Finished Werewolf

dogboy

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I wrote "Werewolf" several years ago for this site. Since that time, the story forum was reformatted and the older stories removed. A friend on this site asked if I would re-post it so here it is. It has also been on Nook Book and it remained for two years on their front advertising page with other romantic werewolf stories. It still carries a four star rating.

"Werewolf" was mentioned on Yahoo Answers in a list of quality werewolf and vampire stories. Like all of my stories, it takes a while to develop, so it's probably going to be enjoyed by those who are readers. Unlike "Coffee Shop" and "The Un-training of Stanley Kaminski", it's not a diaper related story, just scary. At least I hope it's scary. It was written as part of a Halloween series that I try to maintain for ADISC. Later this month I'll be posting this year's contribution, "The House At the End of the Road", one that is about a haunting, forced regression and yes, Diapers!.

I love talking about stories so if you want to continue the discussion on "Werewolf", I always answer.

Werewolf​


Gladiolus Street was on the old part of town if you could call Laurel Park a town. It really was a collection of deteriorating, weather beaten houses built more than a hundred years ago on a grid plan, streets running east and west and connectors running north and south. Off of that ran Gladiolus through a wooded area and down to the bay. One hundred years ago it had been a thriving community that made its living from the water, but pollution and over fishing had put an end to that. Now it was simply a collection of affordable housing for the poorer middle class who had to commute further inland where there were jobs. Parents got up early in the morning getting lunches packed and children off to the local school. It would be a long drive to their employment, and they would barely get home before the sun set, especially if it was winter.

Summer afforded more leeway, time spent on the water when vacations allowed. The children ran barefoot on the bay sand, or shoe clad through the paths in the woods, letting their imaginations run wild. But now it was October, the weather getting colder and the sun setting sooner. Parents knew their children would be on their own until they returned from work. This had been a workable solution when times were simple and people, honest. But those times had passed and become non-existent like the fishing. A pall had settled over the town when the first boy went missing.

It had been a warm fall day, a good day to be outside. In fact, playing outdoors had been encouraged because kids inside closed bedrooms sometimes got into trouble. At least, that’s what the Stansburys thought. Their son Todd had seen his fourteenth birthday, and with it, his first girlfriend, Melissa. They had been together earlier that day, but he and his friends had built a tree house deep in the woods. It was a place to retreat and a place to sneak their father’s adult magazines. Todd’s parents would have been sure that their son didn’t need the sexual stimulation, but it soon wasn’t going to matter. Nothing in their life would ever matter again, because that night, Todd didn’t come home. At first they were angry. He knew better than to stay out past five. He was expected to set the table and get things prepared for supper. When the hall clock struck six their anger was replaced by worry. They called Melissa and his other friends, but they were unable to tell or know where he was. By eight they had called the police, and there was a search. The cops questioned his friends and went into the woods, walking the paths and a small perimeter around the tree house. All they found was a piece of Todd’s shirt on the side of the path which led to their aerial fort, a path among so many other paths which led to so many nowheres. They would have to continue in the morning when there was light.

Todd enjoyed Melissa. Though she was his first steady, he knew what he wanted. There were the tree house magazines of course, and he had been on the internet when his parents weren’t around. He suggested that they go for a walk in the woods, something that almost everyone did. At first she was reluctant, but Todd was persuasive, and so she said yes. He reached for her hand and this she willingly accepted, but soon he had his arm around her shoulder. As they walked further, his arm became tired, and it fell a little lower, enjoying the trip south. Melissa protested and asked him to take her back home, which he did reluctantly. Not able to put his now stimulated passion behind him, he thought of the tree house and what would be waiting, hidden in a box. He made his way back to the woods walking the old trails which he knew so well. He thought he was alone, but he was wrong. There were other passions stirring that day, passions from a distant past. They had an ancient hunger, one that was forever linked with the hunt. It could smell Todd and it wanted him. His youth and beauty was an insult to its wanting. It would have it all, smell, taste and mostly, flesh and blood.

A pervasive nagging feeling was creeping upon Todd. It didn’t happen suddenly, but gradually. He looked at his watch and saw that it was almost four thirty. He wouldn’t have long before he would have to return home, but what he wanted to do would be a quick adventure. The days were getting shorter, dusk coming earlier. He noticed the moon making its presence between the trees. The Indians called it a Harvest Moon. Some called it the Blood Moon. On a clear night, it gave off enough light to walk in the translucent dark, even in the woods, woods that should be alive with the sounds of birds and locusts, but there were no such sounds. Those had been replaced with another, one which accompanied Todd somewhere close to the path, something distinctly comfortable in the woods. It didn’t bother to mask itself, knowing that anything with sense would want to avoid it. Todd hurried, beginning to jog rather than walk. The tree house was suddenly in sight. There was only a side path, thirty more feet and then the pleasures of the wooden fortress. That thought would linger for so short a time in Todd’s mind; linger and become a last faded memory as he was suddenly grabbed from the side path. He could feel himself being thrown violently to the ground, his shirt ripped off him in one fell swipe of what seemed like animal claws. He would have struggled, made some attempt to save himself, get up and run, but it tore open his stomach. What had been the enticing embodiment of a fourteen year old boy was lying scattered across the woods. In the fading light he could hear the tearing of his flesh. He wasn’t sure, but he couldn’t feel his legs or feet. Did he still have them? He was slipping from the world, fading and drifting far away. He was in the light, home and safe, perhaps in bed sleeping. Comfort surrounded him. He would be alright. There were those who were around him, in the light, ready to take care of him, take him home.

The animal gathered what it could, taking as much of the kill home to its den. It was covered in blood and the stench of bowel and intestine. It couldn’t comprehend that. It only knew to hunt and kill. Its mind was chaos, a disorganized collection of scattered thoughts. It had a single minded purpose and so it would survive. Bury and clean, bury and clean it told itself. Later, there would be no memory of the event.

II​

The two police officers returned to the Stansbury’s house with the torn piece of shirt. Todd’s mother cried hysterically as she recognized it as her son’s. The father poured himself a scotch. There would be no sleep this night, only crying. The two police officers asked if there was a nearby motel as they would be staying close to the crime scene. There was a small shabby Tin Roof Motel at the outskirts of Laurel Park, where they had turned off the highway. Morning would come soon, and then they would have daylight. For now, they could only discuss the case and surmise.

