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HomeHorror StoriesThe Son of Project 12 - Part 1

The Son of Project 12 - Part 1

It was a quiet town — if you could call it that. A few houses scattered throughout the deep forests of Northern Ontario bound together by nothing more than a one-lane gravel roadway that you could conquer with mild strides in less than twenty minutes. So small was this humble community of laidback country folk that their town didn’t even have a name. You couldn’t find it on a map if you tried. In fact, you could almost drive right through it without ever noticing it if you were driving fast enough. It was certainly a small town but as with anywhere, it had its secrets, even if they were far and few.

There were few children here but there was no school for miles. There was no town hall, no grocery store or even a fire hall. However, there was a police station. That was where George Pinstack ventured to first from the dusty gravel road where he waved goodbye to a hitchhiked maroon four by four as it sped off into the wilderness.

It was quiet, as if the entire town was sleeping. There wasn’t a soul to be seen and only the birds filled the cool fresh air with their chirping melodies. The sound of his footsteps seemed extra loud against the gravel as he made his way towards a worn brown painted porch that stood before the police station door. He glanced in the single open window on the right before knocking three times on the door.

No one answered at first. Standing there he wondered if he was at the right building; after all, it was nothing more than a small bungalow house rather than a place of law enforcement. Then, to his right, he noticed a small rectangular board hanging on the wall next to the door with the hand-carved words, ‘POLICE STATION’, and he knocked two more times.

The door opened suddenly and there stood a burly man, clean shaven, balding under a plain dark brown baseball cap and wearing a pair of snug fitting slacks to match. His short-sleeved button-up shirt held a badge over the left side of his chest that gleamed with a dull shine that simply read the word, ‘sheriff’ and nothing more. It looked like something one might find at a local dollar store. Nevertheless, he presented himself with the upmost of confidence and small-town pride, extending his hand to George as if he had been expecting him.

“You must be Mr. Pinstack,” he said as George returned his greeting with a firm shake of his right hand. “I’ve been expecting you. I’m Sheriff Druxy but you can call me Tim. Come on in.”

The overall impression of the building’s interior was anything but overwhelming. Six-feet from the door stood a small granite countertop with nothing on it but an old black spiral cord telephone. Between the wall and the counter was a tight walkway that led to the main artery of the station — a single rectangular desk with a light gray CVT computer monitor accompanied by a small and cramped kitchen area where a fresh brew of coffee had just finished percolating.

“Come on back, Mr. Pinstack,” Sheriff Druxy said with a casual come-hither of his left hand as he made his way straight to the kitchen counter where he began to pour himself a mug of wake up juice.

“Coffee, Mr. Pinstack? It’s fresh.”

“No,” George replied. “No thank you and call me, George.”

“Alright,” replied Tim as he took a sip of coffee. “So, tell me, George. What kind of name is, Pinstack anyway?”

“I don’t know. An unusual one, I suppose.”

“Well, I’m sure you’re kind of tired and given the urgency of the situation here I think its best we skip the formalities and get right down to business. We’ve got a killer out there on the loose and we need you to catch him.”

George was somewhat taken aback.

“A killer? Judging by your discrepancy on the phone, I was expecting something a bit less . . . well, I’m not sure but a killer. That sounds more like a job for, well . . . you.”

“Well, you see the thing is we aren’t just talking about your average killer. This is somewhat of a monster with bright glowing red eyes, hair all over its body, tall unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. Now, I’ve tried to find this thing myself but I haven’t been able to track it but I’ve got a feeling it’s still out there.”

George was rolling his eyes on the inside in absolute disbelief as he interrupted the sheriff already wondering if he could somehow hitch a ride back to civilization before nightfall.

“I’m sorry, Sheriff. I think you’ve got me confused with someone else. I don’t hunt monsters. I’m a private detective.”

“Ya but you were once in the FBI, U.S government right? I read it on your web page. You’ve probably seen all kinds of stuff like this; unusual creatures and what not.”

“Despite what you might have seen on T.V, the real thing is nothing like that.”

