The Hunter ran through the woods, free of all obligations and responsibilities. Ahead of the hunter, ran his prey, a man who wore a red flannel shirt, blue jeans and a baseball cap. As the man ran, he’d cast quick glances back losing a little ground every time he did so. The hunter could smell the fear, and in the Hunter’s heart there was a smile as big as the old oak tree. The man tripped over a root and the hunter sprang, landing atop the man with a growl. The Hunter looked into the man’s eyes, they were light blue, unlike the yellow of the Hunter’s eyes. The man started to scream.
Blood pounded in the Hunter’s ears, the smell of fear was intolerable, and he had to stop the smell from emanating from the man. The Hunter’s sharp teeth made short work of the man’s throat, silencing the man’s screams and silencing the smell as well.
The Hunter circled the freshly killed prey examining it, then sat and howled. The Hunter’s voice was the shrill battle cry of one who had protected its territory. After he howled, the Hunter feasted.
Sparrow Hospital was dark. At the end of the hall, the nurse’s station softly lit the surrounding area, the nurse who was doing paperwork, softly hummed to herself. For Marc Madron to get past her was child’s play. It was past visiting hours, so Marc had to be quiet. It wasn’t every day that he’d sneak into hospitals.
She’s gotta be around here somewhere. He’d heard from his friend Bud that Janie had been taken there after her accident. He’d always kept up with what Janie had been doing with her life after she they’d broken up. He’d seen her sink down and hang out with the sleaze. He’d seen her get hooked up with that scummy, violent bastard John. Marc had heard stories about John giving beatings to people in bars over the bar tab.
The few times that Marc had spoken to Janie since, she’d seemed kind of happy, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. . . because she’d seemed distant and hurried, like she didn’t want to talk to him. That bothered Marc, because they’d hit it off when they’d firs met, and he knew that they’d always be friends, but she seemed to be drifting away and that scared him.
Marc walked along, trying to remember just what the room number Bud had told him. Room 509, 510, oh yeah, here it is, 511.
Marc opened the door. There she was. Janie had long, darkish blonde hair, blue eyes and an elfin face. Marc knew it sounded sappy, but it seemed that when she smiled, any room that she was in would light up. The person who lay on the bed any other time would look very beautiful, except for the bruises over her face and the arm in the cast.
Marc sat in the chair next to the bed and stared at her. Her regular breathing had a calming effect on him. Why am I so wound up? Janie yawned and sat up in bed. She smiled at Marc.
“Hey, dude, what are you doing here?”
Marc shrugged. “Bud told me that you were here, and this was the only free time that I could seem to scare up, so I thought that I’d come and see you.” He stared at her. “So how did this happen?”
Janie livened up a bit. “Man, it was the weirdest thing, Marc. I was going up the stairs to mine and John’s apartment with groceries when the top stair broke and I fell. The next thing I knew, I was here.”
Marc knew that it was a bold faced lie, he’d talked to Janie’s neighbor, an elderly black lady with glasses, who lived next door to her and John at the top of those stairs. It seemed that Janie had indeed come home with groceries, but had been accosted by John at the top of the stairs, and at the top of his lungs. He’d accused Janie of cheating on him and started to beat the shit out of her. When Janie had tried to fight back, “He cracked her one across the jaw and she fell down the stairs! Bam! Bam! Bam! Hell, that’s when I called 911!”
“Janie, I really care about you. . . and I’d like you to move in with me to get away from him.”
Janie held up her (uncasted) hand and showed him her ring finger. “Marc, you know I’m engaged. Besides,” she added quietly, “John would not like that at all.”
Marc sighed he’d known that she wouldn’t go for it, but he felt that he had to try anyhow. “All right Janie, you’ve made your choice, but I want you to tell your boyfriend that if I ever find out that you’ve ‘fallen down stairs’ again, he’s the one who’s going to be in the hospital.” Marc stood. “I’ll be seeing you around Janie.” And I hope it’s not in a morgue the next time. “I hope that you’ll be happy with. . . him.”
