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Pallid Airs and Lost Highways

Story 1: I Am the Dark, I Am the Perpetuity

By Julius WhitfieldPublished 2 years ago 57 min read
Pallid Airs and Lost Highways
Photo by Ankhesenamun on Unsplash

It wasn’t customary to have the Sheriff’s office as busy as it was that Wednesday evening, at best it was usually the man himself with a few drop-ins of his deputy and a few drunks they kept in a cell overnight, but these were hard times and in these hard times something needed to be done, a change needed to occur in the Northeast and in New England. It was just that none of the men of the law knew the edge of the world started in Newcomb, New York in the office of Sheriff Bruce Hemmitt.

A terror had spread across the east—as low as Carney’s Point, Delaware and as high as Ipswich, Massachusetts. This sweeping ‘terror’ had come much the way a Nor’easter had, leaving carnage and questions in its path. While many of the folks of the 9-to-5 went upon their days as ham-and-eggers and everyday people, Dick and Jane kind of folks, there was some things that lingered in the shadows. Hemmitt particularly didn’t think such dreads existed, but when you take away the complacency of everyday life and peek into the corner of somber shadows, your eyes open to a whole new world. Primarily, the carnage was equally gossiped about as it ran in the early 20th century much to the dismay of the public when Theodore Straube—19—disappeared one evening. Fortunately, the Wilmington officials found him alive, but severely tortured as he sat bound and shivering in the back of an old farm house. His little prick had been split down the middle and his feet sat in a thick pool of blood. “I never knew so much blood could pour from a dick like that,” one officer remarked.

This wasn’t on the record. Thus, the papers didn’t pick this up but many who surveyed the sight, the smell, and his benumbed whimpers all testified that what they witnessed that night could keep them up for weeks if not years. These were true sights of horror, not the make-believe you find in paperbacks or the kind a young boy might hear at a camp fire told by a scout leader. These sights were unimaginable to convey. They made your skin crawl when you first laid eye on them and they stuck with you even in dream. And the only reason why it stuck with you is because no man was mad enough to possess the malice to do such a thing, no man was wicked enough. When these things happened, the world, of course, asked for some probable reason for which it could ascribe belief—something it could, at the very least, claim to comprehend. The daring types it could put into word: such folks bear with themselves a suitable reason of their jumpy temptations, and their characteristics obviously compel them into the state of affairs which assemble the incidents. It expects little else from them, if anything, and is content. But bland, everyday folk have no right to sequestered exploitation, and the world having been led to suppose otherwise, is discouraged with them, not to say appalled. Its gloating discernment has been bluntly pestered.

“A monster exists in the world,” was the announcement, “a monster that butchered this young man. And I hope, to God, we find it and singe it from this Earth!”

Still there could be no question that what actually happened to Theodore Straube had been echoed with several other young boys, something of the unsettling nature that was described in newspaper and reports to Sheriff Hemmitt. Surface and secret, it occurred beyond anyone’s doubt and in spite of the jeers of his fellow officers who circled this with a tale, and observed sharply that “Such a thing may for all we know have come to the Northeast to settle us, the way sickness settles a population, and that big populations such as New York needed to be humbled because nothing like this happened to a lackluster people, who were pre-appointed to breathe and pass this world in line with degree.”

But, whatever the method of death was, Hemmitt didn’t want children “breathing in line with degree” so far as this isolated happening in his otherwise tedious job was concerned; and to hear him describe it, and see his pale intrinsic attributes alter, and hear his voice grumble softer and more muzzled as he advanced, was to know the sentence that his labored words maybe suffered at times to communicate. He lived the sights over again each time he closed his eyes. His whole disposition became deaden in the account. It repressed him more than ever, so that the stories became a lengthy apology for an experience that he execrated. He appeared to pardon himself for having dared to take part in so fantastic an episode. For Theodore Straube was a humble, tender, fragile soul, rarely able to propound himself, gentle to man and beast, and almost inherently unable to say No. His whole plan of life seemed utterly isolated from anything more exciting than missing a train or losing a balloon to the wind. And when this probing incident came upon him, he was too young to know the danger that he was being led into before it ever happened.

Bruce Hemmitt, who heard his experience in detail more than once, said that he often left out specific details and put in others; yet they were all evidently true. The whole scene was unforgettably cinematographed on to his mind. None of the details were presumed or fabricated. And when he told the story in all its completion, the effect was undeniable. His engaging green eyes shone, and much of the endearing personality, regularly so cautiously squashed, came forward and unveiled itself. His modesty was always present, of course, but in the revealing he forgot his presence and allowed himself to appear almost lucidly as he lived again in the past of his uncertainty.

Theodore was on the way home when it occurred, crossing the north end from some excursion or other where he entertained himself reclusive-wise every spring. He had nothing but a nondescript bag on his back, and the train was stuffed to asphyxiation, many of the commuters being inveterate vocational Mid-Atlantic. He hated them, not because they were his fellow-citizens, but on account they were turbulent and protruding, eliminating with their gangling limbs and boucle clothing all the softer tones of the afternoon that brought him pleasure and empowered him to thaw into insubstantiality and forget that he was a mere person. These Northerners clashed about his kind like a chamber orchestra, making him feel rather that he ought to be more self-insistent and truculent, and that he did not claim unfalteringly enough all the things he didn’t want and that were really twopenny-halfpenny, such as rear seats, corner windows up or down, and so forth.

So that he felt unbearable in the train, and wished the trek were over and he was back again living with his unmarried sister in Springfield.

And once the train haulted for five huffing minutes at the little station in the north west, and he got out to breathe away his suffocation away from the smothering crowd, and saw to his dismay a further batch of young children no bigger than up to his hip who hung to the shade like little secrets, and it suddenly seemed illogical to him to continue the ride. Even his flaccid soul rebelled, and the idea of staying a night in the little district of town and going on next day by a gentler, freer train, burst into his mind. The guard was already shouting “venez nous rejoindre” and the arcade of his partition was already packed when the thought came. And, for once, he acted with resolve and dashed to seize his bag.

Uncovering the corridor along the station’s waiting area and up the steps impassable, he followed the children’s path (for something compelled him) and asked the children, who walked ten feet ahead of him, if they were lost, explaining in his wretched Delaware County accent that he intended help them if they were indeed confused. And this young Dover native, he declared, was greeted by a smoky coal shape, half of reprimand, that to this fading day he could never forget; dropped the bag against the concrete as the next train passed along; and at the same time poured into his ears a soft song, sung with harmony and mellifluence, of which he was unable to comprehend only the last few images he had seen: “a plunge into sleep and an awakening into pain where I felt the airy release of my own flesh and blood, numb and cold, supple and weightless.”

