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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Horror/Scary · #2308495
Evil shadow takes over people by merging with their shadows, to make them commit murders
Hiram P. Melville, a tall, balding man nearly two hundred kilogrammes in weight, fifty-something in age, was waddling more than walking down Jefferson Street in the former ghost town, Wilhelmina, on the Glen Hartwell to Willamby line in the Victorian countryside. Originally abandoned after some now forgotten disaster in 1978, as land prices had skyrocketed in Australia from the 1990s, the town had become too valuable to leave idle, so property sharks had moved in, bought the properties up cheap, restored them, and in 2010 had started reselling them for vast profits.

Hiram considered himself a bit of a wit, although his wife Gladys wasn't above saying within his hearing that he was only half right. One of his party pieces was to make use of his surname to misquote Herman Melville's most famous sayings. Such as 'Hope proves a man deathless', which Hiram loved to misquote as: 'Death proves a man hopeless'. He would always bray like a donkey afterwards not noticing that no one else was laughing. Or that Gladys was hanging her head in embarrassment as she usually did when Hiram was saying one of his (half-)witticisms.

The Mackenzies are going to love my latest zinger tonight, though Hiram. Unaware that he had never produced a single zinger in his fifty-plus years. And that he was not going to make it to the Mackenzies that night.

He was walking along Jefferson Street, almost up to the intersection with Davis Road when he noticed that there was a second shadow next to his. He looked around, expecting to see someone beside or behind him throwing the shadow. But there was no one else around.

That's strange! he thought. It definitely looked like a man's shadow. More-or-less, it was a little rough around the edges like a computer-generated drawing. Still, it basically looked like a man's shadow.

Suddenly the second shadow started to creep forward, towards his own shadow. And for reasons he didn't understand, he tried to outrun the shadow. Although his running was more like waddling, and he had only gone a few metres before he was gasping for air as though he had just run a marathon. Not just waddled half a dozen or so paces.

Mustn't let it, he thought, suddenly stumbling over his own feet. Falling, cursing, to the concrete footpath.

While he was struggling to rise, the bodiless shadow suddenly merged with his own shadow.

He stopped half bent over, then slowly stood up, with a strange look on his face. He also suddenly looked much thinner, as though he wasn't much over one hundred kilos. Also, he suddenly realised that he was running very late.

Must get home to kill Gladys, he thought. Running like a marathon racer for the first time in thirty-five years.

"What the...?" asked Old Mother Gertrude, as everyone called her. Having never seen Hiram running before, or looking so trim and terrific before. He's lost a Hell of a lot of weight since I've seen him last! she thought.

Must get home to kill Gladys, he thought again, speeding down Davis Road, startling everyone who saw him.

"Was that Fatty Melville?" asked a teenage girl, Honeydew.

"Looked more like Trim and Terrific Melville," said her mother, Hortense. "He can't have lost that much weight since I saw him last, just a fortnight ago?"

"Must've had liposuction," suggested Honeydew: "Although I thought they wouldn't take out more than fifteen kilos at a time."

"That is a smart way to lose weight," said her mother.

"Not really, there's about a twelve percent chance of dying with lipo," pointed out Honeydew: "Something the lipo-suck-holes don't bother to warn you about."

"Honeydew, language!" chided her mother.

"Well, they are not warning people that they could die, before performing a dangerous procedure on them."

Long gone now, Hiram P. Melville still thought, Must get home to kill Gladys! As he ran along, getting closer and closer to the intersection of Davis Road and Benedict Street, where the Melvilles lived in a double-fronted yellow brick house.

Must get home to kill Gladys, he thought, again as he ran up the driveway, then up to the concrete patio outside their house.

Finding he didn't have his key with him, he hammered on the front door, almost breaking the frosted glass pane in the door.

"Hold your horses!" shouted Gladys, running down the corridor to open the front door.

'Oh, Hiram..." she said, stopping as he grabbed her by the throat with both hands.

"Must kill Gladys!" he said aloud, preceding to strangle her to death in plain sight, in broad daylight.

"Hi, Hiram, what you doing..." asked his neighbour

Sammy Swanston. He stopped in shock as he saw what Hiram was doing.

"Jesus!" shouted Sammy (named after Sammy Davis Junior, whom his parents both adored). He almost fell as he climbed over the wrought-iron gate to get into the yard to run across to the front door of the Melvilles' house.

