“Season of Drake” by Guest Author David Rhodes – Part 2

Guest Author David Rhodes

Guest Author David Rhodes

Had there not been a screen on his mother’s bedroom window, Thad would have been even more startled than he had been at what he saw there. In fact, for a little while he had been downright frightened, his heart flip-flopping as he walked into that room and flicked on the light. The blinds were raised, the window slid open, and on the other side of the window was a face staring into the room. It was void of any facial hair, and one of the first things Thad noticed was how pale it looked. The man’s eyes (for it was obviously a man) were wide and moist, unblinking, and the mouth was slightly open, revealing slender teeth.

Thad barely had time to react before the face was swallowed up by the night, and although the window was open, the face was gone without a single minute sound. No footsteps, or rustling through the grass on the side of the house. He did not even see which way it had gone.

Thad jumped back into the hall, out of sight of the window. Heart pumping double-time, breathing as if he had just ran a long distance race – he managed a peek around the doorway, and saw nothing in the window. The intruder had not returned.

He rushed into the room and closed the window, making sure the latch was secure, and lowered the blinds. Save for a little dizziness, his mellow intoxication had been replaced with an urgent but uncertain need to do something, anything. He would have hurried from room to room and closed all the windows and blinds had his nerves allowed it, so he moved with hesitance through the rooms, sneaking a peek into each one first before carrying out his tasks.

He turned on the swamp cooler, which blew out cool air from the large vents in the hallway ceiling, and then he sat down hi the living room and sipped a little more from his beer. He tried to recall if he had ever felt so scared and violated at the same time, and could come up with nothing; and along with that train of thought came the unpleasant childhood memories of two older brothers who performed sibling violations of their own, childish harassments which were mostly harmless but utterly irritating. They would dump cold water on him while he was hi the shower, that inevitably produced screams of anger that had Sam and Mark laughing, and the inevitable booming reactions of their father as he verbally lashed out at the two pranksters.

But this was just one example of what Thad had to deal with growing up. And the game never stopped, it just changed with age. One of the best days Thad had ever had was the day Sam and Mark decided to move into a dumpy two bedroom apartment of their own. Thad was so happy, in fact, that he even helped them move. Good riddance to bad rubbish. He didn’t speak much to them after that day, and the rift between them grew larger and larger as time marched on.

And now his brothers hated him even more for the simple fact that they had worked their way up their ladders of success, growing greedier as the money began flowing in, while little brother had suddenly had his money handed to him upon a silver platter.

They did not sense, or merely ignored that it had not been silver for Thad, but instead had been filled with sorrow and love for Abby Wendt that she offered her final gift to him, and it forever sealed the bond between them that had always been strong and sound. It had never been about money.

Thad dumped the beer down the kitchen sink, and turned on the front and back porch

lights. He thought about calling the police, and considered it futile: the intruder would be long gone. And then he thought to himself: You have to go outside and look around, you know that, don’t you?

No, I don’t have to do that.

Yes, you do, or you ‘II never sleep tonight. Besides, he’s gone, right?

Ah, shit.

For several minutes Thad paced around the small house considering his options, and finding none. “He’s the one who supposed to be afraid, not me,” he said out loud in the quiet of the living room. With that shaky logic under his belt he approached the front door, and stood there listening.

Silence.

Go on, then.

If he had not put down the beer that he had, Thad perhaps would not have had the courage to go outside and look around after catching someone peeking in the window, but instead would have stayed inside and lost a little sleep over the whole thing. But he had put down a few beers, and he would go outside and face whatever was lurking out there. Another thought occurred to him. My mother just died. She -went through the most feared stages of a person’s life. So… what am I afraid of?

This logic was stronger and sound, and Thad found himself opening the front door and looking through the glass of the storm door into total darkness. He had lost track of time, and night had consumed everything. He stepped out onto the porch and immediately lost some of his courage – the reality of the situation made it very difficult to be the superhero, in fact, left him feeling as if he were at the mercy of some total stranger.

He glanced across the street at the newly occupied house with the darkened windows, and at the roof which was now void of any feline activity. A dog barked from the other end of the street, and instantly the fiendish face came to mind, floating at the window like a singular object with no body or form, just a face that glared like it was angry or insane.

He heard the buzz of a nearby streetlight, and he looked up and down the street, at the dim yellow pools of light under each light; the street, too, was void of any activity, and Thad again had that feeling that he was being watched by the house across the street. He knew it was ridiculous, but it was nonetheless there. He shuddered and felt goose bumps rising on his arms. “Oh, stop it,” he said under his breath.

He went to his right in the silvery moonlight, across the dry grass to the edge of the house. Here, he stopped and peered around the corner. Between his house and the kid’s rental house was a wooden fence, four feet tall in front, eight in back, demarcating the property line. He realized that he didn’t even know which side had installed the fence. That thought aside, he crunched over dirt and weeds toward the rear of the house, slowing his pace, for the back yard seemed as ominous as a closet creaking open by itself in the middle of the night.

He saw the old wooden shed standing against the tall fence, which ended at the corner of the property, where it turned into a short chain link fence that was overgrown with a flowering ivy (he had never known the name of that particular plant, only that it had always been there) that ran along the back of the yard before taking a ninety-degree turn and running up to the driveway, to the back edge of the house.

Shadows dominated the yard – following the fence, stretching out from the shed, and it was here that he watched for movement. An intruder could be behind the shed, hiding in the shadow, or lying on the ground against the fence somewhere.

Waiting.

His heart pumped faster as he walked to the center of the yard to look behind the shed. It was a nice, safe distance. He almost felt silly as he edged into view (chicken little the sky is falling, the sky is falling) and scanned the emptiness behind the small structure.

Nothing waiting there.

As he again recalled the old story of Chicken Little, he laughed. But then, he recalled the face, and how there had been a person in his yard, creeping around doing God knows what. A plastic mannequin face staring through a window. Just being there was threatening. Fear washed over him again, and he quickly went to the other side of the house, where he knew no one would be waiting. He walked down the cracked driveway and back into the house.

Locking the door behind him, he glanced at the oval clock on the living room wall. It was already pushing into midnight. The empty void of the house still felt unusual, like the house had changed personalities. And it was certainly looking different, washed of its former self, like a clown who has removed his or her make-up.

He sat on the couch and changed channels on the TV with the remote, and shortly thereafter fell asleep with it still in his hand.

     He lay on his bed in the middle of the night, and in the darkness above him the face appeared. It was laughing, except there was not a sound. He clutched the sides of the mattress, frozen in terror, unable to tear his eyes away from the laughing face. And then the face turned from mirth to anger, and it began speaking to him angrily, the volume still on mute.

The face came closer, or grew larger, he couldn’t tell which.

Laughing again. Laughing at the helpless young man on the bed. The man who was just this side of wetting the bed.

