The farmhouse, an American saltbox-style two-story, appeared to have had a significant facelift. The light celery-green paint job with stark white trim on the vinyl siding and window treatments complemented well with the surrounding shades of green from the dense woods.

I knocked on the front door to see a tall rotund white-haired man in gray overalls and a white T-shirt underneath open the door. He came outside to bring us around a large concrete-block structure. It held a number of enclosures for his various pigs and larger hogs in hay-filled mud-splattered quarters.

We both got acclimated to the overall odor of pig waste and damp hay. When we came to the last enclosure, larger than any of the others, breathing became difficult. There was a strong, pervading stench of decay and death.

“See it for yourself, detectives. This prize hog I had to forfeit from the Indiana State Fair. Serena had been responsible for the renovation on my house you drove up to. I found her last night after being wakened from a noise I wouldn’t want my worst enemy to hear,” the farmer told us, then spit out a wad of chewed tobacco onto the ground, mashed down in hay and damp mud.

The sight of the enormous hog was like nothing I had ever seen, a mess of half-eaten organs and hay mixed with dried blood. Wyla took a bandana from her jacket pocket and placed it over her nose and mouth. She walked into the pen with no appearance of trepidation. She moved slowly and methodically as she examined torn organs from various lower parts of the hog.

She motioned me to get closer inside the enclosure. I flinched as I took off my jacket and used it to cover my nose and mouth. Wyla pointed with an eraser tip of a pencil to a ravaged area of what I assumed to be the liver and pancreas. I nodded in understanding of what she had said about entrails during our drive to the farm. When we moved out of the enclosure, I could not get over the timing of our conversation in the car to the findings from Mr. Painter’s prize hog.

All of us walked back to the front door, where we first met the disillusioned farmer. Painter directed his question to Wyla: “What in the name of Christ did this? I can’t imagine a bobcat or a coyote doing this!”

“Mr. Painter, what was left of the entrails confirms that the same kind of assailant who attacked our growing list of victims in the Anderson area has now ventured out into surrounding Madison County,” Wyla told him.

“What the hell do I do now? You people are known to take years to solve this serial type of crime!” the farmer bellowed out.

Wyla said, in a cold, calculated manner with not much comfort or guarantee, that this assailant might not come back. “I suggest to you to purchase those bags of ice used for the Indiana winters to be scattered in circle formations around your house and the building you keep your livestock in. I know for a fact this type of perpetrator is repelled by salt and will not touch your livestock with the salt paths around them.”

Driving back to Anderson, I was impressed with Wyla’s coldness. Her reserve appeared to me that it might stave off any of the madness she mentioned. My creeping mind-meld terrorized me in the solitary hours of a pervading belief system that kept me up at night. I acted manic in the day hours to dig deeper into this legend. I wanted so much to be in a cooler frame of mind, as demonstrated by Wyla.

Halfway back to Anderson, Wyla declared a curious contradiction after we had been exposed to such a gross mess of flesh. “I’m hungry for seafood, but please, not Red Lobster.”

“I know a place you would like. Besides, it’s not too far from the site where the first victim was attacked.”

“Melanie Rossen; she was forthcoming when the other agents interviewed her yesterday. One of my fellow agents asked her if she was determined to stick to her previous account. She became very cross with him and politely asked us to leave her office at the university,” Wyla said, showing an amused expression.

At Bobber’s Café, there were plenty of tables to take inside. The newspapers sure did a number of the number of happy diners showing up on a regular basis, I thought. They had been spooked, not knowing the one basic truth: our supernatural attacker who not show up in the daytime or would only attack a woman alone in a remote area.

          Katie Fisher came up to our booth by the series of windows with a view of the pier and lake. “Detective McMahan, welcome back.”

“Katie, nice to see you again. This is Agent Stark; she is giving me some special knowledge of this case,” I said with a full smile.

“What is your daily special?” Wyla asked.

“Well, we got in some mountain trout yesterday from Colorado. It is grilled and comes with a house salad and twice-baked potato,” Katie was happy to offer with her usual bounciness.

“Glenda, that sounds what I just had in mind. Are you in?” I nodded wholeheartedly. “Katie, dear, we will have two.”

“You know, you were a pretty cool customer at the farm. I thought I always had a strong stomach. What was left of that hog I’m afraid I will see in my dreams, if I can sleep tonight,” I told Wyla while drinking almost all of my ice water.

“What I’ve seen since coming to the FBI has made me impervious to the worst of crime scenes. Except for the corpses of little children. Once, I went on an investigation of four children, or what was left of them hanging from meat hooks in a hot still-air shack where tobacco farmers hung their bunches of leaves. The mother had found them. I not only lost my breakfast, but horrible recurring images of them haunted me in the night hours for weeks,” Wyla told, visibly shuddering with her neck and shoulders.

“That had to have been so rough. I’ve been in police work since I graduated from high school. When I saw Evie Fortner’s body at the burial mound at Mounds Park has to be defined as my most eerie image to date.”

“Wow, you’re still a youth in this grisly business called public service. Looks to me you’re in your early thirties? Yeah!” Wyla said.

“Precisely. I’m 32. Can I ask? Are you in your thirties?” I asked, but felt pensive about the question.