"Must kill Gladys!" he said again as Sammy leapt on Hiram, trying to pull him off Gladys, who was already blue in the face.

Hiram easily threw him off, however. Throwing Sammy halfway across the lawn, as though he had not only lost a lot of weight but had somehow also become as strong as Superman.

"Must kill Gladys!" Hiram said, as though that explained everything.

Three other neighbours raced into the yard, to try to save Gladys, however, Hiram easily threw them off him. Knocking out two of them as their heads slammed into the concrete driveway.

The third neighbour, plus Sammy Swanston raced forward again. Hiram grabbed Sammy first and threw him with enough force to break him through the double-glazed window pane into the lounge room behind him. Cracking Sammy's skull at the same time. Then repeated the act with the second neighbour. Since the glass was already broken the second neighbour, Heimi Hendricks, was only knocked out on the lounge room floorboards.

"Must kill Gladys!" Hiram said again. Although her face had turned from blue to purple, her eyes bulged sightlessly, so that she was almost certainly already dead.

Nonetheless, more and more neighbours raced into the yard until nine of them managed to pull him away from Gladys.

"How the hell do we restrain him?" asked a tall blonde man as Hiram continued to fight like Superman.

"I know," said his wife Mavis. Swinging a short-handled spade, she whacked Hiram on the head with it as hard as she could. And the madman suddenly stopped fighting.

"Mavis always was the thinker in our family," said her husband, without a hint of sarcasm.

Over at Deidre Morton's boarding house in Rushcutters's Road, Merridale, Deidre was laying out a gigantic lunch for her tenants (or guests as she preferred to call them). Colin Klein, a redheaded reporter from England, spending his long service leave hunting down Australian myths and legends -- and doing very well at it in the Glen Hartwell to Willamy area. Terri Scott, a beautiful blonde, thirty-something policewoman in the local area. Sheila Bennett, an orange-haired Goth chick, around the same age, with fifteen years in the constabulary. Freddy Kingston, a short, fat balding retiree. Tommy Turner, a reluctantly reformed alcoholic - on orders from Deidre --, a short, obese man with long blonde hair, also a retiree. Natasha Lipzing was a seventy-year-old, tall, thin, grey-haired woman, who had been boarding with Deidre Morton for thirty-five years.

As well as two short-term 'guests' for the summer only. Millie and Michael Lovejoy. Both public servants and like Colin Klein enjoying their long service leave in Merridale.

Mrs. Morton was famous locally for her exquisite meals and more than generous proportions.

"You're in for a real treat, Deidre is a great cook," said Natasha. "I've been here half my life now. I'm seventy now and came here when I was thirty-five. And I'll never leave until they carry me out in a pine box."

"Actually, it'll probably be a cardboard box by then," said Millie: "You know how nothing is as good as it used to be."

"That's true," said Natasha: "I bought a box of Band-Aid Brand strips the other day. They used to be so good. But the current ones are a third smaller, and fall off the first time that you wash your hands. They never used to do that."

Twenty minutes later they were still gossiping about things that weren't as good as they used to be. Between eating Deidre Morton's divine cooking.

Then there came a rapping at the front door.

"Now who can that be?" said Deidre, going across to answer the door.

"Jessie, Donald, come on in," she welcomed them.

In walked the two men, both sergeants at local police stations. Jessie Baker was a tall muscular redheaded man. Don Esk was a huge bull of a man, with brown hair in an early Beatles mop top cut, and a long scar down the left side of his face.

"How do, how do," said Don in a poor imitation of a British TV Bobbie.

"So did you blokes come here just to scoff some of Deidre's divine cuisine?" asked Sheila Bennett: "Or is this call business related."

"We've got a murder case," said Jessie.

"Uh-oh," said Natasha: "Not one of Mr. Klein's whacky supernatural murder cases?"

"How dare, you," said Colin, sick of being teased about the supernatural murder cases which had been happening in the Glen Hartwell to Willamby region since he came there. "They are not my cases."

"Well, they do seem to only happen when you're around," insisted Deidre Morton.

"And when you're around, Natasha is around, Terri is around, and the rest of you are around..."

"Before World War III breaks out," said Donald: "At this stage, we have no strong reason to believe that there's anything supernatural about it. Basically, Gladys Melville has been murdered."

"Oh, my God!" said Terri Scott.

"By her husband, Hiram."

"Fatty Hiram?" asked Natasha Lipzing.