In response to Sheriff Hemmitt, whose singular augur curiosity at once heeded him to travel from New York to Wilmington upon this boy as a vital point in the extrication, Theodore confessed that the man who had made him his lover and slave had roused him appreciatively from the start, though without being able to expound why. They had sat facing each other during the four hours of the deposition, and though very little explanation had passed between them—Theodore was timid about his stammering speech—he admitted that his eyes were being constantly drawn to his image, almost, he felt, to insolence, and that each, by a span of nameless little gentilities and observations, had indicated the thirst to be taken. The men liked enjoyed one another for their characters did not engage, or would not have had they chanced to come to terms of such queer conversancy. The boy, indeed, seemed to have utilized a silent protective influence over the man in gray, and without words or actions betrayed that he wished the Sheriff well and went back to his agonies without many concerns of if he’d been a service to the man’s investigation.

“And as far as the pronouncement that he hurled at you after you were released?” asked Bruce Hemmitt, glowering that peculiarly empathetic lour that always burned through the sways of his interviewees, “were you unable to remember it exactly?”

“It was so prompt and hushed and spirited,” explained Theodore, in his small voice, “that I missed almost the whole of it. I only snagged the last few words at the very end, because he spoke them so plainly, and his face was inclined in our space of this cottage and so close to mine.”

“A plunge into sleep and an awakening into pain?” repeated Sheriff Hemmitt, as though half speaking aloud.

“That’s it exactly,” said Theodore; “yet, I take it, he had me figure out the rest that was sprawled on the floor in my blood when the police arrived.”

“Certainly, it’s something that has some connection,” the sheriff suggested shortly, transparently not wanting to intervene more than necessary.

“And the continuation of the phrasing—all the first part I couldn’t hear, I mean—was a blessing, a saying of grace—something I expected he said to the children just before he allowed them to rest. That was the feeling I left with.”

Then, of course, the sheriff stood up, and left Theodore laying in his bed alone and rather dejected.

The little town ascended in dawdling fashion when it came to the panic and paranoia of the man the news had labeled the Butcher of Wysteria, and was consummated by the national news outlets as the greatest terror of the 20th century. From the local police station, it drove the police officers wild with speculation, but the fact was that his Dark Age techniques of torture were beyond the concepts of present-day detectives. And once Hemmitt reached this last day of his investigation, he left that old station knowing there was no law and no authority to pursue this Boogey Man to just place him behind bars. The clash and career of the congested train seemed keep his mind occupied with understanding this mystery. The psyche of this reticent onslaught, remote from convention and diurnal existence, haunting the quiet lives of children under the spring and summer sun, would cast infamy and haunt in both dream and reality. Long before he realized this, he knew he’d have to act accordingly.

At first, however, it was as Theodore said, Hemmitt noticed very little of all this. The venture at analysis came much later. What struck him then was only the diverting variance of the peace of death after the dust and rackety bounce of the train. He felt appeased here while it seemed the rest of the world was falling apart.

“You felt like a house pet being soothed by their owner, you said?” said Bruce Hemmitt, pulling the boy from his anxieties.

“Yes. In the very beginning it felt wonderful.” He said laughing remorsefully. I felt as though the warmth and the soundlessness that was leaving me against, the ease he offered made me purr like a kitten. It seemed to be the overall mood of the four walls—then.”

So much time had gone by that not only did the Wilmington authorities receive intel of another body but this monster sprung forth and committed more atrocities outside of Delaware. His reign had recently ended up north in New York. Sheriff Bruce Hemmitt’s playground. Hemmitt didn’t allow murders in his state, but when they crept through his streets, he was the acting law and the law was to make sure they never returned be the judgment bullet or rope.

On engaging the coming of G-men, Hemmitt’s deputy Ghiglieri had interviewed the only persons who seemed to be about getting rid of this specter terrorizing the Atlantic, the elderly State Secretary with Chevron whiskers and a groggy courtesy, dawdled heavily towards him across the courtyard; but on arriving downstairs again for a little seafront in the town before lunch he encountered the proprietrix herself. She was a thickset woman whose mitts, feet, and hallmarks seemed to dip towards him out of a drink of an individual. They materialized, so to speak. But she had serious black, irrepressible eyes that restrained the volume of her features, and betrayed the notion that in reality she was both robust and vigilant. When he first caught sight of her, she was crocheting in a high throne against the sunbeam of the wall, and something at once made him see her as a great American curl cat, having a zizz, yet alive, heavily dozing, and yet at the same time devising for expeditious action. A great pussy on the watch donned to him.

She took him in with a sole inclusive stare that was civil without being affable. Her neck, he regarded, was extraordinarily nimble in spite of its expanse, for it whipped so easily to follow him, and the head it carried curtseyed so very pliably.

But when she looked at him, he know—with that little rueful smile in his green eyes, and that faintly censuring gesture of the shoulders that was trademark of him—the odd notion came to him that really she had markings on her neck, not the kind resulted in strangulation but the marks that resulted in a bite or a tear from a wild animal, and that with a single bound she must have used her massive weight to contend the beast that came at her throat. When he returned to Hemmitt, he even illustrated this and said, “I’d like to see the other guy.”

He chuckled a little soft laugh, and Bruce Hemmitt made a note in his book without interrupting, while the world proceeded in a tone as though it feared he had already known too much and more than it could believe.

Very soft, yet very active he was, for all his ceremony of grandeur, he felt they knew what he was attempting even after he had passed and was leading them to Hemmitt’s office. They spoke to him, and his voice was glossy and functioning. One of the men asked if he needed to tug his luggage, and Ghiglieri assured him he needed nothing but to stay on his toes and keep his eyes open, and then added that the meeting would be quite short, and that they were very much in for a treat and an awakening. Clearly, he intended to convey that he knew much of this meeting while not being a part of it.

Everyone was present for Hemmitt’s meeting: in his office stood the New York State Commissioner, the New York Senate Representative, his two governmental aides, the state Lieutenant Governor, the Governor himself, the Attorney General, the town mayor, a swell of lawmakers from individual cities by way of Manhattan, and a coupling of officers from surrounding counties and localities.

The sheriff sat quietly, almost dim and delicate, upon the oak chair the small office along the tapered alleys where the gables all but met over his department, and when each entered the doorway of the cutoff division each stepped through with a deplorable and timid air that was in itself an travesty of impinging upon the place and disturbing its state of being.

