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Thirst, Chapters 15-20

 

 

 

 

THIRST

a novel

 

Chapters 15-20

 

KAE BELL

Copyright © 2017 Kae Bell

All Rights Reserved

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, business establishments or locales is purely coincidental.

 

Chapter 15

“You got a light?”

“Sure.”

Phil rummaged in his pockets. He handed Janet a matchbook.

“Old school.”

“It’s the only way.”

Janet lit a match. The flame’s soft glow illuminated her face in the darkness of the car’s back seat. She held the flame to a cigarette’s end and inhaled. The tip turned bright red with the influx of oxygen. Janet rolled down the car’s back window and exhaled. Cool night air rushed in. It felt good on her bare skin.

“Thanks.”

“No problem. Least I can do.”

Janet sighed. She hadn’t had sex in the back seat of a car since high school. Not sure if what just happened could count as sex though. It was the beginning of sex. Almost sex. She suppressed a smile thinking of telling the story later.

Sitting by her side, also naked, Phil stared at Janet’s full breasts.

“I’m sorry. Too many beers.”

“Don’t worry about it. I hear it happens to everyone. Men, I mean.”

“Yeah, well. It’s a first for me.”

In the darkness, Janet rolled her eyes.

“And I really wanted to. You’re hot. And you’ve got great tits. Especially for someone your age.” He reached to tweak a nipple and she slapped his hand away.

“You really sweep a girl off her feet,” Janet deadpanned.

“It’s a compliment! Ladies your age usually have droopy tits. Yours are perky. The perfect shape.” He admired Janet’s silhouette in the dark.

“Next you’ll tell me I’ve got about five good years left.”

Phil grinned. He was feeling better. “Five? That’s pushing it. What are you, 38? 40? Two, three tops.”

“Phil, you’re an ass.” Janet pulled her blouse on. The pale silk shimmered in the light from the parking lot’s .

Phil shrugged and reclined against the back door, his legs up on the seat, his bare feet on Janet’s legs.

“Thousands of satisfied customers.” 

“Well, I am not one of them.”

“It’s the booze. I told you. Getting old sucks. So listen, since the plumbing isn’t working, how ‘bout we quit the small talk and go inside for a nightcap? Maybe try again later.” Phil winked at her. “Er, by the way, where are you staying?”

Janet stared hard at Phil, her eyes wide.

“I knew something was up with you! That friend of yours gave you the heave ho, didn’t he? Sorry. If you think you’re gonna crash with me, think again.”

“Aww, give me a break. I’ve had a rough day. Thing is, I can’t sleep in my car. I threw my back out last month and the doc says I need to sleep on a hard surface.”

“You’re falling apart, man. If you need a hard surface, try the ground. There’s a lawn not ten feet from here. I’m sure no one will mind another drunk passed out on the grass. In the meantime, I gotta get to work.”

Smoothing her skirt down her legs, Janet pushed opened the back door, heels in her left hand. Her bare feet hit the pavement.

Still naked, Phil was out his side in a flash. He scurried around the car and shoehorned Janet back into the seat. As he ran, his white buttocks caught the streetlight. Two high school girls on a porch across the street giggled at the sight of the naked man. One whistled her approval. Phil ignored them.

“OK, hang on now. Settle down. Look, how ‘bout we go for a drive then? Let me show you around the place. I’ve been coming here for years, I know all the best spots. Where to see a sunset, though a little late for that. Um, where to watch meteor showers. Have you ever seen the milky way. All kinds of stuff to see around here. I can show you around. I’m at your disposal. I’ll show you the towns. The villages. The bars. I know the back roads too. Off the beaten track. I know the hiking trails. Deer trails even. We could spotlight some deer, you ever done that…”

“Phil, it’s ten o’clock. I have a 2:00 AM deadline. My boss is expecting a big story for tomorrow’s paper, preferably an exclusive. I had it too. At least, I thought I did. But this morning, my source disappeared into thin air. So as of right now, I’ve got no story. No lead. And probably, tomorrow morning, no job. So stargazing and spotlighting are not in the cards tonight.”

“What’s the story?”

“Not gonna tell you that. For al I know, you work for my rival paper.”

“I don’t. But, fair play. How about, who’s your source? Are they from around here? Maybe I know ‘em. I could round ‘em up for you.”

“You don’t know him. He’s an FBI agent. Oh, fuck it. They’re out here somewhere tracking those escaped convicts. They got a lead this morning and took off, drove west, is all I know. I’ve no idea where they are.”