"He's no longer fatty, he's lost about eighty kilos," said Jessie.

"Since when?" asked Sheila Bennett, as she, Terri, and Colin Klein all stood up to go with them.

"Since last night, apparently."

Sighing, Terri said: "I hope this isn't some weird joke that you two idiots have dreamt up?"

"How dare you," protested Don: "We're sergeants just like you. So you shouldn't call us idiots."

"My apologies," said Terry: " I hope this isn't some weird joke that you two drongos have dreamt up?"

"That's better," said Jessie smiling: "And the answer is, no it's not. Hiram strangled her to death in the open while people tried, without success to stop him.""

As they started outside, Jessie asked Don: "Did we mention the super strength?"

"Super strength?" asked Terri, ching-chinging her blue Lexus.

"Yeah," said Jessie: "It took nine men to pull him off her, by which time she was dead. Before that, he threw two men, one handed onto the concrete fracturing their skulls. And also one-handed, threw two others through double-glazed windows.

"In the end, they only managed to stop him, because Mavis Hampstead had the sense to whack him on the head with a short-handled spade."

"She always was the brains in her family," said Sheila.

The Mitchell Street Police Station in Glen Hartwell had become a use-all lockup since the deaths of Danny "Bear" Ross and Terry Blewett its constabulary a short time ago.

So that was where they went to see Hiram Melville. Most of the six cells in Mitchell Street had bars the traditional seven and a half centimetres (three inches) apart. But there was one high-security cell with solid steel walls. And it was in that cell that Hiram P. Melville sat, slumped forward with his head in his hands, crying over what he had done.

"Why did I do it? Why did I kill her? My beloved Gladys!" he said over and over again between sobs.

"I'm guessing he's no longer violent?" asked Terri.

"No, he was sobbing over what he's done by the time that we got to Benedict Street, Wilhelmina, where the Melvilles live," said Jessie Baker.

"And the super strength?"

"Must have been an extreme adrenaline rush, because it's gone now," said Don Esk.

"But the mysterious weight loss continues," said Sheila Bennett, peering in through the small observation window in the cell door: "He used to be a lardo, now he looks trim and terrific."

"Yeah, that's the most mysterious thing of all," said Jessie: "He can't remember dieting, or how he lost all of that weight."

"Well, if I'm not overstepping my boundaries, as just one of three sergeants in the area," teased Terri: "I think we can move him to an ordinary cell."

"Ha-ha, it is to laugh," said Jessie, quoting Daffy Duck.

"So, is that a yes?" asked Terri, making everyone laugh.

A few minutes later they were in the barred cell with Hiram, Terri, and Sheila sitting upon the hard wooden bench that pretended to be a bed.

Emma Chissit, a thin petite brunette, barely one hundred and sixty centimetres tall was carefully pushing her double-decker pram, with her newborn twins, Emily and Devlin Junior, along Arnold Street, Wilhelmina, enjoying the sweet smell of eucalyptus that wafted in on the breeze from the neighbouring forestland.

Puzzled to see another shadow beside hers, she looked around, expecting to see somebody walking beside her. But there was no sign of anyone.

"What the...?" she began as the shadow crept across to merge with her own small shadow. Which suddenly increased in size. As did Emma herself, who began to swell out, increasing in height to nearly two metres. Her arms and legs began to bulge outwards as though she was a female power-lifter.

As she stretched and grew out, her clothes tore and fell off her until she was naked. Except for a badly stretched pair of pink panties, and a greatly stretched bra, from which her left breast plopped out. Her breasts had also increased in size from thirty-two B-cup to thirty-four double D-cup on par with Pamela Anderson, or Kat Denning.

Not caring about her near nudity, Emma Chissit, pushed the pram with Emily and Devlin in it out into the traffic. Not even noticing as a bus hit the pram, sending it and the tots flying fifteen metres down the road.

"Must kill Devlin!" she said starting down Arnold Street at a fast walk; referring to her brutal husband Devlin, not Devlin Jr., who was already dead,

"Mrs. Chissit, you're almost naked?" said an elderly lady as Emma quickly marched past her.

"Must kill Devlin!" said Emma without stopping.

"What did she say?" asked the old lady, deciding that she must have misheard.

"Hello, Mrs. Chissit, have you been weight training?" asked young Honeydew Dunwich, as Emma stormed past her.

"Must kill Devlin!" said Emma without stopping.

