Sheriff Pierre Davis sat in his office. They had pulled a TV/VCR into the room, and Bill was going to show the tape to the audience. It included Davis, and all of his best men, Randy Kempe, Joe Beall, Rick Adams, and Taylor Bruce. They all watched the screen as Bill put the tape in. They saw the scene inside Thompson's liquor store, it was a panorama of the liquor store, and they could see Thompson standing idly at the counter, reading a book.
"This is about eleven, the tape ends at twelve. I'll fast-forward it to the time of activity. He only had one customer during this period, and we believe that is our murderer." Bill talked while fast-forwarding the tape. Just then they saw commotion at the top of the screen, and he quickly rewound it, and then let it play.
George turned to look at the man, it was a man they could tell, but his face was out of view at the moment. They watched as he casually chatted with the man for a few moments - there was no audio on the tape so they couldn't hear what they were talking about - as the man turned about, rather casually, but effectively, as they still could no longer see his face. They saw that he had dark hair though, a fact that all noted. He was broad of shoulder, but he didn't appear as if he was overly muscular. As they watched, he turned, and burried his face in the wine bottles, examining them. He then moved between to shelves, and was practically obscured form view. The sentries were swearing in frustration, and Davis was as well to himself. Bill tried not to smile, he knew that there really wasn't much hope, but there would be an absolute certainty before much longer.
The man in question did not reappear on the screen for at least five more minutes, when suddenly he walked up from below the camera, his back still towards it, and he put a bottle of wine and a six pack of Red Dog on the counter. He leaned against it, but he still faced away from it. They were able to see his ears though, his left one larger than his right one by nearly half-an-inch. That was a very easily recognizable trait, and all of them noted it quite meticulously. The two men talked some more, as they exchanged currency. The hundred dollar bill that the man handed over did not go unnoticed however. When they saw it they realized that the man had been quite intelligent, wearing black gloves, very common ordinary black gloves. Dusting the Ben Franklin for fingerprints would be useless, but hair and fibre analysis might show something. That again would have to be sent to a better facility more suited to this kind of research.
As they watched, the man walked out the door, and never once had they seen his face. The six looked at each other all of their faces glum. Randy spoke up first.
"This guy is intelligent. I say he's the killer. I doubt he's still in Barken, so lets set up a very thorough sentry patrol for the next few nights, see if we can catch him crawling back in here to kill again."
"Damn Cherry, son of a..." Taylor swore to himself. "If only we had gone and taken them out after the incident, we were pumped, we could have done it, and now George Thompson would still be alive."
"We don't go in for wholesale slaughter, unlike Cherry." Davis told him sternly. "Don't get any ideas of personal vendetta's either Taylor, you're no good to us dead."
Taylor grimaced, crossing his arms in front of him quite angrily. Bill Budd turned the TV off, and then added himself "I think he'll kill again. He succeeded in skinning poor George in the middle of Barken. Does this not mean something! He killed and skinned him in the middle of Barken, where anybody could have been watching! I think he's a psycho, and if he thinks he can get away with what he did last night, then he'll do it again, and he'll do it again, and he'll keep doing it until we catch him."
"Like I said, we should step up security around here." Randy hit his hand forcefully on the table.
"Nobody died last night." Joe mentioned off-handedly.
"At least that we know of," Rick pointed out," he could have killed somebody outside of Barken this time, and we just haven't found the body."
"Possible." Joe admitted grudgingly. "I doubt it though, I did a complete perimeter this morning and found nothing unusual."
Davis stepped in then, and his dispassionate voice caught their attention. "I think it is foolish for us to argue about this. We simply do not know enough to determine what this lunatic will do next. I agree with Randy, we need to step up security again. We have been getting quite lax. It was only a matter of time anyway before this happened. We must ensure that it doesn't happen again." Davis then stopped. He sat there staring blankly at the desk, a sigh escaping his lips.
It did not go unnoticed, and Bill asked, "Do you think it was the one who got away?"
"It's possible, I don't know though. They still won't tell me his name." Davis gestured in the general direction of the cells.
"I'll beat it out of him." Taylor nearly got up from his seat then and there.
"No you won't, Taylor." Davis looked him squarely in the eye. "You won't even think about it. I'm trying to make them good Barken citizens, and I think I might actually be making headway with at least one of them. I won't let you screw that up now."
Taylor harumphed, and then settled back into his seat once again, glaring at the TV, as if it had caused all of their problems.
