The entrance to Eagles Park off Highway 99 was a speedometer distance of seven miles from Pinkerton. The entire park was approximately a thousand acres including a lake, three major campgrounds, and hiking trails. Open except for during the deep freeze of winter when the snow levels could reach over four feet and the wind chill factor dropped the temperature gauge below zero degrees, this time of year, two weeks before school started, the park was available to hikers, campers and those who wanted a cool dip to take off the heat.
Boggs hadn’t been out this way since Deputy Wilcox’s death. The deputy was found with his knife stuck bolster-deep into his chest like a Japanese warrior committing Hari Kari. The medical examiner called it the exact way it appeared, suicide. However, suicide still didn’t set well with Boggs. Wilcox was up for a pay raise and planning to get married in the Fall. Not the type of events that would plague a man to take his own life.
Boggs had kept this part of the park closed until he closed the investigation. He knew he wouldn’t be able to keep it closed much longer. So far, the evidence couldn’t be disputed. And Boggs was a man who respected evidence. The only fingerprints and DNA discovered were Wilcox’s.
Boggs slowed by the parked patrol car situated to keep people out of the lake area. He found the park deputy’s head thrown back, his mouth wide open. Boggs honked. The deputy jumped as if a bullet had whizzed past his ear.
“I take it that it’s been quiet,” Bogg’s shouted.
Park Deputy Mike Corner rolled down his window. “I was just resting my eyes,” he grinned.
“There hasn’t been a peep since I took patrol,” Corner remarked. “Not even a fucking deer walking up the road.”
“Keep your eyes open,” Boggs returned. “A report came in tonight. Two kids are missing.”
“What kids?” Corner said.
“Oliver Pitts and Jake Cahill.”
“Who reported them missing?”
Deputy Corner gave a grunt. “Are we putting a search out for them?”
“We’ll give it until morning. But, if you spot them, call my dispatch and take their butts home. Tell them I’ll expect them in my office first thing tomorrow morning.”
“What’d they do?” Corner asked.
“Hopefully nothing more than being teenagers with too much time on their hands.” And he hoped he was right.
Walter said the boys took the Summit Trail from the camping and RV park, but it was too late at night to wake up those campers without a sufficient reason. Plus, if the other two boys weren’t already home in bed, his best bet would be finding them down around the lake getting a good laugh out of their hoax. Or taking a cool midnight swim. Hell, he thought, with Deputy Corner snoozing on the job, they could have walked right past him.
He considered calling the Pitts house to see if the boys had shown up. But, he thought he’d take a look around, first. No reason to get them out of a good night’s sleep if it wasn’t necessary. He could always call them tomorrow and let them know what the boys had been up to.
He kept his eyes open for movement as he looped around the picnic area and on down to the lake. He desired a long, cool swim, and if it wasn’t for the thought of being caught in his birthday suit by two boys who wouldn’t be able to keep that story to themselves, he would have jumped in.
He parked where he could overlook the dock and lake. He scrutinized the surface. No heads of boys swimming. Maybe they hadn’t made their way here, yet.
He switched off his headlights and rolled down the window. He’d wait. Opening the cubby, he pulled a cigarette out of the package kept there. Lighting up, he inhaled deeply.
Tired. He needed sleep. His days lately had been getting longer, not shorter, yet winter was just around the bend. Soon everyone would be complaining how cold it was instead of putting up with the muggy air.
It’d already been a week since the tornado hit Pinkerton, and people were still at a loss on how to pick up their lives and move on. People had been displaced out of their homes. Some services were still out. And storms threatened all of Circlegold County. Boggs's phone hadn’t stopped ringing for days.
A three-quarter moon muted by clouds caused an inky blurring of lines between space and shadow, river and shore. Boggs knew this area of the park beyond his job. As a kid, he’d played in the playground. Picnicked with his family at the wooden tables. On weekends, he and his dad went out to catch Walpole. And one moon-filled night, parked after a night at the movies, he got Connie Lou Miller to go to third base.