"Yes, of course," said Honeydew, starting to turn around to walk away. She stopped and looked back as she realised what Emma had said.

Coming up behind Honeydew, her mother Hortense Dunwich said: "My God, she's walking through the street almost naked. Who does she think she is, Bianca Censori?"

"But she's got one Hell of a nice arse on her," said Hortense's ten-year-old son, Tristram."

"Tris, you're only ten, you shouldn't be ogling women's behinds yet!"

"She's kidding, right?" he asked his older sister.

"You know Mum," said Honeydew: "She lives in her own private Twilight Zone."

"Kids," chastised Hortence Dunwich.

"What?" they asked together.

"Must kill Devlin!" said Emma Chissit again, as she power walked, nearly naked down Arnold Street.

"Hey baby, how about having a good time with me?" asked the town drunk -- well, one of them --, exposing himself to her as she strode up to him.

Without even stopping, she punched him in the face, sending him sprawling into the gutter. To land on his own vomit from only minutes earlier.

"Must kill Devlin!" she repeated as she approached the intersection of Arnold and Jefferson Streets.

"Hello, Mrs. ..." began Old Man Johnson stopping to stare at her large shapely left breast hanging out of her torn bra.

"Holy shit, her lucky husband," said the old man. Unaware just how wide of the mark he really was.

"Must kill Devlin!" she repeated as she raced on, allowing the old man to enjoy her rear view as she ran away from him.

"Yes indeed," said Old Man Johnson. Looking puzzled, he suddenly realised what she had said: "Did she just say...?"

"Must kill Devlin!" she repeated as she turned into the driveway at number two hundred Arnold Street.

Racing across to the front door, she kicked in the door as her startled husband stood up and ran across to her.

He stopped again, staring at this new improved Emma, forty centimetres taller, and built like a young Bev Francis.

"Must kill Devlin!" she repeated as he stood gawking at her.

"What the Hell happened to you, Em.?" he asked: "Did you start taking steroids behind my back? And growth hormones," he said. Too stupid to realise that growth hormones could not add nearly forty centimetres to the height of a full-grown adult.

"Must kill Devlin!" she repeated, punching him in the face hard enough to sprain his jaw and send him sprawling backwards across the carpet to crash down onto his back on the floor.

"What the fuck," he said, climbing slowly back to his feet. "Don't make me get out the cane to punish that beautiful phat arse of yours."

"Must kill Devlin!" she repeated shooting forward to give him a right to his flabby stomach. Then a left to his jaw, shattering his lower jaw this time.

"You won't be punishing my beautiful phat arse anymore," she said. Starting to punch him mightily in the stomach and face with a furious round of blows that a young Mohammed Ali would have struggled to reproduce: "Must kill Devlin!"

"Stop, honey," he tried to say through his shattered face.

But she continued to land a massive series of brutal punches upon his face and stomach, making up for all of the times that he had caned her backside, or slapped her around because, she was too slow to obey his orders, didn't feel in the mood that night. Or just because he had had a shitty day at work and decided to take it out on her.

"Must kill Devlin!" she repeated, unaware that she had already done so. She continued to land a vast series of punches upon her sadistic husband's corpse. Until finally starting to tire.

She went across to the fridge, took out a six-pack of Victoria Bitter, popped the lids of two cans and swallowed them quickly, one straight after the other. Sitting down on the sofa to watch Wide World of Sports she slowly drank two more cans.

Then the Shadow of Death decided that it was finished with her. The shadow slipped out of her shadow and streaked out through the remains of the front door.

Then, seeing what she had done to Devlin, Emma Chissit started to scream hysterically

At Mitchell Street Glen Hartwell, they were still trying to get information out of Hiram Melville.

"You really don't remember anything about what caused you to kill Gladys?" asked Terri, sitting beside the fifty-something man in the barred prison cell.

"I don't remember anything at all, after seeing the shadow. Until waking up with a terrific headache to be told that I had strangled poor Gladys."

"The shadow?" asked Colin Klein.

"Yeah, I was walking along Jefferson Street, when I noticed that I seemed to have two shadows. When I looked around though, the second shadow wasn't mine."

"Then whose was it?" asked Sheila Bennett.

"Nobody's," insisted Hiram: "There was no other person there and the shadow didn't seem to be connected to anything. Then slowly it crept over and merged with my shadow. Then the next thing I know I woke up, tied up on the ground with a terrific headache, and people milling all around me. With police sirens approaching."

