Sunday, October 21, 2012

Homecoming Queen: Chapter 8

It was a less than ideal situation for CC Tucker.  Her first "field trip" since joining Lazlo University’s secret society of occult specialists was supposed to be a milk run.  Instead, she found herself facing a thing which may have been a man at one point, and had just snapped a man's neck in front of her.  It had followed it up by knocking a very large and angry werewolf across a clearing.  To make things worse, she knew exactly who she dealing with. 
"Mmmmmine now." The wretched thing said as it stared at her taking a step forward.  The appendage coming from its stomach waved around in a manner that CC found completely disgusting.  She glanced quickly to Cole who was trying to pull himself to his feet.  She then glanced at Gabe and Steward, who were trying desperately to gain control of the remaining enthralled mob.  She knew it would strike at her.  It knew why it would strike at her.  She was the one who got away.
The backpack she had been carrying slid from her shoulders.  CC caught the shoulder strap in her hand, and as she took her first step forward she threw the pack straight at the wretch.  The thing's chest appendage swatted it out of the way as it stopped moving forward.  It was CC who was closing the distance now, and as much of a wreck that thing's face was it was impossible to miss the surprise written upon it.  The tentacle swung back around aiming straight for CC's head.  She dove under it, still advancing.  The forward roll was something she had learned in a tumbling class as a child, and it got her closer still.  She was on the soft, dirt floor of the clearing at the feet of the wretch.  She could hear Gabe screaming for her to run way.  She looked up and saw the thing looking down at her, looking pleased to finally be able to get its hands on her.
She was not sure it would have any effect at all, but that did not stop her from kicking upwards and driving her foot right into the thing's crotch.
It wailed in pain and grabbed her.  CC knew it wanted her to suffer.  She knew she had enraged it.  It had to be blinded by rage, for as it grabbed her shoulders hard and hauled her to her feet, it had completely missed that she had pulled her car keys from her pocket.  It missed the canister of pepper spray on the key chain too.  CC doused its eyes and it reeled backwards, screeching.  CC wanted to punch it straight in its disgusting face, but the tentacle swung wildly with the pain its host felt.  It hit her flush in the side and knocked her clean off her feet.  She landed several feet away.  She did not hit her head, but the pain in her side was so sharp she saw stars.  She wanted to get up, but the four broken ribs protested greatly.  All she was able to do is roll onto her back, clutch her injured side and watch what would happen next.
The thing staggered around and covered its face with its hands.  The pale appendage waved and thrashed wildly.  It continued screeching horribly, only to be stopped by the massive werewolf form of Cole Buchannon punching it in the head.  The punch was strong enough to snap a person’s neck, but someone the wretch kept standing.  Cole immediately followed the punch with a swipe of his powerful claw, raking down the wretch’s body.  The dark fluid that oozed from the wound may have been blood. 
The wretch lashed out blindly with the tentacle while still covering its face.  This time Cole was ready.  He caught the tentacle, with a grunt from the impact.  He managed to keep his feet this time and twisted, pulling harshly on the disgusting appendage.  Cole yanked the wretch off the ground and brought it crashing back down to the ground.  He immediately pounced upon his opponent.
“Take him out, Cole!”  Yelled Gabe as he slammed his forearm into an enthralled woman’s cheek.
“You’re dead!” Cole snarled as he raised his clawed hand to strike.

“Kuroskos!” CC called out, and the strain of yelling shot a jolt of pain straight through her.  The wretch turned its head and glared at her with its chemically burnt eyes.  CC was not sure if it could even see, but the hate in its eyes was evident.

Cole’s blow came down and sunk through the wretch to the dirt below it.  A harsh blast of air exploded from the thing, and if Cole had been any lighter it would have thrown him off.  The blast of air caused Cole to close his eyes momentarily, but CC saw everything.  The thing evaporated, and at the same moment every last one of the enthralled fighting Gabe and Steward fell to the ground unconscious.  Travis Kinkaid and the other two that had been mindlessly shuffling around stopped and straightened up.

“Where am I?” Travis asked looking around.

Cole bounded into the trees to transform back into his human form before Travis or the other two victims that were still awake spotted him.  Gabe hurried to CC side.  He knelt next to her.  Steward was checking the other people.

“You OK, kiddo?”

“No.  I just got my ass kicked by a freak.”  She answered a bit weakly. 

“Not from what I saw.”  Cole answered as he joined Gabe at her side.  “Thanks for the assist.”  He smiled down at her.  It was a nice gesture, but CC appreciated it much more when Cole picked her up and carried her out of the woods later saving her a long painful walk.

Other searchers arrived soon after the action was over drawn by the yelling and gunfire.  The searcher that had been taken down by one of the enthralled was dead, his windpipe was crushed.  The enthralled mob slowly began to come around.  Their memories were all very hazy on what happened.  Many remembered coming into the woods, but after that they drew a blank.  The entire time people milled around the clearing, Sheriff Steward kept a close eye on Gabe, CC, and Cole.

By the time people were getting back to the field where the search had started night had fallen.  Lights of trucks and emergency vehicles were all that illuminated the area.  Families lost loved ones that evening, but altogether eight victims had been rescued.  Unfortunately, more than that had lost their lives.  CC found herself on a stretcher ready to be loaded into an ambulance to tend to her broken ribs.

“I better get serious extra credit for this.”