The face came closer still, and he opened his mouth to scream and…

Thad jerked awake, remote in hand, head lolling back against the couch, with a desperate need to urinate. He wiped slobber off his cheek and stood up, slightly dizzy and on the verge of a headache. No more beer for a while, he thought, as he headed for the bathroom.

Brent Neilson slept an uneasy sleep, tossing his large frame to and fro on the bed, while next to him Wendy Neilson was as still as stone, caught up in a particularly bad dream.

She was running down a dark, dampened street that was bordered with old fashioned gas street lamps. The air was musty, and a thin fog curled and licked at the ground. She looked down and discovered that she was wearing a tattered dress, and shoes that looked to be made of cloth or something similar.

She heard steps on the moist cobblestones behind her, and turned her head to see a dark figure approaching at a fast pace. The figure was too distant to discern any features – it was merely a shadowy outline in the fog. And she knew that this is why she was running. The figure, a man, meant to do her harm, perhaps even kill her. She pushed on, only slightly aware of the closed shops and darkened buildings all around her.

Wendy had no idea where she was, and she felt horrified, like a child lost in a department store. She was in a huge, strange place with nowhere to go but to follow the street, the incessant tapping of boot heels behind her.

She passed a tavern, and heard many voices raised in laughter. A wooden sign hanging from a post above the arched doorway said The Black Lantern. She rushed to the door and pushed it open, the layers of her dirty dress swishing against the doorjamb. The room fell eerily silent as she was suddenly the main attraction.

A large, obese bartender stood behind the bar polishing a glass with plump hands. His shirt, which had at one time been white, was now stained beyond its true color. The room was full of men, all dressed as shabbily as the bartender.

A man sitting at the bar spoke up, revealing several empty notches where teeth had been. “Well, look what we ‘ave ‘ere, ” he said in a definitive English accent.

“I… a man- ” Wendy started to say.

“I’ll just bet your looking for a man,” a man said from amidst a group sitting around a rough wooden table near the center of the room.

“Why don ‘t you come in and join the party, lass? ” another said from the other side of the room.

All the men stared at her with disgusting greed, a pack of hungry wolves. And then, all the faces became one, that of a young man who was clearly not apart of this group, yet he did have a hungry look about him.

Wendy fled into the street and looked in the direction of the man who had been following her. The figure was no longer there. Fog rolled over the quiet, empty street.

The figure reappeared from an alley that was strewn with garbage. This time, he was so close that she could see his face. The face of the men in the bar!

She was running again, dress billowing out behind her. The uneven hem of the dirty dress rippled under one of her shoes and tripped her up, sending her sprawling onto the wet cobblestone. Wendy turned over, her heart hammering as she saw the man standing directly over her. It was strange that he wore a wealthy man’s clothing – a black suit with waistcoat and cloak, and shining black boots.

He leaned over, grasped her by the shoulders, and yanked her upright.

“Don ‘t fret, child. It won’t take long before you die, ” he said, in the same strong English accent.

He opened his mouth to reveal two thin fangs, one on each side of his two front teeth. They narrowed into tiny, dangerous looking points. His mouth seemed to unhinge, and it opened wider, more so than any person she had ever seen.

When she could take no more, she screamed, and…

Wendy screamed herself awake, the sound reverberating off the bedroom walls. Brent sat bolt upright and turned on the little reading lamp on the nightstand next to him. Wendy was already sitting up, and she was bathed in sweat. Brent gently grabbed her arm and patted her hand.

“Are you alright, honey? What happened?”

“I just had the most horrible dream,” she said, and hugged her husband. “I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared in my life!” Her voice was shaky.

“It’s ok, dear, you’re here now, and I won’t let anything hurt you,” he said.

“It all seemed so real, though.”

“What were you dreaming?” he asked, his brow scrunching into concern.

“Oh, a horrible man was chasing me, and I didn’t know where I was, or anything. And I had on old fashioned clothes, like in the olden days, you know? He was like a vampire, it was really weird. Fangs and the whole thing, and he was gonna bite me. Pretty weird, huh?”

“Yeah, that sounds really weird,” Brent said. “Are you alright, now?”

“I’m alright, now.”

“Ok, let’s turn out the light and try to get some sleep.” He reached over and switched off the lamp. They both laid back down, Brent facing away from Wendy. His eyes were wide open in the dark. He didn’t want to say anything to Wendy so as not to frighten her, but he also had been dreaming.

A terrible, terrible dream.

Anna Matson slept sound as a mouse, but Joe was wriggling around, tangling the sheets around his legs.

What had been reality for Thad Wendt became a nightmare for Joe. He stood in his living room, gazing at the night on the other side of the glass. He never left the curtains open at night, who would? He supposed some people did, those who did not care if anyone saw what they were doing in the privacy of their own home. But they were not drawn now, though he could see nothing but dark on the other side of the window. And then there was a man standing outside the window with his face pressed against the glass. He had a face with a horrible expression on it, one of raw hunger, of thirst.

Joe ran from the room, and burst into one of the three bedrooms along the hall. There the curtains were also not drawn, and in the window the frightening face regarded him with no surprise. Joe felt his dream-heart pounding. He ran through the entire house, and in every window was the same horrible man

He walked back into the living room, though why he was merely walking he did not know. It was just another of the endless mysteries found only in the world of dreams. The living room curtains were magically drawn, hanging motionless and slightly blurry in dream vision.

Joe approached the window as if he were being forced to do so, and the curtains slid open to reveal again the devilish countenance. The dark swallowed the man up, leaving only pitch black. Joe turned and almost walked into the man standing behind him. With one hand the man grabbed the side of Joe’s head and pushed it over, while with his other hand he grabbed Joe’s shirt collar and pulled it away from his neck.

The mouth opened.

Joe’s eyes popped open, and he had the sensation of someone holding his feet down. After a moment it dawned on him that the sheets were wrapped around his legs, and he worked them out of their bonds. Anna was still asleep beside him, and the world felt normal again. It had been just one of those dreams. Maybe something he saw on the TV had set it off. It wouldn’t be the first time that someone had seen a movie and dreamt about it later on. But he didn’t recall seeing anything even close to what his dream had shown him. It taunted him until the wee hours, when he finally fell asleep again.

The dreams were abundant that night, passing from person to person like a party line. The night air felt colder, stagnant and moist. There was a smell in the air that night, a particular wrongness that no one could quite put their finger on. But, it was there.

 

 

Wednesday arrived with no further strange activities – cats on roofs, people looking in windows, bad dreams – all had fallen silent. Except…

The Wednesday newspapers pronounced that a girl in the neighboring town of Compton had turned up dead near one of the town cemeteries. Thad’s brow wrinkled as he read it, and he recalled that a few years back something similar had happened in Compton. A mortician had gone nuts, and had killed a bunch of people before turning up dead himself. His house had burned down. Everyone remembered that, it had been big news.