Terri thought for a second, then said: "Not wanting to usurp Jessie or Donald's authority as my equal in rank. I suggest we should send him to the psych ward at the Glen Hartwell and Daley Community Hospital for testing for now."

"She's never gonna let us live that down, is she?" asked Donald Esk.

"Not in a zillion years," agreed Colin. "After all, as a woman, she knows that she was born to lead. Whereas, as men we were born to obey her orders."

"Not you too," said Terri: "I thought it was only these two drongos paranoid about obeying my orders."

"See," said Sheila Bennett: "She was careful not to offend you, by calling you idiots that time."

"Very thoughtful of her," said Jessie Baker.

Forty minutes or so later, they had Hiram safely locked away in the psych ward, being watched over by Jesus Costello (pronounced 'Hee-Zeus'). The chief administrator and chief doctor at the Glen Hartwell Hospital in Baltimore Drive.

His wife's funeral was planned for two days time. But it was deemed an unacceptable risk to allow him to attend.

They told Jesus and the coroner Elvis Green (so nicknamed due to his long black sideburns and worshipping of Elvis Presley), about Hiram's claim about the shadow merging with his.

"Looks like it is going to one of Colin's whacky backy cases then," teased the coroner.

"How dare you," said Colin Klein. No longer as jocular about the teasing as he once had been.

"Don't shit a cow over it," said the Goth Police Woman, Sheila Bennett.

"The expression is have a cow, or shit a brick," corrected the redheaded Englishman.

They were still arguing over English versus Australian idioms ten minutes later, when Paul Bell, rang them to tell them about Emma Chissit punching to death her husband Devlin in an inexplicable fury.

Facing Paul Bell, a tall, wiry raven-haired man, fifteen minutes later, Terry asked:

"Little Emma, built like a sparrow, beat to death her Husband Devlin, who is over two metres tall, and built like a brick chicken house?"

"He might be that," said Paul, opening the peephole in the steel door of the solitary cell: "But Emma is no longer built like a sparrow."

Looking in at the huge musclewoman, draped out in a large beach towel in the cell, Terri said: "No way is that Emma Chissit."

"Yes, I am, Miss Scott," said Emma looking up at her. Speaking in a voice that the blonde policewoman recognised.

"Emma...?" said Terri in amazement: "What happened to you? Have you been taking steroids or something?"

"No, Terri," she said.

"Besides," said Paul Bell, "that wouldn't explain her suddenly being about thirty-eight centimetres taller than she was last week."

"Why did you punch Devlin to death, honey?"

"I don't know, I can't even remember doing it. I hated him for hitting me regularly. But I can't recall wanting to kill him ... let alone doing it."

On intuition, Colin said: "Tell us about the shadow, Emma?"

"The shadow?" asked Terri, turning to face him.

"Oh, yeah, that's right," said Emma suddenly remembering. "There was this large black shadow, which slowly merged with mine. Then I don't remember anything until I started to scream as I saw Devlin's bloody corpse."

"She was sitting on the sofa in her undies," said Paul: "Which were stretched and broken beyond belief, as though she had increased in height and muscularity very rapidly."

"Just as Hiram Melville reduced in weight very rapidly," pointed out Colin Klein.

"Yeah, exactly," agreed Paul Bell.

"Emma, you're not going to attack us, if we let you out of that cell, are you?" asked Terri.

"No, of course not," said Emma, sounding shocked at the suggestion.

Unlocking the cell door, Terri said: "Then let's get you to the Glen Hartwell Hospital, where you'll be a lot more comfortable than you are here."

"Thank you, Terri," said Emma, standing then looking startled, saying: "The twins, Emily and Devlin Junior! What has happened to them?"

Terri looked around to Paul Bell, who signalled her to come back out of hearing range. Then whispering he said: "They were hit by a Lori and killed outright. We think whatever changed her also made her push the carriage out into the traffic."

"Well, for God's sake don't tell her till he's at the hospital and sedated," advised Colin Klein: "She's calm now, but might not stay that way when told of what she did."

"Good idea," whispered Terri. Then to Emma: "Let's get you to the hospital first honey, then we'll sort out Emily and Devlin Junior for you."

"Well ... okay," said Emma sounding uncertain.

At the hospital, Emma said: "I've always hated muscle women, they seem so unfeminine. Am I going to have to stay this way for the rest of my life?"