Phil listened and nodded. He started to tap his foot on the floor. It wasn’t often he was on the inside track.

“I know where they are!”

Janet smirked. “Bullshit.”

“No, I do. They’re at my friend’s house. They showed up right when I got kicked out…”

Hearing this, Janet laughed. “I knew it! I knew you got kicked out. Why am I not surprised?” She cocked her head to the side.

“But seriously. You’re not shitting me? The FBI are in this town?”

“Nearby, yes. They showed up in their black SUVs. About five cars, twenty agents. Mostly guys, a couple ladies. They basically took over my buddy’s yard.”

“That sounds right. What’re they doing?”

“Aha, got you interested, didn’t I? You know, I really, really hate sleeping in my car…”

Janet clicked on the car ceiling light, which shown a sickly yellow. She studied Phil’s face. She took his chin in her hand and turned his face to hers. She leaned in, as if to kiss him and spoke in a whisper.

“If you take me on some wild goose chase because you’re making stuff up to seem important and there is no story in it, I will break every bone in your scrawny body.”

“Scout’s honor. They’re there. Let’s go, I’ll show you.” Phil said, making the peace sign with his left hand.

“Alright. Nothing to lose. Except my job.”

Phil struggled to pull on his boxers with some semblance of modesty and then jumped out of the back seat. He ran around the car to open the car’s front passenger door.

“Your carriage, my lady,” he said, in a bad English accent.

“Manners. What a shocker.” Two bar patrons heading to their car watched as Janet moved from the back seat to the front seat. Her hair was in disarray and her skirt was on backward. The man pointed and snickered while his date punched his arm and told him to be quiet.

Janet flipped down the visor mirror. She fluffed her hair and reapplied lipstick. Boy, would Murphy be surprised to see her. Teach him to try to give her the slip.

Phil closed Janet’s door. Running around the front of the car, he stumbled.

“Shit, shit, shit!” He held his left foot as he hopped the remaining distance to the driver’s side.

As Janet watched this manly display, she pushed open the driver’s side door, gently. Phil hopped onto the driver’s seat.

“You’re so stoic. So brave. I just had an orgasm watching you.”

“It’s not funny! I stepped on glass. I’m bleeding! Look!”

“I’m sure it’s fine.” She grabbed Phil’s foot, yanking it toward her.

“Ouch! Don’t break my ankle too!”

“I can’t see a damn thing. I need better light.” Janet opened the car’s glove compartment. Its internal light revealed car insurance and registration papers, gas receipts, a set of disposable toothbrushes, and, after some rummaging, a flashlight.

Flipping on the flashlight, Janet said, “Now, let me see what happened here.”

She poked the foot in various places, shining the light this way and that to look for any splintered glass. The bright light revealed bleeding but no glass. An inch-long flap of skin had scraped away from the big toe pad. It hung from the toe by a single corner. Blood dripped onto the floor mat.

“Ow! Ouch! Oooch. Stop, that tickles.” Phil tried to pull his foot away but Janet had a firm grip on the ankle.

“You’re a bad patient. I don’t see any glass. You stubbed your toe. Let me clean you up. Stop squirming. Hold still!”

Janet dug in her purse for tissues. Finding an unopened pack, she folded several into a makeshift bandage, which she pressed against the bleeding toe. Phil watched her admiringly.

“I’ve never had my own nurse. I could get used to this.”

“Don’t.”

Digging in the glove compartment again.

“This’ll work.” She held aloft a roll of electrical tape, ripping off a thin piece. This she wrapped around the tissues. Surveying her work, she wiped her hands.

“As good as I can do. You’ll live. Let’s go.” She patted Phil’s foot.

Phil waggled his right foot back and forth. He glanced sideways at Janet. He’d sleep at her place yet.

“Yes, ma’am.”

Phil started the car and gingerly pressed her bare foot on the accelerator. They peeled out of the parking lot, heading toward the Banks’ farm.

*******

Officer Danny heard swearing and muffled yells for light. As car headlights flicked on, he saw a man in an orange jumpsuit run up the hill. That jump suit was standard-issue prison garb. Not something one wore by choice.

The convict.

Danny watched as Kyle ran, skirting the agents like a skilled quarterback. Kyle sprinted toward the house as if in a race with an unseen foe.

