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Max_Writer

Bureau 13: Stalking the Night Fantastic - 4-2-11: Walnut Creek 1

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Sunday, April 3, 2011

(After playing Bureau 13 with Melissa, Nathan, Matt, and James from 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday.)

Bureau 13, sometimes called the Bureau or the Agency, was secretly established to combat the evil or destructive side of the supernatural. Much like a simple detective agency, the usually small teams of Bureau 13 traveled the country, investigating, watching, and if necessary, disposing of the paranormal. While some aspects of the supernatural were evil, others were not. In many cases, the team had to decide if the paranormal had found an ecological balance and was in actuality a benefit. The main concern of the Stalking teams was the disposal of high level evil and the mandatory secrecy they had to maintain to keep the unbelieving public from the edge of insanity. There were a few basic rules: don’t get caught, don’t leave evidence, use violence only if necessary, cover your tracks, and make them believe a rational explanation for the bizarre or fantastic. If agents were caught, the Bureau would not legally aid them in any direct way that would jeopardize their secrecy or operations.

Bureau 13 was originally created in 1862 in utmost secrecy by President Lincoln and a very small number of higher officials. The highly secret 13th Bureau of the U.S. Justice Department began its covert function to track down and destroy supernatural evil. Over the years, they had a great deal of success. A few of their successes included dealing with “wee folk” brought to the U.S. by European immigrants in 1875; establishing the Western Branch in 1878 to deal with the west becoming a hotbed of paranormal activity; finding material in the hideout of an outlaw named Morrow, who was shot, in 1889 which began a technical revolution throughout the world; investigating unusual murders in London and New York in 1895; sending out the first “on the road” agents in 1910; banishing a High Minister of Hell from Wall Street with disastrous results in 1929; capturing a golem released from a German submarine in Norfolk in 1941; dealing with Japanese water demons that attacked a merchant ship in 1942; intervening in the havoc created by elves returning to the Appalachian Mountains in 1948; capturing Hitler’s clone in Skokie, Ill., in 1957; losing Morrow in 1958; discovering flying reindeer in 1961; capturing a vampire in New York City that had raided five blood banks in 1962; and sealing a gateway to hell in Alexandria, Ind., in 1967.

In 1977, an attack on the Bureau 13 offices by unknown forces left the Washington office in flames and 61 of the 86 operating agents missing or dead. The dark event became known as the “Massacre of 77.” Ever since then, the offices had gone underground with as tight a security as could be imagined. By 1992, the main office was hidden somewhere outside Washington D.C. and the agency again contacted and sent agents across the Americas to deal with the supernatural.

* * *

Vivian Bradley was a nerd. She knew it. She didn’t care. She could speak Klingon, for God’s sake. Before she had been recruited by the Bureau, she had been a programmer and worked with Information Technology. She was average-looking and excellent with computer software and hardware. She wore jeans and t-shirt.

Jason Harken was very, very lucky. Formerly a beat cop, he was a solid man who had proved himself a credit to the force until he’d run into that THING in the alley. Bureau 13 had contacted and recruited him soon after. He also wore jeans and a t-shirt with leather boots and a leather jacket with a ballistic vest underneath.

Zachary Rosenbaum had been with the highway patrol before his own recruitment. A fast man, he had been a criminal science and investigation specialist. After some of the things he’d seen on the force, he believed. Oh, how he believed. He wore a suit.

Joseph Black had been a sergeant in the Marine Corps and, unlike Rosenbaum, believed in nothing. A stanch atheist, he only cared about what he could shoot. He had been a commando with the marines and was an expert at survival and guerilla tactics. He also knew how to repair, fix, and fire just about any weapon he could hold in his hands. Add to that his demolitions expertise, and you could pretty much read his whole story. He usually wore camouflage and carbon filament armor.

All four were members of the bureau in June of 1992, working together and driving across the country in one of the Bureau’s Colorado RVs, fully decked out with weapons and equipment that could be used in the defense of mankind against evil.

On Tuesday, June 9, 1992, they made contact with a Bureau 13 agent at a diner called Sally’s in Georgetown, Ohio. He handed over a small packet.

“You’re next stop is just up the road,” he said, leaving money on the table.

The packet had a floppy disk within. They finished their dinner and went back to the RV where Vivian put the disk into the computer in the vehicle. Several maps appeared on the screen as well as a short note that said: “Reports have come from the area telling of a monster that turned a camper truck over on the shore of Sam’s Creek. This creature was spotted a second time as it ripped a bicycle to pieces a half mile from the town. If the creature is real it will become your job to determine its true nature and decide on its future disposition. The occurrences took place in Walnut Creek on State Route 61 north of Ash Ridge. Please dispose of this disc properly.”

She printed out the maps and then erased the disk. The maps proved to be a road map and a map of the downtown of Walnut Creek. According to the road map, it was roughly 30 miles away. They put the RV into motion and headed down Route 18.