“What kind of sick pervert could do that to a kid?” Officer Arrington had asked the question. He had been with the county police force for twenty-two years, working the various and sundry cases that occur in small towns and municipalities. He had seen a lot of things in that time, husbands beating their wives until they were half dead, babies shaken until they were forever quiet, but nothing quite like this. He hoped it was an isolated case, maybe an animal attack. He remembered a bear attack seven years ago. It would make sense.

Officer Dillard remained silent, holding his head in his hands. There had been a lot of blood on that piece of shirt, blood and intestine he thought. He looked at it through the plastic evidence bag and was sickened. It wasn’t because of the cheap diner where dinner was hastily consumed, though that didn’t help. He got up and walked to the bathroom. Dinner wasn’t sticking around. He had only been on the force six years, four of them with his partner. Bayside Township was quiet. The biggest problem was drunk drivers and the accidents which came as a result. You could see a person torn apart, but at least they were all there. His last lucid thought was, “where was the rest of this boy?” Then he heaved into the toilet, again and again. “God of mercy, please stop,” he prayed.

They slept poorly, held victims by their dreams. The fall night air was cold and the motel furnace was having trouble keeping up. As the temperature in the room dropped lower, Tom Dillard dreamed of the boy who was murdered. He saw him walking in the woods, walking away from him. He knew him, as if he was someone from his past, when he was fourteen. They had done everything together, played sports and ridden bikes which took them to the summer swimming hole. They walked to the store and got ice cream bars. They camped out in their parents back yards and told each other their deepest secrets. Now he was walking faster and faster, further away. Tom Dillard became lost in the woods and as he looked up, he noticed the moon which was rising through the trees. It was blood red. He felt a sudden loss. His friend was gone both from his sight, and now gone forever. Why had they lost touch?

Officer Dillard woke up shivering. He looked at his alarm clock and it was three-thirty three. The dingy shade which was pulled down over the front window was illuminated by the moonlight. He felt such loneliness, as if he had somehow been left behind.
The alarm clock jarred them awake, reminding them that this would probably not be a good day. There was nothing to look forward to other than sadness. By seven-forty five they stopped at the diner for breakfast. Officer Dillard hoped he would have more success keeping it down. They turned left on Bay Boulevard and headed toward Gladiolus Street. The woods would be waiting, paths that led everywhere, either deeper into the forest, or to the backyards of the children who made them.

The yellow police tape was still intact, exactly where they had left it. Apparently no one was curious to explore the crime scene. Either that or they knew other paths which would take them to the same destination. They had left small red flags in the ground making it easy to find the tree house, and the path that veered to the right. Now they could see where the ground was still saturated by the boy’s blood. Skin, tissue and organs were scattered indiscriminately on both sides of the path.

“Well this is a hell of a thing.” Officer Arrington was the first to speak. He was the lead detective and he would be expected to make sense of this.
“I swear, only a bear could have done this.”

He imagined that they would have to go back and organize a hunting party. They couldn’t let a rogue bear go loose ripping children from limb to limb. Tom Dillard took pictures and put down more little red flags marking each piece of the boy’s remains. They continued to walk, looking down at the trail of evidence when suddenly they stopped. What lay before them to the one side of the path would stay in their minds forever. There was Todd’s head and torso, or what remained of it. There were no arms or legs. The rest of his shirt was lying about five feet further down the path. Beyond that were his pants and underwear. The shirt was in tatters, and the pants looked like they had been ripped off by something powerful, something with claws. Running down the denim where tears that ran almost the entire length of the boy’s jeans.

“Look at this Tom. See how even these tears are, as if something cut them.” Officer Arrington had an eye that had been trained by years of experience. “I want to look at the body.”

He looked up but Tom Dillard was not standing behind him as he expected. He was in the bushes losing his breakfast. That’s okay, he thought. It wasn’t that good anyway. He made his way back to what remained of the body, and bending down, examined what had been Todd.

“I’ll be damned. Come look at this, Tom.”

Officer Dillard was wiping his mouth off with his handkerchief as he reluctantly made his way to his partner.

“Do you see anything strange here?”

“Are you fucking shitting me! The whole fucking thing is strange, don’t you think?”

“Okay, I’m sorry, but look where the legs have been severed from the body. Look how clean the separation is.”

Officer Dillard swallowed down the last remnant of toast and bacon and examined what was left of Todd. His partner was right. Where the legs should have been looked like something sharp had cut through. The flesh was not jagged enough to have been caused by a bear.

“Could something with smaller teeth have done this, like a wolf maybe?” Tom Dillard’s mind was swimming, hoping to God that no human was capable of doing such a thing.

“We won’t know until forensics has a chance to evaluate what’s here. We’ve got to keep going. There are two arms and legs out there somewhere.”

They kept walking the path, following the blood trail, and then there was another path on the right.

“Look Tom. Doesn’t it look like something has been dragged here?”

They looked down the new path. There was more blood, and there seemed to be drag marks cutting two parallel lines through the leaves and twigs. Again they stopped. There in the middle of the trail was the arm of the fourteen year old boy. Though it was covered with dried blood, there was no doubt that it belonged to someone so young. The skin still looked perfect showing the slight signs of the summer’s tan. Tom Dillard suddenly remembered his dream from the night before. Where had those times gone, when youth was so precious? He was surprised that he was crying and unable to stop, but when he did finally stop crying, he was even more shocked to realize that he was holding the arm against his face.

The two officers returned to the car and called for the forensics’ team. They both needed a break, some time to collect themselves. The senior officer knew they should pursue the trail and look further, but that could wait. It would have to wait if he was going to take his partner. He was afraid for Tom’s sanity, and even now, he was beginning to question his own well being. It was one thing when adults died. It happened every day, but not kids…..not children, for God’s sake.

“Come on Tom. Let’s look at the rest of the trail.”

They left the safety of the squad car and walked down the same path, trying not to look at what was left of Todd Stansbury. They ventured again down the small path which turned off the original crime scene, hoping it might lead to a back yard, but the trail grew weak. Whatever was dragging the remaining body parts must have found a way to keep them off the ground, almost as if it were carrying them. Officer Arrington was becoming more frustrated because he knew an animal wouldn’t be able to drag that many appendages in its mouth, an almost impossible task. Only a man would carry things like arms and legs, but the rest, he thought? A cold shiver ran up his spine.

