Althea Roberts, to anyone who would first lay eyes on her, was an African-American beauty possessing a high caliber of physical attributes bestowed upon a dark, statuesque, Nubian princess-type. In meeting her at the Indiana University Bloomington campus, Luther Charles was surprised to find Althea a psychology major, not the field he thought she would go for.

They parted when she went off to graduate school in Missouri while he took his degree in criminal justice to the police academy in Culver, Indiana. Their strong connection as undergrads stayed true for both of them. When they crossed paths in Anderson, they both were well established in their respective career choices.

I had met Althea at certain times, double-dating when Luther and I became partners four years ago. She was gracious to me only because of Luther. If I had met her in passing on the street or shopping at the local grocery store, she would ignore me. A mere “hello” was something she would rather not do.

It was getting close to early evening, but seeing it was middle August, the night sky was hours away. She looked in on Luther glued to his computer screen. To let him know she was going out for a run seemed futile in his present state of cyber-hypnosis.

Luther and Althea had purchased a split-level retro home built in the 1950’s on North Shore Blvd. eighteen months ago. It didn’t take too long; she would enter the woods which lined the first nine holes at Grandview Golf Course. Her six-mile run took her along the dense nature trail on what was called the “back nine”; then she would turn close to the Anderson Municipal Plant, then turn again to continue on the “front nine” of the golf course.

Halfway through the passage in the heavy woods, she went over in her mind the late night pillow talk Luther and her engaged in on his recent case. In her years of internship before the Richmond Mental Hospital closed for good, she had experienced how far a human would go for his or her propensity for evil.

Two weeks ago at breakfast, Luther pressed her to give him her thoughts on the fantasy implications of this case. “Well, baby, if you must know, the 83 percent of those Filipinos and Asians who believe in this bizarre legend are merely having faith in nothing more than centuries-evolved superstitions. This deranged, delusional assailant has fully taken on the legend in every detail to gain an inner sensation of power to be fed for the sake of others frailness and fear.”

She shook her head in the direction of the dreary, battleship-gray municipal plant ahead. She talked aloud to herself, “My Luther going to research his way to a visitation to the mental health center, taking that partner of his with him.”

She stopped to stretch her arms and legs and go down to 25 squats. Knowing the squats were a preview to her preparing her womb for the inevitable labor in four months. She went through cleansing breaths with each squat, stroking on her small baby bump.

She heard a ticking sound, but could not distinguish the repetitive sounds from the loud ticks of crickets among the high blades of dry grass around her, or to the ticking similar to their bedroom alarm clock. She looked up at the sky. The sun was disappearing behind the dense tree foliage meeting the muted lavender/navy-blue sky.

In her haste to entertain the need to complete a routine run, she had failed to take a bathroom break before setting on. Althea looked around, behind and ahead of where she stood. No one to see her drop her designer-wear exercise pants. She relieved herself and took a leaf or two to wipe herself.

She decided to turn back through the woods with the sky getting darker. Through the trees, she could see the White River moving slowly as a night breeze set in. She heard the ticking sound again. It seemed louder as if it was coming closer to her overhead.

Sharp, blade-like feet clamped onto her shoulders. She was taken up to the sky above the tops of the tall trees. She attempted to look up to see her captor, but the noise and shadow of flying netting blocked visibility. An agonizing pain on each shoulder took over her consciousness upon realizing the clamping blades were tearing into her skin like she was a piece of meat hanging from a butcher’s clamps.

She was lowered to an embankment along the river. First she was on her stomach, then the blade-like fingers flipped her over to face the one who had her in its vice-grip. By this moment, whatever fear she felt was overrode by her seething anger of someone having the audacity to disturb her sacred run. When she saw a tube-like crimson tongue coming out of the creature’s open mouth, her mind went over what Luther had told her of the fate of the victims.

She pulled out a vial of liquid garlic mixed with salt Luther had insisted she carry at all times. The contents of the vial were strategically doused on the tip of the tongue, moving down to her bare abdomen. She thought, You’re not going to kill my baby!

The garlic liquid and salt mixture caused the creature to repel back. In anger, its mouth, full of razor-sharp fangs, clamped down onto Althea’s left side, inches from her mid-section housing her growing child. Althea bellowed in a deep guttural cry so loud someone walking in front of the entrance to the clubhouse and restaurant would hear her scream.

Suddenly, she heard gunshots very close. The creature let loose of her lower left side. She heard a loud flutter of wings through her agonizing pain. Luther’s heavy breath was soon felt on the top of her head. Breathing hard and crying rare tears of knowing her husband was at hand, she heard his breathless voice.

“Baby, I’ve got you,” Luther assured Althea he was at her side.

Holding her hand with his left, with his right index finger, he hit the keyboard three times on his iPhone: 911. His voice breathless, he said, “911, I have a victim of a violent attack in the woods behind the entrance of the Grandview Golf Course clubhouse and restaurant. This is Detective Luther Charles, APD Detective Division. Our precise location is on the west side embankment along White River.”