Now, there was a dead girl in the morgue, killed sometime Tuesday night. Thad thought about the night before, and shivered. A man had been peeping hi his window. A girl had turned up dead in a town that bordered Taylor. It was disturbing, and he again thought about calling the police, but it seemed futile. What would he tell them? He’d seen a guy at his window, a guy about twenty-five years old, and that was it. Oh, and there were some cats on the neighbor’s roof, Officer, so when I heard about the dead girl I thought I’d better call.

The peeping torn wasn’t that serious at all, but cats? Thad could imagine a police station filled with police, all laughing and rolling in the aisles over the cats. He would be branded a certified nut case, who imagined things like cats walking on roofs and men peeking in windows. A room full of laughing, toothy mouths, and tearing eyes, and red faces. Maybe they would put his picture up and throw darts at it.

Screw that.

Thad read on, disturbed at what he read. The girl had been found by a man who had heard sometime during the night something thump against the side of his house, and had gone outside to investigate. A body lie curled on the grass between two houses, and by the looks of things it looked as if it had been dumped there.

When the police had arrived, they found the body of a girl no more than seventeen or eighteen-years-old, still dressed in jeans and a tee shirt which had been trimmed at the bottom to exposed her tummy. The girl showed no signs of trauma or sexual assault. But when they turned her body over they found a large red patch on the side of her neck over the jugular vein, in the center of which was a round hole about an inch in diameter.

The police stated that it must have been the work of some individual or cult that dabbled in sacrifice. And they would not be surprised if an autopsy showed that some of her blood was gone, drained or bled elsewhere before being dumped between the houses.

Thad stared at the story until the words blended together and became indiscernible, mere black and white patches on a page. A shudder ran through him, and he turned away from the paper. It hit too close to home, like the crazy mortician who had been out murdering people and cutting them up.

A large, ancient truck rumbled to the curb in front of the house, and with a grinding of worn gears came to a stop, and its engine fell silent. Thad opened the front door just as a grubby man in blue overalls rapped on the screen door.

“Ith thith the thuff we’re thupposthed to pick up?”

When the man spoke, Thad saw that his two front teeth were missing, which had left the man with the lisp. Thad pointed to the curb, where the night before he had stacked all of Abby’s belongings, even the bed. “That’s right. Everything right there.”

“Thankth. Juth making sure ith the right addreth,” the man said. His brownish hair was oily, with thick licks hanging over his forehead, and his face was covered with stubble that only a weed eater could have cut. His face was emotionless as he turned and walked down the sidewalk to the other man, who was already opening the back doors of the truck.

The two began tossing things haphazardly into the truck, and Thad felt a pang in his heart, an urge to run outside and bring all of his mother’s things back inside. He held back, fighting off tears that were building up in his bloodshot eyes, until the last item was loaded and truck rumbled away. He shut the door and gave in to the tears.

Friday crept up on the little neighborhood, the week having come full circle again, for this is how people viewed the week; Friday night was when the kids (who weren’t really kids) next door started their partying, and with the partying came the late-night noise, which they usually followed suit with on Saturday nights as well.

Early on, a couple of cars pulled up in front of their house, depositing people like taxicabs.

A few more cars showed up as dusk settled in, one parking in front of Thad’s house. It wouldn’t have bothered him except the history of those neighbors, the noisy, repetitive weekends gave Thad the urge to go outside and throw tomatoes at it. Or maybe eggs. Either way, it might have been satisfying.

Even with all the windows closed, Thad could hear the thump! thump! of the stereo next door gaining volume every fifteen minutes or so. It was too routine, and it made Thad wonder how people could be so downright pests and not give a shit about it. He knew this would go on for hours, until people started filing outside onto the double-wide gravel driveway. And then the real noise would begin, ending with the pinnacle of noise, the firing up of the primer gray 1967 Mustang that just happened to be parked next to the fence. It was closer to Thad’s house than anybody’s, and when the thing started, it was like someone screaming in his ear.

Thad didn’t even know who actually owned the car, but he had an idea it was the big jock named Randy. Who else would have the balls to fire up a Mustang with no muffler at two in the morning? Only a big, dumb jock with attitude, one who was not only fearless of Brent Neilson, but the rest of the world, too.

Thad made himself a couple of sandwiches and settled down in front of the TV. Coke was his drink of choice, as he didn’t think it appropriate to be drinking two nights in a row, especially on a night when he might have to go next door to complain about noise. It just wouldn’t feel right, to be slobbering drunk and try to stop a party. Hell, it doesn’t ‘t matter, anyway, he thought. Nothing ever stops those kids.

Even Thad thought of them as kids, although some of them approached his own age. Abby Wendt had often spoken of them with her son, as two adults would discuss the bad behavior of a ten-year-old. That he looked younger on the outside didn’t necessarily reflect the adult on the inside. And Abby had never hesitated to remind him of that fact.

Around 12:30, the music grew louder as the kid’s front door opened wide to spew out the first of the small crowd. A half hour later, it sounded exactly like that – a small crowd.

Thad shook his head and stared at the old black and white movie on the TV. It was only a matter of time.

The inside of the house was a confusing mixture of music, voices, laughter, and even louder voices. Beer cans littered all the tables, including the floor (which is probably why the house always reeked of beer), and ashtrays were scattered everywhere, some with forgotten cigarettes still burning. The noise rose and fell like ocean waves.

People stood and sat everywhere, some of them only juniors or seniors in high school, others who attended college, and those who didn’t attend school at all. They milled back and forth, guzzling beer and smoking either cigarettes or joints.

Worm sat alone in his bedroom, listening to a police scanner and drinking a beer of his own. He was the official alarm; if he heard so much as a peep on the scanner about their address, all he had to do was run outside or into a room and say, “They’re coming!” It was the official warning to shut up, get inside, turn off the music, and dim the lights. He had a warm buzz going on as he watched the little red lights travel back and forth in a whole row of lights. He also had his trusty computer on, and it was a well-known rule, a golden rule, that no one was to touch his computer, not even look in that direction. Worm had gone ballistic a few times, which had been enough for everybody.

Randy sat at the round kitchen table with three other guys, playing quarters and coughing from the smoke. “You know your lungs are gonna turn fucking black, you know that don’t you?” he said to Kyle Anderson, who was a regular smokestack when he drank. Kyle smiled and took a healthy drag.

“I just hope they give me a smoke before I die.”

Tim sat on the couch with four other people, sharing a joint between them and with the five others who had crowded around the couch like dogs begging for a treat. Across the room, Bones was with yet another group, moving from one discussion to the next with no real destiny.

“I’m telling you, it was weird,” he said, in that calm, mellow cadence. “I swear, there must be some kind of freak living over there.”

Judy Hess broke in. “Speaking of freaks, did you hear about the dead girl they found? I mean, she wasn’t even raped or anything. That’s too weird. When a man kills a girl for the sake of killing, well, that’s weird.”

“Who said it was a man?” a guy that Bones didn’t recognize said.

“It’s always a man. Why would a woman kill a woman?” Judy asked.

