Chapter One: https://redd.it/7jcdi8
Chapter Two: https://redd.it/7jkxkw
Chapter Three: https://redd.it/7jtbc5
Chapter Four: https://redd.it/7k1kww
Chapter Five: https://redd.it/7km9pf
Chapter Six: https://redd.it/7kuewo
Chapter Seven: https://redd.it/7l2x7n
Frank stayed seated in his chair after Morgan had gone upstairs. He leaned his upper body forward and rubbed his temples. Damn, all that he'd learned today had his head spinning. At least now he had a lead. Puckett and Kleig had gone out to Nash Street and Alverna Canterly had nearly run them off with a shotgun, but upon realizing they weren't coming for her, she calmed down and told them that "Timmy" was out of town. That probably meant he was in Herrington laying low. Puckett had managed to round up Pierce Flett, but he was clamped up tight, saying he didn't know where Tim was, or Jed Kelly, and refused to even admit there had been two others involved. While Scheizer was upstairs demanding that Matchett bring out the "sheriff" (Scheizer had only the most rudimentary understanding of how the law hierarchy worked in Farson County), he had been downstairs, first showing Flett the body, which almost caused the young man to lose his lunch, and then taking him into the box where Frank spent the better part of two hours hoping to crack him. Flett refused to talk. He was a young kid, no more than seventeen. Hell, he was younger by a few months than Seth. But boy howdy, he was dumber than rock. Frank was sure that the reason he kept refusing to answer is that he wasn't sure how to answer in a way that wouldn't earn him an ass-kicking from Tim later. More afraid of Tim than us
. It figured. For the life of him, though, he could not understand why Pierce would deny the presence of two other men. If it was obvious that the police knew what had happened, and Pierce had never denied that he, Tim and Jed were there, why in Hades would he lie about the other two?
"We know they were there," Frank had said, for easily the fortieth time. "You can't get in any worse trouble than you're already in. You've admitted that you, Jed and Tim were there. Who were the other two?"
"I ain’t frontin’," answered the kid. He was wiry-tough with blond hair that he had streaked with dark black. He talked like a homeboy from Bawl-mer, even though he'd likely never been north of Jonesboro. "It was me, Jed an' Beebo, jus' like I say. Nobody else." He kept referring to Coulter as “Beebo”, which Frank thought sounded like a street name.
"Why are you protecting them?" asked Ross. "You're already going down, young man. You may as well take as many with you as you can."
"I tell you it was jus' us three," he said again, stubbornly. "Don' I get a fuckin' lawyer, or phone call, or sumptin'?"
The interrogation had ended with Frank wanting to put the kid’s streaked head through the glass mirror and Flett still sitting there like a bump on a log, acting like nothing was wrong. It was like the punk didn't know he was in trouble. But then, it might have been because he wasn't. While eye-witnesses put him at the scene, the only one who had done more than follow Tim as he ran off chasing Mike was Tim himself, and he was unreachable. Frank's jurisdiction didn't extend to Herrington anymore, and even Alan was technically assigned only to Solemn Creek. An APB was put out on Tim, and they’d likely bring him in soon, but considering the number of tough-looking young black men in Herrington, they likely wouldn’t have him rounded up until the end of the week. The most he had on Flett was that he was an accessory to murder, and he could only nail him with that if he managed to nail Tim on the murder itself, which was looking less and less likely. He knew that with a man like Wallace in town, trying to pin a grisly scene like Mike Simms's body on a nineteen-year-old punk who had never murdered anyone prior seemed less than a sure thing. Wallace would surely play the race card, as well as the "he never murdered before" card. Most people's first murder was a quick thing. Whoever killed Mike had enjoyed it. Had taken their time. Had employed unconventional methods. Might not even be human
. Frank had spent most of the day trying to fight back that thought.
He had only made captain about five years prior to the events of last year. He had taken charge of the violent crimes division at Precinct 5. Among the departments he supervised was homicide, and if there were two detectives he thought the highest of, it was Warren Leeds and Harry Farmer. Farmer was a real hardass, a take-no-shit cop who knew the rulebook backward and forward and hardly ever failed to obtain a confession. He wasn't violent. He just seemed to have an unerring instinct to smell bullshit and let the perps know just how little he was willing to suffer it.
