A Shot in the Dark (The Traders Hill Anthology)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic

Featured Review on this writing by Celtic-Scribe63

A detective goes back home for a little crypto investigation fun but finds himself in the middle of a horror he will be lucky to survive. (ADULT LANGUAGE and VIOLENCE.)
Written by C.S. Gainey
Cover by Desygner

 

 

"Sergeant  Udell, we have a disturbance in cell block two," a frantic voice squawked from the two-way radio holstered on the elderly jailer's hip.  

 

"What is it this time?" Answered the sergeant.

 

"It's Freely Sir, he went berserk in his cell. Captain sent in a extraction team and—and, they're all dead Sir.”

 

"What do you mean they're all dead?”

 

“I mean they're all dead Sir, all but me and the inmates.” 

 

"What about the Captain?"

 

"Him too, Sir. He is friggin dead, they're all friggin dead. Something was in the cell with Freely, or-- just get over here!”

 

"Just keep yourself locked in the control room Thomas, Sergeant Udell said calmly, trying to keep the trepidation out of his voice for the sake of the young jailer. “I'm already on my way with my shotgun. Hit the panic button to alert the rest of the department. Then call the Sheriff.”

 

"Yes Sir, but I think it made it outside, Sir.”

 

"What do you mean by, it?"

 

"I mean Freely, Sir."

 

The old jailer looked out the side door of the trustee dorm across the jail yard at cell block two, which held the more seriously accused of the Charleston County Sheriff Office Jail. The yard was alit with the surrounding flood lights that lined the outer perimeter fence. With that light and the light of the full moon overhead, it was almost perfect daylight, even though it was nearing midnight, on that brisk January night.

 

Sergeant Udell left the safety of the trustee dorm and stepped out into the yard with his shotgun held out in front of him, at the ready. He stopped just  outside the door and studied the yard. His observation was interrupted by a sound behind him.

 

The noise was much like the sound of a tree limb being dragged across a metal roof during a  windstorm. There was no trees in the jail yard though, and no wind for that matter either, he thought.  Added to this noise was a thud to the ground.

 

"Sweet Jesus," the Sergeant explained as he spun around with the shotgun. 

 

An open clawed hand met the weapon throwing it across the yard  and nearly ripping the old man's arm off with the blow. The other came across his neck and the old jailer knew or saw, no more.

 

**One month earlier** 

Clinton Freely sat at his desk enjoying the scenery of his cheaply paneled office through the golden hue of his whiskey glass. His small detective agency “This Eye is for You” was thriving. It was thriving because he ran a fleet of repossession trucks, and with the lackluster economy of Atlanta Georgia, there were plenty of deadbeats struggling to make their monthly notes on vehicles they probably shouldn’t have owned in the first place. Even though he was doing well financially, His lifelong dream of being a private eye was turning out to be something less glamorous than the detective stories he read about in books and magazines as a kid. To satisfy his sleuthing cravings he occasionally dabbled in the less respected side of investigation; the unknown world of cryptozoology.

 

He was brought back out of his day dreaming by someone banging on his wall that stood directly behind him and his desk. “Mr. Freely, line-two!” yelled his secretary, Mrs. Bonaker.

He apparently didn’t hear her first page indicating that he had a phone call, so she proceeded to beat his wall down until he noticed her ministrations. The last time this had happened his framed detective license fell off the wall and broke over his head. He learned not to hang anything from that wall anymore.

 

“I got it Mrs. Bonaker, thank you.”

 

He looked at his caller ID but he didn’t recognize the number. “This Eye is for You Detective Agency. Clinton Freely speaking, how may I help you?”

 

“Mr.Freely it’s been a long time,” a male voice said.

 

“You have me at a loss friend, may I ask who is speaking?”

 

“Clinton, it’s Shane Thomas from Traders Hill.”

 

“Shane, my God, how long has it been?”

 

“Twenty-two years and some change, unfortunately,” lamented Shane.

 

“The last time we saw each other was high school graduation. Did you end up in the army as you planned Shane?” asked Clinton.

 

“I did and hated it. I served my four years and got out. I work for the Georgia Game Commission now as a biologist, which is part of the reason why I called.”

 

“You’ve lost me Shane, why would a game biologist want with a detective?”

 

“I’ve seen your videos on Youtube, your bigfoot investigation videos in particular.”

 

“Oh no, now I’m embarrassed. I didn’t think anyone that I actually knew would see those,” said Clinton with a chuckle.

 

“Well I did, but no reason to be embarrassed. I have a question for you regarding Bigfoot, though. Do you think they actually exist?” Asked Shane.

 

“Why, this an intervention?” Joked Clinton.

 

“I’m serious, Do you believe?”

 

“Shane truly, I’ve never found anything that proves their existence. But, I like to keep an open mind--and besides, it makes for a fun weekend.”

 

“I’ve seen something Clinton, something I would never tell one of my own colleagues.”

 

“I’m honored then, please share.”