“I’ll make sure Rogers gets the memo.  You called it a name.”  Gabe heard CC in the fight.  It became clear to the young co-ed that the former Army man did not miss much.  “You did know it.”

“Kuroskos.  It was the same thing that tried to take me over in the dorms that night.*  No idea what it was doing here.  God.  I could have become that thing.”  The tremble ran through her at the thought.

“Sounds like you made yourself an enemy.”  Cole said as he leaned against the side of the ambulance.  The paramedics mistook him for a victim and he was currently wrapped in a blanket even though the cool night air did not bother him in the least.

“Sounds like.”  CC dreaded the notion of possibly facing Kuroskos again considering how much pain both experiences had given her.  At the same time, she really wanted to hurt that horrible thing.

“Well, let me know when he comes back around.”  Cole said calmly.  CC looked at him.  The implication was clear.  She had made a dangerous enemy that evening, but had made a powerful friend as well.

Sheriff Steward approached the three of them.  Despite the cool air, he was sweating.  He looked confused and more than a little angry.

“Did you people know what was going on out there?”  There was gravel in his voice.  The kind that came from trying not to yell.

“No.  Still not entirely sure, but we will find out.”  Gabe answered him. 
I’m sorely tempted to arrest you.”


“But… you saved my life in there, and I’m still not sure what all that was in there.”

“What you saw wasn’t meant for people to see.  I’m truly sorry you had to go through it, and I’m very sorry about your friends.”  The sheriff nodded gravely, and Gabe produced a card from his wallet.  “Unfortunately, things like this happen.  If they happen again, you call, and we’ll help in every way possible.  We’ll be in contact when we have more answers as to what happened in there.”  The Sheriff was not completely satisfied, but he knew local news people were going to be descending on the area at any moment and he was going to be asked questions he could not answer.  Steward gave the three of them a nod and walked away silently.  Gabe turned back to CC.  “As for you, you rest up, you’ll be fine.”

“No I won’t.”  She responded and Gabe cocked an eyebrow.  “We missed dinner and my parents are going to kill me.”

(*Note: see “The Learning Curve” for details.)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Homecoming Queen: Chapter 7

CC's idea of how to get the mob out from under the Soul Eater infection was shaky at best.  As such, she did not offer any objection when Gabe and Cole decided it would be best to go after the thing responsible.  Cole had transformed into his "other" form as soon as they started into the woods.  CC tried not to watch the transformation, but could not help but hearing the cracking of bones and the wet friction of the process.  It looked agonizing, but Cole did not let on if it was. 
Cole led the group through the woods.  He had quickly picked up the scent, and bounded through the forest easily.  It was almost too easy for him as Gabe and CC had to hurry to keep up.  Gabe was surprised that something with Cole's massive size could move so fluidly through the trees.  He and CC were actually making more noise while running.
As for CC, she was trying to keep processing the entire affair.  She did feel much better with Gabe and Cole there, and was confident that they could handle their prey.  She replayed the events through her mind and something suddenly jumped out in her mind.    It had seemed odd before, but with everything going on she finally was able to place it.
“It knew me.” She said as they ran.
“I caught that.”  Gabe answered without looking back at her.  “What was that about?”
“I have no idea.  It said something about me not escaping again, but I think I would remember being attacked by a freak like that.”  CC spotted Cole stopping.  She and Gabe did likewise, coming in right behind their fur covered ally.
“What’s up?”  Gabe asked softly, looking about through the woods.  He did not spot anything out of the ordinary. 
“People.”  Cole’s voice was guttural and hard to understand.  He kept his responses short, as forming words in that form was difficult to do and actually painful.  “Fifty yards that way.”  Cole pointed, but Gabe and CC could not see anybody through the woods. 
“Part of the search party.”  Gabe noted.  “This could get ugly if our guy finds them before we do.”  Cole nodded, and took off without another word.  Gabe and CC hurried after.  The pace was quick as Cole seemed quite sure he was on the right trail.  CC had long given up any notion of trying to figure out where they were in the woods.  She could not hear anything but their movements, and they daylight was quickly fading.  She was starting to feel a bit of dread again.  It was to the point that she gasped when Cole suddenly stopped again. 
“We’re circling around.”  Cole shot a look at Gabe.
