Welcome to Greyhollow, a small town with a dark past and even darker secrets...
|Chapter Three: This Ain't A Taxi Service
The subsequent interrogation was to be expected. Sheriff Thorpe harassed the unfortunate youths while Deputy Brinsley watched sympathetically. Kevin did his best to explain the situation and the circumstances while the beady-eyed chief of police glowered from under the brim of his official hat. Tristan surmised that he wore it to conceal his balding scalp. Even though the hairs in that bristling mustache had greyed, his waistline had grown and his gait was stiff, the fire that drove him was not diminished. Whatever crime was committed, Sheriff Thorpe devoted every ounce of energy into discovering the guilty party and bringing peace back to the community. This overzealous pursuit of justice was often a subject of great controversy among the townspeople.
"So you mean to tell me that you broke curfew and brought your friends here to see a dead bull?" Grinding his teeth, the chief squinted at the farm boy. "Well, yeah. None of us could have done it, if that's what you are trying to say." Kevin said defensively, but Sheriff Thorpe didn't answer. Instead he turned over the shotgun and examined it. "Very nice. A Browning twelve gauge, if I'm not mistaken. Care to say why you have this much firepower?" "My dad lent it to me." Nodding, the sheriff passed the gun to the deputy. "Oh I have no doubt. We'll be talking to him later." Aiden muttered something to Dylan and they snickered under their breath. "What's so funny, Mr. Marbury?" Aiden's smile vanished. "Oh uh, just saying that those cows can be pretty mean."
Clara interrupted with the story of the clawed door and Tristan's close call with the possessed steer. This put the spotlight on Tristan, who was forced to show the ankle bite he'd received. "Always in the thick of trouble, aren't we Mr. Mathers." Sheriff Thorpe spat, his expression hardening. He viewed the boy with distrust and contempt, partially because of his family name but mostly a result of what happened long ago. "Just trying to find out why these things keep happening, since somebody can't." Tristan snarled, matching his glare. They stared each other down, not giving an inch. Clara stepped in between them, breaking the tension. "Stop it already! Look, something weird is happening here and we were just trying to help."
The chief snorted. "Doesn't sound strange to me, sounds like an animal problem. Which is exactly why none of you should be walking around after dark. Last thing I need is a couple of dead kids." Glaring from beneath his bushy eyebrows, he paced back and forth. "Now, what I think happened, is that a rabid mountain lion came by and had himself a snack. Hell, he probably infected one of the animals and that's why this idiot-" He gestured at Tristan vehemently. "-got nipped in the leg. Serves him right. Now I don't want to see any of you out past curfew again. ESPECIALLY messing around at any crime scenes. Do either and I'm going to slap each of you with misdemeanors and lock you up for the night! Do I make myself clear?" Everyone nodded sullenly, they had foreseen this coming the moment he found them.
"Sir?" Deputy Brinsley unhooked the radio from his belt. "I can have someone come up and take them home, sir." The sour faced man grunted in admission. Aiden chimed in that he could just drive home but was quickly silenced. "No, a squad car will do just fine. Oh and Deputy? See to it that Mr. Mathers gets home to his grandmother. He has a habit of escaping custody." With that, the sheriff grunted once more and stormed off towards the barn.
Deputy Brinsley waited until he was safely out of earshot before chuckling. "Hoo boy, you kids sure riled him up." Everyone relaxed as their moods lightened. "Good thing Kevin didn't shoot him, tempting as that might sound." Dry leaves tumbled alongside the cheery man gently guiding the teenagers towards the farmhouse. Tristan observed his friends cracking smiles and even laughing with the friendly cop, who was telling an amusing tale about a fight that started when a drunk urinated behind a dumpster where a hobo was sleeping. And yet, the story held no interest for him. Even though the oppressive atmosphere had shifted, Tristan still felt uneasy. Answers only led to more questions, but even those held a challenge. It was impossible to know what to ask. Or even who.
At least now they had something more to go on instead of dismembered animals and scuff marks. Hopefully the mysterious arrow was pointing them in the right direction.
The farmhouse was a beacon of safety, drawing them like moths fluttering towards a flame. Once they reached that sanctuary the feeling of relief was quickly squashed. Several officers were conversing with the Davidsons. Kevin groaned upon seeing his parents, a sentiment dreaded by all. "Don't worry, we'll be getting ours later." Said Aiden with a grimace. The farm boy smiled sheepishly and shuffled off to meet his fate. As he passed, Deputy Brinsley handed him back the shotgun. "Think this belongs to you." He winked conspiratorially and approached the other policemen.
Taking them aside, they spoke in hushed tones while Kevin was chased inside by his irritable mother. Turning to his friends, Tristan shrugged. "Better luck next time?" "Oh like there will be a next time." Clara sighed and checked her phone. "Great, its dead. Just like me, when I get home..." She muttered. Sitting on the porch steps, Dylan groaned. "My dad's probably digging a hole as we speak." Plopping next to him, Aiden leaned back and stretched his arms leisurely. "I could be out all night, my dad doesn't care."
"Congrats, I hate you even more." "Sticks and stones, Clara."