“It’s happened before,” Bones said.

“Maybe. But how often? You never hear of a woman killing a woman. It’s always a man, some kind of serial killer, or lunatic.”

“But if you were a lunatic,” Bones asked, “and God told you to go out and kill someone, wouldn’t you do it, too?” Judy sprayed beer out of her mouth while everyone laughed until they were red-faced.

Someone opened the front door, and bodies starting moving outside. Moths fluttered around the bare bulb in the overhang above the porch. The spotlight that was mounted on the side of the house came on, and glorious white light flooded the driveway, and the few cars parked there. Including a primer gray ’67 Mustang Fastback that Randy had Been fixing up for six months.

They all followed each other like sheep, yakking it up along the way, until they were all outside milling around the driveway and front yard, each with a beer can seemingly glued to his or her palm. They either didn’t care about the noise, or, being intoxicated didn’t really know just how loud they really were, but either way, the chatter and laughter went to full volume.

Randy appeared on the porch in his letterman’s jacket, sporting a sly grin.

“God, here we go again. Mr. Show-Off,” Judy said to Bones. She reached around and yanked on his ponytail and patted him once on the ass. Ever the flirt.

Tim walked up to the porch, staggering slightly, and asked, “Randy, I know you love your car, and yeah, it’s really cool, but do you really want fire it up this late? I mean, the cops will probably come and arrest all of us and-”

“Shut the fuck up, Dewolf.” The car key twinkled in Randy’s hand. “I’ll do what I want. You got a problem with that?” He scowled at Tim.

Tim lifted his hands, palms out. “No man, you do whatever. It’s cool.”

“Damned straight it’s cool,” Randy said, stumbling off the porch and across the lawn.

“Cover your ears, he’s gonna fire it up again!” somebody in the crowd shouted.

Voices grew hushed as Randy climbed in behind the wheel and slammed the car door shut.

“Oil the hinges on that thing, man, that about makes my hair stand up on end!” This time it was Kyle Anderson. “Lube it, baby, lube it!”

More laughter.

Randy turned the key, and the small block v-8 he had dropped into the Mustang turned over a few times, not quite catching the starting rhythm. He turned the key to the off position. The carburetor coughed once, and the engine grew silent. The voices picked up again, doubtful, some actually thankful, that the car didn’t start. A few drifted back inside the house, and when Randy noticed that, he frowned and shouted, “It’ll start, it’ll start.”

He pumped the gas pedal frantically and turned the key.

And the magnificent gray machine that he had so often labored over, had so often swore at, so often pounded his raging fists against, that 351 v-8 with no muffler, fired up in the early morning quiet.

No one really knew exactly how far away the sound could be heard, but one thing that everyone did agree on was that if you were in the same neighborhood with that thing, fast asleep in bed, your alarm would be going off a little early that day. And if you didn’t fall out of bed, you were probably already dead.

When the Mustang fired up, Randy automatically gunned the engine, and everyone nearby covered their ears and backed up. The party whooped it up; amidst the dust and bluish, oil-burned smoke rising into the air were shouts and screams and insane laughter. Lights went on at nearby houses. Randy sat in the driver’s seat, head cocked to one side, listening to the uproarious sound as if listening for a misfired plug or change in the timing.

More revs, more catcalls. The normal routine never lasted more than a few minutes until Worm would make an appearance, telling everyone, “They’re coming!” – but tonight would be the night that everything would change.

Bones happened to glance upward and saw the shadowy figure on the roof of the house across the street. His mouth fell opened, and he pointed, and Judy Hess drew his attention by hitting him on the arm. She said something, but Bones wasn’t listening. He looked back at the house, and the figure had vanished.

His eyes widened as he saw a figure come out of the shadows of the newly occupied house and walk across the street toward them. Features became clear on the figure, a man, most definitely, and not much older than the guy named Thad who lived next door. He wore jeans, black running shoes and tee shut. And the expression under the flowing brown hair was distasteful and disgusted.

The voices and laughter all but ceased as the man hit the edge of the gravel driveway; most had seen him by then, and were backing not only away from the monstrous roar of the car, but a stranger whose very appearance looked threatening making a beeline to the Mustang.

He became sharp and clear in the light, a handsome young man that seemed to have all around him in a trance – he definitely had not been on the agenda for the evening. The man walked up to Randy in mid-rev and said something; and Bones thought it very strange that he heard the man’s voice over the thundering noise, but he did. It had been not more than a whisper, yet  he had heard it. Tim Dewolf, who was on the porch, heard it, as well. Kyle and Ami looked at each other as if to say What?

He had said, Turn it off.

Randy let the engine fall to an idle, and looked up at the stranger through the open door window. “I’m sorry, were you talking to me?”

“I said, turn it off,” the man said in a rich English accent.

Randy guffawed. “That’s what I thought you said.” He punched the gas petal, and the sound rose to ear-splitting volumes, while Randy sat there laughing, seemingly oblivious of it.

The stranger grabbed the door handle, pulled the door open, squeaky hinges and all, and latched onto Randy’s left arm with both hands.

“Just what do you think you’re do-” he began to say. And the next thing anyone knew, Randy was landing like a sack of potatoes on the grass about fifteen feet away.

Judy rushed over to where Randy was trying to pick himself up off the lawn.

“What the fuck was that?” Tim said to no one in particular.

The small crowd grew silent. A slight breeze breathed through the air like a sigh.

Now, all eyes were trained on the man standing next to the car, arms at his sides. The car keys dangled from one hand. No one even realized at first that the car was no longer running. Randy pushed Judy aside and ran like a charging bull toward the man, ranting all the way. “You can’t do that to me. I’ve kicked-” He barreled through the spot where the man had only seconds before been standing – only now the man was gone, Randy had no time to stop himself from crashing into the Mustang. And as he did, something that sounded like hummff! escaped his lips. The Mustang rocked and bounced on its aged suspension. He reeled and fell to one knee onto the gravel, and then lifted his face up, which was now red, and very, very pissed off. There was a new dent in the side of his car, just behind the door.

Bones had been watching the man more intently than anyone else, and he still could not figure out how the man had moved from one spot to the next without anyone really seeing it. He did think he’d seen something, though, a flash of color, but it had been gone in the blink of an eye.

The man threw the keys high into the darkness, and they jangled slightly before disappearing altogether. “Don’t ever do that again,” the man said, in that rich accent. He turned and crunched down the driveway away from them.

Randy picked himself up and, swaying a bit, shouted, “Get back here you piece of shit!” Judy rushed over and grabbed onto his arm just in time to stop him from going after the man.

“Leave it alone, Randy,” she said, clutching the same arm with which some total stranger had just used to throw him out of his own car.

Worm poked his head out of the front door, and proclaimed, “They’re coming!” And then he noticed Thad standing near the fence. “Oops,” he said, and disappeared inside.