Marc walked out of the hospital room, but Janie didn’t notice. She was crying. She wasn’t sure why, perhaps it was because she felt that she lost her only true friend.
Marc hated the morning, especially when he was hung over. Marc had spent the majority of the previous evening at Bob’s Bar (which was conveniently situated across the street from Marc’s apartment) trying to forget. He’d done a pretty good job if it too. He entered the outer office to the Gibson Detective Agency and said good morning to his secretary Christine Woo, and went into the only place that he felt that he could relax: his office. He sat at his desk and buried his head in his arms. His head was pounding.
He heard his door open and he looked up. There stood Christine with a glass of water, a bottle of aspirin and a shit eating grin.
“What the hell you laughin’ at?” he asked through clenched teeth. He put his head down again.
Christine set the water and aspirin on Marc’s desk and then sat in the chair across from him. She regarded the hung over man in front of her for a moment, then finally, “You went and seen her last night didn’t you?”
“Yes,” he said into the desk, “I went and seen. . . saw her last night.”
“What did she say?”
“Chris, I’d really rather not talk about it.” She ignored him and leaned back putting her feet on Marc’s desk. He couldn’t resist the sarcastic comment that was begging to be said, so he gave in, “Make yourself at home.”
“Janie said that she wouldn’t leave the dick, didn’t she?”
Marc nodded sadly as he choked down a couple of aspirin and drank the water. “I don’t know what’s wrong with her. She’s beautiful, she’d be smart if she’d apply her intelligence, and she could have any man she wanted–”
“Yes Sigmond Freud-ette, including me. I just don’t understand why she puts up with this asshole beating the shit out of her.”
Christine stood and took the aspirin bottle and put it in her purse. “You gotta remember that she made her choice when she hooked up with this asshole. Besides a majority of battered women either have themselves convinced that it was somehow their fault, or that the man will somehow miraculously change. You can’t change her mind until she wants to change her mind.”
Dave nodded. “I know, but I don’t have to like it.”
Christine decided to change the subject. “Anything new on the wolf?”
Marc shook his head. “No, I’m going to the police station to ask for the file on the first attack. Other than that, I’m at a dead end.”
Marc thought that the wolf case was interesting, that was why he’d volunteered for it in the first place. There was this alleged huge “wolf” (at least that was what the press was calling it. The local paper would call it anything to make it newsworthy) going around the city and the surrounding countryside mauling people to death, and then dragging and leaving the bodies to rot in the woods. It had gotten to the point where people were afraid to go out at night. Gibson Detective Agency (in particular Marc) had been hired to find the wolf and destroy it.
Marc, over the course of the investigation had discovered a number of facts. First of all, it was entirely possible that it wasn’t a wolf. While the tracks of a wolf are generally bigger than that of a dog, the footprint was all wrong, the footprint of the “animal” that was doing the killings was huge. If it was a wolf, it was a huge wolf.
Secondly, when any animal kills its prey, it usually eats it on the spot, but every body had been dragged at least a quarter of a mile into a nearby wooded, or secluded section of the city. Another anomaly. It just didn’t fit with any creature in the animal kingdom. Except man. And he could be discounted because of the teeth marks and footprints.
Thirdly all of the victims had been either drug dealers or hard-core users. So while the police weren’t really busting their butts to solve the case, somebody was concerned enough to find out who or what was killing the people of the city, and that person had remained anonymous.
Marc decided to quit thinking about for a while and to sleep off his hangover for about an hour.
While Marc slept, he had a weird dream about being chased through a cornfield, by a huge wolf.
Marc awoke with a start, sweating like a champ. Shit. I’m gonna havta stop drinking myself into hangovers.
He grabbed his keys off his desk and headed out of the office before Christine could ask him where he was going and what time he’d be back, and before any of other detectives could ask him to stop by the police station and get some information. (One of the main reasons Marc was hired was the fact that Marc’s best friend Bud worked at the police station as the head of the records department, thus giving Marc semi-easy access to information.)