 

Shane cleared his throat, “A month ago this Sunday I was on the St. Mary’s River in a GWC boat doing a study on barred-owls, which put me on the water after sunset.  My assistant and I stayed until close to ten o’clock when we decided to leave. The reason why we decided to leave wasn’t because we concluded our study. It was because we heard something large in the woods near us. At first we weren’t concerned because it isn’t unusual on this part of the river to encounter wildlife.  It is home to bears, panthers, and of course deer, and not to mention alligators and numerous smaller animals. It was the sound the thing was making that made us decide to go. It came in at a dead run and just before it got to the shore where we had our boat moored it stopped. Timmy, my assistant, shined his spotlight on the shore but the woods were too thick for the light to penetrate.”

 

“You mentioned it was making a sound.”

 

“Yes, I’m getting to that. When it stopped it was breathing heavily like it was trying to catch its breath.  It sounded humanlike, but at the same time bestial, if that makes sense. Then it happened, it screamed like it was in pain.  Before I could tell my assistant to go, he already had the kicker cranked and was backing out into the current--before I was able to untie the boat, I might add. Luckily, the limb we were tied to was rotten and broke as soon as the weight of the boat pulled against it. We made it down the river about fifty yards when I saw it.  The thing stepped out on the thin strip of sand where we were tied to the tree. It was big man, real fucking big—bipedal too.”

 

“Jesus, I think I would have shit my pants.”

 

“I didn’t but I think Timmy did, at least it smelt like it on the way home, anyway.”

 

“I have to say that is the most convincing story I have ever heard especially coming from someone with your background,” said Clinton.

 

“Don’t forget, I have all my teeth too. I seem to remember most of the people in your videos didn’t.”

 

Clinton chuckled, “Well, to tell you the unfortunate truth about crypto-science, is that, extra-terrestrials, sasquatches, and the chupacabra only show themselves to the dentally challenged. With that being said, it sounds like you had a bona-fide skunk ape sighting.”

 

“Good, so when are you coming? I Understand it’s Christmas week and spur of the moment and all,” Added Shane.

 

“Well , I’m a little busy at the moment but I think I can clear my calendar and head down this evening. It’s about a five hour drive, so I can get there late tonight and check into a hotel. Tomorrow is Saturday, are you off Shane?”

 

“All weekend long. I’ve got a buddy willing to take us out. It’ll just be the three of us, is that okay? I asked Timmy to come but he called me a dumbass for just suggesting it.”

 

“That will be fine, anymore would just muddy the waters. Is that little mom and pop restaurant still open?” Asked Clinton.

 

“You mean the Cypress House, yeah, it’s still open.”

 

I’ll meet you there at nine o’clock in the morning then,” said Clinton.

 

“Sounds like a plan. See you tomorrow then.”

 

Immediately after he hung up with Shane, Clinton drank the remainder of his whisky that was in his glass, shut his laptop, and exited his office.

 

“Mrs. Bonaker, I have a case out of town, so you can lock the office up early today and go home.”

 

“If I do that I won’t get my forty hours Mr. Freely.”

 

“You write your own check anyway, so just right it for what you normally make.”

 

“That’s stealing Mr.Freely, I wouldn’t feel right about it.”

 

“I own the company Mrs. Bonaker, so it’s not stealing if I tell you to do it.”

 

“I will just stay my full eight hours, thank you very much. I only take what I earn, anything less would be stealing in the eyes of our lord.”

 

“Suit yourself then. I will be out of town until Monday morning so defer all my calls until then.”

 

“Are you going on one of your demon hunts Mr. freely?”

 

“I assure you, I’m not hunting any demons Mrs. Bonaker.”

 

“Anything not created by our lord and savior Mr. Freely, I promise you, is just that. One of these days you’re gonna catch the devil himself out there, and oh how your tone will change.”

 

Clinton thought of arguing his point with his elderly secretary but thought better of it, “Have a good weekend Mrs. Bonaker,” and he turned and left.

 

A short time later he was on the interstate well on his way. He already had his crypto-bag, as he referred to it, in the backseat of his truck, complete with a change of clothes. While he drove, he thought back to when he lived in the small rural south Georgia town known as Traders Hill. What he thought as a child to be a normal home life wilted in his mind’s-eye of adulthood.  His mother undoubtedly loved him but she was helplessly addicted to pain meds and his father was a drunk that only cared for himself and his liquor. Once he was ten or so, his parent’s addiction completely consumed their lives and they had little time for anything else, including him. As soon as he graduated from high school he moved to Atlanta and a couple years after that he was working for the Atlanta police Department as a beat cop. After a year on the force he was promoted to homicide, where he thrived as a detective. He worked for APD for about ten years before going to work for himself.

 

His mother died a few years back. One of his aunts called to tell him they found her dead after taking a whole bottle of vicodin. He paid for the funeral but he didn’t bother to go because to him she was already dead. His father, as far as he knew, was still alive and more likely than not, sat at a bar somewhere as Clinton drove down the interstate. All that his parents put him through as a child contributed to the fact that he himself never married or wanted children. The day he left Traders Hill for Atlanta he promised himself he would never set foot in that hellhole of a town again. He contemplated that fact as he read “Welcome to Traders Hill” on a roadside sign.  Shortly after ten o’clock that same night, Clinton sat in a small rundown motel room wondering why the hell he agreed to come back home.

