Jason Midnight #4: Bug-Eyed Lizards From Outer Space

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
Jason Midnight goes small town -- to High Tide, Manitoba. When the tide gets this high, run for it.

Submitted: May 07, 2012

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Submitted: May 07, 2012



Bug-Eyed Lizards From Outer Space





Rumour has made many a man a murderer before his time. Mind you, when the reality of that man is six foot six, weighs over three hundred pounds, is agile as a king cobra, is strong as a bull ape, and has the pleasant disposition of a dagger-toothed great white shark, you can understand how some rumours gain greater credence than others.

It’s Saturday night. As usual, the one bar in High Tide, Manitoba is packed.

“He’s the one.”

“Strange lights – kinda yellow and glowing like –“

“Mavis, you’re crazy!”

“No! I saw them – really! Hoverin’ in the air, just on the edge of town –“

I look closely at the very large man Homer Davis indicates as being “the one”. Despite the crush, “the one” sits at a table all by himself, off to the side. He has not removed the voluminous black wool overcoat he wears, which falls in tidal waves about his enormous form right down to the wooden floor. He has taken off the big old black hat he wore on his entrance a few minutes ago. The hat looks big enough to bathe a small baby in. It sits on his table, beside his beer glass. He has a curly, Old Testament length brownish red beard, but no mustache. He glares balefully at the other citizens of the little village carousing happily in the bar, daring them to approach him. No one does. They all ignore him, except for Homer Davis. The juke box plays loud country twang. The TV over the bar has the hockey game on. Everyone talks at once, and everyone except for “the one”, Homer, and me are having a wonderful time. I’m Jason Midnight, of course. The detective from the big city Homer Davis hired and brought out in his half ton to High Tide this afternoon, because he couldn’t afford someone capable.

This is about the time I realize I could be having a pretty good time in this bar too, if I wasn’t stuck with my client.

“What’d you call him again?” I ask, taking a sip from my beer and deliberately looking away from the overheated baleful giant. I certainly don’t want to draw the attention of anyone that large to me. Whether he did anything or not.

“Hazard – the Mortician,” Davis replies.

I choke on my drink. “That’s some nickname.” Figures though. The guy sort of reminds me of that famous rassler – the Undertaker. I shiver.

“It’s not a nickname. That’s what he does.”


“The old mortician died six months ago. We advertised for a new one in the Free Press and ol’ Hazard came to town. Said he could do the full job, even though he hadn’t actually been a mortician before. Had the trainin’, he said. His regular job’s cutting gravestones. Hazard went straight to the hirin’ board – Jack, Rusty, and Fritzie Buchberger – the wimps – and told ‘em he was here for the job. No ‘will you give me an interview first, please’, just told ‘em the job was his and they weren’t men enough to stand up to him. Hazard strongly implied they shouldn’t ask him any questions. If they knew what was good for ‘em.”

“How many deaths since he arrived?”

“Just one. And it was natural causes. Old Mrs. Newton. And I’ll say this for Hazard – he did the old biddy up fine. She looked ten years younger. Put a real light in ‘er eye. But I’ll tell you – he didn’t crack a smile once during the whole dang funeral. Unnatural, I call that. He took the whole event pret-ty damn serious.”

I raise an eyebrow. Homer goes on.

“Then the rumours started. Someone in town trying to contact the Elder Gods. We don’t hold much with that sort of thing in High Tide.”

“The Elder Gods?”

Homer doesn’t elaborate. He just sits drinking his beer, staring malevolently at Hazard. Man’s got a death wish. The mortician is apparently ignoring him, but he can’t be unaware of the scrutiny. I ask another question, trying to divert the situation. “So nothing has actually happened then? Of a physical nature?”

“No,” Davis reluctantly agrees. “But it’s just a matter of time, Finknight.”

“That’s Finco—Midnight.”

“Finkomidnight, then. No, nothing’s happened yet … but it’s only twenty to nine. You don’t doubt my words. That man’s really Fernand Lecuyer. The Butcher of the Burntlands. Canada’s most wanted serial killer.”