Marc drove to the street that Janie lived and parked across from the door to the stairs to her and John’s apartment. The noon sun was hotter than hell, and sweat was pouring out of his armpits and forehead. Having the radio on or the window open was no help, so he decided to grin and bear it, and started to eat his french fries and Big Mac, which tasted like hell.
After about an hour, Marc’s patience paid off. John came strolling out the door, wearing a jacket. Something was bulging underneath. A jacket in July? Shit, if that ain’t suspicious, I don’t know what is.
John McAllister was a relatively short, dumpy man. His hair was semi-long and somewhat greasy. He always seemed to have at least three days facial hair growth on his chubby face. When Marc first met John, he decided that he didn’t like him, and he liked John even less when he read his police record. It read like a resume for criminal conduct
The first entry on record was at age seventeen for assault and battery. It went downhill from there, and for the most part the record was like that. Drunk and disorderly here, theft there. It wasn’t until John turned twenty-one when the first possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell showed up.
Marc knew that if John was dealing marijuana back then, that he’d probably moved on to bigger and better (more lucrative) things. But the problem was that after a couple of those convictions on those counts (for which Marc thought he served ridiculously short terms), his record cleared up. That meant that either John had either cleaned up his act (very unlikely), or that dealing in the hard stuff was paying off enough so that John could afford a great lawyer (very likely).
As soon as John emerged from the door, he looked both ways and started to walk down the side walk. Marc got out of his car and walked along the opposite side of the street. Who you meeting John?
Marc followed along and stopped when John went into a cafe. Five minutes later, he emerged with another. The other person looked like a college kid. At least, he was dressed like one, right down to the Ren and Stimpy T-shirt. They walked over to the alley of the cafe and disappeared into it.
Marc jaywalked (jayran?) across the street and peered around the corner into the alley. Yep, I figured that’s what you were up to you asshole, only this time I going to have proof!
He took his camera out of its case and screwed on the zoom lens. Again, he peeked around the corner, this time looking through the camera. Good, the transaction was still taking place. Marc started clicking pictures, chuckling silently to himself. Well Janie, you said that you didn’t want to leave him. Well now you’re going to want to. Hell maybe I’ll go to the police instead. If I can’t take you from him, I’ll take him from you.
At that moment, for some reason, John looked up. In fact he looked right at the camera. “Shit,” Marc mumbled to himself. John ever the proper businessman, finished up the deal and started to walk quickly towards Marc. Well, I’d say that it’s time to leave. Marc ran back across the street to his car and drove off first to a 1 hour photo mart and then to a bar to celebrate.
The Hunter prowled that night, searching for the right type of prey. It found none where it was looking, but that was OK, it was still a long time until dawn, that was when he slept and the humanity came out (or so he thought). The Hunter relaxed letting his mind wander.
Sneaking in here is getting easier every time, thought Marc as he slipped into Janie’s room again unnoticed. Even when I’m drunk. Man I wish I knew how I got here.
Janie was awake, reading, she looked up in Marc’s direction.
She put down her book. “What are you doing here?”
“Janie, I couldn’t leave things like I did last night. Look I know that John has a looooong record.”
“He’s changed. He’s got a good job.”
Marc rolled his eyes. “Janie, the fucker deals drugs. That’s a good job?!”
“He doesn’t sell drugs! He just buys them. . .” Her voice trailed off, but it was too late, Marc had figured it out.
“Shit Jane. You hid it pretty good. Don’t go back to that asshole, Jane. Check yourself into a clinic.”
Her eyes started to tear up. God I’m awfully emotional lately. “He doesn’t deal drugs! He loves me.”
Marc thought, Ahh, fuckit. and threw the packet of pictures to her.
“Yeah he sure loves something, but it ain’t you Janie. I’ll see you around.” Marc walked out of the room and out of the hospital.
