Grandpa Pete summoned me for breakfast. His invitations were deemed in delivery as commands, rather than a nice thing to spend a morning meal with the man that raised me since early adolescence. Lola, his Great Dane, came barreling at me as I parked my car in front of his palatial one-story Colonial Revival home on the beautiful Winding Way in the wealthy community of Edgewood.

“Lola, hey girl, I’ve missed you. Walk me to the door,” I softly said to her, bending down to meet her strong, structured face. I took my left hand to stroke her sleek reddish brown head.

A tall, balding man still endued with handsome features in face and body opened the front door. I imagine I got my height from Grandpa Pete. My parents stood much shorter to him. “Glenda, you look fit. Come on in the kitchen. We are having breakfast via casual at my kitchen table. I hope you like eggs benedict.”

“Only if you left out the asparagus,” I said.

I sat basking in his espresso, with a rich full-bodied blast of chicory mixed with the coffee. He brought over my breakfast entrée as if he was an elegant high-class waiter. “As you like it, no asparagus.”

“Pete, I have a sinking suspicion you’ve been talking to my sergeant,” I opened our morning discussion.

“Glenda, he feels that with this unusual case you and Luther have been assigned to, you alone are letting your skepticism overshadow your past successes,” Pete stressed, his large bushy eyebrows darting down.

“Pete, this case so far reads like some chilling horror novel. There has got to be some kind of rational explanation in the area of some kind of fright of a man, but still human. I get the inner creeps as the first victim insists on touting off some strange phenomenon and the second victim’s husband shouts at us to stay away. The horror rhetoric coming at us at all sides is putting me in a vulnerable state of mind. You know I despise that kind of weakness,” I told him.

“You know of my station in the Army where I spent eighteen months in Manila. I will not forget how the residents reacted when telling me of a supernatural type of evil terrorizing those on the island of Boracay on the hottest of nights. Don’t let your genius instincts get buried because of the police protocol you’ve been working under for the last 15 years,” Grandpa Pete said, becoming animated with his expression and his hand movements.

I ended our breakfast with a promise to keep an open mind. I was surprised at his advice being of the way-out nature. He was usually more of a bound-to-the-book type of person.

We shook hands at the front door instead of a loving family embrace. Peter McMahan was not defined by his emotional sentiment; maybe that was why I got uncomfortable with too much loving affection in my romantic relationships.

En route to my cubicle, I saw Luther’s head pop out. “Hey partner, got some YouTube videos you have to see. Get in here!”

I sat there listening to a film producer give historical accounts centuries old on this bizarre legend from the Philippines. Residents from the islands of Panay, Boracay, and even the most southern parts of Mindanao talked of this aswang: could look like a dog or a pig, a shapeshifter turning back into a woman, then as the weather became hotter and the full moon came with the night, the woman would turn into a winged creature seeking its prey. There were also accounts that the woman could change her sex to a male to seek out victims.

Luther exited out of YouTube. “You know, these humans are cursed sometime in their adolescence, then able to become witchlike, have visceral/vampire tendencies, even tear up their victims like werewolves; all come from a belief before Christ of aswang being one of the fallen angels.”

“Here we go: the Devil made me do it!” I said, rolling my eyes.

“Glenda, this legend has been an oral tradition for centuries with now. Among Catholics, 83 percent of Filipinos believe this legend is real,” Luther said, his dark eyes getting wider as he spoke.

“Luther, come on. How could an old legend land smack dab in 2017; crazier yet, in the Midwest?” I argued back.

“We’ve been given this case, so all that we have is pointing to what you viewed. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to start working up a chart.”

“All right, partner, let me work with you here. So far, we have two victims attacked on a hot summer night. If we check the calendar with what I listened to, it was also a full moon out. Let’s begin by making a run over to where Melanie was attacked,” I suggested.

“Glenda, we went over that scene already!”

I stood up. “Won’t hurt to scour over it again. I will treat you to an early dinner at Bobber’s Café.”

