Evie Fortner had a fight with her husband over her present state of pregnancy. Still light outside, she put her Nikes on and dashed out the back door. The Fortner’s were a couple in their forties that were very well established in their respective careers. Leo Fortner felt threatened with her baby now in the fifth month. He voiced his disappointment that Evie was irresponsible in not terminating the pregnancy.

Their two-story red brick home was located across the road from Mounds State Park. Evie was no stranger to the mass amount of trails throughout the infamous park. She made her way to the left of the entrance and walked briskly on route to the Delaware Indian burial mound. Evie took in the positive energy around the mound on many occasions.

Reaching the mound, she surmised it was getting close to 9PM. She looked up at the clear indigo sky. She spoke to the shining full moon, “Hello there, you old so-and-so.”

With a sudden swoop of a jolting crashing sound along with a gust of powerful wind, Evie found herself flat on her back. At first, she saw a large expanse of wings, the color of charcoal; the texture looked to be a close-weave netting.

In seconds, her jeans and undergarments were torn away. A man’s or woman’s face, she had difficulty making the sex out, turning into something grotesque and frightful. Her attacker had hideous red eyes, and the distortion of monster-type features made it impossible for her to scream.

The mouth opened and large fangs for teeth looked to come down on her mid-section. Instead, a long red tongue shaped like a tube coiled out, finding its destination into her belly button. It drank greedily. The strong suction created enormous pressure, with Evie still wanting to cry out, but she could not. The creature recoiled its tongue back into the open mouth. He or she bent down, sniffing around into her long dark auburn hair. A purring sound came forth. This usurper of a satisfied state from her unborn child was in some bizarre way giving thanks.

The winged being shot up and disappeared into the darkness. Evie, in a prostate condition, managed to put on her tattered clothing. She felt incredibly weak, shaking all over. When she got on her feet, her chest hurt in such agony, as though an elephant was sitting on it.

All she could think of was getting back home. She tried cleansing breaths, but her agony accelerated. The last chest pain brought her down to the ground once again. Each breath felt like it would be her last. In a matter of minutes, she passed out and breathed her last breath.


I was having my first cup of the day when the phone rang. “Glenda, you need to meet me at the burial mound at Mounds Park! This time, the woman died,” Luther told me, breathless.

There were four uniformed officers at the scene, Luther and Ray Walsh, the county coroner. Ray was over the victim as I got close enough to see what kind of shape she was in. Ghastly; her eyes were open. All around her neck there was a line of small bites. My first thoughts were the bites caused by a wandering bobcat or coyote coming onto an unmoving body. Her lower abdomen was fully exposed, with a huge purplish-red bruise in and around her belly button.

Ray gave Luther and I what he knew so far. “The victim has deep gashes around her neck, and her left ear was torn away. Detective, we’ve had reports of coyotes attacking runners at this park and Shadyside.”

“Ray, I got ya on the neck and missing ear, but the grotesque bruise on the lower abdomen doesn’t look like an animal would have done that,” I argued.

Luther rummaged through the victim’s jeans. He pulled out a pair of keys, appearing to be a house key and two sets of car keys. “Ray, are you suggesting an autopsy to be paramount?”

“Well, yes, but you both know a family member has to give permission for that,” Ray told us, getting back on his feet.

“Don’t give me that look as if I asked an asinine question. You’ve got to realize the wounds on her neck on around her missing ear are not related to the massive hematoma around the belly area. There could be a possibility that what eventually killed her happened in between the bruise and the gashes,” Luther elaborated in such a deliberate way that the coroner could not refute his observations.

Her body was placed in a body bag and put onto a gurney. A hysterical man dressed in a gray suit and orange tie came upon the EMTs placing the victim into an ambulance. He shouted, “Uncover her! I have to know if it’s Evie!’

Two police officers grabbed him from both sides, attempting to restrain him. Luther ordered, “Officers, let him uncover her.”

The man unzipped the black bag. He closed the victim’s eyes. He nodded his head, then let the EMT’s take her away. Luther approached the distraught gentleman. “Sir, did you know her?”

The man wiped tears from his eyes and cheeks. He spoke in a broken voice. “Yes; she was Evie Fortner, my wife. She didn’t come back after a nasty fight we had. I said such awful things to her.” He broke down, crying into his large square hands.

Luther and I managed to get him into Luther’s black Cadillac Escalade. “Sir, what is your formal name?”

“I’m Leo Fortner. I live across the road from the entrance of this park. This place was her home away from home. She ran off as it was getting dark. I did not follow her, knowing she would eventually get home. I fell asleep on the front room sofa waiting.”

“Mr. Fortner, I apologize for this difficult next part. I have to know for expediency. To find the truth of what happened and a way to catch this assailant, we need your permission for an autopsy to be done,” Luther spoke to him in a gentle sensitive way.