A moment later, the crack of a pistol. Kyle fell in front of the cabin’s window. From his angle in the woods, Danny couldn’t see the fallen convict. He watched as FBI Agents approached, guns drawn. They would assess any further threat. They would check for vitals. Someone would call an ambulance. The call would be routed to his station. They’d send a fire truck and an ambulance, staffed by people Danny knew, people who knew him.

It was time for him to go. Someone might notice his police car on the highway. Might stop, wondering why the Officer wasn’t responding to the nearby call.

He’d had his fun. Time to get back on the beat. See what trouble was brewing in town.

He wound his way back through the woods, pushing his way through thick brush to avoid running into anyone. The prickers were relentless, scratching every bare patch of skin.

Finally, the sound of the highway. Trucks driving west. He could guess a driver’s speed just by listening.

There was his patrol car, undisturbed, parked off the road where he had left it.

Still deterring speeding drivers. From the edge of the woods, Danny chuckled as watched as passing drivers hit the breaks on catching a glimpse of a parked cop car. Speed trap. He didn’t even need to be here to be good at his job.

He’d remember that.

He waited for a pause in traffic, then scuttled down the short hill to his vehicle. He didn’t need someone to see him.

Inside the car, his radio was squawking about an ambulance.

Time to get going. He did a U-turn toward town.

He’d stop by a bar and bust someone. There was always some fool cowboy doing something against the law.

It was that kind of night.

*******

They drove west several more miles. No streetlights illuminated the road. Beyond the reach of the car’s high beams, the tree-covered hills on the left and the right of the highway were black in the night. The road undulated across the rolling hills. Phil was nervous about pissing Sarah off but he figured he could sneak Janet onto the scene, get some pictures, then go.

“Check out that cop getting into his car,” Janet said.

“Ha. He must have pulled over to take a leak.”

“Is that legal? We could make a citizen’s arrest!”

“Nah. I don’t mess with cops.”

“Words of experience I’m sure. So when are we gonna get there?”

Phil glanced at her. “What are you, a kid? We’ll get there when we get there. It’ll be worth the wait.”

Janet rolled her eyes. She’d likely be fired in the morning for not meeting her deadline. But at this point she had no choice but to roll with it.

“So, why does your friend’s wife dislike you?”

“Sarah?”

“Yeah. Sarah. Why doesn’t Sarah like you?”

“She disapproves of me.”

Janet shifted in her bucket seat and looked sideways at Phil.

“Gee, I wonder why.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Well, you’re not exactly the best influence. You’re single, you drive too fast, you drink too much, you chase women…”

Phil smiled broadly. “Yeah, that’s right. So where’s the problem?”

Janet made a harrumph sound and shifted to look out the window.

“Did she mention what exactly she disapproves of?”

Phil grinned. “Max did. She says I distract him. She thinks he would be a better husband and father, frankly, a better person, if I wasn’t around. She has super high expectations. She wants certain things. Nice house, fancy cars, designer clothes, private schools for the kids. The usual things wives want. You should see her diamond. Anyway, she wants him to focus on providing this. Not waste time with the likes of me.”

“Sheesh. Sounds like she’s got him on a short leash. Is Max providing to her expectations?”

Here, the road curved. It had rained at some point during the evening and the asphalt was slick. Phil could feel his tires grip and slip, grip and slip as he started round the bend. Normally, on a curve like this, he would speed up. But instead, he eased up on the gas and let the centripetal force pull the car through.

Phil couldn’t see around the curve to the other side. Along the road, cornfields stretched in both directions. This time of summer, the corn was high, some stalks at five feet or more. Moonlight dabbled on the whispering stalks.

At this time of night, the deer would be out, enjoying the cooler temperature, the quiet, and the dark. Jumpy, unthinking creatures, they had a bad habit of leaping in the road, into oncoming traffic. On the drive up here, Phil had seen at least three deer on the side of the road. Road kill. Waiting to be collected by the state.

Sure enough, on the far side of the curve, two does grazed on the tall grass on the cornfield’s edge, looking up dumbly at the oncoming car. Thankfully, they did not move. Janet spotted

“Check it out,” Phil said, slowing even further. The does were chewing. One turned and bounded into the cornfield. The other followed.

“So pretty.”

The road straightened and the headlights caught the green sign indicating an exit ¾ of a mile ahead.”

“This is our exit.”

“Are you going to answer my question?” Janet asked, annoyed.

“I am. What was it again?”

“Is Max providing?”

“I’d say he’s doing all right. They live a pretty nice life.”

“Are they rich?”