Leeds was a thirty-year-veteran who had truly seen it all. Frank had served in the same unit as Leeds for ten of those years and looked up to him like an older brother. He was sixty years old the year they had investigated the "Wolf-Man murders", as the press had labeled them. The only reason Frank was his supervisor, instead of the other way around, was that Leeds had refused any promotion that might take him off working cases. He just wanted to be a cop. Frank had made sure the two men, easily the two most efficient in the department, were partnered on any of the hard-to-solve cases that they came across. The two worked well together and they were very good at keeping Frank in the loop.
Then last year, the first Wolf-man murder was reported. The body found was a college student, found alone in his apartment, his personal belongings strewn about the place. It looked to be a break-in and homicide, at first, but nothing was claimed as missing by the family, and the money in the victim's wallet had been left untouched. The front of his body, from the top of his forehead to the tops of his feet, had been shredded in long, deliberate swathes. His internal organs looked to have been pulled out and partially eaten.
The next body had been even worse. It was missing both its arms and most of one leg. The front of the head was completely missing; only the back and one side of the skull were left. That body had been identified by a tattoo on one side of its chest, the only unique characteristic left that was traceable.
The victims were Chad Dugger and Buddy Wilkes. Both of them were twenty years old, attended Rose Shepherd Community College in downtown Herrington, and had worked together. By all accounts they had been close friends. But no matter how hard they tried, they could not find anyone with a motive to kill the two boys, particularly in such a gruesome fashion. After finding Buddy's body, the investigation led to the only likely murderer; a recently-dumped girlfriend named Candice Worley.
Her body was found third. It had been little at first but a large splash of blood on the floor of her basement suite at the edge of town. Farmer had gone there to interview her as a possible suspect, but after she refused to answer her door, Farmer had called the cell number that had been provided. A distant ringing was heard in the dumpster in the alleyway behind the house, and after taking a look inside it, Farmer had called Frank to the scene. That had been the most horrible night of Frank's life to date; even worse than the day Tamsin had announced that she was leaving him.
Candice Worley's head, just her head, had been found in the dumpster. Her clothes were there as well, ragged and bloody, but empty. Her cell was still clipped to what was left of her belt. When Frank got there, both detectives were standing by the dumpster, a few feet from where they had found the head. She had been about nineteen, and her face was frozen in a rictus of utter terror. That is, what was left of her face. Her eyes were wide, empty sockets, her nose a gory pit of wet flesh. Rats had been chewing at her tongue and shitting in her mouth. Her brown hair had been spattered with her blood.
Both men had stood rooted to the spot, and when Frank asked them what was wrong, neither of them could give a coherent answer.
"I'm feeling…something wrong, Cap," Leeds had responded. "I don't quite know how to describe it."
"Detectives, can I remind you that this is a crime scene…" that was as far as Frank got before he felt it too. It was just a prickle at the back of his neck at first, but it gradually grew into a feeling of total dread. He stood rooted to the spot, his every impulse screaming for him to not move a muscle, lest he give away his presence. The air around him grew colder. Mist rolled up around the three of them, despite the fact that it was early afternoon and had been a mild, dry day. The sky grew darker, and the mist coalesced into a large, looming shape before the three of them, not ten feet away.
The form never solidified, never stilled. Frank thought he could see shapes within it, but they would disappear before he could focus on it. A grinning, fanged face. A twisted mass of tubules. Claws. Rheumy, dripping eyes. A shifting, writhing shadow that encapsulated everything grotesque. Above all, it was cold
, and reeked of something long dead, but was radiating hate and murder. Its mouth hung open in a maw of millions of ravening fangs.
Leeds's sidearm suddenly sprang out his shoulder holster, seemingly of its own accord, and into his hand. He emptied most of his clip into the thing, but how does one wound a shifting shadow? The creature only writhed faster and with a snarling laugh, dismissed the threat of danger utterly. It's a power display
. It wants us to know we can't hurt it
. Sluicing up to a height of at least ten feet, it opened what seemed to be powerful jaws made of solid darkness and roared in defiance, making a sound that could never exist in nature, and one that haunted Frank's dreams ever since. Then it began to break down into mist again, gradually dissipating, until the day was bright and sunny again.