Randy gritted his teeth together, clenched his fists. “This ain’t over, not by a long shot.”

 

 

It had been purely coincidental that Thad and Brent had decided to pay a visit to the kids at the same time, yet neither left their respected yards, for they both saw the man walking across the street, and they suddenly became happy spectators to what came next.

They, too, had heard the stranger’s voice, witnessed the downfall of the hot shot Randy Wilkins, and stood silent as the man went back to his house.

One other thing they saw, which put new light on a few things, was Worm sticking his nerdish face out the door and saying something like, “They’re here,” or “They’re coming,” and then looking right into Thad’s eyes, and saying, “Oops.”

So that was it, then.

The kids had a lookout, a nerd on a police scanner, or something like that. Hell, they always knew when the cops were on the way. Al Capone could have used something like that in the old days.

Thad waved at Brent, who was standing across the street, shirtless but smiling, and then went back inside. He was smiling, too.

The next morning, Thad sat down at the kitchen table to a cup of coffee and toast. He thought about the night before, how unusual in had been, even surreal, to see things go off in a totally new direction. He shook his head and smiled, his hair still sticking up in licks. Brent Neilson ‘s probably getting a kick out of this, he thought.

Thad took a quick shower, and dressed in fresh jeans and a blue shirt that said Wilson on the front in loud orange letters. The house felt lonely, empty still of any life at all, and Thad found himself on the front porch, studying the house across the street. This was not your usual, run of the mill neighbor. No, this guy had thrown Randy Wilkins across the lawn, and a good distance, at that. And Thad must have blinked or yawned or something, because at first the man was grabbing Randy’s arm, and the next thing he knew, Randy was on the grass. Cheers to the new neighbor. Cheers seemed appropriate, considering the man’s accent.

Thad considered the possibilities:

A black belt in Karate?

Maybe he was like David Carradine in that show Kung Fu.

Weight lifter? No, too small for that.

Self defense guru? Maybe.

And maybe it had been Thad’s newfound boredom, or sheer curiosity, but he was soon knocking on the stranger’s door. He really didn’t know what he was going to say, he just felt that someone should go over there and be friendly, considering recent events. And since he had nothing else to do.. .(and all that money to do it), well, it might as well be him.

No one came to the door, and the house was quiet. Thad knocked again, the knocks echoing on the inside as if in an empty room. Maybe he’s not all the way moved in, yet. He was turning to leave when he heard movement on the other side of the door. The doorknob turned, and the door opened to a mere crack, revealing a dark, partly furnished room on the inside.

“What do you want?” There was no mistaking that voice, and Thad felt oddly out of place standing on the man’s porch.

“Hello, my name’s Thad. Thad Wendt. I live across the street.”

Silence.

“I just wanted to say hi and…”

“Well, you said hi. Goodbye.”

The door started to close, and Thad talked fast. “Um, hey, I’m really sorry about the noisy neighbors. Everyone around here has been trying to shut them up for a long time. You did a great job last night.”

“Thank you for saying so, Thad Wendt, but I really must be going.”

“Wait, I didn’t get your name.”

Silence

And then, “Drake. My name is Drake.” The door slammed shut for good.

Thad went back home, thoughtful and a little perplexed. He didn’t know what to make of the new neighbor. Was the man a recluse? It almost seemed to fit. He wouldn’t even show his face, though there was certainly nothing wrong with it, Thad and Brent and all the kids included could have attested to that. So then, what was the deal with this guy?

And what had been that disgusting, dead mouse smell coming from inside the house?

Dusk fell onto Saturday as the four sat around the living room, gloomy and drinking the first beers of the night.

“So, no partying tonight? Tim asked.

“No,” Randy said, grudgingly. “I’ve got other plans for tonight.”

“Like what, killing the neighbor?” Bones asked.

“Hey, don’t give me your shit. You’re the one that said there was some weird shit going on over there.”

“And he had been right,” Worn said as he entered the room. “I’ve been doing some digging around on the computer.”

“Tell us something new, Worm,” Randy said.

Ignoring the comment, Worm continued. “It seems that what Bones saw may not be that unusual after all. So far, I have found five different incidents of multiple cat mutilation and disappearances.”

Bones sat up and pointed at Randy. “See, I told you, you big lug.”

“That doesn’t prove anything. So people have killed cats. There are sadistic fucks all over this world, you know.”

“What else, Worm,” Tim asked.

“As I was saying, I have found five different incidents, mutilations, the last one taking place only a month ago. And get this – it was in upstate Utah, in Logan. Sound familiar?”

“Hell, yes it does!” Bones exclaimed. “Still think I’m nuts? Anybody? I’m telling you, there’s something going on with that guy across the street. Does it mention anything about strange people moving in, or anything like that?”

“No, I didn’t see anything like that. Only that a lot of cats would disappear at one time, someone would eventually put two and two together and call the police, and eventually the media would find out and snatch up a good story.”

“Wait a minute,” Bones said, “you said mutilations.”

“Yes, I did. People were finding dead cats in their yards with their heads or bodies twisted beyond repair.”

“Sick,” Tim said.

“Yeah, sick,” Bones agreed.

“Weirdo or not, something needs to be done about that guy. He has my car keys!” Randy looked at all of them with an intense, angry gaze. He then fixed his eyes on Bones, who stood up and backed away.

“Don’t drag me into another one of your vengeful schemes, man.”

“You’re the one that knows more about it than anyone.”

“What do I know? I saw a guy killing cats. That doesn’t make me an expert.”

“But it does make you the most logical choice, in my book,” Randy said, finally smiling. And if Randy had his way, there would be no getting out of it.

They watched the house for any signs of activity, and saw nothing but a dark, quiet house for most of the evening. Brent’s dog, Sadie, barked at regular intervals, which wasn’t too unusual, though Sadie was normally stayed quiet save for when the mailman made his rounds everyday.

The evening grew darker, and a weak breeze blew in from the south, lending a cool touch to the otherwise muggy air. Stars twinkled against the blackness of space. A car cruised by, tail lights glowing like red unblinking eyes. Sadie barked a few more times, then grew silent. The house across the street more, and more began to remind Bones of a supposed haunted house that was in the neighborhood he grew up in. That house, too, had been empty for a long time. Every now and then, some of the kids would get together on a dare, and pay a visit to the two-story monolith that lie empty at the end of the dead-end street. It had at night been dark, ominous, overgrown with ivy and weeds, and peeling paint. The inside had been even worse. There were pieces of ruined furniture scattered throughout the rooms amidst thick dust and cobwebs that festooned the ceilings. Old graffiti marked the passage of other visitors. And though none of the kids would stoop to admitting their fright, they all managed to find a reason to be outside after only a few minutes.

Now, Bones felt that same trepidation at going near this much smaller house. It was the old Whitlock house all over again, dark shadows stretching out from it as if they had been put there to hide the place at night. But, there was no hiding the place now, the once mostly ignored house now under scrutiny, as if it itself had committed some heinous act against society.

