She was in Whitney’s car and, as far as he was concerned, she was as good as dead. It was routine now: she’d plead and beg for her life, just like all the others. She’d tell him that she has a small child waiting for her at home, or that her mother is on her death bed, or that she is pregnant, and so on and so forth, just like all the others. No matter the sex, race, nationality, or creed, they never seemed to believe that it was really happening until he slid his hands around their throats, or beat their heads in with a tire-rod, or jammed an ice pick inside one of their ear holes. Whitney Shatter had killed over twenty-five drifters and, as far as he knew, none of them saw it coming. And the young woman, who was now staring out of Whitney’s passenger side window at the full moon that whizzed in and out behind the dark trees, would not see it coming either.

“So, where are you from, Maggie?” Whitney asked. This was the formality part. In another twenty miles he’d pull off of Route 22 and drive to the spot he had ready and waiting. Until then, it was small talk time. He would offer her the drink later. She would take the drink because her kind always took things, whether given permission or not. It was just the way things were.

“I’m from all over,” Maggie said, wiping her long black hair from her face.

“You’re from all over, huh? Have you ever been to San Fran?” He looked over at her. She was pretty. Not bad at all. Whitney surmised that if this was not his night out the situation could possibly turn out differently. Yes, she was a drifter – backpack and all – but she didn’t appear too far gone. She was perhaps a shower away from decency. But of course, tonight was his night, and that was that.

He had worked hard to put things in order. His cell phone was at home. The game was being recorded – it didn’t matter who was playing; he would know all he needed to know later. He had picked a fight with his girl Sandy. She was told not to call him, because he was not going to answer. He had told his neighbors that he was in for the night, locked down; no one knew about the Dodge Intrepid safely stowed in the underground parking lot of the complex he owned over on Fifth Avenue; and tonight, he was wearing his blond wig fastened tightly to his bald head. If the law decided to come snooping, Whitney was ready for them. Whitney Shatter was going to be in the killing game forever because he dotted his I’s and crossed his T’s. He was nothing like the rest of those fools who practically handed themselves over to the cops. Those idiots always got too cocky and too sloppy for their own good.

“Yeah, I’ve been to San Francisco. It’s nice.” Maggie turned back to the window, her eyes following the huge moon.

“So, you’re thinking of settling up there in North Dakota, is that right?”

“Yup.”

“Do you have family up there?” He was staring at the road, watching orange and yellow leaves circle and tumble in front of the Dodge’s headlights before disappearing into the trees and green growth that surrounded them on either side.

“No, I don’t have any family in North Dakota. At least, I don’t think so.” Whitney was certain that she didn’t have family in North Dakota, the same way he was certain that her real name was not Maggie and that she’d never worked for a mapping company. He would go through her backpack later and find what he always found: illegal drugs.

Drifters were the bloodline of America’s drug trade. Drug dealers used them as mules. The dealers loaded their backpacks with drugs and sent them on their way to hitch rides from law-abiding Americans who unknowingly transported their drugs from coast to coast. Right up under the nose of John Q Law. The more Whitney thought about it, the more he thought it to be ingenious. Whitney supposed that if drugs were one of his vices, he’d most likely get in on some of that action. But this was not the case. He was not a drinker or a drug user. Whitney had his own vice, and there was no doubt in his mind that nothing compared to it. There was no place in his life for drugs and he had no business meddling in the business of drugs. He had chosen to leave that matter between the cops and the cartel. He would just bury her and the backpack in the shallow grave that was ready and waiting and then call it a night.

The thought of what he was going to do to “Maggie” excited him. He had already decided that he was going to use a knife this time around. It had been a while since he’d used a knife on one of his victims. He was going to slit her throat and watch as her eyes rolled over white. Whitney swallowed, his throat feeling as if it was coated with sand. Ramping up for the kill was exciting, and it always dried his throat.

“I’ve heard on the radio that a bunch of neo-Nazis plan to set up shop somewhere in North Dakota. They’re looking to build on an island or a lake, if I’m not mistaken. Is that true?” He looked over at her, and she shrugged. He was not surprised to see her staring at the moon. Enjoy it while you can, he thought. After tonight she would never see the moon again. “That is some moon, huh? It looks like something right out of a Stephen King novel.” He was wearing thin on small talk, and so was she. She was just “yes” to this or “no” to that. She was losing interest, and he was sure that she was going to refuse the loaded bottled water when he offered it to her. So what! She was perhaps 120 pounds and he was pushing 230. If push came to shove, he would backhand her a smart one across the nose and drag her from the car kicking and screaming before she could even think to reach for the gun inside her waistband or her backpack. These people always packed guns. Whitney Shatter just never gave them the opportunity to use them.