 

Before going to bed, Clinton spread all his gear out on the bed of his motel room. He methodically checked his electronic equipment to make sure all of it was working properly. When he was satisfied, he repacked the equipment and laid out his change of clothes for the next day. Then he leaned down and pulled up his right pants leg and unsnapped a holster that held his .357 snub-nosed revolver. This was the same firearm he used as his backup during his time at the APD. It gave him a slight leg drag that someone with an observant eye may mistake for a limp. He tried to wear a shoulder holster right after leaving the force but his leg felt funny without the extra weight, so he went back to wearing it just above his ankle.  He swung the cylinder open on the gun, checked to make sure it was loaded, slammed it shut, placed it back in its holster, and laid it on top of his clothes. Then, he readied for bed and turned out the light.

 

The next morning he stood in front of the Cypress House restaurant waiting for the arrival of Shane. A few minutes later a Georgia game warden squad truck pulled up towing a center console boat with GWC in large green letters down the side.

 

“Good to see you Clinton”, Shane said after stepping out of the passenger side of the truck. Then he gestured back over his shoulder at a uniformed game warden. “Clinton, meet Gary Crawford. Gary, meet Clinton freely,” said Shane.

 

Clinton held out his hand and Gary shook it. “I wasn’t expecting a law enforcement escort. Happy to have you along, Gary.” The game warden reminded Clinton of a drill instructor you might see in an old war movie. The man appeared to be at least twenty years the senior over Clinton and Shane, which put him in his early sixties.

 

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Besides, Shane and I have a bet going. I say we won’t see anything except mosquitoes and yellow flies, Shane thinks otherwise. Regardless, it’s worth a case of beer to find out,” said Gary.

 

As they stood in line to be seated, Clinton looked at the small cork bulletin board that was hung on the wall just inside the door. Randomly thumb tacked over the board was hand drawn advertisements for anything from tractor for sale, to free kittens. But what truly caught Clinton’s eye was the missing poster in the center on the board. It was a picture of a middle-aged man that Clinton didn’t recognize until he read the name, Todd Wilkinson. It was one of his best friends from grade school right up through high school. Like everyone else in this town Clinton hadn’t spoke to him since he left twenty plus years ago.

 

Gary noticed him looking. “That was a sad story. I beat the sheriff department out to the house where it happened, when the call came in.”

 

“Where what happened,” asked Clinton.

 

“It was about six months ago.  About ten o’clock one morning I was finishing up my routine boat ramp check, down Landing Road on the river. A call came across the radio stating that Fred Jenkins was making his daily mail route and found Mr. Wilkinson’s wife lying in the middle of her yard dead. When I arrived I was greeted by a frantic mail man that directed me to the body of Alivia Wilkinson who was beyond help. Then I proceeded in the house to locate Mr. Wilkinson and their young daughter, but I only found the girl. Todd was nowhere to be found. It was like a house of horrors in there. The girl, like the mother, was half eaten and blood was everywhere. It was decided that a pack of rabid dogs killed the mother and daughter and dragged the father’s body off. I didn’t see anything that would dispute that claim. But, it still seems like there is more to it than that, but I’m just a game warden.” The old game warden studied Clintons face then said, “You know him don’t you?”

 

“Well I know the name but this man in the picture doesn’t match the eighteen year old kid that I remembered that belonged to it,” Clinton said with a laugh that was more akin to a lamenting sigh.

 

“Time has a way of changing us. Anyway, they never truly solved that case, in my opinion. But the sheriff office shut it, and the newspaper ran an article confirming that wild dogs were the culprit. After the Charleston County Daily ran that article the stray dog population took a nose dive, if you get my meaning.”

 

“You guys looking to buy a lawnmower or do you want to eat? Our table is ready,” said Shane, while thumbing back to the bulletin board. 

 

The waitress led them back to a booth and took their order.

 

“So, what exactly do you do on one of your Bigfoot hunts?” asked the game warden.

 

“Well first I set up game cameras on all the game trails I can find in the target area. I also do a series of Sasquatch calls to see if I can get one to answer me. The biggest thing I do is gather evidence, such as, tracks, feces, hair, and anything else out of the ordinary in the area. And of course I document all this by video camera."

 

“Have you ever got one to answer, or found anything noteworthy?” asked Shane.

 

“As I told you before, no I haven’t, but I remain optimistic. Shane, your story is the most convincing one I have ever heard. It makes me truly believe you saw something out there. What of you Gary, I know you’ve spent a lot of time on that stretch of the St. Mary’s, have you seen anything that would fit the description of Shane’s skunk ape?” asked Clinton.

 

“Not since I’ve become a game warden, but when I was a kid I saw something that might fit the profile of Shane’s whatchamacallit. I can tell you about it on the way to the river but I’m not gonna do it here. If the wrong person heard it they may think I’ve lost my marbles and try and strip me of my badge.”

 

“Fair enough, if y’all two are ready I will go and get my equipment and meet you back over here in about five minutes,” said Clinton as he laid a twenty dollar bill on the table. “Tell the waitress the change is hers.”

