Lately, I have been begging off my Sunday brunches at Grandpa Pete’s. I hesitated going straight to the front door. I walked over to the living room windows to see my grandfather seated at his white grand piano. He played the keys with a serene expression of sheer pleasure. In my upside-down inner clock, it had clouded my sharpness of wit. I didn’t think my presence would be suitable for breaking bread with him.

I heard a woman’s voice calling my name, “Glenda, you silly, stop peeping at your grandfather’s living room windows. Come to the door, dear.”

The voice cajoling me came from Pete’s latest lady friend, Grace, a widow who lived three houses down from him. I jumped, feeling like she had caught me smoking, like a high school teacher of mine did many years ago.

I stood at the open door. “In my mood today, I don’t know if I would be good company.”

“Nonsense, we’ve fixed your favorite, chicken dressing casserole,” Grace said, grabbing my left arm.

Grandpa Pete must have heard Grace at the front door. He met us in the formal dining room. “Glenda, looks like you haven’t slept in days! You’re too young to have dark bags under your eyes,” he said, pulling out a chair for me.

I attempted to steer him off the subject of my physical appearance. “What were you playing?”

“Oh, I was doing my own syncopation of ‘Alley Cat.’”

“Well, it sounded really good.”

“Both of you sit down. I’ll bring in the hot casserole. You can dig into the salads. Don’t be shy, Glenda,” Grace interrupted our small talk.

I waited until she had disappeared into the kitchen. “She looks like she has taken over.”

“Funny, I’m getting to like it. At this point in my life, a woman puttering around this big house is comforting to me. Don’t scoff at her. She’s genuinely fond of you,” he said, his face full of contentment.

I did not realize how hungry I had been for a home-cooked meal and frivolous conversation. I was starting to feel somewhat normal. These days, that was a rarity. Grandpa Pete got up, then bent over and kissed Grace. This was something I hadn’t been a witness to. I was beginning to feel a warmth towards Grace.

He raised up and asked me, “Do you want some espresso to top off the meal?”

“Yes, that would be great.”

I wanted to thank Grace for such a tasty and enjoyable brunch when she spoke up. “Are you getting any closer to catching this vile attacker?”

I replied in a dry type of answer, “Well, there is a task force working on all angles of the case. We have many theories, nothing iron-clad yet.”

“You need to step up, my dear. I’ve been friends with Melanie Rossen for years. She hasn’t been herself since that attack in June. Now, I’m hearing these attacks have turned to savage murders!” she rambled on, showing some agitation with her voice getting to a shrill.

Grandpa Pete came back with two small mugs of espresso. “Here you go, detective. What have you ladies been chatting about?”

Grace answered in a condescending tone, “Glenda’s been giving me unsatisfactory knowledge on her present, long-suffering investigation. I’m sure with more victims losing their lives.”

“Grace, you’ve got to realize a detective has the right to hold back on details to avoid a city panic,” my grandfather said, attempting to come to my rescue.

Grace sat there silent, glaring at me. She drank the remainder of her ice water with those disapproving grayish-blue eyes. I could not sit there any longer. I left my espresso half-full. I stood up, “Thank you both for an enjoyable brunch.”

Grandpa Pete followed me to the front door. He grabbed me before I went out the door, probably slamming it in my present state. “Honey, you need to give Grace some levity. There are those who possess great fear since glimpses of this case have spread in the last few months.”

I said to myself, What’s the use? I could stand here and give my grandfather a viable argument. I was too angry and too frustrated. I raised up and gave him a kiss on his forehead. “Pete, I’m happy you found somebody, really.”

I got in my car and sat there a bit before starting it up. Grace did bring forth a factor I could act on. Melanie Rossen was not getting any better mentally. Her emotional and mental scares were far from being healed as her physical body had done. I found myself in and around Anderson University campus on the east side of the city. I stood at her front door, ringing her doorbell nervously as a cat being held down for a flea bath.

Manfred Foy opened the door. “Why, detective, it’s been a while. What can I do for you?”

“I apologize for the sudden visit. Can I talk to Melanie?”

“Yes, follow me. She’s reading back in the rose garden.” He graciously let me in.

We walked through the double sliding glass doors from the kitchen. Melanie’s back was to me as I walked out onto the stone terrace, getting a full view of the several varieties of rose bushes arranged in half-moon rows in the square backyard.

She had heard the opening of the doors, peeking her head around her lawn chair. With a sour expression discovering I was behind Professor Foy, she said, “Well, Manny, it seems you brought some kind of pitiful-looking law enforcement officer to my sanctuary.”

I read she was not happy to see me. Mustering all my courage, I pulled up a chair to her direct left. “Thank you for not screaming me away. I needed to see you.”

She slapped her book down on the white wrought-iron table to her right. “Well, the last time I saw you, Amado and you were obviously into some kind of upcoming tryst with no word from you about how much you enjoyed our gracious dinner invitation. I guess your investigation takes precedence over looking in on that thing’s victims.”

Manfred gave us privacy, sneaking slowly away into the house. I ignored her sour attitude towards me and continued on. “I’ve been very lapse on checking back with you. You are absolutely right. How have you been since that dinner at Vera Mae’s?”

“Well, I’ve been knee-deep into research about what attacked me. Funny, even the worst of what I’ve learned keeps me from going over the deep end. Sometimes, my night terrors are excruciating. Manny helps since we got married,” she said.