He drew in another lungful. Exhaled. Considered. Maybe all three boys were in on the alien story. Maybe the boys craved some fun before school started. Until the tornado struck, it had been a quiet summer. Not that he minded quiet. He was only five years away from an early retirement, and the quieter the better. And since the tornado, fun was not a consideration. People were living in survival mode.
Park Manager Deputy Elizabeth Warner mentioned to him those in the area who had lost their homes came to the park to cam p until they could get their lives together. Tried and true hikers undaunted by the storm or tornado warnings were drawn back to the trails. In fact, Elizabeth just called him yesterday asking when he planned to open the lake again.
“I thought the medical examiner said Denver’s death was a suicide?” She said.
“He did,” Boggs affirmed.
“Then, why are we keeping the lake closed?”
“I just want to follow up with a few things, first. The Wilcox’s say Denver wasn’t depressed. And Katy, his fiancé, says he was looking forward to his bachelor party. His death came as a shock.”
“Of course, it did, Roger,” Elizabeth said. “It came as a shock to all of us. But, suicide is like that. No one can really know what’s going on in another person’s mind.”
He knew she was right. And he promised her to close the area of any criminal investigation in twenty-four hours. That meant she would be expecting his call this morning telling her deputy was cleared and the lake available again for public use.
Tomorrow, I need to pay a visit to all three families, he decided, drawing on his cigarette, the end burning red in the darkness of the SUV’s cab. Maybe I should throw them in the brig for a day or two. Or get Moore to charge them with public nuisance. Everyone liked a good prank, but timing was everything. Stirring up a story like Walter told him wasn’t what anyone needed right now.
He recalled Walter mentioning Teddy Templeton. Boggs glanced across the lake. Hadn’t he seen Teddy sitting on the opposite bank when they’d found Deputy Wilcox? There was no confusing Teddy with someone else. He was older than the other boys by about two years. And, he was cursed with early balding. He usually wore a baseball cap, but he wasn’t wearing a cap that day.
Catching sight of him was a surprise but not atypical. In fact, Boggs was surprised it was only Teddy Templeton lookie-looing.
Was Teddy somehow involved in Jake and Oliver’s prank on Walter? Walter thought Teddy had been following them. Had the boys talked him into pretending to kidnap them?
Teddy was physically challenged. Those long arms of his. And his weird fingers. But,Teddy was almost as tall as Boggs. And Walter had said the person playing the alien was small.
Drops of rain hit his windshield.
He gave his cigarette another couple of hits and then tossed it out the window. “Hell,” he thought. “I’m a fool to be sitting here waiting for those boys to show up. And, I’m no fool.”
He punched on the headlights and gave the surface of the lake and the area another examination. He continued to keep an eye out as he backed up and left.
Boggs grappled with the ringing phone and brought it to his ear. “What can I do for you, Purvis?” Boggs wondered who or what had got Moore out of bed.
“I heard there was an incident at Eagles.” He paused as if waiting for Boggs to respond.
Hayworth hadn’t been gone but a couple of minutes. Boggs had him drive Walter home. Had Hayworth redecided and called his boss as soon as he got in his cruiser?
“Heard the kids pulled a practical joke on the Forester kid. And now the joke’s stretched to you.” Moore laughed.
“Nah,” Boggs said. “I’m heading home and looking forward to hitting the hay.”
“I hear you. I’m done in, too. I’m heading that way myself.”
Boggs glanced at the time. He didn’t need to look out to the city police lot in order to see the City Chief’s SUV gone. Boggs would have bet it hadn’t been in the lot since well after six o’clock. And he’d bet double that Purvis Moore was calling from the bed he was claiming to go home to.
“Is that why your calling, Purvis?” Boggs asked. “ Just to see if the kids pulled one over on me?”
Moore didn’t answer.
Boggs said, “Walter said Bill Cahill’s missing. I was surprised to hear it.”
Moore said, “We’ve got no missing person’s report on him.
Boggs added, “Walter also said Jake’s mom and sister are missing.”