 

They rolled through Traders Hill and under the cheap garland red and green Christmas decorations that was strung from light post to light post. Past Paul’s Rexall Drug Store with its animated Saint Nick that waved to passerby. Eventually the last straggling businesses and homes that was Traders Hill township was behind them. 

 

“So you said you had a story for us Gary?” Asked Clinton from the back seat, while digging his camcorder out of his bag.

 

“Yeah I did, but you’re not recording it.  So put that thing up or this is gonna be a short trip, ending in both of you being kicked out on your asses back at the diner.”

 

“Okay it’s off, but is it okay if I record the audio just for my notes?” 

 

“I guess, just so no one but you and Shane ever hears it.”

 

“Deal! Let me set my phone up between you two there on the console,” said Clinton as he mashed an icon on his phone to turn on the recorder.“There, she’s ready to go, start when you’re ready.”

 

The old game warden pushed in his cigarette lighter on the dash and said, “I need a shot of whiskey to tell this story but all I have is my cigarettes, so they will have to suffice,”Gary lit his cigarette.  As the truck hummed down the highway he took a big draw, while the smoke filled the cab he started his tale.

 

“I was probably eight years old. My father, brother, our dog Tiger, and myself were gonna spend the night on the river catfishing, like we did every summer. We arrived at the landing about five o’clock in the evening and planned on staying until midnight—if the fish were biting. We launched the boat that Dad had tied down in the bed of his old truck and paddled down river about a half of a mile before we landed on a nice strip of sand.  Just before dark we started a small campfire on that bank, and baited and casted our lines. Everything started out great, the fish were biting but the yellow-flies and the mosquitoes weren’t, so we were in good humor. Dad was halfway through a twelve pack of Milwaukee’s Best when the moon crested the trees.  It was a brilliant night. Back then the night sky stood out like one of those 3-D movies. It was almost as if you could reach up and pluck a star out the sky, only if your arm was long enough."

 

Well, like I said, the moon crested the trees and it wasn’t long after that we heard something move in the woods behind us. The trees and bushes were too thick for us to make out anything other than the sound of the thing,” Gary slowed the truck down and made a right turn on Landing road.

 

“Did you ever see it?” asked Clinton.

 

“I’m getting to that, it’s just not easy for me to say it.”

 

“Take your time,” Clinton said apologetically.

 

“Tiger went ballistic and dove off into the woods. Shortly after, we heard him yelp, and that was the last we ever saw of him. Dad told us to get in the boat.  After we did as he told us, he pulled his handgun out of a tackle box he had on shore, and turned and said, “It’s probably just a wild hog. You kids stay put in that boat. If anything happens to me, y’all go back to the landing and get help.”  Before he turned to go into the woods after Tiger, Dad gave our small boat a shove and we were safely afloat in the middle of the slow moving river. Dad took a couple of steps back towards the woods’ edge and before he could make it to where our dog entered, something stepped out onto the beach.”

 

Gary rolled down his window and flicked his cigarette out in to the road. 

 

“It was big--identical to what Shane described. My dad shot it four or five times before it made it across the small beach to him. It howled like it was in pain but the shots Dad fired didn’t seem to slow it. It hit our father so hard,” Gary paused for a minute and pulled the truck over on the shoulder of the road.

 

“After all these years it’s still hard telling.” Gary wiped his eyes and started again, “Like I said, it hit Dad so hard it nearly severed his head from his neck. With Dad lying there dead, and that thing doing God knows what to his body, we paddled back to the boat ramp. Dad always left his keys hidden under the mat, so we were able to drive until we found a house.” 

 

“Jesus, that’s one hell of a story. I’ve never heard of anyone actually being injured by a Sasquatch,” said Clinton.

 

The game warden turned around fully in his seat to look Clinton in the eye, “I didn’t say it was a Sasquatch, you did. The boat ramp is only a mile down the road let’s get there before I change my mind.”

 

A couple of minutes later they were at the ramp. Clinton stayed in the back seat of the truck getting his gear ready. He checked his camcorder for a spare flash drive, and while he was doing so, Gary got in and pulled the truck and boat trailer back up the ramp to park it. Before getting out he noticed the game warden reaching into his glove compartment and taking out a couple of magazine-clips for his side-arm. Gary pulled his service pistol out of its holster released the clip that was loaded in the weapon and then he slammed one the others from the glove compartment in it.

Turning to Clinton he said, “A little extra kick for whatever is out there,” and as an exclamation point to his statement he chambered a round and replaced it in it’s holster. 

 

Clinton thought about arguing with the old game warden that such measures weren’t needed, but after the story he just heard, he thought better of it. The fact that he had his own pistol was also a comfort to him, even though he never felt like he needed it before on one of these investigations.

 

The three men eased out of the cove of the boat ramp into the river channel and headed up stream. It was midday so the sun was high in the sky and its rays reflected off the black mirrored waters that was the St. Mary’s River. The narrow white sand bank that lined one side or the other intermittently,  stood out in great contrast to the black waters. Behind the white sand lay a seemingly impenetrable forest. The St. Mary’s at its widest was no more than seventy-five yards across, in most parts though it was less than fifty yards.