Now there were only the occasionally disturbed leaves and twigs, and that was almost meaningless since the local kids ran these trails every day. The path had given up all the information it had. Their only choice was to go back to the car, the motel and wait for the forensic report. The mobile science lab arrived just as they were returning from the wooded path. They led them to the scene and after sharing what they knew, hastily departed. Seeing the evidence one more time was imprinting something which would eventually become an eternal nightmare for the both of them.

“We’re going to have to see someone,” was all Jim Arrington would say. He hastily backed the big Ford cruiser out from the side of the woods and headed down Gladiolus Street.

III​

John Treadwell had moved back to Laurel Park when his marriage had disintegrated. There was a child, Michael and his wife Lorraine. He had tried to make it work. God knows he had tried, but Lorraine wasn’t the understanding kind, neither of the hours he worked, nor his drinking. The hours couldn’t be avoided and the drinking killed the memories. But it had been the last case that put everything over the top. There wasn’t enough alcohol in the world to eradicate the images that still haunted him, both while awake and in his sleep, and it was in his sleep that he revisited it over and over again. Now he lived in almost seclusion on his full disability and pension, though it wasn’t the injury that had sidelined him. There were other demons responsible for that, and he had discovered all too late that they got off on alcohol and Vicodin. Being home with nothing to do was his worst enemy. His wife yelled at him when he drank, and that became a constant activity, a hopeless attempt to anesthetize his brain. The day came when he simply walked out, bag in hand. Lorraine slammed the door behind him.

He had grown up in Laurel Park, playing in its magic, the beach and forest. The house was warmed by the love of his parents, the seasons coming like clockwork, Thanksgiving, Christmas, summer and friends. He thought he could buy the old home, though his parents hadn’t been living for several years, start again and maybe feel its safety, as if his parents would still be there, waiting for him to return.

The house had been sold some years ago to a single man who was a photographer. Another dream shattered and so he would have to settle for something less. At least he was on Gladiolus Street and since the houses were all similar, he could make this one his home. Still, something didn’t seem quite right, but with remodeling and some landscaping, it became livable. The one thing that gave him some pleasure was his rose garden. There had been the remains of the thorny bushes in the back, but needing a lot of care. In the past several years he had bought a number of new rose bushes and tended to them daily. His father had grown roses, and he was walking in those same footsteps, creating a world that said everything will be all right.

Officer Dillard pulled the cruiser into the driveway of 333 Gladiolus and turned to his partner.

“John Treadwell is going to seem, well, like he’s not fit to help us, but believe me he is. He was the best until his last case. I’ve called on him a few times in the past because he knows the area and the residents. He grew up here as a kid. Just be polite and let me do the talking.”

The two walked up to the front door and the senior police officer knocked loudly. They waited for almost a minute before the door opened. Jim Arrington was shocked at what he saw. He could smell the alcohol from where he was standing, and there was little doubt that the man who resided at 333 Gladiolus had spent a rough night, perhaps a rough week, and one that had not included a shower or shaving. His hands, arms and trousers were covered with the dirt from the garden, and if there was joy in gardening, there was none found in his eyes, which from Tom’s perspective, seemed dead and lifeless.

“Can we come in John? I need your help.”

John Treadwell motioned them into the living room. Tom Dillard was surprised at the contrast between the man and his house, the latter being clean and well kept. They sat down in chairs that were old, but comfortable and still in good condition. John preferred to stand. It was apparent to both officers that he still cared enough not to get his furniture dirty, and officer Arrington knew why. The furniture had belonged to John’s parents.

“I’ve got an ugly case for you John, if you’re up to it.” Officer Arrington hoped he was, but the glassy look in the retired detectives eyes said otherwise. There was a long uncomfortable period of silence, and then the man spoke.

“Yes, I’ll take it. You know, this isn’t the first time he’s killed.”

The two officers sat in stunned silence.

“There have been several disappearances in the last year. Two idiots were sent to investigate. There were never any bodies, no blood evidence in the homes, so they wrote it off as missing, or moved, or failure to pay the mortgage. They were lazy and careless.”

He went to the kitchen and got a wooden stool. He returned to the living room and sat down, saying little else. Officer Arrington looked at his partner, his eyes restating what he had earlier said.

“No bodies and therefore, no autopsies. They didn’t ask questions and they didn’t cover the neighborhood, but people talk. Parents stopped letting their kids go into the woods. At least they told them not to go, but you know kids.”

Again officer Arrington looked at his partner.

“I went into the woods, though. I found some blood spatter.”

“Why for God’s sake didn’t you say something?” asked the younger officer.

The senior officer looked at his partner again, telling him something different this time, something like, shut up.
“Tell those fucking morons? The same fucking morons who retired me out? Who ruined my marriage? Who wouldn’t listen to me when I told them I had enough!”

“We really need your help on this one John.” Officer Arrington had once worked with John, towards the end, and he knew he was wound too tight. He had seen it coming. Now, he didn’t want to chase him away. They needed him.

“I’m going to want to see the body. At least there is a body. Something’s changed if there’s a body. Have forensics go over it with a fine toothed comb.”

The two officers left leaving John Treadwell with his thoughts. He took the stool back to the kitchen and opened one of the kitchen cabinet doors. There was the bottle of bourbon, and even though it was still early in the morning, he poured himself several ounces. He repeated his ritual, bourbon in the morning followed by a fit of coughing. He knew it was killing him, the drinking, and he didn’t care. Maybe he’d say hi to the missing victims. He opened a drawer and took out the bottle of pills that had become the companion to his drinking. He wondered if the old wounds from his last case still hurt. He had never been off the pain killers long enough to know.

The Vicodin may have killed the pain, but it didn’t kill the nightmares, and they seemed to be occurring with more frequency. In the beginning they had been a regurgitation of his last case, but recently they were taking on a new direction, as if someone was writing it out and continuing the story. He tried to shake that thought out of his mind as he walked toward the bathroom. A shower was in order if he was going to get out of the house and investigate. At least he would have something to redirect his thoughts. He knew he needed that.

The police cruiser headed home, back to Bayside Township and the dingy building that masqueraded as a police headquarters. Both officers filled out the paperwork from the case, paperwork that left a lot of unanswered questions. Officer Arrington mulled this in his head as he drove home to his wife and young son. He had invited his partner to have dinner with them, even spend the night. Jim Dillard wasn’t married. Arrington didn’t even think he dated. This wouldn’t be a good night to be alone. He was all too aware of what the memories could do to a man, but Jim Dillard had turned the offer down. In a way, he was relieved. He wanted to see his young son, and spend a quiet evening with his wife. She would make him feel better, something to take the horrible images away. He was glad he asked for help on this case, and was only too happy to have John Treadwell deal with the specific details. His gut was telling him that things were going to get worse as Halloween approached.

