Sitting at the kitchen table Detective Jenkins stared at the house phone in his hand as it rang incessantly before he made the decision to press the button to mute the ringer. He knew he had a moment of silence before his cell phone started to ring again. His cell phone rang out, “sing a song about the Southland” sounded as Lynyrd Skynyrd wailed. He shook and lowered his head as he bit the bullet and answered the neglected call.
A small staff of police officers a smaller staff of detectives, made smaller still by Detective Jenkins’ absence at the Batchelor, LA. Police Department had the staff Sergeant’s patience wearing thin. Though sympathetic, he called wondering when Jenkins would be available to work again.
“Detective Jenkins,” he answered the one-sided conversation in a monotone voice, “yes Sir, yes Sir, next week Sir, Will do, Sir, Goodbye.” Detective Jenkins grimaced as he ended the call.
The brass had been on eggshells since the officer involved shooting a few months ago that killed the paramedic, Cody, and the immediate disappearance of the body threw them for Loop. The CDC and the Point Breeze Parish Sheriff’s Department had their hands full since his disappearance. A whirlwind of confusion had set in as they investigated. Those at the top of the chain of command rationalized that it was no dead body at all, only a coroner’s mistake, the police called off the search and doctors double and triple the checked many of the test the results which held no trace of a contagion so the CDC headed home, rationalizing the few months were just localized mass hysteria. Detective Jenkins would not be so easily convinced, however. His body shaking, it had been the second time he fired his weapon and it mirrored the first, welling up painful memories. The sins of the past had arisen evoking the ghost of his long dead son, Phillip Jenkins.
Since the second shooting Detective Jenkins went into hiding, a self-induced isolation, burning off sick days in a drunken stupor. A righteous shot, he heard somewhere in his mind. They called it a righteous shot a second time! And the first shooting he could blow clean on the breathalyzer but if they would have blood tested him, they would have found a cocktail of valium, tranquilizer and Ambien… legally intoxicated, unable to legally drive let alone handle a gun. A decorated detective, the pride of the force his word gospel, they had declared it a “righteous shot” as his son lay dying; bleeding on the kitchen floor the damage had been done. Except for the drug-induced haze it happened exactly how he said. But even without his son’s hood he would not know him from Adam anyway. Labeled a pariah he quit the Louisiana State Police Department and moved to Batchelor, LA. Where he promptly got a divorce; the loss of their son more than his wife could bear. He procured another job at the smaller hometown Police Department where he could get a fresh start, unknown to the other officers but his son haunted him wherever he went.
He knocked back another shot of brownish liquor then refilled it from an almost empty gallon jug of the stuff. His kitchen tabletop looked like the display unit in the liquor store. Aftermath of bottle after bottle of alcohol of varying sizes, Half-pint, pint to fifths, row after row of hotel sample-size spirits even one gallon jug that Detective Jenkins had poured his shots from.
He had been in the process of getting better. Regular jogs every day at dawn had his head clear for the first time in years. He had even quit smoking cigarettes! Then a second shooting, a second shooting that reminded him of the first shooting and the day his son died by his hand. He was supposed to be away! He was supposed to be away at school learning, laughing and living, just living. It was no excuse, Jenkins thought, but his son had been higher than a kite and had a blood alcohol content of .16. No excuse! No excuse! He beat himself up inside.
He heard the electronic noise and the crooning of a rock band in the radio, “hate me today, hate me tomorrow…” sung on the radio somewhere in the house.
He remembered all of the terrible fighting that ensued, culminating in the couple’s bitter divorce. He remembered Mary and her accusing eyes. Everybody in his old accursed town accused him whether openly or with their eyes.
That is why he moved to Batchelor, Detective Jenkins thought, am I a magnet to these things? He wasn’t on anything this time and it had happened again! He did everything right and by the book! But he had been unarmed! No, he wasn’t! Detective Jenkins argued to himself, he had huge claws, like a bear’s claws.
Detective Jenkins downed another shot; consumption of the draught becoming double digits at this point. Months had gone by but the guilt had him to the breaking point. All of his colleagues were there canvassing the scene and they came up with no other weapon but the knife anywhere. He remembered his own knife. It wasn’t meant to be a drop knife at all. He had it with him strapped to his thigh along for the jog as defense against a rogue boar or crocodile. He remembered tossing the knife on the ground by the unfortunate suspect.
Why did he plant the knife on the body anyway? He identified himself as a police officer, but the perp. didn’t stop when ordered and in fact he lunged forward! Detective Jenkins thought he was definitely armed, and very dangerous… he saw the claws! No that was the right thing to do he thought. If the fatal shot had driven him to the breaking point then the missing body that he had just shot drove him to a slow and steady spiraling descent into madness.
“You know I hate to tell you this but you are already crazy, ever since I died,” A disembodied voice knew his thought process.
The investigation concerning Cody’s body had been lukewarm optimism at best. The shooting broadcasted unwanted attention on the department. Without a body to cast light and criticism upon the top brass hoped the people would eventually forget the embarrassment that detective Jenkins had caused them. Especially since the man who caused the shooting had killed a boy before, still fresh in the public’s mind.