 

Gary said from the center console, “We will set up on the same shoreline that Shane and Timmy did, the night they saw it. Clinton, you’ll have plenty of daylight to set up your cameras and do whatever else you need to do.”

 

“If you don’t mind me asking where did your Dad die in relation to where we are now?” Asked Clinton, trying to yell over the engine noise.

“I don’t remember exactly, but it was close to where we are headed now, if not the very spot.”

 

The boat came around a bend in the river and Gary immediately slowed the boat when clearing the turn, he then pointing the bow towards the lefthand shore. The boat came to a smooth sliding stop partially on the beach and partially still in the water. The old game warden killed the engine and opened one of the forward compartments, throwing an anchor and rope out on to shore, tying the loose end of the rope onto one of the grommets on the front of the boat. “That’ll hold her,” said Gary.

 

“Shane tell everything that happened that night as before but show me where you and Timmy’s boat was tied up at, and where the creature came out of the trees onto the beach,” said Clinton while recording Shane getting out the boat from the shore.

 

“We were tied over there on this side of that bend, to the large tree there. The creature came out about ten yards back towards where we stand now,” said Shane as he pointed to the spot.

 

Clinton walked towards where Shane indicated, all the while panning the camcorder to get a clear picture of the area. When he got to the spot where Shane said the thing came out, Clinton stepped off into the trees. He went just a few feet and then had to climb a slight embankment where the river washed away the earth during times of flood. Once he got on top of this shallow ledge the woods opened up to where he could see through the trees. Clinton stood in one spot for a few minutes seeing if anything stood out of the ordinary. He was about to turn and go back to the riverside when he smelt something foul. What he smelt was almost completely covered in the dark rotten leaves that carpeted the forest floor, all but a sliver of something white shown through the leaves, something bone white. He kneeled down and whipped the leaves from the object. Once he uncovered it completely, he realized that it was an animal carcass.  

 

“It’s a whitetail deer,” said Shane from behind.

 

Clinton not realizing he was followed nearly fell over in fright but caught himself and replied, “What do you make of these puncture wounds in the top of the skull?”

 

Shane came closer and said, “Looks like canine teeth to me, damn big ones too.”

 

“You think a cougar or bear could have done it?” Asked Clinton.

 

“There haven’t been any cougars in these parts in over thirty years, not that it’s not possible. Black bear rarely eat deer. They mostly stick to insects and plants. It wouldn’t have been a coyote either because they don’t have the jaw pressure, that skull is nearly crushed.”

 

“How about a wolf?” Said Gary while walking up unnoticed.

 

Both Clinton and Shane turned around to dispute what sounded like idiocy, if not flat-out lunacy, if it wasn’t for the doubt in the back of  their minds. It was a question that secretly had gnawed at both of the younger men ever since hearing Gary’s tale. 

 

The three men stood there for a long time trying to make sense of it all. The silence between them was almost tangible, almost a being unto itself.

Clinton always tried to keep an open mind during one of his crypto-trips, as he always referred to them, but he never truly believed. This time though, the door of reality slammed shut in his mind and the door of the unreal opened wide—and this door had teeth.

 

Gary finally broke the silence, “Turn off that camera for a minute and come back to the boat, we need to talk.” When the three men made it back to the shore Gary said, “I believe whatever it is out here now is the same thing, or akin to the same thing, that killed my father over fifty years ago. There are no wild-dogs running around like the newspapers said—it killed my father, it killed Todd Wilkinson and his family, it killed that deer up the bank there, and it made our friend Timmy shit his pants. It’s a werewolf, and I mean to kill it. It’s a full moon tonight just like it was when I was eight years old. It was full when it killed that family just through those trees there,” as he said this he pointed back over his shoulder.

 

“You mean we are standing on the Wilkinson’s property?” asked Shane.

 

“Yup, their homestead is just through those trees about two hundred yards. They owned all the way down to where we stand now,” Answered Gary. “The reason why I tell you this is because I feel like I brought you two out here on unawares. If you want me to, I will carry you back to the boat ramp and let you take my truck back to town—but I’m staying to face whatever it is. This nightmare ends for me tonight, one way or another.”

 

“I believe both of your stories but I’m not willing to believe that it was a werewolf, just yet anyway. I will conduct my research as if it was any other investigation. Regardless to what it is, hopefully, we will have tangible proof,” said Clinton.

 

“Just so you understand whatever it is, werewolf or no, I aim to kill it,” said the old game warden resolutely.

 

“If it is what we say—is it even possible to kill it?” Asked Shane.

 

Gary pulled out one of his extra magazine-clips to his sidearm that was in a small leather sleeve on his utility belt. He popped one of the bullets out of it and held it up in front of him where they could see it. “I had ammunition specially made for just that. If the legends are true, silver will kill a werewolf. If the legends aren’t true, anything can kill it. So, I think we are covered either way. Because I have my forty-five and Clinton has a stowaway on his ankle unless I’m mistaken,” said Gary with a smirk.

 

Clinton reached down and pulled his right pants leg up revealing his snub-nosed pistol holstered to his leg and with a chuckle, “I didn’t know game wardens had such perceptive investigational talents.”