A tall female passed by the alley were he hid and the Hunter’s heart smiled. Here was some prey. It was a woman who reeked of something bad. There wasn’t any sport in it, but he was an animal who preyed on other animals and there was the hunger.
Marc’s right. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. John just cares about his damn Camaro, not about me. John does care about me, he gets me the things that I need. John hit me. He though I was with some other guy. He wants to protect me from them sickoes out there, that’s what he said. John is a sicko, an animal, he belongs in a cage.
Janie picked up the phone and dialed the police station.
After the Hunter finished eating he lay down and rested next to the carcass of the female that he’d taken down. Then he heard it, the sad wail of the flashy cars. He followed the sound to the road next to the park, and when they passed, he followed, curious, keeping in the shadows.
There were four flashy cars parked outside a door with stairs going up into the building. There was hollering, then a crash and several loud noises that hurt the Hunter’s ears and made him afraid. The fear passed and soon the men in blue looked out the window and waved down to the others on the ground. Then, he smelled something. The Hunter nervously moved to the very rear of the alley where he could survey all that was going on, also mindful of the fact that he was boxing him self into a corner.
A while later, the blue men left satisfied with what they’d found, and everything was again quiet and dark. The shadows were even deeper, hiding the Hunter even more.
The dumpster stirred and the lid opened, and a man emerged. Although he was covered in garbage, he smelled strongly of something bad. The man got out of the dumpster and walked out of the alley. The hunter followed curious as to where the man would go, after all, this was a potential future meal.
The man walked several blocks to a parking ramp. The walk there nearly put the Hunter to sleep, it was so boring. The man walked into the parking ramp got into a blue truck and drove off. The Hunter ran along aside in the shadows, barely breaking a sweat.
The truck pulled up to a big white building that smelled familiar, perhaps because it smelled of both good and bad, and the man got out and went inside, leaving the truck running.
The Hunter waited, laying down and putting it’s head in its paws (claws?).
After what seemed an eternity to the hunter, the man emerged, dragging a screaming female with him. The female’s screaming hurt his ears, and he wanted to kill her for it, but not yet. It didn’t seem like the right time. The man took out a piece of metal (A GUN!) shaped like an L (A GUN!), and hit the woman in the head several times with it. She became limp, that is except for one arm. The man put the woman in the truck and drove off.
The Hunter followed.
This time for sure I’m going to stop drinking. Marc sat at his desk with his head in his arms, nursing his poor head with t.l.c. and lots of aspirin. The door to his office opened and he looked up, sending shards of pain through his skull. It was Christine.
“Marc, have you saw today’s paper?” He carefully shook his head and mouthed the word “no.”
“Well maybe you ought to read it.” She dropped the front section on his desk and plopped down in the chair across from him.
“Make yourself at home,” he said, completing their little ritual.
He read the headline: WOMAN MAULED TO DEATH BY THE WOLF . The story went on to detail about the as of yet unidentified woman found in Potter park. Exactly the m.o. of the “Wolf”.
He looked up and shrugged. Christine said, “Not that, further down.”
Another story on the front page loudly declared: WOMAN KIDNAPPED BY ARMED MANIAC FROM HOSPITAL. The story went on to tell how the as of yet unnamed woman was kidnapped by an unidentified man. The police were seeking out the man she was living with for questioning.
Marc looked up to Christine. “Janie?”
Christine nodded and leaned foreward. “Tell me Marc,” she said. “How does this make you feel?”
Marc shot her his “eat shit and die” look.
Call Bud at police records, tell him that I’m coming over and that I want to see John McAllister’s record just one more time. I think I know where he took Janie, but I gotta double check the location, it’s somewhere he feel safe.”
Christine smiled. Now this was the Marc that she remembered. In action and on the case (well, he wasn’t on a case, but she figured what the hell, at least he was showing that old spark).
“I’ll call now”, she said, and went out to her desk.
Marc grabbed his keys and his coffee cup and quickly left the building.
