The Spear Tree
It had taken nearly an hour for Sam and Elias to make it back to the truck.
Elias was forced to lean on Sam the entire way, hobbling on his broken foot. Once they reached Elias’s truck, Sam drove the mechanic to the walk-in clinic. The fact that Elias had to limp into the walk-in was not lost on either of them.
The story Elias gave, he later told Sam, was that he had been working on a vehicle in the shop and wrenched his foot climbing out of the pit. He also told her that he had washed the dirt off his face and hands in the waiting room bathroom. Hopefully the doctor and nurses on duty would find nothing suspicious about him doing vehicle maintenance in tattered clothing.
He had asked Sam to go home and wait for his call—the two of them shouldn’t be seen together, he reasoned. And she agreed. Before letting him leave the truck, however, Sam asked:
“Do you think he’s really dead?”
“Three shots to the chest with silver bullets? No way he survived that.” Elias smiled, then gave her a stern look and said “I didn’t want you going up there alone… turns out you didn’t need my protection after all.”
He had winked at her before getting out and limping his way to the front doors.
Sam had dropped his truck off at the shop and taken her Mustang back home. She fed Mister Perkins, made herself a sandwich, ate, and then lay in bed, her head swirling.
If Kronin really was dead, that was a good thing. But there were still so many questions to be answered: what was “eclipse”? What did the names “Sutter” and “Craig” mean— the ones that Brewin had mentioned in his delirium? Who was the John Doe from the church and why was he killed?
And… something that had been lurking in the back of Sam’s mind, something she hadn’t given too much thought too recently: where did the dreams come from, the nightmares of wolf-beasts that Sam had experienced even before she saw Nina turn?
So many questions. And Raggedy Man’s death meant there was one less person to potentially answer them.
Sam had lain there for nearly an hour when Elias finally called.
Elias—sporting a big, black medical boot on his right foot—asked if Sam wanted to stay when she dropped him off and gave him his truck keys. She declined, and yet found herself thinking about him throughout her car ride home.
That night, for the first time in a long time, she collapsed into her bed and fell asleep without the need for pills. And if she had any dreams, she didn’t remember them after she awoke.
The next morning during shift briefing, their sergeant, Mills, talked about shots fired in a tenement building. The junkie who lived there said two homeless people busted into her room and one shot the other. Shell casings were found on the scene and there was a broken window, but no body.
What if Kronin’s followers had arrived and taken the body? Or, what if Kronin had managed to crawl off and die someplace where he wouldn’t immediately be found? One of those was the explanation. Had to be.
Sam kicked herself for not picking up her shell casings… but she had needed to leave in a hurry.
After the briefing Sergeant Mills reminded Sam that her beat area was being changed. She had spent three months patrolling Hard Knox and now it was time to move on.
An hour later Sam was driving down Scrimm Road, just inside the city limits. Not much out this way but farms. Some areas were nothing but fields and forest. Sam took a sip of coffee from her thermos—coffee which she had gotten from Woods Coffee because she was still unable to face Mama Kaiser.
Kathy had called and wanted to know if Sam had seen any more of that cute mechanic. Sam said she was planning on going in to follow up about her windshield. They had talked about Uncle Brewin, who Kathy said was ‘mostly out of it.’ Since Sam wasn’t too far from his house, she told her foster mom she would go check in on him.
Brewin’s house was just a few miles away when Sam got a call from dispatch— a farmer reported an abandoned vehicle in the opposite direction. Cursing the timing, Sam swung her cruiser around.
Ten minutes later she found herself on an old, beat-up dirt road. The vehicle was just up ahead, pulled off into the wild grass, its trunk open. It sat at the edge of a field that spanned several yards to a scattered tree line and dense timber. The opposite side of the road was dominated by thick forest.
As she came to a stop Sam could see that it was a Honda Civic. After calling in the license plate she exited her cruiser, immediately noticing a second set of tire tracks. Being careful not to step on these, she approached and looked inside the trunk.
Next she performed a cursory search of the vehicle, which turned up nothing of any interest. Looking closer at the ankle-high grass, Sam noticed that a narrow swath of it was pressed down, creating a path toward the woods… as if someone or something had been drug in that direction.
Sam followed the path, through the field and past the treeline where the grass thinned out, replaced by blackberry thickets. Making her way through the underbrush, Sam followed the trail to a clearing, where she saw a shoulder and arm protruding from the far side of a large ash tree. The strange thing was, the shoulder and arm were higher up than any normal human height.
Hand hovering over her Glock, Sam circled around to get a better view…
Roughly six feet up the tree, a telephone-pole sized branch jutted up and out, sheared in half, possibly from the storm the night before last. Its other half lay on the spongy ground. It had left a jagged, spear-like projection where it had broken off. Hanging from this was a man, the massive wooden stake lancing him through the back of the head, its three-foot tip protruding from his open mouth like some giant, bloody tongue.
For a long moment Sam simply stood, staring in disbelief. Finally she thumbed the talk button on her shoulder mic and said: “Blackrock, Echo Two… I uh, I found the driver of that abandoned vehicle.”