Sunday October 10th 4:30 A.M.
It was about four thirty in the morning when Officer Moore pulled into the Harper’s driveway, and the first thing Andrew noticed was his father, Alex Harper, standing in the doorway, still dressed in his work uniform. “What the heck’s he doing home?” Andrew whispered to himself. “His shift isn’t over till eight!”
He had hoped to be home before the end of his father’s second shift at the county jail, so he could sneak into his room without getting caught. But obviously things didn’t pan out that way, and now he’d have to face his father's wrath...
Mr. Harper, a burly man, rushed down the small stairway in front of the house, then darted toward the police car. Anger was written all over his face, and Andrew didn’t want to get out of the vehicle. He felt much safer with Officer Moore!
“Alright, kid, this is where we part,” said Officer Moore. He stepped out of the car, walked to the rear, and opened the back door to let Andrew out. “Your pops can take it from here.”
“Thank you,” said Mr. Harper. He reached out his hand to shake Officer Moore’s. “I appreciate you calling me, and bringing him home. And thanks for not taking him down to the station.”
“No problem, Alex,” said the officer. “Just glad the boys are okay. But I still have some questions for them that need answering.”
Mr. Harper nodded his head. “I understand. Whatever you need to do, Robert.” He glanced inside the police car for a second. “Where’s Steven? You took him home already?”
“Sure did. Dropped him off a few minutes ago.” He glanced down at Andrew for a moment. “Your son and his friends had quite a night—and some crazy stories to go along with it.”
“I can only imagine.” Mr. Harper shook his head then scowled at Andrew.
“Well, what can you do, Alex? Kids are kids ya know.” The officer sighed and shook his head too. “My little Berta snuck out tonight too. Found out she was hanging out with some boys up at the hayfields. She’ll be dealt with soon.”
Poor Berta, Andrew thought, knowing how strict her father was. He placed his hand on the charm that she gave him—the charm that saved his life.
“Well, while you’re here,” said Mr. Harper, “why not question my son now?” He glared down at Andrew, harshly. “I’m sure he’ll be happy to answer you.”
“But dad...I answered all his questions already.” Andrew frowned. “I don’t know what else to say.”
“Obviously you didn’t answer all of them!” Mr. Harper snapped. “Now tell Officer Moore whatever he needs to know, or your punishment will be doubled!”
Andrew went on to explain the story again, being careful not to mention anything about Shane. He didn’t want Shane to go back to reform school. So instead, he talked about other things, such as the demon-wolves, the man-beast, and of course the heroic Guardians that came to the rescue.
“And that’s really it,” said Andrew, after going over everything that happened. “The last time I saw Butch was when he and Steven had a fight. They rolled down a cliff, and I couldn’t find them after that.”
Mr. Harper gave him a cold stare. “Demon-wolves? Monsters? Superheroes?” He shook his head, angrily, then looked over at Office Moore. “Can you believe this kid?”
“I know, Alex, they told me the same nonsense on the ride over here.” Officer Moore sighed and shrugged his shoulders. “And Steven went so far as to tell me that Butch Johnson was taken captive by a flying monster!”
“Unbelievable.” Mr. Harper glared down at Andrew again. “Your punishment is tripled now for making up ridiculous stories!” He narrowed his eyes. “And why were you hanging out with that Butch Johnson kid anyway?”
“It wasn’t by choice.” Andrew frowned and lowered his head. “He kinda forced me to take him camping...and I dragged poor Steven along.”
“Forced you?” Mr. Harper raised his eyebrows.
“Yes.” Andrew’s cheeks turned red. He was ashamed to admit that he was bullied, especially since his father was a rugged type of guy; a guy who took no nonsense from anyone.
Mr. Harper slowly turned his head away from Andrew, and looked over at Officer Moore. “Speaking of Butch Johnson, any word yet on his whereabouts?”
“Nothing yet. There’s a search crew scouting the park right now. Hopefully they find him soon so we can wrap this thing up.” The officer glanced down at Andrew. “But I believe there’s another boy that was with them...even though your son won’t tell me who.”
Mr. Harper grabbed Andrew’s shoulder. “You better not be keeping information from Officer Moore!” His tone was stern. “Tell him who else was with you.”
“No one,” said Andrew. “It was just the three of us.” For the third time that night, he crossed his fingers behind his back. “Just Steven, Butch and myself. That’s it.”
“The woman I spoke to said there were three boys waiting for me in the parking lot, and another boy missing in the forest,” Officer Moore said to Mr. Harper. “When I arrived there, I only saw Andrew and Steven. The other boy—and I have a good idea who he is—took off somewhere.”
“What’s his name?” asked Mr. Harper.
“I believe it's Shane Reilly,” said Officer Moore.
Mr. Harper glared down at Andrew again. “You were hanging out with that Reilly kid too? Boy are you in trouble, kiddo!”
“No!” Andrew said, in a loud, defensive tone that would land him in even more trouble. He quickly lowered his voice. “Shane wasn't there.”
Moments later, they were interrupted by a woman, shouting from the doorway of the house. It was Mrs. Harper, and she came rushing toward them in her bathrobe.
“Andrew!” she shouted frantically, “are you okay?” She gave him a hug. “What were you thinking! I just got off the phone with Steven’s mother.”
“I’m sorry, mom. It won’t happens again...I promise.”
