The two stepped off the plane that next morning, both feeling slightly grungy, and without immediate transportation. Will Bryant checks out a rental car, and the two make their way towards the Houston Medical Centre. It was a large building, and like most hospitals, always a crowd, and always keeping busy. It took them some time before they found out where they were being held for treatment, but once there they met another problem.
"Visiting hours are 10 till 12, sir, you'll have to wait until then." the secretary told them quite plainly. "Are you relatives of the patients."
"No." Will Bryant answered for them.
"Then I'm afraid you can't see them." she told them, with that 'I feel your pain' expression that so irked Joey.
"Look, you got to let us see them. I just flew in from DC to see these guys, you got to let us through." Joey told her.
"I'm sorry, regulations state that you must be a member of the patient's family to see them at all."
"I'm Will Bryant of the FBI." Will held out his ID. "I'm working on a case that involved your patients, and I would be most glad if I could see them at some point this morning."
The secretary looked at the ID, and like any good bureaucrat, transferred them to her superior. Her superior was much more helpful, and guaranteed them a chance to speak to the patients in at least ten minutes.
When they finally were admitted in to see Sheriff Davis, they saw that he was the only one in the room. He was strapped to an IV, there was a TV set up in a corner of the room, and it was turned to a local news station. He had a telephone hooked up to his bedside, and he looked very bad. His skin was covered in blotches from head to toe. He didn't turn to look at them. He said to them, turning the TV off, "It's about time you showed up. Agent Bryant, Dr. Vermiclin, it's good to see you two after such a long time."
"It looks like you've got yourself some second degree burns there." Vermiclin noted. "What happened?"
Davis shrugged, "I was in a trap. I was sitting in a dumpster which had been rigged to explode. I don't remember much about it."
"Why were you doing that?" Will asked, coming to stand at the far end of the bed.
"We were laying an ambush for the killer."
"Did you get him?" Will asked.
"No, but he sprung the trap and injured most everybody we had there.", Davis told him, a frustrated look crossing his face. "Bill, Taylor, and Joe are also here at the hospital. Olympia is at the vet, and Randy and Rick are trying to keep things cool back in Barken. We do know that the killer has a limp though."
"Do you know anything else?" Will asked.
"I'd like to know what is going on." Joey insisted.
Davis sighed. "We have a serial killer."
"Is that confirmed?" Bryant asked.
"We think so, he has already killed four, all of them the same way. Eviscerates and skins them."
"I'd like to see the bodies." Joey adds.
"They're all dogs." Davis adds.
"That's fine, I've studied the canine anatomy some in these past few years." Joey pointed out.
"Good, then you'll be very helpful." Davis adds. "Anyway, we figured out that our killer only kills at the stroke of midnight, no later. He also leaves all the organs assembled in the same way. He also must have some good facilities, because he has very realistic disguises. The night of the ambush he pretended to be Andy Cobb, the postmaster for Barken."
"A disgruntled postal worker?" Joey asked a bit sarcastically.
"A disgruntled postal worker doesn't kill so methodically and so viscously." Davis objected. "This is not your average killer, he is going to kill again tonight. I wonder if he killed last night, I have not heard word though."
"So what do you want me to do?" Will asked him, his voice sounding quite business-like.
"I want you to find that killer, and stop him, before he does more damage." Davis replies without even stopping to think about it.
"And what do you want me to do?" Joey asks, wishing there was someway he could help the man overcome his injury.
Davis turned to look up at Joey. "You already said you wanted to look at the bodies. That's what I want you to do. See if he left any clues on the bodies, see what you can find. Your supposed to be good at this sort of stuff, don't let me down."
Joey resented the fact that Davis was ordering him about, but he did want to see those bodies. He hated the fact that he couldn't help those people hurt now, but he was a coroner, not a doctor.
As they stood there talking, they heard the door to the room swing open wide, and in stepped another man. He was a large man, wide in shoulder, wide in waist. It looked almost as if he might be, if he gained another hundred pounds, a professional football player. The whites of his eyes made a stark contrast to the black of his skin, and they were quite penetrating. The man offered his hand to Joey first as he was the closest, and introduced himself, "I'm Dr. Eisen, the head physician in this ward, how may I help you gentlemen?"