The sheriff’s office, a wood-to-steel ancient post, the atmosphere of the old western days still about it, apparently did not welcome any of them too warmly. Each man felt he was only tolerated. But it was cheap, their feelings, and the soft lantern at his desk made it so this meeting made them feel really uneased with him for he not only had a gripe with the law he had one with their response. For him it had seemed bold but necessary. He felt something of a fraught in the air. His desk, too, soothed him with its dark wood paneling and low irregular ceiling, and the long askew passage that led to it seemed the natural riding to a real Chamber of Dusk—a little dim recess out of the world where noise could not enter. It looked upon the courtyard at the back. It was all very repulsive, and made them think of him as a hardened roundsman, and the floors seemed upholstered with dressing, the walls supplied with lining. The sounds of the exterior could not penetrate there. It was a firmament of absolute seclusions that surrounded them.

The law was enforced to take form on account of men of the state had declined to follow their own statutes since God once again turned His back on the innocent.

“Have you spoken with the officers from out of Massachusetts?” Mayor Buenell asked the Sheriff.

Hemmitt took a couple of shy puffs of his corn pipe, the brim of his browned campaign hat tipped over his eyes like a man trapped by a ghost of the forlorn. “I spoke with the damned officials out in Pittsburgh and Springfield, Massachusetts,” he bit his tip lip from the bottom row of incisors. “You know what they told me?”

The governor drew a hard glance at the man in the dust-brown cowboy hat like he was a living phantom: bleak, dark and nearly wraith-like. He spoke in a gruff tone that said he was not here to glad-hand or dance pleasantries around these lawmen that had failed the people they were sworn in to serve. Where many of these men had Northeast accents; the typical New York accent, some even mixed the New York and New Jersey accent into one bastardized amalgamation of audible vomit, and others with the Bostonian Southee drawl. But Hemmitt was different. He hadn’t been born to the east coasters. He was a Kentucky man with Georgia roots who served the state after so long of living here. His voice was guttural and, in that gutturalness, the gruff of his southern accent spoke like a man who never shared a laugh with another. He was all business in this room, and with these men, he was never to let them slip in a joke or wisecrack on his behave and it terrified the lot of them. Had he been covered in lamplight it may have appeared somewhat differently. The lanterns that lit the room from the sheriff’s oak desk were barely enough to draw devils from the corners of the office.

“They gave me the same spiel Blazkowitz did when I told him about the first dozen or so accounts of disappearances.”

Blazkowitz had been in this very room; he was one of the top notch, big city lawmakers out of Williamsburg and when the sheriff brought his name to the fold, a cold went over his shoulders as if a ghost had gripped him from behind or ice water had been poured over the inside of his spine. Nothing this man could say or do would prevent the roundabout of judging eyes from doing their task of gauge and arbitration.

Sheriff Hemmitt’s were the only pair of eyes that didn’t gather and infer; he’d seen the worst, but judging Blazkowitz now, although humorous in its own sense, would just make matters dreadful—nothing would change and nothing would get better, and the sheriff desperately wanted things to get better. There’d been a gray cloud over the northeast and it wasn’t going to clear up until Hemmitt rid the world of this vermin. He’d known this, and it was the reasons for such a sobering tone. See, he didn’t have kids of his own. He couldn’t even see himself bringing innocent lives in such a dangerous world, but for those that had, he saw them either lose their children to the everyday horrors of man or lose their very innocence to temptation.

Of all the terrors that came, the first was a child; a young girl, her name was Juneau Mulryan and at the age of seven, after failing to return home one spring afternoon, following her daily playtime with a gaggle of neighborhood kids near the South Shore district of Prince’s Bay, her parents filed a report with the local police station. It was Blazkowitz who called an immediate end to the search party that consisted of twenty or so fathers and uncles of local kids, only to put an end to a scouring that spanned three and a half weeks digging through the neighboring sites for this missing girl. Following much inspection, Hemmitt sent a handful of his own handpicked men with his second-in-command to hunt for the body after reading an account in the paper. After nearly two months her body was found—hanging upside down and lacerated at the pelvis where her abdominal aorta and both her iliac arteries were slit and punctured. The pear tree was in a wooded area outside of a cabin once used by a man who went as Maurice Sirk, a name also connected to a John Hayden—a male prostitute who was said to have connected to the rape of several young boys before the turn of the century.

“There’s no telling how many’ve those boys he’s mutilated or how man he’s killed,” Hemmitt hissed. “Only thing I do know is each and every one of ya acted only when it was far too late. Take little Juneau for instance, she could still be alive. I mean she wasn’t even raped. The doc said she had no signs of sexual assault. Just pure violence and that’s on all of you.”

It was against his determination that he divulged his reasons for opposing this observed conference of the unascertained—with the vast accounts of missing children that were uncovered dead (be it hanging from a tree or crumbled up in the corner of an old shack)—and he had grown the more wavering because he felt his advisory was far too behind.

“We’re here now, dammit!” Blazkowitz snapped. “Now tell us what we need to do to nab this sonovabitch!”

It was obvious with the censorious stares and internal monologues of slurs and aspersions; he had grown sick of Hemmitt’s hissing tone and cold verbal castigations.

Doubtful of the real actions they needed to take, as he was ready to unveil them, it was inevitable; yet if he quelled what could have appeared excessive and beyond belief all actions would be futile. He, hitherto, placed a folder on his desk that he divulged at that moment. In its contents were newspaper clippings and black and white photographs both unusual and deviant, both of which would count in his favor; for they were all awfully stirring and lurid. Still, it had been months prior many of the men in this room would have doubted the authenticity of its contents due to the great lengths to which Sheriff Hemmitt wanted to put this monster away.

The black and white, of course, was said to have been hoaxed by the press; notwithstanding the eccentricity of approach photograph experts ought to pronounce and bemuse over.

“I want each of you to look at these,” he said. “Go on! Pass ‘em around. Look at what he’s done to these kids. What your lax to law allowed him to do.”

Each folio of photo and news clippings of the leather-bound contents surfed form one end of the room to the next. Every heart of the men that lay bare to the witness sunk at the sight of such depravity.

“You see, he likes the boys. He may’ve held some deranged homosexual fantasy or something or other. From what I determined girls are just an add-on. Like a belt or wristwatch in correlation to the kill. But he covets the young boys, and what he does to the girls is a bit of a luxury to his sadistic art. This isn’t a man who kills to just kill. That’s what a psychopath does. That type of murder has meaning behind it; there’s purpose. And I don’t care to find out what it is; I just want the bastard dead. I don’t want him to deal with the law; the law has failed these children. I want murder to be the only order he receives.”

There was an unsettling quiet in between the oak panel walls from the feeling of turned stomachs. The acidity in their bowels had turned wild in disgust, the way waves crashed to the shores of the Boston Harbor because what Sirk had done to those boys wasn’t human; no mere man could hold the terrifying thought to do such a thing to children. Though just as Sheriff Hemmitt had deduced, this was no man; this was a pure monster much the way a shark was no mere fish, a tiger was no mere cat, and an alligator was no mere reptile. Each was primeval and would sink their teeth in anything they could just for that taste of predatorial power.

