Canto II Revelation: Part 3

The detective thought of Morgan’s fact-finding caveat as he loaded the HydraSport with supplies. Prudent, so long as it didn’t lead to indecision. He flipped the switch on the extra spotlight, made sure it was working, and checked that his pistol was loaded and ready in the shoulder holster. If his new deputy knew the kind of ordnance the he was packing, he might not have considered his warnings necessary. He placed the AA-12 automatic shotgun in the gun rack, twenty round drum mag already loaded. The thing wasn’t only a beast, it was waterproof, so he could keep it within easy reach without worrying about it getting soaked. Every shot was a titan of stopping power, and all twenty rounds could be unloaded in seconds.

Randall started up the engine and headed out of the harbor. He had at least two hours before dark, and had a hunch the party of doctors from Long Island wouldn’t be taking the warnings about the disappearances seriously enough to stay onshore.

He opened up the throttle and turned east toward Gatlin Island. He picked up the sailboat with his binoculars, its crew on deck enjoying martinis in a moment of clear sky.

A woman he hadn’t seen among their party that morning in the coffee shop was lounging in a deck chair. The bottom half of her bikini looked extra white against her tan. She wore nothing on top of course, and the middle aged man who came out of the cabin and kissed her took a moment to stop and admire his apparent trophy.

Randall did not dwell on speculation. Instead he moved the binoculars over to the boat’s low wake, looking for anything that might be trailing it—a small craft, fast or slow moving, any possible contact in its proximity.

He saw none, only the small whitecaps brought up by the stiff breeze. One of the crew put the sail up, and the craft began to tack its way back to Littleneck. The clouds had moved in front of the sun and the light had grown a shade dimmer when he saw it—a flutter against the surface of the water behind the boat.

He saw a fin next, a large one, but then something else—he recognized the shape, but no, it couldn’t be. The detective wiped his palm over his face and looked again. He saw something following the sailboat, though he could identify neither it nor the strange raindrop-like stipples that danced across the water.

Randall picked up the shotgun and drove the boat closer. He got within vocal range of the boat’s deck, but he no longer saw the thing in the water, only the tan, silver haired doctor holding the bikini-clad woman against him and looking irate.

He considered playing the cop card and coming aboard, but instead rounded the sailboat’s wake and headed toward the island as if he were on a routine patrol. He cut back across the point, was crossing a wind sheltered cove, when he picked up the shape again, moving fast beneath the surface.

The greenish-white form appeared to slither more than swim. Forty-feet long at least, like no whale or shark he’d ever seen. The serpentine tail made giant S’s, fins flaring like blades down its body. By intuition, Randall steered the boat broadside, was standing like a cannoneer about to unleash his battery—

—when between the scales, on a girth thick as an old oak, sprouted human arms. They danced beneath the surface, wriggling among the fins. The fingers extended their jagged nails like claws. He realized then it was the dozens of fingers he’d seen stippling the water behind the sailboat.

The thing’s head was hood shaped, flaring outward like a cobra’s. Paler than the thickly scaled body, it too had arms where its back spread outward. Randall was just picking out what the shape signified when his world flipped over—the entire monstrosity reversed its position in the water. One second it was gliding beneath, the next second dancing across the surface like a giant insect.

The displaced waves splattered over the Hydrasport’s deck. He fired the soaking shotgun on full automatic, aiming for he realized was a human torso attached to the serpent’s body.

From the torso extended a vein laden neck and pale faced head. Its hair hung in a mane of dark spines, and its fanged mouth stretched grotesquely too wide for its skull. Randall realized too late he’d emptied the drum clip into its scales, blowing off one of the arms, tearing a fin, but failing to even slow it down. The thing let out a wheezing, water-choked howl, as if it were mocking his tactics.

Three of the arms took hold of the cabin’s roof. They tore it away along with the steering wheel and throttle. The overwide maw lunged at him before he could reach another clip. Its fangs clamped into his chest, while steel strong hands tore his left arm off his shoulder.

In a last moment of consciousness, he was being dragged through the water as his blood and life fled in a flood of icy pins and needles. He was caught in the spines of the thing’s hair. As his body spun, he glimpsed the horror-struck doctor’s face, his mistress screaming, and the ghoul-green mass of scales ramming through the sailboat’s hull.

 * * * * *

“They don’t want you to officially ID him, but you were his deputy so they want a report from you.”

Nate squinted at the unzipped body bag. Randall’s jacket and flak vest still partialy covered his chest, but his legs had been shredded into strips of red meat. He’d seen the body of a man mauled by a bear once in northern Quebec, and it had the same absence of dignity. The torn legs and missing arms together made him look like some morbid parody of an infant.

“Did he have any keys on him?”

“Yeah, he had a key-ring from his belt.”

“Let me borrow them.”

The Trooper insisted on following him to Randall’s hotel room and shadowing him as he searched through his notes. “I’ll let you copy them for your report, then I’m taking them, and we’re done.”

* * * * *

 

Two hours later, the state police car pulled away from the shipping office where Nate copied the documents. Nate headed over to Jeb’s Tavern where for some reason the door was still locked at two when it normally opened at noon. Nate sat on the sagging, bleached wooden bench, pulled out his flask and the copies of the notebook he’d taken from Randall’s room and began reading:

The inscription on the rocks was a type of charm, a spell, as it were. Professor noted not in true runes. When asked if typical, Prof. K. answered no. When asked why, said not protection. When asked what, said a summoning, a conjuring. When asked what, not sure, something erased, scratched out. Why? Perhaps scratched out afterward, perhaps something taboo to those who understood.

There was more, a sketch of that pattern of inscriptions found on an island a few hundred miles down the coastline. Mahannis was one of the furthest out, least populated.

