I met Wyla in the surgery waiting area. She must have deciphered from the wild look I had plastered on my face that I needed a stiff drink. “You don’t look so good. Can I buy you a drink?”

“What about your fellow agents?”

“They have decided to pack it in for the night at your local Hampton Inn. None of the victims from your list will talk to them,” Wyla told me, giggling under her breath.

“I’ve got the place, and it won’t cost you a dime. Hope you don’t mind my apartment, only a few blocks from where your rental is parked at the APD parking lot.”

We walked up the back steps of my landlady’s vintage 1889 Victorian three-story home. I unlocked my door and let us both in from the small foyer. Wyla walked around peeking into my kitchen, then moving slowly in my front room. She studied through the lined-up books from my three bookshelves. She glanced over my collection of classic horror novels, Stephen King novels, and Dan Brown books.

She made her way over to my minibar, close to my entertainment center. Bending down searching for something to drink, she rummaged through my collection of hard liquor. She lifted up a bottle of Glenfiddich scotch whiskey.

“You’re a boozer. This is cracking fine malt whiskey!” she said. Hearing a slight accent, I got curious.

“Where did that accent come from?”

“My father is first generation Scot. That’s the reason for my freckles and light skin. Surely you realize Filipinos are considered brown-skinned people.”

“Oh, that’s right. Your grandmother from the Philippines would mean your mother is Filipina. Sorry for my Westernized ignorance.”

“Indeed, part Filipina and Spanish, with me coming to be a real mutt,” Wyla said, then stared at the bottle again. “Can I break it open?”

“Why not? I need something strong. There’s glasses on the top shelf of the bar. I’ll get some ice,” I said, going into my kitchen.

Wyla took a whiff from the opening, “My, my, I wouldn’t have guessed someone your age would know the finest of scotches, unless you have moonlighted as a bartender.”

“That’s my Grandpa Pete, who raised me. I got that bottle last year for Christmas,” I told her, settling in on an easy chair across from my purple sofa. Wyla took to the sofa immediately after I gave her a glass of the malt with sufficient ice.

I plopped down across from her, visually enjoying the scotch. “So, I think this is the appropriate time to give me your grandmother’s account when she was eight.”

“Well, my great-grandfather had been on a month-long fishing expedition in deep waters. He came home late one night, a very hot stifling night. My great-grandmother was seven months along with another child, waiting up for her husband. My grandmother, Caralyn, heard doors being slammed, shouting coming from the back of the house. She had been sleeping in one of the back bedrooms with her grandmother. The grandmother heard the noticeable sounds getting louder and more frequent. There was one noise only known to Caralyn’s grandmother: a screeching, bloodcurdling sound. She gathered Caralyn into her arms and held her tight on her bed where underneath, a large slab of dry ice was setting in a pan. This was a way to repel the aswang from getting into their bedroom. Caralyn’s grandmother knew one of her parents—or the both of them—had perished under that creature of evil. In the morning, they went out to the outside of the house, where they saw Caralyn’s father putting something large into his pickup truck,” Wyla said, then picked up her glass to top off the contents.

“What happened to Caralyn’s mother?” I asked.

“She had been killed along with the child by this aswang, the locals called manananggal. My great-grandfather had cut the creature in pieces with a machete he kept in the kitchen pantry. He had buried his wife and child, then disposed of the creature.” Wyla finished her story with a noticeable shudder with her head and shoulders.

She sat there on the couch, her eyes staring down onto the area rug. I wanted to say something, but feeling it would be rude somehow, I stayed silent. She put her glass on the coffee table in front of her. In an instant, her face and body language went back to her usual analytical posture, and she opened her mouth.

“So, give me a name of this elusive savage assailant we are pursuing. You must have it rolling around in your head after so many victims,” Wyla said, probing as was her nature to do.

It wasn’t hard for me to respond. Drinking down the contents of my glass, my tongue was sufficiently loosened to break the code of silence until there was more evidence. “Amora Rathbone, heir to the million-dollar Big Pharma dynasty in Indiana. She’s very aloof and quite mysterious, fits the profile so far with the icing on the cake of her mother being from the Philippines and sister to Amado Rathbone. One alarming thing: her eyes changed colors at our first meeting, making me very uneasy.”

Wyla lifted up her glass and said, “Oh, yeah, two names that made that infamous chart of yours. Why do you think she fits our mysterious legend?”

“Luther and I had an interview at the Rathbone estate with the corporate head Ethan, father to Amora and Amado. Again, those dark brown eyes turned to red. I was rattled, but attempted to talk to her all the same. She gave me the silent treatment. As we finished with the father, Luther and I heard a strange catlike noise coming from the drafty stone staircase leading to the third level of what the butler called the Tower.”

Wyla nodded, showing that she heard my brief description of that strange morning at the Rathbone’s. She got up and poured a small amount of the malt whiskey into her glass. “Tell you what: let’s go back to the Rathbone estate for a cold call. Its surprise value will catch them off guard.”

“Would you be violating your agency’s protocol by pairing with me on going outside the lines?” I asked.

“When I was at the hospital, I had a talk with your sergeant Gable. I told him I believed this line-up of severe savage attacks was from a copycat. Someone who was from the Philippines or some sick psychopath who possesses full knowledge of the Philippine lower mythology, which is, as you know, rampant in the islands,” she said, then taking the contents of the glass back, drinking in one gulp.

