A lunatic moon
Chapter 2 - Julie's Death
Julie Gifford pulled into her driveway after her Thursday night shift at Robin's Donuts. She was tired and hungry and just wanted to veg on the couch and watch a movie. the garage door was closed so she parked her little Toyota Tercel at the top of the driveway. Her folks were out of town for a whole week and she had the house to herself. Good deal too, because she had a thing of Jiffy Pop, a big bottle of Pepsi and she was going to watch The Blue Lagoon by herself. No one to interrupt or ask annoying questions, like her mom was in the habit of doing for almost every movie they watched together. She grabbed her purse off the passenger seat and climbed out of the car. The full moon was bright and that was good too, since the house was dark and there were no streetlights out here in the country. Not that she was afraid of the dark or anything, but just being out here by herself she'd gotten a little bit spooked being in the big house alone. Her nearest neighbours were about a half mile down the road and they were old and went to bed around nine o clock every night. Not much help if there was a midnight prowler or something like that. At least her dad understood how she felt, when he and her mom went out of town, so he'd bought her a dog. Not a big dog, like he'd wanted to get. He had wanted to get a German Sheperd to keep her safe, but she'd fallen in love with a miniature Collie she'd seen in a calendar.They ended up getting her a miniature Collie she called 'Baby'. He'd rolled his eyes when she picked the puppy out of a litter that had been advertised by a breeder in the classifieds. An hour and a half away too, but that's what she wanted and what she wanted, she pretty much got. Except for her car that is. Her parents had promised her a car for her sixteenth birthday, so she asked for a Fiero. A red one. And her father had laughed, he'd laughed! Her mother had asked, "What's a Fiero?"
"Something we cannot afford." was his reply. "Don't worry honey." He'd told her when she'd pouted. "You'll be happy. You'll see..." And she was. On her birthday when she'd gotten home from school, there was a nice white Toyota Tercel in the driveway with a big blue bow on the roof. She'd been happy, but it still wasn't a Fiero and it wasn't red either. As she walked up the curving flagstone path to the front door, she fumbled in her purse for the keys.
"Dammit." She said aloud.
There was so much crap in there. She held it out in front of her in the light of the moon trying to see through the Kleenex and gum and...and then she heard a rustle from the direction of the hedge. Startled, but not alarmed, she forgot about the keys and clapped her hands instead, thinking it to be a skunk, or a raccoon digging around in the hedges at the edge of their yard.
"Shoo! Shoo! She clapped her hands again, "Go away! I am NOT in the mood!"
The rustling stopped and it was silent. It was too late in the year for crickets and there was no wind to sigh through the big blue spruce in the center of their yard either. All she could hear was her own breathing and the clickety clackity click, of Baby's nails on the front window. The miniature Collie desperately pawed the glass, tail wagging, so happy to see Julie home again.
"Hi Baby!" She called to the dog, waggling her fingers at it. "Mommy's home!"
She strolled up to the door rooting through her purse. She heard the hedge rustling again, but she ignored it this time. Stupid skunk. She thought, but the stink that suddenly assailed her nostrils was like no skunk she'd ever smelt.
"Oh my God!" She gagged and covered her nose with the crook of her arm, digging frantically for the house key. Why hadn't she put it on the keychain with her car keys? She wondered.
"Dammit!" She said aloud again. "What a stink! What the hell is that? "
She turned around just as a shadow blocked the moonlight and she stared. She wasn't sure what she was looking at, but it was big. It was big, hairy and very scary looking, it towered over her five foot five frame, but she didn't feel scared. In fact she felt a thrill, as it trapped her gaze. It's eyes glittered, mesmerizing. Whatever it was, it didn't stink anymore either. It even smelled kind of good, she thought. Musty and smoky, almost like a leather jacket seasoned by a campfire. Was she smiling? She wondered. Was this a dream? What's wrong with me? What is this thing? Oh my god it's teeth are so sharp! Shit. If that thing bit me? And she giggled. The beast grew in her vision, looming closer. She felt a warm rush down her legs, as she wet herself, still smiling, then in a flash of fury and hate, the thing tore her head off and gobbled hungrily at the blood pulsing from her neck. The last thing she saw from her head's vantage point on the lawn, was Baby barking silently behind the glass in the front window of her locked, dark and empty house. Barking, barking, barking...Hi Baby...she wondered if she was waggling her fingers...and blackness.