George Henderson, an aid to Governor Nathan Miller, had a thick loogey of bile buoying in his throat that he was lucky enough to spit out in the bin by the door. It wasn’t just fluid he upchucked, but half-dollar sized chucks of beef and rice he’d eaten earlier within the day. “How long has this been going on?”

From what I’ve learned,” Hemmitt said, gulping down a heavy lump in his own throat, “they rapes started when he was younger likely from the time he was a prostitute in New York City, and based on a little digging, he has a record linking back to grand larceny when he was incarcerated in Sing-Sing.

“He’s in the system?” Governor Miller gasped.

Hemmitt nodded. They’d had him; but let him go.

“He went by his God-given name: Phil Dyer, but after eight years and a half decade of good behavior, your laws sought fit for him to be a man amongst the people thanks to keeping his head down and exhibiting a gentle soul. But when he got out, just what did he do? He met a nineteen-year old named Edwin Kannen. Eye-witness described Edwin as a damn retard; dumb as the day’s long. Kannen went missing for a month and a half.

“Is he dead?” Attorney Chuck Newton Intervened.

“No, Charles. I had a few of the city’s finest look for the dunce. They found him in a hospital; his dick was split down the middle like a banana peel. Turns out Sirk…or Dyer, whatever you feel like naming him, had taken a liking to mutilation as your eyes can see in my envelope.”

“That was Kannen?” Newton choked back.

“The docs couldn’t sow him back up enough to repair the damage, so they severed the damn thing off.”

The disgust was apparent for the Sheriff. He’d clenched his jaw and lowered his eyes from the men in the room, taking a puff of his trusty pipe.

“The retard is a eunuch now. Fortunately, his balls were still intact, untouched for some purpose, but the docs saw fit to get rid of them, too. Why carry around nuts if you’re missing the main utility?”

Such grim humor didn’t settle the room. It was better off if he’d said nothing. Still, a part of him didn’t care. He was sick of the G-Men in the ivory castles sitting on their hands when it came to important issues and allowing nightmarish men to run through their cities and towns. With these men, it was all about money. Men who dressed in tailored suits always cared more for money than they did for the people they needed to protect.

“Why on earth let him go?” Comptroller James Wendell sought to ask. “Why not just kill him?”

Under the shadowed brim of the hat, a smirk softly came over Sheriff Hemmitt’s lips. He was pleased to know that these men weren’t just soulless money-grubbing vacuums of bullshit and mendacities to keep the public fooled with shifty promises.

“Maybe he couldn’t,” Sheriff Hemmitt said. “See, the location of the cabin they found Kannen in and if anyone got a whiff of death it’d be too close to pinpoint Sirk as the killer. Hence, I assume he wrapped the boy’s bloody knob up and sent him back home.”

The office was quiet with strained misery. None of them seemed to hold any ounce of levity as they eyed one another in the room, almost looking for an answer on the face of each of their fellow man. None would be had. There was no answer left to this besides death. Prison had released this monster; the state courts would only stall the inevitable. No, what was going to happen needed to happen now, tonight; and they each needed to convey a plan on who to get the damn thing done before daybreak. Why daybreak? The man in charge wanted to strike when the monster was active. Sure, going in when the vampires were resting would have been a smarter attempt, but the Sheriff wanted to go in when they had just hours to face the monster. During the dusk, it was likely there were less of his clutch in attendant.

Sheriff Hemmitt knew of a collection of men who worked the Baston Harbor, men who hunted out of the Pennsylvania woodlands, and men who, for lake of a better term, had a keen taste of violence for kiddie killers and rapists. Christian men these were, God-fearing men who considered themselves the steady hand of the Lord. They were fierce, but they were only but a few of the population. Hemmitt needed more men. None in this office knew what they were dealing with, even the cold and calculated Sheriff, who’d done his due diligence of research and had seen his fair share of Sirk’s carnage, k new they were in for a battle with the damned, if not the devil incarnate.

“What I need from you all in this room is Marshall authority to do what we need to do to get this done.”

“Marshall authority?” Governor Miller was aghast. Partially, it sounded like the phrase of a man seeking scorched earth. “How do we know you’ll get this done?”

They didn’t know. The truth was this Sirk or Dyer been back out on the street due to their bureaucratic negligence. This was on their hands, and the only way to end this spell of terror was to concede the Hemmitt’s authority. As powerful as these gubernatorial men were to their people and jurisdiction none had the nerve to kill. None had the balls to face this thing head on; that was why they were in this room practically begging this headhunter to clear their dirty laundry. Hemmitt didn’t mind these spineless, jellyfish jacks-in-office coming to him, begging him, but to question him was another thing. He didn’t work by signage or gavel, he worked by the sword and shield (or in his case by the gun and starred-badge) and if worst came to worst by brute force.

Hemmitt was as much the law as each of these desk-jockeys sitting in their oak offices like sultans over faultless lands. The problem was each of the sultans had a boogeyman and if not for their doggish headhunter, who’s to say, the devil might come for their children; those that had them at least. Few of the men in this room had young girls, some opposite of young boys, yet had young girls, some opposite of young boys, yet this did not mean Sirk hadn’t coveted them as well.

Where he coveted the flesh of young boys, some young than eight, Hemmitt had papers that told of disappearances of young girls in the same districts as the missing boys. The sheriff kept such intel to himself. Some things needed to remain in the shadows, certain trepidations had to remain unspoken. Opening dialogue too freely to these factions of men, these suit-and-tie type, whose only contribution to society were pitting the public against itself and whose sword and shield/barrel and shells consisted of ink and paper. Men, if you’d be daft enough to label them as such, were not men made of fire and loam, these men were made of chicken shit and cat piss. Born cowards who rested without worry and without concern. The brave rested with one eye open to the world of horrific possibilities.

Hemmitt knew how to get what he wanted from these vermin. He would ask for cash up front for the killing of Sirk. His men needed weapons. If he had to drain the cities these men represented then so be it, the Gray devil would be sent back to the pit where he was formed. Then once the work was done, he’d suck more funds and inventory from the lawmakers.

It seemed a simple enough task. Although perhaps he had also summoned too few of an infantry.

There were four division of their collective. Forrest Murrie, a twenty-year apothecary who was as white as old Saint Nick and possibly the most well-read out of the forty or so men in the collective. Forrest knew how to kill demons, he’d read books and news clippings that called Sirk a ‘vampire’, so when Hemmitt spoke of a devil, Forrest reminded him they were dealing with so much worse.

