Tuesday, December 29, 2015
ONE FOR THE BOOKS: PART ONE
ONE FOR THE BOOKS (A Jacob Slade Story)
By Daniel Skye
PART ONE: HOWLER
Jacob Slade hears voices.
No, he’s not certifiable. He’s not suffering from schizophrenia or any acute mental disorder.
Jacob Slade is telepathic.
He struggled to cope with the voices throughout his childhood. He was the only one who could hear them and he was convinced something in his mind had snapped. It wasn’t until he got older that he realized the voices weren’t in his head. They were in everyone else’s.
But this rare gift still remains a mystery to Slade. He knows it has something to do with the number ninety-nine branded into the flesh of his forearm.
He knows it’s connected to Project Blackbird, a secret government experiment conducted when he was a child.
He knows others that were volunteered for the experiment. And he knows who volunteered him.
Karl Booth was his legal guardian at the time and signed the release. They had promised a better life for Jacob. And Karl had the best of intentions. He never suspected they’d be turning Jacob into a mutant.
Though, Jacob had made quite a living off his gift. He was the only Supernatural Investigator on Long Island. Hell, he was the only S.I. in New York.
He’d like to think his first brush with the supernatural occurred when he was a teenager. He spent summers as a dockworker. His boss, Alan Smith, let him crash every season in a stationary trailer that had running water and electricity.
Smith’s house was also on the property and he had this huge stone gargoyle on his porch that his wife found repulsive and begged him to part with. But before he could, Jacob had witnessed what others could only see via the use of psychedelic drugs.
He watched the stone gargoyle transform before his very eyes, becoming flesh and blood. It took flight, but not before claiming Smith’s head as a trophy. Jacob never saw the gargoyle again, but after that day, Jacob never looked at these grotesque sculptures the same way again.
But truth be told, his first encounter with the supernatural came as a child, before Booth became his legal guardian.
Charlotte Slade, Jacob’s mother, was murdered. Her body was found gnawed and mangled, her throat slashed to ribbons. It had not been the work of a man. It had been the work of a Howler.
* * *
“I hate funerals,” Jacob heard someone behind him mutter. Or perhaps the words had never been spoken aloud. Perhaps he was hearing voices again. Whatever the case might’ve been, Slade couldn’t help but silently agree.
Funerals gave him the creeps, made him feel like a thousand insects were crawling all over his skin. After every funeral he attended, he craved nothing more than a hot shower and a strong, undiluted drink.
This particular funeral was for Harold Moss. At age seventy-six, Harold was happily retired and Jacob could not deny that he had lived a long, full life. But that didn’t negate this senseless tragedy.
Someone had torn Harold Moss limb from bloody limb.
Everyone knew Harold Moss and his story. He married his high school sweetheart and had three terrific children, all of whom were in attendance on that grey October morning. He opened and operated a successful hardware store and eventually invested in a laundromat. He ran both businesses until he turned sixty and decided to call it quits.
Harold used to dress up as Santa Claus every Christmas and hand out gifts at the hardware store for the less fortune kids of Dorchester. He was even more generous at Thanksgiving when he’d have warm turkey dinners delivered to all the homeless shelters.
There had been quite a turnout for Harold. He was an esteemed man who had touched many lives in the Dorchester community. The mourners were all clad in respectable black attire and Jacob Slade tried to blend in with them, tried to avoid being spotted by the local law enforcement that were in his presence.
He spotted several deputies commiserating in the center of this large gathering and inched his way further towards the back. The deputies mocked and ridiculed him for his status in the community. None of them took him seriously. Only Sheriff Booth gave Jacob any credence.
Although they had established a good rapport, Karl Booth had to keep their friendship and their past a secret from his subordinates for fear of losing their admiration. But Jacob wasn’t interested in their opinions. Not on that day, at least.
What brought Jacob to the cemetery that day was morbid curiosity. The wake and funeral had been closed casket as Harold Moss’s body was in no condition to display.
They had found his body out in the woods, maimed beyond recognition. The deputies had no leads, and no wild animal theories to go on. This wasn’t the work of a herd of deer.
Slade knew whatever or whoever killed Moss would strike again. And he was merely trying to assess what they were truly up against. He saw Booth to his left and they locked eyes, but Booth only gave him the slightest nod of recognition before he looked away.
They had collaborated a number of times in the past. Slade was the one who caught Donnie Zito when the spirit of the Wendigo possessed him and drove him to cannibalism.
And he collaborated with Booth a second time when the spirit of Wendigo awakened from its slumber with a rapacious appetite. Slade had saved the town from vampires and ghouls and mad scientists and everything in between.
But something told Jacob this was no malevolent spirit at work. Something had savagely killed Harold Moss. But this was not the work of a human. This was the work of an animal. A beast. One that Jacob was all too familiar with.