“It is quite the moon,” Maggie said. “I find it relaxing.”

“You find it relaxing? You are definitely a different breed, Maggie. Most people I know would associate a moon like that with the Bogeyman. Do you believe in the Bogeyman?”

Maggie smiled then said, “Of course. Don’t you?”

“I have no choice but to believe in the Bogeyman, Maggie, because I am the Bogeyman.”

Maggie turned to him and smiled. Whitney smiled. It was the smile that he had practiced over and over in the mirror. It was a trusting smile; it worked on his family, it worked on his friends, it worked on his co-workers, and it never failed to work on his victims. “That’s right; I am the Bogeyman, now hear me roar.” Whitney howled like a wolf and then bellowed laughter. Maggie clasped a small hand across her mouth, stifling her laughter. There, he was back on solid ground. The window was open. He had to take it before it closed. “Geez, I am about as dry as a desert, I am dying for some water. Mind if I pull over and grab a bottle from the cooler? It’s in the trunk.”

“Of course, I don’t mind,” Maggie said.

“I’ll grab you one. I have plenty. They're strawberry flavored. They’re really tasty.”

“Okay. Thank you. You are without a doubt a virtuous Bogeyman.”

“Well, you have to start somewhere.” Whitney pulled over. “It won’t take but a second.” He climbed out of the car, and the sport coat and khaki pants that covered his six-foot frame flapped like sails in the jetting wind.

 

You have to start somewhere. That much was true. The Bogeyman inside of Whitney started (as far as he could remember) thirty years ago. Whitney Stanley Shatter was just a kid, bound for the fifth grade at the end of summer, on the day he became the Bogeyman. He was making his way across Hailey’s Park, tossing and batting a tennis ball with his Louisville Slugger. One minute he was Babe Ruth, the next Jackie Robinson . . .

Reggie Jackson was at the plate when Whitney heard what could have only been firecrackers (unless gangsters had somehow made their way to the small town of Middleton, Ohio, to settle some score with gunfire, that is). He looked over and saw two boys standing in the playground that was about twenty feet from where he stood, their shadows stretched out behind them like black, elongated creatures. Whitney didn’t know them personally, but he knew who they were. It was Archie Arnwine and Bill or Bobby Fanchelli; he wasn’t sure if the kid with the long blonde hair’s first name was Bill or Bobby, but he knew Archie – with his freckled face and flaming red hair – all too well.

Archie had terrorized Whitney’s school until he was finally pushed on to junior high. Bill (or Bobby) went to a different school, but he had shown up to Whitney’s school on several occasions to assist Archie in administering some of his devious deeds. If Archie wasn’t beating up some kid for holding back on his lunch money, he was pulverizing some chump for refusing to let him copy his homework. Whitney stood in the distance watching the boys light the firecrackers, blowing the crap out of ant holes, tin cans, old sneakers, cigarette wrappers, and anything and everything they could get their anxious hands on. He wanted so badly to join in on the fun but was wise enough to know that if he’d step one foot over there that he would end up being the fun. They’d most likely pin him down and shove one of those loud babies down his pants.

“Well, my daddy says that if you light a match to a fart, blue flames will shoot out of your butt,” Bill (or Bobby) said. “Do you want to try it?” The wind carried his voice to Whitney on an invisible flying carpet.

“Nuts to that!” Archie quipped. “I’m just going to have to take your old man's word for it.”

“Are you sure?"

“You’re dog right I’m sure.”

“Suit yourself. See ya around.” Bill (or Bobby) tossed a leg over his bike and then rode off with the glowing orange sun at his back. Archie stuffed a hand full of firecrackers inside the right front pocket of his faded jeans and then walked in Whitney’s direction, shading his eyes from the intense sunlight which was slowly turning the horizon purple and magenta. Whitney looked to his left, then to his right: there was no one. He looked behind him: zilch. Archie, his mind elsewhere, walked past Whitney without a glance.

Whitney Shatter – who had never wet the bed, tore the wings off of bugs, played with dead and bloated wild creatures in the streets, or killed small animals – turned and batted a home run against Archie’s skull.

Whitney took off running before Archie Arnwine’s body slammed to the ground with a hard thump. He stowed the bat under his parent’s porch until the media frenzy blew over. When the heat subsided and cops could not figure out who on God’s Earth could have done such a thing, Whitney retrieved the bat and cleaned it of blood, hair, scalp and what could only have been small skull fragments. He loved his Louisville Slugger, and he loved what he had done. It felt good. It was powerful. He had tasted power over life and death for the first time, and, at the age of ten, he knew right then and there that he was never going to give it up. He knew if he played his cards right he could last a long time in the killing business. All he had to do was be smart and not get greedy. Kill here, kill there, and always stay under the radar.