“Congratulations on your marriage. That’s got to be one good result from this nightmare,” I told her, hoping to break her icy stare.

“Detective, what have you really come for?” Melanie asked.

“I’m with you on the night terrors. The deeper I go with this case, I more I experience nightly images invading my sleep, causing me to soak my sheets with sweat. Not able to go back to sleep, I take up my sketchbook and draw out the images. One of the last victims not only was attacked, but savagely murdered. His identity showed up in my sketch book.”

I stopped, then I did something I rarely do: I cried in front of someone. Melanie turned to face me, then put her hand on my arm. I said to her, “I’m not supposed to tell you this, but the last victim, Katie Fisher, had been torn to pieces in her bathroom. I almost lost my shit in front of navy blue officers at the scene.”

“My sweet Christ, that sweet waitress from Bobber’s Café?” Melanie gasped in shock.

“I was so fond of her. Somehow, my strong attraction to Amado makes me feel responsible for her death.”

“No, I found out much later after that dinner, Amado is something of a supernatural mystery. I have done a great deal of study, especially when it comes to the ability of the creature to shapeshift. The magic arts are strong enough for the cursed woman to change into a man. She can change into the form of a man when it suits her, as well as manifesting into the aswang,” Melanie said something so bizarre, I stopped feeling sorry for myself enough to get the full import of what she had learned in the last weeks.

“Let me get what you are saying. What hunted you out was really a woman who had shifted into the figure of a man,” I said, leaning back into my chair. My face held a stare almost like I was in a trance.

“Glenda, in the form of the creature, the aswang, there was this muscled torso. That is why I told you it was a man that attacked me. When in actuality, the shapeshifting phenomenon had the ability to fool me to think a man attacked me for his specific propose. The aswang is really a woman.”

I began to sweat. My mouth became so dry it was hard to swallow. I wanted to speak but found it difficult. Melanie read on my face that I was in a grave panic. She got up from her lawn chair and went to the glass sliding doors. “Manny, come quickly.”

He came to her side immediately. “Manny, I’m going to get the detective a goblet of sherry. Sit with her. She’s in a state.”

Manny pulled up another lightweight lawn chair. He asked me very softly, “What can I do for you, Detective?”

Melanie got up and handed me the sherry. “Take small sips.”

I was able to speak. “What you told me was quite the shocker. I shouldn’t be surprised at anything related to this blasted legend. So, the man Amado who kissed my lips and later came to my apartment one night was really Amora.” I took two more sips. “Jesus on the cross! She could have killed me right then and there.”

Manny spoke up, “You know, Detective, there is a strange reason why she spared your life. Maybe after so long, she wants to be free from this curse, whether to be destroyed or somehow a way to rid herself of being this horrible ‘Mr. Hyde’ creature.”

The sherry was soothing not only to the inside of my mouth, but it helped me slowly calm down. I could begin to think clearly, to think analytically, like I always did in my work. Ironic, at the beginning of this investigation, the woman who sat here helping me to regain some kind of sanity was the woman I wanted to discredit.

I took her hands and tears came forth again. “Both of you have been so kind, even though I’ve been such a shit!”

Melanie spoke, “Glenda, before I acquired this knowledge about my assailant, I was toying with the idea of suicide. We have to fight against this evil in our separate fashion. I do it by getting ahold of as much information I can, giving myself time to enjoy a new life with Manny. You do it by putting aside any previous wrong thought processes and finding a way to bring her in, not so much to destroy her in the same bloody fashion she has done to all her victims. Bring her before the justice system, no matter how hard it might be.”

I went back to my apartment, watching the sunset from my living room’s long, overstuffed couch. The lavender and deep orange mix gave way to a darker indigo. I realized the fantasies I harbored for the type of man I thought Amado was became more attractive than his actual physicality. I decided then and there to embrace what I had to do. My reputation as a capable detective on the line. My mind faced the reality of gripping the dynamics of what would entail a pursuit of a supernatural creature who possessed not only nimble abilities of rapid movement but a backlog of magical powers I was ignorant of.

Until I could let sleep overtake me, I read a brief Luther had written in the last two weeks. He detailed various ways this creature in full manifestation could be brought into a brief state of stagnation in order to experience a brutal ritual of ridding the cursed phenomenon of what contaminated its inner core. I got through three-fourths of a detailed account with the full knowledge that I would be terrified in every aspect of this unusual pursuit and seizure.


For all installments from The Islands Tell of It, click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Chapter 1: The First Victim
  2. Chapter 2: Four Months Before October
  3. Chapter 3: Bobber’s Café
  4. Chapter 4: Heat Wave
  5. Chapter 5: Deep-End Dining
  6. Chapter 6: Rathbone Estate
  7. Chapter 7: Althea’s Run
  8. Chapter 8: Emergency Interrupts
  9. Chapter 9: Girls Talk Turkey
  10. Chapter 10: There Came a Lull
  11. Chapter 11: Dangerous Mind
  12. Chapter 12: Luana Barba
  13. Chapter 13: Trip to Milwaukee
  14. Chapter 14: Enough Killing
  15. Chapter 15: A Parking Lot Visitation
  16. Chapter 16: The Restaurant
  17. Chapter 17: Late-Night Work