"I'm Will Bryant, FBI." Bryant stepped in the way, and shook the man's hand. "I'm investigating a case involving these patients, and I was wondering if I could get the prognosis on each of them."
"Well, of the four patients from the Barken police force here, things look better than they could have been." Dr. Eisen said examining the sheets attached to his clipboard.
"C'mon Doc," Davis called out, "spit it out already. I'm not here for my beauty, just tell me what's going to happen."
"Well, we should be able to release you in a few days." Dr. Eisen told Davis, a little hesitation in his voice. "However, the damage to your skin is wide-ranging."
"Just tell me how bad." Davis prodded him along. "I don't need it sugar-coated."
"One-third of your skin is permanently damaged. It will never be the same, you will have scar tissue covering that much of your body for the rest of your life. The rest of your skin should heal with in the next couple of months, but I can't make any guarantees." Dr. Eisen told him, not happy about the report he was giving.
"Will my face be damaged?" Davis asked probing him further.
Dr. Eisen sighed, and then continued, "We think the right side of your face will be scar tissue, at least on the cheek. I'm sorry, there was nothing we could do about it."
Davis sighed, and settled back down in the bed, staring vacantly at the wall. Joey felt uncomfortable in the room as he stood. He knew he should feel sorry for this man, and in a way he did, yet at the same time, he eagerly wanted to get to investigating those bodies, and this was simply delaying him. For Will Bryant, it was a different matter. This was not good news, and he could feel nothing but sympathy for the Sheriff. Revenge was not an option for him, he never got that mad, but solving this case, finding the man who did this, that was most certainly his priority now.
"How about Bill, Joe, and Taylor. How are they doing?" Davis asked, not taking his eyes off the wall across from him.
"Joe Beall will be released tomorrow. He's suffering a slight fracture of his Ulna in his right arm, and a gunshot wound that passed through his left chest. His arm will heal in a matter of weeks, but I'd suggest keeping him inactive for at least twice that period." Dr. Eisen told him, glancing over the material in front of him. "Your other officers aren't going to fare so well."
"How badly are they?" Will asked, getting in his words before Davis could speak.
Eisen ruffled his left hand through his hair, pulling on it slightly. He hated having to be the bearer of bad news, it pulled at his heart. He knew of other doctors who didn't care what the condition of the patients were, as long as they continued to earn their exorbitant salary; they had lost their hearts; Eisen refused to lose his.
"Taylor Bruce is going to be in crutches for several months. The gunshot wound to his right foot destroyed several of his metatarsals. Even after he no longer needs crutches, his foot is going to be very sensitive, and could break easily again. His shoulder wasn't a problem fortunately, the bullet glanced off the bone, but his broken foot is more than necessary to make him immobile for at the least three months.
"Bill Budd, I'm afraid, is never going to be in active duty again. Both his kneecaps were shattered, which we were able to reconstruct, and he may walk again by New Years', but he will never be as quick on his feet as he was before. We had to collapse his right lung, and we have him on a ventilator right now to keep him alive. His left lung should be able to sustain him, but he'll never be able to perform any physically taxing job again. He should be able to leave the hospital in a week though. I'm sorry, this was the best we could do in your conditions."
Davis nodded, his jaw set firm, his eyes steeling themselves from the sadness they knew he must feel. Then all traces of remorse fled from his eyes as they became filled with a fire, a fire of determination, a fire that would burn his enemies to cinders if they so got the chance. He raised his arm up off the bed, and waved to the doctor, "You must excuse us, I wish to talk with my friends."
"Yes, Sheriff Davis." Dr. Esien stepped out the door, and slowly closed it shut behind him. They all could hear the click as the handle was turned back into place ever so gently by the head physician.
Davis motioned for the two men to step closer. "I want the man who did this to us to pay dearly. You find out who it is, and you destroy him, and everything close to him. Make sure this never, ever, happens again. Send those damn Cherriers a message they won't ever forget. Don't let them ever forget this, ever!"
