Becky’s car was the only one inside the garage. Why was it here? Whose house was this? Was Becky inside? Another thought slipped into my wild imagination but I quickly pushed it back.
“Where did you get that?” Trevor asked.
My eyes were locked on Becky’s car.
“I didn’t know you had one?”
I blinked back my tears and tried to silence the voice in my head as I turned to Trevor. He pointed at my hands. I looked down and saw the gun firmly gripped in my right. I had no memory of grabbing it.
I ignored his question but asked my own instead.
“Why is Becky’s car here? Who lives here? What made you come to this house in the first place?”
“Old man Ben lives here. I don’t know why her car is here.”
Movement over Trevor’s shoulder caught my attention. A black mass was moving quickly in our direction. The throaty growls made Trevor turn around. As the black mass took shape in the form of a Doberman, I ran. Trevor was on my heels. The Doberman was picking up speed behind us.
I was running down the street when I realized that the gun was still in my hand. I heard Trevor breathing hard behind me with the incessant barking at our backs. I put the gun in my front pocket, the handle was exposed but at least, it was better than running crazily down the street with a weapon in my hand. I turned the corner and ran into the park. My lungs burned. I tried to catch my breath. I nearly tripped over a fallen tree branch but managed to jump over it. I didn’t dare look behind me. I kept running. Trevor was calling my name. I didn’t stop. He wasn’t behind me anymore. I reached the lower part of the trail that led up into the woods and slowed to a stop.
I turned around and saw Trevor, bent at the waist with his hands on his knees, about twenty feet behind me. The Doberman was nowhere in sight. I eased myself onto the ground. The park was empty. I stretched out on the lush green as the smell of dirt and pine proliferated in the air. It was an odd mixture of scents, but in this instance, it worked. My chest felt tight. I took a couple long, deep breaths.
As I lay there, looking up at the night sky, I thought about everything that had happened since I arrived. Nothing made sense. What happened to Becky? Old man Ben had come to see me. He knew what Becky was doing. Although, Ben spoke nonsense, perhaps in all his crazy babbling there was a hidden truth in his words. Should I tell the Sheriff? Should I confront him?
“Charlie? You okay?”
Trevor was standing over me. I sat up. I was confused. Angry. I had no idea what to do next. I got to my feet and returned the gun to the back of my waistband. I swept the loose blades of grass and dirt off my pants and shirt.
“I need to talk to Ben. I need to know why Becky’s car is in his garage. How did you know? It’s hidden away but you somehow just happened to walk by his garage and look in to find her car? No, Trevor, I’m not buying that. Tell me what the hell is going on.”
Trevor looked away from a moment. He wiped at a few strands of hair that were clung to his forehead. The night was quiet and perfectly still. The street lamps did little to penetrate the shadows from where we stood.
“Becky likes Ben. Ben has seen things too. She trusted Ben. She told me she wanted to go into the woods, get some evidence, pictures of what we knew was out there. I told her it wasn’t a good idea. She had taken pictures before on another occasion, but those photos didn’t turn out well. Ben has excellent camera equipment and she wanted to borrow it. It took a few days to figure out she was gone. She had mentioned about going out to visit you. So, when she didn’t return to her house and her car was gone, I just figured she went to you. And then you showed up.”
“So, Ben was helping her? Why didn’t he tell me? This still doesn’t explain why her car is in his garage or why she can’t be found. I need to talk to him. Rattle his cage if I have to. I need to know what happened to my sister.”
I remembered what the Sheriff told me, how someone had been leaving the animals out in the woods, almost as an offering to the beast. Could that person be Ben? Did Ben have an affinity to that thing in the woods and felt that Becky was going to harm it? So many thoughts rattled in my head that I didn’t know what thought made the most sense. It seemed like each thought had its own set of conclusions but none of them added up to anything.
“Becky must have gone to see Ben the day she disappeared. She wouldn’t tell me know what she was planning or when she was planning to do it. I took a hunch when I remembered Becky talking about wanting to borrow Ben’s camera equipment,” Trevor said.
I was going back there. Ben was an old man. I was a pissed off brother with a gun who needed answers. I brushed past Trevor.
“Charlie! I think we need a plan first. You can’t just go pounding on his door,” Trevor yelled out.
I didn’t care about a plan. I just needed to see his face. I needed to see the answers in his eyes. They say you can tell when someone is lying by the way their eyes move. Again, I am no human lie detector, but I feel that I can gauge when someone is not telling me the truth. This town has given me ample experience in that arena.
“Stop right there!”
A bright light snapped on in front of me. I looked away while shielding the light with my hands. I heard Trevor curse behind me.
“Don’t make another move. Both of you, on your knees, put your hands behind your head.”
I went down on my knees as the light moved away from my eyes. I saw the barrel of the gun first and then the Sheriff, back in uniform, standing before us. He moved past me and went straight to Trevor. I looked behind me. Trevor was still standing.
“Get down on your knees. Now!”
“Trevor, just do it,” I told him.
Trevor shook his head and finally moved to his knees. The last time I saw the Sheriff, which was just a couple of hours ago, he seemed fragile. There were still things that I needed to know from Trevor. If he was arrested, I wasn’t going to get the answers I needed. I had to think of something. The Sheriff holstered his gun and pulled out his handcuffs.