It was after 8 p.m. when they rolled into Walnut Creek. The single stoplight in the tiny town had already been set to flash yellow for Route 61 and red for the cross street. It looked like all of the stores on Main Street were closed. They passed the Walnut Creek Star on the right, and Smille’s Garage and Bump and the Walnut Creek Savings Bank on the left. They crossed Mill Road and could see an open diner with “Ruth’s” over the door on the left, across from a Veterinary Clinic. Next to Ruth’s was Surlock’s Hardware and across from it was the Eagle Theater, which also appeared to be open. Beethoven, which had come out in April, was apparently playing. The stoplight was at Jackson Street, and on the corner to the left was Modern TV & Video, right next to The Fashion Shop a little further on. Across the highway was Parts N’ Pickings Resale. Past Clay Street on the left was Margie’s Book and News Stand next to Trust Drugs, and across the street were Paxton Farm Supply and Feed and Wragley’s Market. Only the theater and Ruth’s Diner were open. It looked like the town spread out to the east and west with residences.

Zachary turned the RV around and headed back into town. When someone spotted a newspaper box on the corner by Margie’s Books and News Stand, he stopped the RV and Jason leapt out and bought a paper. It was the Walnut Creek Star and dated Thursday, June 4. Vivian realized they had a weekly paper.

“These people are useless,” she muttered. “Little bumpkin town.”

They found a front-page article dealing with the attacks. It read that Saturday, the RV of Ed and Florence Wozinski of Parma was taken in for repairs when it was flipped. According to the Wozinskis, something had come out of the woods and attacked the RV for no apparent reason. George Smille got the RV running and the Wozinskis back home safely. “Hopefully whatever attacked them wasn’t coming out of a scotch bottle,” was the last sentence.

Zachary suggested making them IDs for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and using that as their cover. He guessed it was just a bear problem. Vivian pressed a hidden button on the stove top and it flipped open to reveal the document designer and communications computer. Joseph suggested they go to the diner and they found a parking lot behind the building. Half of the parking lot was for the diner and probably serviced Surlock’s Hardware store as well; they could see a back door to the latter. The other half had a chain-link fence around it. On open gate was on the side and there was a police car within. The back door to the building connected to Surlock’s’ appeared to be metal and had bars on the windows.

Jason and Zachary headed to the diner while Joseph changed out of his carbon filament armor and Vivian started making their documents. She put a hot pocket into the microwave.

The diner was mostly empty, with only a teenage couple in a booth in the corner and an old man at the far end reading the Walnut Creek Star. The two agents took seats at the counter and the waitress, whose nametag said “Ruth,” brought water. Zachary ordered black coffee and Jason had eggs and bacon. The woman handed him a menu, noting they had three kinds of eggs: scrambled, fried, and over easy. He had his eggs over easy and she brought coffee and orange juice.

Joseph appeared only a few minutes later in his suit.

“Do you have country-fried steak?” he asked Ruth.

“We’ve got ham,” she said.

“That’ll work,” he said, ordering scrambled eggs with it.

Their meals soon arrived and Ruth asked if they were from out of town. Jason said they were there to investigate the flipping of the RV and the destruction of the bike. He told her they were from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

“Yeah, I heard about that,” she said.

“Could you tell us what you heard?” he asked.

“Well, all I heard was some people from out of town, they had a van, an RV, like a camper, ‘cause they were camping?” she said. “Out in the woods, out by Sam’s Creek, and … I think he probably parked it in a bad spot. But they say something came out of the woods and flipped it on its side. The sheriff, he said he thinks they were drinking.”

“Well, this story of it being flipped on its side has got our bosses all in a huff,” Jason told her. “We’ve got to check and see if there’s bears.”

“Who’s your boss?” she asked.

“We’re from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources,” he said.

“Bears?” she said. “There’s bears out there?”

“Could be,” he said.

They heard the newspaper rattle on the far side of the diner and saw that the old man was now staring at them, a startled look on his face.

“If it’s big enough to flip over an RV, we need to take it seriously,” Jason said. “That’s why we’re here. So, I take it there’s no history of bear attacks of any kind?”

“No no no,” she said. “They say somethin’s out there at Sam’s Creek.”

“Something like a cougar?” he asked.

“A cougar? No, that’s northwest Ohio where they got those cougars. No, but I heard that there’s something out there. I don’t remember. It’s been happening for years. It doesn’t happen very often though. Have you talked to the sheriff?”

“No, we just got into town and wanted to get a bite to eat.”

“He’s right over there,” she said, pointing back towards where they’d seen the police car. “He’s really the police chief but everyone calls him the sheriff. He doesn’t think there’s anything to it. He thinks those Wozinski people were … woo-woo. Or maybe it was a joke by some of the locals. Those bikers have been in town now for … at month? They’re a pain.”

“They been giving you trouble?”

“They give everybody trouble. They think they own the whole place. Call themselves the disciples or something.”

“The disciples?”

“I don’t know. They don’t come in here. Say my food’s too greasy for them. Well, I say ‘You can go eat somewhere else then. Maybe you can eat …’ well, I don’t like to be rude. You know, you shouldn’t say something mean about somebody, unless they really, really deserve it. ‘Course they do … but anyway.”

They enjoyed their meals and Ruth got the high school couple another milkshake, which they drank out of with two straws. The old man seemed to be nursing a piece of pie and a cup of coffee. He would occasionally glance at the three men and then disappear behind his newspaper.