He remembered some of the stories spreading around about Sam Turner’s suicide. He had been on the bed in the master bedroom, shotgun still mostly clasped in his stiff, blue hands, most of his head splattered in a huge circular design on the wall behind him like some new wave painter’s idea of a masterpiece.

“I don’t think anyone’s home, Bones. Let’s go take a look,” Randy said. He was not nearly as drunk as the night before, but Bones, however, had dropped a few cans to ease his growing fear, just in case something was there, something that liked to kill cats. Or maybe humans. His imagination was running wild.

“You are going with me, right King Kong?”

“Didn’t I just say ‘Let’s go?’ So let’s go, moron.”

As they were plastered against the driveway side of the house, they saw no windows, only the two short cement walls that guarded the six steps down to the cellar door. This was the first Bones had ever heard of a cellar existing in this house, for his house had no cellar, as did most of the smaller houses in the neighborhood.

“I don’t think this is a very good idea,” Bones whispered.

“Oh, this coming from Mr. Cool as a cucumber.”

“You’re nuts, you know that don’t you?”

Looking around to see if they were being spied on, and being satisfied they weren’t, they descended the cellar stairs, only to find the door locked.

“What now?” Bones asked, irritably.

“I want my fucking keys back. Don’t you get it? That asshole had no right to take my keys. I’m going to find them, and then the first thing I’m going to do if fire up the Mustang as loud as it will go.”

Bones shuddered. “Isn’t just getting them back good enough? I mean, you could even go to a locksmith and get new keys, for God’s sake. Don’t you remember? He tossed them.”

“It’s not the same thing, Bones. He stole my keys. My keys. One good turn deserves another. And if something of his happens to get stolen or trashed, well.. .we don’t know a thing about it, do we?”

“Yeah, but-”

“But nothing. As far as I’m concerned, run. Like hell! Let’s check out the back of the house. There has to be a way in.”

Bones reluctantly followed Randy behind the house, which was darkened with shadow in the cover of night. There were three windows up high, one of them small, obviously a bathroom. There were also two window wells dug into the ground, harboring two cellar storm windows, and it was into one of these that Randy dropped down into and cupped his hands against the glass for a better look.

“Weirdo’s got them spray painted black or something.” he whispered. He pushed his fingernails into the crack between the window’s metal edge and the frame. The window slid open, revealing the dark cellar beyond, and a rancid smell that had Randy holding his nose. After poking his head inside and looking around, Randy hefted himself out by the corrugated metal siding surrounding the hole.

“It’s way too small for me, man. Way too small.”

“And what’s that supposed to mean? You want me to climb through that window? Me? You’re crazier than I thought, Randy. And in case you haven’t noticed, it smells like something died in there.”

“So the place hasn’t been cleaned hi a while. Come on, Bones, in and out. Five minutes tops. Just try to find the car keys, and we’re gone.”

“And if I can’t find them? Remember, the guy tossed them. Why would he have them?”

“They’re probably upstairs just sitting on a kitchen counter or something. Come on, Bones, in and out. And besides that, I’ll break your fucking neck if you don’t.”

“You are such an asshole sometimes, you know that, don’t you?”

“Just do it!” Randy said, even in whispers sounding threatening.

“Fuck, Randy. If I get caught, I’ll go to jail. Your keys aren’t here, I’m telling you!”

“You won’t get caught, I promise. There is no one home, can’t you tell?”

“If I get caught, it’s on your head!” Bones said, lowering himself into the window well. He winced as his feet squashed some of the brown, dried up weeds on the window well. In the midnight hour quiet, every sound was amplified ten fold. His thick rope of hair still lay over the side of the hole, and he reached around and pulled it inside with the rest of him. He slid his feet into the open window up to his knees and then turned over onto his stomach. With one last callous look at Randy, he lowered himself hi without landing on anything below but bare cement. He gazed up through the open window at Randy, and said, “Ok, I’m in.”

“Well, what are you wasting tune for – go look around so we can get out of here.”

Bones blended in with the cellar darkness and was gone.

Randy heard boxes being shifted around, something glass hitting the cement and shattering, followed by, “Oh, shit!” Bones returned to the window, visibly shaken with paranoia. “I can’t find anything in this dark, Randy. Let’s just go.”

“Find a light bulb, you moron. I know my keys are there. Come on, Bones, help me out.”

Bones again faded away into a deep darkness, and a few minutes later he heard Bones exclaim from somewhere within the cellar, “What the fuck is that?” A dim light came on, and Bones shrieked.

Randy bent over the window well to peer through the window, trying to get a better view, but saw nothing but unmarked boxes and dusty old furniture. “Bones! Bones!” Still trying to keep his voice down. “Bones, where are you?”

The light went out, and the cellar was again just a dark hole in the bottom of the stranger’s house. There came movement, a muffled voice. Randy, as big as he was, so self assured and confident, almost jumped out of his skin when Bone’s face abruptly appeared in the open window. Though it was dark, he knew the moist, dark fluid flowing down one side of Bone’s face was blood.

“Run!” Bones screamed. “Run! Go call the-”

A hand with long fingernails clasped tightly over Bone’s face, and then withdrew with the quickness of a bullet. Five long, fleshy furrows bled like sweat running down his face, and Bone’s was thrown aside. Another face was there, one of insanity and murder, the sickness of hunger, and it smiled at Randy with malevolence.

Randy’s heart was a sledgehammer, and it took him a moment to react to the horror he was witnessing. He bolted for the driveway side of the house, and something brushed against his leg. He could not scream as his throat seemed to have closed up on itself, but he did manage a high-pitched whine that sounded more like a female, a fact that he later would leave out of the story completely. Randy whining like a little girl? It just did not happen.

He burst through the front door of the kid’s house and locked it behind him; a replay of what Bones had done a few days earlier. Room to room he traversed, closing and locking all windows. When he came back into the living room, he was still breathing heavily and could feel his heart beating against his ribs. He plopped down on a chair and stared off in some odd direction.

“What the hell happened to you?” Tim asked. Worm sat quiet yet attentive, splaying the book he’d been reading down on the coffee table.

“Are you alright?” he asked.

“Can’t you tell that I’m not alright? I mean, the neighbor probably killed Bones, that’s all.” He lowered and shook his head. “It was a big mistake going over there. A big mistake.”

Tim leaned closer to Randy. “What the hell happened, Randy? I’ve never seen you so scared in my life. Should we call the cops?”

“I want to talk to that guy next door first. He probably knows what to do better than we do.”

“I can’t believe what I’m hearing,” Worm said. “The all powerful Randy Wilkins afraid of something? This is too weird.”

“Yeah, like the Twilight Zone or something,” Tim said.

“Me and Bones went over there to find my keys and that’s it. Just my fucking keys. The cellar door was locked and we found-”

Tim butted hi. “Wait a minute. That place has a cellar? How come nobody else around here does?”