“Sheriff Becket, wait,” I got to my feet.
“Just stay where you are.”
He pointed down to the ground with his left hand.
“Charlie, you said that Becky came to me and told me about the animals she and Trevor had found. Did you know that Trevor, here, didn’t want your sister to say anything to me? He tried to tell her to keep it quiet.”
I looked at him and then to Trevor. Trevor looked away silently. I remained on my feet. The sheriff stepped behind Trevor, pulled his left arm behind his back, and I could hear the clicking of the handcuff as it closed in around his wrist.
“Trevor told me that they both came to you about the animals and you practically laughed at them.”
The sheriff told me earlier that he believed someone had put the animals in the woods but Trevor didn’t know we had talked. The metallic click hummed in the air as the cuff closed around Trevor’s other wrist.
“You know, up until a month ago, no one had seen Trevor. Then he shows up and so do the reports of something lurking in the woods. No one knows where he came from, he just showed up one day. Kind of strange, don’t you think?”
The sheriff had a point. I stepped closer, but this time my attention was directed at Trevor. This was my opportunity to get some answers. I kneeled down in front of him. It took everything in my power not to tear his head off. I swallowed my emotions and took a breath.
“Did you tell Becky not to go to the sheriff? You said that you both went.”
He was quiet. He looked everywhere else but at me. I grabbed his chin and held it still. I made a point to stare at him for a moment. I wanted him to see the pain and anger in my eyes.
“Let go of me,” he spoke through clenched teeth.
“Answer my question.”
“Let go of me first.”
I squeezed his chin harder before letting go. I remained on my knees in front of him, staring at him as he talked.
“I didn’t want Becky to go to the sheriff because I knew he wouldn’t believe us. I was worried since I was new in town, that I would somehow get blamed for it. I didn’t want any extra attention. Hell, I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t even really know Becky either.”
I rose to my feet and turned toward the sheriff. I didn’t know what to do or what to believe. My thoughts flashed of Becky. Her smile. Her laughter. Her car. HER CAR!
I told Sheriff Becket about Becky’s car parked in old man Ben’s garage and how Trevor had led me there.
“I will speak to him. This is a police matter. I can’t have you go breaking down the door. You are too close to this. Let me handle it. I will get to the bottom of what Ben knows. We will find out what happened to Becky.”
I looked back at Trevor. His chin rested on his chest. I didn’t know what to do. Ben had told me that he didn’t trust Trevor but my sister’s car was in his garage. The sheriff stood behind Trevor and lifted him up by his arms, bringing him to his feet.
“I’m going to put him in the car and then drive over to Ben’s and have a talk with him. You should go home, Charlie. I will let you know what I find out.”
Sheriff Becket took a couple steps but then stopped suddenly. I noticed his hand move closer to his hip, hovering over the holstered gun. I wasn’t immediately aware of what got his attention, but when Trevor started to squirm out of the sheriff’s grasps, I got worried.
“It’s coming. Get these cuffs off me. We got to get out of here.”
“Relax,” Sheriff Becket stated.
I looked around me, turning completely around until I heard a low, steady growl. It wasn’t a growl like you would hear from a dog. This sounded more menacing. It was deep. I couldn’t tell from which direction it was coming from. My eyes went straight to the woods, but we were far enough away that there was no chance of anything jumping out at us.
The sheriff moved away from Trevor, his gun now in his hand. He was looking at a cluster of trees in the middle of the park. There was a little light in the park but if it were not for the moon finally making an appearance, we would have been in complete darkness. The trees, however, were mostly void of light. I could only see the outlines of the trees. And then something moved.
“Charlie, we gotta move. It’s not supposed to be here. Come on, let’s go.”
The sheriff walked closer to the trees. His left hand held the gun while the right crossed over his left with the flashlight. I followed the beams blaze as it exposed the trees. The growling stopped. The light beam swept the area around the trees. The trunks of the trees were big enough that something could be directly behind them without being seen.
The quietness was unnerving. The twigs crunching underfoot as the sheriff stepped closer to the trees had an ominous rhythm. If this were a horror movie, this would have been the part when the slow, creepy music played just before the killer jumped out. Trevor stood next to me but he was inching away.
“Do you see anything?”
My voice revealed my fear. It cracked as I spoke. The sheriff’s flashlight beam showed only trees but I felt that something was hidden just beyond its reach. The sheriff didn’t respond as he continued forward. He walked around the trees carefully as I watched the beam of his light circle completely around. The light came back to rest on Trevor and me.
“It’s clear. Nothing here.”
I let out a deep breath.
“Nah, it’s here. We got to get outta here. Come on. Take me to jail. Do what you need to do, but let’s get out of the park.”
Trevor was pacing back and forth. He was scared. He took a few steps toward the street, his arms still cuffed behind his back.
“Don’t go any further,” the sheriff said as he holstered his gun.
I looked back at Trevor. He took a couple more steps toward the street. Something moved in the trees above, falling to the ground. There was a loud barrage of grunts and howls and then screams, all happening simultaneously. Through the darkness, I couldn’t see anything clearly. The screams were unbearable. Snorts. Growls. There was eerie cadence to the horrible sounds that violated my ears.
