The long, arduous drive through the Rocky Mountain states landed me in a small town found in a valley: Crested Butte, Colorado. I was so clouded by my trauma in Big Sur that I failed to map my way back to the Midwest via through the Southwestern states.

Crested Butte, a few hundred miles south of Denver, had received a blanket of eight inches of snow from a passing storm. I was told by the local sheriff to lay low for a couple of days until the town could shovel its way clear. I was able to take in the local charm with visits to the art galleries and the town square.

My lightweight jacket had lost its benefits of warmth when I had driven out of central California. In a sporting goods store on the main street of Crested Butte, I was helped by a kind, middle-aged clerk to purchase a warm, quilted navy-blue coat. The clerk and I struck up a friendly conversation.

She had originally come from Fort Wayne, Indiana. When the passing of marijuana, medical and recreational, became legal in Colorado, her family moved to Crested Butte. Her husband, a horticulturist, bought a dispensary outside of Crested Butte while her twin sons attended Denver University.

I told her, “I’m on leave from a detective division in Central Indiana. I’ve been kicking around the idea of trying something else.”

She didn’t ask why, not to pry. She said in an enthusiastic tone, “You know, you ought to look into working for a security firm. This kind of service, especially now, pays very well. All the dispensaries in the state need good people.”

I was given a viable idea to my latest conundrum. It was definitely something to consider. This tempting aura of hope put me in a better mood. I ran into the sheriff on my way to the inn I was staying. He had given me the green light and directions on how to get back on the interstate going east back to Indiana.


I showed up at Grandpa Pete’s front door two days later. I was bone tired and bleary-eyed from the long road back. Grace opened the door. “Praise be! You get in here, young lady!”

Behind Grace stood Lola, my favorite Great Dane. She gave me a “hello” bark and brought up her right paw for me to shake. I got on my knees, throwing my arms around her large neck. Maybe due to the exhaustion of the drive or what I went through in Big Sur, I cried into Lola’s short-haired, reddish-brown smooth coat.

Grandpa Pete came into the foyer. Witnessing my emotional state, he stared at Grace with a confused expression. Grace scolded him, “Peter, all this girl needs is rest. Let’s get her upstairs. I’m sure she’s got bags to bring in.” His cue to bring my little pittance of luggage into the house.

I refrained from any protests of not wanting any tender love or care from the doting Grace. I basked in her heavy-handed mothering, surprised that I actually liked it. I hit the warm bed like a brick and passed out for hours.

I woke up to Grace gently telling me to come downstairs for dinner. I got up with one eye opened. “I’ll be down after I wash my face. Thanks, Grace. I could use some of your food.”

I doused my head in the sink filled up with cold water. The rustling movement of drying my hair from a nearby towel brought me into a sigh, “Wow, that was the sleep of the dead. Sure glad to be home.”

Walking down the steps, my nose got wind of Grace’s food preparations in the direction of the formal dining room. I sat down to a presentation of roast beef, a large bowl of fluffy mashed potatoes, and a platter of steamed broccoli and cauliflower. I nodded to Grandpa Pete still looking at me as though I had come back from the dead while I filled up my plate.

After taking in a few delicious bites, I noticed a glimmering Christmas tree gracing the corner of the dining room close to the kitchen archway. I petted Lola as she draped her large paws over my feet. I said to my grandfather and Grace, “Well, it looks like I need to get into the Holiday spirit.”

“Do you think you can after what you experienced in California? When you walked into the foyer, you looked like you had come back from some kind of a war,” Grandpa Pete said, showing some indifference.

“Peter, maybe Glenda is glad to be back. She might not be ready to talk about what happened out west,” Grace interjected.

I sat up straight, looking at them with my somber detective face. “No, you both deserve to know. The escaped prisoner Amora Rathbone was done away with by the man I went to California to question.”

I cut a dripping bite of roast beef and doused it in Grace’s brown gravy. I studied it, then said, “Amora had given Wesley a parting gift. He took his life because of the curse she laid on him from a bite on his hand.” I put the fork in my mouth.

Grace and Grandpa Pete were speechless and made no more discussion about my California trip. I spent the remainder of the evening helping Grace clear off the dining room table. We shared harmless small talk while I joined in on the kitchen clean-up. I was beginning to warm up to her. She held over me without saying anything a sense of normalcy; life does go on in spite of the worst of past experiences.

For the coming days, I put on my new warm coat from my Colorado stay-over and took Lola with me on long walks throughout the Edgewood neighborhood. I stopped in front of the Edgewood Golf Course clubhouse. Lola had a moment to relieve herself while I admired the colonial type of Southern charm architecture the clubhouse possessed.

I bent down to scoop up the remains from Lola into a plastic Ziploc bag. Lola gave forth a threatening bark. I rose up to discover a woman bundled up in winter gear. She approached Lola and I with extreme caution.

“Easy girl. She’s a friend,” I spoke softly to Lola, who immediately stepped down from her sentry dog stance.

Wyla Stark got to a safe distance in order not to provoke Lola. I said, “Well, well, you must have spoken to Luther. He’s the only one who knew I was back.”

“Yeah! He told me you were on leave for an undetermined period. I went to your apartment first. Your landlady was getting her mail; she said you might be staying with your grandfather. I guess you’re enjoying how the upper crust lives.”

“Not really fraternizing with the uppity neighbors. From what happened in California, I needed a touch of family,” I told her.