"We will find the killer." Will assured him, his voice steady, reassuring. "Do not ever doubt our abilities; we shall find the man who did this, and he will meet justice, you can rest assured of that."
"Good." Davis said, and then he looked to Joey for confirmation, and Joey nodded as well. "Now get to Barken, Randy and Rick are there, they'll fill you in on anything that has happened since then."
"We're on our way." Joey told him, standing back from his bed.
"And don't forget. Never be a dog at night, he kills only dogs and only at midnight." Davis gave them one last warning, which Joey felt somehow was aimed specifically at him. He had no intention of being a dog at anytime during his stay here, and now he felt somehow vindicated by Davis's warning.
"I won't forget that." Joey assured him.
"And I won't let anybody else either." Will told him, rising from the bed as well, he looked to Joey for a second, before he said his final goodbyes.
Little Stevie Engel was quite disappointed by the latest edict to descend from the police station. Nobody was to be a dog, for any reason, for an undetermined length of time. He walked along the streets, his hands stuffed into pockets, kicking stones along the road, mad because he liked to be a dog, liked to run around more freely, without the qualms of human decency that his mother had instilled in him. It didn't feel the same playing tag when he was a human, it just wasn't the same game. So he sulked along the streets, walking around, hoping to find something interesting to do this afternoon.
It was a rather dull afternoon, the sun high in the sky, beating down on them, despite the fact that it was now October, it was still hot down here in Texas. Stevie wondered if the weather ever did turn cold, except at night. His mommy wouldn't let him stay out at night, so he never really experienced the true cold of a desert night, but he had on occasion felt the chill of an early morning. He liked the feel of it, and he wished it would come in the middle of the day so he could enjoy it more, but alas, it never did.
Before he realized it, he was staring at a set of long legs, legs which were attached to the tors of a man staring down at him, smiling at him. It was Nicholas! At the sight of the man, Stevie smiled, and gripped his left leg hard. "I missed you, Nicholas! It's so boring when I can't be a dog!"
He let go of his leg at the prompting of Nicholas, who looked a little more or less in slight pain. Nicholas kneeled down to his eye lever, smiled then, and said, "So you're bored huh? Would you like something to play with?"
"Do you have a toy?" Stevie asked, his eyes alight with wonder.
"Yes, a special toy, a toy only meant for you. It's also a toy you can only use if you're a little boy, and not a little puppy. Would you like such a toy, coming from me?" Nicholas asked, clutching something behind him.
Stevie jumped up and down, "Oh yes, can I have the toy! Please!" he pleaded.
Nicholas smiled, and then held his finger up, "Close your eyes now."
Stevie shut his eyes tight, restraining himself, trying to hold his anticipation in check. He wondered what Nicholas, he was such a great guy, he should meet his mom, boy they would suer love each other, was planning to give him.
Nicholas brought his other hand back in front of him, and he held a multi-faceted cube like object before him. "You can open your eyes now."
Stevie looked at what was held before him, and he gripped it in his hands, his face a look of surprise, and a look of befuddlement. He gripped the object tightly, looking at the bright colors, and feeling the object twist out of shape a his slightest push.
"That's a Rubik's Cube. I used to love those things. It's like a little game." Nicholas took the object back, and then began to methodically twist it about. "You scramble the colors up, and then you try to get them back in order." Nicholas demonstrated this, much to Stevie's merriment.
Nicholas handed it back to Stevie. "Now whenever you're feeling bored, you just play with that thing, and think about me, you got that?"
"Uh huh." Stevie replied taking hold of the Rubik's Cube delightfully, trying to get it as scrambled as he possibly could.
"Now you run along." Nicholas told him, standing back up straight, and walking back down the street. Stevie was too engrossed in the Cube to watch him go.
Stepping out of the rental car, Jason looked over the false brick facade that adorned the Barclay home. Jaosn was starting to develop memories of this place, fond ones mostly, and it took on a whole new life of its own. It was in the middle of the day, he wondered just who would be home. He wondered exactly what Greg did, he wasn't too clear about that over the phone.