Ignoring the bickering, Tristan looked back towards the barn and lost himself in thought. These occurrences were linked somehow. But this was different.
Contemplation was interrupted by the cops who finished their chat and were ready for business. The deputy relayed the assigned duties in a commanding tone. "Officer Brooks will take Aiden and Clara. I will escort Dylan and Tristan home, in my place Officer Larkford is to assist the sheriff." This was met with resistance from Clara, who refused to be in the same car as a smug jerk. Brinsley shrugged apologetically. "This ain't a taxi service, toots."
As Dylan climbed into the back of the squad car, Tristan couldn't help but imagine that they were being carted off to jail. Perhaps Aiden was experiencing a similar sensation, his evil grin was replaced with nervous pallor when the door slammed shut.
There were no seat belts or door handles inside. "Charming." Dylan grumbled. Opening the plexiglass window, Brinsley asked them if they wanted a particular radio station. They shook their heads. "Come on guys, it's not that bad. I know the sheriff can be a hard ass but things have been... complicated." Frowning, Dylan leaned forward. "Did you guys find any leads on this case?" "I can't tell you if we did, but between you and me?" He glanced at them in the rearview mirror. "We have no goddamn clue. The official report is wild animal attacks, but nobody has seen any bears or mountain lions."
Dylan asked the deputy in a low voice if he believed the town was cursed. "No more than I believe you kids will actually stay outta trouble for once." He quipped, but the air grew uncomfortable as they rode in silence. Passing fields glimmered beneath a vigilant moon. The urban lights of Greyhollow twinkled faintly in the distance, a starry island amidst a shadowy sea. Smooth jazz oozed from the speakers. Elevator music, Tristan thought to himself. He toyed with a half baked joke about Brinsley being a sax lover before discarding it. Resurrecting conversation felt like too much work, and he'd already paid his respects. Stifling a yawn, he rested a weary head against the cool window.
The cruiser slowed to a stop in front of a pale green house. "Here's your stop, buddy." After thanking Brinsley for the lift, Dylan waved goodbye as the car pulled away. "Not a bad kid. A little too big for old wives' tales though." The cop looked at his passenger in the rearview. "You don't listen to that nonsense, do ya?" The boy shrugged. "Some days I don't know what to believe." Nodding, the deputy fixed his gaze on the road ahead.
"Hey, Deputy?" Tristan asked tentatively. "Hm?" "So I've been to a couple of uh, crime scenes, and there's something I can't quite place." He felt the questioning stare on him and continued. "I feel like there's something I'm missing but I don't know what." "That's because something is." A bolt of excitement passed through him. He was about to find out something important and he eagerly pressed for more information. Despite the urgent questioning, the driver was silent for a while before he spoke. "Remember that night?" Those three words stung Tristan, awakening a harsh memory that haunted his dreams.
A long time ago on a wintery evening, his mother tucked him into bed with a kiss. From the doorway his father smiled at him, wishing goodnight. Shortly afterward Tristan fell asleep under those warm blankets. He awoke in a dark forest, freezing and bleeding. Tears streaked a dirty face as he bawled in pain, wandering the snowy woods in pajamas. The cruel wind shrieked by, drowning out the little boy's cry. But as it passed a soothing voice called to him. This way... Come this way... It whispered. Tottering with icy feet, Tristan emerged from the forest and discovered a house.
"I'll never forget answering the door and finding you there, half frozen and bleeding to death. I didn't know where you came from, all I knew was that I had to save you. You were mumbling something over and over, just sounded like nonsense. Fast as I could I drove you to Doc Durant and prayed you'd survive the night. But you did, you pulled right through. But the next morning, when I followed your blood trail into the woods? Your footprints stopped a few hundred feet in. But that's not what bothered me."
Tristan met the deputy's eyes in the mirror and saw a glimmer of fear. He swallowed as the man continued. "I walked back, wondering what the hell you were doing out there. It was bitter cold out and no way you could have survived more than a few minutes in pajamas. When I got closer to home, I noticed that I'd missed something. Something... impossible. And I still see it to this day."
Tristan almost didn't want to know, but he had to. "What was it?"
"Alongside your tracks, was a second set. They followed you to the house and around a few times before they vanished. The thing is, they didn't look like any kind of feet I've ever seen... They looked more like hands."
The police car climbed the hill to his house and stopped. To his dismay, Tristan saw the living room was illuminated. Brinsley got out and stretched his long legs before opening the side door. "Look, just promise me that you'll steer clear of this." "Yeah, I will." He brushed past the cop. Officer Brinsley seized his shoulder and spun him around. "I mean it." There was an expression he'd never worn before, a burning desperation as he looked Tristan in the eyes. "Okay, I promise." Relaxing, the man sighed and let the boy go. "Better get some sleep. Wouldn't want you to miss school tomorrow." "You never answered my question." Turning away, Brinsley chuckled as he climbed into the car. "I'd worry more about answering hers."
Tristan watched the police cruiser drive off and listened as the mellow tones of jazz faded away. Sighing, he walked up the porch steps to face a different sort of music.