Though the search had been called off months ago he obsessed every day and every night over the whereabouts of the paramedic. He hoped the location would be revealed tomorrow when he picked up Dexter, a German shepherd with the Louisiana State police canine unit. Today, however, as he downed another shot, if he stood up to do anything at all he would likely just pass out.
“You’re so pitiful! No wonder my mother left your sorry ass!” the voice scolded Detective Jenkins, “But I guess I don’t blame you.”
Hearing the voice of his son, Jenkins flinched and closed his eyes. He felt dizzy now and the mocking from his son did not help. Closing his eyes would not help the barrage of insults to come.
“Geez, why don’t you kill yourself already?” Suddenly, empty alcohol bottles shattered and full bottles fell and rolled onto the floor. The ghost of his son materialized and floated forward to the kitchen table.
“Well you’ve outdone yourself this time, Daddy!” the ghost of his son said slamming his fist on the kitchen table, knocking over more bottles to get detective Jenkins’ attention. But he stood the bottles up again without flinching.
“I can’t believe that you actually killed again, Daddy!” His dead son’s ghost smiled a translucent smile, “But I hear he just got up and walked out of the hospital, imagine that!”
Tired of whispering accusations and insults it would all come to a head tomorrow, he thought, confident he would find Cody’s body or at least a suspect. Detective Jenkins had had enough, promptly standing and stumbling for a minute while he got his bearings. His blood pressure plummeted. The double vision came upon him suddenly; his eyesight darkening as he fell toward the ground. He managed to miss hitting his head on the refrigerator by mere inches. For several seconds he didn’t move at all then his head stilled and snoring ensued.
“Dad, you’re truly pitiful.” His son, Phillip said softly as he evaporated.
Lynyrd Skynyrd incessantly sung until he stirred. Awake, his head pounding, lying there on the floor where he had so gracefully passed out the night before. His shirt was wet with drool, his hair a rats nest and greasy.
“Yes?” detective Jenkins said as he frantically searched for his cigarettes and lighter.
The other side of the cell answers and introductions were made. A short conversation ensued.
“Good. I will be there shortly, I owe you one.”
“Coffee,” He said to himself aloud, “I need coffee.”
He did not wait for the coffee to finish brewing and fill the decanter, instead he precariously perched his coffee cup directly under the flowing scolding black coffee. Two imitation sugars and a dash of cream and he carefully sipped his precious caffeine beverage.
“Not gonna drink today, right?” The apparition of his son questioned accusingly.
“No, I’m not going to be a lush today. I have things to do.” Detective Jenkins said nonchalantly.
For the first time since the shooting detective Jenkins headed into the bathroom determined to shave the stubble from his face. Slathering shaving gel liberally onto his face he looked into the mirror took out a straight blade razor and carefully started to shave his cheeks.
“What are we doing today, Pops?” He could see his son materialized in the mirror.
He glanced up at his dead son for a moment then concentrated fully on his own reflection. A true bum he scoffed looking at his graying curly hairs on his chest and white wife beater, which had become crusty and stained. His empty hand rubbed a half-shaved chin. Detective Jenkins stared at his own reflection instead of his dead son, the lines on his forehead a little deeper his close cropped graying hair receding further since the first unfortunate shooting.
“I’m going to find the body today, how about you, son?” Detective Jenkins said mordantly as if talking to his dead son the most natural thing in the world. But his son had vanished for a while.
He plunged the razor full of hair and used cream into the milky water shaking it around until shiny and clean. He hesitated a moment to get in position before getting started again. The razor made a clean wide trail and where once grey stubble used to be became smooth skin.
He looked into the mirror. His face made him look young again, more youthful. He let out a deep breath, grateful his son had left for a while. He’d be back, but for now, Jenkins could get some peace and quiet.
With the sudden disappearance of his son he entertained the same notion he had a thousand times before. He pressed the straight razor against his neck. A little more pressure to nick the carotid and it was the all over the pain would go away.
“Give it up, Dad, you and I both know you’re not going through with it today, now hurry up or you’re gonna miss your meeting up with Carl Goodman and his dogs.” His son warned.
The disembodied voice came from somewhere in the house. Detective Jenkins could not see his dead son in the mirror in the bathroom anymore but he learned from experience to expect him in the bedroom.
When his better half left him she got all their furniture and appliances in the final divorce decree. He had to scrounge around in the storage unit to find his old furniture he had kept from his youth. He arranged his bedroom to be a montage to everything great or horrible in the 60, 70 & 80s. His water bed with giant mirrored backboard to his velvet oil paintings and blacklight posters littered the four walls in various shapes and sizes. He went with this theme going hog-wild throughout the room, even plugging in a lava lamp and a blacklight for the posters. His bedroom turned out to be the only fully furnished room in the house.
He splashed down on his waterbed and picked up a simple dumbbell trying to ignore his apparition in the corner of the room. He did a series of bicep curls with his right hand then the left without counting. Sufficiently pumped, his biceps burning, he dropped the dumbbell on the floor. Detective Jenkins checked his alarm clock by his bed.