 

“The slight toe drag gives it away every time. Besides, Shane told me you were a detective before becoming a PI. There aren’t very many detectives that don’t carry some type of hideaway weapon,” answered Gary.

 

“Well, if we are all in agreement, I will start setting up my game cameras. They will serve two purposes, hopefully. If something trips them it will be an early warning for us as well as documentation,” said Clinton while turning his camera back on.


Clinton went about his work while the other two men stayed at the river’s edge.  He set the cameras up, five in all, about twenty-five yards in and about twenty-five yards apart in the woods, back towards where Gary said the Wilkinson’s home was located. Then he went in deeper towards where the homestead was supposed to be. It took him a few minutes to find his way through brush and bramble but eventually the white clapboard cracker style home came into view. The house stood almost completely intact except for one of the huge live oaks that stood next to and over the top of had lost one of its many limbs caving in a good portion of the roof.

 

Clinton went to the back steps and peered in through the glass window of the door. It looked directly into the home’s kitchen. The room's bare tiled floor was clean as if it was swept yesterday, the countertops the same. Clinton turned the knob, the door was unlocked but the door was jammed. He put his shoulder into it and the door screeched in protest against the kitchen floor but he was able to get it open enough to get in. He stood for a moment listening, the house was quiet. Clinton opened the refrigerator expecting spoiled food since the power was probably shut off shortly after the families death, but there was none—clean. Then he opened one of the cupboards, to his surprise it was packed with food, mostly Campbell’s soups, Chef Boyardee’s, and a variety of canned vegetables. In another cupboard there was nothing but bottled water.  

Someone is living here, he thought. As though his inner thoughts manifested it, Clinton heard a door open from within the unknown depth of the home. Clinton bolted out side and crossed the small yard, back into the concealment of the woods. He found a thicket of bramble to hide behind and while lying there he peered through trying to see if anyone would follow.

 

A tall slender man walked through the kitchen and stood in the opened door for a moment then with two hands the man pushed the door shut. After a seconds he turned and went back into the hallway from which he came.

Minutes later Clinton was back with the other two men at the boat.

 

“Why are you out of breath?” asked Shane.

 

“Someone is living in the Wilkinson’s home,” Clinton labored to say as he leaned over trying to catch his breath with his hands on his knees.

 

“I drove up their driveway the other day. The power has been shutoff and there is a huge tree limb through part of the living room, I doubt it,” said Gary.

 

“No, there is someone. I went in the backdoor into the kitchen. Someone seems to be living in the back portion of the home. The cupboards are stocked with canned food and bottled water. Besides, I was surprised by him while I was in there. I don’t think he saw me though.”

 

The old game warden took one final draw of his cigarette and tossed it in the river, “Well let’s go say hello.”

 

 

The three men were standing in front of the backdoor of the Wilkinson’s home. Gary stepped up to the door and shouldered it open. The trio stood listening after the sound of the door’s opening ceased. The house laid quiet—tomb quiet, thought Clinton with an uncontrollable shudder.

 

With gun in hand, Gary stepped through the threshold. From just inside he announced, “Law Enforcement!” No answer.

 

Clinton turned to Shane before following, “Stay outside just in case whoever it is runs out.” 

 

“And what if he does, you want me to throw a pine cone at him or something?” Said Shane with a nervous chuckle. 

 

“No, just tell us in which direction he went.” With a pat on the shoulder Clinton added, “Don’t put yourself in harms way.”

 

“I don’t think that is entirely up to me, but thanks!”

 

Clinton just smiled in answer and turned and followed Gary.

 

Once they stepped through the kitchen and into the darkness of the hallway that lead into the unknown reaches of the home, the smell of damp wood replacing the sterile cleanliness of the kitchen. A few steps into the darkness they came upon a locked door to the right and another partially opened door to the left. Sun light illuminated the opened room revealing a bathroom, like the kitchen it was uncannily clean.  Just beyond the two doors was where the living room once was. A large oak tree filled the circumference of the room with an impassable weave of moss covered limbs. The sunlight from the collapsed roof filtered through the boughs revealing the ground below. Not even the floor remained intact from the ancient tree’s demise. Mixed with the smell of partially rotten wood was a barely noticeable scent of wet fur—like a dog coming in out of the rain. 

 

 

The old game warden pointed towards the locked door, indicating that he was going to knock. 

 

Out of instinct, honed by years in law enforcement, Clinton took his place up against the wall right of the door. Leaning down he drew his hidden revolver. 

 

Gary on the opposite side of the door, with his back to the wall, reached over and knocked on the locked door. “Law enforcement!” Proclaimed Gary as he knocked. No answer came from the other side until finally a voice said from within, “Guys, the window is open and the room is empty,” Shane seeing the window open he came to investigate, hearing the game warden from within. 

 

“Can you climb through and unlock the door?” Asked Clinton. 

 

“I think so—wait, did you guys hear that?” As Shane was about to climb into the Wilkinson home, a boat being cranked could be heard through the trees. Then the sound of it revving as if someone was attempting to drive away with their boat.

 

No need for further explanation, all three men made a mad dash for the river’s edge. Shane crashed out on to the beach first. The boat could no longer be heard and was no where in sight. 