Vivian finally came into the diner and gave them each a small card that identified them as ODNR agents. She ordered a chocolate milkshake and they learned from Ruth that they had chocolate, vanilla, AND strawberry milkshakes. Jason noted that they had one flavor for every type of egg and Ruth said she might have to use that in their advertisements.

They asked Ruth where Sam’s Creek was and she told them it was just west of town. She pointed out that if they went west on Mill Road, which ran right by the diner, it went to the north after about a mile and a half. She said that Sam’s Creek Road was off Mill Road but it wasn’t marked. However, there was a big rock on the right side of the road that somebody had painted part of. If they saw that, Sam’s Creek Road was across the road from it. She said there was no place to stay out there and she wasn’t sure she’d want to go out there at night if there were bears out there.

“There ain’t no hookups out there,” she said when they mentioned they had an RV. “Just some cabin that some farmer owns.”

“Is it occupied or abandoned?” Jason asked her.

“I don’t know if anyone’s living out there now or not,” she said.

Vivian asked if there was anywhere in town they could hook up but she told them that the nearest campground was in Fincastle, about 15 miles to the north. They talked about what to do and eventually decided to merely stay in the RV in the parking lot for the night. They paid their bills and left the diner.

Jason, Zachary, and Vivian decided to talk to the sheriff. Joseph went back to the RV and listened to the scanner, mostly hearing dispatches from elsewhere in the County. He thought he heard one dispatch asking about a “Bob Villa” and that the man had priors in Ohio.

* * *

Over the door there was a weathered sign that read “Walnut Creek Sheriff.” As they entered, they saw a man in a brown uniform was turning off the lights. His nametag read “Knox” and he turned to them.

“Hey, can I help you?” he said.

Jason told him they were from the ODNR and were there to investigate the RV flipping and the attack on the bike.

“You know, it’s getting a little bit ridiculous and I think it’s going a little too far,” Sheriff Knox said. “It’s got to be a jokester or something. All these reporters coming out here and writing stories and blowing it all out of proportion. I think you’re wasting your time.”

“We’re here to disprove it,” Zachary told him.

“You’re here to disprove it?” Sheriff Knox replied. “Well, I’d love to see you do that. I would love that.”

“Our higher-ups are afraid there’s some sort of animal, maybe a bear, behind the attacks so we have to come in and check it out, just to be sure,” Jason said.

He asked about any specifics and Sheriff Knox told him the weekend before, the RV had fallen over. He guessed if something had flipped it, as the people had claimed, it was either the bikers that lived up there or some high school kids playing a prank. He noted it couldn’t have been easy but if you got enough people working on anything, it was possible. When Jason asked if he’d interviewed the Wozinskis, he said they had claimed some big monster had some out of the woods and flipped the RV over.

“Of course, they couldn’t be more specific than monster,” Jason said.

“I think the wife maybe saw something and flipped out,” Sheriff Knox said.

“Did it seem either of them had been drinking?”

“Well, there was some alcohol they’d been carrying with them: beers in a cooler and some hard liquor, which is fine; there’s no law against that. But the whole place stank of alcohol. That might have been because when it flipped, it busted all the bottles. When Pruehs, over there at the Star, when I made mention of the smell of alcohol, he decided to mention that in his little story, saying some bullshit about scotch, par for the course for that … anyway, I don’t mean to chew your ear off about it. If you folks can prove that there’s nothing out there, it would be most appreciated, because there’s been stories about Indian spirits and monsters in the creek since I was a kid.”

“Do you have a map where you could give us specific locations of where things took place?”

Sheriff Knox had a Brown County map that didn’t show the creeks but he did draw a rough map in Vivian’s notebook showing three small lakes or ponds connected by creeks. One lake was called Sam’s Creek, one was called Dead Creek, and the last was called Walnut Creek. He told them the lakes were natural, spring-fed lakes. He noted that sometimes folks camped out there though it was a little swampy and the fishing was terrible.

Jason asked him about the other incident with the bike and Sheriff Knox told him that someone had reported that his bicycle had gotten torn up by a “monster” out on Mill road near Sam’s Creek Road. He told them a high-school kid had been out there. He noted he found some lit matches out there and guessed the boy had been smoking something.

“He said he turned around and the monster had his bike, and he threw a can of pop at it and it went crazy and ripped his bike to pieces,” Sheriff Knox said.

“Did you see this bike?” Jason asked.

“It was broken,” Sheriff Knox said. “It looked like it had a couple of flat tires and the front wheel was ripped off. It was scratched up but it was probably scratched up already. I think the kid was just trying to get some attention.”

“Was this after the RV incident?” Jason asked.

“Uh-huh,” Sheriff Knox said. “This was last Thursday.”

“So, he heard about the RV thing and figured he’d get something?” Jason asked.

Sheriff Knox nodded.

Jason told him they had to check the area out and the sheriff was all for proving there was nothing out there. Jason thanked him for his time and he wished them good luck. As they left, he turned off the lights. They saw him leave in a patrol car out back as they passed.

They returned to the RV and discussed what little they’d learned, wondering what time of day the attacks had taken place. They bedded down in the RV shortly after that.