“No, not rich. Well off. Sarah wants people to think they are LOADED. She won’t invite friends out here to the house. She wants people to think it’s a huge rolling estate, not a run down little cabin with woodchucks digging holes under the house and water stains on the ceiling tiles. I was describing this place at a party one time and she literally told me to ‘shut the fuck up’.”

“What a bitch.”

“Kinda. She’s a good mom, Max says. It’s all on her. He works a lot.”

“What does he do?”

“Computer stuff. But not geeky IT. But cool stuff. Graphics, video games, that kinda thing. He’s super smart.”

“What on earth do you have in common?” Janet said a mischievous smile.

“Haha. We served together.”

“In prison?”

“You’re a real comedienne. Don’t quit your day job. Oh wait, you’re fired.”

“I better not be. You owe me a story.”

“And look! We’re five minutes away!”

“So you served together? What branch?”

“Navy.”

“I cannot see that, from what I know of you.”

“Why not?”

“You seem to lack, what’s the word…discipline.”

“You’ve no idea. Anyway, Max and I hung out a lot. Time in exotic lands. A girl in every port.”

“I bet. And Sarah put a crimp in that lifestyle.”

“She did indeed.”

“But she lets comes out here to his country house.”

“She picks her battles.”

Phil slowed and turned right onto a dirt road. In the headlights, the two silos caught the light. They drove by the dark farmhouse toward the hill leading to the house.

“We’re here.”

Chapter 16

It’s not right to shoot a man in his back, Kyle thought as he fell to the ground. He could feel the bullet or the damage the bullet had left behind. The pain coursed through his shoulder and torso as he rolled onto his back. Hopefully the bullet went all the way through.

He heard people running and he heard voices.

This day had not worked out the way he had expected.

He listened to the people gathering around him. They were blocking the light from inside the house. Blocking is view through the window.

“Is it him?”

“Yes, this is who we’re after. This is why we’re here. Someone get me a first aid kit and blood clot sponge.”

“Look at that wound. It’s gushing.”

Kyle could feel hands on his body. Someone talking very close to him.

“Alright buddy, I’m gonna search you for weapons. Don’t move. I’d cuff you, but I see that your shoulder is torn up.”

Kyle faded in and out as a man spoke to him. Was he reading him his Miranda rights? Or were they his last rights.

Kyle heard material ripping and then felt the cool night air on his torso. Then a stinging sensation that distracted him briefly from the pain. The smell of antiseptic overpowered the smell of his own congealing blood.[
**]He’d seen it.

In the house. The light lit the living room up like a stage.

The creature stood face to face with a woman.

Kyle knew, though he wasn’t sure how he knew, that that woman was the mother. Why else would that creature be there?

The girl from the hayloft.

In the bright ceiling light, Kyle had seen the ScareIt reach for the woman. Kyle saw those tines, remembered how the creature had thrown him across the room.

Then the woman pointed a gun at the ScareIt.

And so he ran. Past the FBI Agents. Past the SUVs he could have hotwired and escaped in, without ever being noticed or heard from again.

On the ground, he was starting to feel warm and kind of dopey. Had they put a blanket on him?

The lights were brighter now. He thought he heard his brother. He wanted to ask him about the work that was waiting for them. A good job, good pay, details to come, just show up at this time and place. Even for convicts. Confidentiality assured.

But then he’d found that darn antler. The white bone had glistened in the dawn light. Kyle had stepped away to take a piss. The antler had caught his eye as he was finishing up. He stepped closer to it. It was in the grass. Kyle picked it up. It was in perfect condition. People would pay good money for this. They needed money.

He wanted the other half. When the antlers fell off the buck, they usually did so not too far apart. Kyle walked into the woods, keeping his eyes on the ground for the antler’s other half.

Kyle got to wondering where he might sell it. Somewhere bigger than the small towns they’d been sneaking through these past weeks. Probably have to go to Rochester. Kyle guessed that was about an hour away. Erie was about four hours west, maybe a safer bet.

He’d ask his brother.

Kyle wondered how much he might get for the full rack. A hunter could mount them, they would make an impressive trophy. Or he could sell it to an Chinese herbalist. He’d heard the Chinese were into that stuff, like Rhinoceros horns and shark fins. People paid good money for rhinoceros horn. Made a man extra horny or something like that. Ground up, this antler could easily pass as rhino horn, Kyle thought.

He wondered how much money he would get for the antler. They needed money.