Moore begged off the question. “Good thing school’s starting in a couple of weeks. We need to keep these kids busy and off the streets.”
“The way Walter told it,” Boggs continued, “He, Oliver Pitts and Jake Cahill went up to Eagles tonight because they found Bill Cahill badly injured in the hospital and he told Jake where he could find his missing mother and sister.”
“Are you going to Eagles to check out the story? This time of night?”
Boggs hadn’t made that decision, yet. If the two boys had played a prank on Walter, then sending out deputies to check out the story may be a waste of time. Eagles Park was huge.
“I’d get some sleep if it were me. This smells like a prank, Roger.” Moore said, “Let me know if you hear anything more.”
“You’ll be first on my list.” Boggs ended the call.
Boggs told the night dispatcher where he could be contacted if he was needed. He emphasized the word needed. Then he walked out and got in his SUV.
The rain had stopped but the air lay heavy with moisture. He glanced at his watch. Almost three a.m. and still hot. He sat with the windows down, waiting for the air conditioning to push out the oppressive heat. He replayed all Walter had told him. None of it made sense. Was it a big hoax on Walter? Had kids been out drinking and shooting at deer for the fun of it. Damn kids. No concept of death. But, a dead girl? Someone else brought in on the joke? And who did they get to play the alien?
Moore calling minutes after Hayworth left also bothered him. Hayworth probably called his boss to keep his butt clean. No doubt about that. Moore’s calling him was Moore’s letting Boggs know he was fully aware of what went on in the Sheriff’s office. His way of asserting his power in Pinkerton. Moore didn’t like the main headquarters of the Sheriff’s unit situated so close. Where those in Pinkerton got confused who was really in charge.
But, why was Purvis so sure it was a joke? Hayworth calling Purvis, risking to wake him in the middle of the night was one thing. Moore asking or accepting Hayworth’s opinion was on the “ain’t gonna happen meter.”
Boggs gave a heavy sigh. Sometimes things needed to be seen to be believed, or disbelieved, he thought. He knew he wouldn’t get a lick of sleep unless he checked out some of Walter’s story.
He flipped on the car’s turn signal, took a left instead of right toward home, and headed toward Highway 99 and Eagles Park.
ITS head was much larger than its body. And its skin was gray like the cold stone of the cave.
“Pitts? Diddleman?” Jake saw the hooded shirts Diddleman and Pitts had been wearing. He spotted another piece of clothing-- sky-blue, like the blouse his sister wore when she was taken.
Large, oval-shaped black eyes stared over at him. A sound came from a hole where its mouth should have been.
IT wasn’t human.
“What have you done with my friends?!” Jake screamed, struggling against the ropes biting into him. “Where are my mom and sister?”
Its mouth opened again, and it was as if it was trying to speak, ,“DAAIDDDDDIDIDAWOOOO?”
It stepped toward him.
“Don’t you come near me.”
IT smelled of dirt, rot, decay. A metallic smell itched Jake’s nose, and then he saw blood smeared on ITS gray feet. Not feet exactly. Clubs. Hard. They thumped the stone as it came closer.
“Pitts?!” Jake yelled. “Diddleman?! Mom?!”
It raised its hand, fingers long. Its index finger longer than its middle finger. Much longer. Inhumanly long. It pointed the finger toward Jake.
Jake was sure he was about to be killed.
August 7, 1989, 1 a.m.
“Catch your breath, Walter.”
Walter’s mouth gaped open. His lungs sucked air, bellows trying to ignite a cold fire. His hair dripped rain onto a tee-shirt clinging like another layer of skin.
Sheriff Roger Boggs of Circlegold County found a blanket to throw over him. At the last look outside, a light rain was falling, but this boy got caught in a storm.
What was he doing out so late? Boggs was pretty damn sure the boy’s parents weren’t aware of his late-night activities.
So far Boggs had listened to five minutes of babble. And so far, he couldn’t make heads or tails out of what the kid was trying to tell him.