“Got something really important to discuss. Can we go back to your grandfather’s warm house? I’m not one for this frozen stuff.”

“Sure, Lola is at ease. She won’t eat you,” I reassured Wyla, who looked rather rattled as Lola moved closer to her.

We walked at a steady pace. Wyla would let out a heavy sigh and say with a whining tone, “Shit, here in Anderson, it’s colder than Chicago!”

I took Wyla into the kitchen to make her some hot chocolate. I thought a hot treat would take her mind off on how frozen she felt. I laughed at her, “Sit down. I’ll make you something sweet and hot. Boy, you sure showed a nervousness towards Lola!”

“She’s as big as a horse. Dogs, not a fan of; I take to cats more,” Wyla said after taking off her hat, gloves, and coat.

She sat down at the kitchen table in the center of the spacious kitchen. Her eyes were glued to the cinnamon rolls neatly piled onto a plate. “Hey, mind if I take one? Didn’t catch any breakfast.”

“Sure, help yourself.” As I stirred the low-fat milk slowly until it got to almost boiling, I took out chocolate syrup from the pantry. I carefully poured some of the syrup as I turned off the burner.

I joined her after pouring the milky brown mixture into two mugs. I handed her a mug. “You’re the last person I expected to visit me.”

She swallowed another bite of roll, then washed it down with the hot chocolate. Wiping her fingers on a nearby napkin, she exhibited an expression of sheer delight. “Well, delicious morning snack by the way, but let me get real serious here. I’ve been preparing for Paris and thought it best to wait until I heard from the boys.”

“Have you heard from them yet?”

“Oh, yeah, I got the green light two days ago. I told them I needed to see you before I booked a flight.”

She sat there and finished consuming the roll. I was about to say something. She held up her hand after she had taken in more of the hot drink. “They stressed to make it quick. They have hooked up with a group of people who specialize in searching through the miles of tunnels underneath Paris.”

I got suspicious on her deliberate stalling tactic. “Why come see me?”

“I know you found out something serious about Amora. Luther told me you have been real vague about going back to work. Something gives with you!” Wyla stressed as she leaned in with a wild stare.

I raised up my mug, then wiped my mouth. “Wesley had taken care of Amora for good. A gory demise: cutting up her body parts, then burning her. She cursed him before she breathed her last. I sat there while he confessed. He took in the remainder of his wine, and in minutes, he was dead.”

Wyla got up, paced around the table, then looked down on me. “There’s something more. Things got stranger when you found Wesley; I know it!”

I nodded, staring into her dark eyes. “Wesley had been cursed to crave human organs and flesh from a bite she gave him. He wasn’t aswang, but something he couldn’t live with. Before he died, he told me to investigate a large rock formation that he used as a storage for human remains. It was so sinister and so haunting to see those contents in heavy plastic. I lost it for a bit and threw my badge into the ocean.”

Wyla let out a yelp, so loud I thought Grace would run in any minute, wanting to know what happened. She backed up and pointed at me. “This is so perfect! You have to come to Paris with me. What other lame idea of a job do you have?”

“I got an idea of working security in one of those dispensaries in Colorado. They pay big. The country there is unbelievable,” I said, sounding like I was rationalizing.

“Not for you, no! Maybe when you’ve reached retirement age. Glenda, think about it! You crossed into the supernatural through this case. It got even stranger when you went out west. If you go out to Colorado, you’ll lose your bloody mind,” Wyla stressed.

I thought about the long journey into darkness, the intense fear, not able to think of making it through another year. I thought about how in the middle of all this terror and chaos, I possessed an energy of such magnitude in the very thick of the worst case scenarios. In  intense pain but the exhilaration of capturing that creature, seeing it change back into a human, and the prize of taking Amora to jail precluded all the experienced horror.

I reacted to Wyla in a practical way, “I need to get a passport. Can you wait for that?”

Wyla clapped her hands together. “I knew I could get you to go! Don’t have a worry about the passport. I can speed things up a bit.”

“Only one question remains. Has it been determined an aswang is what we would be after?”

“Well, let me answer you this. Paul and John have talked to the leading magistrate on the Ile de la Cite where two victims were found. Their gruesome remains were among the area aftermath of the Notre Dame de Paris affected by that fire. The very same remains from our infamous case here in Indiana,” Wyla said, sitting back down.

“You’re in the general direction. Now, I have to go. I have to see the remains of those victims,” I said, realizing Wyla knew exactly how to trigger my insatiable curiosity. That idea of a security post was not for me. Those who I love and those who I have worked with for so many years I knew in my heart and mind would see this development as purely reckless and downright lunacy.


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
  18. Chapter 18: Grandpa Pete
  19. Chapter 19: A Group is Formed
  20. Chapter 20: Rendezvous with Evil
  21. Chapter 21: The Upside-Down of it All
  22. Chapter 22: Two Ways to Fight
  23. Chapter 23: I Have to See Her
  24. Chapter 24: A Funeral
  25. Chapter 25: Unaware
  26. Chapter 26: Synchronized Surprise
  27. Chapter 27: The Show Must Go On
  28. Chapter 28: Is it Business as Usual?
  29. Chapter 29: Going on Leave
  30. Chapter 30: Bungalow by the Sea
  31. Chapter 31: Dinner with Wesley
  32. Chapter 32: It Turned Strange