Chapter 4: Lies, Sanity, or Insanity
My head ached, and I was sleep deprived, but I felt OK enough to go in to work. I went into the garage and pulled the cover off my Barracuda and drove down to the local café. In my usual booth, I started in on today’s paper, and a headline immediately caught my eye: “Mysterious Fire Trails Down Mountain.”
I read on and learned that many of the locals were calling it an act of God. The news article went into depth, relating a complete “he said, she said” about what these emotional folks actually thought they’d seen. I kept thinking to myself, “Yeah, but what if you’d lived it?”
I rolled my eyes and decided to go down to the police station to further investigate the boy’s cause of death. When I arrived, I was met at the door by the commissioner and the chief of police.
“Detective, how are you doing today?”
Looking at the chief, I said, “I’m fine, sir.”
He eyed me suspiciously and asked, “How did you get those cuts on your face?”
Looking into his eyes, I said, “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
“Sure I would.” His voice stayed calm. I realized I was in trouble.
We entered the building and walked past a long stretch of cubicles. Everyone in the room looked up but remained quiet as I walked by with the two senior officers. We arrived at the chief’s office, and I was immediately instructed to have a seat. I sat down.
As calmly as possible, the commissioner asked, “What happened last night?”
I took a deep breath and began to tell the story, hiding some of the details and facts to prevent my being thrown into the psych ward. The commissioner listened thoroughly to my explanation and became intrigued about what had happened on the mountain. I could tell because his eyebrows kept moving as I told him about my discovery of the dead bodies and my investigation into the pools of blood and pus on the floor of the still-standing sleeping quarters at Camp Devils Lake.
The chief listened with alarmed concern, and he too became drawn into the investigation. They both asked whether I was feeling all right, and again I assured them that I was fine.
The commissioner then asked bluntly, “Why is your car totaled?”
I then realized why I was in the office. They were going to either get rid of me because of the damage done to the car, or reprimand me. Damn! So I told both the commissioner and the chief that the birds had kept flying into my windshield and that when they did, I could no longer see through my window. I told them I stopped when my car had started to feel really hot.
In a more serious voice, the chief asked, “Why did the car get hot?”
“I think the car probably overheated because the birds clogged the radiator.”
He looked puzzled but then replied, “The back end of the car had burn marks and was melted on certain parts of the bumper.”
“What burn marks on the bumper?” I asked innocently.
He pulled out a folder that contained photos of the car, which he told me to take a look at. The photos were of the rear end of the car. I knew the car looked melted, but it hadn’t looked that bad in the dark. I focused on the burn marks on the car and realized they were impressions of the dog’s two massive legs. I looked up at the chief and the commissioner and felt ambushed. I couldn’t explain how the damn car had gotten burned. I started to open my mouth, but the commissioner cut into my explanation.
“Rodger, how long have you worked for the department?”
With a glance over at the commissioner, I said, “Nineteen years. Why?”
He looked at me with a puzzled yet questioning look. I could see his eyebrows scrunch in confusion. Irritated, I got up and told them that if they were going to fire me for the damn car being damaged, they should stop asking all these questions and fire me already. The commissioner and the chief looked stunned and confused. With a stern voice, the chief told me to sit down. I did as I was told.
The chief reached over and turned off the lights, instructing me to watch the video he had queued up and ready to go. The TV screen on his credenza flickered on, and I watched myself drive down the mountain, all the birds flying around my car. The commissioner told me that the camera had been put there the day before yesterday because of what had happened to the missing staff and students of Polk.
Looking into my eyes, the chief said, “You won’t be fired, but when asked to tell the truth, you need to be honest, no matter how out of the ordinary the truth might be.”
As I continued to watch, I asked, “Why didn’t you show me this footage when we first got into the office?”
The video was crystal clear—all the birds flying to their gruesome demise as they hit my car. The only distorted image was the dog bursting into flames—the camera had caught only the back end of the dog.
The tape came to an end, and we all sat in the room speechless for a few moments.