I am unnerved to discover Hazard stares right at me as Davis makes this pronouncement. I look away quickly, down into my beer glass. Homer chuckles.

“Heh. Just like ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ on the TV. When you gonna run him in?”




As I worked out later, twenty minutes after Hazard left the bar and fifteen before Davis can convince me to follow him, Old Vick Taylor finally went completely round the bend from a piece of shrapnel he’d taken in the head in World War Two, and for no apparent reason walked next door to his house on Queen Elizabeth Avenue and shot his young neighbour, Eddie Reichenbach, through the head with his shotgun. Then Old Vick carried off Eddie’s howling wife June into the hilly forest country north of town. Mrs. Peggy Wheeler, across the street and one down, heard the shot and the screaming and went running out into the street, not wanting to miss out on the fun. The first thing she saw was an unnaturally large shadow moving quickly across the front of Old Vick’s house. She immediately assumed it was Hazard, and ran back into her house terrified for her life. Although they had learned to ignore him in the bar, the entire village lived in conscious fear of what they were sure the giant Mortician might do. Peggy called Fred Evans, the local RCMP Sargent. Just as she got to the phone, a vivid, coruscating red and yellow light flooded the house through all the windows. Peggy dropped to her knees, trying to hide by huddling under the phone stand. As quickly as it came, the light disappeared. She knelt shivering for quite a while, but finally couldn’t resist the urge to tell someone what was happening. It was all so interesting! Why waste it on Fred? Peggy pulled the phone down onto the floor and called her next door neighbour,  Myrtle MacDonald. Myrt and Angus were watching the hockey on the TV, and hadn’t heard the gunshot or seen the weird lights. After Peggy filled her in, Myrt hollered the news to Angus, who didn’t catch half of it, then, acting on Peggy’s advice, Myrt quickly dialed up Fred Evans to set him on the Mortician’s trail while Peggy got hold of the rest of the Ladie’s Bridge League. “The man’s not human, Angus!” Myrtle screeched, waiting for Fred to answer.

“I’m tryin’ t’watch TV, woman!” Then he thought for a second. It was a commercial anyway. “Who ain’t human?”

“Hazard!” Myrt repeated. “Ohh, this is just horrible! And so excitin’! Poor June. She was a nice kid. I’ll have to make a cheese ball for the funeral.”

“June’s dead? I thought that was Peggy Wheeler on the phone!”

“ –Fred? Hazard’s made his move! Round up yer deputies!”




Homer and I run into a very worried looking Sgt. Fred Evans as we finally leave the bar. Homer reacts to the look on Fred’s face immediately. “Fred! He’s done it? Finally!”

“Ah-yep. Peggy Wheeler and Myrt MacDonald figure Hazard’s gone and done something to the Reichenbachs. Many people in the bar tonight?”

“What’s going on?” I ask. “Done what? To who? Whom did?”

“We waited too long!” Homer declares. “Hazard’s made his move! C’mon! We have to get a mob together and get after ‘im!”

“Hold on. A mob has a nasty habit of turning into a mob.” This is all going a bit fast for me.

“Who’s he?” Fred wants to know, jerking a thumb at me.

“Judas Finknight, from the city! He’s a private detector I called in to help us flush Hazard out – or should I say Lecuyer. I’ll get the boys!” Homer runs back into the bar before I can grab him. Fred clutches my hand and pumps it gratefully.

“Man! Am I glad you’re here! This character’s way out of my league.”

“Pleased to meet you, but –“

“Myrt MacDonald heard a round or three of gunfire from across the street of her house, and then the whole sky lit up like thunder. The Mortician’s really gone to town, this time. I don’t know what we’re going to find out there. Damn! I’m only three years from retirement too.”

“I often feel that way. But –“

Homer rushes back out of the bar at the head of an angry, drunken gang of men in hunting jackets and fuzzy hats with earflaps on them.

“All right men! This is it!” Davis yells. “What we’ve all been waiting for! The Hour of the Mortician!”

A gleeful chorus of rage answers him. The mob rushes irresistibly off. I fall in nervously at the rear.