A huff of disapproval rolled out his mouth, almost afternoon and he still felt like shit! The apparition sat down upon the edge of the water bed. Gentle waves rolled and crashed on the edges of the bed. Sliding his feet into his steel toe boots mindlessly tying them in functional knots Detective Jenkins got up and opened a closet. One of two, his and hers, one that was empty filled with cobwebs from ceiling to floor and the occasional moth that wandered in by accident the other one filled to the brim with uniforms and jeans. He chose a clean shirt to replace the filthy one he currently wore putting it on then he looked at his hair in the mirror. He deliberately tried to ignore Phillip who lay down on the bed.
“It is a little petty that you ignore me now.” Phillip sulked.
Something in Phillip’s tone struck a nerve and he would be silent no longer. Twirling around throwing his filthy shirt at the bed as the flood gates opened and a torrent of irate words like daggers followed.
“I’m not ignoring you!” Detective Jenkins argued, “I’ve learned to live with it, believe me!”
Rubbing the deodorant on his underarms then liberally spraying on Cologne to mask the night’s events he continued his barrage of ridicules then was silent once more. Looking at his reflection in the mirror then at his son, sometimes he thought there had been no chance for closure, no time for grieving, the apparition of his son was so real, so material. No wonder he hallucinates when he makes the same mistake all over again! “Did you ever think that I am your Guardian angel?” Phillip smiled.
He lit another cigarette and poured himself more coffee, which he quickly downed to a drop. He checked for the keys in his pocket then he said, “no, no, I didn’t… more like you’re a demon in disguise, come to haunt me.”
On autopilot now he trudged out the house door and starting his engine before he knew it. With engine running he waited in the driveway until Phillip caught up with him. He tried to tune him out driving down the road, his dead kid sitting next to him chatting incessantly. Trying now to ignore the yellow house the crime scene coming up the road Detective Jenkins engaged in small talk with his imaginary son until the house could only be seen by squinting into the rearview mirror.
Detective Jenkins could see Carl Goodman wave as he appeared over the hill his slack leather leash in hand. Dexter, his well-trained and wellbehaved German shepherd, sat patiently on the grass. Dexter excelled in finding missing persons and cadavers. Taught by the Louisiana State Police Department K-9 unit but since then retired by them for his age Dexter had become the perfect dog for the mission.
Gravel had kicked up from the tires gathering dust up into the air. Several canines caged in the kennels out back bellowed their warning howls, their low-tech intruder alert. Rocks kicking up and hitting the side of the truck sounded the sound of popcorn pops or rice crispies getting chatty with milk echoed throughout the lonely swamp land. The truck came to a rest in the parking lot by a faded sign that said “Canine Inn, Training and Obedience.”
Both of the doors closed in Detective Jenkins’ truck as he headed toward the dog trainer Carl Goodman, but Carl saw only one door open. Dexter observed their chat back and forth patiently although a new face excited him. Carl pushed his wire-rim glasses back on his bulbous nose and rubbed his obviously receding thin and wiry blonde hair.
“Jonathan, how are you?” Carl Goodman greeted him with his free hand.
“I’m good. How are you?” Detective Jenkins returned his pleasantries shaking Carl’s hand.
“He’s lying!” the translucent Phillip argued to deaf ears.
Phillip silently bent down to rub Dexter’s underbelly, unseen by Carl, but Dexter’s tail wagged, barking excitedly at an unknown presence.
“Thank you, for Dexter’s help in the search.” Detective Jenkins bent down and began rubbing Dexter too.
“Don’t mention it my friend,” Carl consoled Jenkins, “I owe you one, besides Dexter here needs to get out and stretch his legs a little since his retirement.”
It was true that Detective Jenkins did so many favors for Carl Goodman he had stopped counting a long time ago. Between fixing tickets and dismissing D.U.I.s. however, he had a funny feeling about the borrowing of Dexter since his dream last night, where an unknown emaciated dog was killed and then his limbs amputated by monsters. Despite his reservations Detective Jenkins needed Dexter for his tracking ability.
Carl handed off the reins to Jenkins for Dexter who obliviously consented to the change in leadership. With his tongue out and wagging his tail Dexter followed Jenkins to the truck.
“Take care of him.” Carl smiled.
Bending a knee so he could pat Dexter on the back one last time before Jenkins opened the truck door. Dexter immediately hopped into his front seat with the ghost of his son. Anxiety grew as he put the truck into reverse and rolled out of the lot. Dexter leapt down into the floorboard finding and eating the dry food and water that Jenkins had already obtained for him.
He did a U-turn remembering his daily jog and searching for the unincorporated road. Jenkins stepped on the break when he turned into the neighborhood where it had all happened. Just shy of the Batchelor, LA City limits he slowed down as he came upon the yellow house where crime scene tape wrapped around the entire yard. Going up the driveway he stepped on the break, put it in park as he stared at the yellow house with the boarded up windows.
With his hands firmly on the leash Jenkins stepped down from the truck coaxing Dexter to follow. The grass had grown up high enough to conceal Cody’s blood. Dexter hesitated on the sidewalk trying to get his bearings.
“Come on boy!” Jenkins commanded, smacking his hands on his thighs.