In fact, it wasn’t until he was sixteen that he would kill again. Yes, he had thought about it many times, but the opportunity never fell in his lap like it had with Archie. There was a lot of heat over Archie’s death so Whitney knew that he had to be careful. It had gotten to the point where the powers that be were considering calling in the big guns from Cleveland to investigate the murder of Archie Arnwine. But after a month or two, when there were no more incidents of kids being killed in Middleton, parents started to relax, and so did the cops.

Whitney supposed that, had this happened to anyone but Archie or maybe Bill (or Bobby), the president himself would have come to their all-American town in search of blood (and votes, of course). But it did happen to Archie. Though no one spoke it, Whitney was sure that the good ole town of Middleton had decided that Archie Arwine, who was bound to get what was coming to him, got what was coming to him, only a lot sooner than they could have imagined. And that was that. One less prisoner to house. One less prisoner to feed. Keep it moving, ladies and germs, there’s nothing else to see here. And so, Whitney Shatter kept it moving. 

The man Whitney shot with a deer rifle when he was sixteen, was pulled over to the side of a dirt road, staring under the hood of his pickup. Whitney had spied the man a quarter mile out from the tangle of brown bush and leafless trees that surrounded him. He looked around and saw no one. Whitney placed the man in his crosshairs and followed him. He watched the man lean against his pickup. Cross his arms. Draw in a deep breath. Whitney placed the crosshairs on the man’s forehead and then pulled the trigger. The man’s head exploded into a red and chunky spray of blood, skull, and brains. Whiney took off running across Eller Walton’s land.

Eller was old, rich, widowed, and couldn’t give a fiddler’s fart who hunted on his land. His only rules were: do not to kill anything you’re not going to eat and do not kill each other. Whitney broke both rules.

When he made it home, Whitney’s old man asked him, “How did it go?” Whitney only shrugged, but inside he was floating on Clouds Nine and Ten. He once again had the power over life and death and brother, did it feel ever so good!

 

According to the newspaper, the man whose head had been blown clear from his body was Dave Dotter, a father of two. His death was ruled an unfortunate hunting accident. He had just been in the wrong place at the wrong time and was shot by a careless hunter. However, investigators were still looking into the incident. Whitney had planned to keep the newspaper clipping but thought better of it. He was going to have a long go at killing but if things somehow went south, the last thing he needed was a literal paper trail.

 

Whitney was eighteen and on his way to college when he picked up his first drifter: some dude in his twenties on his way to California. Whitney knew that he was going to kill him the moment he climbed inside his car. It was just a matter of the right time and the right place.

The right time came at midnight. The right place was a rest stop outside of Denver. Whitney strangled the hitchhiker from behind with a necktie the moment they entered the restroom. The drifter put up a fight, but in the end he laid sprawled out on the bathroom floor with his jeans darkened with urine, his eyes bulging from their sockets, and his mouth a yawning an O.

Whitney tossed the drifter’s belongings from his car then took off down the highway, riding high off the kill. By the time he made it out of Colorado, he’d lost count of all the drifters he’d passed with their thumbs out. One thing was clear: there were plenty of them for the picking. So, Whitney Shatter began to pick them one by one. He had killed over twenty-five of these wandering souls by the time he was forty-eight. And now the time had come for Maggie to meet the thing inside him that could only be the Bogeyman.

 

The cooler inside of Whitney’s trunk contained two strawberry flavored bottled waters. The water on his right was laced with sleeping pills that he had dissolved and injected with a syringe. Never leaving anything for chance, Whitney had tested his evil remedy on himself (starting with the smallest dose, of course) until he had perfected it. Even though his victims came in different shapes and sizes, his drug always worked. Within ten minutes of its ingestion, they started to feel drowsy and dizzy and to speak incoherently. Most importantly, they became defenseless. Whitney grabbed the waters then climbed back inside the car.

“Here you go.” He popped the safety seal and removed the cap, giving Maggie zero choice to save the water for later. She reached and grabbed the bottled water gently from his hand.

“Thanks.” She raised the water to her lips and drank heartily. Whitney opened his bottle and raised it high.

“Cheers,” he said, and drank, knowing that his thirst would be totally quenched soon.