Peggy Wheeler points the way, and the boys break down the Reichenbachs’ front door, even though it’s unlocked. They find Eddie’s body right away, in the front hall. I’m yanked ungracefully forward to give my expert opinion. I kneel obligingly beside the body, trying to control my stomach. Everyone waits for my pronouncement, in a sudden, overpowering silence. I stare at the body for a long time, not touching it.

“Uh … Yeah. He’s dead. But –“

A mad yell of triumph rings out. That’s all the confirmation they need. Hazard killed the husband and carried off the wife as hostage – or worse. They charge away to find the Mortician.

Augie Simmons comes running out of Old Vick Taylor’s house next door, where he went to check the score in the hockey game. He bellows for attention. “Old Vick’s gone too! The Mortician’s on a rampage! Calgary scored again, by the way, it’s five-three for the Flames, the Jets are toast – but Vick’s not there!”

“Hazard! Hazard!” the mob chants. They rage. They snarl. They prepare to run the mortician down, once and for all. But no one knows where he went. After a frantic argument, I’m hauled and shoved into the centre of the crowd again to set them on the right track.

Homer bellows the mob down. “Quiet! We gotta hear what he’s saying! … All right, Finknight. You’re the pro. Which direction did he take the girl in?”

If there had been any tracks in the snow to follow, the mob’s stomped all over them by now. Thank God. But they won’t appreciate me pointing that out. I’ve got to say something. My credibility’s at stake here. And if I don’t sound at least plausible, in the mood they’re in right now they might turn on me.

“Uhh … I … taking the wind direction into consideration … and … and the clues of course, the obvious ones … I would have to say … uhh …”

“There he is!” a voice on the edge of the crowd yells. Everyone’s head jerks around to look. The mob freezes.

At the end of the street, not fifty yards from us, on the edge of town, stands the Mortician, in his enormous black coat and huge hat.

He carries the limp body of June Reichenbach in his arms.

The crowd glares. Hazard glares back. The mob begins to move slowly forward …

“Take it easy now, boys,” I caution. “We have to look out for the girl now … I think he went the other way, by the way.”

“We have to look out for ourselves,” Homer growls in an ugly voice, beginning to move a little faster.

Hazard takes one step towards us. We all jump back three feet. The Mortician carefully sets the woman’s body down on the snow-covered street. Then he turns and bounds with amazing speed into the trees. As soon as he’s safely out of sight, the mob shrieks and races after him.

I tear ahead and throw myself over the girl to protect her. After the mob passes, I help June into a sitting position. She’s coming to. She’s fine – completely unharmed, just shaken. A little in shock. Doesn’t remember a thing that’s happened. I can’t help but note it’s like her mind has been wiped clean by some unearthly force. But that’s the sort of thing I do.




When the mob can’t find Hazard in the woods, they turn their anger back on the town. They storm the High Tide Funeral Parlour and rage into Hazard’s quietly furnished three-room living space. They destroy everything in sight, then walk happily back to the bar to celebrate their triumph, their rage spent. Fred Evans and I walk onto the scene of the carnage twenty minutes later, after seeing to June’s safety and comfort in Peggy Wheeler’s kitchen. If there had been any clues in the Funeral Parlour, again the mob has destroyed them. I sift through the rubble, disgustedly.

“What I want to know,” Fred says, “is what are we going to do with Eddie’s body and Old Vick’s if we find it. Hazard was the only mortician in town.”

“I don’t think you’re going to see Taylor’s body again,” I mumble. “You can always get somebody in from Winnipeg for the other guy.” My eye falls on two familiar looking paperbacks lying in the rubble. I swoop down like a hawk and scoop them up. There’s more underneath.

“You think Hazard might have …” Fred gulps. “Jesus! I don’t even want to think about it! What the hell does Fernand Lecuyer want to show up in High Tide for! Nothing ever happens here! Except for that Satanic – I mean … well. We don’t talk about that anymore.”