Jenkins fished out a copy of the house key then unlocked the door. The front door gave way easily and Dexter’s front paws echoed across the hard wood floor. An eerie silence enveloped him as the stench assaulted his nose almost knocking him to his knees.
Jenkins’ eyes had to adjust to the dim light a moment until he could see the hectic mess before him. The entertainment system was knocked over on its side, the flat screen TV crushed. The glass coffee table lay shattered in a million pieces.
Dexter barked three times then enthusiastically sprinted toward the source of the smell. Jenkins almost let the leash slip as Dexter headed off in the direction of the kitchen but he battled for control of the end of the loop of the leash again.
Dexter lapped up the rotten spoiling meat on the floor by the broken refrigerator where maggots made their home. The door to the refrigerator had busted at the hinges and the light could be seen in the seams. Open, broken cabinets and broken dishes were on the floor.
It was clear to Jenkins when he walked about looking room by room some kind of conflict had ensued throughout the entire house. He found himself in the bathroom where a broken mirror’s shards of glass were strewn about the floor. The medicine cabinet mirror completely destroyed, leaving Jenkins to believe it wasn’t so much an external conflict with an unknown intruder, but an internal conflict in Cody’s mind.
No sense stalling any longer, he thought. Jenkins and Dexter made a beeline for the bedroom. Cody’s door was in splinters with only the doorframe remaining. Jenkins tried to control the leash while Dexter ran around in circles the aromas making the dog crazed. The stench overwhelming him, he instinctively pinched his nose against the powerful smell of ammonia.
Cody’s dirty clothing was strewn all across the piss covered floor. A grouping of five deep scratches crisscrossed the length of the walls, a dozen or so in number littering the paneling. Jenkins looked at the boarded up window that Cody shattered while escaping.
Jenkins gathered some of Cody’s clothing putting them in a gym bag as a thought ran through his mind, if there is not a new horrible disease in Batchelor’s midst then it’s not unreasonable to think there is a new designer drug sprouting up in the shadows and that frightened him.
“Let’s go boy!” Jenkins said, slapping his palm on his thigh.
A strange fleeting aroma like a wet wild dog caught Jenkins’ attention for a second then vanished. Dexter smelled the strange scent too, stalling until Jenkins yanked on the leash to coax him to move. He packed up Dexter and double checked the straps on the ATV before heading out to his next destination, the Pointe Coupee hospital where Cody’s body first went missing.
Before opening the door to let out Dexter in the hospital parking lot Jenkins opened the tailgate and placed the ramps on the gravel parking lot and slowly rolled out the ATV. Pointe Coupee hospital was where Cody disappeared and where Dexter would get Cody’s scent.
Jenkins sat upon the red 2000 Honda TRX300 ATV. It had a 281cc motor and dirt encrusted fenders. A dinosaur of sorts but it had a well maintained engine with sleek new tires with thick treads it would get the job done and it had a rack in back to let the dog rest while the detective crossed the topography.
Gathering Cody’s used clothing he opened the door to let out the anxiously awaiting Dexter, “Let’s go boy, breath in Cody’s scent and lead the way.”
Wagging his tail in anticipation and excitement Dexter stuck his muzzle into Cody’s shirt drawing in a strong scent of his essence. Instantly Dexter had his direction. Jenkins twisted the throttle slowly, just enough to follow Dexter on his leash. His nose to the pavement Dexter paced in the median like a madman on a mission.
Dexter led the detective to a wooded area leading him to a shortcut to a rural side gravel road back to Batchelor. The dog circled around to Jenkins’ old jogging route and back to where Jenkins had shot Cody. He remembered the cold body on the over grown grass. Losing his mind as Cody spouted fangs and claws. He remembered his knife as he kicked it underneath Cody’s body.
The ATV rolled along by Dexter who slowly trudged out into unincorporated borders. He remembered Capt. Rogers and his involvement in the shooting of his son and the crazed paramedic, his compassion and understanding. He knew he could call on Capt. Rogers if things got hairy.
Dexter sat on his haunches; Dexter stoically still until the winds had changed and he caught another strong new scent exploding into motion and b-lining away from the neighborhoods. Jenkins nimble hands throttled the engine moving quickly enough to keep up with Dexter.
The worn shocks coupled by the speed of the ATV, rocks and branches caused the ATV’s body to jar back and forth as Jenkins observed Dexter’s muzzle on the ground. The GPS hooked up on Jenkins handlebars went blank, uncharted territory until Dexter locked onto a familiar scent.
In the distance Jenkins saw a dilapidated shack. He sensed a strange and sinister presence all over the area. Where the thick trees stopped sat a neglected privacy fence spanning the length of the property, abruptly turning ninety degrees where a full deck ran flush. Where the steps to the deck ended a privacy fence stood open. From a decrepit shed in the corner of the yard a bonfire peeked out. The dancing flames casting shadows on the termite infested rotten boards. Jenkins pressed the break stopping the ATV. The choker tightening as Dexter stubbornly pulled against the leash following Cody’s scent.
“Whoa boy, heel.” The detective demanded. Reluctantly Dexter obeyed with a whimper. Jenkins got off the ATV but left it running.
