The Shadow of Geordie Harris
by Eric J Kregel
Part 2 appears|
in this issue.
|part 1 of 4|
“Leave me alone,” the old native fellow said and buried his face in his hands. He was sitting on the edge of his porch. It smelled of blood and urine. “Go away. It’s not safe for you.”
“We’ve received a call,” I said, unclipping the strap over my side arm. “That there’s an old man chasing some children in the community. Spooked some of ’em real bad. So far, that old man fits your description. We can either talk here or down at the station.”
“Leave me,” he said in a new voice. The first time he spoke, I could trace his Cree accent, and his cadence warbled on account of his age. This time his voice was clear and sweet, belonging on the radio. “Leave me now.”
I turned to my partner, Miles from B.C., and he gave me a wide-eyed, quick shrug.
Flies everywhere, buzzing and bumping all around my face and ears. I shot a look around: no river or pond or creek. I figured there must be a load of trash inside the house. It must have hardly been touched, let alone taken out to the waste services in his settlement.
“Your name is Tom, eh? Tom Irontree? Look, we need to talk. It’d be a pity to have to cuff you and bring you down to the station.”
The fog was heavy and clouds buried the stars. The full moon made the only light on the Irontree’s property: a lone, yellow light bulb hung from the ceiling of his porch. He sat in front of an old, beaten-down house with the siding falling down and some of the pink insulation exposed.
“You ought not be here, gentlemen,” old Tom, the native, said to us in pitch-perfect, Oxford English. “Depart for your own welfare.”
Another look to Miles. His eyes wider, probably his brow brimmed with sweat if I could see straight in the darkness. Miles shook his head in a quick rattle as he unhooked the strap over his gun.
I’ve never shot a man in the line of duty, but most criminals, when they see my gun free, do exactly as they’re told. Not that night, not with this crazy old man that turned British without warning. But we unhooked our guns, nonetheless, and tried to figure out what to do next.
I like being a cop, but I don’t like situations like these where I have to act, where I have a new partner whose instincts are just forming, where it’s up to me to be the sane one, and when everything seems bedlam.
“I’m afraid you’re coming with us.” I reached out to the old man covered in darkness. Shadows covered his face and hands and arms. The only thing human about Tom, other than his voice, was his shape. His hand swatted mine away and leaned back. I took a step towards him. I leaned over him, hoping to grab him around his shoulder and put him in a hold that...
He growled, causing my hand to freeze in midair. His growl was animal, without any trace of humanity or restraint. The type of growl you’d hear in the bush, walking by a patch of trees and, without warning, you’ve come near a den that you shouldn’t have. The growl deep, full of rolls and clicks, that caused my teeth to vibrate.
I used my firm, police voice. “You’re coming with us, Tom.” My hand started to move again, wrapping around his shoulder.
He lunged at me suddenly, springing into the air and directly at me. I lurched back with his face hovering just above my chest. The light from his porch quickly shone over his face, quickly revealing the hair over his cheeks, forehead, mouth, and neck. He opened his mouth, baring his teeth in the shapes of knives and swords.
And then I beheld his eyes, bright yellow, as they cut through the shadow of his face. His teeth sank into my shoulder and I screamed more out of shock than pain as he gobbled into my skin.
Miles gave him a swift kick on his side, doing nothing to get him off me. He backed up and pulled out his gun, training it on old Tom. I smelled something, something familiar that brought me back to the days when my dad took me trapping and we’d have to unhook the animals from the line. I smelled wolf: the fur and musk so unmistakable that they took me away from the altercation, the night, and the smell of garbage.
A shot rang out and pulled me from my memory. Old Tom went limp and collapsed at my feet. My shirt felt wet. I turned to Miles. My eyes grew heavy. The world spun. I fell down, next to Tom, asleep.
* * *
My wife stormed into my curtained area in our town’s ER, red-eyed from tears and pale as a ghost. Her lip flapped open and shut from her heavy breaths, a mix of anger and fear. She didn’t know whether she wanted to fight or fly.
“I’m okay, baby,” I said. I pointed at the bandages on my shirtless shoulder. “I just got a bite from an old native who, as the tests prove, got all of his shots.” I chuckled, which did little to relieve Jane’s tension. “Look, baby, I’m all good. It’s all good.”
“The station called and said you had been attacked and the man had been shot and you were in the hospital and...” She welled up with tears.
And I felt hot under the collar, now pissed off because my wife flipped out, turning everything about her. I mean, come on. I get hurt and my wife comes so I can comfort her!
“It’s all right, baby.” I said as she climbed onto the leather platform in the shape of a bed and wrapped her arms around me. I bit my lip and stroked her hair, nice and easy, as she sobbed in my embrace.