But that had not been the last of it. After they were able to get back into their squad car and start talking to each other, Frank, Farmer and Leeds all decided that they would never speak of it to anyone. There was no question as to whether or not they saw it. However, each of them knew what the consequences would be if they spoke openly of it. And none of them had, at first. But when IID began to wonder if the three of them were hiding something, an investigation began, and before the three of them even knew it, all three had confessed to the department psychiatrist what they had seen. It was that, or continue to be investigated as potentially dirty cops.
Leeds was found a few months after that with a hole blown through the back of his head and his service revolver lying by his dead hand.
Two nights after Leeds’s body was found, Farmer had wandered into HQ, reeking of Jim Beam and grinning from ear to ear. He was singing funeral dirges. Frank, who had only a few weeks left in his position, had been there, trapped in a meeting in his office with the night commander of the assault unit. He had run out of his office and tried to get Farmer into the break room to lay down and sleep it off. And Farmer had decked him. Hard. Then he stood up on top of his desk and started screaming.
"You need to run! You goddamn sissyboys in you daddy's hand-me-downs need to get your pansy asses out the fuckin' door and right outta this goddamn town! They here and they all comin' for us! Fuckin’ move! Get out! Get out! Getoutgetoutgetoutgetoutgetout
He shouted until he was hoarse; well after a pair of uniforms had dragged him to a drunk tank. Frank and several other officers waited out the night, hoping he would sober up. Maybe he did, eventually, but the madness was on him hard, and never left him. He was committed to Sutter Cliff, and Frank never saw him again. After that, Frank’s career was basically over. He refused to alter the story the three cops had told, even when threatened with the same fate Farmer received. He was told that he could either admit he was lying, or he would be ordered to see a psychiatrist. He didn't want to go out with everybody thinking he was a liar, he accepted the shrink.
Her name was Dr. Whitshaw, and after a few sessions with her, Frank was of the firm opinion that the term "misandrist crackpot" would be too kind for her. At this point, the trouble at home had grown to fever pitch. He and Tamsin were always fighting, and Frank never knew when a fight would start, or what he would have to do to start one. Sometimes something as simple as asking where the salad spinner was would be enough for Tamsin to start screaming. He noticed that she also no longer cared if the kids were home, and for that matter in the same room when a fight would break out. She was also gone longer hours than normal, and usually had a very lame reason as to why. She would occasionally spout these lame reasons at him even if he didn't ask for them, and each time she didn't even sound like she believed them.
Frank's sessions with Dr. Whitshaw got almost combative as she learned, very gradually, about the issues at home. She sat behind a big desk rather than the traditional comfortable chair near a couch, and scratched down everything he said on a blackberry that drove Frank nuts. He grew to despise the sound of her fake nails tapping all those tiny buttons. It was almost as distracting as Dr. Whitshaw's frizzy, huge blond hair, shot through with grey that she made poor attempts to cover, her thick glasses and troweled-on make-up. She looked like Bette Midler on steroids, and she clearly saw Frank as the aggressor in his relationship, and took him to task for daring to invade his wife's "privacy" by asking what had taken her so long to get home.
When they had finally gotten to the root of Frank's problem, he had been determined not to tell her anything. But while Dr. Whitshaw may have been a bitch, she was still a professional. She could tell that Frank was evading telling her the real truth, and she dug at him and dug at him until she had worked him into a frame of mind that he told her everything.
She had recommended to his superiors that he be committed, but after a full psychiatric hearing and 90-day suspension, during which he was kept under observation by a specialist from Sutter Cliff, he was declared sane and allowed to return to duty.
But he couldn't keep it out of the press. Dr. Whitshaw had made enough of a stink that vultures like Krista Milligan and Wilt Scheizer just couldn't stay away from it. For several months his name appeared in the news regularly, even if it was just a brief mention. It became a bigger story than the original murders had been, and Frank himself was frequently the target of jokes made by local commentators. They all believed he was as crazy as a loon, and so did many of the cops he now worked with. Some of the old-timers, men who had known Farmer and Leeds as well as Frank, believed that he had suffered a small psychotic episode brought on by something
that they had all three seen at the basement suite, but none were able to talk to him about what he'd been through, and Frank decided that discretion was the better part of valor in this case, and kept his mouth shut. Several detectives and officers transferred to different units, and others refused to be transferred into his.