Boggs took his seat again behind his desk.
“This kid’s pulling our leg,” Officer Hayworth of the Pinkerton City Police sniffed, pulling off his yellow rain slicker. He shook it out onto the floor before finding the back of a chair to hang it. He returned to stand next to Walter. He clenched his hands to his hips, fingers inches away from his gun as if the kid posed a threat.
Boggs ignored Hayworth. “Who did you say was with you?”
“Jake Cahill,” Walter said. “And Oliver Pitts.” He drew in a large breath and exhaled. “I’m telling you the truth, Sheriff.”
Police Chief Purvis Moore held jurisdiction over the citizens of Pinkerton. And Hayworth should have delivered the kid to the city police's threshold. When Moore found out his officer delivered the kid to the sheriff's office, he'd be pissed. No more than pissed. He'd shove his foot in the stirrup of his outrage saddle and mount his high horse.
Of course, Hayworth knew the possible consequences of moving across lines to bring Walter over to County.
Hayworth said, “He kept saying he needed to talk to Sheriff Boggs. Hells-bells, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to wake up the Chief. Not at this time of night. Not if this kid was going to tell him he wouldn’t talk to anyone but you.”
Boggs noticed the slight shiver moving through Hayworth’s thin stature. The trembling wasn’t from having been out in a storm but from the unnerving possibility he may have made the wrong decision.
Pinkerton Police and the County Sheriff’s Office were located in the old Pinkerton City Hall. Unusual in more populated cities, but smaller towns learned to survive by moderation. Different jurisdictions at such close quarters sometimes blurred authority in people’s minds. They would enter on the Sheriff’s side, through the western side door. Instead of the City Police side at the eastern door. Double- glass doors facing north in the hundred-year-old building opened to the Circlegold County Museum. Doors that were generally only opened by elementary school children on a field-trip day.
Jurisdictions also crossed in emergencies. Like when the tornado hit. When the twister opened its jaws onto Pinkerton and chewed its way through neighborhoods, no one checked who worked for whom. All personnel of both city and county were called into action.
However, so far, Officer Hayworth bringing Walter into his office didn’t present itself as an emergency.
Walter Forester was a short, stocky kid somewhere around fifteen-years-old. He had a square head and bad acne. Any name he’d made for himself so far in life came from his position on the wrestling team. He got the nickname Diddleman for his habit of walking with his hands in his pockets. It was a name reserved for those his own age and his friends.
Boggs didn’t know Walter that well, but everyone in Pinkerton knew each other to a degree. Boggs knew Walter’s best hanging-around friends were Jake Cahill and Oliver Pitts. So, hearing their names connected to the possible ruckus didn’t surprise Boggs.
“Blast it,” Hayworth cussed, continuing his rant. “I told him he should tell Chief Moore about all this first, but he wouldn’t hear it.”
Skinny, to a point of almost non-existent hipbones, Officer Hayworth readjusted his tool belt and gun.
Hayworth reminded Boggs of one of those little hairless Chihuahuas that yap and bite at ankles. The type that perceive themselves as a Rottweiler but never quite measure up.
“Damn kid said he could only tell you,” Hayworth went on. “And well, blast it, the park is your jurisdiction.” Hayworth finished with, “Even so, the Chief’s not going to like me being here and not there.” He sniffed and pulled at his equipment belt. “I should call Chief Moore.”
“Do as you see fit,” Boggs’ responded, only half listening. His concentration was on Walter whose bulging eyes, frozen wide, staring straight at him. If a door banged shut, Boggs thought for sure the kid would bolt from his chair.
What kind of trouble had these kids gotten themselves into?
“Do you think you can start over from the beginning?” Boggs said.
“IT’s got them,” Walter mewed.
“Got who?” Hayworth spat.
“Who’s got them?” Hayworth demanded.
“The alien.” Walter emphasized the word alien.