Five hours later, Sergeant Clifford Bell turned his police cruiser into the parking space outside his townhouse. He lived alone. He had no pets. He was exhausted. It had not been a typical night. He and his partner Sam had gone out to six different calls, two domestic disputes, a break and entry, a bar fight and a noise complaint from a teenage party that they'd given a warning to, but then had to return, driving almost half an hour back to a sprawling property. The kids had built a makeshift stage out of barn board and hired three different bands paid in beer. With enough amplifiers and speakers and professional looking gear, it could have passed for a proper rock festival, that is if they all hadn't been under the age of nineteen. The problem was, it had taken him and Sam close to an hour to get there the first time, trying to figure out where the booming music was coming from. The noise from their amplifiers was bouncing all over the countryside, they'd ended up driving the cruiser to the wrong side of the highway off into the boonies and had to double back trying to find the place. At one point they'd pulled the cruiser over and gotten out, Bell standing with his hands on his hips, turning his head this way and that. "Can you figure out where it's coming from Sam?"
Sam cocked his head listening, "That way!" He'd pointed. "No, uh uh, it's coming from over there I think." Pointing in the opposite direction now.
Finally pulling into a long driveway packed with jeeps, pickup trucks and muscle cars, they'd threaded there way through kids drunk and stoned out of their gourds to find the homeowner, or homeowner's kid to deliver the bad news that their party was over. A half hour after they'd left, another call came in that the kids had started up again, so all the way back out there they had to drive, this time they'd dished out a bunch of tickets and the kids got the message. Party's over. They didn't bother with DUI's, this was a time when everybody drove if they were drunk enough. Then they'd driven back to the police station, where he'd finished a mountain of paperwork, while Sam flirted with the girl on dispatch. He had her laughing quite a bit tonight. Good for you Sam. He stretched and sighed when he'd finished more than half the paperwork. Some of it closing out the file of the one who'd been killed by a train. The tox screen had come back with the kid being loaded on booze and high on weed, enough booze to make anyone wanna pass out on the railway tracks. He'd finished up the paperwork, put some files on the chief's desk and left the station. Even Sam had finished before him, but that was no surprise. Now the sun was coming up for Christ sake. Bell was tired and just wanted to kick off his shoes, down a couple beers with a hungryman dinner and crash on the couch to breakfast television. He'd just popped his first beer and sat down with his hungryman on a TV tray when the phone rang.
"Ahhh shit!" he said, but pretended he wasn't there and let the answering machine get it. He heard his chief's voice.
"Hi Cliff. It's me. Paul. Listen, pick up. I know you're there. You left the station an hour ago and it only takes you fifteen minutes to get home. Pick up please, this is important. If you're in the can I'll wait..."
Bell leaned over the arm of the couch, snagging the receiver, dropped it, swore, then reeled it in by the cord. "Yap." He said, "I'm here."
"We've got a bad one. I need you on it. I've already just pulled Sam back in.'
"Oh I'm sure he's happy about that." Bell remarked. "What about Chris and Lucy? It's their shift, or Kyle? Anyone of them." He said hopefully.
"Are you serious?" The chief asked. "Chris couldn't find his ass if his head was up it and Lucy, well...not on this one. It's bad. Kyle's got his hands full on another call. I'd rather have you and Sam on this. It's bad." he repeated.
Bell sighed. "Alright." ...It's bad... "I'm there." and hung up.