For the next hour, Luther and I carefully and methodically went over the tall grass, bits of sticks, and bunches of dried leaves in front of the embankment where the land meets the slow-moving lake water. I had not seen anything yet to give Ms. Rossen’s bizarre account any kind of credence. My inner psyche had been awakened to severe feelings of dread and a pervading aura of something wicked happened here. We were about to give up when I heard crunching underneath my right loafer.

I raised my foot up very slowly. Luther cried out. “I’ll be! Looks like a mess of egg shells.”

I thought to bring a plastic Ziploc bag and a pair of tweezers from my pants pocket. “Here’s a big one, almost enough for some kind of fingerprint.”

“Leave it to you to be prepared. Okay, Girl Scout, let’s get up every shell, big or tiny,” Luther said, laughing in between words.

Picking up the scattering of dingy eggshells, the instincts our sergeant bragged on me in the past kicked in. For one thing, Melanie Rossen’s wording of this strange object called “balut” was proven to exist.

There it went again; the pervading aura of something wicked grabbed my mind. I stood there, holding the Ziploc bag of eggshells. I looked down at the contents, and someone or some premonition told me, Hold on to your sanity: this case will take you into the very heart of darkness. I shook my head, hoping to think about something tangible. Luther came up with it.

Luther sighed. “Hey, I’m hungry. I’m going to take you up on your generous offer.”

For 5 p.m., Bobber’s Café was surprisingly crowded. The interior décor lacked any kind of alluring qualities to bring in hungry patrons. It had to be due to the good food. I looked around and noticed a fresh paint job of blue and gray. It remained in all intents and purposes a bait and tackle shop.

The front counter, shaped like a half-moon, was filled up. We took the only booth open along the series of windows looking out onto the quaint sequence of piers. A slim, bouncy blonde with large blue eyes came to our table.

“Hi there, is this your first time here?”

I said. “Yes; my partner here has a bottomless pit for a stomach. We have been meaning to come in. I’m sure you knew about the woman attacked real close.”

“You must be the detectives on the case. I’ve seen nothing in the papers yet. I guess it’s better that way. I’m Kate Fisher. If you need me as a witness, I’m at your service,” she offered in a girlish excited kind of way.

Luther spoke, “What did you see or hear?”

“Well, I was outside on the back part of the kitchen taking a smoke break with one of our fry cooks, Lester. We heard the most bloodcurdling screams. It made me real uncomfortable. In a matter of minutes, something like a huge bird shot up and flew away. Lester, who is hard of hearing, couldn’t get over the noise. He said it sounded like a jet overhead, hitting past the sound barrier.”

She turned around, as though someone was trying to get her attention. “Folks, I better take your orders. I’ve been at it again, flapping my gums too much.”

I touched her hand on the right, where she held on to her notepad. “Katie, what do you think is the best here?”

“Lester makes the best beer-battered Alaskan cod with steak fries, of course!”

“Sounds great! We’ll have two of those with two coffees right away,” Luther told her using his famous smile.

As soon as Katie left, two couples seated at the table of four closest to our booth came over to us. One of the older men said in an annoyed tone, “We were going to order dessert, but your detective work has made my wife upset. Our dining experience is now ruined! Why couldn’t you have asked your questions in a more private manner?”

Luther volunteered to beg the pardon of the couples. His charm stemmed off some of their anger. I wanted them to disappear as soon as possible.

“You know, the man does have a point. We were insensitive,” Luther said.

“Come on! I know I’m known for being a hard-nosed, insensitive bitch most of the time. You asked her, not me!” I blasted back.

All of a sudden, I lost any defensive posture. I was distracted by two men standing close to the front counter. The taller one I recognized as Professor Foy. The other man, a head shorter, tugged on my inner attraction barometer, which hit the highest level. His light-brown hair was slicked back to reveal his gorgeous golden nut-brown complexion.

“Sorry I yelled at you. There is major gorgeous guy alert stopping at the corner of the front counter! That type of eye-candy doesn’t exist in this city,” I said, holding out my hand.

