off the road into the ditch. Did they want to wreck and have walk back down the hill with that “thing” out there? They begrudgingly agreed and the little Honda slowed down further as they moved into the next turn. Just then, each of the boys in turn saw the dark shape hanging from a branch that hung low out across the road. Tony had no choice; he punched the accelerator hard as he moved into the turn hoping to move too fast beneath the creature for it to catch onto the rack on the top of their car. The little Honda’s engine whined and the tires squealed sharply as Tony did everything he could to keep the car in the road. Just as they started to get their lost traction back they heard the deep screech as something scratched harshly along the top of their car…it was the sound of metal on metal and they knew it was the man trying to catch them as they sped under the heavy branch he was perched on. With a thud, they heard the man fall heavily on the road behind them…Tony couldn’t let up his pressure on the pedal; it was right behind them.

They had almost made it. The last stretch of road was fairly straight as they headed towards the turn onto the highway. Tony looked down and saw the speedometer move past 45 miles per hour; but to his horror…the man was right behind them running on all fours. He was keeping up and even closing the gap between himself and the little car. How is that even possible? He pushed the Honda even faster. He didn’t even apply the brakes as he made a fast turn onto the highway and they didn’t look back. They weren’t sure the man wasn’t behind them until they saw the welcoming glare of the blue lights kick on behind them. Fear turned to relief and they each fell into quiet shock with tears filling their eyes.

But what if he was behind the police car? That’s why they had jumped out and ran back towards the cruiser...they were going to try and warn us. We knew the rest.

6.

“That’s quite a story,” I said not knowing quite what else to say. They kids had obviously seen something and they weren’t showing any of the normal “tells” that people do when they were lying. I didn’t know what these boys had actually seen, but they believed every word of the story they had just relayed to us. It was most likely a prank or a hoax…maybe it was something that Hound Dog kid had set up. Either way, I knew we had to check it out.

“What? No way. These kids are on something,” the Skipper growled. “We ain’t going up there on some damned wild goose chase.”

“Come on, Boss. Do they look or act like they are high? I mean, I don’t want go up there either; if you’re scared…” I said using good old fashioned reverse psychology. I really didn’t think it would work.

“Scared? You serious, Candy Bar? You know what, if you want to waste our time looking for Bigfoot, fine. Let’s go hunting.” The Skipper was a great cop; he was just a little too predictable sometimes. “But, they’re going with us.”

I hadn’t seen that coming. There was an audible sharp intake of breath from the back seat….and I swear one of them started to cry again.

“What? No. No way. We are not going back up there,” they said in unison, clearly in a panic.

“Ok,” the Skipper said with a smile. “Just go ahead and hop out.”

They tried, of course. But, they were in the back of a police cruiser…you can get in, but you can’t get out without help from the outside. It was cruel, but it was funny to watch them try for a moment before reality of their situation set in. When the screaming calmed down, I pulled the cruiser back out on the highway and we made our way back towards Hanson Mountain Road. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little apprehensive myself about what we might find waiting for us as we pulled off the highway.

7.

When I was a kid, my grandfather had told me about Devil’s Peak. According to him and my great uncle Barney, the whole area had once been land belonging to a tribe of Native Americans called the Yuchi. They had lived on the land for generations until the removal era in the early 1800’s; in fact, there were still a small band of their descendants living on the mountain today.  My grandfather was a hunter and had served in the Army in the late 1950s and throughout most of the 1960’s including a tour of duty in Vietnam at the onset of the war. He wasn’t a man that was scared of anything. But, he always seemed ill at ease when he would tell stories to my brother and I about the mountains and the Yuchi legends he’d heard growing up.

“The Yuchi are a peaceful people now. But, once upon a time, they held a lot of animosity towards the founders of the township. Sometimes it even got a little violent,” he’d say careful not to say too much to young boys whose imaginations were already fast at work.

The stories that scared me the most were about the Yuchi Shamans. They were known to possess powerful magic, he’d say. He claimed to have met one years earlier while out hunting with his brother. He’d gone out scouting for new areas to set up when deer season started and was startled by a man sitting on a large rock in the middle of a small clearing. He’d apologized for coming up on him unexpectedly and was about to go his own way when the man spoke to him in the Yuchi language, or so he assumed. He couldn’t understand the man, but it was clear he was angry. He said he was sorry again and turned to leave the area to find Barney when the man grabbed him by the shoulder and forced him to the ground. My grandfather was a big man and was not easily man-handled, but he said that that he went down as easily as child under the strength of the old man. The man looked him in the eyes and in broken English told him that this land was forbidden. It was Yuchi land and the spirits would protect the land against all who trespassed.