* * *

Wednesday, June 10, was a warm and sunny day. Vivian was in the shower first and then left the RV for the nearby hardware store. She bought some plaster there, in the hopes of making plaster casts of Sasquatch footprints. She asked for an electronic fish detector but the man behind the counter didn’t have any, nor were there any hunting or fishing stores in Walnut Creek. He suggested they might have one at Trust Drugs or maybe at the Veterinary Clinic. He also suggested she try Georgetown, the county seat.

She returned to the RV to find the others preparing themselves for the day. Then they drove west on Mill Road and saw the rock with the paint on it and turned left into what they assumed was Sam’s Creek Road. They left the RV near the intersection and proceeded from there on food. Jason, Zachary, and Joseph walked to the nearest pond. The lakes proved to be around a mile long or so and about half that width, with dark-colored, dirty-looking water. Zachary, who was wearing dress shoes, had a little trouble in the swampy ground near the lakes. Both Jason and Joseph were wearing boots.

* * *

Vivian took her advanced Kirilian detector and the particle counter from her Bureau 13 cigarette pack (which detected normal radiation) and followed the road. The Kirilian detector was built to detect odd radiations and would give a reading of the general presence of unseen energies. She pretended she was looking for tachyon emissions. She often muttered “fascinating” as she walked.

She spotted a little cabin surrounded by trees on the north side of Sam’s Creek. When she got closer, she saw numerous beer bottles and cans and a great deal of trash both by the unattached garage and between the one-story cabin and the lake. She guessed teenagers might have parties there. She saw that the house had several windows and a dirt driveway that connected the house and garage to the road. She went to the house and tried to peek into the windows on each side. All had curtains pulled too tightly to see in except for the largest window on the south side, which faced the lake, revealing a cluttered but empty living room.

She walked over to the other building and saw that the old-style garage door was one that pivoted up. Some of the panes of glass in the door were broken and she peeked in to see several motorcycles within.

“Hey!” a voice yelled behind her. “What’re you doin’!?!”

She turned around to see a man standing on the porch. He was wearing torn blue jeans and a dirty t-shirt.

“Looking for signs of a bear,” she called to him.

“Ain’t no bear around here!” he yelled. “Get the hell out of here!”

“I’m from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources―” she said.

“You got a warrant!?!” he yelled.

“No,” she said.

He pointed towards the road.

“Git!” he said.

She walked back to Sam’s Creek Road and heard the door slam shut behind her.

That’s why the science officer’s always accompanied by Commander Worf, she thought.

* * *

The men, who were walking around the lake, had seen Vivian peeking into the window and even saw the confrontation between her and the man as they had made their way that direction. They had not heard all he said but had heard “Git!” across the lake before she’d walked away and he’d gone back into the house. They soon reached the house themselves.

“The guy in the house is a jerk,” came over their wrist communicators. “The guy in the house is a jerk.”

The wrist communicator appeared to be a simple digital watch but it was also a communications link with the main vehicle, provided a homing device, and a two-way radio. It could also be set to self-destruct in emergencies with a variable explosive charge.

“The life forms on this planet are of inferior intellect,” came over the watch. “Over.”

“We’re all from the same planet,” Jason replied. “Still from the same planet.”

They soon regrouped at the RV, having found no tracks and no sign of where the RV was pushed over. There had been no reading on the Kirilian detector either.

Vivian printed them a warrant to search the house and fake IDs for the FBI for each of them. She game Zachary the mini-cam to carry so she could monitor them from the RV, while Jason and Joseph put on suits. They moved the RV a little closer to the house and then the three men walked back. When they arrived, they found three men in front of the garage working on Harley Davidson motorcycles. Leather jackets were draped over the hogs and the men wore sweaty t-shirts. One man had a shaved head while another had a tattoo of a snake on his neck. When they walked up the driveway towards them, one of them got up.

“Frank!” he shouted. “We got company!”

“Why is the FBI even here?” Jason whispered to Zachary. “Whose idea was this?”

“What!?!” a voice called from the porch.

“There’s some suits here!” the first man said.

“A’right,” the second voice replied.

The one who had first stood up was a big man and he walked up the drive to confront the three agents.

“What?” he asked.

“We’d like to ask you a few questions,” Zachary said.

“You know who you’re talking to?” the man asked.

“I’m assuming the disciples.”

“That’s right. We’re the Ohio Disciples Motorcycle Club. What do you want? This is our property.”

“We’re just here to ask some questions, sir.”

“Well, go ahead and ask.”

A large man with a beard appeared on the porch. He had a revolver in his hand that was very large and they guessed it was a .44 Magnum. He watched them.

“That’s your cue,” Zachary muttered to Joseph.

“You need me already?” Joseph said. “Just tell him to put his gun away.”

“Do you mind putting the gun down, sir?” Zachary said to the man on the porch.

“Yep,” he replied. “Yeah, I do.”

“All right,” Zachary said. “We’re not here to cause trouble, sir.”

Another man appeared on the porch. He was armed with a double-barrel shotgun.

* * *

In the RV, Vivian watched the armed men. She took a wet-erase marker and drew Zelda-like hearts on the screen, putting the three men’s names by each of them. She prepared to start erasing them.