IV​

The shower brought life back to John Treadwell, hot water beating against his tired and sore body. He ran the face cloth over the scars left from his last and final case as an investigative detective. His mind drifted in the steam, heat and smoke. The series of connected rooms in the basement of the old mill were lit by black lights and the occasional string of white Christmas lights, the music pulsating in the background. Most of the people there were younger than him, young, strung out and dancing in a dark concealing atmosphere where anything goes. The smoke hung heavy in the dank air, some of it tobacco induced and some of it a mixture of narcotics and hallucinogens. It all added to the atmosphere and contributed to the illusion, a world where nothing was as it seemed. The music pounded heavily as the image of a wolf pounded something sharp into his gut. His killer had found him.

John Treadwell suddenly came back, aware that he was still in the shower, the stall filled with the thick air of water and steam and nothing more.

“Shit,” he thought. “I’m going to have to watch how much I take if I’m going out.”

He would have to live with the pain. With a little luck he could settle this case, collect the extra money which he so desperately needed, and go back to his life. He found some clean clothes, and made coffee. It tasted better than he had expected and he appreciated the jolt. He stepped outside to retrieve the newspaper and was surprised at how beautiful the day was. Back inside he poured his coffee into a cup and stepped out into his back yard through the small porch which had been built as an afterthought, stuck on the back of his house. He would not have to take his car as all the houses on Gladiolus abutted the woods. In one way or another, they were all connected by paths that countless generations of kids had made, playing and taking shortcuts to their friends. He had walked them many times. So did everyone else including the man who bought his parents house. He liked to take pictures, though John wondered what was there to capture on your camera other than the occasional kid. That thought stuck in his mind. He played with it as he walked to the crime scene. He’d have to investigate this guy. He had seen him a number of times, at the Food Mart, walking his dog, and he saw him working in his yard, John’s parents’ yard. That thought kept sticking in his mind as well. He knew he would have to separate his dislike for this man from the crime, letting the evidence speak for itself.

Walking the back path, he came to the drag marks first, and the small amount of blood evidence. He knew he had passed by a number of houses and back yards, including his parents’ house, and he was maybe fifty yards deep into the woods from the properties. Anyone along the way could be a suspect as well as anyone who knew the area. It gave him a perspective that the two investigating officers didn’t have. He had just walked in the same direction, the same intent and purpose as the murderer. He was careful to notice where new growth had been broken by heavier footsteps, tracing back again to a backyard and house that looked all too familiar. He had grown up there, played in that back yard, and in these very paths. Yes, he would have to investigate Charles Littleton, the owner of what should have been his birthright, something he once knew as home.

He wrote down some notes on his pad and again walked up the path toward the tree house. The entire area had been cordoned off by the all too familiar yellow crime scene tape. In one quick movement his lock blade was in his hand, parting the tape like it was paper. He walked to where the greater mass of blood had been, and then to other places where the ground was darker. He found a few small pieces of bone missed by the forensics team, bits of lower ribs he reasoned. It was all in his mind, where the boy was thrown down, disemboweled and dissected, arms and legs slashed and torn away from the body. Whoever did this must have been in some sort of rage, exhibiting unusual strength, he surmised. He took out his magnifying glass and examined the blood soaked ground. In one simple movement he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out some tweezers along with a plastic bag. Near where he had seen the bits of bone were some fibers. He put them in the bag and walked back home, his house, not his home, he thought. He needed to fix that. Maybe another rose bush like his dad would have planted.

He would have to drive the evidence to the police station. They had a small lab and could tell him what the fibers were, though he thought he knew. He knew all too well in fact. The two officers who were working the case were home recovering, but he was well known at the station. He took the evidence to a back room and held it up to the girl who was wearing the white lab coat. They walked over to an aging microscope and put one of the fibers on a glass slip. He wasn’t surprised when she told him it was a wolf hair. While he was there he checked the police reports on the missing persons from Laurel Park. All three cases remained unsolved.

He left the police station and drove to the garden center where he bought two more rose bushes. He would need something to occupy his mind before this case was done. It had taken a very peculiar turn and one which was slowly making him sick. He needed a drink. Eating dinner would have to wait.

The kitchen drawer produced another Vicodin, the cabinet, the bottle of bourbon. He settled into his chair and watched an old movie. The scary movie channel was playing horror movies in a feeble effort to celebrate the coming of Halloween. Tonight it was Lon Chaney as “The Wolf Man”. Somewhere in its murky black and white depths, John Treadwell slipped into a darker place, the haunting dreams which now had ownership of his soul. Again he was at the rave, deep in the bowels of the old grain mill, the pounding rhythm and someone whom he had gotten too close, someone who loved him, unlike his wife. He was dancing with her, and forgetting that he was there to find a murderer, a psychopath who was eliminating this exclusive membership one person at a time, and as his mind wandered through the darkness, he remembered that it was one animal at a time. He had fallen in love with a mink, dark brown and seductive. He laughed about it with her because it seemed odd to him that wolves and minks would get along, but wolves were popular among this group. He was not alone. It was a singularly unique place to meet people without really seeing them, at least not until you got to know them. It was a different world, but one that eventually took on its own reality, a presence within a world of black lights, drugs, the hypnotic music and seduction.

It had been hard for him to get in, infiltrate into another world that didn’t like outsiders. Someone knew someone in the force, an informant led to a drug supplier who didn’t want to serve time, and so opened a door that lead downward into the surreal. At first it was hard to talk to anyone, and the loud music made it all the more difficult. If he was to be part of them, he had to accept the drugs. It was an initiation, a key that unlocked hidden doors. He found that he was more at their mercy then he could have ever imagined. Several times he woke up the next day in a back room, everyone gone, the building deserted, time and reality stolen from him along with his memories. After several months he was absorbed more than accepted. It just happened naturally. His contact had sent him to a woman, someone who made animal costumes, but costume wasn’t the right word. He was measured; every part of him, and a mold was made of his face. He had a feeling that the fur was real. It smelled real. The face was a different matter altogether. She had made some sort of thin latex overlay, and affixed to that was more wolf fur. It laid against his skin, somehow infusing itself to him, he becoming the wolf. She said she was Native American, and wanted to perform a ritual which he allowed. What choice did he have? When he left, he felt different, somehow, emboldened and stronger. He didn’t think he could feel fear.