The beam of the flashlight danced in the air for a moment, then fell to the ground and rolled toward me. My eyes fixed on the flashlight. I could hear his screams. His agony echoed in my ears. It was the most horrific thing I ever heard. Then everything stopped. Silence replaced cries. Nothing moved. The flashlight lay on the ground.
“Let’s go,” Trevor said in a hushed voice.
I couldn’t move. The flashlight was the only evidence that the sheriff had been here. My knees felt weak. Looking up, only shadows stared back at me. Trevor was behind me, urging us to move. I bent down and picked up the flashlight. I had no recollection of walking to the flashlight but I had and it was now in my hand. I felt cold metal rubbing against my back. The gun. I had forgotten all about it.
I slid it out from my waistband. It felt much heavier than it had earlier. With the gun firmly in my hand, I shined the light where I last saw the sheriff. My heart pounded in my chest. It reverberated in my jaw. I swept the light left and then right. Nothing. I pointed the light at the ground and found a dark, wet puddle. Blood. I didn’t know if I was remarkably brave or incredibly stupid, but I followed the trail on the ground. At any moment, something was going to jump out and tear my heart from my chest. I moved forward regardless.
My mouth was dry. There was a pungent odor waffling in the air. I almost gagged. I drew short breaths through my mouth as I inched forward. Looking left and then right. Dark spaces closed in around me. I kept moving as if I were in a trance. One step. Two steps. Stop. Pan the light around. It went like that for a few more feet until my light caught a shoe lying on its side.
I wish I were back in Los Angeles. Or any other place for that matter. Why was I here? What was out here? No animal moved like this thing did. It jumped down from the trees and dragged the sheriff away. What could I possibly do to protect myself? A gun in my hand was as useless to me as a stick. I had never shot a gun before. I would probably freeze and let the thing eat me alive before I could pull the trigger.
Moving past the shoe, I found another. This one wasn’t alone. There was a leg. And then another leg bent awkwardly. The sheriff lay still. I shined the light on his lower torso. Blood was everywhere. I moved the flashlight up but wasn’t sure what I was seeing. A mash of crimson chunks glistened in the light. It took my mind a moment to register what I was seeing. The sheriff’s upper torso was completely torn apart. A bloody pulp rested where his stomach should have been. His insides were now outside. Intestines, I assumed, trailed out of his body, like a long, tangled hose. I bent over and puked.
The smell hit me like a freight train. I couldn’t catch my breath. Bent at the knees, dry heaving, spitting, tears streaking down my cheeks, I was a mess. Something ran up on me. I twisted around with the gun and almost pulled the trigger.
Trevor stopped, his arms still cuffed behind his back. I stood there, gun shaking in my hand as I kept it on him.
“I think it’s safe for the moment but we can’t stand around. It will be back.”
I lowered the gun slowly.
“Get the keys. I need to get these cuffs off.”
I heard what he said but I didn’t move. I couldn’t move. I didn’t want to turn around. Neither my eyes nor stomach could take in another sight of what was left of the sheriff.
“Come on Charlie. It’s not safe out here. CHARLIE.”
I snapped out of it. To get the keys would require to not just look at what was left of the sheriff, but to touch him. Taking three quick breaths, I turned around. I tried not to focus on the gore that was inches from me. The keys were probably in his pants pocket, which was covered with all the crap that used to be inside him. I moved closer and stepped over his entrails. I stood over him trying to get a gauge on where his lower half begun. His pants were covered in blood and chunks of God knew what. I was going to have to touch it just to get to his pockets.
I tucked the gun back in my waistband. I didn’t want to but I needed a free hand. The smell was horrible. My stomach was not a staple of strength. Smells in particular set off the puke button more than anything and this smell was unlike anything I had experienced before. Keeping one hand on the flashlight, I looked around once more. I had the feeling that whatever did this was just waiting in the darkness. Watching.
I moved the light back to the sheriff and reached with my free hand to try to scoop away the bloody matter. It was sticky and slimy. Twice, things slipped out of my hand. I attempted to think of anything else other than what I was touching. I dug in, felt around for his pants. The squishing sound that confirmed my hand was digging deeper into his insides did little to create a different mental image. I reached and found a belt. I wiggled my fingers from side to side and found what felt like a pocket.
Something moved in the darkness around me. I swung the flashlight around but the sound seemed to come from my back, which I couldn’t see from the angle I was in.
“Hurry. We don’t have much time.”
I turned the light back to the sheriff. My hand and most of my arm had disappeared into the bloody mess. I reached further, found the pocket. I poked around until I felt something metallic touch my fingertips. I hooked a finger in a loop and pulled the keys out slowly. Once I secured the keys in my hand, I moved away as fast as I could.
My foot caught something on the ground and I fell forward. The ground came up fast. My head bounced hard on the grass. The flashlight went in one direction and the keys in another. I lay on the ground for a moment. Listening. The night was quiet. I lay there a moment. My head hurt. Before I could move, a low, deep growl stopped me in my tracks.