‘Devils are con-men, looking to offer you the sweetest deals,” he declared. For a stout and sizable fellow, he had a clarion and intrinsic voice. “Vampires are scroungers, like rats or mosquitos, suckling and draining life until there is nothing left but a husk of withered sacking flesh.

“How do we kill a ‘vampire’?” the damned notion sounded silly to Hemmitt and his men. It sounded like something a kid would drum up.

Forrest read his share of Bram Stoker—the old dapper Mick who had a distaste for Romanians as he had vampires—and concluded the following:


A wooden stake through the heart

A crucifix to ward them

Holy water

Lop off the head

Burn the body with fire blessed, and it’s even better if the flames are blessed by a priest.

Or starve the damn thing to death

“What about the kids?” Hemmitt asked.

“As good as burnt.”

It was dusk when Hemmitt gathered his collective at the town’s watering hole that he announced the course of action. Each of the forty-five men were given swords to go with their firearms. Each sword was similar—a broadsword—sturdy in weight and sharp enough to decapitate a child with the right amount of strength.

One of the men, under Forrest muttered what everyone was thinking at this point as Hemmitt’s deputy, Frankly Leonard, handed each of them their own blade, Bible and vial of blessed holy water. Hemmitt himself didn’t know how to enunciate his concern or how to turn it into a lie so as to not sour the men’s morale, so he gave it to them as best as he could.

It’s come to my attention that the fellow that has raped young boys all over the east coast may not be exactly what we think,” he stated. “He has a taste for flesh and blood—particularly the flesh and blood of innocent young boys.” He took a moment as to not blow his load of the men’s enthusiasm before he continued farther. “He maybe a vampire.”

The army exploded in clamoring voices of disbelief. A vampire? A Dracula? A monster from a ridiculous legend? Many of them didn’t belief a word of this, a few wanted to walk right out and almost did if he hadn’t spoken up.

“This is what I have: he has a particular taste for blood—spilling it and consuming it—it’s evident and he has a love for children, mostly your young boys.”

“What makes you think he’s a blasted vampire?”

“Yeah, Hemmitt, it’s one thing to go after this deviant for his brutality to children, but talks of being a vampire?”

“Sirk went missing a few years ago,” he started off, assured this would bring them back. “He fell off the face of the earth. None of the pencil pushers knew why. I found he had one more killing—a direct match of his modus operandi, a boy who was no older than twelve. I thought the story seemed strange at first, but blood was the factor. The boy’s body was split open and blood spilled over the bedroom like a bucket of paint had burst in this room. The only thing that made sense to me was a single spot in the room was untouched.”

“What do you think happened?”

“There were no footprints in this room; just that one spot. I think he drank from that one spot and left the law, myself included, scratched our damn head.”

The clamor had died. Just as soon as it covered the room it faded with a whimper with the eyes of doubt and fear now upon their leader, looking at him knowing they were dealing with something inhumane, likely not human at all. Could it be as he said it was? In the hills that were mapped for them by Forrest, could there be something dreadfully unexpecting?

“What kind of man enters a room painted in blood, no track or trace of him exiting or entering that very room? A vampire.”

The room echoed this revelation They knew now what they were up against, still the touch of breaching the unknown didn’t make them feel any more comfortable.

“Why the swords?” a voice asked from the back of the room, pronouncing the ‘w’. I thought a stake through the hahht did the trick?”

Hemmitt took of his hat, revealing a horseshoe-bald head, planting his wide brim hat on the drinking table. “Too meticulous,” he said. “there might be others there—children—and if there are, I don’t want more spared, take their damn heads off.”

“I’ve been reading these texts on vampire lore,” Forrest said. “Vampires never travel alone, they come in packs live wolves, and in Sirk’s case he’d have these children after so many years of being alone.”

“Then, what do we do about these vampires?” Douglas the court bailiff asked. “It appears none of us have ever dealt with this kind of terror before.”

“You’re right—we haven’t,” the sheriff said. “Truthfully, no one in this room has. Myself included. I’ve just seen what they can do.”

“We’ve read a lot,” Forrest intervened. “I’ve read a lot.” He perked his furrowed brows at the sheriff as if to indicate his lack of investigation.”

“I’m sure that’s the high stake we need in dealing with a living monster—literacy.” Douglas shook his head in shame.

“Enlighten me, Dougie, how do you expect us to kill a vampire?” the sheriff walked over to Douglas’ rear as he gestured to the men surrounding him. He was sitting in a chair, shoes up on the drinking table. When he heard the heard the leathered boots of the ornery old lawman stepping over to him in between the crowd of silent eyes, he expected a bit of aggression, such was his way, but he came behind him.

“Huh? What’s your big plan?”

His tone was bathing in a seethe of menace as it dug deep in a swell of guttural ire. Each word popped with a thickening of demand and slithered at each end like a ravening viper. Douglas has turned arctic with fear, so much that he swallowed a nervous lump in his throat. What came out of his mouth wasn’t a direct answer, but a mere suggestion like that of a child to an authoritative adult, a real adult that scared the piss out of him. “Shoot ‘em?” Douglas’ voice rose in a jolt of scratchy pubescence he hadn’t experienced in twenty-five years.

“Shoot ‘em!” Hemmitt expelled for the crowd. “We can shoot the vampire. Shoot ‘em in the chest, shoot ‘em in the damn head, shoot ‘em in the heart,” then he snapped his fingers. “Oh, that’s right—we can’t! And why can’t we just shoot a fucking vampire, Forrest?”

Besides him in a dull, employed response, his ally said, “Because they’re already dead.”

Hemmitt knelt down to where his lips were only inches away from Douglas’ right ear. “Because the damned are already dead,” he whispered. Just as he perked up to slap the idiocy from Douglas’ head with a quick twist of his palm, knocking Douglas’ feet back to the floor as if to say you don’t to relax, stupid, he went on addressing the room. “We kill them fire. We kill them stakes. We kill them with beheadings. Or we don’t kill them at all. And we let Sirk slink through the night again and attack another child, another one of your boys! Is that what you want? To have this…. vermin snatch your children out of their beds—”

The room exclaimed: “No!”

“Because that’s what’s going to happen if we don’t kill him tonight!”

Hemmitt walked away from Douglas now that he had no more strength to lay upon him, but his temper still burned within.

“Now, you have to listen to me and you have to listen to Forrest. No question. No backtalk. No stupid jokes. If we slip, he’ll make a move that will likely kill us all. So, I tell you this, we will be the only ones to strike and we do it tonight!”