Hayworth pursed his lips and gave a sneer. “This is that kid Cahill’s doing. He’s a known storyteller. He tried to pull one over on me when he reported his parents' home burgulared after the tornado hit.” He said tornado like tornad’er. Like he would say potat’er, or tomat’er. “As if we in law enforcement don’t have enough to do. This one here,” he pointed to Walter, “he was in on it.”
Walter twisted around in his chair. “It was bur…gal…whatever you said.”
Hayworth sniffed with annoyance. Exasperated, his hands flapped back to his hips. “As if a tornad’er wasn’t bad enough. All us in the force, trying to keep the peace, are faced with….”
“Why would we write stuff?” Walter objected.
Hayworth snarled, “If I could figure out what makes a kid tick, I’d be rich.”
Boggs needed to get back to why Walter was in his office. “Start from the very beginning. Why did the three of you go to Eagles tonight?”
Walter’s full attention came immediately to Boggs. “We didn’t.”
“Then why’d you tell me you were at Eagles?” Officer Hayworth snapped, butting in again.
This time Walter didn’t bother twisting around to Officer Hayworth. He explained to Boggs, “You see, Jake’s dad was missing We found him at the hospital. Or Jake did. Pitts and I didn’t go into the room. Just Jake. Only, everyone said it wasn’t his dad. But Jake ought to know his own dad. Right?" He didn’t wait for a response. “Jake said his dad was hurt real bad in the fire.”
Walter slid forward on his chair, closer to Boggs as if the information he was about to give him was for his ears only. “When we went back to the hospital the second time…”
“Second time?” Hayworth interrupted. “Hell's fire. Do you kids think the hospital has nothing more to do than…”
“Officer,” Boggs interrupted Hayworth’s interruption. “Let the boy tell it.”
Hayworth turned his head away and sniffed with contempt. “I ain’t stopping him. Go ahead, boy.”
Walter continued, “Dr. Potter took Jake’s Dad out of the hospital because his dad told Jake something he wasn’t supposed to. Something about Eagle’s Nest.”
Walter began coughing.
“Take another breath,” Boggs instructed. “Relax”
“Slow the heck down,” Officer Hayworth demanded. Sniffed. “How’re we supposed to understand you if you’re talking a mile a minute?”
“What is Eagle’s Nest?” Boggs asked.
Walter shrugged. “I don’t know exactly. Jake said it was a place only he and his dad knew about. But Jake said his dad was trying to tell him where to find his mother and sister. You know they’re missing, too? I bet the alien kidnapped them, too.”
Boggs looked to Hayworth for confirmation. Missing persons would be handled by City. “Do you know anything about Bill Cahill missing?”
“First I’m learning about it,” Hayworth sniffed.
“He is missing,” Walter insisted. “I am being legit, Sheriff. Jake’s dad was trying to find Jake’s mother and sister.”
Hayworth sniffed. “Lots of people were taken to nearby hospitals after the tornad’er hit.” Hayworth muttered, “Bunch of baloney.”
Walter said, “Jake said he knew the place his dad was talking about. It was a place where they used to go fishing. That’s why we were at Eagles.”
“In the dark?” Hayworth scoffed.
“Stanley, let the boy talk,” Boggs warned. If he didn’t quit interrupting, he was never going to get the story straight.
“We had flashlights,” Walter returned, “and believe me, I wanted to wait until morning. But Jake wouldn’t hear it.” He turned a half-twist toward Officer Hayworth. “Finding Jake’s family was more important than it being dark. We weren’t afraid.”
Officer Hayworth turned his face away from Walter, pulled up his equipment belt.
Walter said, “Jake said there was no trail to the bird’s nest. It’s like a secret place. He thought he could find it. Only, we got kind of lost in the dark.” His words came faster with the telling, “Jake wasn’t so sure anymore. And then something came at us.”
What do you mean, came at you?” Boggs questioned. “Chased you?”
Walter itched his head and circled around the answer. “It’d been following us. I’m pretty sure of that. I figured it was Templeton.”
“Ted Templeton?” Boggs was surprised with another name coming into the story.