This was the work of a Howler.
As the funeral ended and the crowd dispersed, Jacob caught up with Karl Booth as he was walking to his squad car.
“This is just the beginning,” Jacob warned him.
“What are we dealing with?” Booth asked, looking around to see if any of his men were watching. It hurt Jacob a bit, but he understood Karl’s position. Booth couldn’t afford to lose the respect of his deputies. He couldn’t have them questioning his judgment or looking down on him.
“Is this that Winnebago thing again?”
“Wendigo,” Jacob corrected him. “And no. This is not the Wendigo. We’re dealing with a Howler.”
“Lycan. It’s basically a werewolf. However, unlike werewolves, Lycan’s don’t have to wait for the full moon. They have the ability to transform at will.”
“Why not?” Booth shrugged. “We’ve already had vampires and evil Native American spirits. It was only a matter of time before the werewolves crashed the party.”
“Your men need to be alert at all times. But obviously we can’t tell them what we’re dealing with here. Just tell them we’re most likely dealing with a serial killer and to be on the lookout at all times.”
“And what are you going to do?” Booth asked.
“Lycan’s are not my area of expertise,” Slade confessed. “But I know someone who is a bona fide expert on the subject.”
“That sweet old lady who lives on the hill? She’s an author.”
“And she writes horror for a living. Werewolves are her specialty. She knows the mythology like the back of her hand.”
“Mythology?” Booth said, unfamiliar with the word.
“Just let me handle this,” Slade sighed. “I’ll let you know when I have more information.”
* * *
Lenore Foster’s old redwood house was perched atop a short hill. You don’t see too many like them nowadays. Jacob pulled into her long, sloped driveway and parked his pickup behind Lenore’s Prius.
He rang the bell a few times before she pulled herself away from her typewriter. Lenore was as old fashioned as they come. She couldn’t use a laptop or tablet to write her novels. First she’d write them longhand, then she’d type it up.
“You know I can’t think of your name without thinking of Edgar Allan Poe.”
“Hello, Jacob,” Lenore smiled. She was a gaunt, pale woman who spent more time writing than she did soaking up the sun. But she still had her charms. Her smile alone could warm your heart. “What do I owe the pleasure of this visit to?”
It’d been a few years. Jacob was not the tall, lean, handsome man she had remembered him as. He was still tall as ever, but not quite as lean. He’d been hitting the booze pretty hard and had developed a bit of a gut. His work had taken a toll on him and his looks. He had lines on his forehead, lines and bags under his eyes. But he was still young and Lenore could still see that handsome man she remembered behind that tired face.
He still had that long greasy hair everyone remembered him for. Still wore thrift store clothing and black combat boots. And was still as kind as his mother raised him to be before her untimely demise.
“Harold Moss. Let’s just say his death was no accident.”
“Don’t tell me you think I had something to do with it.”
“Don’t be preposterous. I know you’d never harm anyone in the community. I just came to ask you a few questions about your writing, seeing as how you’re the resident werewolf expert.”
“Why don’t you just read my mind?” Lenore joked.
“You doubt I can?”
“I doubt anyone is capable of such abilities.”
“I know you had huevos rancheros for breakfast.”
“You don’t need to be psychic to know that. I eat huevos rancheros every day for breakfast at Bliss, the café on Clark Street.”
“Fine,” Jacob sighed. “You want me to get personal? A garbage truck ran down your bicycle when you were a kid. It was a pink Schwinn with playing cards attached to the spokes with clothespins. You had just gotten the thing for your eighth birthday. That same day, Blinky, your goldfish died.”
“I never told anyone from around here that,” Lenore gasped.
“I know,” Jacob said. “I read your mind.” He winked.
“Alright, you’ve peeked my interest. What is it you’re here about specifically?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Well, to be technical I think we’re dealing with a Howler. A Lycan.”
“You have to be shitting me,” Lenore said flatly.
“Afraid not. I need to know what can stop it.”
“Silver, but that’s a given. It doesn’t have to be silver bullets, either. Any form of silver will do the damage. It’s like kryptonite to them. But if you want to put them down permanently, silver bullets will do the trick. Oh, little known fact. If you’re looking for a lycanthrope, check their fingers. Their index and middle fingers should be exactly the same length. Rye can also be used against them. It’s like acid to their flesh.”
“Whiskey is one of the most available sources.”
“Thanks, Lenore. I’ll definitely be buying a copy of your new book.”
“And I’ll sign it for you in the blood of a Lycan,” Lenore laughed, feigning amusement. But she couldn’t conceal the terror that existed in her eyes. And something inside that telepathic brain of Jacob told him the terror was only just beginning.