Druxy took a long sip of his coffee, leaning back against the counter as he stared into Georges’ eyes. He finished with a subtle smack of his lips and an even more subtle nod of his head.

“Nonetheless, I got a good feeling about you. I think you’re just the man for the job.”

George was a little confused. It seemed as though the sheriff wasn’t taking no for an answer. Nevertheless, he had already made up his mind. He wasn’t about to waste his time here in the middle of nowhere chasing after a supposed ‘monster’ running loose in the woods.

“Thank you for your time, Sheriff but I’m afraid I’m going to have to pass on this one. How do I go about getting back to the city before sun down?”

“Now hold on just a minute there,” Druxy pleaded, chasing after George as he began heading towards the door. “Please hear me out. Now, truth be told I don’t have a clue how to catch whatever or whoever is terrorizing this little town of ours but dammit, there’s something out there and folks around here are scared. I’ll pay you what we agreed on in full, upfront if you want. Hell, I’ll even pay you double if you bring me something good. At least try; give it a day or two and then if you still think there’s nothing here for you, you can leave with no hard feelings. You won’t hear a peep more from me. Please.”

There was a unique mix of vulnerability and desperation in the sheriff’s voice, one which both touched George’s heart a little and gave the slightest credibility to his story. After all, for a hard rural grown man such as Druxy to be begging for his help like this there had to be something going on in this town that was at least unusual, perhaps a bit dangerous. With a moment of hesitation, he accepted the offer.

They drove down the gravel road in Sheriff Druxy’s single cab pick-up truck. It was bumpy and George was getting a bit queasy. Thankfully, it was a short ride, no more than two or three minutes.

“You’ve probably got few questions about all this and I wish I had all the answers,” Druxy rambled on. “Thing is, nobody around here knows much about what’s out there. The only one who’s seen it is old Mrs. Radford. You can stay with her while you’re here. It’s not a hotel but she’ll be more than happy to fix you three squares a day and you can stay in her son’s old room. He moved down to the city years ago and only comes by at Christmas. Her husband passed away three years ago so she’s glad to have the company. She’s expecting you. She’ll be able to tell you more about what she saw. You’ll just have to speak up when you’re talking to her. She’s old and doesn’t hear that well.”

When they reached the old white siding two story house, Sheriff Druxy knocked twice on the door with a heavy closed fist. They waited patiently before knocking again as anyone would for an elderly woman living on her own. Finally the lock on the door began to turn and the door slowly crept open and there she stood before them; an old frail looking woman no more than four-feet tall hunched over as if she should be accompanied by a cane. Her hair was just short of shoulder length, white as snow with a bit of wave from one side to the next. She looked up at them through a pair of golden-colored frames encasing thick bi-focal lenses that amplified her big bright blue eyes.

“Evening, Mrs. Radford.”

“Sheriff,” she replied with a pleasant voice and a gentle smile. “Come on in.”

“Oh, now you don’t have to call me, Sherriff on account of company,” Druxy said as he and George stepped inside.

“Then you don’t have to call me, Mrs. Radford either,” she replied wittingly. “So tell me, how was the peach pie I made for you. I changed the recipe a little.”

“It went down just fine. It was fantastic. I’ll bring back the plate just as soon as I finish the last piece. I got a date with it, a cold beer and the game tonight.”

Mrs. Radford chuckled as she lightly patted his forearm, welcoming him in with a few steps towards the front hall.

“And you must be Mr. Pinstack,” she said, greeting George with a nod and a friendly smile.

“Yes, that’s me,” he replied, examining his temporary surroundings. “Please to meet you, Mrs. Radford.”

“Come on in you two. Can I get you something to drink?”

“Well actually, I’ve gotta get going,” Druxy said, tilting the rim of his cap. “I’m sure George has got a few questions for you. I’ll catch up with you tomorrow, George. Let you get settled in so the two of you can get acquainted.”