After Tamsin left, Frank poured himself into his job and tried to work out his grief and anger by being the best cop he could possibly be. He made no further mention of his "episode", but the damage had already been done. Frank knew Tamsin's reasons for leaving had little to do with what had happened to him, but they made a handy excuse. Frank, and the Sheriff’s department, seemed primarily concerned now with picking up the pieces and moving on. The Wolf-Man killer was never caught, which of course was blamed on Frank by Herb Mayhew and all the other half-cop-half-politicians in the upper levels of the Sheriff’s office. They leaned on Commissioner Forrest, to whom Frank reported, to fire him, but nobody could find one offense on Frank's record that warranted dismissal. Yes, there had been his…issues, but those had already been dealt with by the evaluation he'd undergone. Officially, he was sane, so there was nothing Mayhew had on him to let him go.
And that was what had brought Frank to Solemn Creek. Mayhew still found a way to punish Frank by sending him to the smallest and farthest-away part of Farson County, where they figured trouble was unlikely to find him in. In the months, even weeks, leading up to the incident at the basement suite, Frank would have resisted the move with every ounce of his being. But then, before that incident, there would have been no need to send Frank anywhere. By that time, with Tamsin gone, his son barely speaking to him, his daughter trying desperately to fill the mother role, the Wolf-man case re-assigned to a do-nothing hump of a detective who listed the case unsolved and moved on, his colleagues either distrusting or despising him, his superiors looking for reasons to get rid of him, his two best cops dead or crazy, and his name still being heard nightly on news reports, usually from Scheizer, who used all the weasel words he could to imply that Frank was a raving psychotic…well, being sent to a quiet little berg on the outskirts of civilization seemed almost a relief. He had, in fact, acclimated rather well to his new assignment. And now it's starting again
The nearly destroyed body of Michael Simms bore a close enough resemblance to the Wolf-Man murders that Frank suspected, nay, knew
, that there was a connection. His two visions today, not to mention that feeling that what had happened was an abomination, not just a crime, pretty well removed all doubt. Of course, even mentioning the Wolf-Man murders in connection with this case would solidify in the minds of people like Milligan and Scheizer, hell, Mayhew as well, that Frank was a certifiable nutcase. So, he would have to go about this the way he would go about any other routine murder investigation. As if that was going to be possible. He wouldn't have to bring up the Wolf-Man murders. By now Scheizer was likely putting a story together that would reference them directly. Frank sighed and stood from his chair. He began to gather up the mess from the Yang's and put the left-overs in the fridge, pouring out Seth's unfinished diet Pepsi and putting his and Morgan's tea cans in the recycle. He stood in the dark kitchen for a while just staring out at the back yard. It was getting dark already, as the month dictated it should, but the weather still felt muggy, like late July. He wiped sweat from his brow and for some unknown reason his thoughts went to Tamsin. He wondered where she was. Who she was with.
While part of him chided himself that it wasn't any of his business anymore, another part reminded him that technically they were still married. He looked down as his left ring finger at the gold band that still encircled it, reminding him of promises he had spoken twenty years ago. He had meant them, then, and he had been fairly certain that Tamsin had, too.
But that was the past. If Tamsin didn't like being a wife and a mother, that was up to her. He wasn't sure how she could face her children after just up and leaving them, but he noticed she hadn't been making much of an effort to do so. He had expected a fight over who got the kids. What he got was a quick acquiescence to him. He was certain that Morgan and Seth had noticed. Several times Morgan had bitten back her words when she was talking about her mother, and Frank knew she was about to say something that she would regret later, such as call her mother a two-bit whore or childish home-wrecker. God knew he'd thought those same words himself.
The last time he had seen Tamsin had been at the separation hearing. She had been driven there by her lawyer, but had not left in his car. Frank hadn't been able to see more than a silhouette of who was driving the car she got into, but it didn't look like a woman's features. She had called a few times after that and asked to speak to the kids. Her conversations with Morgan had been short, and Morgan's responses equally so. She and Seth had talked for a good hour or more each time. Seth had always been closest to her, and he was sure that his son blamed him for the way things had gone. I didn't make her leave
. She decided this
. I asked her so many times to go to couples' counseling with me
, but she refused
. She wasn't interested in keeping this family together anymore
But these were words he could never say to his son. He knew better than to try and poison either child against their own mother. For that matter, Seth would choose not to believe him, and ultimately it would only make things worse. Seth had been moody ever since they came to Solemn Creek, and although he was never openly hostile to his father, Frank was lucky to get six words out of him per day.