I examine the two books. I’m quite familiar with them. Jean Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness, and Albert Camus’s The Rebel. Two staples of my own library. Most appropriate reading for a mortician. I open the Sartre book randomly. “How’d a town in Manitoba get a name like High Tide anyway?” I ask Fred absently. I flip through the book some more. “We’re in the middle of the goddamned continent.” Handwritten inside the front cover of the book are initials, a location, and a date: P.C. Burnaby, 1982.

“Heh. That was Josiah Updike. He named the place. Was its founder,” Fred explains. I bend over and pick up two more books from the rubble. The Collected Poems of T.S. Eliot. Dylan Thomas: Collected Poems. Various poems are marked in pencil throughout each book. Fred goes on. “He was the captain of a trade ship, but like most sailors in those days couldn’t swim a lick. He developed a deathly fear of drowning. So he found the geographical spot he thought was farthest away from all the oceans in the world, moved there, which is here, and called it High Tide.”

Hazard seems to be especially taken with these lines by Dylan Thomas:


And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns

About the happy yard and ringing as the farm was home,

In the sun that is young once only


He’s underlined that last line three times.


Time let me play and be

Golden in the mercy of his means.


“Josiah’s reasoning was, if the tide ever gets this high, we’re all screwed anyway. He was so afraid of dying by water. Thus we got named High Tide.”

Dying by water … Hmm. “Didn’t he realize we’re right in the middle of a flood plain?” I pick up the Eliot, let it fall open to where Hazard most often reads it.


This is the dead land

This is cactus land

Here the stone images

Are raised, here they receive

The supplications of a dead man’s hand

Under the twinkle of a fading star.


Fred’s anxiety acts up in the sudden silence. “What are we going to do, Finknight?”

“Midnight. The name’s Midnight. We’re going to call in some more R.C.M.P. This whole thing’s way out of hand. And your mortician’s not Fernand Lecuyer. I’ll bet Hazard’s never killed anyone in his entire life. By the way … what do you know about these strange lights in the vicinity I keep hearing about?”




“Finknight! Where you been? We gotta make our move! I been looking all over for you.” Homer Davis hauls me away from the table in the bar I just got comfortable at. I cast a longing glance after my glass of beer as Davis pulls me right out of the building and back out onto the street. I left Fred about a half hour ago, in his office making calls. The mob in the bar is no longer a mob. They’ve settled down with a certain drunken sobriety, quite satisfied with what they’ve accomplished. But Homer is still agitated. He’s still primed for action and determined to take some. I don’t like it.

I let him know what Fred’s up to. He’s not pleased.

“The Provincial R.C.M.P.! They’ll bugger up the case for sure! If the real authorities could handle a killer like Lecuyer, he’d be in jail already. You and I are gonna have to operate as the true agents of justice now. Like I always anticipated.”

I definitely do not like the sound of that.

“Even if they do catch him, Lecuyer’ll get off on some court technicality or something some fancy pants city lawyer’ll find a loophole for him for. I got a pretty positive hunch as to where Hazard’s lying low. You and I’ll take my twelve-bore up there and do the job right, on the quiet. I know a spot we can leave the body where no one’ll ever find it. We can get there quick on my skidoo. The whole thing’ll be done and finished before the Moundies ever get here.”

I’m about to protest, when a curious looking falling star catches my eye. And I notice there’s something unnaturally cold about Davis’s touch.

“You got a problem with this?” Homer eyes me suspiciously. “Finknight?”

“Midnight. The name’s Midnight.”




There’s a shack up in the hills hunters sometimes use through the winter months. It’s the only place Lecuyer could possibly have run to, Homer assures me. The only shelter for miles around for a man on foot, even a man as powerful as the Mortician. Davis is certain Lecuyer fooled the mob by doubling back on his own tracks and then jumping up a tree and lying low while the crowd came along and wiped out all traces of his trail by stomping on it trying to follow him. It’s too bad they hadn’t thought to bring along a couple of dogs.