Rick then got an idea, and he got excited about it. "All right, let's say that our murderer is the one who got away. Why would he kill George Thompson? How about revenge? George was with us that night remember? I bet he's going to come after the twenty of us that were there that night."
"I thought they believed that revenge was wrong?" Joe remarked rather sardonically, painful memories flashing through his mind.
"Yeah, right." Randy intoned quite placidly. "I really wish Eddie had been in that group we killed that night."
"I thought you said he wasn't going to come back." Davis pointed out.
"I know I did." Randy admitted. "However, look at the position of the body, look at how it is eviscerated." Randy pointed at the photographs taken of the corpse. "Look at how the organs are arranged. Eddie used to arrange the organs just like that after he made a kill."
"So are you saying that Eddie is doing the killing?" Taylor seemed quite unconvinced.
"Possibly, but I doubt he'd ever set foot on Barken soil again." Randy remarked cryptically.
"Well, like I said before," Davis began, rising from his seat, "we will step up our patrol, tighten up the defence, and make sure nobody gets in here again. Also, we suspect this man is the murderer, though we have no idea who he is, or what he intends to do next. All we can do is hope that this was a one shot deal."
They all hoped it was too, though each of them knew that this wasn't the end, but only the beginning.
Little Stevie Engel ran down the street, being chased by his friends in a game of tag, and he was It! The game was one of their favourites, and it really did help them exercise those muscles, plus it was so much fun! Running down the street, jumping over fallen toys, making hairpin turns around city blocks, and leaving havoc in their wake. The ruckus they were causing was compounded by the playful barks his friend sent after him as they chased him. Stevie wasn't barking though, he was too busy just running to keep ahead of them.
The streets soon disappeared, and they were running over the desert sand. Stevie knew they were told not to leave the town, but he was having too much fun! He couldn't let himself be tagged, then he would have to chase, instead of being chased. He turned round a hill, nearly tripping on a couple loose stones. He kept up his pace, and the others came after him.
Suddenly the barks turned to fright, and Stevie looked back to see what it was. The others had all stopped in their tracks, and were barking at him, warning him of something up ahead. He turned, and before he realized it, he saw the abandoned mine shaft right in front of him. He stopped running, hoping he wouldn't fall in, as he wouldn't be able to get out. He slid on the ground, the hard sand rubbing viscously at his side.
He didn't fall in, but he was bleeding from his side, the skin being cut up. He stood up, and looked up as the others had come over to him. They lapped the errant blood up, and he whined as the pain struck him. He wanted his Mommy! She would know how to take care of it! He started heading for home, the game of tag ended for him. His friends quickly appointed a new It, and they continued to tear around the neighbourhood.
It took Stevie Engel about ten minutes to get home, and when he scrambled in the dog door, he whine more incessantly, hoping his Mommy would hear him. He could smell that she was upstairs, and he moved over to the staircase, and let out a little yowl, begging for her attention. His mother appeared at the head of the stairway, looking questioningly. When she saw the scarred side, she ran down the stairs, and swept him up in her arms, taking him upstairs to her bedroom.
As she lay him on her bed, applying a salve to the abrasion, neither her not Stevie noticed the man standing one building over with the field-glasses, looking in the window. It was rather amazing because he was standing in plain sight, and a simply glance through the window would have alerted them to his presence.
After applying the salve, Mrs. Engel held Stevie, her son, in her arms, rocking him gently back and forth, while Stevie licked her neck happily. "I love you my little Stevie." his mother told him, in that caressing voice only a mother who truly loves her child has.
"I love you too, Mommie." the man standing out side intoned, after reading her lips. He smiled, and then put the field-glasses away, and climbed back down off the roof.
Jason was sitting in his kitchen, the police officers walking through his house, and searching around out back gave him the creeps. They weren't like the officers in Barken, who were hard men, but you knew they actually cared about you. The guy asking him questions, obviously the head officer here, looked like a stereotypical donut eating, never leave the desk type of police officer. The others were all either stoically quiet, or jabbered on incessantly about the lack of taste Jason had in decorating. So what if he liked paneling? It was his house wasn't it?
No today it wasn't. Today, the police owned this house, after all it was a crime scene, somebody had tried to kill him. It wouldn't be the first time he had been targeted for destruction, but before it had never been so personal. Before he had been lumped into one large group slated for extermination. Fortunately they survived. Now somebody had nearly killed him. Why? He didn't know, he couldn't think of anybody he had angered in the last few months.