“We’re going in circles?”  CC asked while trying to maintain control of her breathing.  The jogging she did daily was paying off, but her endurance was starting to wane.
“A circle.  It drew us away from the clearing and doubled back.”  Gabe answered as the three of them broke into a sprint.  The place could have been of some importance.  It looked like a regular clearing, but there had to be something there that they had missed.  The hostages could have been the key factor.  The three of them could only silently speculate to themselves as they ran. 
As they approached the clearing the three of them were running on adrenaline.  Cole and Gabe were used to the feeling, but CC’s legs felt shaky.  When she heard the screams, she felt her stomach drop. 
It was men yelling and screaming.  A gunshot was heard, and then more yelling.  CC wanted to slow down, but Cole and Gabe seemed to pick up speed.  She struggled to keep up.  She could start to see the clearing and saw movement there.  People were fighting.  Gabe barreled out into the clearing as Cole hung back a bit not wanting to bring a werewolf out into the open without knowing exactly who was waiting for him.  CC followed Gabe.  The first thing she saw was the body.
A group of the searchers had found the enthralled people, and they were attacked.  A man lay upon the ground, limp and life less.  His head had been burst open, and the sight of it made CC nearly gag.  CC looked at the fighting in time to see another man’s neck get snapped by one of the enthralled.  He fell without a sound.  There was another body.  One of the mob had been shot in the chest and lay flat on his back with his shirt stained crimson.  Sheriff Steward was there with two other men.  Steward had his sidearm out and was yelling at the mob to back off.  The two men with the sheriff were not armed, and likely were regretting the fact.  The three of the enthralled, including Kinkaid, that had previously been just milling about were still doing that and seemed uninterested in the whole thing.
Gabe rushed forwards and shoved one of the mob hard into the others.  He managed to get a few of them to stumble.  He quickly spun around to punch the closest one in the face, it stumbled backwards.  The three searchers took this as a cue and attacked.  The sheriff kicked one of the enthralled as one of his cohorts punched one of the women.  The third searcher grabbed one of enthralled men but was quickly overpowered and tackled to the ground where he tried desperately to get out from under his assailant.
“Gunther!”  Called out Sheriff Steward as he punched a woman trying to grab him directly in the face.  He regretted doing it, but his resolve to get home to his wife in one piece overrode his reservations.  “You have any idea what’s going on here?”
“They’ve been drugged!” Gabe answered quickly, narrowly voiding a woman lunging at his reaching for his neck.  “The person who did this to them is out here somewhere.”
“Who in the hell has drugs like-“ The other searcher who had actually been holding his own quite well against the mob did not get to finish his question as his head was suddenly twisted one hundred and eighty degrees.  The twisted man had emerged from the woods and snapped the man’s neck like a twig.  His body fell to the dirt.
That was more than enough for Cole who sprang from the woods into the clearing the moment he saw the twisted man.  He cursed himself for not picking up on horrid person sooner.  It had cost a man his life.  He rushed past CC so fast she barely saw him.  Gabe and the Sheriff were barely aware of everything that was happening with the rest of the mob attacking them.  Cole launched himself into the air, prepared to strike down the wretch behind everything.
CC’s jaw dropped as the twisted man turned towards Cole and a massive appendage shot out from beneath his shirt and struck the massive werewolf out of the air.  The appendage looked like a tentacle and it waved around.  The size of it did not seem to cause the twisted man any trouble with his balance.  Even as Cole came crashing to the ground at the edge of the field, CC watched in horror as the thing looked right at here and started walking towards her.  The tentacle waved in the air as if it was ready to strike at her.
“Guys!  Help!”  CC called out as she backed away slowly unsure of what to do next.
“You.”  The wretch spat rather than said.  “You willll be mmmine….”  It seemed like it was getting difficult for the thing to talk, but the voice sounded very odd to CC.  It was as if there were two voices speaking.  Suddenly everything fell into place.  She knew that second voice.
“Oh, you son of a bitch.”  CC’s face changed from fear to anger.  She knew this thing.  “I owe you big time.”  Her fisted clenched.  The fear was still there, but so was the chance for payback.  This thing had just easily killed a man right in front of her, but despite that, CC Tucker was ready for a fight.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Homecoming Queen: Chapter 6