Frank opened the back door and walked out onto the older, fragile deck that adjoined the back of the house and went to the barbeque grill and opened it up. It was cleaner than a whistle in there; it hadn't been used for its original purpose in months, but it did have Frank's emergency rations in there. He whipped a single Marlboro out of the package and planted the filter end in his mouth. He was fishing in his pockets for a lighter when he felt small fingers pluck the cigarette from his mouth.
"I thought you gave these up," said Morgan.
"I thought so, too, honey," he replied, his voice tinged with guilt. "I guess I'm feeling the stress more than I thought."
"Well, feel the stress all you want, Dad," she said. "Just don't kill yourself while you're at it. I've lost one parent already. I still need the one I have."
"Sweetie, please," he said. "Your mother's not lost."
"She might as well be," replied his daughter. "You know she moved in with that guy."
"Be that as it may," said Frank, distantly. "I refuse to even think about it. You'd be wise to do the same."
"Dad," she said. "There's something wrong here, isn't there? Something that not even the police can deal with."
"Sugar," said Frank, turning to Morgan and putting his hands on her thin, bare shoulders. "There's things that young ladies shouldn't have to think about. Heck, things that over-the-hill cops shouldn't have to think about. There are burdens I don't want to unload on you right now. I'll be honest with you. The press exaggerated what I told Dr. Whitshaw, but what I told her…if I had heard a suspect say that, I'd believe he was crazy, too. Sometimes I still wonder if I wasn't, at least for a little while. Like I said, there will come a day that I'm ready to tell you. Maybe when I can convince myself that you won't want to lock me away yourself once you hear it. Or maybe a day that I can stomach re-telling it."
"But what I mean is," she said, removing his hands from her shoulders and clasping them in her own. "This case you're working now. It's the same thing again, isn't it?"
"Well…" he sighed. "Not…precisely. But it's got an…uncomfortably familiar overtone to it."
Morgan looked out into the darkness beyond the porch. "Please let me know if I can help you."
"I appreciate it, honey," he said. "But I hope you're not planning to go Nancy Drew on me."
"I'm a little too old for that," she said with a small, sad smile. She bit her lower lip like she was nervous. "Seth thinks Mom left because you went crazy."
"I can't make Seth think any different," he replied. "It hurts, yes. But he's almost a man now and I've got to respect his feelings."
"I know," she said. "But why does he have to be such an idiot?"
"He's a seventeen-year-old boy," replied Frank. Morgan smiled slightly again. "Go on back in the house, Morgan. I'll be in in a minute."
"You gonna smoke if I leave?" she asked.
"It would appear that I'm out of matches and I don't know where my lighter is," he replied. "So even if I wanted to, I couldn't. But I don't want to anymore. Talking to you always makes me less stressed. Thanks, honey."
"Anytime, Daddy," she said. She stood on her tiptoes and kissed his cheek lightly.
Frank smiled warmly at her. She hardly ever called him "Daddy" anymore and hearing it made him feel like he used to back when she was little and barely talking at all, and everything had been normal.
"Oh, and Morgan?" he said to her retreating figure.
"Yes, Dad?" She turned back to him.
"If I can trouble you to do me a favor," he said. "Sometime before Saturday could you make a lemon meringue pie?"
She smiled. "I think that can be arranged."
He watched her go back in, and sat down on a patio chair. He looked out into the darkness and something in him could feel a malevolent presence out there, daring him to go through with this investigation. I will
. Rest assured
, I will
. I will find you and send you back to Hell
If only he had the slightest idea how to do that.
Chapter Nine: https://redd.it/7lj2jt
Chapter Ten: https://redd.it/7mfqd1
Chapter Eleven: https://redd.it/7mnfty
Chapter Twelve: https://redd.it/7mv9mi
Chapter Thirteen: https://redd.it/7nnq0x
Chapter Fourteen: https://redd.it/7nw4cc
Chapter Fifteen: https://redd.it/7o4jil
Chapter Sixteen: https://redd.it/7ocqwy
Chapter Seventeen: https://redd.it/7ozk9s
Chapter Eighteen: https://redd.it/7p89l8
Chapter Nineteen (Final): https://redd.it/7ph7fm