The vehicles that had made the track of road leading miles into the dense forest were long gone. Whitney’s Dodge bumped and jittered and swayed side to side on two grooves that were littered with rocks, weeds, and leaves. Ahead was an old Ford pickup, rusted and naked like some discarded metal carcass. The Ford marked the end of the road – if you wanted to call what Whitney was putzing on a road. The shallow grave he had dug the day before was about 100 yards beyond the old truck, far enough within the trees and shrubbery to do his deed and keep his deed a secret.

Whitney parked in front of the pickup then killed his headlights. He had brought a flashlight but found that it was unnecessary; the swollen moon proved to be all the guiding light he would need. Whitney climbed out of the car and walked over to the passenger side. He opened the door and pulled Maggie out by her right arm. She was foggy and distant, her speech a jumble of madness: murmurs of the Bogeyman, bad wolf, the moon . . . Whitney led her easily past the truck and deeper into the woods, his left hand fastened around her right wrist, her backpack fastened over his right shoulder. He carried a hunting knife in his right hand. Maggie seemed none the wiser.

“Maggie, Maggie, Maggie,” Whitney said, his breath pluming from his mouth in white streams, “what am I to do with you?” They were standing five feet from the shallow grave. Trees swayed above and the ones that could afford it trickled down orange and yellow leaves. The mist that had started out thin and nonthreatening was now thickening around their legs. It seemed as if it was trying to engulf them. Eat them.

“You know, Maggie, it’s getting late, so I think I am just going to cut off your ears and your nose and then slit your throat. How does that sound?” He raised the hunting knife to Maggie’s face, its blade a dull twinkle beneath the moonlight. Now comes the begging and pleading, he thought. This was the part that tickled him. He’d heard it all and seen it all, but this time there was no begging or pleading; there were only agonizing screams. Maggie yanked her wrist from his hand then grabbed his wrist. There was a loud snap as the bones inside Whitney’s forearm exploded out from his skin in yellow-white shards. Whitney screamed and dropped the knife. Maggie changed.

Black hairs poured from her face, her hands, and beneath her shirt and jeans. Her eyes swelled and grew huge and yellow. Her ears pinned back into furry triangles. Her bones crackled, crunched, and contorted as she began to grow. Her nose and mouth stretched out into a long snout that bore eight-inch canines. Her clothes, unable to contain her massive, seven-foot bulk, ripped from her body.

The werewolf looked down at Whitney, its yellow eyes fill with rage and murder. It smelled like an unkept zoo. Whitney Shatter screamed. The beast snarled and then chomped down on his face, its top fangs sinking viciously into Whitney’s cheekbones, its bottom fangs ripping through his chin. Whitney’s face exploded into a jumble of red meat, bone, gristle, and shattered teeth. He fell on his back gurgling bloody, tormented screams from a hole that was once a human mouth. The werewolf raised its head and howled at the moon. Its hot breath jetted out like a steam engine. The creature turned to Whitney and tore into his stomach with its huge teeth, opening his guts. Steam rose from the open cavity in a swirling stench. All Whitney could do was watch and try to scream without a mouth. A huge claw swiped across the top of his head, tearing away his blonde wig with the scalp beneath, exposing a white skull, and blood instantly filled the gory vacancy. It poured down and inside his ears in wet, sticky streams, looking as black as oil in the moonlight. The monster howled again before tearing into Whitney’s throat, ripping out cords and blood vessels. Whitney’s eyes swam in circles. The beast pressed its snout against what was left of his face, growling and slobbering, its long tongue lopped to one side. The man, who was going to kill forever, was now looking into the yellow, raged, hateful eyes of death. Whitney Stanley Shatter died staring into the eyes of the Bogeyman.


Submitted: September 24, 2022

© Copyright 2023 Charles H. Hinton. All rights reserved.

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Comments

HOUDINI

A interesting and frightening tale. Well written.
"The best laid plans of psychos and werewolves often go astray."

Sat, September 24th, 2022 7:08pm

Author
Reply

Thank you very much, Houdini. I will be sure to check out your work as soon as time permits.

Sat, September 24th, 2022 12:39pm

A.K.Taylor

I kinda liked this. Though I had a sense of a twist ending at about the first moon remark, I wasn't positive 'til a few paragraphs above the ending. Although, in retrospect, you sort of give it away with the title, lol.

Nice little short story. I sense it could make for a fascinating series if you haven't already thought of that. If you do go that route, I'd amp up the ominous tone only when needed. Give the story a bit more dynamic mood from light to dark with almost a moment's breadth of the actual deeds occurring. But that's just me. Still a cool read.

Sun, January 29th, 2023 3:45pm

Author
Reply

Thank you reading. And thank you for your thoughts and insights. I will check out some of your work as soon as time permits.

—Charles

Sun, January 29th, 2023 9:08am

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Short Story / Horror