“I don’t know. Just shut up and listen. The guy’s got those window wells around the basement or cellar windows, whatever you want to call them. Bones jumped down into one and the window was unlocked, so he went in.”

Randy stopped for a moment, in his mind his last vision of Bones was replaying.

Worm said, “Randy, this could be very serious. Tell us what happened, please. You’re safe here.”

“I…I’m not sure what happened. The place looked like no one was home, so we snuck over there for a closer look. The cellar door was locked, so we had to find another way in.”

“Are you crazy?” Tim asked. “That’s breaking and entering. Are you trying to get arrested?”

“He’s right, you know. It’s a very serious offense,” Lester “The Worm” Keck said.

Randy went on the defense. “We weren’t going to steal anything, I just wanted my damned car keys back. That guy had no right taking them in the first place. They’re my property.”

“That still doesn’t constitute breaking and entering,” Worm said. “Besides, what makes you think he has your keys? He tossed them, remember?”

“Worm. Tim. Just shut the luck up, and listen to what happened. As I said, the cellar door was locked, so we found a nice basement window well to jump into it. I was too big for the window, but Bones could have fit just fine. He didn’t like it, but he went anyway.”

“I’m sure he did,” Tim said.

Randy gave him a cold stare. “Well, Bones said something like, ‘What is that?’ and then I didn’t hear anything for a minute, but a light came on, a really dim light, and then I could hear a strange sound. Well, I heard something, like someone with a rag stuffed in their mouth. And then Bones was at the window, and I swear, he had blood all over one side of his face. Then he was screaming! Run! Run! That’s what he said. Oh, and he said to go call the.. .call somebody. Worm’s face and hands were bloody, I tell you.”

Worm said, “The police, Randy. He was trying to tell you to call the police.”

“But, that’s not the worse of it,” Randy said in a shaky voice. “It was horrifying, I swear to God, I’m not lying. A hand with long fucking fingers and longer nails that I’ve ever seen on a guy just grabbed Bones by the face and tossed him aside like a rag doll. But, those fingernails dug deep lines in Bone’s face, and I wanted to kill the guy, I swear I did. But then, it was his face in the window, and you know me, nothing scares me. Nothing! But, that guy did. It was almost inhuman. He was like a ravenous dog or something. So I ran. I ran like hell! And I felt something brush up against my leg, and I was doing double time. It was like whoever that guy was, he was out that window in a heartbeat, and coming after me\”

“What about Bones?” Tim asked.

“I don’t know, Tim, I just don’t know.”

Worm intervened. “We should call the police. It’s the only right thing to do.”

“And just how do you explain to the cops why you were breaking into someone’s house?” Randy asked, fuming.

“The truth,” Worm said, “in situations like this, the victim, which in this case is Bones, usually outweighs everything else involved. And he’s been hurt, Randy, he’s been hurt, and we’re wasting time.”

Randy opened the front door and surveyed the street. “It looks all clear. I’m going.” Before anyone could argue, Randy was out the door and running next door. Tim and Worm looked at each other, rolling their eyes, and then took off after Randy.

When they reached Thad Wendt’s porch, the door was already open, Thad standing in the doorway. They were breathing heavily, and Thad thought it very unusual that they would pay a visit to the person they probably disturbed the most. Especially the jock, who was standing on his front porch spewing out gibberish that Thad could have understood as easily if it had been Chinese. Tim and Worm began to jabber as well, and Thad’s head swam in circles.

“Hold it, hold it, hold it!” he said, and all three of his visitors fell silent.

“Let us in,” Randy said. “It’s not safe out here.”

Thad looked at the other two, who merely shrugged. He stepped aside and motioned them all into the house. They stood in a circle hi the middle of the riving room, and Thad noticed Randy was shaking. Randy Wilkins, the big, bad, football playing, head crunching bully was shaking as if he were scared to death. His face was a pallid, ghostly countenance.

“We’ve got to call the police,” Tim said.

Thad went into the kitchen and returned with three cans of beer, one of each he handed to his visitors. “Take a few drinks, calm down, and tell me what happened. Oh, and by the way, the secret’s out on your police scanner. Don’t be surprised if they show up and confiscate it.” Tim and Randy glowered at Worm.

“It couldn’t be helped, there were people everywhere. How was I supposed to know someone would be watching? They can’t do that,” Worm said. “It’s not illegal to buy, and it’s my personal property.”

Thad said, “If it is deemed an obstruction of justice, then they’ll take it alright. But back to what you were telling me. You guys looked scared.”

“Well, this moron decided to take it upon himself to get his car keys back, even if it meant breaking into that stranger’s house,” Tim said.

Thad didn’t know what to say – he knew how wrong it was to enter a stranger’s house, but he supposed if you were desperate enough to retrieve an item that belongs to you, something very important, it might be worth it. But, his best bet was to remain neutral during the whole thing.

He did, however, suppose he could make character witnesses out of all of the neighbors, although he didn’t think what the neighbors would have to say would have been very helpful. The loud parties. The people outside in a din of noise. And let’s not forget the gray Mustang, which was the biggest part of the neighborhood’s wake-up call.

“Well, if this guy got pissed off at you, it’s no wonder. Half the neighborhood has tried to put an end to that Mustang, but to no avail.”

“There’s something wrong with that guy. He’s psycho. Bones went in through a window, found something, I don’t know. He ran to the window, but this hand or claw, or whatever the fuck it was grabbed him and clawed up his face. And then he was looking at me like he was going to kill me, too. I ran like hell, and I felt him try to grab my leg.

GRAB MY LEG! The creep had been in the basement, Thad. The basement. I think he killed Bones. We need to call the cops. Now!”

“Ok,” Thad said, “I agree.” He saw the worry on their faces, especially Randy’s, whose was more of a mask of fear than anything. Thad went into the kitchen and lifted the receiver from the wall phone. A list of numbers was taped on the wall, and Thad ran his finger down the names until he hit the right one: Taylor Police.

He dialed the number, and a voice came on the line: If this is an emergency, please hang up and dial 911. Otherwise, stay on the line and someone will be with you shortly. Thad hung up. “It says to call 911.”

“So do it,” Randy said.

In a matter of a few short minutes, two police cars, bar lights flashing and circling, pulled up at odd angles in front of Thad’s house, parking apparently not part of police academy curriculum. A policeman climbed out of each car and walked across the grass to the front door, and before they could tap on the door, Thad opened it wide to allow then-entry. “Are you the one who made the call?” one asked. Both men had buzzed heads and looked as if pumping iron was their favorite hobby. Or maybe obsession. But obsession or not, Thad was glad to see that the men who were supposed to be society’s protecting hand took their work seriously, made sure they had the upper hand. It was a secure feeling, though Thad knew a few folks that would ridicule him for thinking such antisocial thoughts, taking sides with big brother.

“Quickly, sir, we need to know where the emergency is.”