He still marveled at being outside, a free man. The pine scent, the feel of the rough tree bark on his hand. The call of the birds high in the trees. It was a symphony to him, all of it. Magical, after so long inside a concrete cell. Ahead he saw a copse of birch trees. He had not seen birch trees, since he was a kid, playing in the woods

So far, all he’d found on the ground was dried scat, a rundown deer blind, and some mushrooms that he’d ask his brother about eating. His brother knew stuff like that.

He looked at the antler. It was so white and smooth, like a Greek statue. He’d never seen anything like it.

He really wanted the other antler to complete the pair. Worth more if he had both. He’d thought he might even keep them. It could be the first thing he would put on his wall when they got settled, a place, started work.

He pushed farther into the woods. The trees grew closer together here.

Kyle thought he heard the gurgling of running water ahead. A buck would have stopped for a drink.

He remembered hearing the tractor in the distance. Thought nothing of it. It was the country. Always tractor sounds in the country.

He was cold again. They must have taken the blanket away.

He remembered, it was just him now. He was on his own.

He shifted and the pain was bad. It spread from his shoulder and seemed to grip his chest.

Someone was talking. “What you got in your pockets, buddy?”

Kyle felt tugging near his legs. Hands on his body.

“Mushrooms? Whadaya doing with mushrooms buddy? Gonna make an omelette? Check this out. He’s got mushrooms in his pocket.”

Kyle tried to nod, yes, mushrooms. He’d forgotten about those. He needed to ask his brother if they were edible. His brother knew stuff like that.

He could hear his brother somewhere ahead. He would remember to ask him.

*******

“The convict is dead, sir.”

“OK. Secure the area. This place is gonna be lit up in a few minutes.”

“Yes, sir.” The FBI agent returned to Kyle’s twisted body and strung yellow police tape loosely around the body.

“OK, we gotta check on the mom and her boy. Murphy, Jackson, with me.”

Santos drew his pistol and pulled open the porch door. He moved slowly into the house, with Murphy and Jackson close behind, guns drawn. At the main door, he knocked and yelled ‘FBI’. There was no reply. He pushed open the door.

In the living room, broken glass and blood everywhere. Justin and Sara lay in the floor. The overhead light shone brightly on the chaotic scene.

“That thing is gone.”

“I see.” Santos spoke in his radio. “’We have the mom and one son down. The boy looks severely injured.’ Murph, help the kid. Jackson, check the house. The father should be somewhere and there’s another boy. Maybe the daughter came back too.”

Murphy knelt by Justin. He leaned in to listen for breath sounds. Santos walked to Sarah, who was on the floor where she had fallen. By her head was the lead base of the broken lamp. Santos probed around Sarah’s head, careful not to move her head of neck.

“Looks like she hit her head. She’s out cold. Gonna have a hell of a bump on her head when she wakes up. I see a little blood, not too bad. No serious bleeding. That thing went after the boy. How’s he doing?”

Murphy had opened a first aid kit, pulled on gloves. With scissors, he cut open Justin’s pajama shirt, which was soaked in blood. Using coagulating sponges he triaged Justin’s wounds.

“He’s unconscious but alive. Barely. He’s lost a shitload of blood. I see where that thing stabbed him. I’m getting breath sounds on one side only…”

Jackson reappeared from the checking the bedrooms.

“No one else here. Bedrooms are clear.”

Santos nodded. “We’re missing two family members. Father and son. What’s the ambulance ETA?”

Jackson inquired on the radio.

“They say five minutes out.”

Murphy shook his head as he continued to work on Jason. He started an IV. “It’s gonna be close. Real close. His pulse is weak. I can supplement with fluids but he needs a transfusion.”

“Keep at it. Jackson, tell the team to do a perimeter search. Where in the hell are the father and son?”

Sarah groaned and rolled over onto her side. She tried to push herself up to a sitting position but instead she put her hand on her head and threw up. Sanos knelt by her.

“Ma’am. This is special Agent Santos. You’ve hit your head pretty hard. You may have a concussion. I need you to hold still until a paramedic can take a close look at you. Can you do that. Just stay here. OK?”

Sarah groaned and tried to speak. She croaked out a name.

“Jason.”

“We’re looking after your son Jason right now. We’ve got more help on the way. Just stay still and everything will be alright.”

Outside, colored lights broke through the darkness, flashing red and blue on the hillside. A minute later, an ambulance appeared.

Murphy had a finger on Jason’s wrist.

“Hurry the fuck up,” he muttered.