With Dexter leading him on an unfamiliar route and the GPS not computing Jenkins wasn’t sure if the area around the shack fell under the jurisdiction of Batchelor or not. Besides, Jenkins thought, technically he had been off the job he had to call someone. He had no time to think about his options when the screen door opened unexpectedly.
In the front of the shack a screen door swung out, worn rusty springs did little to inhibit the open screen door from roughly closing with a bang. This startled Dexter who immediately stood still, ears at alert, his tail erect. Dexter’s cautious nervous eyes were trained on Aticus who stepped out onto the porch.
A stitched do-rag, a custom Bandana of sorts, could be seen over his extra dark sunglasses that hid the emerald gem inserted in his missing eye. He had one long pointed ear the other one covered and concealed by the do-rag. He saw his sharp cheekbones and long nose, long thin lips. He incessantly licked his lips almost panting in a way. Only six foot four, but he had a presence that made him seem nine feet tall. The detective couldn’t help but shield his eyes from his shirtless and extremely pale but well defined torso. He smelt a musk that reminded him of something wild, something feral. He couldn’t shake the sinking feeling he had come face to face with a primeval malicious entity.
“Can I help you?” Aticus said with an accent thick and strange. He had a sinister toothy smile as he bit into a bright shiny apple.
Jenkins noticed Aticus’ long black fingernails and a cold chill ran down his spine. He could smell something strange but familiar from the bonfire, like a smell of burnt barbecue. He peered into the fire. Was that an arm? No, he thought he must be crazy. But something is strange here!
“Sorry, let me introduce myself. I am Detective Jenkins and I am investigating the disappearance of an ambulance worker.” Jenkins offered. His eyes trained on him, his brain trying to process the strange entity.
“Oh, I see.” Aticus turned his attention to Dexter while slowly ambling off the porch near the privacy fence gate. When he stepped off the porch the dog yelped, skittish of his presence, and suddenly intimidated.
Aticus slowly bent down but his one eye never left Detective Jenkins’ eyes. He reached out a hand to pet Dexter but the dog recoiled to the safety between Jenkins’ legs.
Detective Jenkins pulled out a photo from his pocket that he had gotten out of Cody’s house and showed it to Aticus. He moved in to have a closer look prompting Dexter to piss all over himself, and rollover onto his back in an act of submissiveness in Aticus’ presence. The canine’s fear did not thwart his efforts to pet the shivering dog until Detective Jenkins shook his head in disapproval.
He warned Aticus too late, he dug his filthy nails into Dexter’s soft fur immediately making Dexter frigidly still and whimpering like a puppy. Jenkins felt the dog severely shaking like he was an extreme epileptic.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to touch him!” Detective Jenkins warned.
“Cute dog you have there.” Aticus said, stifling a growl as he stood up. He turned his attention to the photo and tapped the photograph. “I do not believe I’ve met him.”
“Would you mind terribly if my dog and I search your property?” Detective Jenkins asked as he tried to coax Dexter into standing.
Aticus slyly strolled over to the gate and kicked the privacy gate closed concealing the bonfire with the supposing amputated arm with in. “Yes I do.” Aticus told Jenkins patting him on the shoulder firmly.
Taken aback from Aticus’ response Jenkins stepped back and instinctively put his professional game face on. “You know if my dog sniffed out anything suspicious I have the right to enter into your dwelling.”
Aticus could not suppress the growl in his chest, “I do not think your precious dog is going to find anything anyway.”
Aticus looked down at the frightened dog still shaking uncontrollably. Dexter had crawled back in the safety and security of Jenkins’ legs. Suddenly Dexter jumped and darted toward the ATV. The leash in his hand tightened to the breaking point. His hand bleeding as the leash forced it up the length of his wrist, Dexter lie down on the rack and submissively put his head in his paws, his eyes lowering.
Aticus pulled out a combination lock from the tan leather pants pocket and proceeded to latch the gate. Aticus whipped his head around and took off his dark glasses to see his animalistic eye. He flipped up his do-rag made of human skin to reveal a gleaming green gem stuck in his eye socket.
Not prepared for this moment, Detective Jenkins stepped back, taken aback a bit. The investigation surprised him to find a menacing fiend, a malevolent presence, which made him regress to the point of a child leaving detective Jenkins helpless.
He knew he should retreat from this place and call Captain Rogers, a state police officer. Being a Batchelor city police officer he had no authority whereas state police officers had the authority to enter into the shack where the boundaries had changed.
He looked at the frightened dog, Dexter, who buried his muzzle in his limbs his tactics changing, “I’m sorry to have bothered you, your name is again?”
“My name is Aticus,” he tapped at his shiny jewel in his eye socket smiling at Detective Jenkins, his canines prevalent, “my friends call me Ice, but you can call me Aticus…”
Aticus stood on the porch his hand clutching the top of the locked gate. For several seconds A Mexican standoff occurred, each one eyeing the other. Before Detective Jenkins flinched first and turned his head.
“You know you should be careful, you might not like what you dig up.” Aticus said under his breath as he headed into the shack, the screen door closing behind him with a loud clack.
His head reeling he had a strange gut instinct that told him to beware. Without backup he was weary and Detective Jenkins slid his legs over and plopped down on the seat of the ATV. He kicked the gearshift into neutral then slowly rolled from the rock driveway to the gravel road.