* * *

“Just following up on a report, sir,” Zachary said.

“What are your questions, huh?” the first man said. “Officer … dumbass? Is that what you said your name was?”

“Rosenbaum,” Zachary said. “And your name?”

“Ooooh,” the man said. “Why don’t you go back to temple, man? What are you questions then? Huh, Baum?”

“We heard about some local disturbances,” Jason said.

“In the force,” Vivian’s voice came over their wrist communicators.

“An RV was flipped over,” Jason went on.

“Damn Rosenbaum, your voice is high,” the biker quipped.

“Sometimes my voice cracks,” Zachary said.

“I guess so,” the man said taking a swig from his bottle of beer. “We ain’t seen nothing.”

“Nothing at all?” Jason said. “Do you know where this incident took place?”

The man shrugged. He gestured vaguely towards the lake, finished the beer, and tossed the bottle to the ground.

“I see,” Jason said.

Joseph wandered over towards the other two men who stood near their motorcycles.

“Have any of you gentlemen heard or seen anything strange lately?” Jason asked. “Before or since the attacks?”

“I ain’t,” the first man said. He turned to one of the men by the motorcycles. “Hunter, you seen anything strange?”

The man with the snake tattoo shook his head.

“How about you, Mongo?” he asked the next one.

That little man also shook his head.

“Nope,” he said. “I haven’t seen anything.”

“Frank, you seen anything strange around here?” he called to the porch.

“I ain’t seen nothing,” the man with the Magnum replied.

“How about you, Fats?” he asked the large man with the shotgun.

He just shook his head as a dog starting to bark in the house.

“You want me to go ask Little Larry?” the first man said to Frank. “I think he’s doing some hunting right now.”

“Where is he hunting?” Zachary asked.

“Nearby,” the man replied. “Where he’d have a good shot at any critters that come around here.”

“What’s he hunting?” they heard Vivian say over their communication implants, dime-sized disks implanted behind the ear that allowed for private, two-way communication.

“Anything particular he’d be hunting?” Zachary asked.

“Critters ain’t welcome,” the man replied. “We don’t like varmints around here.”

“Who does?” Jason replied.

“Yep,” the man said. “That all you wanted to know?”

“That’s basically it,” Zachary said. “Just doing our job, following up.”

“There you go,” the man said. “Get off our land.”

Zachary thanked him and Jason told them to take it easy as they walked down the driveway and back to the road. As they continued down Sam’s Creek Road, they spotted another man in the trees near the house, watching them. They guessed that was Little Larry. He was armed with a .22 hunting rifle.

They called to Vivian on the wrist communicator and then headed back, meeting the RV right in front of the house, and loading up. Vivian pulled into the driveway and then backed out, knocking over the mailbox.

“Hey, you sons of *****es!” they heard someone yell.

The man who had been talking to them ran around the side of the garage as Vivian accelerated away from the place.

“Warp Factor 9, Mr. Sulu!” she yelled.

He chased them for perhaps a quarter of a mile before stopping. Vivian drove them back to town and they discussed what to do next, with Vivian suggesting hanging Sasquatch bait around the RV. Zachary summarized what they’d learned of the attacks, which was not much. Jason pointed out that they hadn’t even found evidence that any of it had even happened. They discussed what to do next.

Vivian dropped them off in Walnut Creek and headed south for Ash Ridge.

* * *

Zachary went to the Walnut Creek Star. It had a wide window in the front and the door opened into a large office that probably stretched to the back of the building. No one sat at the front desk and two of the three desks in the room were empty save for piles of newspapers piled on them. On older man was typing into a computer at the third desk in the back. He got to his feet and greeted Zachary.

Zachary asked if could look through old newspapers for more information like the recent attack on the RV. The man seemed interested and admitted he hadn’t thought of looking up old copy. He told Zachary he could help him look for articles as it was, as he put it, a “slow news day.”

He asked who Zachary was and when he learned he was with the ODNR, he asked for an interview. Zachary said he could have one after he was done. When asked, Zachary said they were following up on the attack.

“About time the state starts taking us seriously down here,” the man said.

“They think it might be a bear,” Zachary said. “We’re trying to find out.”

He led Zachary to the back and they started looking through the archives.

* * *

Jason and Joseph went to Smille’s Garage and Bump. They find that George Smille was old and probably going senile.

“Yeah, yeah,” he said about the Wozinskis’ RV. “That happened a week ago.”

“Did you tow the vehicle out as well as repair it?” Jason said. “You must have done something to get it back on its wheels.”

“Had to call a truck in from Ash Ridge to tow it,” Smille said. “I got some pictures. You got a vehicle?”

“Uh, we do, but it’s not here at the moment,” Jason replied.

“Need an oil change?” Smille asked. “You don’t need an oil change?”

Jason shook his head.

“Sorry,” he said.

“Shame,” Smille said. “Yeah, the owners were Ed and Florence Wozinski. They took it back to Parma for repairs. All we did was tow it.”

“I see. But you saw the vehicle.”

“I took pictures of it.”

“Was it badly damaged? Let’s see these pictures if you don’t mind.”

“But you don’t need an oil change or something?”

“Sorry.”