*******

The paramedics transfused Jason and readied him for transport. Sarah had managed to sit up and lean her back against the futon. They’d put a collar around her neck, as they had Jason’s. The paramedics shifted Jason onto a stretcher and carried him outside.

Murphy followed them outside and watched as they strapped him in to the chopper. He approached the lead paramedic.

“What his chances?”

“Fifty-fifty, I’d say. Would have been zero without you. You did good work.”

Murphy nodded his thanks. As he turned to return inside the house, the helicopter started, its rotors turning, picking up speed. The sound of the blades slicing through the air filled the night. Double-checking that Jason’s belts and restraints were secure, the paramedic climbed in to the front and gave a thumbs up to the pilot. The chopper lifted off.

Inside, Sarah watched the chopper fly north.

“Where are they taking him?” she asked Santos.

“Rochester. It’s a quick trip. Excellent surgeons. He’s in good hands.”

The remaining paramedic turned his attention to Sarah.

“How do you feel ma’am?”

“Woozy.”

“Alright. We’ll get you feeling better soon. You and your son.”

He started to checked her vital signs. First, he placed a finger on Sarah’s wrist.

“Pulse 80 bpm. Fast. But steady.” Next, using a slim flash flight, he shone the bright light in Sarah’s eyes, one at a time. Shine in the the eye, then take the light away.

“Pupils reactive to light. That’s good.”

As the paramedic asked Sarah a series of questions to test her mental state, Santos motioned to Murphy to step outside.

“The father must have slipped out.”

Jackson approached them from the direction of the hay field.

“Nothing from the perimeter search, sir.”

“Why don’t we ask the mom?” Murphy suggested.

*******

“Ma’am, is there anyone else in the house?”

“My son Justin. And my husband.”

Santos and Jackson exchanged looks.

“Mrs. Flint, we didn’t find your son or your husband.”

“Where is Max?”

The paramedic looked at Santos.

“Max is her husband. He was here earlier. Mrs. Banks, your husband is not in the house. Can you think about anywhere he might have gone?”

Tears started down Sarah’s face. Her shoulders shook as the emotional toll of the day crashed down on her in waves.

“We had a fight. I was so mean…”

“It’s OK. It’s been a rough day. Here, let’s get you off the floor. Can you stand? Let me help you. You’re ok. Just a few steps now, watch the glass.”

Santos walked her over to the couch, supporting her with an arm around her waist. On the couch, Sarah slumped back against the cushions.

“Where is Max?” she asked again.

Murphy and Santos exchanged glances.

“Both vehicles are still here sir.”

Santos spoke in a low voice to Jackson.

“You checked the bedrooms?”

“No sign of him.”

“Check again.”

Murphy nodded and waved at Jackson.

As the two men walked down the hallway, Santos sat next to Sarah on the couch. She looked stricken and Santos wondered if she had a concussion after all.

Chapter 17

Phil parked at the base of the hill below the Flint’s house.

“I don’t see anything, Phil. I just smell a lot of cows.”

“All the action is up there. On that hill.” Phil peered into the darkness. Wasn’t there a big street light by the house? It looked darker than he remembered.

“We gotta kind of sneak up. We’re not supposed to be here.”

“So what’s the lead that brought them out here?”

“Those convicts your buddies are chasing? One is lying dead in the field. The other is hiding somewhere in these woods, they think.”

Janet stared at Phil. This was legit.

“That’s a real story. It hasn’t broken yet.”

“I told you, when I was leaving, they told me that the road was going to be closed to traffic. Told me to keep my mouth shut. Took my contact details and everything.”

“What about Max? Did the family stick around?”

“You bet. The daughter ran away from home this morning.”

“What? Hang on. I gotta take some notes, this is getting complicated. But in the best way.”

*******

As they’d walked up the hill into view of the agents, Janet heard a familiar voice.

“Janet, what the hell are you doing here?” Murphy stood at the hill’s crest, scowling.

“Hi Murph. Yeah, nice to see you too. I heard there was some action up here. Wanted to see for myself. Anything good? Have you caught them?”

“Janet. You need to leave. Now.”

“I am a guest. I’m with him. He is staying here.”

She gestured at Phil, who had wandered over to the side of the road to take a leak. “He’s best friends with the father. Old buddies. He had quite a story to tell down at the bar about the FBI taking over the hilltop. I thought I’d take a look around.”

“Damn you, Janet. Well, stay out of the way. This is an active crime scene.”

Janet turned to Phil, who had appeared at her side.