They had a map of where they suspected Sirk to be hiding. In southeast Massachusetts there was a surrounding of mounds around Hemenway Hill in Milton, Massachusetts with an elevation of 470 feet leading to an egress. This presumed opening was found after one of the local hikers heard a swell of cries coming from a human sized hole that wasn’t large enough for grown men, but was surely wide and tall enough for the likes of children.

The hikers, a coupling of men, were said to have reported the strange sounds to the police. Be that as it may, when the Milton authorities arrived, they found the hole, only it was much smaller than reported, an ideal fit for a rabbit or rodent, not the kind of hole a toddler or six-year-old could jimmy themselves through. Though as far as the authorities were concerned about the noises, they heard not a peep—just the scurry of nature’s extermination squad.

“Lamarr’s a city boy,” Nolan Walworth teased.

Many of Hemmitt’s hired guns were men of the timbers, but those few like Graham Lamarr didn’t know the difference between the yowls of a loon or the howls of wolves.

“Up your keister, Walworth!” Lamarr hissed back.

A bundle of chuckles spread across the group.

“Maybe if he hears a whippoorwill, he’ll shit his bloomers,” Samuel Steen laughed.

“Cut it,” Hemmitt crossed the front of the group. “What can we do about the hole?”

Forrest rose his head on up, his thick pair of glasses, as thick as coke bottles, danced around until his sketchy sight caught on to the Sheriff’s hat.

“Send in a few scouts, sir.”

Murmurs and jeers came from the group. The men hadn’t just seemed impatient now, they were cold, many were hungry having only fed their guts with drink and sobriety had kicked in with the New England chill.

“You want sacrificial lambs?” Steen bellowed.

“Cut it!” Hemmitt snapped. “We’re all sacrificing for this. You knew this when you took the job. We’re all freezing, we’re all tired and we’re all going in blind to this—not one is better or worse than the other so act like the whore you are and eat your damn pride.”

“Yes, boss.” Steen complied.

“Now how are we doing this? Am I picking or are you laggards volunteering like gentlemen?”

The group, all quiet at first, dazzled eye upon one another, offered whispers of the wind and the distant call of the whippoorwills into the night. The sun had been gone for hours now, not even the lasting orange-into-blue hue that gave birth to dusk. Dusk had arrived before any of them knew it. For Hemmitt this moment was more than ideal for their entrance into the fray. Hemmitt’s order, the drudges went first, hitching their mares off to the side so as to not draw much drastic attention. Hemmitt watched them crawl into the burrow with lanterns in hand. Once each of the first group were in, Hemmitt gave the order to clear any pathway that would be of trouble. After a few minutes they gave the ‘all clear’ for the next group.

There was more than half expectant of something guarding the egress. Instead, what they found was a graveyard of adults—some, mostly male, as fresh as weeks and others so old and gone they were only bones, grinning eyeless hoary remains back at anyone who laid gaze upon them, facing one another on each side of the aisle wrapped in wardrobes and toppings of cloth and polyester. These corpses rested in a crucifixion pose against an assemblance of boxed crates, whose contents were seemingly necessary yet unknown and for Hemmitt would remain such a mystery as he ordered the men to keep their filthy mitts off the cargo, not certain what lay within. The audience of skeletons were the most fortunate of these—running from the hole in the mountain to the entrance of the castle. Their deaths were passed, and it was likely they died quickly. Those with the skin were suckled to the point of no return, wholly deprived until they were sheets of gray skin, lips pressed against rotted toothy grin and being embossed like impressions against dried mud.

“Boss?” the grunts called to Hemmitt who had made his way into the cavern. “Is this what we’re dealing with?”

Hemmitt nodded, stepping to the front of the group. His back was turned to them so as to not see his blur of worry drawn over his face.

“You were all warned,” he said. “When I said Maurice Sirk was a monster, I meant it.” He armed himself with his MAS revolver. It’s heaviness in his grip was courtesy of being what he called “shelled to Kingdom Come” gripping it tight in his left hand and carried the handle of his lantern with his sight. Now that the men in his company were becoming aware of what they may be dealing with, fear struck their hearts, and the sips of booze a few of them were imbibing through secret flasks they hid in their jackets did nothing to curb such emotion. One would think they’d had enough from the previous hours, but the soul could only handle so much terror before intoxicants were needed to sooth the nerves of dread.

Hemmitt gave attention to a few of these corpses. All petrified in their own way, each seemed to be hikers, a mix of locals and tourists. One was an older man, possibly in his oldest of years and he’d been suckled so far away that his skin was peeled off his body like the wrapping of a Christmas present, springing forth his skeleton. Others were younger, some likely in their late twenties and thirties and were petrified so much that their hoary skin were clinging to the bones. There were markings over the bodies, scratches and claw marks that Hemmitt deemed too innocent to be done by a true monster. These were done by the children. They were sloppy and marks of starvation, marks of younglings ripping away skin to reach for blood.

“This way.”

Hemmitt led them forward. On each side of them as they passed, their lanterns shined further through the room and they identified more of the bodies were laid up against the walls, flat on their asses with legs sprawled out, spread eagle, and heads cocked to the sides.

“Was this Sirk?” one of Hemmitt’s men asked.

“No,” Forrest said. “These don’t match his M.O. or his line of particular taste. What do you see?”

“Grown men.”

“Exactly,” Forrest groused. “Based on the elementary fashion of these killings, this was the works of the boys he’s kept here.”

“But you’ve seen Sirk’s work.”

“I have,” Hemmitt said. “And when it comes to the nitty gritty, he’s the nastiest I’ve come across. There are sloppy individuals…like these boys. Then you have what I’ve seen Sirk do. Carnage for the sake of carnage. Havoc as an artform to be displayed and caroused.”

“Y-y-you said there’s a way to handle these…m-m-monsters…”

Forrest nodded before calling back to the men, “You all do remember, don’t you?”

“Sunlight…stake through the heart, crucifix, holy water, lop off the head” the company started to chant before Hemmitt paused their chorus, stopping in his own tracks. His head was down like a dog sensing a stink in the soil, a sound in the air. There was a soft susurrating to the east, something in the cavern shifting. Hemmitt’s beady eyes narrowed in on the rustling. The rest of his party had been too in their regale to have noticed, but Hemmitt was well aware.

“What’s there?” Franklin inquired.

He scooted over to his boss, partly in fear and partly for curiosity. He wanted to see if he could see exactly what Hemmitt was looking at. The problem was Forrest was short, he made it just under Hemmitt’s shoulder at the tallest.

“I don’t think we’re alone,” Hemmitt said.