* * *
When Jackie Winters woke up from her nap late that afternoon, she woke with an insatiable thirst. She made a run for the refrigerator and chugged a bottle of water. But that didn’t do the trick. Her throat was dry. It felt like it was closing up on her. So she drank a whole pitcher of homemade iced tea. But she still felt parched.
And her teeth ached. The pain was agonizing. She took one finger and ran them across her gums, which were sore and inflamed. What’s happening to my body? Jackie wondered as she walked to the bathroom. She stood in front of the mirror and gasped.
Her reflection was gone.
She ran her finger over her gums and teeth again and accidentally pricked it one of the sharp fangs protruding from her swollen gums. She flinched, but only for a second as she withdrew and examined her finger in the light.
The sight of the blood didn’t startle Jackie. And this was a girl who couldn’t even sit through Saw or Hostel. The sight of blood usually made her feel faint, dizzy.
But now, the sight of the blood was intoxicating.
Jenny Washburn was Jackie’s study buddy. She had a key to the apartment and let herself in, dropping her textbooks on the living room sofa.
“Jackie?” she called. “Don’t tell me you forgot we made plans to study again.”
Jackie sauntered into the living room, blood trickling from her finger. But Jenny failed to notice.
“Oh, there you are. Hey, did you hear the Hell Cats are in town? Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m missing it. I really wanted to go, but tickets are sold out.”
Jackie just stared at her friend. She had lost all control of her mind, her body. The only thing that was driving her was the thirst.
She walked over to Jenny and gripped her tightly by the nape of her neck, pulled her in, and sank her teeth into her throat. She retracted her fangs and the blood spurted from her open artery in quick jets.
Jackie Winters had quenched her thirst.
But the night was still young…
* * *
“Houston, we have a major fucking problem,” Booth told Slade over the phone. He’d been calling Slade’s office for an hour before Slade got back from his meeting with Lenore. “And you really need to get a cell phone.”
“What’s going on?”
“Just meet me at Hither Hills Cemetery. And bring that bottle of bourbon you keep in the top drawer of your desk.”
Slade hopped in his red Ford pickup and drove down to the cemetery, but not before retrieving the bottle of bourbon at Booth’s request. He arrived to find more than two dozen unearthed graves.
“Somebody dug them up?” Slade asked.
“If I didn’t know any better, I’d say they dug themselves up,” Booth said. “There are claw marks on the insides of every casket lid. Most of them are busted or split in half.”
“Nobody heard or saw anything?”
“Not one witness,” Booth shook his head. “But I called the boys at the county morgue. Several bodies are missing. One of the toe-tags was involved in a bad car wreck. Lots of blood. They found bloody footprints leading towards the exit. The car victim’s shoe size was eleven. It looks like a match.”
“You’re holding back. What else is there?”
“How do you know?” Booth asked, brushing his hand through his thinning grey hair. He was getting up there in age, and the stress of the job often ate away at him. Every day, he’d find more hair in his sink. Every year his hair grew thinner, his bald spot grew wider, forming that classic horseshoe-like pattern. And if that gnawing feeling in his gut told him anything, he’d be losing a few more hairs before this case was closed.
Jacob didn’t say a word. Just tapped his head.
“Right, the telepathy. Okay, you want to know? First let me see that bourbon.”
Jacob produced the bottle and Booth took a big swig. He passed the bottle back to Jacob who took a swig of his own to brace himself for what came next.
“One of my deputies found Jenny Washburn’s body an hour ago. She had two puncture wounds on her throat. Sound familiar?”
“Impossible,” Jacob said and took another sip. It burned his throat, but the burn quelled his fears. “We killed Cole Winmore and put an end to his followers.”
“So I suppose Cole Winmore is the only vampire in the world?”
“You don’t even believe in this stuff.”
“After tonight, I’ll believe anything.”
“This is getting weird, Sheriff,” Slade said. “Weird even for my tastes. I’m going to have to bring Drake in on this one, with your permission of course.”
“Permission fucking granted. But whatever you do, we’ve got to keep this quiet. There’s a big concert tonight and if words get out, there could be a riot.”
“That’s right, the Hell Cats are in town. Don’t worry, I’ll keep a lid on this. And I talked with Lenore. She gave me some useful advice. We’re going to need silver. A ton of it. And squirt guns.”
“Squirt guns? Why the heck would you need a squirt gun?”
“You’ll see,” Slade grinned. “Just see what you can do with the silver. I’ll get the squirt guns and the whiskey. In the meantime, let me know if any of the bodies pop up. I’m going to find Drake first, before things escalate…”
…Too late, Slade thought a few moments later as he drove up River Street and saw several dark, rotten corpses shuffling through the street. They were heading towards Main Street. Straight towards the Hell Cats concert.
To Be Continued With Part Two: ZOMBIE PALOOZA