I shouted in an amusing tone, “He bought that? It does sound believable. Well, I guess back to the Rathbone mansion.”

Wyla made her way to the door. I told her, “I can drive you back to your car.”

She lifted up her jacket. Pointing to her firearm resting in her shoulder holster. I realized she would be fine on her own. I waved goodnight.


The next morning, I drove up to the familiar walled gate. I pushed the red call button on the silver intercom. A man’s voice spoke, “Who goes there? I say.”

I recognized the voice to be Wesley Thornton. “Wesley, this is Detective McMahan from the APD with FBI agent Wyla Stark. We need to talk to one of the Rathbones.”

“I regret your troublesome morning commute. You’ve failed to make a proper appointment.” He clicked off.

I raised my voice and said, “I respect that. I have this special agent who needs to interview a Rathbone in the worst way. I believe her station in law enforcement takes some weight, especially in this being a cold call.”

“I will open the gate.”

Wyla and I looked at each other about ready to burst into laughter, but we needed to keep a serious composure. She took in the majesty of the grounds as I drove slowly down the paved path to the half-moon shaped driveway.

“Where’s the Tower you spoke of?” she asked before we got out of my car.

“It’s behind the double chimneys to the left,” I pointed. “Do you see the top of the American flag blowing? The flag is attached to the turret’s spire.”

Wesley Thornton opened the door as I was about to knock. “Detective McMahan, you and Agent Stark go on into Master Ethan’s office. I’m sure you remember the way.”

We walked passed the stone staircase leading to the Tower’s third level. Wyla let out a whelp, “What a draft, or I should say gust of cold air! They must have a heck of an energy bill.”

“Well, the draft from up there going to the Tower is the quarters of Amado and Amora. The butler did not tell me the reason for the frigid air you are feeling. He only said they prefer the coldness to the moderate air in the other parts of the house,” I explained.

Wyla walked around the spacious perimeter of Ethan’s office. “My, my, this rich décor reminds me of a lord’s drawing room in the U.K.”

“So, you’ve been to Britain?” I asked.

“Sometimes this job requires crossing the Atlantic for leads,” said Wyla, giving me a wink.

A familiar voice greeted us as he walked in an elegant regal manner to his father’s massive desk. “Well, well, how have I rated a visit from an auspicious member of the FBI?”

I spoke up, “Amado, I wasn’t expecting you! This is Wyla Stark. She’s been giving me a hand while Luther is on leave. His fiancé has become victim number 20.”

He lowered his eyes, moving closer to Wyla. He pulled out his right hand as a polite gesture to shake her hand. “Agent Stark, it is a pleasure. I’m Amado Rathbone, son to Ethan, who I presume you wanted to speak to.”

“Actually, we wanted to speak to your sister, Amora.” Wyla moved closer, nose to nose. “Hmmm, have you been to the eye doctor, Mr. Rathbone?”

“I see. You came all this way from Anderson to ask about a medical condition,” Amado said, standing his ground with no nervousness apparent on his face or body language.

“Your eyes are dilated, which suggests two explanations: either you are using some kind of narcotic, or you’ve been to the eye doctor for some reason.”

“Ma’am, as of late, I’ve been going on a line of meds that my doctor administered,” Amado answered her.

“What medical condition are you being treated for?” Wyla persisted with her take of what was going on with his eyes.

“Well, Agent Stark, you are treading on the path that wholly belongs to HIPPA. To answer your question as you persist in, my physician would have to be present.”

I interjected. “Come on, you two, this battle-of-the-wills is getting us nowhere. Amado, as Wyla mentioned, we came to speak to Amora. Where is she?”

“Not even in our office at Saxony. Amora is in the Twin Cities for a month of group sessions for our new drug Divinia,” Amado said, turning to me with a warm smile.

For the next few minutes, there came an uncomfortable silence, like a stifling blanket of humid air difficult to catch one’s breath. I looked over at Wyla, who kept glaring at Amado. He put his hands into his jean pockets, glaring at her in the same destructive manner. My breathing became labored so much I made a move towards the open office door.

“Wyla, why don’t we move on?” She didn’t want to budge. “I insist, I’m having trouble breathing!” I pleaded.

Wyla raised up her arms. “I guess Detective McMahan, you best get on your way.”

I drove out onto North Meridian Street, thankful in the consistent flow of traffic. Wyla scolded me, “Why did you wimp out on me?”

“I wasn’t kidding about not being able to breath! Seriously, what was going on in that office scared the crap out of me,” I revealed.

Wyla nodded, beginning to get something. “You think our suspect is Amora. Well, missy, he was using some downright kind of voodoo spell on you while him and I were having that enjoyable staring contest. I think our suspect is him, not his sister.”

“Another trait of the mysterious legend, witchcraft, pops up!” I surmised, blurting it out as we got onto Binford Ave., taking us to Interstate 69.

Wyla threw her head back and laughed, then filled me in on what she was doing. “I was playing ‘bad cop’ while you naturally acted as the ‘good cop.’ You need to shake off your schoolgirl crush with him. It is really obvious, and could make you powerless as we get closer to his real identity.”


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