The room was overcome by a clear swelling stink of death, and it wasn’t just an unfamiliar stench that echoed from the east, but all around them with the emergency of a foul smog. This wasn’t as viscous of an attack, but an opened exposure to let the hunters know they were ready. The rustling was echoed with the groans of ravenous hunger, the bellows of warnings that alerted Hemmitt’s huntsmen to arm their rifles, point their lanterns at the soft, distant sounds that came in doubles, triples and as much as quintuples over the walls of the cavern. What were these sounds exactly? They reminded a quarter of the men of the rustling of leaves; some might even say the evidence of mice scurrying to dark corners of these catacombs, hiding far from the light. Then the others would say titters of laughter, not the young lively laughter of children but the wry, harsh muted cackles of demons. Laughter made by dry lungs, cancerous lungs, sulphuric fits of enjoyment. Hemmitt didn’t know what it was, upon hearing it initially. To him, he could have gone either way—laughter or rats—but the reason he didn’t give too much of a concern for it was because he had given that job to his huntsmen. His goal was clear: kill Maurice Sirk, get rid of this suffering wound once and for all. As for the nests of younglings, they could have their fill with bullets, steel and fire.

And with the echoes and the burn of the lanterns they could not see it and would not see it coming when they came from the back attacking. Screeching, they were no more than four-feet tall, charging like spider monkeys, eyes as white as starlight and fangs as rotted as old fruit as they lept on the back of as many of the hunters as they could. Twelve of them went down beside Hemmitt and Forrest.

“Help!” the men started to holler. “Get it off me!”

They twirled and whipped around trying to stop the little things from getting leverage should they drive the fangs into their necks. Their little claws coming over the men’s faces, covering their eyes, some using their razor-sharp talons to tear at flesh, spilling blood like striking oil, mauling at the throats so that crimson spilled to the floor in audible splatters that reverberated against the bricked walls. The men dropped and collapsed in the puddle of their own demise while the children snarled while feeding at their flesh, suckling and tearing at the flesh like packs of wolves. Hemmitt watched motionlessly at the ones that were seized fall victim to these younglings. Their eyes piercing back at him, their white eyes like white torchlight burning back at him as if to clamor for owners shit of the flesh they were gnawing while blood and spittle foamed at the sides of their mouths.

Hemmitt finger itched at the trigger of his gun, caressing it, dancing with it like it was some sexual appendage, yet he didn’t strike like he wanted. Why? He wanted to rid the world of these parasites. Still, this was not his fight. He just stood in wait. Truly, he didn’t pity them dying like this, at first. If they were told over and over again, they should be more prepared than this, than falling victim to children. But there were others that used their cunning to their advantage, pulling out pistols and putting holes in the kid’s head—third-eye rounds—knocking them off. The bullets were more than enough to withdraw them for a bit. Where one blasted the little cretins from their shoulder, their fellow hunter aimed and took the shot for his fellow man. This gave Hemmitt some ease as he lessened the strain on his cannon.

“Keep your head up!” one of them regaled.


“But nothin’—blow the bastards away and who ever dies, let them meet their maker and the rest of you come with me!” Hemmitt roared.

He and Forrest went forth followed the bye surviving faction of his group. Twelve had been eliminated, a good number was still alive, but this would not be forgotten.

“Burn ‘em,” Hemmitt ordered in departure. “End to end, burn this fucking hole down.”

The hunters looked at Hemmitt with curious and funereal consternation. Then he repeated himself. And that was when they knew what he was doing. He wasn’t just ridding them of Sirk’s little devils, but should their men rise up by curse of the infection, they didn’t want them coming after the rest.

Following a cheerless sigh, one lantern went to the east, and another to the west and with the shattering of the glass of the body of the lanterns the growing crackles of lames came through.

For Hemmitt it was better to be safe than stupid. Stupid was what got you killed. Stupid, as his father once stated, was the catalyst that befell many great men. It put dick before knowledge, pride over gratitude, and self over brotherhood. Hemmitt’s father made him the man he is today. But in a situation like this, he’d slap his boy across the face and spit: “This is a lose-lose scenario, boy! Get your fat head out of your flat ass!” But that was the best part of this. The law allowed Hemmitt to play it safe. He knew the rules, they were all written out for him, all he had to do was follow them and enforce them. This, however, hunting down vampire and child diddlers had no rules. The only rule he needed to follow was to not get bit.

Don’t get bit…

Some of them followed that rule, others were being barbecued in the caverns.

Forrest had stated that if one was bitten by a vampire, something changes and they turn into a reflection of that creature. Neither the sheriff nor Forrest knew the specifics of the hows or whys—Forrest thought of it like a flu or a virus that was contracted by infected saliva. Forrest had read plenty of books about infections and diseases likening them to vampirism, but few come close to what they’d actually seen. What disease was prone to killing you and making you feed on the plasma of your species while you were completely indistinguishable both internally and externally.

“Let’s keep on,” Hemmitt said.

Several of the men had been seized and those who were attacked and fed on were slowly changing. The little cretins had come from the dark of the catacombs, their silent footsteps were like that of roaches or mice, soft and slightly hushed only by their size and hunger. The only things that alerted them of this presence were their rotted stink and their emaciated breathing, such breathing of papered lungs. It was the pint-sized sprites that struck first, like shadows within the shadows, and it was Hemmitt’s men that came out on top, yet to make sure Forrest had a few men scorch the remainder of the bodies. Forrest was the most well-read of them all and even he didn’t hold the mystery of vampirism and how their virus worked. He knew that their bite contained a contagion in their spit and if that fluid reached the blood vessels of their human prey, it was likely it changed and poisoned the humane condition. What he had known was that the hottest of Hell’s flames could cleanse the greatest of sinners, dead or otherwise.

The outer door led to a staircase that spun up twelve stories within the castle, and up each story Hemmitt knew he’d have to send his men to torch every floor not before killing every vampire until each floor was blessed by flames or they reached Sirk’s location and Hemmitt put the devil in his grave.

This disheveled entry way was foul with the fetid rot of feces and sour milk. The air was stuffy on account the windows were boarded up outside as well as inside, this being a means to keep the sunlight from entering Sirk’s hideout. Forrest read that vampires slept through the day to get away from their cursed repulsion to daylight, but this scene told another story. Perhaps vampires didn’t sleep through the day, perhaps that one part—sleep—made them linked to their distant humanity. Six to eight hours a day—A.M or P.M—and the rest was left to the feed.