Sitting in the passenger side of the vehicle, Leo Fortner looked up at me while I leaned against the open SUV door. He loosened his tie. “I guess that is what has to be done. Who are you two plainclothes officers if I need to speak with you again?”

“I’m Detective Glenda McMahan. My partner, next to you, is Detective Luther Charles. We probably should get you back to your house,” I said, patting him gently on his right shoulder.

A few days later, the autopsy was done at Ball Memorial Hospital in Muncie, only twelve miles from Anderson. Ray Walsh was there only to observe and report. A youthful, bald, close-shaven Dr. Corey Lawry performed the procedure on the body of Evie Fortner.

After going through identification points about hair color, approximate weight, and other distinguishable features, he motioned for Luther and me to get closer. The coroner needed no invitation; he followed suit as the doctor was opening up the victim’s abdominal area. I held it together as he took a metal instrument to part three layers of skin and muscles. I could see a small undeveloped fetus, again in the unnerving state of mummification.

Luther ran off, retching loudly on his way to the nearby men’s room. I stood there, my mind taking in like a sponge every word Dr. Lawry uttered. He looked back at Ray Walsh. “When you arrived, you made the comment about a coyote doing all this damage. I don’t believe that a coyote would do this in this part of the victim’s body. It seems to me a sucking apparatus took all of the baby’s life juices, and of course, blood. The baby was five months along in a mother’s womb of 45 years.”

“You’re not insinuating we have a vampire in our midst?” Ray scoffed.

“Sir, I deal with what I see and know about the human anatomy,” Dr. Lawry glared at the coroner; his noticeable expression made me think he did not appreciate Ray’s off-handed humor.

“A better term to be used here might be a human with the appetite of a visceral sucker. Which means getting nourishment from what is inside another body, entrails and what we have seen here. I’m going now to get into the circulatory system,” Dr. Lawry said, moving up to the chest area.

“Look here, the both of you. The aorta is strained to the point of bursting. This left side of the heart is discolored, which means she died from a massive heart attack,” Dr. Lawry expressed in a strong, deliberate tone.

He went on to carefully examine the opening around her left ear, and he circled her neck, talking into the microphone above. I heard Ray behind me verbally agree with Dr. Lawry this time. “Yes, as pointed out to me before the procedure, these wounds do look like a wild animal, such as a coyote, was responsible for the gashes around the victim’s neck. The animal was also responsible for tearing off her left ear.”

Luther got back to us as Dr. Lawry was closing her up. Ray spoke up first. “I’ll let you detectives both know, my report will only include a miscarriage leading to the heart attack along with the animal gashes. I will also put in my report that it was likely a coyote because of the reports from other instances in the last year.”

I wanted to challenge him. Luther stepped in with his brand of diplomacy. “I understand you will do this despite our findings from the last two victims. We will tell Mitch Gable our truth. You cover up what you will, as city government has always done in Anderson.”

We left there knowing what both of us were beginning to believe would be discounted as speculative monster-mash from our professional colleagues. Luther seemed greatly sullen after his brilliant statement to the coroner. I suggested a coffee break.

We arrived at the Toast, an established downtown diner on Main Street, not too far from the Police Department building, in time for lunch. The place was famous for their toasted cheeseburgers.

“Luther, do you want me to tell the waitress two toasted cheeseburger platters and two coffees?”

“I’m not hungry, just coffee,” he said, looking out the window at the midday traffic.

I told the waitress our order, then chose my words carefully. I was afraid I was losing my partner’s expertise to what was weighing down on his shoulders. “Partner, your far-off ways today aren’t going to do shit for this case!”

“I didn’t run off because my stomach was upset. What I saw gave me the shakes because of what Althea told me last night. She’s pregnant. When I saw that poor dried-up fetus, it came to me how real this fantasy of a developing serial assailant could be. This thing could track down my Althea and perform the same act!”

That wasn’t all Luther was fretting about. He threw a folded paper at me. “This is from Ava Mead. She analyzed the prints three times and they can be identified as an animal, like a large cat.”

“Well, hell! We need to keep at it and get this sick perp together. Maybe there is something to Ms. Rossen’s theory of a human turning into a beast of sorts. You are too damn smart not to get an edge on this thing,” I said, determined not for him to entertain any more of his pity-party bullshit.

I got up and dialed Anna’s phone number from the only pay phone left in Anderson. “Anna, this is Detective McMahan. My partner and I met you when we were there at the hospital to question Melanie Rossen.”

“So, Missy Detective, I bet there are more victims and you want to know what you are looking for. All right, I’m off today. Come to my house on 1824 Sheridan Court in Grandview,” Anna said in an unfriendly tone, then hung up.

I sat down at our booth. Luther was drinking his coffee. His large, brown eyes looked up at me. “I’ve got myself together. What do we do next?”