CC's finger was firmly on the trigger of the pistol when she locked eyes with Gabe.   The situation was a heartbeat away from going completely horrible.  It was right then that she knew the weapon would be more useful in his hands.  The unspoken message between the two of them was clear.  Gabe was still between the mob of attackers and the monstrous werewolf that had just entered the clearing.
The motion all started as if on cue.  The mob and werewolf all bolted forward towards Gabe.  Gabe dove towards CC, hand outstretched, reaching for the 9mm Glock that CC was tossing towards him.  Her teeth were clenched as the pistol flew through the air.  She regretted her decision as she did not see how, even with the gun, Gabe would be able to get clear.
There was a blur of motion as the werewolf's massive fur covered arm lashed out and took the head clean off one of the men that was nearly upon Gabe.  Gabe caught the gun and rolled, coming around to face the grisly scene.  CC heaved and struggled not to vomit.  The werewolf had moved between the mob and Gabe and was backhanding another attacker sending them flying.  Gabe kept his gun pointed at the fight and moved to CC's position in the clearing.
"What the hell....?"  CC muttered watching in horrible fascination as the werewolf struck down another of the mob, this time a woman.   The body fell limply to the ground.  "What do we do?  It’s killing them!"  The panic was obvious in her voice.  Still Gabe stayed silent and kept the gun pointed at the dark beast in front of him.  With another swing of its arm it knocked most of the mob flat of their backs.  It didn't snarl, growl, or even howl as CC expected it to.  "Shoot it!"  She ordered.
"How about you don't."  The guttural voice came out as the monster backed away from the mob that was starting to get up.  The werewolf twisted a bit as if in pain.  It continued to back up towards Gabe and CC.  CC grabbed the sleeve of Gabe's shirt.  Gabe felt her hands trembling, but kept his eyes on his target.  The werewolf contorted, and hunched forward a bit.  The pair watched as the dark fur began to recede and the creature was actually becoming smaller.  When it straightened back up the fur was gone.  The only dark hair was visible on his head.  What turned towards Gabe and CC was no longer a monster.
"Gabe, what the hell are you doing out here?"  The man was very tall, at least six and half feet.  He wore only jeans which were now a bit loose on him.  He was massively framed and thickly muscled, which was obvious even under the dirt and dried blood which were all over him.  Stubble on his face showed he had not shaved for nearly a week, and the mess of hair on top on his head gave the impression that it had been nearly as long since it had last been combed.  CC quickly spotted a black crescent moon tattoo on his shoulder.  The man had an easy smile and his dark eyes shown with excitement in the dim light of setting sun.
"I could ask you the same question."  Gabe safetied the weapon and holstered it as he advanced on the man and gave him a hearty handshake.  Gabe gave the man a quick look over.  "You hurt?"
"Got knocked into mob of hunters by the whatever it is behind this mess.  You probably heard the gunfire."  The big man looked down at his side which had quite a bit of dried blood caked there.  "Fortunately, they weren't packing any silver bullets.  I do think one of them lit my ass up with a cartridge of rock salt.  Burnt like hell."  The mob was now back on their feet but were back to milling instead of attacking.  Gabe eyed them and the big man looked back over his shoulder at them.
“They seem to have lost interest.”
“The two I had to kill were the worst gone.  Without them and no sign of… whatever that thing was… the rest probably won’t try to attack.”
“You killed them.”  CC said flatly stepping forward.  She was confused and a bit angry.  This man had come upon them as a monster and violently cut down two people right in front of her.  To add to her frustration, Gabe seemed completely alright with it. 
“Those two were already gone.”  The big man turned to her.
“CC, this is Cole Buchannon.  Cole, CC is a new addition to our little community.”
“Ah, in that case you probably haven’t come across a soul eater.”
“A what?” CC raised her eyebrows.  The name itself sounded horrible.
“I’m sure there’s a much more technical term for it.”  Cole continued.  “It’s like a spell or infection or something.  Burns the soul right out of a person.  The good news is that it can take a few days to fully work, so there’s some hope for the rest of these folks.  Those two I put down were fully gone.”
“How can you possibly know that for sure?”
“Animal senses.  Animals get real skittish around the soulless.  I was able to pick out which of these poor folks were completely gone in my other state.”
“I didn’t know it was Cole when he came out.” Gabe chimed in.  “But with no full moon, and more so it still being daytime, I knew that whoever it was had to be in control of their wolf form to be able to transform.”
“What?  You’re an authority on werewolves, Gabe?”
“Meet enough of them and you learn a few things.”  Gabe said with a nod.  CC threw up her hands in exasperation.  She was sure the pair of them were being purposefully obtuse, and she suddenly felt like a third wheel.  “What got you out here, Cole?”
“I was actually on my way to Lazlo to check in with you guys.  Caught a story in a local paper about some folks going missing, and it sounded funny to me.  Got on the trail and came across our twisted friend, whatever the hell he is.  We’ve been after each other for a few days now.  He’s a nasty one.”
“He looked it.  There was a ley line flux yesterday.  That’s what got us out here.  We joined up with a search party that was looking for that kid over there.”  Gabe gestured towards Travis who had been shuffling around in a circle since Gabe and CC had spotted him.
“That would be the same search party that likes to shoot werewolves?”
“They probably thought you were a bear.”
“Not after I called one of the guys who shot me an ‘asshole’.”
Gabe’s palm met his face with an audible smack.
“So what do we do with these people?”  CC chimed in.
“That’s a good question.”  Gabe looked them over.  “We probably should go after the culprit before his trail gets cold.  Taking him out should release them.”
“I dunno.”  Cole rubbed his stubble covered face.  “Some of these guys are pretty far gone.  We may not have enough time to catch our boy before the soul eater takes full effect and kills them.  That and the search party you mentioned may find them and someone could get hurt.”
“We don’t have a sure fire way to release them though.  We’d need Amethyst or Rogers for that.”
“I might be able to help with that.”  CC said, almost sheepishly.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Homecoming Queen: Chapter 5