“Can I look around? You should see your face. I haven’t been privy to any indication of admiration of the male species from you in a long while,” Luther said, chiding me out loud.

“You don’t have to look around. They are coming this way,” I said.

Before the two men sat down at their table, I suddenly felt a girlish nervousness in my stomach. Luther read my petrified look and felt compelled to speak first when they stopped at our booth.

“Well, Glenda described you to me, Professor Foy. I’m her partner, Detective Luther Charles. How’s Melanie doing?”

“I’m quite proud and pleased with her progress. She putters around the house humming her favorite Billie Holiday song. Physically, she’s up and running,” the professor answered. He made a hand gesture towards the handsome stranger I could not stop gaping at.

“Detective McMahan and Detective Charles, this is Amado Rathbone. I say, damn impressive chap! He’s been filling me in on his recent formula of an antipsychotic drug which will revolutionize treatment for schizophrenics.”

“Pleasure to meet you. Are you in the middle of an investigation?” Amado asked. His poise and precise elocution of words was like nothing I had come across. His amber-colored eyes stared into me, speaking before I was about to swoon in front of everyone.

“Well, yes, always on for what we can investigate. We needed to fuel up. I will tell you both; if the coffee is any indication of how great the food is, you are in for a delicious dinner.” I sputtered out the words using an involuntary abundance of charm.

Out of earshot distance, Luther leaned in, “Your attraction is a bit on the middle-short side. If you are looking for Amado to be a dance partner, you two might look ridiculous. You’re at least three inches taller.”

I scrunched up my nose glaring at him. “Please, I only thought he was a gorgeous-looking guy. Can’t I admire once in a while?”

At that moment, Katie arrived with our entrees. Professor Foy moved aside. “Well, detectives, good to see you. We will take our cue to sit down. Enjoy your dinner.”

The food was truly delicious. I was surprisingly ravenous. Luther waved Katie over to get our check. “Detectives, come back. We have a dreamy lemon cake on Friday nights.”

Walking outside, I was hit by the stifling blast of heat in the air. “When we were rooting around for information, I didn’t notice the humidity,” I said, taking off my jacket.

We went to the forensics lab in the department’s basement. Ava Mead was on hand to analyze any prints from the broken eggshells. She put each piece under the microscope after dusting them. She moved her swivel chair to her computer station, matching what she saw to what we were anxious to know.

She rolled around to where we were hovering behind her back. “Go back upstairs. This could take a few hours or a few days. I will tell you one thing: these prints are clearly not human. Get out of my hair and I will get back to you.”

I found out eye-opening tidbits about Amado Rathbone. He was raised in Indianapolis, Indiana. His millionaire father, Ethan Rathbone, made a lucrative living as CEO of giant drug corporation IndyMerck. His son went on to major in chemistry as an undergrad at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Amado went on to successfully complete graduate studies in chemistry and physics at Caltech in Pasadena, California.

One surprising fact: he is now working with his sister Amora Rathbone on a formula for an antipsychotic drug at a newly built medical research facility connected to IndyMerck called Saxony in Noblesville, Indiana. In her revealing close-up photo, Amora was decidedly stunning. She bore the same striking facial features as her brother, and her complexion possessed the similar light-brown sheen, only her long luxurious hair was cold-black, not nut-brown as her brother’s was.

I stayed on my computer until 10 p.m. Luther had left an hour ago, telling me Althea was threatening to throw all his clothes out onto the front lawn if he did his research into the middle of the night. I was getting bleary-eyed and feeling very hungry. I exited out of my computer and headed back to my apartment.

Funny: my street on Ninth and Central was completely dark. No street lights to light my way up to my humble abode. I got into my apartment and found out immediately there was no electricity. I called my landlady, famous for staying up late.

“Hey, dear girl, a power outage close to St. Mary’s Catholic Church took out the entire neighborhood of four blocks. It should be on in a couple of hours or so,” she informed me.

I knew Unc’s White Corner was opened until 2 a.m., so that’s where I ended up for the wait. His wife Mabel was at the bar. Her round, pinkish-red face wrinkled around her eyes when she smiled. “Well, Detective McMahan, haven’t seen you in a while. You look tired, sweetie.”