“Windshield wiper fluid?”

“We’ll buy some windshield wiper fluid.”

“And some oil?”

“And some oil.”

“An oil change would help you out more.”

“Just the pictures,” Joseph growled menacingly.

Smille looked at the man for a moment.

“Woo – where you from boy?” he said to Joseph. “They grow ‘em big there, huh? You don’t need an oil change? It ain’t got its 3,000 miles?”

Joseph leaned in close to the man.

“Just the pictures,” he said.

“I don’t swing that way son,” Smille replied.

“Just the pictures,” Joseph said again.

“What about the … uh …”

“No.”

“Air in your tires?”

“Pictures.”

“You need some …”

“How about I buy a battery?” Jason finally said. “Doesn’t matter which one.”

He paid the man for the battery and, in turn, they were shown some Polaroids of the RV. There was a dent in the side and one of the side windows had been broken.

“You know, I saw something out there by Sam’s Creek, a few years back,” Smille said.

“What’s that you saw?” Jason asked him.

“I don’t know,” Smille admitted. “I did some fishing out there. I don’t usually fish. And there ain’t no fish in those lakes. But, it was big and green and I saw it, it was over on the far side of Walnut Creek. Wait, no. Sam’s Creek. Wait. Maybe it was Dead Creek. It was one of those three. Way over there, I saw it. I said ‘That’s the monster. That’s the monster they tell stories about.’ And I left.”

“Big and green?” Jason said.

“Yes,” he replied.

“Big like a bear?” Jason asked.

“No, cause bears are solid,” he replied. “This was more like a man.”

“Green man?” Jason said.

“Solid?” Joseph said.

“Well, you know how bears are built,” Smille said. “With little legs and a thick, thick body and little arms? But this was more like you. It had big arms and big legs and a big body, but not like a bear’s body. And a big head. A really big head. And I know’d it was looking at me and I said ‘I better get out of here.’ Then I did.”

“Big and green,” Jason said.

“Yep,” Smille said. “There’s something bad out there. Somethin’ that likes the taste of blood out there.”

“How often has this thing been seen?” Jason asked.

“I don’t know,” Smille admitted. “There was something happen back in the 30s. Something happened with some kids. I know one still lives around here but don’t remember his name.”

“Back in the 30s?” Joseph said, touching his implant communicator.

“Yeah, yeah!” Smille said. “It was back in the 30s that something happened with some kids. One of them still lives around here but I don’t remember his name.”

“So, a group of kids back in the 30s,” Jason said, also touching his communication implant.

They guessed that wherever he was in town, Zachary would hear what they were saying.

“Yes,” Smille said.

“They were attacked back there?” Jason asked.

“I don’t know,” Smille admitted. “That was 60 years ago.”

They tried to get the specific location of the RV from Smille but he wasn’t sure.

They left without taking the battery and Jason went over to the Sheriff’s Office and learned from Sheriff Knox that the RV had been on the west side of Sam’s Creek. They also learned that the area had been cleaned up and as much broken glass and debris from the RV had been removed as possible.

He met Joseph at Ruth’s Diner for lunch.

* * *

Vivian found a bait and tackle store and actually purchased a fish locator in Ash Ridge. She also got some duct tape and an inflatable raft.

* * *

After Zachary had heard over his implant communicator of the encounter in the 30s, he started focusing on those years and soon found an article about the creeks. With David Pruehs’ help, he was able to find five articles about the area that stood out. Pruehs let him use his copy machine to make grainy copies of each.

The first was from 1878 and the headline read “Big Fish Overturns Boat.” The article was about a trapper’s boat that was overturned by a fish the size of a man. The second was from 1911 and the headline read “Big Monster Fish Seen at Botton Creek.” That one stated that three fishermen were frightened by a fish with legs. He learned from Pruehs that Botton Creek was now called Walnut Creek. A 1919 article with the headline “Fish Men in the Swamp” was about a trapper reporting seeing three fish men in the swamp near Sam’s Creek. The 1931 article with the headline “Near Tragedy Averted” told of a little girl falling off a raft into Walnut Creek and being thrown back on shore by a “very big fish” as four other children watched. Finally, an article dated 1954 had the headline “Terrified Tourist tussles with Tremendous Trout” and was about the same as the other reports: A fisherman had a fly rod and an arm broken by a green fish in the lake. That last article took the incident as a joke.

He also learned for Pruehs that the kid who had been attacked was Jeffery Howells, a junior at Walnut Creek School. Pruehs talked up the basketball team and then found an old book in the back of the office with an Indian legend of spirits of the lake. The short article claimed the area was known for friendly water spirits in the late 1700s.

Pruehs insisted on interviewing Zachary, taking about 15 minutes to tape him and take notes. Then Zachary found the other two at the diner. He had a late lunch and Vivian soon joined them. She was eating Pop-Rocks.

They discussed the newspaper articles. Zachary pointed out that only one was aggressive and in one case a little girl was saved. They talked about the kid who’d recently seen the thing and Zachary said he knew the kids name and where to find him. Joseph was ready to deal with the things but the others thought they had to continue investigating the creatures first.