“It’s actually my emergency, sir,” Randy said, embarrassment rising in his cheeks. “I asked Thad to call.”

Now, both officers were showing agitation. “We need to know where the emergency is, and right now!” said the officer whose tag said Lee.

“Ok, here’s the deal,” Randy said. “The short version. I was revving up my car last night, and-”

“Wait, you mean that Mustang?”

“Yeah, that car.”

“You know the whole neighborhood’s about ready to lynch you from the highest tree, you know that, don’t you?”

“Yes, I do, and I don’t care. But last night this guy who just moved in across from Thad, he comes walking over and literally, I mean literally, throws me out of my car and tosses me like a rag doll. And he somehow gets hold of my car keys to boot. The funny thing is, and all the neighbors will back me up on this, is that no one saw him move at all. First he was in one place, and then another. I took another run at him, and he did his vanishing act again. I smashed into my car like a ton of bricks, and this guy was standing only a few feet away.”

“Randy, he threw your keys, remember?”

“Are you alright. Are you injured?”

“Randy?” Tim said. “The guy’s made of steel.”

“I’m alright. I just want my car keys back. He can’t just up a steal a person’s car keys, can he?”

The other officer, whose name was Fisher, said, “Wait a minute. You called us out here on an emergency because this guy supposedly took your car keys? Do you know I could write you a citation for abuse of the 911 emergency network?” He put his hand on his nightstick as if to emphasize the repercussions that came with the offense. Maybe a good beating was in order.

“No, wait, wait. There is an emergency. My friend may be hurt. You see, I wanted my keys back, so me and my friend, Bones…”

“Bones?” Lee asked.

“Bones. Well, I wanted my car keys back so we sort of snuck over there to see if we could.. .kind of.. .get in.” Randy smiled sheepishly.

Fisher said, “So, in other words, you were going to break into his house.”

“Well, he took my keys!”

“That still doesn’t constitute breaking and entering,” Lee said.

Addressing Thad, Lee asked, “So how are you involved in all this, sir?”

“Well, last night I was on my way over to try and stop the noise, and so was my neighbor Brent Neilson, who lives across the street and one house down to the west. But, when we saw the stranger headed over there we stayed in our yards, and yes, we did see what happened, pretty much as Randy explained it. But, as for this creeping around business, I am not a part of that at all. I never knew about it.”

“That’s right,” Worm said, “he never knew about it.”

“Ok, time is running short. It’s pushing one in the morning, and we still don’t really know the nature of this call. If someone is in danger, we need to know right now.” Fisher said.

“Ok,” Randy said. “We snuck over to the house and hid by the cellar door, listening for any signs of life.”

Lee asked, “And it was just you and the other guy known as Bones, right?”

“Right. The cellar door was locked, so we went around back, where there were some basement windows down in window wells. I jumped down into one and cupped my hands against the glass, but I couldn’t see anything. He’s got the basement windows spray painted black or something. Even though the house is very old, those windows were storm windows probably installed in the last year or so. Anyway, the window slid right open, and I used a pocket knife to get the screen off. I’ll tell you what, the smell in that house is horrible, like something died.”

“Let’s not jump to conclusions,” Fisher said.

“He’s right, though,” Thad said. “Went I went over there yesterday to apologize for the loud noise, 1 smelled it, too. Like dead mice.”

“Yeah, like dead mice,” Randy said. “But I was too big to fit through the window, so Bones lowered himself into the cellar, bumping into things as he moved around in the dark. Then he came back to the window and said he couldn’t find a thing in the dark. I’m told him to go find a light bulb with a string hanging from the ceiling or something. So, he took another look again.

“Then he suddenly said something like ‘What the fuck is that?’, and a dim light came on from somewhere in that cellar, and Bones shrieked. Bones is not like that. He doesn’t yell or scream or freak out over things. It’s his nature. Then the light went out again, and Bones was at the window yelling, ‘Run! Quick, run. Go call the-‘ He had blood on the side of his face. And this hand grabbed his face from behind, this long thin hand with long black fingernails, and raked it across his face. Even in the dark, I could see blood pouring from everywhere. Well, I didn’t want to run just yet, I wanted to help Bones. But whoever than man was, he tossed Bones aside and stared at me as if I was next. I swear to God, I have never seen a scarier face in my life! And it’s like I told my other friends, he looked like a ravenous dog. Then, I ran like hell, and I swear, he must have flown out of that window or something, because something tried to grab my leg. I made it home and told Tim and Worm what happened, and we weren’t quite sure what to do, so we came over here to Thad’s.”

Lee said, “Ok, now I think we have an emergency. Fisher?”

“I agree. But we will get back to the discussion about the breaking and entering.”

“One more quick item,” Worm said.” We all saw some cats of his roof, and even his neighbor’s dog sniffing around. But later, when Bones went outside for a smoke, he claims he saw twenty of thirty cats up there, along with that man…”

“Drake. He said his name was Drake,” Thad said.

Randy threw Thad an irritated sideways glance, and Worm continued. “Bones said the cats were attacking him, and he was killing then one by one, looking Bones straight in the eyes as he did it. Snapping their necks, their backs, ripping their mouths open until they split apart. Bones said he could hear the sounds it all made. And then he said that Drake tossed the cats, or hurled might be a better word, off into the distance. Who knows how far they went.”

“Ok,” Fisher said. “We actually need to discuss that as well when we return. I suggest you stay inside and lock the door behind us. We’ll pay a visit to this Mr. Drake.”

“One more thing,” Worm said. “Bones said he took a bite out of one of the cats.”

They all stood in silence for a moment, contemplating Worm’s last statement.

He took a bite out of one of the cats…

None of the five standing there had ever heard of an urban legend involving a man with a taste for cats, only the sick and distorted and very real instances of those who had a taste for human flesh. But cats?

“Also, I did some research and discovered that there were other cases of cat deaths and multiple mutilations, the last very close to here.”

Fisher and Lee glanced at each other. “What?” Randy asked. “What aren’t you telling us?”

Fisher said, “It seems we have received some calls from people who have found dead cats in their yards, but we don’t have time to go into it now. We need to go across the street.” They left, and Thad locked the door behind them. Randy opened the door and watched through the glass storm door.

“They said to leave it closed and locked,” Thad said.

“I don’t give a fuck what they said. I want to see what’s going on.”

Thad walked over and slammed the door shut, locked it. “In my house, you do what I say.”

They resorted to peeking through the blinds.

The two policemen crossed the street, walked up the narrow sidewalk to Drake’s small front porch and knocked on the old solid wood door. At first, nothing happened, and one of the officers knocked again, louder. Randy jumped back as Drake’s door opened, but Worm and Tim watched with idle curiosity as the two officers spoke with the figure in the doorway, which was really no more than a shadow. Thad found himself propping up a blind with one finger to see what the activity was all about.

Fisher and Lee went inside Drake’s house, and the door closed behind them.

See Part 3…..next month !