The commissioner then asked me again to explain what happened while I was driving down the mountain. His face was pale, and he gulped as he looked at my surprised expression. I felt as if I were on trial. The atmosphere in the room was dark now, and the flickering of the light made the scene more intense. The commissioner, sweating profusely at this point, wiped perspiration from his forehead as he waited for me to explain to them what had happened. I thought for another minute and then decided to give them the information they wanted.
“I had heard a noise coming from the quarters. It was a loud bang. It must have been the wolf that was in the room,” I told them. I explained how I’d walked into the quarters and smelled the god-awful odor of pus and blood on the floor. The commissioner and the chief were now on the edges of their seats. I went on.
“I noticed it was getting dark, and as I was starting to leave, I saw another wolf out in the distance. The wolf stared for a moment, and then it howled, lifting its neck high up.”
I could tell from the commissioner’s eyes that he was getting impatient, so I decided to give him the short version. I explained that the wolf had howled and that all the crows started flying up from the trees.
“What happened next?”
“I got out of there as fast as I could. I got into my car and started to drive down the mountain.”
Looking puzzled and in awe, the commissioner said, “I’ve heard enough. I understand why the people are scared to go into the mountain. It sounds to me like it’s haunted.”
With that, the commissioner put some papers down in front of me and told me to sign on the dotted line. His hand shook as he handed me the pen.
“What’s this?” I asked. He bluntly told me not to question his authority. So I signed, not even reading the document. He then went to the chief’s desk and handed me a pair of keys, telling me to be careful with the investigation and not get myself killed.
“Be safe on the road, and remember…what we talked about here—none of it leaves this room,” he said in a pissed-off tone. His final sarcastic remark was, “Have a beautiful day.”
I got a weird feeling about his reaction to my story. I walked over to the commissioner and shook his hand and then turned to the chief and did the same. The chief looked stunned, but it seemed he wanted to say more. He remained quiet, however.
I walked out the door and ran into Angela just passing the chief’s door. Angela was not more than four feet ten and weighed about 120 pounds. She was an extremely attractive woman with long, dark hair.
“Hey, Rodger. Are you all right?”
“I could hear the commissioner’s deep voice in there, but the conversation was so muffled coming through the wall that I couldn’t eavesdrop.”
I smiled and asked how Irene was doing. She smiled back at me, her beautiful blue-green eyes flashing, and replied, “She’s doing well. You know she still loves you, right?”
I smiled and started to walk toward the underground garage, and Angela followed. With a smirk, she said, “You love her too. I can see it in your eyes. You can’t hide the truth from your eyes. They sparkle as I talk to you about her.”
“Angela! What do you want?”
“For you to go speak to Irene and make things right.”
“I will in time, but now is neither the time nor the place to rekindle our relationship.”
Angela sighed and shook her head. “You are a good man. Don’t let your mistakes from the past ruin your life and your relationship.”
I smiled and said, “Tell Irene that I love her very much. I’ll give her a call, and we can meet to have coffee and catch up.”
“Rodger, the divorce papers haven’t been signed, so legally you are still married.”
“I know that, Angela,” I told her. “We still have a chance to save our relationship, but first I have got to finish this investigation.”
“You’ve got to stop running from the past.” Angela had followed me all the way to my car. I looked at her angrily as I hit the button to unlock the doors. The lights flickered.
“Bingo,” I said, and climbed in. Continuing to jabber on about my wife, Angela followed and got into the front passenger seat. I looked over at her and asked, “What are you doing?” With a meaningful glare, she told me she was coming with me. I told her to get out of the car.
With a triumphant gleam in her eye, she said, “You know that little piece of paper you signed in the chief’s office?”
I thought back and realized I’d signed the document without reading the juicy details. It must have been a way for the commissioner and the chief to keep an eye on me. A bit confused, I asked, “Why did you volunteer for the partnership?”
With some hesitation, she said, “I didn’t sign up to be your partner.”
She smiled. “I volunteered to aid you in your investigation. You signed the papers allowing me to learn from your techniques as a detective.”
My eye was beginning to twitch as I became intensely frustrated with the situation. This day couldn’t get any worse.