 

As the other two came up behind, Shane said, “Your man out smarted us Clinton, while we were up there looking for him, he was down here stealing Gary’s boat.” 

 

“No shit,” answered Gary from behind. “I’m gonna walk down the bank back towards the boat ramp.” Pausing to light a cigarette, he added, “If he made it beyond there we would still here the boat running. Pointing to the opposite shore, “The land  over there is a peninsula that isn’t very wide, he has only had time to make the bend just past the boat ramp. If I’m right he hasn’t made it that far.” 

 

“Let’s check my cameras first, Gary. Whoever it is, had to cross at least one to get to the boat. At the very least maybe you’ll recognize’em.”

 

Clinton plugged  in his small monitor into each game camera leaving them still attached to the tree where they hung. Flipping through still photos of mostly himself during there initial setup earlier that day, when they first arrived. Finally finding what he was seeking on the last one he checked. “Y’all come over here and look at this.” 

 

On the monitor was a tall  balding slender man caught mid-stride on camera. Gary and Shane both recognizing him for who he was. Simultaneously saying,“Todd Wilkinson.” 

 

All three stood there staring at the photo, trying to make sense of it. He who once thought dead looked back at them form the five inch black and white screen. 

 

The day grew late as they searched the bank for the game warden’s boat, finally finding it half submerged, evidently falling short of sinking due to the shallowness of the river. “Bastard must have pulled the plug before getting out,” said Gary, visibly angry.

 

Shane waded the shallow water inspecting the boat. “If he doesn’t want us getting out of here, he’s done a pretty good job. He took your radio mic, Gary.” 

 

“What about our cell phones?” Asked  Clinton. 

 

“No signal out here, you can’t even get so much as a text out, complete dead zone,” said the old game warden. 

 

“It’s five o’clock, the sun will be setting soon so let’s get back to the cameras. At least there we have some warning if anything or anybody comes after us. More that likely Todd has doubled back and is hiding, why he would strand us, I do not know.”

 

The answer laid on the cool evening air like a blanket. All knew its truth but a mind shrouded by education could not comprehend. This truth would only be believed by the peasant of old, the primitive at heart that still believed in monsters,  still believed in an ungodly evil, still believed that demons walked the earth doing Satan’s bidding. The reality of it all pierced that shroud with these three men. Although educated as they were, they believed. Gary’s remembrance of his father’s death, Shane’s eyewitness account a month prior, and lastly Clinton hearing the tales of these two men wasn’t enough, seeing Todd Wilkinson in that grainy image brought it all together for him, though.

 

They walk back towards the Wilkinson property, the sun slipping behind the trees, long shadows melting together, turning to dark. 

 

Shane was able to salvage a couple of flashlights and a pump 12 gauge shotgun from the boat. The night air freezing him because of his sacrifice of dry clothing.

 

Gary, Shane, and Clinton stood back on their beach, huddled around a fire. The sun fully set and the full Christmas eve moon rose casting it’s silver light over the St. Mary’s reflecting off her waters. A wolf’s howl capsulated in a human scream pierced bone and shattered nerves. 

 

“Holy shit! That’s fucking close,” Said Shane, nearly dropping his shotgun. 

 

Camera flashed to their right then another howl. Trees shook and then parted, a black blur almost running on all fours came towards them from the darkness of the woods. All three men raising their guns, firing into it.

 

The thing crashed through the fire, past Gary and Clinton, boring Shane and shotgun into the river, ripping his throat out as it came down in a splash. The water settled, no Shane, no monster, just reflected moonlight. 

 

A splash to their left and the werewolf came charging once more, Clinton fired two more times then he was out of bullets, the rest somewhere in the bottom of the submerged boat. 

 

Gary fired once, twice, three times, the beast fell back into the river once more, disappearing under the water.

 

Gary turned to Clinton, “I think I killed it.” 

 

As in response, the beast jumped out of the St. Mary’s on top of Gary. Clamping down on the old game warden’s skull, crushing it. 

 

Clinton was running without conscious thought. His legs leading the way before his mind could even make the decision to do so. Camera flash blinding him, he crashed through palmettos, running shoulder first into a tree, spinning around but somehow managing to stay on his feet. 

 

A house came into view, a large tree laying on top of it leaving a huge hole for him to crawl into. Within, part of the floor leaned down, broken off from the house above, making a shelter from the moonlight underneath. Clinton scrambled under, out of his mind in fear. 

 

Sometime later something climbed in  through the hole and over the fallen tree. 

 

Clinton looked through a small hole in the floor, seeing the huge werewolf climbing in, black fur shinning in the moonlight, slicked back wet with water and blood. Elongated snout  lined with white teeth bared as if the thing was grinning. It’s ape like arms climbing through the limbs that took up the room. As it climbed the thing made a whimpering groan  and fell on top of the floor that Clinton sheltered under then rolled off on to the bare ground and underneath with Clinton. 

 

Clinton looked face to face with the werewolf, it’s features somehow shrinking in front him, hair receding, skin lightening in pigment. Eventually, Todd Wilkinson’s naked body laid before him. Multiple bullets wounds throughout, some appeared to be closing up, somehow healing, some did not, some festered and bled as if infected already. 