I cling precariously to Homer’s large, parka-covered back as we speed noisily through the treacherous dark forest paths on his snow mobile. I wince repeatedly at imminent, surely fatal collisions with tree after tree. But Homer displays an unnatural efficiency in picking out obstacles just in time in the almost total darkness. There’s no moon out tonight. Just more stars than I’ve ever seen all in one place before in my entire life, never having spent much time outside of the city lights. Despite the infernal roar of the snow mobile, I’m struck by the immobility and serenity of the scene.

That roar is also telling Hazard we’re coming. But it’s useless to try and relay that fact to Homer. He won’t listen. Homer’s past listening.

After a half hour or so, Davis pulls the machine in behind a copse of trees and cuts the engine. The silence flooding down from the stars filling in the gap almost leaves me doubting my senses.

“He heard us coming, of course,” Homer says. “But he’ll be able to tell there was only one machine. And I bet I’m a better hunter than he is, by day or night, and he’s not armed. We are.” He unslings his rifle from the snow mobile, cocking it menacingly.

“If you think he shot Reichenbach, why do you say he’s unarmed?” I can’t stop myself from asking. Idiot. My nerves are getting the better of me.

Davis stops and stares at me. Long and hard. I can feel his eyes taking me in a lot more clearly than I can see him in this starlight. There is a long, uncomfortable pause.

“C’mon,” Davis finally sneers. “Let’s go.”




The shack is tiny. A one room structure set against a hill in a small clearing. I strain to see where Jarvis points from where we’re hiding in the trees. The cabin’s just a darker shape against a vague background to me.

“Just as I thought,” Homer whispers. “There’s tracks leading up to the shack from the other side of the clearing.” I can’t make out that kind of detail in this light. “Lecuyer’s not inside anymore, though. I’ll bet on it. When he heard the skidoo coming, he backed out the way he came in. He’s somewhere in the trees now, over there, waiting to see who’s going to show up at the shack. I got a plan –“

“Wait a second.”


“There’s something I’ve been wondering about. With all these weird lights people have been seeing in the sky lately.”

“This is no time to go whacko on me, Midnight. What do you think? Bug-Eyed Lizards From Outer Space carried off Vick Taylor?”

“There were some curious tracks I noticed just outside of town when we were getting the snowmobile ready. I figure –“

“Shut up. This is what you’re going to do. You’re going to go up to that shack. Pretend like you’re looking for him. When he sees it’s just you, that’ll draw him out. Then I’ll nail him. You’re the bait. Don’t worry. I’m a crack shot. Even in the dark. Get going.”

“… Uh –“


I can tell the rifle is leveled at my stomach, and at this range Homer doesn’t need to be able to see in the dark to hit me. I quietly move out of the trees into the clearing. I stop, beyond the edge of the trees.

“Keep going …” Davis growls behind me.

Hazard isn’t stupid enough to come out at the sight of one man. He’ll know two people can ride as easy as one on one skidoo, and that the second man will be carrying a gun. The Mortician isn’t about to run out wondering why I’m here. But … there’s something electric in the air. Something unnatural … I’ll go with my instincts. But I’ll let the guy know I’m a friend.

I start walking forward, trudging awkwardly through the knee-deep snow. I start reciting the only verses I can remember. Too bad I never took the time to get in to Dylan Thomas as well.

“’A current under sea Picked his bones in whispers’!”

God only knows what Davis is making of this. I brace myself to feel the shotgun blast hitting my back any moment.

“’As he rose and fell, He passed the stages of his age and youth, Entering the whirlpool’!”

I’m halfway across the clearing to the shack. I stop.

“’Gentile or Jew, O you who turn the wheel and look to windward, Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you’!”

There is a long, long silence in the starlight. A horrible panicky feeling spreads over me saying it didn’t work. I yell out desperately “’Those are pearls that were his eyes’!” I hear the click of the rifle behind me. I cringe, covering my head with my arms.

A blinding beam of light shoots down on me from above, completely enveloping me. I lower my arms in wonder – then freeze. Paralyzed.

Two large, bulky, hissing figures dash out of the shack and past me with blinding speed, racing towards where I left Davis. I don’t really get a good look at them.