Marc drove strait to the police station. When he went to the basement, where police records was, Bud was standing there waiting for him, and he greeted Marc with a worried frown. When Marc entered the office, Bud closed the door behind them.
“Coffee?” Marc shook his head. Bud gingerly sat on his desk, upon which there was a mountain of files. “What’s going on Marc?”
“You remember Janie?” Bud nodded. “Just between us, she’s in trouble, and I’m going to get her out of it. Why?”
“I asked because Detective Reed asked for John McAllister’s file just after your secretary called. I was able to get most of it on the copy machine. You remember Reed?” he asked as he handed Marc the copies.
“Oh yes, the fat prick.” Marc rolled his eyes he’d had run ins with Detective Reed on other cases. The two didn’t get along at all. “That’s just wonderful,” he mumbled as he read through the file. He folded it, put it in his pocket and stood. “Thanks Bud, I really owe you a lot. See ya!” Marc dashed out of Buds office.
That afternoon Marc went to his hometown of Gardner.
Three days later Marc was still in Gardner.
Gardner was where Marc, Janie, Bud and John McAllister all grew up. It was a sleepy little rural town in Mid-Michigan. Nothing much ever happened in Gardner (at least that’s what Marc, Janie, Bud and John thought because they’d all moved to Lansing. All for different reasons though.).
The most exiting thing that happened around there was the weekend when the “grown ups” would hit the bars and the young-uns would hit the back roads to get blasted on beer.
Marc sat in a dark corner towards the back of Drucker’s Tavern, one of the four bars in the town. He was half watching some old acquaintances play pool. They didn’t recognize him, he’d changed a lot, and as long as he had a beer in his they didn’t care who he was. Marc’s mind really wasn’t on the pool game going on, he was waiting for John to arrive. Marc knew that John would show up eventually, it was just a matter of time. He didn’t know how he knew that, it just seemed natural.
Predictable as ever, Marc mentally gloated as John strolled into the bar. This wasn’t the John that Marc knew though, he looked nervous as he walked up to the bar.
John appeared as if he hadn’t shaved since that day that Marc took the pictures. Marc turned his back to him as John scanned the crowd for anyone suspicious. Satisfied that no one in the bar was threatening, John sat down and ordered a beer.
Marc was patient, after all he’d waited for three days for John to show up, besides he wanted to know just why John would give of the relative safety of his hideout to go to the bar.He’s meeting someone. The waitress came back around to Marc, but he declined another beer, he had to keep his thoughts straight for the rest of the evening. Marc had a feeling that things were finally going to come to a head.
Soon, to Marc’s surprise, that fat fuck Detective Reed entered the bar. He saw John sitting there. Well, thought Marc, maybe that piece of shit is good for something after all. Reed sat next to John and smiled. They shook hands. Well, maybe not.
Marc was too far away and the bar was too loud to hear what he said, but Reed apparently asked John a question. John threw up his hands in exasperation. He obviously didn’t know the answer. Reed stood and moved for the door. He motioned for John to follow.
Marc quickly slinked out through the back door of the bar and got into his car. By the time he drove around to the front, Reed’s police car was just pulling out of town. Marc could tell that it was a police car because of the taillight configuration (a little talent that he’d picked up living in Gardner). Marc followed with his lights off. He wasn’t concerned, after all he knew the area roads like the back of his hand.
The Hunter waited, it wasn’t quite time to come out yet for the evening, besides, he’d been waiting for three days. He could wait a little longer.
Janie was being held in John’s deer hunting cabin. When she’d first started going out with John, they threw parties there. Now the fucker had been keeping her there, locking her in whenever he left.
Janie was scared shitless. Her body ached from sleeping on the hardwood floor and from John’s frequent interrogations (which usually consisted of him screaming “Who else did you tell you slut?!? Some boyfriend?!?” and beating the her senseless and she screaming and crying at the same time, “Nobody! I don’t know what you’re talking about” then cowering in a fetal position while he started kicking her).
