A Thing Greatly Feared, Chapter 15

English: A den or family room in Camarillo, Ca...

The Daley living room, where the good guys begin to unravel the mystery. ... Image via Wikipedia

Back at Darrell’s house, he and Wade and Sara waited for James, the silence of the place awkward and deafening. Darrell was in the kitchen fixing up some lemonade; Wade and Sara were in the living room on opposite ends of the couch, saying nothing.

“You guys both want ice in yours?” said Darrell.

“Yes, please,” said Sara.

“Sure,” said Wade, who paused a moment before continuing. “You think Uncle Hank’s gonna be able to find that thing, or be able to kill it?”

“I don’t know.” Hopefully it doesn’t find him. “But if anyone can find it, it’s your Uncle Hank. Nobody knows these woods as well as he does.”

“Do you … mind not talking about it right now?” said Sara.

“Sorry, Miss Kremshaw.”

“It’s alright, Wade, but I know we’ll be talking about it when Mr. Morgan gets here, so I’d just like to leave off it ’til then.”

Wade sank into the couch, not knowing what else to say. Darrell brought their drinks a moment later, then settled himself in his recliner, wishing, as he sank into its softness, that he could remain there indefinitely.

“Well, I expect James could be here any second now,” he said. “I– ”

“That must be him there,” said Wade. “I just saw headlights in the driveway.”

Darrell craned around in his chair and saw a vehicle pull up in front of his picture window. The headlights illuminated the living room for a few moments, then shut off. A light came on in the vehicle as someone stepped out; a silhouetted figure then passed by the window, and Wade got the door just as the visitor was knocking.

“Mr. Morgan?”

“Hi. … Wade?”

“Yeah.”

“Man, you’ve shot up since I left. For a second I thought I had the wrong place.”

“Naw, you got the right one,” said Darrell as he appeared next to Wade.

“Hey, Darrell.”

“Good to see you, James. Come on in. Any problems getting here?”

“I remembered the way; guess that counts for something.”

“This your first time back since you left?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, I’m sorry it had to be for something like this, but we’re awful glad to see you. Here, let me take your jacket.”

“Thanks.”

“Come right into the living room and have a seat,” said Darrell as he hung James’s jacket by the door. “And I’d like you to meet Sara Kremshaw; she’s one of Wade’s teachers. Sara, this is James Morgan, former deputy here in town.”

“Hi,” said James, offering his hand.

“Pleased to meet you, Mr. Morgan.”

“Oh – call me James. An’ the pleasure’s all mine.”

“James, can I get you something to drink before I sit down?”

“Water would be good.”

“You want ice?”

“Yes. Please.”

James sat in a well-worn overstuffed chair, and Darrell was soon back with his drink.

“Well, James, I’ll get right to the point. We know about the creature that’s out there – we don’t know what it is, but we know it’s there – and at first it was only killing farm animals … but then it got Molly.” James swallowed hard and looked away. “And it could’ve gotten Sara. She saw it in her backyard a couple weeks ago, but thankfully it didn’t go after her.”

James looked at Sara, and for a moment their eyes met. Then they both looked away.

“As I mentioned before, we know about the creature because of Hank – he saw it nineteen years ago, when he was being attacked by the bear. In fact, the bear you found mutilated is the one that attacked Hank – the creature went after the bear while it still had Hank pinned to the ground, which gave Hank a chance to escape. So you might say the creature saved Hank’s life, but judging by how Hank described it, it was more like– ”

“The creature let him go,” said James.

“Yeah.”

“Where is Hank now?”

“He’s gone after it.”

James’s eyes lit up. “What? Where did he go?”

“To the Upper Basin – where he was attacked, where he saw the creature.” James looked down at the floor, searching. “He thinks that’s where the creature lives.”

James’s wide eyes darted here and there; his breathing was now audible.

“James, what is it?”

“I’m sorry, I, uh … I’ve seen what that thing can do. I can’t believe he’s goin’ after it.”

“Then … you knew at the time that it wasn’t a poacher that killed that bear?”

James scoffed. “Poacher? Is he still usin’ that line?”

“Actually, no. He’s calling them all bear attacks these days.”

“That’s not much better.” He paused. “Yeah, I knew what it was when it happened. Well, let me clarify: I’ve never actually seen it, don’t even know what it is – the sheriff always just called it ‘it’ – but I knew about it; I knew it existed. Though I have to confess that there’s plenty of things I don’t know.”