As soon as the door closed behind him, George followed the little old lady toward the kitchen. Beyond it was a double sliding back door that revealed the wilderness that was no more than twenty-feet from her backyard. There was a small wire fence that stood before a stout wooden picket fence and beyond it was the forest. It seemed to run across the entire backyard from one end to the other.

“Can I get you something to drink? Are you hungry?” Mr. Radford asked.

“No thank you,” George replied. “But I would like to hear a little more about what happened here in your backyard.”

She quickly scurried over to the back door — as swiftly as a woman her age could go — and pointed straight towards the back as if she had been waiting with anticipation to tell him her story.

“It was right out there, right in the open. I raise chickens. Of course now I keep them in a coupe but until the incident I let the roam freely in the yard. One night, I can remember it as clearly, I woke up to an awful ruckus outside. I could hear the chickens in a stir. At that hour they’re very quiet so I found this sort of odd. I figured that it was probably a coyote after one of the hens; perhaps somehow it had made its way past the fence. But when I came downstairs and looked out the back window, I was shocked to see that it was not a coyote. It didn’t look like any animal I had ever seen before. There it was, feasting on one of my chickens. It was tearing at it with its teeth, holding it in its big hairy hands taking its fill like some kind of savage.”

“You say it had hands. So this was a man?”

“Well. Not really. I suppose it looked like a man but this was no person. This creature didn’t look human at all. It looked more like an animal than you and I, only much taller, covered with hair and . . . naked.”

“Naked.”

“Oh yes. Very naked. Not a single piece of clothing.”

“You must have been quite frightened.”

“Yes, very much so. Especially when it looked up at me with those glowing red eyes. It was almost as if it knew that I was watching it. It looked at me for moment, I was too afraid to take my eyes away from it. Then it dropped my chicken as it ran off into the forest. It jumped right over that fence with a single step as if it were nothing,” she said pointing at the three-foot tall fence dividing her backyard from the pitch black forest.

“Glowing red eyes?” he questioned.

“Yes. They were very bright, like two shining red flashlights.”

“And it ran off, on two feet?”

“Yes.”

“Are you sure? It must have been pretty dark. Is it possible that you could have been mistaken?”

“Yes. Very sure. I know what I saw, Mr. Pinstack and it wasn’t an animal or a man. This was something much different.”

The next morning, George woke up early just after the crack of dawn. He nibbled at a home cooked breakfast of bacon, scrambled eggs and buttered whole wheat toast before making his way to the backyard.

The air was a bit crisp, nipping at his nose and fingertips as he wandered about in search of some kind of clue as to what Mrs. Radford might have seen. He could hear the chickens clucking and scratching about in the pen as well as the songs of a few birds from within the forest. Other than that it was quiet; still as country air should be.

His hand gliding along the pointed top of the fence, George strolled down along the property line as if drawn to the forest beyond. He knew there was something for him just waiting to be found; that old feeling in the pit of his stomach grumbled away as it always did when he was onto a lead. Although he placed no real stock in Mrs. Radford’s description, he was curious nonetheless. Even if he was on the lookout for nothing more than a wild animal with a taste for chicken, the detective inside of him was working overtime, yearning for answers.

His fingers sudden gave touch to a soft clump of what seemed like fur wedged between the pointed vertical fence boards. It had concealed itself well, easily missed by the average eye. Carefully, he pulled the brown clump from within the fence and held it in his hand, stroking it with his thumb. Its texture was like that of any typical animal that he knew of, soft with spots of coarse grey hair. He was certainly no animal expert and this was hardly a case solver so he placed the fur in his jacket pocket, the feeling in his gut still speaking to his curiosity.

As he approached Police headquarters he could see Sheriff Druxy leaning over the railing of the front porch with a steaming fresh cup of coffee as if he had been waiting for him. Making eye contact, Druxy stood up and took a long sip from his plain white mug before nodded hello.

“Morning, George.”

“Good morning,” he replied, already retrieving the clump of mysterious hair from his pocket.

Druxy had caught sight of it as quickly as the morning light shined upon it. “What do have there?

“I found it wedged in the fence in Mrs. Radford’s backyard. Does it look like the hair or fur of any animal you know of?”