He met her among the many, all of them representing their animal personas. He guessed the same woman had chosen her animal spirit as she had his. He was attracted to her immediately. Her fur fit tightly against her body, like his. He enjoyed dancing close to her, fur against fur, muscle behind the fur. Their lips touched and he swore he could read her mind. It was filled with passion. He had been given ecstasy, and touching her was exquisite. The music filled the room as the night became black, its seduction throbbing somewhere deep inside him. She pulled him into another room and they made love. It had been his first intimacy in over a year. The music intensified, bass drivers pounding through his soul taking him somewhere beyond, swirling downward beneath the old mill, somewhere dark blue, submerging into blue viscosity like some sixties lava lamp, lights and shapes dancing before him, and blood.

He heard screaming from the distance. It was getting closer, closer still, a man screaming. He woke to hear himself, screaming and sobbing. The loss was endless like a bottomless fissure, one where he was forever free falling. He got up from his chair, the television now playing something else. He walked into the kitchen and poured another bourbon. He couldn’t understand why it was so bright and then he realized. It was morning. There was a jarring noise inside his head that wouldn’t go away. It would expect something from him, make demands. It took a moment for him to realize it was the phone. Officer Arrington gave him the news. There was another murder, this time inside a home. They were on their way and could he meet them. He said yes, and when he hung up the phone, he wondered why he said it. He knew he’d have to take a shower and get the stink of alcohol off him. Coffee would be a necessity as well. In an hour he walked to 479 Gladiolus, right next door to his parents’ house, his home.

V​

The house was like all the others, a cedar shaked bungalow with an attic that was converted into two bedrooms. That’s where the little girl had her room, her little fortress against the monsters. That night, the monster paid a visit and tore her parents apart. It must not have liked stairs because it ignored her.

Jim Arrington had called for a female police officer as well as the forensics team. When John Treadwell arrived he saw officer Applegate talking to the girl, trying to assure her that everything would be alright, assuming that finding your parents in pieces was going to make everything alright. He wondered if she would ever have dreams about going home once she was an older adult, and realizing that not only could you never go home, you didn’t want to because there was nothing but pain, and the occasional monster in the closet.

“John, I’m glad you’re here. Come back to the bedroom and tell me what you think.” They had to pass the bathroom to get to the bedroom. The sound of officer Dillard losing another breakfast resonated between the shower tiles. Normally Jim Arrington would be looking for another partner, but not on this case. He was swallowing hard as well. The stench was noticeable halfway to the room, filling the hall with the presence of bowel and blood, a bad combination by anyone’s standards. John Treadwell seemed unmoved, almost trancelike. He had seen it all before. Playing in the back of his head was the same music from the rave, the smell of smoke and incense masking the room. He tried to clear his mind and concentrate.

“Notice the clean cut marks, some tearing….brute force, but also cutting, as if from a blade. Did you see the hairs?” He wondered if Arrington had time to read the forensic report from the tree house murder.

“I saw it John. That was a good catch by the way, in the woods.”

John Treadwell moved around the room like an animal, hardly making a sound. There was a lot of blood, both in the bed where the remains of the couple lay in twisted repose, and on the floor.

“Look at this, Jim. See the two small round prints at the very parameter of the blood pool.”

Officer Arrington looked but he didn’t know what the significance was.

“I think it’s the tip of a paw, the two toes of an animal, and I hate to say this, but of a wolf.”

“Oh shit, John. Wolf fur and now this? Somebody’s playing games with us.”

“Maybe. Hell, it’s almost Halloween.”

“Where do you suppose the legs are?” Tom Dillard had come out of the bathroom looking white, but something made him ask the question, something they all wondered.

“I saw small drops of blood leading back through the kitchen. I’ll bet they go out the back door.”

Since the houses were similar, John Treadwell had a good idea how the murderer left. The question was, what did he do after that, and why legs. The two officers remained marking each blood drop. Again officer Dillard took pictures of the crime scene, the bed, floor and even the ceiling. There seemed to be blood everywhere. John Treadwell went out into the back yard. Here it was more difficult to follow the evidence. He bent over close to the ground, separating red droplets from the morning dew which coated the lawn. He wasn’t surprised that they led to the back of the property close to the woods nor that they crossed into the next yard, his parents house, his yard. There was a large flower garden of perennials, as well as azaleas and rhododendrons. Everything was immaculate, as if a professional team of gardeners had decided to make his old home a horticultural showcase. He wondered what kind of man was Charles Littleton. Among the hard working lower class of Laurel Park were a few who took care of their properties though most let them slowly slide into decay and ruin. No one had the time except the retired and Charles Littleton. John took his phone out and went on line. He still had the access codes for the police data base. Charles Littleton had taught at Stony Stream Elementary School more than fifty miles from Laurel Park until there were accusations. The report showed that he was an art teacher who enjoyed drawing pictures of his male students just a little too much. The drawing sessions shifted to his home and then went to photography, creating pictures that would find themselves on the internet. John recalled this man’s penchant for the camera. He had become the Laurel Park photographer, charging little to families who didn’t have much money to spend on the extras like family photographs. John Treadwell followed the droplets of blood, followed them into the wild flowers where they disappeared. What wasn’t invisible was a male leg lying among the wisteria and foxglove.

His instincts as an investigative detective were on high alert. He ran to the front of the house and knocked on the door. He knocked heavily. A small timid man answered the loud pounding and opened the door slightly, his face peering through the crack. John Treadwell used the weight of his whole body as he slammed the door wide open, smashing it into Charles Littleton. Before the small man knew what was happening, John Treadwell had him by his shirt, lifting him off the ground.

“What the hell did you do,” the bigger man yelled. It wasn’t a question. He set Charles Littleton down on his feet and split his mouth wide open with his clenched fist, throwing his shoulder into the punch. He hit him again and again.