From the ATV rack Jenkins pulled out the binoculars then he moved to the safety of concealing weeping Juniper trees. The privacy fence now closed he couldn’t see the bonfire but he could see the heavy smoke coming from it. With the binoculars in one hand he fished out his cell phone with the other and proceeded to call his friend Capt. Rogers.
Capt. Rogers picked up the cell and was now on his way to meet Detective Jenkins. He continued to peer into his binoculars to spy on the house though the privacy fence obscured the right side of the house and the yard. Dexter was content for now to cower on the grass at his feet.
He heard footfalls on the road distracting his surveillance. Capt. Rogers had parked a mile back so as that anyone in the house would not be tipped off by his presence. Jenkins looked Rogers up and down; he was definitely off duty due to the fact of his civilian clothing. They were roughly the same age; however Capt. Rogers and Detective Jenkins had aged drastically different. Both Captains of their respective football teams in high school they were brawny and solid. In fact, in high school they faced off against each other occasionally. However, that’s where the similarities ended.
After high school Capt. Rogers went to college on a full athletic scholarship, Detective Jenkins went into the police Academy and found the love of his life. He found a job in the Baton Rouge Police Department but downsizing led to a layoff and a move to Lafayette where he eventually landed another law enforcement job. Now burnt out and just going through the motions soon this job too stalled out until tragedy happened and he killed his son. This brought about the reunion of Jenkins and Rogers for the first time since high school.
He could no longer show his face in Lafayette and the stress of the loss of their son had led to a divorce. This correlated in a three year long alcohol binge until he eventually landed in the Batchelor Police Department. The loss, stress, and the boozing had prematurely aged him. Though he had line-backer shoulders they were slumped and defeated. The defined lines and bags under his dead eyes droopy and bulldog like jowls. His receding and disheveled salt-and-pepper hair seemed thinner day by day.
A lesson in opposites with Rogers though; he had only climbed to Captain in the Police Department but no further. After Captain, his wife wanted him to climb the ranks of the Police Department. She could see him becoming Major, Commander, Deputy Commissioner, even Superintendent. She even tried to get him into politics, entertaining the idea of becoming mayor or even a Senator of Louisiana someday until she contracted cancer. As he tended to his wife’s needs he had no ambition in climbing the ladder any higher. Brought up to be a simple man with simple ideals he had no stomach for the hoops that he was required to jump through and eventually he squashed the dream or as he defined it, the nightmare, as he took care of his wife’s health needs. When the stress seemed too great he had an affair which did not detour his wife. A perpetual child, Peter Pan syndrome, he seemed ageless as worries slid off his back not a care in the world.
With all his stresses he still stood up straight in stature his tall powerful linebacker shoulders, wide and proud. The worry and frown lines in Detective Jenkins were not evident in Capt. Rogers’ shining complexion with his wide large shining eyes full of life. He always smiled with a mouth full of bright white teeth that accentuated the dimples in his cheeks and indentation in his chin.
“So fill me in, what’s the 411?” Capt. Rogers whispered, extending a hand to Dexter.
From the very start of the incident of Cody’s shooting Detective Jenkins and Capt. Rogers shared information with one another. Detective Jenkins bent down to unfasten Dexter still startled and shivering from the meeting with the eccentric stranger.
“Before the Doc went off grid for going on months now, he had reported Cody coming to life and attacking him with claws and nails. He had planned to use his unused vacation days to find Cody before he too then went missing.” Jenkins watched the shack like a hawk while he waited for Rogers thoughts.
“He thought his sickness had him hallucinating.” Capt. Rogers reported this, his manner stern and cohesive, very matter of fact.
Capt. Rogers smiled when he looked into Detective Jenkins clean-shaven face. Beaming with pride, delighted with his friend for professionalism; he could not think of the last time he had been shaved and clean since the shooting accident.
“Okay right, run it through to me again with fresh eyes, so to speak. You got up for a run morning of the shooting. What did you see?” questioned Capt. Rogers, as he tapped Detective Jenkins on the shoulder and gestured to obtain the binoculars.
One look into Capt. Rogers eyes and he could not shake the sinking feeling of cruel and humiliating judgment. Now with his second shooting…
Capt. Rogers did not feel the same way, though. When it comes to the men and women of the Police Department everyone bled blue. He took Detective Jenkins at his word. He trusted him and backed him up. He considered him a friend and colleague just needing the new specifics that Jenkins could provide.
“In the morning I went for my daily jog, fifteen miles or so to sweat out last night’s alcohol.” Detective Jenkins said, handing Rogers the binoculars, “I’m unsure of what I saw until Dr. Jacobs verified that Cody had a fangs and claws as well.”
You run 15 miles a day?” the odd conversation interrupted as Rogers’ eyes widened in amazement, more a statement than a question Rogers exclaimed, “Look, there’s smoke!”
Alerted to the rising smoke coming from a window in the shack Detective Jenkins exclaimed, “shit, Call 911 I think the shack is on fire!”
Jenkins ran toward the front of the shack without thinking; unincorporated it will take a while for the fire department to respond. Capt. Rogers called for assistance while running towards the deck side of the house by the locked privacy fence. Rogers beat his fist against the privacy fence, the fence blocking his access to the backyard.