“Good work there, fella.”

Chapter 18

Danny sat at the bar. This late, sometime after one, it was quieting down, which disappointed him. No bar fights tonight. No unruly patrons. Just people enjoying a Saturday night out. As the buzz of conversation mixed with country music streaming from the jukebox, Danny downed his fourth Blue Moon.

A nasally voice cut through the background.

“Hey there, Officer Danny-O, heard you found a body today. Was that your first? We gotta celebrate! Hey, everyone, Danny got himself a dead one. Hahaha!”

Danny glanced at the mirror on the wall behind the bar. In addition to reflecting the dozens of liquor bottles and spirits lining the back wall, the mirror now reflected the round and petulant face of the emergency dispatcher Shannon’s loud-mouthed sister Louisa. Louisa was one of those woman whose goal in life was to rub everyone she encountered the wrong way, because she was good at it. It was in fact the only talent she had. She reveled in it. She was a total and complete bitch.

And she was staring at Danny, hands on her hips, waiting for a fight.

Danny stared back. Louisa’s long straggly hair was pulled away from her face by a neon orange headband. She was smiling, but with her squinty eyes and thin, pale lips, the smile looked more like a leer. As ever, she had picked an outfit to shock and awe, but not in a good way. With Louisa, nothing was ever in a good way. She wore a tight green tube top and cutoff jean shorts. Rolls of white skin protruded in every unrestricted direction over the tube top’s edges and over the waistband of the shorts, which sat dangerously low on Louisa’s waist.

Danny ground his teeth together. Louisa’s comment meant that her sister Shannon was blabbing about the convict. Shannon knew better than to share that information, especially with the FBI on scene. The Captain would surely find out and would be pissed, but he would do nothing about it. Shannon and Louisa were family by marriage. And family meant everything in these parts.

Danny liked the people in this part of the country. Honest, hard working folks. Made a police officer proud to keep them safe.

But then there were the Louisa’s in the county. Living on welfare plus generous child support payments from an ex-husband who Danny assumed was insane, Louisa had plenty of time to regularly troll the local bars. As far as Danny could tell, she made a wide circuit, moving from one small town bar to the next, in a two-week rotation, always looking for someone new. Also from his observations, Louisa hit on every man in her radius. Danny’s own movements followed a similar though somewhat wider pattern, placing Danny regularly in Louisa’s path. When he first arrived in town, he had been subject to Louisa’s drunken and amorous overtures, which he declined. Then several times thereafter across the next few months. At first Danny thought Louisa had poor vision, since every time was like the first time she’d ever seen him: Same patter, same compliments, same grabbing his hand and sticking it between her legs. On the fifth time that he had declined to take her home and “rub her down like naughty horse”, she had let loose a string of expletives laced with references to her past efforts – gave you so many chances, you’re gonna regret it.

After that, Danny asked around and was told, that’s how she was. She badmouthed anyone who disagreed with her, displeased her, or stirred up feelings of any kind, which for Louisa usually consisted of envy, fear, or anger…or a toxic combination of the three. But she was mostly harmless.

Clearly, tonight, she had decided Danny was her whipping boy.

Wrong, Danny thought. So wrong.

“No, Louisa, not my first body. And I doubt it will be my last.”

Louisa swayed back and forth, blocking the narrow aisle between the kitchen and the restaurant. A waitress trying to deliver several plates of food stacked along her arms stood behind her, waiting.

“Whoa, big talking, badge-wearing man. One dead body and now he’s the shit. Hey Danny-boy, I heard those FBI agents told you to get lost. Is that true sugar muffin? Haha. Shannon’s got the goods on you, oh yes, she does. Did the FBI Agents tell you to run home to your mommy and let them handle the big bad criminals?”

Distracted by the smell of food, she glanced over her shoulder at the waitress, who smiled at her. Louisa stepped to the side. It wasn’t courtesy, Danny saw, but rather a desire for a better view of the hamburgers and fries on each plate.

Danny shrugged of her comment. He would not be baited today.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Oh, nooooo. Of course you don’t.” She lowered her voice as she stumbled closer.

“Didja catch any speeders today? There was a report from a concerned citizen of an empty police vehicle parked out on Route 86, curiously close to the Banks’ farm. Did you have to make a weewee and got lost in the woods? Do you still have your patrol car?”

“Louisa, step away from me.”

“Or what?” she asked shoving her face so close to Danny’s he could see the line of soft gold hairs along her upper lip.