They headed for Walnut School after lunch, finding it was a K-12. The secretary used the intercom to call Jeffery Howells and the kid wore torn jeans and a torn t-shirt. He had a box wrapped up in the arm of his shirt, on his shoulder. It looked about the size of a cigarette package, but they guessed it wasn’t.

“What?” he said. “I didn’t do it.”

He seemed nervous. When they told him they were there to talk to him about the attack, he claimed that it wasn’t an animal, but a monster. He described it as green with big claws and eyes on the top of his head. He claimed he had thrown his bike at it to defend himself and while the creature was destroying his bike, he had run away.

“Threw your bike at it?” Jason asked. “That’s not what we were told before.”

“Who’s been lying to you?” he asked.

“The sheriff,” Jason said.

“Oh,” Jeffrey said.

“You threw a can of Mountain Dew at it?” Vivian asked.

“Well, I had a coke-cola and threw the bottle at it to scare it away,” Jeffery said. “It roared it was going to kill me but …”

“What were you doing up there at the lake?” Jason asked.

“Nothing,” the boy replied. “I was just hanging out up there at the lake.”

“To score some weed?” Vivian said.

“No!” he replied. “I don’t do that.”

They noticed the boy smelled like cigarettes.

He said that he wouldn’t have gone to see those bikers, the only ones who lived there. Jason asked if he had been at the lake and he admitted he was on Mill Road not too far from the lakes. Jason pressed that he had not been near the water and the boy said he hadn’t been. They also learned that it had been in the afternoon, after school, but not after dark, as the youth said he didn’t go up there after dark. He claimed there were monsters out there.

“Monsters,” Jason said skeptically.

“I seen one!” the boy said.

“Are you sure it wasn’t a bear?” Zachary asked him.

“I know what a bear looks like!” the boy said. “It wasn’t no bear!”

They questioned if he had ever seen a bear in person and he claimed he’d gone to Toledo Zoo one time and saw some bears up there.

“If I hadn’t known better, if I didn’t smell it, if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I would have sworn it was a guy in a rubber suit, like on Scooby-Doo or something,” he said. “But it was real.”

“People don’t run around in rubber suits,” Zachary said quietly.

“I know!” the boy replied. “That’s why I know it’s real.”

“Did it speak to you?” Vivian asked.

“What? No!” he said. “It smelled bad.”

“You told us earlier that it roared,” Zachary said.

“It went ‘rawr,’ like that,” he said. “It didn’t talk.”

“Your story’s full of holes, son,” Jason said.

“What are you talking about?” the boy replied. “It came at me, I threw the thing, and I ran.”

Further questioning as to whether the creature came at him or had just been standing there revealed that the boy thought the thing had come at him but he actually didn’t seem completely sure of that fact, though he kept claiming that it had lunged at him. He seemed to be saying that the creature had been standing just on the other side of his bicycle and lunged at him, but remained just on the other side of the bike, and he threw the pop bottle and ran.

Zachary knew from experience that eye-witness accounts were very, very unreliable.

They told him if they had any more questions, they knew where to find him. Jason told him to stay out of trouble.

They left the school and returned to the RV, talking about what might be out there and deciding it was some kind of swamp man as opposed to Sasquatch or a Loch Ness Monster type of creature. They discussed staking out the area and looking for the creatures. In the end, they drove out and parked the RV between Sam’s Creek and Walnut Creek.

They made camp and Jason and Zachary sat out on folding chairs with the cooler full of beer. Vivian pushed the rubber raft out into the water and made sure it was tied to the shore. Joseph, wearing his good camouflage and marking his face with mud, disappeared into the undergrowth with his Steyr AUG assault rifle. Vivian returned to the RV and played video games while she kept an eye on the monitors hooked to the RVs cameras. She also used the bureau computer to try to find out what she could about fish monsters. She found a reference to Men Fish. It claimed that somewhere sideways on the long ladder of evolution were the water-breathing humanoid fish of the deeps. They were often reclusive until disturbed by divers or waste dumping at sea. The Man Fish could take a terrible toll of life and property when provoked. It speculated that some might even be able to inhabit fresh water lakes and swamps. They were marked as being very strong and their bane was listed as fire.

She told the others what she’d found via their implant communicators.

It was around 7 p.m. when Jason noticed something in the water on the Sam’s Creek side. It looked like the head of a scaled humanoid about 100 feet from shore. It was looking in their general direction.

“I think that might be our friend over there,” he said, nodding in that direction.

After a moment, Zachary saw the head as well.

* * *

Joseph, hiding in the nearby bushes, also noticed the thing in the water. He carefully aimed his assault rifle at it.
* * *

Zachary and Jason observed the creature for a short while. Then Jason got up and walked to the water nonchalantly, not making a course straight for the creature, but just to the edge of the lake. Zachary eventually waved at the creature but it didn’t wave back. Other than the one creature, neither of them saw any sign of any more.

“I have a choice,” they suddenly heard Vivian over their implant communicators. “Should I take the first chest, the middle chest, or the last chest?”

“You always go for the third,” Zachary replied over the radio.

“Damn it,” she said. “It’s a mushroom.”

Joseph repressed his strong desire to call them both nerds.

“We should probably try to initiate contact,” Zachary told Jason.