 

He went to crawl out of his hiding place but just before he could, the body began to move as if in convulsion. The stomach ripped open and two hands came out of the gore, followed by a head. The head’s gaze fell upon Clinton, it’s eyes reflecting  moonlight, looking like headlights from an oncoming car. The thing leaped out of Todd Wilkinson, seizing the cowering Clinton Freely by the head, spinning around behind him, with it’s hands, the thing forced Clinton’s mouth open, then Todd Wilkinson began to convulse again. 

 

This time a canine head came out of the hole in the once werewolf body. The canine leaped out at Clinton’s open mouth, somehow passing through and inside him. Then the man things upside down head appeared in front Clinton’s face, somehow still holding his mouth open, it followed its wolf companion inside. 

 

Two Days later

 

“Damn, where did you find this one?” Asked the Intake officer at the Charleston County Jail. 

 

“He was walking down Landing Road. Claims a werewolf attacked him. Says that a game warden, biologist, and Todd Wilkinson bodies are all at the Wilkinson homestead.”

 

“Well are they?”

 

“Hell, I don’t know, this fucker was creeping me out so I’m gonna lock him up before heading back out there.”

 

“Look in my wallet, I have a card. I’m a private investigator out of Atlanta.” 

 

“Shut the hell up! I’ll deal with your crazy ass when I get back,” said the deputy. 

 

“Put him in the holding cell, I will go through his things and verify his credentials. You better call the Sheriff before heading back out to the Wilkinson place, he might be telling the truth about the bodies.” 

 

“I am telling the truth!”

 

“Shut the hell up!”

 

The End. 

 

 

 

  **The Cherokee, the Red Wolf, and the Raven** 

 

The old Cherokee warrior walked away from his village no longer wanted, no longer needed. 

 

He knelt at the rivers edge staring into the blackened waters at his own reflection awaiting to die, as his ancestors have done going all the way back to when the world was an acorn. 

 

He sat through sun and moon for days on end but his spirit would not go it did not want to leave the world of the living.

 

Finally the old warrior wanting to give up took his eyes from the reflection and to his surprise an old wolf was sitting next to him staring into the river as he was. 

 

The Cherokee warrior asked the red wolf,  "why do you stare in the water so?"

 

 

The wolf looked  up from his own reflection and nearly ran but steadied himself and answered , "I am the last of my kind so I came to stare at my own reflection so I wouldn't be alone."

 

While they sat there pondering there dilemma a raven cawed from a tree branch above.

 

 

"Neither of you will die if you listen to me," said the raven. "If the wolf eats the warrior, and the warrior lets him, both your spirits will live forever as one and neither will be alone." 

 

The wolf and man sat and pondered this for a long while and finally agreed that it was a good thing.

 

The wolf walked over and started eating the old Cherokee warrior. The pain was great but the warrior remained stoic through it all. Finally when the wolf was done with the unthinkable task, the warrior awoke from within the old wolf. 

 

The wolf thought it was good because finally he had someone to talk to. 

 

The warrior's spirit was satisfied because he would not leave the land of the living. His satisfaction did not last for long though. He missed his village and the company of other Cherokee. 

 

One day a lone boy came down to the waters edge to get a drink. The old warrior waited for the boy to get close to where the wolf was sleeping, and as soon as he passed he leaped out of the wolf's body and into the boys. 

 

The old warrior was once more seeing from the prospective of a Cherokee again. The boy’s will was weak and he easily pushed the young Cherokees spirit back deep within the boy’s mind. 

 

The red wolf awoke alone, feeling cheated, it went back to the spot where it first encountered the raven. 

 

The raven cawed, “Why does the red wolf return to the water’s edge?”

“The red wolf answered, “The Cherokee has left me alone and I seek revenge.” 

 

“The Cherokee has returned to his village inside a young boy. The next full moon jump into the river and drown yourself then you too can jump into the boy and get your revenge.”

 

The full moon came and the red wolf jumped into the river as the raven told him to do. With his spirit  free  the red wolf found the village and the young Cherokee boy. 

 

The red wolf jumped into the boy and as the old Cherokee had done but the old man did not want to share the boy. The two spirits battled and battled  from within the boy, the rage boiling over into living flesh. When all was over the entire village was dead, except for the young Cherokee and his spirit companions. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Submitted: June 22, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Horror-Tripper. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Celtic-Scribe63

Some great characters, here. Your dialogue flows naturally.
A very enjoyable read. Very well written. The Cherokee, the red wold and the raven at the end was a very compelling tale.

Fri, June 25th, 2021 8:10pm

Author
Reply

Thank you so much for the read and the nice words! I will admit this story was outside my wheelhouse and I struggled a bit. My bulk of writing has been traditional fantasy which to me seems to come easy. Horror and real world dialogue is something altogether different. It challenges me so therefore I want to get better at it. New story dropping soon.

Fri, June 25th, 2021 1:17pm

Rob73

An original horror story that has great characters...and is gripping until the end.

Sun, July 4th, 2021 12:51am

Author
Reply

I appreciate the kind words! It was fun to write.

Sat, July 3rd, 2021 6:35pm

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