He managed to inhale most of the TV dinner in four huge bites and washed it down with half the can of beer. For the chief to call him back in, saying 'It's bad', it must be bad he figured. He'd even said it twice. What could be so bad? His mind started running away as he pulled on his shoes. Homicide by shotgun? Suicide by shotgun? What's worse than that he wondered. He'd seen some bad accidents, like the kid. That had been bad, but the chief always classified accidents as 'messy', things that were labeled 'bad' were things that people deliberately did to each other, or themselves. Guess he'd find out when he got there. Neither he, nor the chief were in the habit of discussing important police business over the phone. It was just something they didn't do, it was a small police station, with lots of people hanging about. People picking up forms, dropping things off, delivery drivers, other cops, and the odd newspaper reporter. Even one sided telephone conversations can give away a lot of details to anyone listening. Depending on the nature of what was at hand, it was best to talk about it in person. Other ears. such as those at dispatch, didn't need to hear about it. It was just one way to avoid gossip and rumours.
It was morning rush hour, so he planned to take some back roads into the station. It worked out well too. when he turned onto a long stretch of unpaved road called Concession 2, he flipped on the lights and gunned the cruiser's powerful engine, making it in 12 minutes flat. He strolled into the station nodding at Carol who worked dispatch during the day.
""Can't get enough of us, eh Cliff?" She said with a grin.
"Tell me about it." He said grimly. She raised her eyebrows at him as he walked past the dispatch center towards the chief's office. She went back to speaking into her headset. She was talking to somebody about coroner's photos and a decapitation and Bell knew it was going to be a full day with no sleep. He hadn't pulled a double shift in years so he filled a styrofoam cup of coffee before going in. He could see the back of Sam's head through the office window and the chief pacing back and forth behind his desk, talking animatedly with his hands. Seargent Clifford Bell took a deep breath, a sip of hot coffee and went in to face the music.
As it turned out, a middle aged woman delivering mail on a rural route had found the body of a young lady lying on the lawn of one of the houses on her route. She'd pulled up to their mailbox to stuff some flyers in and seen what she thought was an unconscious person lying on the ground needing help. She'd jumped out of her car and run across the lawn to render aid and had almost tripped over the dead girl's head that was in the grass about ten feet away from the body. The ants had found it first though and were busy crawling on the open eyes and in and out of the mouth. The poor mail person was now in the hospital being treated for shock. Sam had gotten her phone number and they were going to be paying her a visit later to collect a statement. Bell hoped she was coherent enough to give a statement and that the doctors hadn't drugged her up on Valium too much. Right now that was the least of his worries and they turned into the driveway of the victim's house deep in the country, parking behind the coroner's van. Yellow tape marked off the property. A small gaggle of onlookers lined the road, trying to get a glimpse of whatever was behind the white sheets, that the forensic tech had prudently hung up blocking the body from view. Yep, it was bad. Bell thought, as he approached the sheets. He could see splashes of blood on the bay window and front door...decapitations are all bad. He observed that the area in which the victim lived, wasn't far from where the kid had been struck by a train. As he looked past the backyard and across the fields, he figured they were probably no more than three miles as the crow flies, from where the railroad tracks cut a swath through farm fields and streams reaching from one major city to another. In the years before the invention of the automobile, that line would have been busy with freight steaming back and forth. One city's wares and commerce being exchanged for another's different shipment of materials. Steel, lumber, bricks, produce and even livestock would have been the primary exchange. Nowadays, commerce was transported by truck and the number of diesel freight trains had dwindled to two, or three a day. How is it a young man, old enough to know better, could be unlucky enough to get himself killed by a train, that you could probably hear coming from five miles off? He stood looking in the direction of Glen George, musing, until Sam gave him a nudge with his elbow.
"Hey. What's up? I got my camera loaded. Not that I wanna be taking shots of whatever this mess is, but I'm not going up there by myself. Let's go Cliff." He offered his elbow like a date to the prom.