Canto II: Revelation Part 2

This installment of Preludes of the Return, of the Crimes of Heaven and Hell, by Carl R. Moore, is intended for mature audiences only. Reader discretion is advised.

Nate watched as the woman leaned over and spoke in low tones with the tavern’s proprietor. She was smiling in advance of her words and his. That and the way she brushed back her hair told him their connection was about more than paper deeds, as incredulous as it seemed. The old patchy skinned man should have been shaking with nervous luck. Instead he was meeting her with a glassy, trance-eyed look, an infatuation that made Nate conjure the word worship.

As the two of them whispered, Harpswell emerged from the kitchen, pushing a wheeled mop bucket. He managed to steer clear of his boss, but bumped into Van Garing, unleashing a heavy splash of brown water.

“My skirt,” she cried.

“So sorry, Miss. Didn’t mean it, swear I didn’t. Must say Miss, you’re looking quite beautiful today, Miss.”

“Mistake number two,” said Jeb. “Damnit Harpswell, am I gonna have to chain yuh to the basement door?”

“Sorry Mr. Craw, just doin’ my job.”

“Opinions ain’t part a’ your job. Oughta chain yuh by your cheek.”

“Oh please, leave him be,” said Van Garing. “He said I was beautiful. Something wrong with that? Besides, we have other things to talk about.”

Van Garing walked around behind the bar, put her arm around Jeb, and vanished with him into the kitchen. Nate shook the vision off, drank down his whisky, and turned back to the other patrons. Even now, with the fiddle and the television running in a jumble of sound, he saw Ray’s lips moving, talking to himself, describing the dead boys’ wounds, the looks on their mother’s and father’s faces. Crazy Ray had been taking his babblings into odder and odder places, and if Jeb came back, he would likely throw him out.

But Ray didn’t wait, showing himself to the door before the song was over. Nate took the opportunity to settle his tab with Harpswell. He waved to the dancers on his way out and let his tip say all there needed to be said to Jeb Craw.

Outside the fog had grown thick over the streets. Nate followed Ray’s slanted silhouette as he rounded up the hill away from the harbor. He took a side street that dead-ended at three one-story houses wrapped in weathered siding, then moved off onto a path that led into the pines. Nate sipped from his flask as the gaunt man paused, rocking on his lanky legs, muttering gibberish. When he turned down a second path that led to the cemetery, Nate turned back toward town. His actions as a good Samaritan with regard to the disappearances were one thing, trespassing another. He took his last sip of Friday whisky and headed for the efficiency.

* * * * *

The next morning Nate woke to fog so thick it was like seeing a ghost from the inside out. He cursed that he’d run out of coffee as well as cash and would have to walk to the ATM again. He dressed with slow respect for his headache, then headed down to the cobblestones, hoping he was going in the right direction. Once he found the vestibule, he took his cash and hiked another half mile to the gas station with the minimart. He sipped his coffee at the counter, then went outside and lit his pipe.

The fog still hung thick, though at least he could now see enough to cross the street where the road had some shoulder. There the Nazarath Baptist Church traced a faint white outline amid the gray mists, with its pale patrons filing out after the morning service. It being a weekday, they were mostly the elderly along with a few moms and out of work fishermen.

One old man, thick in the middle with wiry limbs, stopped and followed Nate with his eyes. Bald, wispy haired, and glaring, he took heaving breaths like his watching made him winded. “This is private property, ya bum! Get out! Get on outta here.”

Nate puffed on his pipe and kept walking.

“What’d you get dropped off by the bus? I said get outta here! We don’t need your kind! We don’t need no help around here!”

Nate felt a shiver as he noticed the man fall in behind him, wheezing and picking up speed. He was about to turn and confront the geezer, when Reverend Selman, a former captain Nate knew from his business, caught the old man by the arm and stopped him.

“Mr. Aikens, please, come with me. Take it easy. I think there’s a misunderstanding.”

He coaxed the man back to the church parking lot, then waved at Nate. “Sorry about that, Mr. Morgan.”

“Not a problem,” Nate called with a wave.

“Get the hell outta here, ya bastard!” called the old man as he was lifted into the church van.

* * * * *

Detective Randall made it to Little Neck Harbor by noon, parked his car, and walked down the pier to the stone beach. He checked he was on the right side, as specified in the voicemail, then saw Morgan was already there, smoking a pipe beside a block of gray basalt.

“Detective Garrett Randall,” he said as they shook hands.

“Nate Morgan,” said the man in the black pea coat.

“I was hoping we could have a word, if you have time.”

“Wouldn’t have met you if I didn’t. How can I help?”

Randall followed the man as he walked along a line of sopping seaweed. He looked a little hungover as he smoked and sipped his coffee.

“You used to work for customs in Boston?”

“I did,” said Morgan.

“And you’ve retired since, and lived in this town the last ten years?”

“I have.”

“You must know it pretty well.”

“Well enough, when it’s not too foggy.”

“Right, well, listen, although I can’t fill you in on all the details, I wanted to let you know that I’m in need of a deputy. I’m investigating the possibility of, well, let’s call it foul play with regard to the disappearances, and my superiors can’t spare me backup right now.”

“I’ll do it,” said Morgan. “You don’t have to explain. Just one condition.”

“What’s that?”

“No fool’s errands. We find our facts first. We find out who it is, we get our information in order. If we act, we act on that.”

“Fair enough,” said Randall. “So long as you agree that I’m in charge, unequivocally.”

Morgan nodded. “That’s a given.”

“Then we’re in business,” said Randall. “Now, raise your right hand.”

He swore-in Morgan there on the stone beach as salt water rolled in shallow swirls around their feet. After, they made their way back to the pier, where Morgan turned off toward the tavern, and Randall to his car, having agreed to meet the next morning.