"Frankly, we don't know yet Emma," said Jesus Costello. "We'll have to run a lot of tests on you before we know one way or the other."

Down at Adolphi Place in Wilhelmina, Alfred Marsden was jogging furiously. Partly to get rid of some of the weight he had acquired in his pre-Christmas celebrations. Partly just to get him out of the house, so that he didn't have to listen to his Mother-in-Law Angelina Esposito's constant criticisms. She had never believed that Alf was good enough for her Rosalita."

"Not good enough for her," said Alf aloud: "They come from bloody peasant stock. It's not like they're descended from Sophia Loren, or anybody famous."

So fixated was he upon his hatred of Angelina, that Alf did not even notice the extra shadow beside his. Nor did he notice as it sneaked forward to merge with his own shadow.

Suddenly he stopped and stared forward as though he'd just had a great epiphany, a moment of sudden clarity.

Racing forward again, he said aloud: "I've got to kill Angelina!"

"Hi, Mr. Marsden," said the local paperboy, riding past him.

"I've got to kill Angelina!" replied Alf.

"Yes sir," said the paperboy. He almost crashed his bike into a letterbox as he realised what Alf had said.

"What was that, Mr. Marsden?"

"I've got to kill Angelina!" repeated Alf, still jogging along.

"That's what I thought you said," said the startled paperboy.

Alf continued jogging down Adolphi Place until he reached Benedict Street and turned left into it.

"I've got to kill Angelina!" he said again.

"Hello, Alf," said an old man out watering his front lawn.

"I've got to kill Angelina!" replied Alf.

"Absolutely," said Geoff, taking it as a joke. After looking around carefully, to make certain that she wasn't outside, he said: "I feel like killing my wife sometimes too."

As he ran down Benedict Street, Alf kept greeting people with, "I've got to kill Angelina!"

Most laughed, taking it as a joke. But a few looked worried, wondering if they should ring the police; before deciding that it was none of their business and they should stay out of it.

As he entered his front yard he saw Rosalita using a short-handled spade to dig up the garden, ready to plant some flowers.

"I've got to kill Angelina!" he said to her.

Kissing him on the cheek, she said: "I know how you feel, honey, she has been such a bitch all day!"

Taking the spade from her, he said: "I've got to kill Angelina!"

He raced across to the door which opened from inside, to reveal Angelina glaring at him.

"So the lazy bum is home at last. You should be using the shovel, not poor Rosalita."

So he used the shovel, smashing her in the face with it, saying: "I've got to kill Angelina!"

"Honey!" called Rosalita, as he smashed her now prostrate mother in the head again, saying:

"I've got to kill Angelina!"

"Honey, stop!" shouted Rosalita, running across to Alf, as he whacked her mother a third time saying:

"I've got to kill Angelina!"

"Honey, please, I know she's a major bum pain, but don't kill her."

He stopped for a second and looked puzzled at Rosalita, before saying: "I've got to kill Angelina!" As though that explained everything.

As he started hitting Angelina again and again with the short-handled spade, Rosalita raced next door, to hammer on the door until Barny Humphreys came out.

"What...?" he demanded, then seeing who it was: "Lovely Rosalita, what can I do for you?"

"My husband is killing my mother."

"I know how he feels," said Barny, taking it as a joke: "I feel like killing my bitch of a mother-in-law sometimes too."

"No, seriously," said Rosalita.

"What?" said Barny. Stepping out onto his front patio, he looked across to where Alf was still whacking Angelina with the spade, saying:

"I've got to kill Angelina!"

"Shit in a handbasket!" said Barny running outside, to climb across the short brick fence separating the two houses. He ran across the lawn to tackle Alfred, saying: "Stop mate, the old bitch isn't worth going to gaol for."

Then seeing Angelina's skull and most of her brains had already been reduced to a bloody paste, he realised that it was way too late to save her.

Looking at him, perfectly calmly, Alf said: "I've got to kill Angelina!"

"I think you've already done that, mate."

"I've got to kill Angelina!" insisted Alf as he continued smashing the short-handle spade again and again into the mess that was Angelina's head.

Leaving Alfred, Barny walked across to the gate where Rosalita was watching in terror.

"Why aren't you stopping him?" demanded Rosalita.

"It's way too late, the old ... your mother is already dead."

"Oh my God! My God!" said Rosalita, covering her face with her hands and crying.