Walter nodded. “Teddy’s always following Jake around.” He said, “But then, we saw it.”
“Saw what?” Officer Hayworth asked anxiously. He was leaning over now not wanting to miss a word of what Walter was telling.
Walter’s eyes grew glassy. “It was eating a deer.”
“Coyote, probably,” Officer Hayworth sniffed with a note of authority.
“It wasn’t a coyote,” Walter cried. “It wasn’t an animal.” He stared at Boggs, daring him to call him a liar. “It wasn’t human, either. Pitts said so, and Pitts’s smart.” He gulped. “It wasn’t very big, and it had long arms. Like one of those pictures Pitts has of aliens. It came towards us, and then it must have got scared because it ran off. We followed it.”
“How’d you follow it so easily in the dark,” Hayworth challenged.
Walter retaliated. “We followed it easy because it was squealing.”
“Squealing?” Hayworth asked. “You mean like a pig?”
“Maybe,” Walter replied. He looked off beyond Boggs as if trying to hear it again. He shook his head. “No, not like a pig.” He said to Boggs “It’s hard to explain.”
“Don’t dwell on it right now,” Boggs said. “Continue with what happened next.”
“We came out of the woods into a clearing. That’s when we found the burned house.” New energy ignited. “I thought right away about Jake’s dad. Jake said he was burned real bad. And I thought this must be the nest.” Walter closed his eyes. “Eagles Nest. Although, not really a nest.”
He kept his eyes shut, again as if he had time-jumped to that very moment. As if he was seeing it in his mind. He. whispered. “IT was standing by the body.”
“Body? What body?” Officer Hayworth said.
Walter whispered, “A girl.”
Hayworth was so stunned by the response his equipment belt almost fell to his knees.
“I think the alien killed her,” Walter told Boggs. His words were short and clipped.” He retched. “I’m going to be sick.”’
“Take a deep breath,” Boggs advised, wanting to keep the kid in the moment. “Did you recognize the girl?”
Officer Hayworth gagged.
Walter’s voice stayed low. He shook his head. “It wasn’t Jake’s sister. Shilo’s hair is red. This girl has…” his voice trembled and his body shivered as if he’d suddenly felt a cold breeze. "There was so much blood.”
This time Hayworth retched. Boggs grabbed the wastepaper basket from under his desk. “In here,” he demanded of Hayworth.
A tear slipped from the corner of Walter’s eye. “You need to find them, Sheriff.”
“Don’t worry. I will.” Boggs stood up. “Let’s get you home.”
Walter bulked. “I’m not done telling you. I need to tell you what happened.”
Boggs sat back down. “There’s more?”
“We were coming to get the police,” Walter went on. “But IT showed up again. This time we saw Chewbacca running with it.”
Hayworth stiffened, sniffed, “Didn’t I tell you, Sheriff? He’s making up a bunch of nonsense. Aliens, phooey. This is all about some movie.” He put the wastebasket down and then moved over to the doorway as if, for him, the conversation was finished.
“Good thing I didn’t get the Chief up for this drivel.” Boggs heard him mutter.
“Chewbacca is Jake’s dog,” Walter explained. “I don’t know how Chewbacca got there. Jake told us Chewbacca disappeared along with his mom.”
Walter looked directly at Boggs. “I saw Pitts drop to the ground. It must have done something to him. And then, something hit me on the back of the head. When I woke up, both Jake and Pitts were gone.”
His chin quivered. “I know I should have stayed to look for them. I know I shouldn’t have come back without them. But I didn’t know what else to do.”
“You did the right thing,” Boggs assured Walter. “Let me take it from here.”
Many readers of Outre have been waiting patiently for the second book in the Deviation Trilogy, Aberrance. To reward their support and continued interest in this science-fiction, alien mystery, I will be placing up the chapters until the novel is launched.
Readers can expect to find a new chapter uploaded every week, on Saturday. And readers, this isn't on the press yet, so feel free to comment.
Outre, the first book in the series, can found for purchase at Amazon.com.