A loud bell sounded, letting the patrons know that the bartender had just been given a generous tip. Surprised, Louisa stepped away from Danny who seized the moment to down the last of his beer. He placed a ten dollar bill on the wooden bar.

“Thanks for the beers, Lou Ann. See you ‘round.”

The bartender nodded. On her shifts, cops drank free. But tips were always appreciated.

He slid off the bar stool and without looking at Louisa again, slid by her bulk. He expected her to call out to him with more of her vile nastiness. She was a bottomless pit of ugly.

But he didn’t hear her say a word.

Once outside in the cool night air, he walked slowly to his car parked some way down the street. He had needed to unwind after this day. The beers felt good coursing through his system. He felt looser and more at ease.

So what if it was his first body? Every cop had a first. A little white lie. He sure as hell didn’t need that cow running around town saying that Officer Danny shit his pants when he saw a dead body for the first time or some bullshit like that.

Yeah, the new guy always gets some ribbing, Danny knew, but he was getting shit just for doing his job. Had he taken matters into his own hands? Sure, but it was just a childish prank. Lights out. Uh huh. The FBI would probably think it was funny if they knew. Besides, no one was the wiser. And no one was the worse.

Except that second convict, Danny thought, but what kind of idiot goes back to the scene.

Either way, that Louisa better shut the fuck up. Or else.

*******

Chapter 19

“Santos, you gotta see this.” Jackson leaned out of the porch door.

Santos stood on the lawn, talking on the phone with his boss.

“He’d been stabbed through. Didn’t stand a chance…”

“Santos!!” Jackson yelled, waving frantically.

“What?!” Santos barked. Having to relay that agent was lost was the worst part of this job. Destroyed him every time. He’d seen what that monster had done to his man. He’d consoled his team and told them to get some sleep. Two convicts. They’d work out the rest in the morning.

“That thing, that creature. It’s on the news!”

“What channel?” Santos said.

“Every channel. The evening news is running it right now. They interrupted all the late night TV. That is down at the County Fair, tearing shit up.”

“Anyone hurt?”

“I don’t think so. Just pissed, from the looks of it”

Santis flipped on the TV, looking for a breaking news chiron. He found one and turned up the volume.

The newscaster spoke directly to the camera.

“If you are just now joining us, this next video clip might be upsetting. If you have children in the room, you should put them to bed or change the channel. This is a developing story.”

The video started. It showed a large truck on a dirt track. A crowd of people watched the track from a grandstand.

In front of the truck, a light turned green, and the truck moved forward, black smoke bellowing from its exhaust pipes. The timer was ticking, seconds passing. The truck strained under the thousands of pounds of weight it tried to pull down the track.

The video was low quality but it was clear enough that Santos did not doubt what he saw next.

That creature appeared in the right of the frame and stepped in front of the truck. It stabbed the grill with its tines and stepped onto the hood, and then stabbed at the vertical exhaust pipe from which black smoke bellowed.

Santos flipped to another channel. A different angle of the same scene.

“What are we looking at Melody?”

“Well, Jim, it appears to be some kind of wild animal that is roaming around the County Fair.”

“The video isn’t great, but we can see it…”

“Can you get a close up of that thing?”

The camera panned in.

“Pretty scary stuff.”

“Folks, the authorities are suggesting you lock your doors this evening and secure your animals. We’re not exactly sure that that is. But it is large and until it is caught it needs to be treated with extreme caution.”

“That’s right, it might have rabies or other communicable diseases.”

“Let’s take a look at that clip one more time, so everyone knows what we are talking about.”

The video rolled again.

“Creepy. Almost looked like it glanced up at the camera there for a second.”

“After the break, we’ll talk about how the Buffalo Bills are getting ready for pre-season. Gonna be a good start.”

“What, I am getting a report. We have more breaking news. We’re going live to the County Fair.”

The video switched to a frantic female reporter on the ground. A helicopter was behind her.

“There are two, I repeat, two of those creatures on the fair grounds now. They are very dangerous. We don’t know what they are. Billy, get a wide shot if you would…”

The video panned out to show not one but two Scareits on the dirt track, circling each other, their bone arms and tines twisting and turning, as behind them in the grandstand, people streamed down the stairwells and away, as quickly as they could run.


Thirst, Chapters 15-20

  • Author: Kae Bell
  • Published: 2017-09-05 05:20:12
  • Words: 7054
Thirst, Chapters 15-20 Thirst, Chapters 15-20