As much as Gabe did not like the thought of possibly leaving people in harm's way, he knew there were law enforcement officers there, and the gunfire let him know that they were ready fight back against whatever they had come across.  He ran as directed by CC, who had the EMF detector in front of her.  The machine buzzed with activity and it was getting stronger.  Hopefully, whatever was going on in those woods, Gabe would be able to put an end to it.
The sound of the yelling died down a bit, but the gunfire stopped completely.  Some voices good still be heard in that direction, but no screams, and that was a good sign.  The woods themself weird showing signs to heavy traffic.  Something had been there.  There were small broken branches.  Gabe spotted more claw marks on a few of the trees.  CC missed much of this as she mainly was concerned with staying on the right track and not tripping as they ran.
"This thing is going bonkers."  CC said matter of factly.  She was trying her best to stay on task and not let the creeping fear in her gut affect her actions.  "We're getting real close."  That was enough for Gabe to reach behind him and pull the Glock from its holster.  He took it in both hands and turned the safety off.
Gabe was in the lead and spotted a clearing in the woods up ahead.  He stopped in his tracks and held his hand up.  CC was not familiar with military hand signals, but the message was clear: “freeze”.  She stopped behind him, and said nothing.  Taking her cues from Gabe she said nothing.  He glanced back at her, and nodded at the EMF detector and them nodded towards the clearing.  CC nodded back.  The source of the readings was there.  He waved at her to turn it off and put it way and she did so.  From there they crept low and quiet forward.
There were people in the clearing.  Gabe saw them milling around and counted eight of them.  He heard no talking from them, and that disturbed him a bit.  That many people, and no one was talking.  He spotted more of them as they advanced.  By the time the pair had gotten within a few feet of the clearing, Gabe counted fourteen people, nine men and five women.  All of them wearing regular clothes, but most of them dressed as though they had planned to be outdoors.  It was difficult to judge their ages as their faces looked weird.  They were emotionless and rather pale.  They kept milling around and did not interact with each other.  The clearing itself was unremarkable aside from nothing was growing there at all.  It was dark moist soil showing off the footprints.  Despite the people looking odd that did not stop CC from recognizing one of them.  She touched Gabe’s shoulder and pointed.  Gabe followed where she was pointing.  It was one of the males, and was possibly the youngest there.
“That’s Travis Kinkaid.”  She said flatly.  She made a conscious effort not to stutter as the sight of him in that stay chilled her to the bone.  He did not look like anything as obviously wrong with him, but he certainly did not look right.
“Wait here.” Gabe ordered and clicked the safety back on his pistol.  He holstered it and stood up walking slowly into the clearing.  “Travis Kinkaid.  He called to the youth amid the crowd.  Some of them looked at Gabe as he advanced.  Travis did not.  “Travis, there’s people worried about you son.  I’m here to take you home.”
At this point two of the males rushed Gabe.  CC gasped as they bolted towards him.  The clearing was not very big and there was only a few yards distance between Gabe and the group.  She wanted to call out, but before she could Gabe kicked the first one to rush him right in the chest as if he were kicking a door in.  The man’s feet went out from under him and he fell flat on his back onto the soft ground.  The second man lunged reaching out to grab him, but Gabe deftly sidestepped and planted a right cross to the side of the man’s head.  The man grunted in pain and fell to the ground.  It was a powerful punch, and Gabe knew he had made a solid connection.  Still the man was already getting back to his feet slowly. 
The majority of the rest of the group were starting to walk towards Gabe.  About three of them, including Travis still just milled around in silence.  Gabe backed away from them, and away from where CC was still crouched.  He was close to the edge of the clearing when he pulled his gun out and pointed it at the group.  He clicked the safety off.
“Back off!” He ordered, but they paid his warning no heed.  He was ready to pull the trigger and drop the closest male, the same one he had kicked seconds ago.  It was then that CC spotted something behind Gabe.  She bolted into the clearing and called out.
“Behind you!” She yelled and that was enough warning for Gabe to spin around and narrowly avoided being grabbed.  What came out of the woods looked like a person, or more accurately, looked like it had once been a person.  Its face was twisted and looked horrid.  It stared at Gabe with glassy eyes and its wreck of a mouth salivated.  It wore a long overcoat and dark slacks with dress shoes that were coated in dirt and mud.
“Don’t you move.” Gabe ordered coldly realizing that he was now caught between this strange person and a mob.  The twisted man glared at Gabe and then CC caught his eye.
“You.” It said coldly, and the word sent a chill straight through CC.  She did not know how, but she knew that thing, whatever it was.  It felt familiar in some horrible way.  She did not have time to ponder it as one of the mob grabbed Gabe from behind.  Gabe responded by elbowing the offender in the face which freed him.  He turned to them in time to slam the palm of his hand into a woman lunging at him, knocking her backwards.  The twisted man was walking slowly towards CC.  “You are not escaping me again.”  CC had no clue what he was talking about.
The twisted man stopped and looked to the woods.  If it was scared it was impossible to read on its mess of a face.  CC heard something in the woods, but kept her eyes on the thing in front of her.  She wanted to run, but had no clue where to go, and loathed the thought of leaving Gabe.  Gabe spotted the man near CC.  He kicked the closest male into the mob.  It slammed into two others and gave Gabe enough room to take aim.  He did not say a word.  He squeezed the trigger three times and three bullets found their marks in the twisted man’s side.  It staggered the man and he turned to Gabe giving him a vile look.
One of the females in the group, a small slight woman, struck Gabe hard in the back of his head.  Gabe grunted in pain and staggered forward.  A woman that size should not have been able to hit him so hard.  CC’s attention went to her comrade as a man in the group punched Gabe hard in the face.  The gun fell free from his hand as he fell to the ground.  CC quickly looked back to where the twisted man was standing, but he was gone, and CC could not spot him anywhere.
What CC did see was what had been making the noise in the woods.  Part of her had hoped that it was the other searchers and Sheriff Steward would be coming in to the rescue.  What came out of the woods was not.  CC had never seen one before, but she knew immediately what it was.  It was what had been making the claw marks in the woods.  Its hulking, dark fur covered frame sprung into the clearing, and in the dim light of the waning day, CC knew that she was seeing a werewolf. 
It stood on two legs and snarled menacingly.  CC noticed that it was actually wearing jeans, which seemed incredibly weird to her.  Its lips were pulled back on its dark muzzle to reveal sharp fangs.  The fangs looked just as sharp as the claws on its hands.  It looked like it was eyeing the situation, judging which of the people there would be its first victim.
At this point CC dove forward to where Gabe’s gun lay in the dirt.  The mob was now keenly aware of the massive beast in the clearing.  Gabe was kneeling in the dirt still stunned from the blow in the unfortunate position of being between the mob and monster.  CC took up the gun.  She had never fired one in her life, but hoped that it was as easy as the movies made it look.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Homecoming Queen: Chapter 4