Or something like that; it’s been a long time since I originally heard the story. But I do remember clearly that my Grandfather did not go back on that land again for any reason. That’s what I found most unsettling…that and the fact that the old yarn had a strong resemblance to the story that was unfolding with these three kids tonight. It was all I could think about as we drove up that little mountain pass.

“Ok, where did ya see this monster at exactly?” The skipper seemed gruff, but I could tell he was as unsettled as I was.

“It was closer to the top,” Tony said in a low whisper. He clearly did not want to be back on this road; his fear was palpable. I had mine in check…but there was no denying it was there. There was something about the woods surrounding us that seemed to say we were not welcome. But, I thought of the old tale my grandfather had told me and I was able to convince myself it was just the old story that was causing my irrational sense of dread.

We moved the car slowly up the old road taking each curve carefully; our windshield spot lights were on and searching the woods for our would be assailant. We saw nothing until we came around the third winding curve; just ahead in the dark stood a large grey and black dog. It was just off the road on the left and showed no effort to move as we approached. As we got closer to the animal, the sheer size of the beast became apparent. It had to be 200lbs or more and stood easily as high up as the window on the side of the car door. It stared in the window at the 5 of us taking note, it seemed, of the boys in the back...there was no fear in this animal whatsoever. As we pulled past it simply cocked its head and followed us with its dark gaze, it’s mouth in a snarl revealing a single yellow tooth hanging over its lip on the bottom right.

We pulled on and continued up the hill.

“That wasn’t weird at all,” I said trying to lighten the mood. It didn’t work.

We continued up the pass until we reached the little turn off to Hound Dog’s place. While I still wasn’t convinced that he didn’t have some kind of hand in this prank or joke or whatever it was, we didn’t have just cause at this point to wake his family up so we turned around and headed back down the mountain pass. That’s when the man walking down the road came into view; our headlights causing a dark, monstrous shadow on the woods behind him. Collectively, we each took a deep breath and moved towards the figure before us.

8.

“You boys stay here and keep quiet,” the Skipper growled over his shoulder as I pulled the cruiser over just behind the walking man.

We both got out and I hung back as the boss approached the man who, at this point, had still not stopped walking down the road. The Skipper announced himself to be with the police department and asked the man to stop walking and to turn to face us.

It had no effect; the man continued his walk down the mountain road.

The Skipper sped up his pace and moved to intercept the stranger; but as fast as he walked, the man matched his pace and stayed just ahead of him…never once acknowledging our presence in any way. I got back into the car and began to pull forward until I had overtaken them both and with a sharp cut of my steering wheel and angled the cruiser into the man’s path.

He stopped and the Skipper stepped in front of him and moved him into position facing the car. The man did not speak; in fact, he didn’t seem to care that the Skipper and I were even there. He simply looked into the back of the car at the boys…and smiled. One yellow, crooked tooth stuck out and hung just slightly over his lip on the right side. I heard “Oh my God” said from the back seat as all three boys jerked back away from the window.

With that, the man forcefully pulled away from the car and tossed the Skipper aside like a doll. I heard a solid thud as he hit the ground on the other side of the patrol car. I was out of the car in an instant with my pistol drawn and trained on the man standing just fifteen feet or so away from the car...he was just standing out in the woods with his back to me. I grabbed my flashlight and aimed both it and the gun towards the man and began to order him back to the car. I was shaking so hard the light was bouncing sharply up and down as I tried to keep the man illuminated. He simply stood there and began to walk slowly into the woods.

I heard a groan coming from the other side of the car.

“Let him go…” the Skipper said, clearly in pain. “I think he broke my damned arm.”

The bruising had already set in; it looked broken. So I shifted my attention away from the man in the woods and focused on my boss and getting him into the car. I did my best to make him comfortable and then turned to look for the old man…he was gone. I walked out into the woods to where he was standing just moments before and was scanning around the area with my flashlight. I knew I needed to get back to the car and to get the Skipper to the hospital…but I had to take one more look. There was no sign of him anywhere so I turned to return to the car. That’s when I heard the voice whisper in my ear in broken English.

“This land is forbidden…the spirits will protect the land…”

I turned quickly to see who’d said it, but I was still alone in the woods. I didn’t even tell the Skipper that part.

9.

I’m not sure what we saw in the woods on Devil’s Peak that night. No report was ever filed by the Skipper nor by me. We would be the joke of the department and neither of us wanted that. The Skipper was put on a desk for a few weeks to heal from the “fall” he’d taken escorting a few drunk kids home that night and I did the rest of my tour on the night shift without incident.

I know what I saw that night even if no one else ever did...at least not until now. You probably think I’m crazy; and, hell, I may be. But if I were you, I’d not go up on Devil’s Peak Mountain. There are spirits up there and they will protect the land. You have been warned.

 


© Copyright 2017 Mac Buckner. All rights reserved.

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