Druxy held it up, inspecting it with curious eyes and a careful yet attentive touch before handing it back to George.

“Doesn’t look like anything I know. But I’ll tell you who might be able to tell you. A fellow named, Dale Benshaw. Lives way out down by Bear Creek. He’s a bit of a hermit; likes to keep to himself and doesn’t come around a lot but no one knows these woods like he does. Real old school too when it comes to hunting. Doesn’t use a gun. Kills everything he catches with a bow and arrow or a knife; something else, I tell ya. If anyone could tell you what kind of animal this is from, it would be him.”

Bear Creek?” George questioned with concern.

“Ah don’t worry. Not much truth about that name, at least not these days. Besides, if there were any bears wandering around those parts, old Dale would have taken care of them by now,” Druxy replied humorously. “If you like I’ll take you up there this afternoon. It’s about a twenty-minute walk through the forest.”

“I’d like to head there this morning.”

“Well, let me finish my coffee, grab my gear and we’ll hit the trail.”

“Actually, I think I’ll go out there alone, if that’s alright.”

“With all due respect,” Druxy replied. “I don’t think that’s such a good idea given there’s a wild beast of some kind running around out there.”

“We don’t know that yet. It’s how I do this. I only work alone, always have. Besides, I was an eagle scout in my younger days; got the sewing badge and everything. I’ll be alright,” George countered, throwing in a little humour to lighten the mood. “Just point me in the right direction.”

Druxy stood there in silence for a moment, unsure of a decision. With a mighty sip of his coffee the words reluctantly flowed from his mouth.

“There is a trail that starts not far from here. Just look for the sign and follow the path until you hit Dale’s house. Can’t miss it. Small log cabin, little rough around the edges, kind of like Dale himself. Just stick to the trail, you’ll be alright. You’ll know you’re almost there when you see an old blue house just off the trail. Another ten minutes from there you’ll hear the river flowing. Dale’s house is right by the edge.”

George wasted no time making his way through the forest. Armed with nothing more than a bottle of water and curiosity, he trekked down the narrow path in search of the cabin. What Sheriff Druxy had said would be a twenty-minute walk had now been a little more than thirty and although it seemed he was straying further and further away from any known civilization all on his own, he wasn’t afraid. He had the thrill of the hunt to comfort him; drive him through the mosquitoes and tree branches that scraped and slapped against his neck and face.

He was coming up around forty-minutes or so. Stopping for a brief moment to rest, he began to wonder if he had strayed from the original path or perhaps he was just a tad bit slower than the average hiker around these parts. Nevertheless, the break to stretch his legs and suck back the fresh wilderness air was pleasant enough to fade away any all concern of his whereabouts.

Reassurance came when he noticed the blue house that Druxy had spoken of not far within the trees to his left. He could see it as clear as day, small in a clearing of chopped logs next to an old red Jeep Wrangler by the front porch. It was quiet, silent of life as if no one was there; maybe there wasn’t. It didn’t matter anyhow. He had no business there and neither did he have any interest in mingling with the likes of some backwoods hermit living in the middle of nowhere with nothing more than his thoughts, whatever they might be.

He took a long drink from his water bottle, his eyes straight ahead on the path he was on when suddenly, his head spun back to his side at the sound of a branch snapping as if under the weight of someone’s foot. It was loud enough to create an echo that startled him — definitely more than that of the average forest dwelling critter. Just as peculiar, it seemed to come from somewhere around the little blue house.

His mind raced with possibilities as his eyes scanned the surroundings of the house and beyond. But there was nothing. No signs of life or movement. Perhaps, he thought, it was only his mind playing on his suspicions of a wild carnivorous animal dwelling in the woods or the vastly outlandish tales of the locals of the crazed murderous man-beast. Whatever it was, he slowly screwed the cap back on his bottle and moved on, refusing to let his imagination get the better of him.