“Hey, police!” Jenkins banged on front screen door, then frantically looking back at Capt. Rogers who was still barred at the gate.
Rogers cradled his cell handset sandwiched between his thick neck and shoulder still calling to 911 while he folded up his long-sleeved shirt, revealing his faded tattoo on his forearm; it looked like a homemade jailhouse tattoo, a phoenix rising from the flames. In the back yard in the distance somewhere by the shed Capt. Rogers heard a two-stroke engine firing up.
“Hey, something’s happening!” Capt. Rogers firmly jerked on the combination lock but it would not give.
The shed’s borders exploded, the roof collapsed onto the oil soaked floor. The tin sides burst sounding like thunder as they fell on the ground. A camouflage green ATV emerged with several passengers who held on for dear life.
Capt. Rogers used his gun as a lever to bust the latch secured with two inch nails in the privacy gate. He eventually managed to twist the lock to the breaking point. Rusty nails and rotten boards splintered at his feet. He shoved open the privacy fences with wild abandon just in time to see the ass end of the ATV disappearing into the forest thickets.
“Several people are escaping on an off-road!” Capt. Rogers adjusted his binoculars craning his neck on the phone with emergency services the ATV now long gone from his sight, “I could see what make and model the off roader is. Before it disappeared I could see four or more people!”
Detective Jenkins threw open the screen door had no luck and jiggled the locked knob of the front glass door. He balled a fist preparing to shatter the glass when a figure emerged from the smoke. The stranger put his cheek to the glass. He had tanned skin and high cheekbones. A Native American appearance with long brown dreadlocks he slyly smiled a mischievous toothy smile before he smacked his palms against the glass. His fingernails grew into thick black sharp talons then he proceeded to scratch down the glass permanently scoring it.
“I knew it… Claws, the fucker has claws, I knew it!!!” Detective Jenkins gasped wide eyed in a combination of surprise and validation.
The leaves stirred in the shadowy edge of the fenced in backyard revealing a naked man. He had strangely pale Latino features with long white hair and glowing red eyes. The albino Latino started towards Rogers’ direction on a single-minded mission to destroy. Capt. Rogers withdrew back to the safety of the privacy fence’s borders.
Detective Jenkins attempted to block the door while fumbling for his civilian gun, a snub-nosed 38 caliber revolver at his ankle. The Native American with brown dreadlocks repeatedly kicked the front glass door trying to smash the glass out until the frame groaned and the entire door gave way. The falling glass door left Jenkins off kilter, off balance and he fell off the porch onto his back. Jenkins’ arms shook like a nervous Chihuahua as they try to prevent the heavy glass frame from crushing his chest.
The albino made his way to the privacy fence. Rogers eyes blinked rapidly his mind could not conceive the strange happenings. The white haired ashen bodied figure dropped to all fours, fur sprout all along his spine. Capt. Rogers could see the muscles on his back and shoulders until thick fur spread all along his body concealing pale flesh. The albino altered into a canine monstrosity, tailless with his face changing into a long muzzle complete with long, curved drooling fangs. The white beast’s body built for battle and conflict. All four feet on the ground, its upper limbs still had long fingers with talons instead of paws. The albino monster was a massive wolf thing now but it was engineered so that it could still brawl and stand up right like a man!
Rogers groped for the fence to close the gate, temporarily confining the creature. He put all of his weight into the gate dropping his cell by the fence.
“Jonathan!” Captain Thompson Rogers shouted as the gates swayed back and forth violently the albino Wolf-thing trying to get through the closed fence.
Meanwhile, from the front of the shack black acrid smoke billowed out from the open front door. Jenkins lay on the ground his eyes locked onto the Native American aggressor while he desperately searched for his spare gun. He broke the stare just long enough to find and pull out his revolver, then turned to look into the aggressor’s eyes again to find they were not human eyes anymore. He stared into the vicious eyes of a Brown hued huge Wolf and its yellow eyes hungrily staring back at him.
A Native American Wolf, called Tomas, tried to render Jenkins’ bare throat snapping and biting but the clear barrier hindered the wolfthing. The prone detective could see spittle that dripped down, pooling around the glass. Scared shitless he couldn’t help but void his bladder as he evaded snapping fangs and claws while he tried to aim at a solid mass.
“What the hell is going on?” Rogers exclaimed, known for being cool and calm under pressure, his body shook with fear. He took a deep breath, rolled his shoulders, planted his feet upon the Earth, cocked the hammer of the gun back as he prepared to squash his fear and prepare to fire at the closed gate.
Detective Jenkins strained to understand the bizarre sight of the monster Wolf. He tried to yell out to Rogers, but all he sputtered was, “Claws! I knew he had claws!”
In the front lawn Jenkins pushed the revolver up to the glass closed his eyes and fired. Shards of broken glass rained down on his face. He breathed in with no constriction so he opened his eyes to see the wolfthing standing up right. He stared at the crimson wound on its thick brown fur giving him confidence to shoot again. Two, three, four then a thump as the beast went down.