“I called Anna. You know, that nurse of the first victim. We can go on over to her house after I inhale this cheeseburger. Maybe she can give us some illumination on how to proceed,” I said, my mind in full-tilt concentration to put together a way to nab this perpetrator, no matter how strange the road turned out to be. Luther watched me scarf down my lunch with an expression of unbelief; on how I could eat anything after viewing the torn up body of Mrs. Fortner and her dried-up, dead fetus at the autopsy an hour ago.

Her small ranch-style home on the inside and outside showed she took care with keeping the place pristine as precisely as she did in caring for her patients at St. Vincent’s. We were seated at her dining room table in the middle of the front room and archway opening to her kitchen.

“This is something I need to hear from you, Anna. What is an aswang?” I started the discussion.

“Aswang means, in my native language, salt and garlic. Which are two things that can repel the person turned into the creature only to do such evil; villagers dread when a hotter than normal night comes along. Many centuries ago, before Jesus Christ, there were two gods my grandmother told me about: Agooran, the good god who dominated fire, and the bad god who only knew evil, Aswang.”

“From what you know, are the victims going to be adding up because of this heat?” Luther asked.

“Oh, yes; aswang only goes out at night for its nourishment or kills, on very hot nights with the full moon shining in the sky. There will be many victims until the weather changes to a storm to cool things off. Funny, here in this country, people stay home when it is cold. In my island of Panay, no one goes out when it is really hot at night,” Anna said, then made the sign of the cross.

“How does this aswang develop in a human?” I asked.

“Missy Melanie told me the attacker took out a balut, ate it over her mixed with her blood. She was not pregnant, but aswang could still smell the, say, after-odor where once a baby was. The balut has many meanings concerning aswang. The chicken or duck egg can repel aswang, but when the cherished fetus is denied, as in the case of Miss Melanie, balut is a way the burning inside can be calmed. As for becoming aswang, a young person eats a contaminated balut or when the gestation goes beyond the 21st week; the chick in the egg becomes alive when eaten. As the male or female comes to be an adult, the live chick causes the person to be able to transform into an aswang, an evil shapeshifter. It is a horrible curse with the person wanting all the time to be free from it,” Anna sighed.

“What can someone do to keep the aswang from invading a home?” Luther asked a question, showing to me he had taken every word from Anna as a truth to be learned.

“Put a block of dry ice close to each entryway of the house. If someone is outside alone if they carry salt or garlic, if thrown on the aswang, it burns them anywhere on the face, the wings, and the chest and legs,” Anna said.

I brought up the situation in arresting and bringing this thing in. “Let’s say what you’ve told us checks out in every detail along with what we have. This perpetrator we track down. How in the hell do we get the strength to bring it in?”

Anna got up from her chair and paced the carpet where Luther and I were seated. “It will take more than the two of you. Round up the aswang knowing its weaknesses, then restrain it. Use the strongest of ropes, pull it up, and beat on its back until it coughs up the chick inside. The aswang will be no more; he or she you can take off to jail.”

Luther balked at the idea of beating it. “My God, that’s gross police brutality! And, worse scenario, we kill the beast!”

“Detective Charles, the aswang is very strong and can get very tall, almost like a giant. What Missy Melanie told me, the legs were so strong it held her arms, body, and legs down. She couldn’t even wiggle away,” Anna stressed, getting into Luther’s face.

There was silence for some minutes. What we heard from Anna rocked both of us from our very core. Luther and I had been on a few dangerous raids in the last three years with all the busts from a group of meth labs. At one home located out on Highway 67 en route to Muncie, we pulled out four perps from the kitchen in the center of the house. As we were leading them out of the front door, out came a woman screaming, firing away with her handgun. I turned my head and right arm holding my gun and shot her in her shoulder and leg. She fell like a stone.

I was shaken for days after that shooting. This account shook me deeper. I was not one to be scared alone walking on a dark night, or forced to use my gun on the job. This type of criminal was altogether different, defined by a mysterious mythology catching me off guard. I knew by Luther’s appearance as he listened to Anna, he wasn’t sure how to take the account she brought forth. We left in silence, both in deep thought.

Without a word, we possessed the same idea by breaking away one partition to connect our office space. With more space, for the next three days we created a large wall chart. Completed from the information we had compiled so far, it seemed to be quite comprehensive.

It contained, on the top, photos and detailed profiles of each of the three victims. Pertinent information of how these victims were closely related in what had been done to them and their specific injuries. When we got to Evie Fortner, we listed only one injury that related to the other two. Only difference with a star next to her photo; cause of death, massive heart attack. With large red letters, there was a profile of speculative information on a visceral sucker all the women had in common. We thought about using the term “aswang,” but both of us refrained from using it. This type of assailant was different enough without us being touted as crazy.


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