A few steps forward he stopped in his tracks, almost jumping back at the sight of a pair of steel jaws directly in his path. It was a trap of some kind but nothing like he had ever seen before. With teeth as long as a human hand spread wide enough to engulf a bear it looked as though it had been made recently. The steel that it was made of was still clean besides a few random spots of surface rust. He guessed it belonged to Dale Benshaw and if so, he wondered just what kind of animal he was hoping to catch in it.

It had been another ten minutes before he had reached the log cabin by the river, encountering a few more traps similar to the other along the way. The cabin seemed desolate as if no one had lived there for quite some time. The only indication of recent life was an axe protruding from a half split log by a flameless cold fire pit. He took a good look around before approaching the front door, knocking three times. When no one answered he knocked again while hollering out with a friendly greeting.

“Mr. Benshaw? Mr. Benshaw, are you there? My name is George Pinstack. Sheriff Druxy said you might be able to help me with something. I’d like to talk to you if you have a moment.”

But no one answered. George knocked another three times.

“Mr. Benshaw?”

Still, there was no response.

He drew the conclusion that no one was home. A tad bit frustrated, having walked so long and far into the forest, he began his journey back to town with no more answers than head come with. But the day was still young and he now had new questions in his head about the strange ferocious-looking traps he had come across which he had found strangely set off along his way back, empty and absent of prey.

When he arrived at the station he found Sheriff Druxy inside comfortably seated at his desk sipping on yet another cup of coffee and feasting on a complimenting chocolate glazed donut. He seemed completely in his own bumbling element, pleasantly amused without the aid of a computer screen or even a magazine, firing elastic rubber bands at the bare white wall by the front counter. One would think that with another presence in the room that his game of aimless target shooting would suddenly cease but it didn’t; not without a final three shots that left his desk empty of ammunition.

“George,” he greeted, followed by a swig of his coffee. “So, what did Dale have to say?”

“He wasn’t there,” he replied.

“Ah, probably out hunting.”

“Just what kind of animals does he hunt?” George questioned. “There are traps out there big enough to cut a man in half.”

Druxy chuckled softly as he wiped his hands with a crumpled up napkin from his desk.

“Could be anything; moose, deer. Old Dale always has been a creative individual when it comes to hunting game. He ought to be. He lives off of what he catches. A man of the land — always has been since the day he was born. His father was the same and his father before that.”

“Well do you know who might be setting them off?”

Druxy looked somewhat confused. “Not sure. Couldn’t tell you anything about that.”

“The house in the woods; the one with the blue siding. Who lives there?”

Just then a man came barging through the front door. He looked distressed, sweating and out of breath with an overly concerned expression on his face as he rushed to Druxy’s desk.

“It’s Nash!” he exclaimed. “You’re going to want to see this.”

They drove down the main road and down a hiking path not far into the woods. There they came to a crowd of five people standing around something, those with the stomach to do so, staring down at a horrific scene.

Druxy was quick to plough his way through the small crowd only to find that what they were surrounding was far more gruesome than he had expected. There, at their feet was the body of what looked like a man, or at least most of one. Torn and mangled, the body lay in complete disarray — the chest had been ripped clean open from neck to groin, the left arm and right leg severed as if torn with an awesome force, nowhere to be seen. There was a head, although no one there could have possible recognized the face, having been slashed and torn at in the same manner as the body. The only thing that revealed his identity was a small tattoo of a buck’s head on his upper arm that could still be seen beneath the blood. Druxy himself flinched back at the horror.

“I’m putting this town on high alert,” he announced with a stern authoritative voice. “Everybody get back home. No one goes out at night and no one leaves the main road.”

When they got back to the station, Druxy quickly rushed over to the gun cabinet. He unlocked it in the blink of an eye and quickly grabbed hold of a shotgun which he wasted no time loading with ammunition.

“Are you packing?” he asked George as he harshly put a box of shells on the counter.

“No,” George replied.

“You got a license?”

“Yes.”

Druxy popped a clip into a nine-millimetre pistol and placed it on the counter in front of him, looking straight into George’s eyes.

“You are now.”