“I was so scared, so very scared. Why did you put me through this?” she asked me.
It’s my job, I thought sharply. No, can’t. Just be quiet. Quiet and do nothing and just take it.
“Why do you have to go and stick your neck out every night? Why do you have to put me through that?”
“It’s to make our town a safe place, baby,” I said in a low, soothing hum. “There are people who buck the system, who try to take out our civilization. When there are people who rebel against our laws of civilized code, that’s when they send in the Centurions. That’s me, the guard of the nation.”
The doctor came in, looking at my flip chart. A tall, dark-haired South African who was new to our town and, for that matter, Canada. He looked young enough still to be able to remember the questions on his medical exams.
“Hello, Geordie,” he said with his thick accent. “How are you feeling?”
“I feel like I’m good to go,” I said, still holding my wife.
“That’s what I like to hear, what I like to hear indeed.” He looked up at me. “Mostly superficial wounds, really. A good cleaning and some antibiotic shots is all I think your wound needed, so we’ll get you off and running.”
“Do you think the fellow who did this had rabies?”
“No, I don’t. Nothing showed up for any infection, plus your shots should have killed anything like that.”
“It felt like a killer. I had to drop my pants and everything.”
He pulled out his pencil and placed the eraser in his mouth. “Why do you ask? Rabies belong mostly to dogs, at least in South Africa.”
“What’s interesting is your wound resembles more of an animal bite than something done by a human. The teeth marks, the tearing... even the spread of the jaw isn’t human. If I didn’t hear your story or treat the poor fellow a few minutes ago, I would have sworn a pack of dogs got to you as opposed to a senior citizen.”
I reached over for my shirt. “He wasn’t acting human. He was out of his mind.” I pulled my feet off the bed and dangled them over the right side. “Any news on his recovery?”
“Your partner’s shot did it, I’m afraid. Got him in the lungs and everything filled up with blood. He was all but gone the moment I treated him. I’m sorry.”
“I’m not,” I said as I rose to dress myself. “You tangle with the system, you shouldn’t expect anything less.”
* * *
Ordered on bed rest for a week, I struggled to fall into a civilian sleep schedule. Always a night owl, even as a kid, I worked best on the night shifts, working graveyard for any of my jobs. Being on the Royal Canadian Mounted Police was perfect. Most guys fought to do day shifts; not me: I ate up the nights like a good breakfast.
But on bed rest a funny thing happened. I went to bed at night and got up in the morning, as rested as I ever was doing nights. Two days after my attack, I woke up bright eyed and perky, finding my wife dressed and smoking in the kitchen, packing the kids off to school.
I looked over to my daughter, half-asleep as she finished up her cereal and pop. “Rough night?” I asked her. My girl, just into primary school, nodded to me slowly.
Jane answered for her. “Tesha had some bad dreams last night and didn’t want to go back to sleep.”
I asked my girl what the dreams were about. “Monsters,” she said. “There’s a monster hiding in our house.”
I told her that there weren’t monsters in the world and she was being silly. Plus, I said, Daddy would never let anything evil into this house.
"Oh,” Jane said as she put out her cigarette. “Thanks for the lunch. Hunting really pays off, doesn't it? I hope there are some steaks left in the freezer. And remember to clean the crock pot."
I nodded blankly and watched Jane leave for work. Later, I stuck my nose into the fridge and saw a whole pan full of meat. Meat, brown and seasoned, that I hadn’t touched or prepared.
* * *
During that week of bed rest, things like the arrival of mystery meat happened throughout the week. One afternoon, I got in my truck and found the gas tank empty after I had filled it the night before. During my investigation of the deep freeze, half of my meat from hunting was missing. Also my study, where I keep my gun cabinet and moose heads and computer, I found it not only cleaned, but every bit of paperwork filed or shredded.
Jane, discovering the mystery cleanings and filings, smirked. “I’m sorry to see you go back to work next week. I was beginning to think you were allergic to being clean,” she said.
I just nodded and received the unearned compliment.
I slept like a baby every night, without dreams or any sleepiness in the morning. I wish the same was true for Tesha, who had told Jane, for three days straight that there were burglars pacing the hallway in front of her door. Since she knows the rules — no one wakes up Mommy or Daddy unless it’s a matter of life or death — we would just get her reports in the morning. I preferred the reports due to the great, million-dollar sleep I was getting.
Other things happened, though, less trivial. At the end of the week, I received a package from Toronto with a new operating system for our computer.
But it’s in my nature not to ask why, simply to do, and none of these things were deeply troubling. Perhaps Tesha was right: we had a team of poltergeists living in our house. That was okay with me, as long as they either paid rent or did some chores around the house.
* * *
Copyright © 2007 by Eric J Kregel