Althea, her hands bloodied from trying to stop the bleeding, stroked his face. “You were right. I thought you were being influenced by Glenda. Luther, I’m so sorry. He didn’t get near the baby…” She passed out due to shock and the pain. Luther ripped off part of his shirt to make a sash round her middle to stop the bleeding.


The detective Mitch assigned to me had contracted food poisoning the night before. I grabbed a cup of coffee before going out to Markleville on my own. The female FBI agent showed up at the opening of the break room as I was pouring my coffee.

“I got a look at you and your partner’s very revealing chart. The speculative profile of your assailant is something I know a great deal about,” she told me, leaning up against the door molding.

I looked her over, not in an interested party manner. I wanted to know who I was dealing with. She was my height: five feet, eight inches. Her facial features did not match her fair complexion, with a wide flatter nose much like Luther’s nose. She had a curious scattering of freckles on her high cheekbones.

In full fight mode, my voice raised, I said, “Look! I’ve got a lame interview with some pig farmer in Markleville. I’m in no mood to listen to your derisions of our findings!”

“No derision or scoff; this is a friendly observation. You gave a name to something I was told as a child that hard as I try cannot forget. Let’s start over, Detective McMahan. I’m Wyla Stark. My grandmother is Filipina, originally from Boracay Island.” She got closer, offering her hand as a gesture of ceasefire.

“Sorry; your presence and the other agents have caused me to be on the defensive big time. It is the nature of speculation in this case that is kind of making me crazy,” I said, shaking her hand.

“I get it more than you could realize. Do my mind if I tag along?” Wyla offered.

“I guess. Mind you, I will probably attempt to pick your brain, since you have Filipino heritage.” I was inwardly grateful for someone who seemed to be an ally, but I didn’t let her know that.

The Painter Farm was located between the small towns of Emporia and Markleville. Both towns got on the map due to the importance of the Red Gold Tomato Corporation, the center point. I drove down Columbus Avenue, giving us access to Highway 36.

I did not waste any time. “So, Wyla, tell me more about your grandmother.”

“How much time do we have until we reach the farm?” she asked.

“Oh, a good 25 minutes.”

“Okay, I’ll see how far I can go with my introduction to what makes you crazy. My grandmother came from the province of Capiz, rich in the fishing trade on the island of Panay. I read from your chart; you are fully aware most in the islands think Capiz is the home of this mysterious shapeshifter. The account my grandmother told me about makes it difficult for me to say the name out loud. You must understand those of us with any ties to the islands are superstitious. Even me, with my law enforcement training. Maybe that is why I went into this type of work; to get away from mysterious accounts and supernatural ways in the Philippines.” Wyla stopped for some strange reason.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

“Before I continue, I want to know I’m not opening up to someone who isn’t serious about seeing the case all the way through, even when it gets to the point of being beyond the fringe,” Wyla said.

“What do you mean about beyond the fringe?”

“Beyond the fringe of sanity,” continued Wyla. “There exists a madness that accompanies anyone who truly pursues the phenomena we are talking about. One of the reasons why I have been running from it.”

Wyla threw her head back and laughed. “So ironic; I have walked into the legend here in the Midwest!”

I slowed down and looked at her intently. “Wyla, I’m not backing off. I meant crazy, because I met someone who might fit the criteria. His beauty and grace of style makes it hard for me to resist his charm. Almost impossible to get my head around the fact of this gorgeous man turning into such a monster. I could use some real help in gathering more evidence or even instincts on who this could be. I’m emotionally invested as well as factually invested.”

Wyla continued, getting somewhat technical. “This attacker you have profiled is a visceral sucker known specifically because of a ticking sound called a ‘tik-tik.’ Its preference for a kill is the growing fetus, but when that is denied, somehow it eats the entrails, the internal organs of a human or animal. This thing—as the islands tell of it—the aswang has various types and the ability to shapeshift, in the daytime hours appearing as a large pig or dog. What we are dealing with has powers of the black art of witchcraft and at times possesses the unthinkable desire for human flesh.”

“Sorry to interrupt. So, you are saying this thing when manifested has tendencies to go for cannibalism?” I had to ask. She gave me a look that I had not taken seriously when she spoke about the power and eerie mystery of this assailant. I have always had a delayed reaction to things explained to me on the outlandish nature. My mind was a sponge; otherwise, I would not be able to sort tedious details of cases coming my way. This particular case and the knowledge Wyla possessed did hit the mind vault. My mind recorded every gory strange detail, not to forget when needed to be brought forth in the future.

“Remind me when we are in a more stationary place to give you a first-hand account of this creature when my grandmother was only eight. When I talked about madness, this account will open a portal to the supernatural that you wish you would have never heard. It looks to me we have arrived at this farm. I’ll continue later.”

We pulled into the farm’s gravel path to the house. What was going around in my mind hearing this account from Wyla had to be put on hold. Both of us were forced to put on our respective professional faces of cool, analytical police officers for this interview with Mr. Painter. My head was spinning with the strangeness of this case, as each victim cemented the folklore legend of the aswang, which could actually be something so horrible walking among us. My skepticism on the night I interviewed the first victim was slowly disappearing, making way for an open mind ready to convert to the supernatural legend.


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