The town had suddenly become quiet; even quieter than it had been before. There were no signs of life the next day. Anyone passing through would think of it as a ghost town, empty of people, handed over to nature for it to consume. The only one brave enough to walk outside of a locked door and into the open was George. He was still convinced that this savagery was the work of a man and so he headed back off into the woods for clues on the path directly towards Dale Benshaw’s house.

The forest was silent except for the normal melodies one would expect from the creatures that dwelled within. Approaching the very same blue house he encountered the very same traps but this time it seemed the one closest to the path had caught a tree branch in his absence.

He knelt down to take a closer look, his mind racing through the many possibilities of how the thick branch could have found its way locked within the cold steel grasp of the penetrating jaws. Sure, it was feasible that it had fallen from a tree above but that seemed unlikely to him. Perhaps the wind had blown it there but a breeze strong enough to lift such a large branch would be nothing short of a hurricane. No, this seemed more like the work of man.

“Hello there.”

George spun up and around, startled at the sudden greeting behind him.

“Sorry to startle you. The name’s Martin, Martin Schmit.”

He was as normal-looking as anyone George knew although he didn’t seem to fit in around here. He wore clean-cut dirty blonde hair had a thin build and looked to be in his mid forties or younger. He wore a red and black plaid jacket that was exceptionally clean and seemed just a tad too small for him as he stretched his hand out with his greeting.

George patted his right hand against his pant leg before shaking the man’s hand.

“George. Nice to meet you.”

“Well, George, what brings you all the way out here?”

“Just a stroll with mother nature.”

Martin nodded slightly.

“Is this your house?” George inquired with a slight glance towards it.

“Yes.”

“Do you happen to know whose traps these are?”

“Nope, not mine.”

“Do you have any idea who has been tripping them?”

Martin knelt down, lightly caressing the end of the stick as he took a look at the trap. “Well, I can’t help you with that. There are a lot of hunters out here at this time of year. They could belong to anyone.”

“What about Dale Benshaw. Have you seen him around lately?”

The stranger stared at George with somewhat suspicious eyes, giving him a quick but noticeable glance from head to toe.

“Who exactly are you, George?”

“I’m just guy looking for answers.”

With another wary stare and a pause, Martin cracked a very faint grin that seemed to curl up to one side of his face.

“You look thirsty, George. Why don’t you come inside for a drink.”

George was much obliged.

Once inside, George took a seat at what looked like a homemade pine table and two chairs in a small but cozy kitchen. Martin poured him a glass of water from the tap and then took a seat at the table with him, wasting no time in inquiring more about his new found acquaintance.

“So, you say you’re looking for answers,” he asked with a faint yet friendly smile. “Just what kind of answers?”

“I’m looking into the rumours floating around here. I’m sure you heard about Mrs. Radford’s story.”

“I head a few things in passing. Truth be told, I don’t get out much. Please, enlighten me on anything I might’ve missed.”

“Well,” George continued. “She claims she saw a strange creature in her backyard one night. Says that it ate one of her chickens, looked straight at her with a pair of glowing red eyes and then ran off into the forest. She claims it stood upright like a man, even ran like one only it wasn’t a man.”

Martin spat out a quick chuckle.

“And what do you believe?”

“At first I didn’t give it a second thought. The idea of a man-beast running loose through the forest attacking chickens seemed a bit far out there but now there’s the murder. Now I’m not so sure.”

“Murder?” Martin questioned.

“You haven’t heard?”

“Like I said, I don’t get out much.”

“A body was found not far off the main road. They called him by the name, Nash. What was done to this body . . . well, I’ve never seen anything like it. It almost makes you wonder.”

“It sounds terrible,” Martin responded, staring off into a sudden daydream at the pantry door.

“Did you know him?”

Martin quickly snapped out of it, his head spinning back at George.

“Hm?”

“This Nash fellow, did you know him well?”

“Yes,” Martin replied. “Ya, I knew him very well. He was a good man.”

Then Martin looked straight into George’s eyes with a subtle yet serious glare. The faint smile that had been on his face a moment ago had now fallen.

“Are you a reporter, George?”