They had been working their way through the woods for just under an hour.  Sheriff Steward had split the assembly of searchers up into groups of three of four and they entered the woods in a fairly close spacing forming a line in hopes that so clue as to Travis Kinkaid's location may be found.  The sound of dogs barking could occasionally be heard as a couple of the searchers had brought their hunting dogs in hopes they might pick up a scent.  So far, there was no luck.  There were still a couple of hours of daylight left, and the searchers were determined to make the most of it.
Gabe and CC had been paired with a couple of men who seemed to know the woods fairly well.  Joshua was a stocky fellow in his twenties who seemed to constantly have a wad of chewing tobacco in his mouth.  Larry was a little older than Gabe and did not seem terribly comfortable stomping through the brush.  The four of them moved through the woods scanning around them with every step for any trace of what might have happened to the young man.  CC had out the EMF detector which was not picking up much of anything.  She was not the only one in the group not completely focused on the task at hand, which she noticed easily enough was Joshua seemed a bit too content staying at the rear of their group.
“You find any clues back there.”  She said as she glanced back at Joshua.  It caught him off guard and she thought for a moment he might swallow the chewing tobacco in his mouth.
“Back where?”  The stout searcher replied.
“On my ass.  Did you find any clues on it?  Because if not, stop looking at it.”
Gabe smirked and Larry rolled his eyes.  Joshua moved forward in the group, and he was slightly flushed with embarrassment.  CC just went back to the search.  The detector was silent to the point that she checked to make sure it was still on.  Gabe stole a glance at her and his eyes darted to the small device.  She shrugged as a reply. 
“Heard you two are from Lazlo U.  Something about some sort of reading?”  Larry offered in hopes some conversation would make stomping through the woods a bit more bearable to him.
“That’s right.  I don’t know if it has anything to do with the young man going missing, but we’re out here anyways, so we might as well help.”  Gabe answered without looking at Larry.  He constantly looked around for anything that could give a clue as to what might be out in the woods.
“Kind of you.  I know his folks will appreciate it.”  Larry pushed a branch out of his way and nearly stumbled over a log.
“You know the family?” 
“Sure.  We all attend church together.  At least we used to.  Travis stopped coming nearly a year ago.  My kids were the same way at that age.  ‘Too cool’ for church.”
“What do his folks say about that?” Gabe asked.
“Not much.  You can’t make someone go to church, and they know that.  I do know that they’re pretty sad about it.”
“What’s that?” Joshua spotted a mark on a tree.  The four of them moved closer to it.  The tree had been slashed with four distinctive marks.  Each parallel to each other and angled downward.  Joshua took a closer look at it.
“What do you think?” Larry asked.
“Pretty big claw marks.  Guess what they said about a bear out here is true.  Must be damn good size to leave marks like this.”  Joshua spit into the bushes as he examined the marks.  “Best be careful, I suppose.”
Larry and Joshua continued forward.  Gabe hung back a little with CC.  CC was visibly agitated.  She did not believe for one second that a bear had made those marks.  She was still very new in her studies of things outside normal human experience, but she had read a bit about creatures.  Reading about them from the comfort of a library, even that musty one in the basement at the university, was a much more comfortable feeling than possibly being in the forest with one.  Gabe rested a hand on her shoulder.
“Any readings?”  He asked in a very business-like tone.
“Um, no.  Nothing.”  She answered looked down at the device.
“OK.  We’re fine.  Stay sharp, and try not to freak out.”
“Why would I freak out?  Because I’m a girl?”  CC shot a nasty look at Gabe.  She thought he was being condescending, and she hated that.
“Because the sane to do would probably be freak out and I need you together.  I damn near crapped myself first time on one of these trips.”
“No kidding?”
“No kidding.  Keep in mind, I didn’t.”
“That military training?”
“Yep.  Basic training includes an exhaustive course on bowel control.”  Gabe’s joke did put CC at ease a bit.  They continued on with the group.  The marks on the tree had looked recent, but the last full moon had been well over a week ago.  Gabe was running through his mind things that could possibly have made those marks.  The bear story was possible, and there was the off chance that Kinkaid had been out in the woods, for whatever reason, and stumbled across the animal.  Unfortunately, Gabe did not buy that.
They were losing daylight.  The cell phones and walkie-talkies the searchers had with them buzzed with chatter of turning back towards their cars.  They had covered well over a square mile worth of forest with no results other than the claw marks which had appeared on a few of the trees.  All the while the detector that CC had been holding was silent. 
“Shit.  Gabe!”  The detector spiked hard.  There had not been even nominal readings, but now the machine was alive.  Gabe hurried over to her.
“What’s that?” Joshua asked, looking at the pair of them.
“Another reading like the one the university picked up.”  Gabe answered, before turning to CC.  “Hold it out and move it around.  See if we can get an idea of a direction of a source.”
CC moved to a small clear spot in the woods and did as she was instructed.  He soft hazel eyes followed the motion of the device and kept a sharp eye on the readings.  She did not have time to ascertain a direction before the sound of gunfire cracked through the air.  The sound of men yelling and screaming joined the sound and the repot of more gunshots were heard.
“It came from that way!  Come on!” Joshua took off in the direction of the noise with Larry following quickly.  Gabe shot a look and CC and they followed their companions.
“Gabe, wait!”  CC called out.
“What is it?”  Gabe froze in his tracks and looked back at her.  The sound of the men yelling was close.  There were a few more gunshots.  Gabe was a little worried about running into the field of fire by accident.
“We’re going the wrong way!”  CC waved the device back the way they had come.  The readings are definitely coming from behind us.  It’s getting fainter.  We’re running away from it!”