A scream of tongue-throttled rage erupts behind me and I hear a shot. Two more shadowy figures of the same build as the first two emerge silhouetted from the shack and walk towards me. As they near, I can see them more clearly …

Dark green. Hard-skinned. A hint of scales. Large, protruding eyes.

Just before they get to me, a very human yell of warning rings out. The enormous, threatening form of Hazard the Mortician, black-coated arms flung wide and black hat flying off behind him, hurtles into the freezing air from the roof of the shack, towards the second two figures. He wasn’t hiding in the trees at all. Another cone of light blasts out of the night sky and pins the giant motionless as he lands, and as blinded as I am, no doubt.  Neither of us can move.

The second two figures glide on, not touching me after all. Past my line of extremely limited sight …

I’d say five minutes pass, Hazard and I staring at each other.

Then the four figures return with a fifth, struggling, who has taken on the same shadowy form as the first four. They disappear out of my peripheral vision. Back to staring …

Three minutes later, the two cones of light shut off. Hazard and I drop into the cold snow, unconscious.




I wake up first. I must have been calmer when the lights went out. I hadn’t been moving when the freeze-ray got me, not attacking like Hazard had been. I rub some snow into the giant Mortician’s face to wake him up. His eyes open suddenly and a black gloved hand grabs me around the throat – what a grip! “Take it easy?” I manage to wheeze. He sees who I am. Lets me go. “Jeez … here’s your hat.” I hand the fallen giant his wide-brimmed headpiece. “It’s cold out here.” The Mortician accepts the hat, eyeing me suspiciously, but I think he knows it’s a peace offering.

“so,” Hazard speaks for the first time. His voice is quiet and eerie, like a coffin hinge softly creaking. “were those what I think they were …”

“I have no idea. Let’s check the tracks.”

There are two sets of two webbed footprints heading into the trees, then coming back again with one obviously struggling set of booted feet between them. But then a curious thing obviously happened. The boots burst. We find the remains of the footwear in the snow, along with the hunting cap Homer Davis had been wearing. After that, there is a fifth set of webbed impressions, and no more human marks.

“You saw them get Taylor? And leave the girl behind?” I ask.

“whooshed him right up into the ship with a light like they laid on us. man was nuts anyway. I heard the shot at the Reichenbach house. then I saw the lights. went running after Taylor. I was too late.”

“The Mounties’ll figure out Taylor killed Reichenbach. We know you didn’t do it. They’re good at things like that.”

“how do you know I didn’t do it?”

“You’re only a gentle, green-leafed soul coping with the absurdity of death through great poetry and small town undertaking … You couldn’t kill anybody. I found your book collection.”

Hazard stares at me menacingly, his body taut. He knows I’ve blown his cover. Slowly, the giant relaxes, then comes as close to smiling as I’m probably ever likely to see him. “got it in one.”

I’m still thoughtful. “But what about Davis? How do we explain his disappearance?”

“they’ll find … things … when they search his house. they won’t ask questions.”

“You know something about that? That’s why he was out to get you? Why he brought me in to track you down, so he could kill you on some trumped up pretext or other?”

“Davis had it in for me ever since he asked me to translate a strange old book he owned. just after I came to town. book was written in Greek. I couldn’t read it. but I warned him about some names I recognized …”


“maybe. demonic.”

The Mortician’s eyes glowed in the darkness.

“Demons,” I repeat. “Sure.”

“from the Elder Days. from Space, where they were banished, when they went too far here on Earth. some writings say they left their seed behind.” I regard him skeptically.

“Don’t ask me to accept nothing but impossible things before breakfast. C’mon. We’ve still got some searching to do. I forget where Homer left the damn skidoo.” We head off towards the trees. “What’s your real name anyway?” I ask, making conversation. “It’s P something, right? I saw your initials. P.C.”

“phlebas chadwick.”

Ha! Talk about a shot in the dark. “I can see why you went into hiding.”

“what’s your real name?”

“Never mind.”

There are some things man is not meant to know, if I can help it.

© Copyright 2018 urbansundog. All rights reserved.

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