“I’m on the tail end of my thirties; going to be 39 in December,” she informed me, not showing any irritation.

Katie brought our salads. Wyla looked up smiling. “Katie, I’ve got a question. The noises coming from the embankment not too far from this restaurant; did they sound in any way human?”

“No, they didn’t, even when Lester and I heard those sounds of that black kind of bird shooting up into the night sky. It’s real hard to describe, give me chills whenever I go back in my mind. There among the screams of a woman, there was a loud ticking like a bomb,” Katie answered, showing to be somewhat spooked going over it again for Wyla.

Wyla patted her on her right arm. “Dear, I’m getting what you’re saying. Forgive my switching the subject. Can I have a coffee? Please.”

It was baffling to me how Wyla could switch a grim subject of some supernatural being to such a natural inclination for a cup of coffee. I guess she was only defined by her station in life as a FBI agent, and nothing more.

Katie obeyed without delay. We dove into our luncheon salads like two women who had not eaten in days. We sat there devouring our salads and then our entrees, exchanging expressions of sheer delight in the amazing flavors of lake fish perfectly seasoned and prepared.

Taking an after-lunch breather to take in the sun reflected on the glassy lake from our window vista view, my cell phone vibrated in my left pants-pocket. It was Luther, I think. His voice sounded so strange. It was low, almost a whisper, and quite solemn.

“Glenda, I’m here at Community with Althea. That thing got her last night. We are on the third floor, corner, Room 321.”

“Oh my God! We’ll be right there,” I shouted, not saying who I was with as if Luther would have given a rat’s ass.

“Wyla, Luther’s fiancé is victim number 20. We’ve got to get to the hospital,” I told her in a breathless manner. My insides rolled around in a combination of intense shock and seething anger. This was getting personal.

“By all means. I’ll leave a 50 for the entrees and a tip.”

Katie came out of the kitchen as we were getting ready to open the entrance door. Wyla shouted out to her, “Katie, we’ve got an emergency. We left you the money for the lunches and a tip. It’s on the table.”

When we arrived at Althea’s private room, Luther was standing outside the closed door. I came up to him, holding onto his shoulders. “It can’t be true. Dare I ask?”

“By her quick thinking, he wasn’t able to harm the baby,” Luther said, reassuring me that the baby was still safe and undisturbed. He shook his head, showing his infamous half-grin which created a dimple close to the corner of his mouth.

He went on: “After the many times she fought against carrying the vial of garlic and salt liquid, she used it!”

Luther looked behind me to see Wyla. “What’s she doing here?”

“Luther, she’s an ally! Believe it or not, we just got back from Markleville. Another victim, this time a prize hog. Oh, this is Agent Wyla Stark,” I informed him.

He nodded to Wyla and said, “Sorry, it’s been a damn nightmare! The doctor is with her now. I am all nerves and anger…” He broke down in my arms and cried.

The doctor came to where were standing. Luther looked at him, then went into the room. I recognized the doctor to be Dr. Reyes, who had treated Rosa Montez.

“Doctor, I’m Detective Charles’s partner. This is FBI Agent Wyla Stark. How’s Althea?” I shouted as he was making his way back to the nurses’ station.

He stopped and turned around to us. He approached me and said, “Well, you probably already know the baby was not harmed. Although her assailant ate away part of her liver. We found out in surgery we were able to reconnect the delicate tissue to the existing liver. She will be compromised in a less fatty diet and no consuming of anything alcoholic.”

“Having treated Rosa Montez and being Filipino yourself, you have first-hand knowledge of this cursed manifestation. Does this ‘Tik-Tik’ normally stalk a victim on purpose? It had to know she was connected to Detective Charles!” Wyla probed without a bit of diplomacy.

“I will say this. This type of phenomena you refer to at the time of its transformation does not have a clear way of thinking the way humans do. They do not know what they are doing, only to stop the burning inside and quench the thirst for their ultimate feed, whether it be a developing fetus or the entrails of an animal or human. I’ve got to go,” Dr. Reyes stressed to us standing there.

Wyla came over to me. “Tell you what, Glenda, I’m going to check in with the other agents. Go ahead and visit inside. I’ll catch up with you later.”

I slowly entered the room. Luther was seated on the other side of the bed, holding onto Althea’s arm. “Hey, you two. I wanted to see how you were doing. I’ll understand if you don’t want me in here.”

Althea turned her head, then spoke to Luther, “Baby, before I go back to sleep, let me have a word with Glenda.”

“Sit down, Glenda. I’ve got something to say,” Althea said in her authoritative way. Her penetrating stare made me feel uncomfortable.

“Before this happened, I thought Luther was getting his crazy conclusions about this supernatural perpetrator from your infamous unrealistic instincts. I saw that thing for real. More than me, Luther has had the wind knocked out of him. Do everything in your power to pursue it and rid this community of it before the monster goes further and murders unsuspecting women,” Althea said in a surprising eloquent way. She came off as if she trusted me to pull off this tall order.

This was the most she had ever spoken to me at one sitting. For once, maybe she approved of me, but with a condition. The task had always held ominous conditions, but now it went into full-throttle killer mode of “do it or I will have Althea’s wrath on my head.”


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