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Homecoming Queen: Chapter 3

It was a thirty minute drive from the Tucker household to the edge of the woods where Travis Kinkaid's car had been found.  Gabe asked CC if the area had a history of weird happenings or strange rumors.  If it did, CC did not know about them.  CC's parents were slightly concerned about the nature of CC's visit, but were put at ease by her promise to be home before bedtime.  It was the promise she had made to them many times growing up and she had always abided by it.  Although now, she was not out with friends or on a date.
The scene at the clearing was a busy one.  There were many cars around and some of them were police vehicles.  Gabe had expected as much.  They pulled in with assorted civilian vehicles and got out of the car.  Gabe immediately went to the trunk.
"Keep an eye out." He said to CC as he opened the trunk. 
"Nobody's looking."  She told him as she took a quick look around.  Gabe took a Glock 9mm and holster out and slipped it onto his belt at his back.  His jacket easily concealed it.  "Do I get a gun too?'
"Do you know how to use one?"  He raised an eyebrow at her.
"Then no, you don't get a gun."  He pulled out a backpack and handed it to her.  "You get to take this."
"What's in here?"  She slid the backpack on.  It was a little heavy, but with all the books she had to carry around for her classes she was used to it.
"Couple of water bottles, a satellite phone, and an EMF detector."
"Those pick up supernatural activity, right?"
"That's what I'm told."  Gabe answered closing the trunk.
"Like that movie 'Ghostbusters'?"
"I don't know.  I just know that if I turn it on, and it makes noise, it’s usually bad."
"What's our next move?"
"Talk to the cops and see what they know."
"Really?" CC looked a bit surprised.  "Do you think they know about the ley line stuff?  Are you going to tell them?"
"Not really.  Just follow my lead."  Gabe and CC began working their way towards where the main crowd was forming up.  It was mostly men, and almost all of them looked like they were ready for a hunting trip.  The tone was one of concern.  A small group of those assembled were having a prayer circle hoping to find Travis soon.  Gabe spotted a deputy and led CC over to him.  "Evenin'.  Gabe Gunther from Lazlo University."  Gabe offered his hand and the deputy took it.  "Some guys at the university picked up some weird electromagnetic readings from the area and sent us out to investigate."
"Electromagnetic readings?"  The deputy raised an eyebrow.  “Let me take you to Sheriff Steward.”  Gabe gave CC a nod and the pair of them followed the deputy to the sheriff through the crowd.  Sheriff Steward was an older man in his mid-fifties.  He did not look very impressive.  He was a little heavyset and balding.  However, as he discussed the search with a few of his deputies and civilian liaisons it was obvious that he was the man in charge.  The deputy escorting the pair said a few words and the sheriff broke away from the group to talk.
“Alright Mister Gunther, what’s this about electromagnetic readings.” He asked.  His voice sounded a bit rough like he had been talking all day.
“There was a weird flash in a spectrometer and I was asked to see if anything weird happened that could account for it.  It happened last night.”  Gabe explained after giving the sheriff a firm handshake.
“That's when the Kinkaid boy’s car was left here.  This is the first I’ve heard of anything about electromagnetic stuff.”
“It could be entirely unrelated, but my assistant, Miss Tucker, here knows the young man who disappeared and we’d like to help look if that’s alright.”
The Sheriff looked Gabe over and tossed a glance at CC as if sizing the pair of them up.  He was silent a moment and finally nodded.
“An extra pair of eyes couldn’t hurt.  We’re going to be heading into those woods in that direction.”  He gestured towards the wooded area that was quite dense and hard to see very far into.  “We found a jacket out there that was identified by Kinkaid’s father as Travis’s.  We’re going to keep things tight.  While the jacket was intact there were some fresh scratches on some trees.  Most likely a bear getting ready for hibernation.  Best to stay safe.  We’ll be forming up to start the search soon.”  With a nod he excused himself and headed back to confer with his deputies again.
“What do you think?”  CC asked.
“He’s got a handle on this from the look of things.  If this was a normal missing persons case I’d let him handle it and head back home.”  Gabe had turned to her and spoke in a hushed voice.  He kept his eyes roaming around to make sure he was not heard.
“I don’t like what he said about those claw marks.”  CC responded following Gabe’s lead in staying quiet.
“Neither do I.  Sure it could be a bear.  And that ley line flux could have been a random thing.  And this guy disappearing at the same time could be a coincidence.”
“And I could win the Miss Lazlo U pageant.”  CC answered with a long sigh.  “I’m kinda scared here.”
“Good.  Go with that.  It’ll keep you sharp.”  Gabe stroked his tightly trimmed goatee.  “The problem we have now is if we head in with the rest of the search party we may find something we can’t explain.  It may put us in a tough spot if the EMF reader starts going bonkers.”
“Still, if we’re in the loop with the search party, they may spot something we don’t and we’ll know about it.”  CC offered with a shrug. 
“True.  I just don’t like the idea of heading in with a bunch of people who don’t know what could be in there.”
Their conversation was cut short as Sheriff Steward called everyone together to begin the search.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Homecoming Queen: Chapter 2

               It was a four and a half hour drive back to CC's home in Genesse, and much of that ride was spent in silence.  It became obvious to CC that she had next to nothing in common with Gabe Gunther.  He did not seem to want to talk about much of anything either.  Even went the pair stopped of lunch Gabe barely spoke.  CC did have a ton of questions about him that she had no clue how to broach.  She knew he had been an Army Ranger, but did not know why he left the military.  She did not know how she met the Doctors.  She did not know why he seemed to favor his left leg a bit when he did not think she was looking.  CC had never been shy, but she had not spent much time around many people as intimidating as Gabe.