“No. I’m a private investigator.”

“A private investigator? Who hired you? Was it the Sheriff?”

“I’m afraid I can’t tell you that.”

“I’ll take that as a yes.”

Martin nodded ever so slightly, his eyes squinting as he stared at George as if he had something on his mind.

“I’ll tell you what, George, the private investigator. If you’re into hearing stories, I might just have one I think you’ll be interested in hearing and it doesn’t involve monsters.”

“You don’t say,” George replied, intrigued.

Martin’s enthusiasm grew slightly. His hands became more illustrated and his tone more energetic yet cautious as if there were other prying ears listening close by.

“Man to man, George, I think we can both agree that there are no unknown man-eating creatures out there in these woods. Anyone who tells you there is, well, they’re just steering you away from the truth.”

“How do you mean?”

“It’s funny you should mention a body found torn to shreds. The way you described it, doesn’t sound like the work of any animal I’ve ever seen. Sounds almost . . . human.”

“Human,” George repeated. “Do you have anyone in mind?”

“Well, if I were you, I’d be looking into whoever keeps setting these traps around here.”

“Dale Benshaw.”

Martin nodded with a slight shrug of his shoulders as if to silently suggest ‘yes’.

“Why would you suspect him?”

“The other evening I was outside on the front porch when I saw him running just slightly off the same path you came here on. He looked a little frantic, like he was running from something, covered in blood.”

“Well, I hear he’s quite the hunter, George replied, his sceptical mind inquiring. “Could it be that he had gotten a bit of animal’s blood on his clothes?”

“No,” Martin assured. “He was covered, from head to toe and that’s not all. Sometimes, late at night, I hear footsteps outside walking through the forest, always towards town. One night I caught a glimpse of him in the full moonlight. It was him, I’m sure of it.”

George sat there in silence for a moment, unsure of how to respond to such a tale. It didn’t seem at all farfetched; no more so than the wild man-beast at large. The idea of human murder took the highest standing in his mind again. After all, Martin lived fairly close to this mysterious ‘Dale Benshaw’ and it didn’t seem impossible that a hermit living deep in the forest who killed for sport could have murderous tendencies.

“It sounds like something out of a movie, I know,” Martin said leaning forward on the table, his voice suddenly more serious. “You don’t have to believe me. I don’t blame you if you don’t. After all, you’re a private detective, you’re going to find out for yourself but before you go sniffing around the wrong tree, let me tell you this. The others; the ones in the town. They know about this. They have for a long time. Maybe not all of them but most of them do. Things out of the ordinary tend to get swept under the rug if you know what I mean. Folks around here like things to stay quiet, the way they are even if it means hiding something like this. You say the sheriff called you. Whatever his motives are for bringing you out here, I’m sure he knows more than he’s letting on. I wouldn’t trust him if I were you. I wouldn’t trust anyone. I only tell you this in good faith at the risk of my own life. Things aren’t what they seem to be around here.”

“So let me get this straight,” George replied. “You’re telling me that Dale Benshaw may be responsible for the chickens in Mrs. Radford’s backyard as well as the murder in the woods and that the town knows about this.”

“Like I said, you don’t have to take my word for it. It sounds crazy but I’ve seen what I’ve seen and I know what I know.”

“If this is true,” replied George. “Why would Sheriff Druxy call me? He brought me here.”

“The same reason they bring outsiders here year after year; to feed the beast, so to say — the man you’re looking for. He can’t keep killing townspeople. They do their best to look after their own. A little fresh bait from time to time seems to keep his urge at bay, at least for a while.”

George sat in silence for a moment more, his head processing everything that he had just heard. He then stood up and offered a friendly handshake before heading for the front door.

“It was nice meeting you, Martin.”

Making his way down the front steps he could feel Martin’s eyes piercing his back. It was a hard penetrating stare as he stood in the open.

“And, George. We never met and we sure didn’t have this conversation. I can trust you, right?”

George nodded with an assuring grin before continuing on his way. Although he found such a comment peculiar, he paid no mind to it.

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