“Anything helps.”

“Well, I know that someone else was involved, because I heard bits an’ pieces of these clandestine phone conversations the sheriff used to have; I don’t know who he was talkin’ to, but whoever it was was the one who was in charge – the sheriff was just a pawn. I think he was scared, bullied – he never stood up to it.” Neither did you. “Then again, neither did I.”

“But you didn’t really know what was going on, did you?” said Sara.

“Not really. When some animals got killed, I knew that the sheriff an’ this other person were behind it – them an’ their ‘secret weapon,’ which I also learned about from listenin’ to those conversations – but the sheriff never let me in on any of it; I wasn’t much to him, just a grunt. But I was smart enough to figure out that somethin’ wasn’t right; had a feelin’ that somethin’ bad was goin’ on, but I didn’t know what, you know? An’ I wanted to do somethin’ about it, but I didn’t dare. Karen an’ I had just started our family, an’ I wasn’t makin’ much money … but I guess that was just a copout.”

“Don’t beat yourself up, James,” said Darrell. “I don’t know that there’s much you could’ve done about it.”

James looked as though he thought otherwise.

“Is that why you moved?”

“Yeah. The incidents had stopped by then, but I couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t stand continuin’ to work for the sheriff, knowin’ he’d been part of somethin’ like that, and that I wouldn’t – or couldn’t – do anything about it. I loved it here … so did Karen … but I had to get out of here.”

“Wait a second. You said the incidents with the creature had stopped by the time you moved?”

“Yeah.”

“So how long did they last? I mean, over what period of time did they occur?”

“Six or eight months maybe.”

“And how many incidents were there?”

“Ohh, let’s see. There was the bear, a couple deer … one or two coyotes … a wolf, I think … an’ maybe a moose.”

“But never any people.”

“No. Not as far as I know. Just Hank’s encounter, which I didn’t know about until now.”

“Um, if I may jump in a second,” said Sara.

“Sure, go ahead,” said Darrell.

“You’ll have to forgive me, Mr. Morgan – James – I haven’t been in town for very long; but how long ago did you move away from here?”

“Seven years ago.”

“And all of these things happened about nineteen years ago?”

“Right.”

“So that means there was a period of about a dozen years when nothing more ever happened? And you never heard anything more?”

“Right. It was just durin’ that six- to eight-month period that stuff was goin’ on, but the twelve years after that was just too much on my nerves. I had to go.”

“Oh, I understand. It just seems funny to me that it happened only during that short period of time and then suddenly stopped.”

“And not only that,” said Darrell, “but I was here at the time, and I don’t remember hearing about any of those other animals getting killed, other than the bear.”

“Well, the sheriff kept it all pretty hush-hush,” said James. “The only one anyone ever found out about was the bear – so that’s when he came up with that poachin’ story.”

“Now, that seems funny to me too. Why have all this mystery and secrecy, and this … creature killing all these animals, and nothing ever comes of it? No one ever knows about it? I mean, it wasn’t even used to scare the public into something, or anything like that? I don’t get it. Why’d they do it? I must be missing something.”

“You know, I never looked at it like that,” said James, “but you’re right, it does seem like a scare-tactic kinda thing, yet they never went public with it. Why?”

“Maybe it was never meant to scare the public,” said Sara, “but some other group, or an individual.”

“Well, the only individuals who knew about it were the sheriff an’ this other person. An’ me, in a very general sense. As far as groups … I never heard any groups or names mentioned.”

“Maybe we’re thinking too small,” said Darrell.

“Whaddaya mean?” said Wade.

“We’re only thinking about who they might’ve been trying to scare in Foster’s Glen. But what if they were trying to scare someone outside Foster’s Glen?”

“Like who?” said Sara.

“I don’t know.”

“Do you think that’s why it’s back now?” said Wade. “ ’Cause they’re tryin’ to scare someone again?”

“Could be.”

“Whatever it is,” said James, feeling a sudden pang of remembrance, “I’m more concerned about Hank right now than anything. I want the sheriff an’ his boss taken down in a bad way, but that thing– ” He was about to say something but then remembered that there was a boy and a woman in the room. He looked Darrell in the eye. “I don’t like Hank’s chances.”

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