A Thing Greatly Feared, Chapter 12

Friendship, Indiana

Waiting to spot a crooked sheriff down on Main Street. ... Image via Wikipedia

Darrell eyed his speedometer. He had just picked up Wade from school, and they were now headed for Hank’s.

“This is a little fast for you, isn’t it, Dad?”

“Yeah. A little. Sorry. I just have a bad feelin’ all of a sudden. I think it is a bear, and I’ve got the feelin’ that if your uncle finds out about Molly before I can tell him, he might do somethin’ regrettable.”

“You think he’s gonna snap?”

Darrell shrugged his eyebrows. “Well, I wouldn’t say ‘snap’; maybe fly off the handle a bit.”

“I’ve seen Uncle Hank get mad before.”

“Yes, you have … but you’ve never seen him get angry.”

They reached Hank’s and whipped it into his driveway.

“Ahh, great. His truck’s gone,” said Darrell. He slammed it into reverse and backed into Hank’s turnaround.

“Where do you think he is?” said Wade.

Darrell put it in first and hammered it.

“I think he’s gone to give the law a kick in the pants.”

 * * *

Clank! … a-clang-a-lang-alanga. The door of the police station burst open, knocking the bell off its moorings and sending it scampering across the floor. Sheriff Danscom jumped back in his chair.

“Harvey!”

The intrusion froze Danscom, but the sight of the shotgun in Hank’s hand sent him reaching for his own sidearm.

“Put the gun down, Harvey! I didn’t bring this to use on you, except maybe to get your butt in gear.”

Harvey let go of his pistol and sank back into his chair.

“H-Hank. What’s goin’ on?”

Hank brought his shotgun around, both barrels resting on Harvey’s chin. “I oughtta shoot you just for sayin’ that.”

Harvey said nothing, did nothing.

“No more stupid questions? Well that’s the first thing you’ve done right in a while.” He pulled the gun away. “Molly Laske. I was just up to her place.” He leaned on Harvey’s desk. “You know that weren’t no bear.”

Harvey looked like he was trying to say something.

“Why aren’t you goin’ after this thing, sheriff?”

“H-Hank, now, now listen to me just a second,” said Harvey, keeping an eye on the whereabouts of Hank’s gun. “M-Molly, Molly Laske – that was a terrible thing; I didn’t mean for that to happen, I– ”

Hank’s hot blood turned to ice.

“Whaddaya mean you didn’t mean for it to happen?”

“N-Nothin’, Hank. I just meant that … it’s terrible what h-happened to her and I … I tried to keep it from hurtin’ anything else– ”

“Tried, my foot.”

“I … I never thought it’d go after a person, Hank– ”

“You’re dumber than you look, Harvey. That thing ripped up a bear! Why wouldn’t it kill a person? God only knows why it didn’t kill me when it had the chance. But let’s get back to basics. How the heck do you even know about this thing, anyway? And how do you know about all the other stuff that I know you’re not tellin’ me?” He raised the gun to Harvey’s chin again. “How deep are you in this, Harvey?”

Harvey’s eyeballs darted back and forth between Hank and the gun. “Now … now … you don’t want to do that, Hank.”

Hank tilted his head to one side. “No?”

Harvey shook his head. “No. N-Not with who’s behind you.”

Without moving the gun, Hank peered over his shoulder; Wade and Darrell were standing in the doorway.

“Hank?” said Darrell.

“Darrell,” said Hank, nodding. “Thanks for comin’.” Hank turned back to Harvey. “I’d never use this on you, Harvey … except to get you movin’.”

Hank lowered the gun and headed for the door. He never slowed down, forcing Darrell and Wade to part and make way for him.

“Hank, wait a second,” said Darrell as Hank went out the door. “Hank!”

He chased his brother out onto the sidewalk, and Hank stopped, knowing he wouldn’t get rid of Darrell unless he did so.

“Hank, what the heck’s going on, going after the sheriff like that?”

“The sheriff ain’t doin’ his job.”

“Give him some time, Hank; it ain’t easy catchin’ a bear.”

“Time is what we ain’t got any more of … an’ it ain’t a bear.” He turned and walked towards his nearby truck.

“What? What are you talking about? A person did this?”

“No,” said Hank as he leaned against the passenger side of his truck.

“What– ”

Hank sighed and bowed his head. “Nineteen years ago … . There’s somethin’ I never told you about what happened nineteen years ago, when the bear … attacked me.”

“It wasn’t a bear?”

“No, no. It was a bear alright. It jumped me, just like I said. Everything happened just like I said. Except what I didn’t say.” He looked up and met Darrell’s eyes for a moment. “The way I escaped … . The bear didn’t just … let me go. I played dead like you’re supposed to; she cuffed me a coupla times – may have been about ready to give up an’ leave, but she was still standin’ over me when all of a sudden I heard this … terrible screech – ”

Screech, thought Darrell.

“– an’ there was an awful smell, an’ somethin’ came runnin’ at us, an’ next thing I knew, the bear wasn’t standin’ over me anymore. I didn’t … think much about it at first, just bein’ glad to get away with my life; I crawled a few feet, then stopped – I noticed these strange tracks; they looked like dog, or wolf – some kinda canid – but they had six claw marks – canids leave only four. Then I heard all these sounds … the bear howlin’, in pain, an’ somethin’ else growlin’ or snarlin’ or somethin’ like that. … An’ tearin’ – this sound of … rippin’, an’ tearin’. Then suddenly it was quiet; I turned around, layin’ on my back sort of, propped up on my elbows, and saw the bear layin’ there, already dead, an’ on top of it … .” Hank swallowed, his eyes glazed over, as if in another place. “On top of it was somethin’ I’d never seen before, an’ hoped I’d never see again.”

“What was it?” said Darrell.

Hank shook his head. “I don’t know. It was dusk, hard to see … but besides that, its eyes drew me in … orange eyes. That’s all I could look at.”

Orange eyes?

“It looked up from what it was doin’ an’ stared at me. I couldn’t take my eyes off it. Finally it growled a little, an’ moved its head, almost like it was noddin’ at me to go. So I went. I left. An’ I never told anyone.” He looked at his brother. “Not even you, Darrell. I’m sorry.”

“I understand why you wouldn’t want to talk about it. But is this thing that you saw – is it the same thing that Sara saw?”

Hank hesitated, averting his eyes. “Yeah. It is.”

“Why didn’t you say somethin’ before? She could be in real trouble.”

“I know. That’s kinda why I didn’t say anything.” He pushed off the side of his truck and marched around towards the driver’s side. “An’ that’s why I’ve gotta go now.”

“Go where? What are you doing?”

“What the sheriff won’t do; what I should’ve done before.” He opened his door and climbed in, setting his gun beside him in the seat. “Sorry we won’t be goin’ campin’ this weekend, Junior. Maybe next week.” He started the truck.

“Hank,” said Darrell. “What–? Tell me what you’re doing. Tell me what to do.”

“You, find out what the sheriff knows about this – how he knows about this – an’ why he’s not sayin’ anything. Me, I’m goin’ to the Upper Basin, where that thing makes its home base.”

“You can’t go there.”

“Darrell, I’m the only one who can.”

Darrell fell silent, his face pleading with Hank, pleading with himself for something else to say.

“Don’t follow me,” said Hank, “an’ don’t let anyone else head up there, either. Wade …” Guilt washed over Hank. What real good have I ever done him? “Take care of Sara.”

Hank pulled away from the curb, then stomped on it, leaving Darrell and Wade in the street, watching him fade into the distance.

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