She remembered it all: sitting in the daylight basement and finding the bullet in the box of her dead father’s things, hearing her stepmother scream. She remembered the thing she saw outside the window, the thing that forced its way into the house as she ran out, ran out and found her stepmother’s body; she remembered running for her life, crawling through the woodshed, finding the corpse of their dog, Chewy, on the others side; she remembered retrieving a rifle from the gun vault in the pole building… and she recalled with great clarity seeing the beast when it came inside, a monster very much like what Nina had become in the basement. Sam remembered shooting the beast, thinking it was dead… and then running once more up into the treehouse when it had turned out to be very much alive— through the home and back to the daylight basement where she had taken up that same bullet, the bullet her father had left behind… a silver bullet, which she had put into the rifle and used to kill the wolf beast that came down the stairs and tried to kill her.
These images had played through her mind like some kind of quick-cut sizzle reel. When Sam opened her eyes, she was lying on her back, staring up at the sky. The bombardment of recollection had knocked her out, for a little while at least; the sun had moved a bit from where she had last seen it. But the pain… the pain in her head was gone. Now that the dam had finally burst, the flood was past, and the waters had become placid.
Sam sat up and stared down at the pendant in her hand. Such a small thing… but it’s value was beyond measure. This token had given her peace. Clarity. A sense of self that she hadn’t really realized had been missing.
I know who I am now. I know why Uncle Brewin and the others did what they did. They thought they were doing the right thing; making me forget.
But now… now she remembered. The question that worked its way to the forefront of her mind was: why did Kronin want so badly for her to remember?
As if in answer, Sam heard the scuffling of boots on gravel; the muted sounds of hushed voices.
There were people; back over by her vehicle on the other side of the home. Just beneath the sounds of the people she could hear what sounded like a motor.
Sam got up, heart racing as she rounded the corner of the house. There was a van pulled up just on the other side of her Mustang—engine running, driver’s door open.
Seated on and around her car, like a murder of crows on the branches of a dead tree, was a gang of vagrants. Eight at least. Standing just this side of her car was a man in a ragged coat with the hood of his sweatshirt pulled up, a scarf hiding the lower half of his face.
Sam sped up, reaching behind her back for the Desert Eagle…
A man perched on the Mustang’s hood—a tall man with a gray beard, whom Sam recognized from the first hell hound gathering she had attended with Elias, raised a rifle and pointed it at her.
“Don’t do it,” Kronin said to Sam, reaching up and pulling the hood down. He lowered the scarf as well to reveal a dark-complexion. His eyes were so brown they were nearly black. There was a thin beard covering his chin. The long hair that lay back on his head and the hair on his face were both streaked with gray.
“He won’t kill you but he would put a bullet through your shoulder before you shoot,” Raggedy Man said in a thick accent.
Sam stood, waiting, considering drawing the gun anyway, while Kronin simply watched. Glancing down, she noticed that the tires of her car were flat. Finally Kronin said “You remember now, don’t you? Good, good…”
He took a few steps forward. Sam fought the urge to pull her gun once again. “I wanted you to remember every detail; I want you to know why.”
Sam waited, fingers still closed around the grip of the pistol behind her back.
“Your father’s job as a U.S. Marshal was what you Americans call a ‘cover.’ He took pride in killing our kind for your government. He was pretty good at this job; came to Turkey. To my homeland; my uncle, aunt, nieces and nephews… he killed them all. Tried to eradicate the entire family but he didn’t finish the job completely. My half-brother… he missed. It was my half-brother who ended his miserable life. And it was my half-brother who vowed to do the same to your father’s family as he did to ours. He came here that night, killed your stepmother and would have killed you also, but…”
“But I shot him,” Sam said.
Kronin nodded. “From the time I was five, I grew up with him. The things we went through together, into our teenage years, you could not imagine. We were inseparable. When the rest of the family was gone he was all that was left for me to care about. And you took that away when you put a bullet through his heart. Now, I’ve taken away all that you care about. Now, I will finish what he started. You know what tonight is, yes?”
Sam knew. It was no coincidence that Kronin had specified this particular day for her to come to the farm, to regain her memories.
“Yes. Tonight is the full moon. These…” Kronin extended a hand behind him. “These are but a few of my dog soldiers. There will be more. Under the light of the moon they will have their fun. But they will save the killing stroke for me. If you go to any of these nearby farms for help, we will kill the people you seek help from; we will kill their families, their livestock. We will burn their homes to ashes. Tonight, I want you to run. When I sink my teeth into your jugular I want to taste the fear in your blood. Although I wonder… if there isn’t a beast inside of you as well, waiting to claw its way out? I guess we’ll see.”
Kronin held his hands out at shoulder height in a grandiose gesture. “Tonight, Sam; tonight, Lexi… tonight we hunt.”
The gathered vagrants—all except for the one holding the rifle—began to disperse. One by one they piled into the back of the van. When only Kronin and the gunman were left, one of the men inside closed the van’s back door.
Kronin then turned and walked around the Mustang to the van’s other side. Sam heard the passenger door open and close. Then the man with the rifle slid off of her hood, weapon still pointed her way. He backed up to the van’s open driver door, hoisted himself into the seat and closed the door. Sam removed the pistol from her back as the driver put the van in reverse. Gravel spewed from the front tires as the van raced backward.
The thought of chasing after the vehicle, maybe trying to get a shot into the passenger’s side before the van left was appealing, but Sam knew she couldn’t get close enough in time. Before she knew it they were at the long dirt road, angled forward again and barreling off into the distance.
"You know what tonight is,” Kronin had said.
And yes, Sam had known that tonight was the full moon. She was very aware of the fact that this would most likely be the end of the road, one way or another. And now especially, she had made her peace with it.
As the van’s engine noise faded to silence and the vehicle became a speck in the distance, Sam glanced at the car’s flat tires. They had made sure she wouldn’t be leaving. And that was okay. She walked to the back of the Mustang, removed her keys and stared down at that one key—the one that Elias had given her, the one that had gotten her back into his apartment. She had remembered the very first night when he had brought her there, he had told her the toilet didn’t work. She also remembered that when the police had executed the search warrant they had not found any weapons, and so she had suspected. Hours before she had left Blackrock she went to the apartment and confirmed her suspicions; she had found a false floor around the bottom of the toilet, and beneath it… an arsenal.
With her left hand Sam opened the trunk. Inside was a vast assortment of weapons—two rifles, a shotgun, several pistols… all fully loaded with silver bullets; plus a grenade and a claymore mine.
Enough, maybe; hopefully… enough to make a final stand. Enough maybe to kill every last one of them. And that was exactly what she intended to do.
That, or die trying.