Again and again the music pounded in the background. He looked for her. He needed to see her again, his mink. He had learned the labyrinth, and knew where she liked to hang out. The old mill had many rooms, some which once held grain, and the larger ones, the machinery which ground rice, oats and corn into cereal. They were all connected by a series of underground hallways that were more tunnel-like. Rusted pipes were suspended from the ceilings, though many of these were now adorned with strings of white lights, and a sequence of speakers. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble and expense. He guessed the drug sales paid for it. It all served a purpose for something more sinister, and though there were lights to create an atmosphere, there had been no painting or attempt to do much cleaning. The walls were filthy from the years of grain, dust and water, further adorned by rust stains from pipes which once carried the watery mash which would make Blue Boy Cereal, a faded painting on one of the larger room walls displaying a half clad boy wearing a blue sailor’s suit, his bare stomach exposed, and holding a bowl of cereal in one hand and a spoon in the other, the caption, “Mommy, can I have some more?” He wondered if he got something unexpected.

The two main rooms were overrun with the crazies, young he guessed, and half strung out already, snorting from amyl nitrate tubes to enhance the hallucinogens. He had to push his way through, ducking into a tunnel which lead to a small room, a room after that and then another, which lead to an enclosed stairway. The darkness of it made him uneasy, feeling its abandonment as he descended lower and lower into the labyrinth. There was another door and he had to knock. A bear on the other side let him in. He had been a member long enough to be allowed beyond. Besides, he was a friend of the mysterious girl, the dark mink. His heart began to race at the thought of her, and what they would do. The music was different here, slower and sinister. The song was about suicide; “take the plunge, make the cut, drive it long and deep. No one lives here; they’ve all gone to the river of sleep”. How appropriate, he thought. The lowest level of the mill was the open sewer, the long tunnels which carried the waste, into collecting rooms and then untreated into the bay. No wonder it was closed, but not before it killed all the fish. The incense couldn’t mask the smell even after all these years of disuse.

Only the chosen were allowed at this level. The entrance admission was insanity. He passed dimly lit rooms; small, dank places reserved for those who preferred sex more than drugs, or could at least control the one and still perform the other. He knew she would be waiting in the far one, deep in the depths of the mill. His costume, really his animal skin, because that’s what it was, came with claws. The old woman had sewn, attached what appeared to be some sort of box cutter knives into the front paws, the wooden handles shortened and hollowed out so that his fingers could go through the holes into the center of each handle. There seemed to be some sort of rubber sleeve lining the interior, so that it embraced each finger. With a little practice, the blades could be pulled back into the paw, or protruded outward. The last time they made love, she insisted they peel their fur skin off, down to their knees. In their passion, they clawed each other’s back raw. She bit his neck, drawing blood. What surprised him was how quickly it healed, the deep cuts gone within a day. Now he looked forward to repeating the ritual. He welcomed the pain. She made him feel alive. He entertained the idea of not catching the murderer. Then he could continue to come to this forgotten corner of nowhere and see her.

She was waiting for him, lying on an old mattress which had been carelessly thrown on the floor. It reeked of urine and of sex, and he didn’t mind. He had given himself to the underworld months ago, just as he was giving himself to her, their fur skin peeled off their bodies, pulsating to the beat of the music which seemed to come from everywhere, somewhere inside his head and his body. They pounded, fur to fur, flesh on flesh, again and again.

Again and again he mindlessly hit Charles Littleton, caving in his face.

“What the hell are you doing!” Officer Arrington grabbed John Treadwell and pulled him off, pushed him away. The small little man collapsed to the floor unconscious, falling face down into his blood and teeth. The retired detective stared past and through officer Arrington, past and beyond the living room which had been his parents.

“For God’s sake John. Go home.”

Arrington wondered how he was going to explain this down at the police station. Maybe catching the murderer would help, and besides, John Treadwell was on disability for a reason, a reason that was all too obvious. John Treadwell slowly opened the door, not showing signs of any real understanding. He had to walk around a nine year old girl who was selling cookies for her school fund raiser.

“Damn,” thought officer Arrington. “It’s that time of year again. Dozens of children out on the street selling cookies, and in two days they would be on the streets in their Halloween costumes.” A feeling of relief went through him. They had caught their murderer, hadn’t they?

VI​

The two boys had gone to their friend’s funeral. It was hard to believe that he was dead, dead and gone forever. There was a lot of crying, especially when the slightly diminutive casket was lowered into the ground, the last and final resting place for what had been an active fourteen year old. Parents drove home with their families, wanting to keep them safe forever, keep them forever in the repetitive cycle. They had to return to work even though school had been cancelled. Dead Todd’s friends wanted to remember him best by going to the tree house. They wanted to remember him by looking at the adult magazines. The woods called to them and once home, they changed into something more appropriate and met up in the path.

The woods called to something else as well. The moon would be coming up full and its rage seethed inside. It ran so nimbly on all fours now, the transformation almost complete. It no longer needed the fur skin, the magic of the beast. Now, it was the beast. It sniffed the air, stalking them in almost silence. The sun was low in the sky and the Blood Moon was rising, blood and frenzy rising inside the beast. Again its mind was chaos transfixed on only one thing, the hunt. The boys heard it running somewhere deep in the woods, but getting closer, ever so close to the path. They looked at each other, fear now forming in their eyes. They started to turn, turn and run back to their homes. It turned abruptly, sharply with the ease of an animal. It could smell their fear, boy sweat and fear. It crashed out of the thicket and onto the path, paths made by children playing. It caught the slower one from behind. It ripped at his back shredding his shirt. The boy fell forward and onto the ground. It pounced on him in an instant, and just as quick, tore his throat out. The blood spray drenched him, face, chest. He tore into his stomach, tearing and biting…..devouring.

The other turned back to look at his friend and screamed. The monster’s head jerked up, pieces of the boy hanging from his mouth. In an instant he was on him, and his great paw came down on the second boy’s face, claws extended and tearing. There was a low muffled scream which was quickly drowned in the gurgling of blood. The moon rose higher into the sky, its grinning face shining through the trees, distorted by the branches, casting shadows which twisted into grotesque shapes.

There had been another murder, the mutilated body discovered near the woods that abutted the mall parking lot. The mall owners had bought the old mill property to build the sprawling shopping center. There was so much land that it was cheaper to leave the mill standing, especially since the woods acted as a barrier, concealing the decaying eyesore from the new shopping center. But if one was foolish enough or adventuresome, they could explore, or if they were observant, they might notice that someone had made a path which led to the old mill, seemingly closed and abandoned. John parked his car in the mall lot close to the woods and walked the tangled trail to the back fence which enclosed Blue Boy Cereal Mill. They all did, and like those select few, he knew where the hole was and eased himself through. He could now negotiate tight places without losing any fur. He pushed the secret latch on the steel door which was located at the back of the old building. The door pushed open and he let himself in. The fox knew him and nodded. A lynx insisted he try the latest remedy for pain, and he obliged. It all seemed natural now, letting the concoction of the day take you to where ever it wanted. He was simply along for the ride. But tonight he would try to catch a murderer, through the haze and distraction he would look for the crime scene. He wandered through the tunnels and rooms. His flashlight was a modified black light. It would show blood. The problem was, there was a lot of blood. The drugs were kicking in, taking affect. He was having trouble remembering why he was there, but he remembered who would be waiting for him in the lowest level. He tried to remember, but the music and black lights were overriding his thoughts, and as he descended the last stairwell, the music changed, becoming more nihilistic.