“Yeah, Mabel, I’m tired and starving. My whole block is out of electricity; some power outage. What’s on the stove tonight?”

“Well, I’ve got ham hocks and cornbread; second batch I took out of the oven ten minutes ago.”

“That sounds like a winner. Can I have a piece of cornbread now and a Killian’s Red?” I asked, using a pleading look.

“I’m on my way, my girl!”

I looked around the front room, where four tables of folks who knew my grandfather waved at me. There were three men at the end of the bar I nodded politely to. This bar and grill used to be packed to the gills during the years General Motors assembly plants were going strong. Second-shift workers came here to blow off steam from their fast-paced loud assembly work.

Now it was a toss-up if Unc and Mabel could keep the place open. Retired folks that had been regulars for many a year were devoted to frequenting the place, mainly to keep sampling the delicious down-home cuisine Mabel was famous for.

I guzzled down the mug of beer, then asked for some ice water when Mabel brought my cornbread. The two other men at the end of the bar left. There was one gentleman left, drinking down an orange, light-brown liquid from a shot glass. I took a more examining look. It was Amado Rathbone.

Mabel came over with my order. “When did that guy get here?” I asked, pointing in such a way I wasn’t obvious.

Mabel shrugged her shoulders and answered me. “I believe he arrived a few minutes before you did.”

I waited until Mabel walked into the kitchen. I approached him by tapping him on his left shoulder. “Mr. Rathbone, I presume.”

He turned and gave me an icy glance. “Oh, it’s you, detective.” Strange; I noticed his eyes were darker in color than when I met him at Bobber’s Café.

“Can’t get enough of our quaint city?” I asked, attempting to be amusing.

He kept his head towards the bar on his glass. “Detective, I apologize for my rudeness. I’ve much on my mind; wouldn’t make adequate company for you right now.”

“I’ll leave you to your thoughts,” I said, feeling utterly ridiculous in approaching someone who was unapproachable.

He grabbed my arm, which brought me inches to his face. Those incredible penetrating eyes changed back to amber. He spoke very eloquently, “Detective McMahan, I find you very alluring. I do want to call on you when I’m more my charming self.”

I jerked my head up and down. So shocked by his powerful magnetism, I didn’t think too much about his eyes changing like a chameleon’s skin. “I’d like that. You can get me at the detective division in the APD building.”

He let go, with me wasting no time to get back to my perch in the middle of the bar. Mabel was waiting for me. Her expression read to me a mixture of curiosity and concern. “Glenda, my pretty girl, the likes of that intense young man and you giving him your precious attention is not so good. I would tread lightly. He’s carrying a wealth of darkness on those handsome shoulders.”

I took her pudgy hands into mine and kissed them. “I love you; sorely, I do. Stop mothering me. I’m a big girl, and an astute detective to boot.”

She left shaking her head.

I ate my dinner, savoring every bite. I was also savoring every word Amado said to me. Getting close to him, I could smell a sweet aroma of nutmeg and vanilla. I’ve experienced my share of attractions since I went to the police academy right after graduating from high school. This was different. I felt torn, but also my bubbling excitement seemed bittersweet.

I loved the fact he was genuinely attracted to me. My detective instincts churned and rolled around in my head, fighting with my inner crush.

I went over several times in my head what Mabel said as I finished the bowl of ham hocks. He’s carrying a wealth of darkness on those handsome shoulders, I told myself to be smart. Only time would prove my inner cautiousness could be highly and dangerously compromised.

Still, it was a shame; the only man I looked at twice in the last five years brought with him a challenge to my incredible instincts. He could be connected to our case. I harbored girlish cartwheels of hoping there could be something else, like a girlfriend from Hell, who made him act so mysteriously over his confession of attraction in my direction. Being in this job for so long, my instincts of suspicion to Amado are probably on the right track. On the hard line of sexual attraction, this mysterious, brooding man got my heart racing and my fantasy life back to work.


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