Taking her into his arms to comfort her, Barny said: "I guess you still cared a little for her?"

"That evil old battleaxe?" said Rosalita: "No I hate her for the way that she always belittled Alf and tried to split us up. No, I'm glad she's dead. I'm crying at the thought of my beautiful husband going to gaol for decades for killing that ugly old witch!"

Terri Scott, Colin Klein, Sheila Bennett, and the others were sitting down at the dining table to another of Deidre Morton's sumptuous and abundant meals, discussing the latest whacky murder case, when Colin Klein said:

"Maybe it's time to bring in our resident expert of myths and legends, Bulam Bulam?"

Almost dropping her fork, Terri said: "That's a great idea."

"Yeah," agreed Sheila: "Plus it'll be nice to see the old bloke again."

With that, they settled in to enjoy the sumptuous repast. Having almost finished, as a knocking came at the door.

"Now who could that be?" asked Deidre, getting up to answer the knocking.

"Probably Jessie, Don, and or Paul come to tell us the results of the testing on Hiram and Emma," said Terri between mouthfuls.

It turned out she was half right. It was Jessie Baker and Paul Bell, but to tell them about Alfred Marsden murdering his mother-in-law with a spade.

"That poor bastard," said Sheila as they stood up to leave: "He's probably going to spend decades in gaol over killing that evil old bitch."

At Benedict Street they found Donald Esk cuffing Alf as his wife cried, saying: "I'll get you the best attorney possible, honey. You won't spend long in prison for killing that old witch, I promise you."

"But, I keep telling you, I don't remember killing her," insisted Alf: "I mean I've dreamt of it thousands of times. But I can't remember actually killing her."

"I think you can take the handcuffs off him," said Terri: "If I'm not overstepping my bounds as just one sergeant in this area."

On 'not over' Sheila, Don, Paul, Jessie, and Colin all joined in matching her word for word.

"Very funny," said Terri smiling. Then to Alf: "You're not gonna give us any trouble if we take the cuffs off, are you?"

"No, Terri," assured Alf: "I really don't remember even killing the old battleaxe."

Terri nodded to Donald Esk to remove the cuffs, then said: "You three take her and Rosalita to the hospital, once the ambulance comes to take the old ... Angelina's corpse away. In the meantime, Colin, Sheila, and I are going around to talk to our resident expert on local myths and legends."

"Give him our regards," said Don, as Terri and the others walked back to her police-blue Lexus.

Bulam Bulam was a grey-haired Elder of the Gooladoo tribe, outside the township of Harpertown in the Victorian countryside. Although he lived in a lean-to in his tribal village, he owned and worked a small grocery shop in town.

He was serving a customer in his shop when he heard the tingle-ling of the bell over the front door, indicating that someone had entered his shop. Looking around he saw Terri, Sheila, and Colin Klein enter his shop.

Handing over change to his customer, he said: "Three of my favourite people in the world. Come on in."

Flipping the sign on the door to 'Closed', he took them into the small leisure room at the rear of the shop to talk.

"So what brings you here after all this time?"

"We saw you three days ago," reminded the orange-haired Goth chick, Sheila Bennett.

"Well, it seems like a long time," said Bulam Bulam. "So which is it, business or pleasure."

"Well, it's always a pleasure to see you old timer. But we're here on business," said Colin.

"What're you mean, old timer," he protested: "I'm only sixty-six, and since sixty is the new forty these days, that makes me barely middle-aged."

"And they do say that life begins at forty," said Terri: "So these days life actually begins at sixty."

"Exactly, so what can I do for you?"

"We need your help with local legends," said Colin Klein. He went on to tell the Elder everything that had happened so far in Wilhelmina."

"And they all mentioned a shadow taking over theirs?" asked Bulam Bulam.

"The first two did," said Terri: "The third one we sent around to the psych ward at G.H. Hospital without really interviewing him in any big way."

"What you're dealing with is The Shadow of Death," said the Elder. "In my people's language, we call it Wopuna Maalak. Which technically translates as The Departed Shadow, since Aboriginal dialects don't have a word for death."

"Is there any way to stop it?" asked Sheila.

"Certainly. You just have to kill the host it's controlling while their shadows are merged. If it can't separate out in time it dies with the host."

"So we have to murder an innocent person to stop it from killing?" asked Colin as Sheila and Terri both looked horrified.