Lucidity returned and he stopped at each room, shining his light into the dark alcoves of depravity. The various fluids lit up like demented Christmas trees. Each room had its own history of debauchery, the tell tale signs becoming useless as evidence. Some of the rooms were occupied, two animal personas engaged in their basic passions, or several in the ecstasy of drugs and hallucinations, their minds playing with the music, souls escaped into the atmosphere of the old mill, lost somewhere in Hell. He would apologize for the interruption and push on as each tunnel would lead him deeper into the center of depravity. Fur clad denizens would occasionally dart from a room, run and become lost farther down in the tunnels, swallowed by the murkiness of the unknown. At the farthest end she would be waiting. He quickly lost interest in evidence, as his mind submerged into oblivion, giving in to his obsession. He could care less about the murdered. He only wanted her and now the room of his delights was before him. He made his way down the last tunnel. The rusted pipes which hung from the ceiling, dripping their contents of sewerage, only added to the ambiance of giving ones soul to the darkness. The river of refuse once flowed through these tunnels. Now his desires flowed in those same paths as he pushed the door open to embrace his destiny. What waited inside would change him forever, ruin him beyond imagination. She had once told him her name was Aurora, and he thought, like the Borealis. She was his light, his mystery, something of untouchable beauty. But what he saw lying on the mattress wasn’t beautiful at all, nor would she ever be beautiful again. She had been cut open like a gutted animal ready for slaughter. She struggled to get up when she saw him, tried to speak, “help me, John” was all she could say, a whisper at best, and then she was gone.
He turned to help her, rush to her side, but before he knew what was happening, a shape moved from out of the shadows and plunged its dagger like claws into his abdomen. Pain arced through him like electricity. His head was spinning, the drugs combining with the blood loss. He fell to the floor and looked up at what appeared to be another wolf. He knew it was an intruder as only one animal persona was allowed on this, the lowest level. There couldn’t be two wolves; not here. The murderer was pleased with what he had done. He slowly turned to leave, maybe to find another victim, and then dispose of the bodies someplace where they would be found, any place but in the old mill. This was his home.

Confusion flooded John Treadwell’s mind, separating him further from reality. Something was inside him, changing him, and it had been there for a while. Now it was taking over, filling him with rage and the desire to kill. He grabbed his stomach, holding in whatever was trying to escape, and with one great effort, lunged at the killer. His claws instantly extended, the razor sharp hooked blades shining in the almost transparent blue of the dark lights. When he raked them across the murderer’s neck, the blood shot out like a fountain and it illuminated day glow blue from the lights. He spun the man around, the man he had been sent to find, the man who had eluded him for months. Again he raked his claws, this time across the perpetrator’s face, hoping to reveal his identity when the latex skin came off, but what he had impaled on his claws shocked him. It was the skin and fur of a wolf. Somewhere deep inside John Treadwell was the primordial instinct telling him to attack again, and instinctively he buried his claws into the murderer’s midsection. He let the wolf go, let him go and fell backwards on to the floor and next to his beloved Aurora, his mysterious mink. He held her head in his lap and howled. Darkness consumed him. There was no John Treadwell, only the wolf. How long he held her, he didn’t know. There was no sense of time, but when he finally came back to reality, to himself, the man whom he had pursued for so long was gone, and so was Aurora. He was the only one in the room. The mill was empty.

VII​

A lone child had discovered the two bodies, or what remained of them. It didn’t take long for officers Arrington and Dillard to arrive at the all too familiar scene. The crime lab now followed them like a dog and its owner. More samples were taken as well as fur. John Treadwell had opened that door. Whoever had done this was getting more careless, or more out of control. There was an obvious trail of blood and human matter which led through the paths and to yet another back yard on Gladiolus Street. They simply had to follow it.

Even though Mandy Warren had been told by her mother not to go out and sell the school fund raiser cookies, she knew it was safe. All of her friends in the third grade were doing it. Besides, it wasn’t yet dark and she would be back before her parents got home from work. She went to the houses where the retired lived because they were always willing to help a child.

He didn’t like being retired, forced into retirement and disability. He sat at the kitchen table, the glass of bourbon before him. The sun would be setting, its redness streaming through the streaked window panes, but the kitchen windows faced another direction, and he could see the Blood Moon coming up between the back yard trees and the woods which bordered all the properties. An empty bottle of Vicodin lay on its side near the almost empty glass. He stared at his arm with eyes that were empty, watching the silver gray wolfen hair grow. It was taking over despite all the alcohol and pain killers. Soon it would cover his arms, legs, face and torso. There would be nothing he could do. He would be in the mill hunting for Aurora’s killer. He had to have justice and avenge her death. Where was she, he thought? He had gone back to the mill after her death, his unbearable loss, but it was deserted, abandoned. It was shortly after that he was pulled off the case and retired out. He had spent some time in the hospital in the psych ward. He really had little memory of that, but when he came out, everything was over, his job, his marriage and his life.

His head was throbbing, pounding with the music of the rave. He was running through the tunnels, looking for the wolf, the one who stole his Aurora from him, his mink. Again and again he plunged his hooked claws into it, its fur shredding and flying, blood spraying, but he couldn’t kill it.

Mandy walked up the steps and knocked on the door of 333 Gladiolus. She would make one more sale and be home before her parents would know. The man who lived at the house with the beautiful roses would buy some cookies. That’s what she told herself. It was the last thing she ever thought, as the door burst open. The creature grabbed her by the front of her dress and plunged its claws into her, spilling her blood all over the front stoop. Despite her feeble scream it pulled her into the house and continued to plunge its claws again and again, again and again to the rhythm of the music which meandered down the many tunnels of the Blue Boy Cereal Mill. It vaguely felt how easily her thin dress ripped off her body. There was little effort needed to dissect her. It dragged her through the house, from the living room, down the hall, through the kitchen and out the back porch to the rose garden. Bury and clean, bury and clean was all it could comprehend. It would survive.