As Jason approached the front door, he felt that there was inherently something wrong with the situation. He couldn't tell what, but he felt distinctly uncomfortable. On a hunch, he turned around, and then he nearly had a heart attack. Standing before him, crouched on the ground, with a rifle slung over his shoulder, was Greg. Jason jumped back several feet, and Greg stood up, slinging the rifle back over his shoulder.
"Jimminy Crickets! Greg, you scared me." Jason exclaimed.
Greg smiled, patting him on the shoulder, "Just practicin', Jay."
"Practicing for what, the marines?"
"Sentry. I'm training to be a sentry." Greg told him, leading the way to the front door.
"You're kidding." Jason smiled at him, his breath returning to normal.
"Nope. In another year, I may be good enough to go out on patrol." Greg told him, opening the front door, and escorting Jason to the family room.
Jason looked about, it was brightly decorated, the dark blue couches having been replaced by a light baise with a floral pattern. The wallpaper had been replaced with a soft tan floral design. Sitting in a recliner was Mrs. Barclay, who smiled as Jason stepped inside. "Hello Jason, how've you been."
"Better." Jason admitted. "I'm here getting away from it all."
"Do you need something to drink? I have some Hawaiian Punch just recently made up in the fridge?" Mrs. Barclay rose from her seat, obviously intent upon mothering Jason.
"That would be fine, thank you." Jason told her, taking a seat on the couch. Greg sat in the other couch just across from him and the TV.
"I'll be back with that in a minute, and you Greg?"
"I'd like some too, thank you."
"Put that gun away, you shouldn't be playing with it in the house." Mrs. Barclay reprimanded him.
"Yes, Mom." Greg took the rifle off of his back, and placed it on top of the TV. He then turned to Jason, and once Mrs. Barclay was out of the room, he asked, "So why did you really leave Nathan's place? You sounded quite distressed on the phone."
Jason blushed immediately at the memory of it. "Well, he had three female's in heat, and I simply was having a hard time resisting."
"You mean, real dogs? In heat?" Greg's face was one of surprise, he couldn't believe Jason would be attracted to such an enticement.
"Yeah." Jason told him, feeling a little dirty at the thoughts he had harboured in his two days there at Nathan's farm.
"I hope nothing came of it." Greg told him, nudging him playfully.
"I just want to forget the whole experience." Jason told him flatly. "Why are you still living with your in-laws?"
"Oh, we still can't afford a place of our own. I am helping Mary out with the book store now, and we should have enough to move out in the next couple of months."
"Isn't she pregnant?" Jason asked, to confirm what Nathan had said.
"Yeah, two months." Greg told him. "That's the only thing that makes it difficult, we're not sure if we should move when she is near to delivery or not."
"Well, if you're still a few months form the deadline, go ahead and do it, but if your really close, wait a bit longer." Jason advised. He remembered his own parents telling him of the decision they had to make when they moved into Jason's house shortly before he was born. It had been a rough decision, but Jason was glad that they made it the way they did.
Greg nodded, then he looked up to see Mrs. Barclay coming back in. "Here's the Hawaiian Punch."
The figure looked outside through the window at the man approaching. He was carrying a load of ply-board, and several other things such as wire, and electrical equipment in his arms. He wondered how the man could do that, what with a limp and all. He heard from behind him the dogs perk up at the noise and bark shrilly. He jumped in the centre of them, stepping into the light, it splaying over his features. He slashed at the cages, frightening the dogs into silence.
He heard the front door open, and he quickly retreated to the darkness of the inner chamber. He watched as the man strode into the room, looking about, and seeing him lurking beyond his sight, he set the equipment down, and smiled, waving idiotically.
"What are you up to now?" the figure called out in its raspy guttural voice.
"Construction, building, architecture. Creating a device to accomplish my goals. Bringing our mutual goal nearer to completion." the man intoned. "What more can I possibly do?"
"You can shut these damn dogs up!" the creature called back reproachfully.
"Don't worry, I will." the man assured him, and then left the building to retrieve a similar arm load.