They were about an hour away from their destination before Gabe started talking about the reason for their trip.  CC had phoned ahead and told her parents that she and a friend would be coming home for the weekend.  Gabe was happy to not have to be stuck in a motel.            
"You have that tablet thing of yours with you, right?"  He asked running his hand through is super-short blonde hair.
"Yeah, right here."  CC replied pulling her tablet from her travel bag that was sitting at her feet.
"It gets internet, right?"  Gabe shot the device a glance as CC brought it out of its sleep mode.
"Not very well when we're on the road.  We need a Wi-Fi spot."
"OK.  When you get a chance, look up the websites for the local news stations in Genesse and Nicholstown.  We're looking for anything weird that went on last night.  Include missing persons and violent crimes that don't have clear leads."
"Sure.  First chance I get."  CC was glad to get an order.  It made her feel useful in all of this.  Still, she felt nervous about the trip.  "Gabe?"
"You think this could get dangerous?  I mean..."
"Don't worry about that."  Gabe kept his eyes on the road, not bothering to look at the pretty young co-ed sitting next to him with worry plainly visible in her soft, hazel eyes.  "Things go bad; I'll take care of you."
The rest of the trip was quiet.  CC kept an eye on her tablet, but was not able to pick up a decent internet connection.  She also directed Gabe to her house. 
It was a nice suburban neighborhood which had not seen anything interesting happen in it since the Hansons one street over from CC's got caught sunbathing nude in their backyard.  This had been quite a shock to the neighborhood especially since the Hansons were both septuagenarians.  CC's home was a modest ranch house which had the exact same design as the majority of the other houses in the neighborhood.  It was CC's first trip home since leaving for college.
That's probably why CC's folks, Evan and Martha, were waiting on the porch for their arrival.  CC bolted from the car the moment it came to a halt and ran to her parents.  There was much hugging and quick chatter about how everyone was looking.  This chatter came to a complete halt the moment the Tuckers laid eyes on Gabe.  When their daughter had said she was bringing a friend home, they were not expecting a large muscular man of nearly forty.  Evan extended his hand a little tentatively.
"Evan Tucker.  CC's father."  He introduced himself trying to sound confident in front of the rather imposing figure in front of him.  As opposed to Gabe, Evan was a trim man who spent most of his time behind a desk working as accountant.
"Gabe Gunter.  Pleasure to meet you.  I appreciate you and your wife allowing me to stay here for the weekend."  Gabe shook Evan's hand.
"Yes... of course."  Evan was trying to maintain his composure, but it was obvious that he had not been expecting someone like the man his daughter had brought home.  "You do understand that you'll be staying in a separate bedroom yes?"
"Why wouldn't I be...?" Gabe was confused at first, but the pieces quickly fell into place.  He shot a look at CC.  "You did tell your parents that I'm here on business, right?"
"Don't deny our love."
"Tucker!"  Gabe looked angry, but CC could not help but laugh.  She then quickly cleared up the confusion explaining that Gabe worked for the university and there was something in town that he was checking out for one of her professors.  She was showing him around for extra credit.  Her mother briefed an audible sigh of relief.
CC put her bags in her old bedroom and Gabe stowed his things in the Tucker’s guest bedroom.  CC quickly set to the task of looking up anything strange in the local news on her tablet.  All the while her mother was asking her questions about college life and how CC had been adjusting.  CC kept her answers pleasant and did not mention the incident a month before.  Meanwhile, Gabe was getting a bit of interrogation of his own from CC’s father who wanted to ensure that the man visiting their home had no ulterior motives towards their only daughter.
“Gabe!”  CC called out.  “I think I found something.”  CC quickly read through some of a particular news story on the tablet.
“What are you looking at, dear?”  Martha Tucker peered over her daughter’s shoulder.  “Oh, that business with the Kinkaid boy?  You knew him, didn’t you?”
“What’ve you got?”  Gabe asked entering the room with Evan close behind him.
“It says here that Travis Kinkaid is missing.  They found his car out in a wooded area outside of Nicholstown.  Let me see that map, Doctor Amethyst gave you.”  Gabe went to the guest room to retrieve the map.  CC parent’s looked at her questioning.
“Who is Doctor Amethyst, dear?”  Evan Tucker asked.  He definitely saw a change in his daughter.  She had always been a capable and confident young lady, but now she seemed a bit more assertive.  The fact that she just told a man nearly twice her age what to do and he simply did it astounded him.
“He’s one of my professors that Gabe works for.”  It was a white lie.  Amethyst was not officially on of her professors, but she was certainly learning much from him.  Gabe returned with the map.  CC unfolded it and looked at the area at Amethyst had marked showing the ley line that had fluxed.  She looked up at Gabe.  “Same spot.”
“That would be a good place to start.  Your mother said you know the boy who disappeared.”
“He dated a friend of mine in high school.  We hung out a bit.  I’ve been to his house once or twice.”
“When were you at his house?” Evan asked, still a bit shocked.  At that moment his daughter being a boy’s house he did not know about was the only thing he could really hang on to.  “What is going on here?
“Anthropology studies.  The Doctors are looking into the effects of people disappearing warning and comparing how it affects people now with how it did in the past.  I do fact finding, and CC is helping me.”
“Oh.  Is she getting paid for this?”
“Yeah!  Am I?”  CC perked up.
Gabe felt a headache coming on.