Did he know anybody that used high velocity hunting rifles? Not really, he thought a mini-gun meant a small hand gun. Did he know anybody that hunted? What a silly question! In this area of the Shenandoah Valley, nearly every other family had at least one hunter in them. Did he have any idea why anybody might want to kill him? Jason of course decided not to mention the one thing, it seemed rather unlikely, considering it was a days flight from here to Texas, and he didn't see why somebody would go after him when there were plenty of other man-dogs to kill in Barken. So in response, he said he didn't know.
The other questions were much in the same vein, only more banal. Jason tried not to pretend he was disinterested, he was very interested, somebody had tried to kill him, and had nearly succeeded. What he didn't understand was why had his prospective killer not pursued him, tried to shoot him again? Jason wasn't going anywhere, until the police arrived nearly fifteen minutes after the shot was fired, Jason had been convinced he was going to die. He had offered up his final prayers and testaments before God, he did not want to die, and it looked like he had been spared. What shocked him was that only the one bullet had been fired. Nothing else, it was if the killer didn't want to bother trying after failing once.
Jason didn't mind this, but it made him pause to wonder, the police recorded it, but made no other special effort to catalogue it. He was becoming quite aggravated at their ineptitude, when he recognized a figure stride in the front door making his way past the other officers. The fat portly man that had been questioning him turned to look at him, and Jason saw a snarl beneath the man's lips as he saw the figure stride forward.
"I'm Agent Will Bryant of the FBI." he introduced himself, his sunglasses characteristically tucked into his breast coat pocket. He still wore his hand-tailored suits, this one navy blue instead of black, and his hair was combed back, parted on the left. Jason couldn't believe it was him, he had left shortly after Swett's birthday party, as he had a job to return to. Jason had not seen him since.
"It's a pleasure to meet you Mr. Bryant." the officer shook his hand, rising from the seat. "He's all yours. Name: Jason...."
"I know his name, Sergeant..." Will glanced down at the badge and then continued, "Kline. If you and your men would excuse us a few moments."
"Certainly." Kline then called his men together, and had them leave the kitchen. Will sat down in the seat vacated by Kline, and he looked over at the still shaken up Mr. Kubelik.
"So I hear somebody put a bullet through your computer, almost through your head." Will started casually looking over the table, examining the weave of the table cloths. "What do you intend to do about it?"
"I don't know." Jason admitted quite freely, glad to be talking to somebody he considered to have a brain in his head. "I'd like it if you could take up the case."
"Haha... No." Bryant replied quite bluntly. "I have another case I'm working on at present, I'm here only because I was in the area and I heard the news that you were assaulted last night on the police dispatchers."
"Well then, I guess I'll have to let them handle it" Jason sighed.
"Are you sure you want to do that?" Will asked him, casually stroking the placemat.
"What do you mean? They're the police. It's their job to protect people - people like me."
"Do you own a dog?" Will asked him casually glancing at something he held in his hand.
"Of course not." Jason laughed. "I loved dogs in my youth, but I can't deal psychologically with having one now."
"Then how are you going to explain this?" Will layed out before him tufts of fur that had obviously come from Jason himself.
Jason blushed. He knew he shedded, quite badly in fact, and it dawned on him then that it would raise questions he didn't want asked if he let the police continue. Yet, what if the killer came back? "I don't want to get myself involved in a federal investigation because of my shape-shifting. Yet, I also don't want to die."
"I understand that. Most of us don't want to die." Will replied, casually discarding the fur he'd collected.
"What I mean is, what can I do?"
"Stay at a friend's house for a while. You do have friends don't you?" Will looked him straight in the eyes.
Jason turned away sheepishly. He'd never been good at keeping eye contact, it simply unnerved him. "Yeah, I've got friends. I guess I should tell the police that I am dropping any charges."
"That would be for the best." Will told him, standing from his seat. Jason wondered just who he should call, John or Nathan.
"You're late." the raspy, almost guttural voice called out from the dark shadows of the dimly lit building. It was made form wood, and had a high arching roof, with haylofts to either side, almost like a barn. There was no hay though, nor were there any livestock of any sort whatsoever. The figure entering the front door had draped across his back, the skin of a dog. It looked to be a rather large skin, and the figure skulking in the shadows could see it for a bull dog. The man in the skin was almost wearing it, in some mock representation of what it emphasized. He snorted in disgust at the action, though the figure wearing the skin showed no sign of acknowledgment.
"It was done on time." was the only thing he said, as he laid the skin carefully on the ground. He arranged it just so, making sure it fit properly. It was correct, and he smiled, then looking back into the shadows he said, "It was done on time."