“All right,” Jason said.

He slowly walked over to the edge of the water closest to the creature.

* * *

In the RV, Vivian had finally noticed what the others were doing. She paused her game and focused the cameras on the creature.

* * *

Jason waved at the creature and splashed the water playfully.

“Try music and lights,” he heard Vivian say over the implant communicator.

“I don’t have music and lights,” he replied.

The creature sank a little as it flung a beer bottle at Jason. The bottle missed him by a wide margin and struck the mud at the edge of the water with a plunk some feet to his left.

“He wants us to clean up the lake,” Vivian said.

“It’s not our job to clean up the lake, per se,” Jason replied.

Zachary walked over, picked up the beer bottle, emptied it out, and disposed of it in the garbage bag that was next to the cooler. A few moments later, the creature flung another one that missed Jason by an even larger margin. This one didn’t make it to shore. Jason waded out about calf-deep and retrieved the bottle, throwing it away as well.

“Tell him we come in peace,” Vivian suggested.

The head vanished and they discussed whether the thing was trying to get rid of the trash or had been trying to drive them away. About 15 minutes later, a head appeared in the water a little closer to shore. The thing tossed more bottles, cans, and other trash towards them and then vanished under the water again. They retrieved the detritus and the process repeated every 15 or 20 minutes, with the creature coming closer to shore and tossing trash out of the water, which they would retrieve. That lasted until nightfall, when they went back to the RV.

They found that Vivian had printed out cease and desist orders for polluting the lake. They discussed it and tried to figure out how to stop the bikers from polluting. There was some question as to why the trash wasn’t all around the lake and it was hypothesized that the creatures were throwing the trash back at the bikers. They talked of making the area some kind of wildlife refuge. They knew they would still have to get the bikers out to solve the problem completely, however.

They decided that they could try to protect the area as protected wetlands but realized that it would take some time before the real legislation would go through. There was some talk of relocating the fish men; of relocating the bikers, as they were not a healthy part of the area anyway; and of getting rid of the building.

Vivian stayed up and watched the IR cameras that night. She spotted several forms that surfaced at different times in the night.

* * *

The next day, Thursday, June 11, 1992, they found a large pile of trash by the water’s edge and bagged all of it, driving back to town and disposing of it. They picked up more cleaning supplies and went to the school to talk to the principal about getting local kids to help clean up the creeks. They also contacted a local Boy Scout Troop to get their help cleaning up the area. Vivian got paperwork going with local legislators to have the area declared a protected wetland.

They also picked up a new Walnut Creek Star, out that morning. The headline read: “ODNR Investigating Lake Attack!” It read that though the ODNR denied there were any creatures in the lake, they were there to prove or disprove whatever attacked the Wozinskis on May 30 either existed or didn’t. It also quoted Zachary Rosenbaum of the ODNR saying that he suspected it was a bear. The background stories that he and Pruehs has found were noted and the sheriff was quoted saying “There are no monsters in the lake.” The very last paragraph read: “The only people who live near the lake are the Ohio Disciples Motorcycle Club who did not comment.” A photo of one of the lakes was also with the story, which took up much of the front page of the three-sheet weekly.

Zachary cut out the article to save it.

Over lunch in the RV, they discussed how to get rid of the bikers again.

“I’ll distract them with my fan dance,” Vivian said.

They ignored her.

“I’ll light the place on fire,” Zachary said to Joseph. “As they come out the door, you shoot them.”

“Why is fire always the answer?” Vivian asked.

There was some talk about finding out if the owner of the property had insurance and Vivian realized it would be very, very hard to find that out with the resources at hand. They also discussed removing the house altogether so no one else would use it and pollute the area. Vivian suggested buying the house and demolishing it. There was talk of trying to declare the area of historical significance due to the American Indians that had lived in the area. There was also talk of tricking the bikers into leaving the area for a while and then just demolishing the house. However, it would still not guarantee they would not rebuild.

“So there’s this episode, where these people had settled on a planet that they didn’t know was owned by the Sheliak,” Vivian said.

She told them about the episode wherein Data had to use reverse psychology to trick these people into leaving the planet. It took her 15 minutes and a detailed synopsis of a “Star Trek: the Next Generation” episode to get her point across.

They realized that the last incident had been in the 1950s and the creatures had, in the last week, caused two more incidents. They were convinced that the biker gang, who had been around for a couple of months, was the problem. They were all of the opinion that if they could get rid of the Disciples, that would solve the problem. They also discussed an order to make the bikers clean up as their trash was attracting bears. They talked about seeing if any of the bikers had any outstanding warrants. However, they didn’t have full names of the men, which made it hard for them to get that information. They talked about investigating the Ohio Disciples Motorcycle Club as well. Joseph noted that he could disband the club by shooting their motorcycles and even suggested an arm wrestling contest for the house.

They drove to the county courthouse in Georgetown, where they spent some time researching the property on the north side of Sam’s Creek. They learned that the property was owned by Francis Webber. Vivian checked to find out if the house was insured but couldn’t find Francis Webber listed at any of the major insurance companies she hacked into. They started to investigate Francis Webber, looking for any outstanding warrants.

* * *

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