Officer Arrington led the way as the two walked the paths through the woods, following the blood which would take them to the back yard that displayed the beautiful rose bushes which grew like none he had ever seen. But what he did see made him sick, and now it was his turn to throw up. There among all the bushes was the last one to be planted, planted by the disorganized mind of a psychopath, for the bush was only half in the ground and tilted at an angle, leaning to the right. Buried with it was Mandy Warren, her head and arms beneath the ground, her lower torso and legs sticking up out of the ground like an upside down scarecrow, sticking up angled away from the rose bush, leaning to the left.

The two officers rushed up the steps and through the porch, through the door and into the kitchen where they found what remained of John Treadwell, half man and half animal. He was standing and staring out the window, looking at the moon which was reflecting the red of the sunset, the blood red sky. He was filthy, covered with the dirt of the garden, and the blood of two teenage boys and one Mandy Warren.

“You’re going to have to come with me John,” Jim Arrington said softly. He moved his hand ever so slowly to his handcuffs, trying not to disturb whatever world John Treadwell was walking through. Instantly the beast snapped his head, staring at the officers’ utility belt. Before Jim Arrington knew what hit him, the animal was upon him, and with one swipe of his paw, he raked his claws across the officers face. He stabbed again into the midsection of the staggered officer. He bit into his neck and would have ended his life had he not been jolted by thousands of volts of electricity from officer Dillard’s stun gun. Officer Arrington writhed from the same inflicted electrical shock. When it was over, officer Dillard yanked the beast off his partner and cuffed him. It took several minutes for both officers to recover, the one from being electrocuted and the other from what he witnessed. Once they collected themselves they turned to their prisoner and again were shocked to see that he was just a man, human with no wolf hair, no razor sharp claws nor wolf like face.

“John, what the hell just happened?” Jim Arrington asked the retired and decorated detective, but he would never get an answer. John Treadwell was somewhere else, someplace where the music never stopped.

The two officers returned to the station and filled out their reports. They left out the most critical piece of evidence because their sanity would be questioned. In the end they concluded that there had to be a rational explanation, but the following forensics report would cast doubt on that. A thorough search of 333 Gladiolus had turned up the wolf attire in John Treadwell’s bedroom closet. DNA tests showed that blood and other biological material belonged to Todd Stansbury and the three missing residents of Laurel Park, their bodies having been found buried beneath the roses along with the legs and arm of the Stansbury boy. But the report would simply state that DNA found on the two teenage boys and Amanda Warren were a mutation of John Treadwell, part human and part wolf. It was concluded that it was caused by mind over matter, John Treadwell’s strong desire to become the wolf had somehow physically changed his body. It was like Christian believers receiving the stigmata, showing the physical nail prints from the cross and crucifixion. It was the only explanation.

VIII​

“Tom, I wish you’d come home with me tonight. Beth’s making a good dinner. You shouldn’t be alone, especially on this night of all nights.” Jim Arrington had made the offer, but he knew his partner would refuse.

“That’s okay Jim. I’ll be alright.”

The two went their separate ways. Tom Dillard walked into his small bungalow. He had made plans and he intended to carry them out. He had seen too much and he didn’t want to end up like John Treadwell. They had taken him away to the state hospital where the hopelessly insane would spend the rest of their lives, locked in a padded cell so they wouldn’t hurt themselves. Tom Dillard had to laugh at that. It wasn’t the thought of John Treadwell hurting himself that bothered him. He wondered if they could keep him there, locked away in his own private Hell. No, he guessed someone careless would underestimate him, not really knowing just who or what they had locked up behind cold steel doors. The thought of it made him sick to his stomach. He would go into the bathroom and relieve his nausea just one more time, but this time he took his service .38 Smith and Wesson. He put the blued steel barrel into his mouth and contemplated what he was about to do for just a few seconds before he pulled the trigger. There was nothing but blackness.

The news came to Jim Arrington the next day, at the station. His captain insisted he take the day off. He got no argument. It was Halloween, and he needed to be with his family. His wife had made a quick dinner that night. She was to take their son Aidan out trick or treating, and he was staying home to give out the candy. She asked him if he would be alright and he said yes. He watched them leave, his son dressed as a cat and carrying a plastic pumpkin. He sat in the kitchen and poured himself a strong drink of bourbon. The music was playing in his head, music from some dark and distant place. Outside the moon was rising, cold and blood red. He thought about all the events from the past several days. He could have sworn that the creature had ripped his face open, torn into his guts and bitten his neck. He was near dead when he was lying on the kitchen floor of 333 Gladiolus, but after the stun gun and after he regained his consciousness, there were only faint scars, scars which were fading.

He looked out his living room window, down the street. Mothers and fathers were walking with their children, children dressed up as ghosts, demons and all sorts of monsters. The music was getting louder, inside his head. He looked down at his arms and the silver gray fur which was slowly covering them. Rage was beginning to cloud his mind. He struggled to remember who he was, where he was. It answered him. Bury and clean, bury and clean.
 

Mattew

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Very good story. Can't wait to read your story for Halloween for this year.
 

dogboy

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Very good story. Can't wait to read your story for Halloween for this year.

Thanks Mattew. My story for this year is going well. I was working on it earlier tonight. I hope it's scary enough. It has ghost children so how can you go wrong there...haha. After I published "Werewolf", I had some friends who wanted me to turn it into a novel, so I might do that when I get more time.
 

Mattew

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Thanks Mattew. My story for this year is going well. I was working on it earlier tonight. I hope it's scary enough. It has ghost children so how can you go wrong there...haha. After I published "Werewolf", I had some friends who wanted me to turn it into a novel, so I might do that when I get more time.

You're welcome. I'm always up for a good scary / Halloween story. It's my favorite time of the year. Sounds like a good story. You'll have to let me know when you post it online. I've been so busy lately, that I only get to fully look at the forum once every week or two. Majority of the time, I just glance at my feed & see if something catches my eye.
 

dogboy

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You're welcome. I'm always up for a good scary / Halloween story. It's my favorite time of the year. Sounds like a good story. You'll have to let me know when you post it online. I've been so busy lately, that I only get to fully look at the forum once every week or two. Majority of the time, I just glance at my feed & see if something catches my eye.

I will. I was working on it today and it's getting darker. It's so much fun doing that to a story.
 
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