“You better believe it won’t happen again!” snapped Mr. Harper. “Now go inside and wait for me. I want to talk to Officer Moore in private.”
“Yes, sir.” Andrew walked to the house, head bowed down, feeling ashamed. And he could only imagine the severity of the punishment he was about to receive. But he was grateful to be home and safe. It was enough to comfort him for the time being.
“Hello, Robert,” said Mrs. Harper to the officer. “Would you like some coffee? I’ll make a fresh pot.”
“That’d be great,” the officer said, smiling. “Thanks a bunch.”
A little while later, Mrs. Harper returned with two cups of coffee. “Here you go,” she said, handing one to the officer and another to her husband.
“What’s Andrew doing?” Mr. Harper asked.
“Nothing,” she said. “He’s waiting for you to come inside and yell at him. I’ve already done my share of yelling when I was making the coffee!” She turned around and headed back to the house.
“I should take Andrew to the jail during one of my shifts,” said Mr. Harper, watching his wife walk away. “Let him see what happens to people who don’t behave.”
Officer Moore gave him a curious look. “Come on, Alex, that’s a bit extreme, don’t ya think? Andrew’s a good kid. It's not like him to behave like this. Those boys bullied him into this camping trip, but for what reason, I don’t know.”
“I’ll find out soon enough,” said Mr. Harper, sternly. “And this whole bit about monsters and wolves, and whatever other nonsense he was trying to tell us. Just ridiculous.”
“Yeah, well, you know those same stories have been around this town forever. I used to be afraid to go there myself when I was a kid.” Officer Moore chuckled. “Of course that was many moons ago.”
“I know, Robert, but it’s all a bunch of baloney.” Mr. Harper sighed. “And ever since that woman went missing in there a few years ago... I forget her name--”
“Tara Gordonson,” said Officer Moore, a grim expression on his face. “I remember that case vividly. Still irks me that there’s not one clue of what happened to her.”
“Right. It’s a sad story for sure,” said Mr. Harper. “But I only brought it up to make a point. People assume something crazy must’ve happened to her just because she was last seen in Woody Hills Park; like some evil alien that lives there had something to do with it, when most likely she was kidnapped by some creep.”
“Oh I know, Alex. That’s how this town’s always been. One crazy story after another when it comes to that park. But in the meantime, I’ve got to find out who the other boy was. If it’s Shane Reilly, I’ll have to contact his foster parents and his parole officer.”
“Don’t you worry at all,” said Mr. Harper. “Andrew will tell me sooner or later if it was Shane Reilly if he knows what’s good for him.”
“Good enough.” Officer Moore finished his coffee and handed him the empty cup. “Thank your wife for me again; the coffee was perfect. But I’ve got to get going now.”
“Will do,” said Mr. Harper. “Oh, before you go, I meant to ask you something. Who was the lady that contacted you about the boys?”
Officer Moore was silent for a moment, as though he’d just seen a ghost. “To be honest, Alex, I really have no idea. Somehow she managed to get through to me on my radio.” He shrugged his shoulders. “She wouldn't give me her name, and there was no way to trace where she called from.”
“That’s odd.” Mr. Harper narrowed his eyes.
And suddenly, speaking of radios, the one in Officer Moore’s car started to go off. He rushed over to hear who it was...
“Office Moore, ya there?” said the voice from the other side. “Can you read me?”
“Yes,” he said. “Is this Jack?”
“How’s it going, Jack? You still over at Woody Hills Park?”
“Any luck finding the Johnson boy?”
“No, sir...but there was a problem…”
“What type of problem?”
“I...I don’t know how to say this, sir...but one of our officers was attacked.”
“Attacked? By what? There's nothing in there but deer, fox and a few coyotes.”
“Well it wasn’t a deer, sir, and it wasn’t a fox or a coyote.”
“What the heck was it then!” Officer Moore was getting angry. “Tell me!”
“You're not gonna believe me, sir...but whatever attacked him was nothing I’d ever seen before. It looked like a, like a…”
“Spit it out, Jack!” Officer Moore shouted again, and Mr. Harper moved closer to listen in.
“Like a giant wolfman, sir...or something like that. It was huge, and—”
“Oh for the love of God!” Officer Moore interrupted. “Are you playing games with me, Jack?”
“No sir. You know I wouldn’t fool around on a case like this. But the officer’s hurt badly. He might not make it. I pulled the rest of the crew out of there.”
“What!” Officer Moore was furious. “Who gave you that authority? There’s a missing youth in there!”
“I know sir...but there were other things in there too... things that I can’t quite explain. And then a bright light appeared out of nowhere, and lucky for us, the bright light, whatever the heck it was, scared those things off for the time being. I told the crew to get out while it was safe.”
“What do you mean there were other things?”
“I don’t know, sir,” his voice cracked, “they looked like big dogs, or wolves, and…”
“Alright, Jack, calm down. I’m over at Lake Road. I’ll be there in ten minutes. Did you call an ambulance for the wounded officer?”
“Yes, of course, they’re on their way.”
“Okay, good. Stay put. I'm on my way!"
Officer Moore turned around, and Mr. Harper was standing over him. They gave each other a puzzled look.
“Well, Alex,” said Officer Moore, in a low and serious tone, "looks like Andrew might not be fibbing after all.”