Walking the creaking hardwood floor (its sound was like that of a child’s wailing) and up the stone stairs, being led by the rusted railing drizzled with cobwebs and coating of dust, they managed to scale to the highest floor. Upon each break of the landing, a group of four of Hemmitt’s survivors occupied each connecting story, surveying the collection of room for Sirk’s little vampires, taking care of them and setting their spaces on fire. Many of the children were wild and one was enough to keep the men engrossed in their savagery. Yet, they were more than aware of their weaknesses. A shot through the head, while it didn’t do much to kill them, it did render them incapable for a second before they sprung up. Approximately, the huntsmen were given 10-15 seconds before the children shot up; it was enough of a time to decapitate them. Decapitation was one thing, it did the trick: nothing was coming back having their head chopped off; they needed to be sure, however, they didn’t need them coming back and that was way the flames were started. Room after room, decapitation after decapitation, each room was burned from wall to wall.

“Little bastards are tough,” one of the huntsmen noted. “I’ve chopped wood before, but their necks are strong!”

“It’s because they’re vampires,” one of the others in the large bedroom acknowledged. “They won’t make this shit any easier for us if they have to.”

After seeing these children and what they could do, the true power of vampirism, the speed, the strength—able to spin a two-hundred plus pound man while strapped up on his back—and the animalistic tenacity was all sobering. They had turned up their own pertinacity, being steadfast with the little bastards. If Sirk’s younglings struck first, the huntsmen were quick to defend themselves-they had to be for the sake of their own mortality.

Hemmitt could hear them below:

“Hold ‘em down!” Lemme cut off his head!”

“Whew! These bastards are tough!”

“Got ‘em!”

“Whoo! There goes another one!”

“Down and out!”

“Let’s burn this place down! And let’s scorch these demons with it.”

“Burn with your hellish kingdom, devils!”

Hemmitt kept a sharp ear to them all below. The seemed to have things taken care of and seemed to be enjoying themselves in the process. The calls of jubilation, the applause, the hollers of joy and gun fire of victory under the crackles of fire and these calls of triumph were enough to put a grin on Hemmitt’s surly mug. It was simple to fear the worst, and truly it was quite human to do so, but in this place not only were they warriors but they were unvanquished against the sinners and bloodletters who not only would feed on the bodies of these men without a second thought. Hemmitt wanted to end this, even if it took all night, he would do it. He was waging war with the devil not in the name of God, for He had departed some time ago. No, he was doing this for the children that God and His heavenly choir walked away from.

With Forrest and Franklin behind him, their attention to their surroundings, their brave sheriff led them to the walkway along the twelfth floor. At the end was a door, non-descript and rusted brown. There were claw marks, little foreign engravings and splinters on the face of the door. But something about it, told Hemmitt that behind this door was this place of darkness and danger.

“Is he in there?” Franklin hissed.

“If he isn’t, he’s a coward,” Hemmitt said. “A yellowed, shit-scared, kid-poisoning coward.”

The sheriff stepped to the door, twisted and jiggled the knob before turning it open. The door opened with an uncomfortable ease. It gave no way to being secure on the opposite end, the way Hemmitt expected it. On the inside, the room he expected to be something miraculous was only slightly dark-lit by torches on the walls and candles on a series of small tables. There was half a dozen of them on five separate tables. At the far end of the room sat Sirk, shield in darkness, his face barely visible, but his essence pale and silhouetted by the dusk of shadows. It was like he was sitting under an unlit canopy and all the while he stared at them from the shelter. He wore a gray suit, his hair was thinned and combed to the side, his eyes as far as the three of them could tell, were as white as sea stones. Still, while the king sat on his royal seat, he remained not alone. On the sides of the room were more children who Hemmitt suspected to be statues until they opened their eyes, each turning their head to their guests and staring at them through peepers that shone like moonlight, while Sirk’s eyes were dull and dead.

“You’ve finally arrived,” his voice was weak and he drug his words with a breathy wheeze like a man weak by his own existence.

“It took the resources of nearly four states, but here we are,” Hemmitt snapped back.

What looked like a smirk came over Sirk’s wrinkled face. He had a gray mustache that, under the darkness and minor torch light, swept over his top lip.

Forrest stepped forward, to the left of Hemmitt not ahead of him.

“How’d you become a vampire, Maurice?”

The Sheriff didn’t approve of such amicability in Forrest’s voice, to interview this cretin as though they were here for neighborly means. Not at all, they were here to kill, and Hemmitt wasn’t going to entertain such nonsense civilities. His left arm rose and pulled Forrest back behind him.

“I’m not the only one of my kind,” Sirk said. “There are many. Your sheriff should know this if he plans on killing me. Some that are in governments, some in churches, and others in schools. We’re all around. We don’t hide as often as the books say we do. But what makes me different is I’d rather let you think I am what the fear-mongers say I am. Why live amongst your kind and not consume from it?”

“And that’s why we can’t ‘let you,” Hemmitt said.

His eyes turned crazy with rage as he lifted his pistol and aimed it at Sirk.

“Ah, yes,” Sirk crossed his left leg over his right. “You great vampire hunters have come to stop me.”

Based on his placation, he was no more afraid than the sprites on the sides of the room. In fact, he seemed more confident that Hemmitt at this moment. Where the stony sheriff gripped the butt of his cannon, Sirk remained calmed, waiting for the sheriff’s next move.

“You have no idea what you’ve done, do you?” Sirk asked. His tone was threatening without seeming to waver. It did not lift one decibel. There was no pressure or second thought. “You’ve entered my nest, which means I am master, I am in control, and you all are my prey.”

In that instance, the children off to the side started to grin and bellow then screams started to come from downstairs. It was Hemmitt’s huntsmen. The startled sheriff turned his head just over his shoulder so that he could hear them more clearly before it all dawned on him, before he started seeing it in this very room, the eyes of the children started to double—no triple. Their eyes becoming many and their shadowy essence thickening within the ill-lit room. They were being ambushed. The children’s bright, white eyes like the stars, surrounded the three in this space and one by one the candles started to dim and burn out. The bright, burning torchlights followed and Hemmitt watched Sirk rise from his seat.

“Damn you!” Hemmitt cried out, taking a shot at one of the children.

But where the boy dropped, two had taken his place; eyes bright, fanged smiles rising in the husk of shade.

Franklin pulled out his gun and tried to follow. The same happened. One down by bullet. Two more up in his place. Forrest stumbled, his gun falling to the ground beneath him.

“Shit!” this wasn’t a mere snap of the tongue, but whimpering without the assist of tears. But he was sure those would come eventually. He knew what was coming next and it shook him to his core. Surely, they all did.

Sirk’s last words surrounded the room in great volume:

“You have no power here. You never have and over time you will see me as your superior. Your God has no say in my world. I am the dark…” the room becoming surrounded by darkness. In by inch. From the rear as the eyes of the children started to dim with it so that all that the three men could see was a smoothing silhouette of Maurice Sirk. “And I am the perpetuity.”


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