Bell rubbed his hand over his face and shook his head. "I'm just tired. Thinking about that kid getting nailed by a train." He waved his hand in that general direction.
"Unreal huh? How do you get yourself killed by a train? You're gonna hear that thing coming from a couple miles off." Sam said as if reading his thoughts. "Welp...let's get this over with..." And started up the path.
Bell followed, surveying the scene around him. Splats of blood ran down the glass of the picture window and dotted the bricks. He did his best to tiptoe around the blood that coloured the paving stones. When they stood behind the sheets, he was looking down at the girl. Her head still lay in grass, a little bit away. The coroner stood in a brown Terry cloth jogging suit and sneakers, his hands jammed in the pockets of his kangaroo jacket.
"Looking sharp." Bell quipped.
"I try to be professional." The coroner said. "The decedent's name is one Julie Gifford. The neighbours say she was a senior at the local highschool. She lived here with her parents and worked part time nights at the Robins Donuts in town. I haven't touched a damn thing, apart from taking her core temperature." He said pointing at the body with his chin. "Of course I took a bunch of pictures, up close and personal like."
A Nikon camera hung around his neck on a strap and he started rewinding one of five rolls of film he'd taken. "You got a real mess here guys." He said. "I've never seen anything like this. Her head was NOT severed. At least not with a blade. It appears to have been pulled off of her body somehow. You see she's also missing her left arm...taken at the shoulder. It wasn't removed with a blade either, just popped off at the shoulder joint and we haven't been able to find it yet. I don't see anything here that could be attributed to those wounds. The tendons are clearly pulled out of her neck and snapped at the same time. You'd have to be fiercely strong to pull someone's head off and I don't see it even being possible for a human to do that. Otherwise, I'm not going to find anything out until I get her back to the lab. One more thing that I noticed, was a surprisingly small amount of blood for a decap'. There should be a bucketfull here. Right here, where her body lies and there's what looks to be a couple pints worth. I'm thinking it's still in her maybe, but that would mean she was already dead when her head came off. But like I said I won't know anything until later. I'll have another look for her arm, but so far there's no sign of it, unless it was carried away by an animal. Animals would have left tracks in the blood though and I don't see anything like that either."
Sam was busy taking his own photos and Bell was quickly scribbling notes down on a small flip pad. It was getting late in the morning and the sun shone clear in a bright blue sky. Flies had begun making an appearance, settling on the body and head, as the air grew warm.
"There seems to be no stab wounds and from here no bullet wounds either. Her clothes are clean and it looks like she was just getting home from work when... This happened." He pointed at her with his chin again. "Well I'm going for a smoke, until you guys are finished here. I'm supposed to be jogging right now and not smoking. If I come home reeking of smoke, my wife's gonna kill me. Christ, with scenes like this, is it any wonder I smoke at all?" The coroner walked towards his van shaking his head.
Sam took a few more pictures and Bell wrote a few more observations. When they were done, Sam asked "Any idears as to what the fuck happened here Cliff?"
Sam pinched the bridge of his nose with thumb and index finger, squinting at the Sun. Tired.
"Not a clue Sammy boy. Nope, but I don't like it...Any of it."
Officer Sam, didn't bother asking his partner what he meant, by "...Any of it."
"Welp, let's go talk to the mail lady. Maybe she saw something we don't" And they cleared out of there with a dismissive wave from the coroner, who was lighting a fresh cigarette with the butt of the first. It looked like his technician was pulling his own pack out of his breast pocket and walking over to join him. The horrific scene obviously disturbing them both.
About the Creator
Jim E. Beer
I was raised outside of Ancaster, Ont. I write about what I know and what I've survived. I hope you enjoy what you read. Leave a comment and feel free to tip. There is an option to do so at the end of each story if you feel so inclined. Jim
This was great! Great kill! Great tension! Love the sheer absurdity and yet terror from such a monster. And the poor cop who has to figure this out...poor guy. Can't wait to read more!