Capt. Rogers fired. A small perfect hole permeated the wood. He fired again twice. Sunlight peeked through the second and third hole from the faded and neglected wood. He heard a yelp, then a thud; instinctively prompting him to lower the gun.
Detective Jenkins slowly staggered up to Capt. Rogers as he opened the bullet ridden gate. In the lull of excitement they had a chance to gather their wits about them. Rogers planted both feet firmly on the ground while reloading a full magazine clip. Despite his better judgment, he warily looked over at his friend Detective Jenkins and the shack on fire burning bright.
The broken glass door now just a broken frame rested on the concrete. The oxygen that rushed in fed the dwindling fire re-sparking the dying flames by the living-room. On Jenkins’ back side oppressive heat, on the other a severely bleeding wolf-thing lying in the grass as a circle of crimson gore continued spreading rapidly.
Detective Jenkins had a chance to look at the beast more closely. He had a brown furry long torso with the head of a huge Wolf all of the extremities were covered in thick brown fur. Its shoulders, arms, hands and legs looked humanoid except for the feet. The wide feet they were extremely long the heel of the foot could double as a reverse knee. He cautiously moved closer to the wounded beast his feet did not leave the ground scraping the concrete.
The privacy fence squeaked open and Capt. Rogers rested his pointer finger firmly on the trigger ready to fire. Detective Jenkins bent down the brown beast stirred startling him. Capt. Rogers locked onto the white beast. Patches of blood could be seen on its fur confirming the fact that he hit it though the gate had been closed.
In the distance a blue-winged Teal perched in the Cyprus trees where below squirrels ran under the moss. An alligator sat sunning itself on the river’s edge while watching the mallards swim. The pair of Wolf-things perked up, their ears oscillating, homing in on the faint reverberations. There came a howl, a command, an order to come back to the pack. Both the brown and the white monstrosities turned to face Detective Jenkins and Capt. Rogers respectively.
Detective Jenkins trained the handgun at the brown beast but froze, mesmerized by what he saw. The fur receded from its body, cracking and popping as its muzzle reverted to a human face. A humanoid visage with long Brown dreadlocks, glared at detective Jenkins. The massive wounds of the Wolf changed into a human chest and abdomen pushing out the foreign projectiles. The bullets fell down onto the grass and the skin seemed to heal itself until only a red blood stain remained.
So, too with the white wolf as it reverted into its human form the bullets fell to the ground leaving the pair of policeman speechless. Though in denial, dazed, and in disbelief both men were prepared to fire again if attacked. However, with a growl they turned around and on all four limbs they ran off into the safety of the woods, the brown haired man had turned left behind the shack and into the woods also leaving the Officers to deal with the fire. No hesitation, no thought at all, both men entered into the shack, with Detective Jenkins going in first.
“Thompson, find the fire extinguisher if they have one!” Jenkins yelled as he tried to find something to quench the flames.
Thompson Rogers ran around room to room trying to find the extinguisher. He finally found the extinguisher on the floor gathering dust by the living room closet. Scooping up the canister he squeezed the handle fighting several deliberate fires. Finally, they heard the line of sirens getting closer.
Rogers looked at Jenkins’ smeared soot covered face with an ear to ear smile. The soot concealed the numerous lines on his face remembering how long it had been since he had smiled. He felt good for his friend, irrefutable evidence had been seen by both and the experience somehow softened Jenkins eyes a little bit.
“I can’t believe…” Rogers shook his head.
“I know, right!” Jenkins interrupted Rogers and looked at him.
Jenkins too covered in soot from head to toe a funny but satisfying feeling came over him. They were equals. Even if the experience turned out impossible to prove Jenkins knew in his mind that Rogers now lived through the strange experience too.
The whining of sirens and the hectic commotion by the front door told Jenkins and Rogers, the fire department had arrived. Several firemen rushed them outside to safety. They were forced to twiddle their thumbs until the fire chief gave the all clear.
The report from the fire Chief had been a sobering experience. Apparently the people in the shack had been cooking some type of synthetic drug just mere hours ago. He moved toward the lumpy blood soaked couch and bent down to move the bloody comforter. Jenkins smiled even wider. He had a lot of questions, but at least he had found Cody’s body.
“Well, I’ll be!” Rogers said.
Stepping over the debris in the hallway the closet to the back bedroom the stronger the ammonia smells were. He wisely put on his officer issued latex gloves and went around tracing the secret sigils but careful so as not to touch the walls and contaminate the crime scene.
“Damn it, Amy is right! We were this close to finding answers!” Rogers remarked to himself.
“Capt. Rogers, Capt. Rogers,” a uniformed officer tried to get Capt. Rogers attention while the Capt. stared at the weird markings on the wall, “we’re missing the owner of the house, Michael Miller, the brother of the distinguished Col. Miller who went off the grid a long time ago.”
Jenkins and Rogers huddled together exchanging secret glances as they exchanged shortwave walkie-talkies.
“Way to go, Dad, you made a friend.” A clean perfect translucent face untouched by the soot and smoke whispered into a grieving father, detective Jonathan Jenkins’ ear.
The apparition gestured to the dual walkie-talkies Rogers and Jenkins clenched in their hands.