Yes, Janie had definitely seen better weeks.
The only window in the cabin was too little to squeeze through, so she didn’t bother to try to break it to get out, it would only give her a cut hand and give John yet another reason to let fly the fists.
She was watching out that window when she saw the cop car pull up. Her heart nearly burst out of her chest. It was about time. The driver’s side door opened and a really fat man dressed in a polyester suit with no tie got out. He was laughing. Soon, he would come to the front door, unlock it and she could go home–her entire body froze. The passenger door had opened and John got out. He too was laughing.
Tears of frustration welled up in Janie’s eyes. The whole situation just wasn’t any fucking fair. She saw something moving in the shadows. Was it her imagination? No, there was definitely something out there. She wiped the tears from her eyes to get a better look, but she shear the door unlock and open behind her. A voice said, “Now, little missy, what’s this I hear about you bein’ difficult?”
John, always ready with the dramatic flourish, cracked his knuckles for effect and Janie cringed at the “interrogation” that was coming up.
Outside the Hunter waited. It was almost time to make his presence known.
Also outside was Marc. He was crouched in the bushes next to the deer cabin listening to what was going on inside. What was going on inside sounded like this to Marc:
“Who else d’ja tell?” Smack.
“Well?” Smack smack.
Marc decided right then and there that John was less than a man, the was a God damn animal, and that fat prick Reed wasn’t much better.
As soon as he decided that, something startling happened to Marc: He grew fur.
This is an interesting development, he thought as his hands and feet (somewhat painfully) became half paws and his fingernails and toenails became talons.
Marc ran his tongue across his teeth. His canines were also growing at an alarming rate.
He stood up and looked at his reflection in the side window of the cop car. Yellow eyes on the face of a decidedly ugly pooch looked back at him. While what stood there was decidedly not human, it was also no wolf. It was more of a man-wolf (with the emphasis on wolf).
No wonder I couldn’t find the son of a bitch! Marc smiled at his pun and his tongue lolled out of the side of his mouth. He was going to get Janie out of there, then deal with those two evil bastards his way. If they wanted to act like animals, he’d treat them as such.
I wonder how strong I am like this, he pondered as he literally kicked the door in (and across the main room of the cabin). Oh. Reed was leaning up against the wall opposite to the door, and was missed by inches as the door crashed into, and part way through, the wall. His eyes grew as wide as saucers and he tried to back away from the monstrosity that stood before him, which was to no avail because although it was smashed to hell, the wall still stood in his way.
John, who was crouched over Janie with his fists balled up, looked up with horror (actually it was more like terror). Marc sent out a light kick, and to his satisfaction felt a couple of ribs give away and John fly away as well. Marc gingerly picked Janie up and carried her to the door.
Reed, who by that time had (kind of) come to his senses and fumbled out his gun, let out a couple of shots. The first hit Janie in the neck and the second hit Marc in the ass. A fire like pain raced up and down his right leg and a primal fear gripped him. Marc went out the door like a bolt of lightning.
John dragged himself to his feet at looked around. Blood was splattered across the door jamb and that. . . thing was gone with Janie. He looked over to Reed. “What the hell was that?”
Reed shrugged, trying to look calm, but his eyes were still the size of saucers. “I dunno, but I got it twice. I think it’s that wolf-thing everybody’s been talking about.”
John leaned against the door jamb, and blood soaked into his shirt. His side hurt like hell and every breath felt like knives were cutting up his insides. “D’you think it’ll kill her?”
“How the hell should I know? What do I look like? Zookeeper-man?” Reed calmed himself down. “We gotta go after it, the little bitch’ll talk if she gets away from it.”
John nodded. They went to the cop car and got John the Reed’s shotgun and a couple of flashlights. It would be easy to track it, because it left one hell of a trail of blood.
The Hunter was scared and retreated into humanity.
Marc carried Janie about a quarter of a mile before his leg gave out. When he inspected himself, he was surprised to discover that he was …