"Not necessarily," reassured Bulam Bulam: "It can take over other animals besides humans. If you could lure it to merge with the shadow of a police dog, for instance, you can shoot the dog, thereby killing the Shadow of Death or the Departed Shadow."

Looking at Sheila and Terri, Colin asked: "How do you think the local dog handlers will respond if we told them we need to kill one of their dogs?"

"Well Don cried when his beloved Thomas and Rufus were killed," said Terri: "So I'm guessing not well."

"What about stray dogs from the pound," suggested Sheila Bennett.

"That would work just as well," said Bulam Bulam: "And since they'd be put down anyway after a week in the pound, you aren't necessarily reducing their life span by much."

"Good idea, Sheila," said Colin Klein.

An hour later the four of them were at the local pound, along with Donald Esk, and other local dog handlers.

"You want all of our dogs that are big enough to act like tracker dogs?" asked Linda, the owner-operator of the pound. A forty-something blonde with a Little Richard-style bouffant hairstyle.

"That's right," agreed Terri Scott.

"Well, okay," she said leading them into the back of the pound.

Altogether there were twenty-one suitable dogs. As Don and the other handlers put leashes on them, Linda said:

"Normally I charge fifty bucks a dog. But I guess for such a big purchase, I can make it five hundred for the lot of them."

Terri handed over a credit card, and they were soon on their way.

As they stepped outside Colin said: "Okay that's the easy part, getting the expendable dogs. Now the question is, how the Hell do we get the Shadow to enter the shadow of one of them? And not one of us?"

"With military-style torches," said Bulam Bulam: "Like all shadows torchlight makes it cease to exist. So we can scare it away from us with flashlights."

"Luckily we've got plenty in the police cars," said Terri, going across to her Lexus to open the boot to remove half a dozen military super-torches, as Don got a few from the boot of his Range Rover.

"Okay," said Sheila taking two of the torches: "So we've got the dogs, and we've the super-torches, so how do we make certain the Shadow of Death comes after us, and not anybody else."

"But enacting a total curfew in Wilhelmina, until we've killed the thing," said Colin Klein.

By pulling some strings Terri managed to get all of the news and radio stations to give quarter-hourly announcements that Wilhelmina was in total lockdown until a dangerous killer was caught. Not mentioning the Shadow of Death to avoid seeming comical.

For two days they patrolled the streets of Wilhelmina without any luck. But on the third day, Sheila suddenly shouted: "Looked out Don, you've got two shadows."

Don quickly shone his super-torch onto the Shadow of Death. Then Terri, Sheila, Paul Bell, Andrew Braidwood (a tall gangly blonde cop with long, stringy hair), plus Colin and the other cops surrounded the shadow. With torches shining in its direction, the Shadow of Death had nowhere to go except into one of the dogs, a bull mastiff, which quickly swelled into the size of a great timber wolf.

Releasing the other dogs, the police opened fire upon the giant mastiff, making it shriek like a banshee. They continued firing, reloading when necessary until the dog, which took a Hell of a lot of killing, finally fell silent as it fell over dead.

Wary of the corpse in case the Shadow of Death had somehow survived they threw an old rug over it, wrapped the rug up and took it back to the security steel-walled cell at the Mitchell Street Police Station in Glen Hartwell. Terri said:

"We'll have to arrange in a week or so to get Hiram, Emma, and Alf released. Physically they may have done the murders, but in reality, they weren't the perpetrators."

As they were finishing up, they received a phone call from Russell Street Police Headquarters in Melbourne.

"It's for you," said Jessie Baker handing the phone to Terri Scott, who talked on the phone for nearly ten minutes. At one stage mentioning Sheila Bennett.

When she finally hung up the blonde policewoman said: "They've finally decided who will take over from Danny Ross after he was killed. And you're looking at her. I've had Sheila promoted to be my deputy."

"So you two are now officially the chief cops in the Glen Hartwell to Willamby area?" asked Colin.

"Yep," said Terri. Then to Jessie, Don, and, Paul Bell: "Boy are you blokes ever in trouble now." However, she gave it away by laughing.

"So now you can call them idiots with impunity," teased Sheila Baker.

"Don't worry boys," teased Terri: "I promise to never again call you anything worse than morons."

"So you won't abuse your powers," teased Colin.

"Absolutely not," said Terri breaking down into laughter.

© Copyright 2023 Philip Roberts
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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